Thursday, February 21, 2013

Review of Fela! at Arie Crown Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Fela. And it was a biography about a singer and saxophone player named Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (Adesola Osakalumi). The plot was about Fela trying to get the bad government in Nigeria out of power because they were doing terrible things to him and they actually killed his mother (Melanie Marshall). At the beginning of the show he said, "This is our last performance and we are going to be leaving soon." But then he never leaves actually because he doesn't get his blessing from his mother. She thinks he should stay there and overthrow the government people because he wanted to president. And all the people wanted Fela to be president instead of all the stupid guys who searched through people's poo. He was rebelling against the stupid government in two ways, not just because of the lyrics that he wrote, like "Zombie," but the government didn't want the people to be happy and his music makes people happy, so that's a rebellion.

There is this song that I thought was really cool. It was called "Zombie." It was called "Zombie" because it was about the soldiers and how they would do anything they were told, so it was like they kind of didn't have a brain. "Zombie" was an awesome song because it had an amazing dance. The dance showed them all pretending to be zombies--everybody was doing this scarily awesome zombie dance. I liked the song as well because of the repetition. Sometimes repetition can annoy people, but sometimes it can also help you in making a song because it can be very catchy actually.

At one point in the song "Breaking it Down," it was very cool because Fela had lots of people on the stage and in the audience shake their butts. It seemed pretty fun. Even my mom shook her butt. I think some people thought it was strange and just stood there and just looked horrified. They kind of were like zombies. I was shaking my butt because I was awesome. His point is Afrobeat is awesome because you get to shake your butt. It gets you movin', as he said. It made me feel like I was the awesomest queen of shaking my butt in the audience. On stage, the actual queens of shaking their butts were shaking along with us. Ok. That is enough talk about shaking butts.

There was this really cool song called "Upside Down" and it was about Fela finding this girl Sandra (Michelle Williams) who came from America who was really interested in Africa. And they were discussing Africa. And they were also discussing about what it was like to be in New York and Los Angeles. It was really cool because there was a scene where they were using books as props for dancing. I thought it was very funny that the girls in big fancy African dancing outfits were reading books from a library. I am not saying that Africans can't read, I am just saying I think they would change clothes before they went to the library.

There was this scene that I thought was really cool because it had Fela go see his mother up in heaven. He asked her if she would give him her blessing so then he could leave. But she said no. So then he couldn't. There were some really awesome costumes in this scene. I thought that the really awesome costume was a monster-like African spirit. It was like four layers of hoops covered in confetti.

If you take kids, you should remind them before the show that are going to be big scary booms and bangs and people running through the audience screaming their heads off because the compound is being attacked. I don't even want to talk about what happened to all his wives. They made it so scary because they wanted to make you scream your head off and to feel an actual emotion not like it was just a play.

Here is something that happens to me when I am in a very interesting show, like in Fela. I get so absorbed in the show like I feel like I'm really a part of the show. Until somebody next to me starts doing something distracting. Like in this case, I was enjoying the music and absorbed in it and then this lady started rocking out next to me and pushed her coat onto me. She just distracted me out of my beautiful fugue.

People who would like this show are people who like dance, history, and shaking their butts. People should go see this show because it makes you groove to the music and lets you have a new sense of what kinds of music there are in the world.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review of The Magnificents at The House Theater of Chicago

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Magnificents written by Dennis Watkins. It was at The House Theatre and directed by Nathan Allen. It was about this small circus where there was an aerialist, Honeydew (Lucy Carapetyan), and a clown, Chase (Michael E. Smith), and a strong man, Harley (Chad Hauge), and a magician (Dennis Watkins/the playwright). The problem is that Magnificent is the magician and he is very old and they don't know what to do without him if he dies. But before they start freaking out that he is going to die and there is not going to be a magician, a little Boy (Tommy Rapley) comes along and steals a wedding ring from an unlucky audience member. And Magnificent's wife, Rosie (Tien Doman), decides that she's going to let the Boy stay even though he is a "thief," as Magnificent says. The boy ends up being able to do magic like Magnificent, but first he has to do training. He becomes part of the family at the very very end. I think the play is really excellently written, and I think all the actors are perfect for their roles.

