Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ada Grey's 10 Favorite Plays, 5 Favorite Musicals, and 3 Favorite Alices

This year I have seen a lot of theater, and I loved most of it. My first rough cut of this had 30 shows! This year has been an amazing year of reviewing for me because I love seeing theater and I love writing about theater. When I see a good play it just makes me so happy!

10 Favorite Plays

All Our Tragic (The Hypocrites)

"People who would like this show are people who like turtles, spear brides, and death by pickle."

The American Revolution (Theater Unspeakable at Adventure Stage Chicago)

"People who would like this show are people who like cute little girls slamming doors in people's faces, flexible kings, and Philadelphia."

Bat-Hamlet (Corn Productions)

"People who would like this show are people who like mind-blowing transformations, awesome fights, and a jar made out of ice with a king cobra inside with a grenade it its mouth."

Buyer & Cellar (Broadway Playhouse)

"People who would like this show are people who like bubble-blowing dolls, hilarious tragic backstories, and laughing your face off."

Haymaker (Neo-Futurists)

"People who would like this show are people who like hilarious Nazis, silent star-throwing ninjas, and unexpected roaring."

The Humans (American Theater Company)

"People who would like this show are people who like family, Thanksgiving, and peppermint pigs."

Monstrous Regiment (Lifeline Theatre)

"People who would like this show are people who like trolls, women, and coffee."

The Seafarer (Seanachai Theatre Company)

"People who would like this show are people who like card games, forgiveness, and disintegrated toast."

Stupid F##king Bird (Sideshow Theatre Company)

"People who would like this show are people who like good direct address, live depressing-ish and funny music, and putting vodka in your health drink."

The Tempest (Suitcase Shakespeare Company)

"People who would like this show are people who like scary Caliban masks, drunken butlers, and Ferdi-nerds!"

5 Favorite Musicals

Coraline (Black Button Eyes Productions)

"People who would like this show are people who like creepy glowing baby-doll heads, chocolate, and cats."

Dee Snider's Rock & Roll Christmas Tale (Broadway Playhouse)

"People who would like this show are people who like metal Christmases, Dee Snider, and rocking inflatable snowmen."

Peter and the Starcatcher (Broadway in Chicago)

"People who would like this show are people who like awesome feminist girls, bloomer sails, and valley-girl pirates."

Sweeney Todd (Porchlight Music Theatre)

"People who would like this show are people who like horror, pies, and facial hair."

Titanic (Griffin Theatre)

"People who would like this show are people who like excitement, cute Irish couples, and telegraph machines."

3 Favorite Alices

Alice (Upended Productions)

"People who would like this show are people who like bunnies, insanity, and lollipops."

Alice in Lincoln Park (Nothing Without a Company)

"People who would like this show are people who like little pink houses, mad love, and cute rabbit boys."

Lookingglass Alice (Lookingglass Theatre)

"People who would like this show are people who like awesome ball dance sequences, sdrawkcab gniga sneeuq, and egg grammar professors."

Photos: Kelsey Jorissen / Cole Simon / Jennifer Sampson

Review of The Nutcracker at The House Theatre of Chicago

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Nutcracker. The book was by Jake Minton and Phillip Klapperich. The music was by Kevin O'Donnell and the lyrics were by Jake Minton. And it was based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann. It was directed and choreographed by Tommy Rapley. It was about a girl named Clara (Jaclyn Hennell) whose brother Fritz (Shaun Baer) had died in the war and her parents (Paul Fagen and Ericka Ratcliff) had still not recovered for Christmas. And her Uncle Drosselmeyer (Karl Potthoff) made her a nutcracker that looked like her brother. And Uncle Drosselmeyer had magic and brought all her toys to life: Hugo (Andrew Lund) who was a robot, Monkey (Michael E. Smith) who was a monkey, and Phoebe (Krystal Worrell) who was a pull-string doll. This show was about Christmas, brother and sister relationships, and magic. This is my fifth time seeing the show and I always have fun! You can read my earlier reviews from 2010 and from 2013, so this is mostly going to be about new things I noticed.

The song "Let's Make Cookies" is always my favorite song besides the Rats' song. This is the time when Clara seemed most like a kid to me. She seemed very happy to be making cookies and she seemed the way a kid actually is when she is proud, not like in the movies where they stick their chin in the air. She just walked around like, "Hey! Everyone! Look at me! I'm awesome!" And I liked that. I also liked all the new actors playing toys. I loved Phoebe. She was very funny. One of my favorite parts was when she was saying, "I'm afraid of the dark" and everybody was like, "Seriously, Phoebe. You have to do that now when our lives are in danger?" And then she kept on saying it and saying it, and then they finally get it, but it has been 10 times of her saying it. My favorite Hugo moment is when he is left alone in the room to tell everyone terrible jokes!

I thought that Fritz was great this year. He seemed like an actual big brother because he was very nice to his sister but he also had some problems with her. And he felt like he had to protect his family by going to the war. I really liked his song and I thought that he had a great voice. I thought it was very bittersweet and heartwarming, and I almost cried this year.

I really liked the parents/rats. They were funny as the rats and they did a great job at being the parents. They seemed like, as parents, they loved Clara and wanted the best for her, but they just didn't feel very Christmassy because they had lost someone who was a big part of their Christmas. I loved when the rat who was also the mother met the monkey and they basically started doing tango moves and were like, "I love you!" I really liked when the father rat kept saying how scary he was and he would keep saying, "But it was very scary! Don't forget it was scary! It was scary--remember that!" That was very ridiculous and funny.

People who would like this show are people who like sugarplum cookies, bittersweet songs, and monkey and rat tango dances. I had so much fun at this show. I have had fun all of these years, and every single year has been a blast for me!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review of Lookingglass Alice at Lookingglass Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Lookingglass Alice. It was adapted and directed by David Catlin and it was from the works of Lewis Carroll. It was about a girl named Alice (Lauren Hirte) who went through the looking glass and met her friend Charles Dodgson (Samuel Taylor). And she went through amazing crazy adventures. Like she met a Cheshire Cat (Anthony Fleming III) who was very crazy and then she met the Red Queen (Molly Brennan) who was also very crazy and wanted everything her own way. And she also met a Mad Hatter (Kevin Douglas) and a March Hare (Fleming) and a Dormouse (Brennan). And when she met all these mad people, they were all saying she was mad. But we all know that everyone is a little bit insane. So it is sort of about insanity and what defines insane and what is just a fun person. I think it is also about the friendship between Mr. Dodgson and Alice and how she wants to become an adult and how Mr. Dodgson doesn't want her to grow up because he feels like he is losing her. I really really liked this show. I had so much fun and it is a great adaptation. And the circus elements were just mind blowing!

I really loved the White Knight (Taylor). I thought he was one of the sanest people who lived there. And I also loved the acrobatic tricks where Alice and the White Knight did moving backbends with two people. And I really liked the part with the handkerchief when the White Knight gives Alice the handkerchief to wave because he thinks it will encourage him. And then close to the end she gives it to Mr. Dodgson, who also played the White Knight, and tells him to wave the handkerchief that the White Knight gave to her to encourage her to go down her rabbit hole. I thought that it was very sweet. She needs encouragement because she is leaving all the friends she found here and she's going back to where she came from and will probably never see them again. His cycling was also hilarious. I really liked it when his "trusty steed" (also known as his bicycle) fell apart in front of his eyes because he just came out with this roar like, "No! My steed!" and he gathered up all the bicycle parts and left. And then when he came back on he was on like the tallest unicycle ever. I think they want you to think that he had to reassemble his horse as a unicycle--maybe it was a unicorn!

Humpty Dumpty's (Douglas) scene was insane! I don't want to ruin how it ends, but I'll tell you a little bit. The eggplants that they plant earlier have to do with it! I really liked how Humpty Dumpty seemed like a slightly insane sweetheart. And he was also a grammar professor it seemed because he explains the first verse of the Jaberwocky poem to her. He explains the poem to her word by word, and even though it makes no sense at all he makes it seem like it makes sense. He is a very fragile egg; his emotions crack whenever Alice says something even slightly rude to him. I thought his performance was poached perfectly! (That is such a bad joke. I hope you think it is funny.)

The Cheshire Cat was scary but also funny. He was slightly crazy but he also seemed sane because he helped Alice in every step of her journey--unlike the Mad Hatter and March Hare who just basically had a very very strange tea party. He was scary because he was very muscular and cracks his neck and smiles this blood-curdling smile. And you thought, if he jumped down from where he is above me, I will probably die. But then he is also funny because he makes up these crazy puns and stuff and he just walks away, like, she'll understand that purr-fectly. And he was also looking at naked pictures of cats, which was kind of funny because it just basically looked like a cat, because cats don't usually wear outfits or sunglasses or hats for cats!

The caterpillar scene was really cool. I liked how the caterpillar was made up of three people (Brennan, Douglas, and Fleming) and they had to move and talk and sing at the exact same time. I thought that must have been a lot of work for them. They must have had to go to a lot of rehearsals where they just had to say the exact same things like androids. I thought the movement was really crazy. Sometimes they would just be walking but sometimes they were flipping and jumping and that was really awesome. Sometimes they are flipping and jumping like one person! And then some of the time they were on top of each other and still walking!

The queens were crazy! The Red Queen's costumes (Mara Blumenfeld with Alison Siple) were amazing! Like one of them was as tall as the building basically and one of them, the one in the umbrella, was as small as baby's skirt. I thought that Molly Brennan did a great job being the mean person that the Red Queen is supposed to be but also being slightly lovable because she also seemed kind of like how a toddler acts. Like a toddler can be kind of grabby, but you have to love a toddler because they are so cute and stuff like that. You are just like, "That's okay. That's just what they want. I get it." I also really liked the White Queen (Taylor), and the white queen's part I am going to write backwards, in honor of her. .saw retcarahc eht yaw eht gnignahc ton elihw retcarahc eht fo ega eht gnignahc boj taerg a did eh thguoht I ?msinagro dellec-elgnis a otni nrut ehs lliw rO .niaga gniga trats tsuj ehs lliw ,won ybab a si ehs fI .txen eb lliw ehs tahw rednow i dna ybab a si neeuQ etihW eht ,dne eht yB .looc yrev saw thguoht I hcihw ,sdrawkcab sega neeuQ etihW ehT

I really liked the ball sequence where they all had giant balloon balls and yoga balls that they were bouncing around. And they would bounce them into the audience, which I thought was very cool. But the best part of all was when Alice put the ball between her legs and balls in each of her hands and started spinning around and around, basically doing backflips on the rope. And I don't know how she didn't get dizzy!