My favorite thing at the beginning was when they said "Hey everybody, we got a nickel!" And they are just screaming inside the big truck/stage because they are so excited that they got a nickel even though a nickel is not a very big deal at all right now. It may have been back then, but it is not now; it made it really funny. Then there was a really cool trick with the Strong Man where he laid down on a pad of nails, and a brick was placed on his belly, and Chase smashed it with a hammer, and he just got up like nothing had happened!

One of my favorite magic tricks was a magic trick and also a story. It was a story because Magnificent was telling a story with the cards, but it worked so perfectly that it was exactly like a magic trick. He said he was going to the 654 club. It would have been cool if he had pulled out a card with clubs on it after he put down the 6 5 4 cards. I liked how it was a story about when Magnificent was a kid and he was telling it to the Boy.

The trick that I participated in was a very amazingly awesome trick. The first time when Magnificent spun around the little house, he pulled out a stuffed bunny. But he said, "We can do better." Of course, me being a kid, I thought, "That's a pretty cute bunny--how could we get better than that?" But he could get way better than that. He made an actual bunny come out! Then he said, "Very nice but impractical." So then he spun around the house again and Honeydew popped out at gave me some candy. I think that is pretty good, as a matter of fact! That's AWESOME!

There was a really cool scene where Chase was playing doctor and he put Magnificent in the box and then slid him apart, so then he had two halves. But it wasn't like the usual kind where the assistant laid down and the magician did the actual trick. It was reversed; it was the assistant doing the operation to the magician. And he was standing up as well. It was trying to tell us how he was kind of unable to do the tricks that he used to because he was so old.

There was a part of the play where Honeydew was teaching the Boy how to do the silks. And at the very end even though he did a very good job, she said he didn't because he was not supposed to touch her because it was a place where people weren't supposed to be able to touch her, and then he touched her. I thought the acrobatics for the silks were really amazing. I do a little bit of silks myself; I have been taking circus for a few months. And I just thought it was amazing that she could do all those tricks and it made me understand some of the moves that were tricky for me even more.

One of my favorite scenes was one of the weirdest scenes as well. I'll tell you why it was weird. Chase started this music that was like this fair music, and I have no idea what was happening in that scene. I love being confused as a matter of fact. I think it is something you need in a show. So then it is not just telling you everything, so then you can try to figure out things by yourself. I decided that they were trying to get the Boy to be a clown, but the thing is he is a little too shy to be a clown because he didn't do the chorus part until the very end. You could not really understand all the words because it was such an old track and it sounded like it was being played on a old fashioned record, which it was. One of the other funny things that Chase did was when he turned on the music on side B, and then it turned into this horrifying shipwreck music, and he pretended like he was actually in a shipwreck, and he started to pretend to swim, and then he was rolling around on the floor and trying to get to the record. And then, when he finally turned it off, he said, "Never side B!" And then that crazy song that I talked about came on.

This you might not think yourself, but I kind of think it. It is that there is a secret love triangle metaphorically and actually. If you look at the program you can turn the program around and you will see a triangle of people in love which is the Boy, Honeydew is in the middle, and Harley is on the other side. I think there is a love triangle in the play as well. Here are my versions of what could be happening and why Harley doesn't like the boy. 1) The boy kind of likes Honeydew and so does Harley. 2) Because the Boy is getting all the attention. And 3)The Boy took the opening act like Harley said, but when he said that he could be lying so Honeydew wouldn't know that he liked her.

I thought it was very interesting that Magnificent's name wasn't like Leo Magnificent or something like that. It was just his name. I thought if I ever met his mother I would tell her "That is an awesomely weird choice." Or it could have been a nickname. That is the question that I would ask his mother: Is it a nickname, Magnificent, or is it his actual name? I wondered why the Boy was just called the Boy and you never found out his name even at the end. Maybe he was like one of the lost boys; maybe when he was born his mother died in birth or something and maybe he didn't have a father and so he didn't get a name when he was born. I think his name will be Magnificent because the Boy is going to become a magician.

One of the most touching scenes of the play was at the very end where Rosie and Magnificent were dancing together and he is dying so it is super sad. It is actually still making me cry a little bit. When Chase runs off and is blowing his nose and says, "That's too sad," then he comes back with a record that is much happier. This is not a show that is always sad, just close to the end it gets sad, and then it gets happy, and then it is the end. And it is also the end of this paragraph.