People who would like this show are people who like awesome ball dance sequences, sdrawkcab gniga sneeuq, and egg grammar professors. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. I had so much fun. The acrobatics were amazing, the acting was amazing, and it was very heartwarming and bittersweet.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Friday, December 19, 2014

Review of The Ruffian's Burning Bluebeard at Theater Wit

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Burning Bluebeard. It was written by Jay Torrence and directed by Halena Kays. It was about a fire that happened in 1903 here in Chicago. There were a bunch of actors putting on a show in this giant theater, but they wanted to make fake moonlight for everyone, but then there was a fire. You get to go into the stories of the people who were in the show and why they did the show but also how they felt about the fire and what they wish they could have done. I saw this show before at the Neo-Futurists and I had a lot of fun then too. I thought it was equally awesome both times and I liked all the new things in it too. I think this was a little scarier because this space at Theater Wit was more like a theater and less like a house (the Neo-Futurarium reminds me of a house because there is a hall outside and it opens up to another room instead of a lobby) because the fire happened in a theater. I really loved this show and I think everyone should go see it unless you are a little-little kid.

The song "Rehab" was lip-synced by Robert Murray (Jay Torrence). Robert Murray was the stage manager for Mr. Bluebeard, the Christmas pantomime that was the show that was playing when the fire happened. "Rehab" is about a woman who is having troubles and Mr. Bluebeard is about a woman whose husband has locked all his wives in a castle and killed them. And his wife at the moment finds them and is very sad at that moment and is having troubles with that. Robert Murray the character would not have known this song, and that made it more funny because it was not at all in the style of music for that time. And it also made it even funnier for him to be in a dress when he has this big beard. His expression was very half-pan. If you don't know what half-pan means, half-pan is a word that I just made up. And it means to be slightly dead-pan but then to have little bursts of really feeling the song and then going back to dead-pan.

I really loved the Eddie Foy (Ryan Walters) sequence. Eddie Foy, I hope you are listening because this will be a first for you in the 21st century, but I thought it was hilarious. The Eddie Foy sequence was a bunch of acrobatics and a bunch of really terrible jokes. Terrible jokes, if you tell them in the right way, can be the best jokes. I really liked the Eddie Foy signature move which was that he twirled his finger next to his thumb and then made a gun position up towards the sky. It had to be funny because, if it wasn't, then it would seem like all those people who died in the Iroquois fire were stupid because they thought Eddie Foy was hilarious. Eddie Foy is not always a hilarious character, though, because he goes through some really painful stuff. A bunch of children die because he told them to sit back down and be calm. But I think he would have done the right thing if there hadn't been a wind that swished through and made the fire bigger.

I thought that Henry Gilfoil's (Anthony Courser) idea to give out half a cotton ball was a very cute and awesome idea because it would also give the kids something to remember the show by. I think that all the kids remembered the show but because of all the people who died. How he wanted to give all the kids cotton balls showed how he didn't want them to remember the show because of the fire but because of all the magic that happened. He doesn't seem at all like Bluebeard; he seems so much nicer than him. He just seemed like an actor who could play a part very well and pretend to be a horrible monster. Other characters talk about their childhoods, like Nellie Reed (Leah Urzendowski) talks about how when she was a kid her mother would give her a brooch and they had to pass it around among five sisters for special occasions. And she wants to give the children something to remember her by so she throws flowers into the audience when she flies over them. I think that they remember their childhood at this time because the show Mr. Bluebeard was for children and they wanted to make those children feel the magic part of the show. But then they ended up not being able to show the kids what they wanted to show them and the sad part is that the kids who died didn't get to remember their childhoods.

The Faerie Queen (Molly Plunk) was very funny. I liked how her voice was basically just like, well vomiting is what it sounded like, but whenever she would talk, people would be like "oh, her voice is so pretty." And then also she kept a bag of potato chips in her dress, and so she would just get them out and start crunching her "sensible snack." And actually chips are not all that sensible to have. She should have an apple or something. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, kids! I also really liked it how the Faerie Queen would just go up to people and start hugging them and stuff like that. She seemed like someone who could save the day in a fairy tale, but she couldn't in this one because she was not a fireman fairy. And I thought that was more like real life, because the fairy queen can't save you.

There was a new Clown (Pam Chermansky) this time and I thought she was amazing. She was scary because you think it is mental but she wants the fire to happen again. But then she was also funny sometimes, like how she slightly flirted with everyone who was even in the building. She even flirted with the audience. I thought it was really funny in the "Rehab" sequence when she came out on this camel cart and her hair was like blowing in the wind and her skirt was like flying up and she was making slightly sexy movements and it was just so funny because you see this clown coming out and doing this and it was just so funny. I thought it was great that they chose a female clown this time because you don't always think of female clowns when you think a clown, especially like a haunted house kind of clown--like an arsonist clown like she is.

People who would like this show are people who like 1903 humor, reasonable/not-very-reasonable snack-eating fairies, and halves of cotton balls. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. I had so much fun and so much fear and afterwards you are very sad about it but you are also remembering all the wonderfully horrible jokes, and "Rehab," and clowns coming out on camel carts, and flowers being thrown to the audience.

Photos: Evan Hanover

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review of Newsies at The Oriental Theatre (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Newsies. It was directed by Jeff Calhoun. The music was by Alan Menken and the lyrics were by Jack Feldman. The book was by Harvey Fierstein. It was about a teenager named Jack Kelly (Dan DeLuca) who is a newsboy, a newsie if you like, who fell in love with a young female reporter named Katherine (Stephanie Styles). And then he had the idea to start a strike because Joseph Pulitzer (Steve Blanchard) had elevated the price of papes. There is also Jack's best friend Crutchie (Zachary Sayle) who would do anything for him--and he does. There was also a brother team of Davey (Jacob Kemp) and Les (Vincent Crocilla) who start out being newbie newsies but by the end they have gone through a strike and are selling papes like crazy. This show is about friendship, love, and kid's rights to be able to be paid fairly for working as hard as an adult does. I really loved this show because the dance numbers were just breathtaking, it had a great female reporter, and it also had conflict between adults and kids that was very interesting.

I really liked the music hall singer, Medda Larkin (Angela Grovey) and I really loved her song, "That's Rich." I liked it because it was basically like a song from the time period when most of the other music was more modern and not really set in the time period. One of my favorite moments in that song was when she started talking to the audience about how ridiculous it is that they are not dying over her because she is so beautiful and talented. And I actually thought that she was. It showed how independent she was, how she could tell anyone that they are ridiculous even if she knows they are not trying to be funny. Her and Jack are basically like mother and son. They helped each other whenever they fell on hard times. If one of them needed a job they would gladly give it to each other if they could. And I thought it was very sweet that she played a motherly role in his life even though he was motherless.

Crutchie and Jack's relationship was basically like me with one of my best friends except we are not on as much hard times as they are. Jack got very sad when the thing happened to Crutchie. I can not tell you what it is; you'll just have to go see the show. I really liked Crutchie's song "Letter from the Refuge." One of my favorite parts was when he was writing down what it was like to be at the Refuge and he said "And the food is not that bad because we haven't had any food" and then he paused for a second and then he said, "Ha….Ha…" as he wrote it down. Jack is a very good friend to Crutchie but he has been more of a leader to everyone than a friend. I thought that Crutchie was sort of a mean name for him because it brought out a not very important aspect of him, which was that he had a crutch, and made it his name.

The song, "Watch What Happens," was sung by Katherine and I really loved it. It really showed the power in her to be a woman who is trying to say "I can be this" and standing up to people. But then it also showed how scared she was to do this, "Maybe everybody will still think I'm stupid and then they will think that women can never have this job and I will ruin things for women forever." It reminded me of what I am like when I'm writing a review. Well, it sort of did, but I didn't have to have long passages in it about how much I love this Newsie boy. Her anxieties about what people think of her and what people will think about her when this paper comes out are like when I think that no one will like my review. I think that the actress did a great job of playing the role non-cheesily. You could make this a big soppy ball of cheese. But she made Katherine very down-to-earth and very funny and now it is my dream role!

The song "King of New York," was a very jumpy song. And it had tap dancing. Tap dancing, people! I absolutely freaking love tap dancing. The Newsies were all tap dancing on top of tables while they got free water from Jacobi's (John E. Brady) Deli. I liked how the second that Jacobi left, they started tap dancing and he never noticed even though they were doing the splits in the air and jumping on the tables and tap dancing everywhere and probably damaging the tables. I found the song very catchy and I want to listen to it endlessly. And Katherine started out doing this tiny little dance and then they are all like, "Oh, Katherine, I expect better from you," and then she breaks out into this giant tap-dancing number and our jaws fall to the floor. I loved all of the Newsies but a few really stood out to me. I really liked Race (Ben Cook). I thought he was very funny and he was kind of the one who was the bully but also the protector. And his dancing was amazing. Romeo (Josh Assor) was very funny because he kept hitting on ladies and they would be like, "Back off, Romeo" and he would say, "How do you know my name?!" Henry (Demarius R. Cooper) was a very good character. He had a lot of charisma. Even though he didn't have the biggest part in the show, he looked like he was having the time of his life. I thought that Specs (Jordan Samuels) was a literally amazing dancer. He did back flips and giant jumps and it was just insane! Finch (Julian DeGuzman) was a very funny character and was great with acrobatics.

People who would like this show are people who like amazing acrobatic dancing, female reporters, and Kings of New York. This show has good female characters, good male characters, and toe touches that will blow your mind. I think people should definitely go see this show. I had so much fun at it and I am now a big Newsies fan.

Photos: Deen van Meer

Monday, December 15, 2014

Review of Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) at Jackalope Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to show and it was called Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake). It was written by Sheila Callaghan and it was directed by AJ Ware. It was about a mother (Charlesanne Rabensburg) whose daughter, Janice (Kristen Magee) was a going a little bit insane because her father (Curtis Jackson) has died. Their apartment (Tim Parker) talked and their aunt (Rachel Slavick) was a cat lady. And Janice loves Justin Timberlake (Jackson). I think this was a very touching but funny show. And I had a lot of fun, but it was also scary for me because their family was basically falling apart bit by bit and I don't want that to happen to us. And that is why we use a stool on the side farthest away from the window when we put the star on top of the Christmas tree!