People who would like this show are people who like magic, family, and bunnies. People should see this show because it is funny, touching, and good for an entire family to go see. I loved it because the acting was amazing and they actually seemed like they were a family. The magic is mesmerizing!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Monday, February 11, 2013

Review of Widowers' Houses at ShawChicago

Once upon a time I went to a reading and it was called Widowers' Houses, and it was by George Bernard Shaw. It was about a man named Harry Trench(Jack Dwyer) who fell in love with a woman named Blanche (Jhenai Mootz) and the problem is that Blanche cares a lot about money but he doesn't have that much money. Her money comes from her father (Mark Richard) and Trench doesn't want to take money from her father because the father is not a very good landlord. Trench's money comes from her father as well, but he doesn't know that. This play is about how he doesn't know who he really is. Blanche thinks that he cares so much about where his money comes from but she just thinks that. He kind of does, but he also kind of doesn't.

Sartorius, Blanche's father, is landlord to poor people and he doesn't treat them very well. He doesn't really care about them, that poor people also have feelings. His houses are not very nice and he doesn't want to fix them up because he thinks rich people should live in fantastic and beautiful houses, and middle class people should live in nice houses, and poor people should live in not very nice houses at all. And there is a man that is in his service named Lickcheese (Jack Hickey). I know that is a pretty funny name, but he is one of the most sad characters in this play. He has a bunch of children to take care of and when Sartorious kicks him out his children are hungry and he doesn't know what to do. Then Lickcheese decides to become another version of Sartorious, kind of.

Annie the parlor maid (Kathy Logelin) really loves Blanche but she gets treated terribly by her. You might ask, "Why is Shaw showing you Blanche being so terrible to Annie the parlor maid?" It doesn't make you like Blanche very much. But Trench also doesn't treat poor people very nicely because he is not very rich himself and he doesn't want to feel poor. That's why I think Blanche and Harry Trench are a good match. You don't exactly like either one of the main characters. You don't exactly like anyone in the show because they are all kind of horrible except for Annie the parlor maid. I think that is a very interesting choice Shaw made to make make the protagonists also kind of like the villains. Shaw is interested not in having all the people who come to see the show thinking that all his characters are really really nice but just in being interested in the characters. He is trying to point out a problem: he is trying to point out that people should not treat people of a lower class differently. Well, let me put it this way: "All people are created equal." He is not trying to say "treat your parlor maid like a piece of dirt". He is trying to say "don't treat your parlor maid like this if you have one." He doesn't think you should have parlor maids anyway; he thinks you should be independent.

This paragraph is all about Cockane (Gary Alexander) and why George Bernard Shaw put him in there. This character is a kind of nice character but also a kind of horribly mean character. He is nice because he tries to help his friend and he is mean because his friend happens to be a not very nice person. And he also is always talking about tact. Shaw is kind of saying that tact is not a very good thing because if you say something nice about something terrible that somebody is doing, using tact will not stop that. Shaw thinks they should not hide what they really think because then if they do the person that is doing the bad thing will not stop because they will think that you think that is a good idea. And then they will just keep on doing it.

I thought that the scene where Harry Trench and Blanche got back together was very interesting because the reason that they got back together was kind of not described. You can think of a reason why they got back together, but here is my hypothesis. My hypothesis is that for some reason Blanche forgave him because she realized, when she saw the blue book, that her father was a terrible person and that he was giving poor people terrible places to live. I have one other hypothesis. My hypothesis is that they got back together because she remembered how much they used to love each other. And she kind of missed him. So then they got back together.

People who would like this show are people who like interesting endings, funny names like Lickcheese, and evil love. Just before you go to the show remember it is a staged reading. That means that you should not expect amazing costumes that are good for the story and the set is just basically screens and folding chairs and music stands. From a reading you can still learn about the language and the relationships of the characters.

Photos: Lila M. Stromer Photography

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Review of Peter Pan (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Peter Pan. This is not any old Peter Pan. Peter Pan was played by Cathy Rigby who does amazing acrobatics even though she is 60! The production is from when my mom was a kid. She watched it on television when she was about my age. I liked how they were bringing back something from almost 40 years ago because people can go and see it and it will remind them of their mom or it could remind them of when they were a kid. This Peter Pan is exciting, amazing, and good to see with the whole family.