The apartment is the first thing you see. And I know you are thinking, "Of course it is. It is the set." But no, you are not right; it is not the set. There is a person who plays the apartment. Then he is always talking to the audience because he is basically the narrator. He sees everything that happen; he feels when someone walks across the floor or if there are rats; and he hears if someone is sad or crying or having a fantasy. And if there is someone making an evil mastermind plan, he knows it all. I think that is a great kind of narrator to have that feels, sees, and hears everything. I liked how he did all this apartmently-like stuff. He would lay on the floor or when he was a wall he would stand against the wall and when he is a radiator he crouches up against the wall and makes banging noises until the mother fixes him. The personality was he was very depressed and sad but he still had good memories of what used to happen here. He seemed very mean and just wanted to do what was right for him, which meant killing off as many people in the family as possible.

The daughter was pretty crazy because she had a bunch of ideas that would not usually go on in an 11-year-old's brain. All the Justin Timberlake fantasies could go on in an 11-year-old's brain, but not all the evil mastermind stuff. Usually tweens are not that scared that they want to blow up their mother and their selves. I don't want to blow up my mother and myself, but I think this is a a great character to have because it shows the normal parts of a tween's brain and a slightly supernatural part of a tween's brain that probably doesn't happen all that often. It has some of the realistic and less realistic aspects to make it reliable but also being able to have fun with all the different ideas about what is going on with her. Is she being hypnotized by the house? Is she an evil mastermind? Another possibility is that this all could be a silly fantasy of hers. She wants to destroy things because she feels there is nothing else to do. Her dad is dead. Her mother is depressed all the time and she is getting bad grades which makes her mother more depressed and her apartment is talking to her. And she thinks, "What could be worse?" so she just wants to end it all. Trying to figure it out brought some of the excitement to the show, and I really liked that.

The mother wanted to be the perfect mother but she felt like she couldn't because her husband had died. She tries to make her daughter happy by letting her have a lot of freedom. But when she has that freedom she doesn't know what to do because she becomes odd and lonely and gives her mom a weird christmas list. And the only thing that makes sense is a Justin Timberlake album. The mom is overwhelmed by everything that her daughter does because she thinks, "Well that must be wrong." And even if it is just regular 11-year-old girl stuff, like thinking about boys, she either freaks out or wants to pretend it and the weird stuff is regular, but she doesn't know how and lies to herself.

The daughter and mother both had their dream-boy fantasies. The daughter's was Justin Timberlake and the mother's was Harrison Ford. The one I can understand is the Harrison Ford one; he's a cutie. Curtis Jackson played both parts and the father, which I think showed us a kind of connection. That connection was that they all made the family happy, and the other people kind of made up for the father and reminded them of him and made them feel better. I found those scenes very funny. In the Justin Timberlake scene he started flying! And you could just see his feet flapping in the distance. And I thought that was just weird and funny and ridiculous and I loved it. And also when Harrison Ford was talking to the mom, he started levitating under a sheet. And I thought that was very weird and silly, and I was just like, "What is going on over there!?" And then she lifts off the sheet and there is no one there. And I was just in awe. I was like, that was some pretty awesome magic. I thought that Curtis Jackson did a great job turning from a teen celebrity to the man who plays Indiana Jones!

The aunt was a cat lady. She had 57 cats. I love cats, and I wouldn't be super-duper sad if I had 57 cats, but I would be very overwhelmed. It is not normal to have 57 cats, but I think she seems happy with the 57 cats because she loves her cats. She gets them Christmas presents, and she talks to them like they are her children because it seems like she wanted to have children but she couldn't. So then she got cats. I thought she was a great character to have because she didn't seem too sad-sacky like you think someone would be in this situation.

People who would like this show are people who like cats, talking houses, and levitating sheets with supposedly Harrison Ford inside them. There is just one more week, so get your tickets, quick! It was amazing!

Photos: Phil Dembinski

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review of Pericles at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Pericles. The director was David H. Bell and it was written by William Shakespeare. It was about a man named Pericles (Ben Carlson) who went to a land to marry a woman (Eliza Palasz) but then that woman was romantically involved with her father (Sean Fortunato), and then the father was angry that Pericles had found out their secret. Then he sends people to kill him, so Pericles goes to far off lands so they can't get him. And when he is in those far off lands he saves a city from starvation, he gets shipwrecked, and then he meets the love of his life Thaisa (Lisa Berry). And just when you think everything is going well, something terrible happens, but I don't want to give that away. This show was about love, adventure, and loyalty. I thought this was a really really fun show. It was sad, funny, exciting, and suspenseful.

Pericles and Thaisa were two of the greatest characters that I've ever seen. They were so perfect for each other. They talked about the same things and they loved each other. They were just the perfect couple to have in the show. I really loved the scene where Simonides (Kevin Gudahl), Thaisa's father, was talking about how he was completely against this marriage, when he was actually really for it. What he did is he would say, "I'm completely against this marriage. I can't even believe she loves you." Then he would look out at the audience and say "I'm totally for this. I'm so excited!" And it was just so funny because it was just pretty obvious that he didn't actually want them to not get married. His giggling showed everyone that he was super excited for the marriage." We knew Pericles and Thaisa were in love because they would also have those looking-out-to-the-audience moments. They would say like, "Well he's fine." And then they look to the side and say, "He's so handsome. I love him!" And the other people wouldn't even freeze, so it seemed like everyone could hear her and knew her true feelings about Pericles.

I really liked the dance. I thought it was very creative and not like your usual Shakespeare dance, like a jig of some sort. I really liked how there were drums (percussion by Jed Feder & Dan Toot) in the background and people doing basically a handkerchief dance. I thought it was a really fun moment. The dance shows you they are carefree in Simonides' kingdom. That is cool because Pericles can do anything he wants here. He can dance, he can sing, he can marry the person he loves. He can just be happy and you think he deserves that because he has been shipwrecked, he found out a dark secret, and nothing has been going his way lately.

I really liked the scene where Cerimon (Ross Lehman) brought Thaisa back to life. He was really nonsensical, but I love nonsensical things so I was not annoyed by this at all. He would make potions that would basically bring people back to life, but then they were sort of cheesy because they would use this burning coal and move the smoke around on her to bring her back to life. But then it does work, so you are like, "Woah. How did that work?" And then when she woke up, he was basically comforting her and his way of comforting was pretty funny and it was also very sweet because he had basically just met this woman, but he was like, "I shall save you from dying!" This actor was also really funny as a fisherman because the fisherman is also a pretty odd character and he played it very well in the way that when he was comforting Pericles and his friend (Derrick Trumbly) would come over and start patting Pericles all over, he was just like, "No." That was funny because he was basically the boss but then when other people comforted like he did, he would say they weren't doing a good job!

The daughter of Pericles and Thaisa was named Marina (Cristina Panfilio). I liked this character because she seemed powerful and most young and beautiful characters in Shakespeare don't seem very powerful. I thought she was powerful because she fought against the pirates when they "rescued" her. Wait. I know you are probably thinking, "Wait. Pirates?" But that is not a typo. There are actually pirates in the show. There was also a Snow White element to this which I thought was very awesome. When they started the second act, I thought, "This is like Snow White!" There was an evil foster mother who is jealous of her foster daughter's beauty, so she wants her boyfriend to go kill Marina. But instead of being saved by dwarves, Marina is saved by pirates. But then the pirates aren't great to her. They send her to a brothel. Marina's other kind of power is that she can just say, "I don't want to be here, and so can you leave me alone and give me some money?" and the men who have come to the brothel would always do what she said. That is a great kind of power to have. She can help people feel better and can say, "That's not a great decision to make. You should change your mind."

This play teaches you about loyalty in the way that the people act. Helicanus (Dion Johnstone) was very true and loyal to his king Pericles because people said, "Why don't you just become king?" But then he doesn't want to do that. And when Pericles is going crazy he treats him like a best friend would treat their friend if they were going completely insane. Lychorida (Ora Jones) was the nurse of Thaisa who came along with her on the boat and helped her give birth to her baby. But then once Thaisa is dead she doesn't have a mistress anymore but she has a new little mistress Marina who she helps grow up to be a beautiful and smart young woman. These are people who stay loyal to whoever they are working for, no matter what.

People who would like this show are people who like looking out to the audience to say the exact opposite of what you just said, handkerchief dances, and pirates. I think people should definitely go see this show. I didn't know that a so little-known Shakespeare play could be so much fun!

Photos: Liz Lauren

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review of Emerald City's Hansel and Gretel at Broadway Playhouse.

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Hansel and Gretel. It was directed and choreographed by Ernie Nolan and the book was by Ernie Nolan. The music and lyrics were by Justin Roberts. It was about a brother and sister named Hansel (Jack Ball) and Gretel (Alissa Walker) whose father (Pavi Proczko)was very poor and their mother (Jennifer T. Grubb) had disappeared. And they were going on a quest to find a magic troll named Ingmar (Brenton Abram-Copenhaver) that could grant wishes and would help them find her. But the problem is an evil witch Lotte (Danny Taylor) wants to use her wand outside of the forest and she needs the heart of a believer for her spell and she thinks that the believer is Hansel. I was very excited to see this show because I am a big Justin Roberts fan, and I wasn't disappointed at all. By the time the first song started, I was immediately captivated. Justin Roberts is good at making the song take you somewhere, back to your childhood (on his albums) or into the world of Hansel and Gretel. This show is funny, sweet, and the music is beautiful and rocking!

"Sugar is the Perfect Food" I thought was a really catchy song and I really really liked it. I liked that song because it was just so interactive with the stage. They'd just made this candy house and then they would unroll these fruit roll-ups out of the house and then basically roll themselves up and then eat them. It doesn't just tell kids, "Hey, you should eat a bunch of candy," because someone's heart is almost taken out afterwards. But it also celebrates how you can eat candy. Candy can give you different experiences. It can give you the experience of a stomach ache. Or it can give you the experience of having something sweet in your mouth. I thought that Hansel and Gretel did a great job singing this song and acting like kids around a house made of candy. I liked their faces when they first saw the candy house; it just seemed so much like, "I'm in shock. This can't be happening. I must be dreaming." But they are not, so they start eating it.

I really liked the song "Crumb by Crumb." I think everyone did an amazing job on this song, but Gretel was just mind-blowing throughout the entire time. She wasn't a regular Gretel, like a Gretel who is there for her brother and they go and almost get eaten by a witch. But here they were actually like a real brother and sister, which means that she acted like she wanted to be there for him but he still got on her nerves--a lot. She starts out being a really big cynic. She doesn't really believe in magic, or the troll, or her brother. I think that she's being perfectly fine, but no one else thinks it is perfectly fine to steal eggs so her family won't starve. You expect Gretel to be the perfect little child who would rather starve than give anyone inconvenience. But I like this Gretel better because no child is really perfect and she stands up for anything she believes in even if it's not what other people think. "Crumb by Crumb" shows you this about Gretel because she is going along and using all the resources she can to find her brother, but her father doesn't believe that she can do it. "Crumb by Crumb" is also really catchy and I think the lyrics worked so well with the situation. I absolutely loved it.