When you walk into the theater you will see a picture of London. Then, when the show starts, Peter Pan's voice comes on and says "I'm so happy that you guys will be flying with me tonight." There is a live orchestra which gets you more involved in the story and makes you believe these things are actually possible. The changes of the scenes I thought were really cool because they would show you just a flat straight picture of London or a map. And then that would go up and there would be a completely new set and that set would be so complicated that you didn't know how they did it in such little time. My favorite of the sets was the Indian set with the silk. If you would like to know what a silk is, you can learn it from me...ADA GREY! A silk is a long strip of silk that will support your weight and you can do lots of amazing circus moves. I thought Tiger Lily (Jenna Wright) was amazing on the silks.

There was a scene where the pirates had decided to make a poison cake, and then they found out where the boys live because Captain Hook (Brent Barrett) sat on a giant mushroom. It happened to be their chimney and it was so hot that he said "Ah!" and he thought his clothes were on fire. Then Captain Hook and Smee (James Leo Ryan) took off the top of the mushroom, and at first they were super calm, and then they started going "Hot hot hot hot hot!" And then they looked down the chimney and the saw and heard the lost boys. Then when they came back instead of just putting it back, again they went "Hot hot hot hot hot." I thought it was really funny because they kept going "hot hot hot hot hot" even though it should have cooled off a little bit by then. I thought it made it funny, but in actual logic it should have been medium hot.

There was this really cool choreography in this song that was called Ugg-a-Wugg. I know that it is not exactly right to do the Ugg-a-Wugg song because it is kind of culturally insensitive, but it is still a fun song. They make fun of Indians' language, which is not a good thing. When I was younger I used to think of the Ugg-a-Wugg song as just play language, and if you think of it that way, then it is fine. I like this song though because I think of it as play language. The choreography makes me feel very excited because there is a lot of drumming, and drumming makes me feel happy. I am not a professional at drums, but I do know how to do a few beats, so I was trying to pick up some of their techniques. I liked how everybody who was in that scene had a solo.

There is a thing that I think some kids would find a little bit betraying if they watched The Little Mermaid because all of the mermaids in that are very nice and sweet--except for that weird octopus lady. But in this the mermaid (Kim Crosby) is very selfish and cruel. I think that since mermaids don't actually exist, that is fine, but if they did then I don't think it would be fine. If mermaids actually existed it would be racist, but they don't, so it is totally fine to do that. I think it is a very cool approach because almost everybody thinks of mermaids as beautiful creatures that are very sweet, but they aren't in this play.

I thought the Crocodile (Clark Roberts) was really awesome because it did some really funny things like when Peter Pan had been fighting with Captain Hook after the bows, the Crocodile came on stage and Captain Hook ran away. Then the Crocodile took a little bow and I thought that was really funny because he is a crocodile and crocodiles don't really know how to take bows.

I thought the flying was really fantastic because everybody I thought made it look so real. I thought how Peter Pan did the acrobatics in the air and kept flying offstage and on was breathtaking. I really liked how Cathy Rigby could do flips and somersaults in the air. And there was a lot of climbing up walls and I thought that was very real looking.

People who would like this show are people who like flying, drumming, and very hot giant mushrooms. People should see this show because it is breathtaking and gets you very involved with the story.

Photos: Isaac James

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ada Grey's 100th Play Review Contest!

Ada Grey's 100th play review is coming up, and to celebrate she's created a contest. Here's how it works.

1.) Contestants should finish this sentence: "People who would like Ada Grey Reviews for You are people who like...."

2.) Contestants post their sentences with name and contact email in the comments below by February 28, 2013. (Information will not be shared publicly. Since Ada's mom moderates the comments, she'll look at entries without posting them in the comments.)

3.) Ada's mom shares the entries (with names removed) with Ada who will pick her favorite.

4.) The winner will have their sentence posted on the blog after play review #100 and will be invited to be Ada Grey's +1 to an upcoming play she'll review in Chicago. (Sorry, transportation not included.)