Fritz (Royen Kent) kept eating the crumbs in "Crumb by Crumb," but Gretel couldn't see it. Fritz the duck was just such a great character that I don't remember from the books. But when they had him, I was like "Yesss!" because I don't think Hansel and Gretel should be completely alone. They should have a little comic relief beside them in the shape of a duck. I liked the duck because he always seemed to get himself in trouble with the cat Brunhilde (Sadie Glaspey). I liked the moment when they first saw each other and immediately Brunhilde chased him around everywhere. And she was laying on a skateboard. It was pretty funny to see a cat on a skateboard chasing a duck on a office chair. I really liked it when he was trying to tell the father that Hansel and Gretel were out missing and about to be killed by the witch. But he really couldn't really communicate with him because he was just a duck and the only way he could communicate was with a kazoo. And then the mother says, you can understand him now, and then Fritz said, "Hansel! Gretel! Danger! Quick! But then he went back to kazooing. I thought that was really funny. My friend Maggie and I were cracking up.

Lotte and Ingmar were supposed to be the "evil team," but they weren't because Ingmar was just too sweet and he was abducted by her. He didn't really want to be there, except that he could work more on his cooking. His two famous recipes were kuchen and strudel. And the kuchen is also a weapon, but you'll have to see the play to find out what I mean. I also really liked how he helped Hansel and Gretel but also sort of wanted to obey Lotte and kill them at the same time. Lotte I think is probably the best evil witch character I've ever seen. She wasn't so evil that you hated her, because you also realized why she was so sad and depressed that she wanted to rip children's hearts out: because when she was a girl she had to do everything herself. And then she had to sacrifice her heart for a map so she could find a troll who would grant her a wish. I think she would have been better if she hadn't had no help, no friends, and no good parents. I thought she was very sassy and snazzy and I absolutely loved her character.

People who would like this show are people who like amazing witch characters, candy houses, and comedy in the shape of a duck. I think people should definitely go see this show because it is a brand new kind of kids' musical. It doesn't have all the cheesy music. It has really good stuff that actually deals with people's feelings instead of just being like, "everything is happy and awesome!" But you don't leave the theater sad, because it still had that fairy-tale happy ending.

Photos: Johnny Knight

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Review of The Hypocrites' H.M.S. Pinafore

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called H.M.S. Pinafore. It was written by Gilbert and Sullivan. It was adapted and directed by Sean Graney and the musical arrangement was by Matt Kahler and Andra Velis Simon. It was about a common sailress named Ralphina Rackstraw (Dana Omar) who fell in love with a much higher man named Joseph (Doug Pawlik). But the ranking in between them was just too much for his mother Captain Cat Coran (Emily Casey) to deal with. But she thought it was okay for him, even though he was of a lower rank, to marry Admiral Dame Jo-Ann (Christine Stulik). I really had a lot of fun at this show. The atmosphere was just electric and very fun. I knew that it was going to be promenade but I was still like "Woah!" when I walked into the space. People were literally throwing stuffed kittens at my face and there was a pillow pit and a slide to slide into the pillow pit, and bunk beds, which is basically what I want my room to be like! This show made me feel like I was at someone's birthday party and hanging out in their room. And there were no mean girls at this party!

The lovers were named Joseph and Ralphina and one of my favorite scenes included both of these people. I really loved the love song with the flute and the clarinet. But after it, the mother Captain Cat Coran was like, "No more woodwinds, ok?" and she just put them away because they were just playing them and looking into each others' eyes. And her reaction was just so funny and perfect. And one of my other favorite scenes was when they were talking to each other when Ralphina was confessing her love for Joseph. But they were climbing around in the pillow pit and, as everyone knows, it is pretty hard to climb just on piles of pillows, because of the friction. Pillows are soft and everyone's feet or shoes are harder and every time you take a step you just sink down. They are trying to make this romantic scene, but it turns out not very romantic at all because they are trying to maneuver themselves through pillows. And I thought that was hilarious. I really liked it how whenever anybody slid down into the pillow pit they had this old-fashioned movie-like sound that was a slide whistle. It just was very comical and old-fashioned and then Ralphina would slide into the pillow pit and try to get up, and that was another funny part.

I really liked the song where Dame Jo-Ann talked about how she became the ruler of the navy because her reasons didn't really make any sense. She said, "Just don't ever go out to sea and you'll get my job"! She also had a song about her brothers and her uncles and her cousins and her kin. I really liked that song because it basically was saying that her family was her crew. She is very proud, trying to look sophisticated, and the ruler of the royal Na-vy. But I don't think that she actually loves Joseph; she's just like, "OK, I'll marry him." Her spunkiness and her gestures and her costume (by Alison Siple) were just so ridiculous and amazing that you just couldn't take your eyes off her. Dame Jo-Ann was being very show-offy and was really into it, and then her banjo broke. And then Matt Kahler went off stage and came back with the fixed banjo and she kept on playing. It was just impressive how into it she was that she could break her own banjo with her own hands by playing so hard and fast. It was also impressive that they fixed her banjo so fast.

Buttercup (Robert McLean) is funny because you wouldn't think that this man would be playing Buttercup who is a little bumboat woman. But in this he was a bumboat man who was in love with the Captain-ess Cat Coran. I thought the swapping of the genders was a great idea because usually women don't get to be the sailors and men don't get to play the young people who are held back from love by their parent. You really knew that it was supposed to be a girl when they said, "Hello, Buttercup!" because most people in their right mind would not give a man such a womanly name as Buttercup, unless they really really really wanted a girl. I really liked Buttercup's song about being an obstetrician and switching two babies at birth. I liked it because the shocking thing was not that he switched the two babies at birth but that he was an obstetrician. An obstetrician!

Captain Cat Coran was one of my favorite characters even though she was somewhat evil because she kept the lovers apart. But I think she also didn't want to say goodbye to her son, so she wanted to delay it sort of. But then she decides to make a match with a big time ruler of the royal navy. And my favorite song was her song "What never? No never. What never? Hardly ever!" I liked that one because it was just so catchy that I still have it in my head. I like how she says "hardly ever" after she says "no never" because she doesn't want to lie to her crew. She backtracks to hardly ever and I thought that was very funny because like she says she's never ever sick at sea, but then she is.

People who would like this show are people who like pillow-pit love songs, literal slide-whistles, and going back on your promises that you never get sick at sea. I think people should definitely go see this show. I had so much fun having kittens thrown at my face while I watched a great musical. I think that is a great way to spend your night!

Photos: Evan Hanover

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review of Mary Poppins at The Paramount Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Mary Poppins. It was directed by Rachel Rockwell and the music director was Tom Vendafreddo. The book was by Julian Fellowes and the original songs were by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. The additional music and lyrics were by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. It was about a nanny, Mary Poppins (Emily Rohm), who is magical and went to go and help the Bankses, who were a family and helped them actually become a family and not just be some people who lived together. The father, George Banks (Michael Aaron Lindner), all he thinks about is money. Winifred Banks (Cory Goodrich) is being overrun by Mr. Banks because he doesn't pay attention to her and think of her as a real woman. Jane (Peyton Shaffer), and Michael Banks (Charlie Babbo) lie and want to make each other look bad. And those are the problems that Mary Poppins has to fix. Bert (Matt Crowle) is a man of many trades. One day he is a painter, the next day he is a kite maker, and the next day he is a chimney sweep. He is the narrator and also part of the story. He doesn't just go on the inside or the outside of the story. I think this is a great family show because it is enthusiastic, the music is great, and it is a fun family classic.

I really liked the choreography (by Rachel Rockwell). I thought it was very imaginative. It had a modern twist even though this is not supposed to be a super modern play. I liked it. In "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," they made all the letters with their bodies, and that I thought was very creative. I liked the choreography for "Temper, Temper" and I also liked the costumes (by Theresa Ham). What I liked about the costumes was how much they looked like real toys; it seemed like a child's nightmare of its toys coming around and saying "You hurt me all these years." Also the dancing was very wind-up-toy like. The doll Valentine (Will Skrip) was very flexible; when I play with my toys, if they are cotton, they can slide into the splits very easily. I liked how they incorporated that into the choreography. I also really liked the choreography in "Step in Time." It just was big and it really made you focus on what was happening. The movements were just so crazy. They did some tap; they did some jazz; they did some acrobatics. I really liked how Bert was placed on these two strings and they spinned him around and around and around. And I am like, "How are you not so dizzy?" And then the crazy thing is, when he came out of that, he went right into the splits.

Mary Poppins and Bert were both amazing. I thought they were both very talented. I thought her singing was absolutely beautiful. I absolutely loved her stare when anybody would talk back to her. My favorite song that she sang, which is basically my favorite song in the musical, is "Practically Perfect." What is great about it is that it is just so so catchy and it tells you something about Mary Poppins: that she kind of brags about herself but she also wants to help other people become "Practically Perfect." One of my favorite moments was when Jane and Michael got measured. I liked their reactions a lot. They were like, "But that's not true!" But the descriptions of what they were were so specific it was just funny. I thought Bert was a great dancer and his accent was much better than Dick Van Dyke's. (No offense to Dick Van Dyke, I love him, but his accent was pretty bad.) This Bert wasn't flamboyant, but it is good not to be flamboyant all the time. I liked the way that he talked to the audience; he wasn't cheesy like he was taking us on a magical journey. He was more like a storyteller than a sideshow man.

I loved the song "Being Mrs. Banks," which was a song about being a wife and not from a man's perspective. What happens is that Mrs. Banks is kind of getting fed up because Mr. Banks doesn't recognize who she is. And so she decides to talk about the bad things and the good things about being Mrs. Banks. One thing that I liked in the movie was that she was a suffragette. And they sort of replicated that here in how she talked about what it is like to be her and how women should still have the same amount of power as men. She wants to stay loyal to her family and so she decides not to go back to acting, which I slightly want her to because I love acting and any kind of theater. I think she should follow her dreams, but that is her choice. She makes that choice, though, because she wants to be with her kids more. I liked the performance of the song a lot because it was kind of like she was writing in her diary or something. She was very intimate, and I liked that. I thought that Mr. Banks's discoveries were really well acted. You really saw his happiness but you still saw his strictness showing through--until he says "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," and then everything changes!

People who would like this show are people who like chimney sweeps, practically perfect measuring tapes, and the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I think people should definitely go see this show with their families. It was worth the drive to Aurora. I had so much fun, and I hope you will too.

Photos: Liz Lauren