Friday, July 24, 2015

Ada Grey Interviews for You: Grace Etzkorn & Ben Love

I had so much fun interviewing Grace Etzkorn and Ben Love, the Best Actress and Best Actor winners from the 2015 Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards.

Review of Kokandy Productions' Loving Repeating

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Loving Repeating. It was adapted from the writings of Gertrude Stein by Frank Galati. The music was by Stephen Flaherty and the lyrics were by Gertrude Stein. The music direction was by Kory Danielson. It was directed by Allison Hendrix and it was choreographed by Andrea Louise Soule. It was about this woman, Gertrude Stein (Caron Buinis), who was reflecting back on when she was younger (Young Gertrude was played by Amanda Giles) and about her decisions about what she wanted to do to spend the time. The things that are important to her are her wife Alice (Emily Goldberg), her friends, and her poetry. With her poetry, she is trying to make something different and new and exciting. She is trying to make people see the rose, not just think of the word "rose." I thought this was a great show. It was very sweet and touching and there were some funny, strange non sequitur moments that were also really awesome. I thought the music was really great. I think it is a cool idea to make her poetry into a musical because her poems have a beat and repeat just like music.

Even though this play is sometimes confusing, you still enjoy it because you see that the confusing parts are inside jokes Gertrude has with Alice. I have inside jokes with my friends too. Inside jokes aren't trying to make other people feel bad; they are about connecting with the other person and things that they find funny that other people might not. Like there was this one song about cows and every time they said "Moo" Gertrude and Alice would laugh, which is their inside joke and I found it sweet and funny and I wish I could have met them. There is another inside joke that was not really a joke, just an inside thing for themselves, where they would say, "You are my honey honeysuckle and I'm your bee." It is kind of like a play on words on their names and pet names. Like "honey" might be Gertrude's nickname and Alice B. Toklas is Bee. It was great to have some inside jokes in a show that at first you didn't get, but as time went by you started to understand them more. Which is basically like actually spending time with someone. I think that Gertrude Stein would have liked that because that was basically the purpose of her poetry.

There were two songs "Men" and "Miss Furr and Miss Skeene" that were not about Alice and Gertrude exactly, but about the people around them. In "Men," at first you just think it is a bunch of men (Andrew Lund, Jake Morrissy, and George Toles) sitting at a table singing back up, but then it turns out that they all have deep secrets. They all are in love with each other but then what happens is when one part of a pair that had fallen in love falls in love with another person, the other part of the pair gets hurt. It is all about that. It is told in a dramatically simple way. It is dramatic because he breaks someone's heart, but they don't have a big duel in the Spanish restaurant. They don't even say the names of the people; it just happens and you follow the story. It isn't super detailed or anything, but you get the sense of the story by their acting and singing and movements. Miss Furr (Sarah Hayes) and Miss Skeene (Stephanie Stockstill) had names, so they were more introduced then the men, but the thing is you still didn't get to know how they met. You just knew their names and that they were learning how to sing and that they were in love. I thought it was pretty cool to try to fill in their story. You don't know anything about the characters really, but they have a big part in the story Gertrude is telling, so it makes you think they might have been their friends.

There is a song called "Loving Repeating" which is about all of Gertrude's passions. Alice was the loving and her poetry was the repeating. But she also loves her poetry, which is repeating. You have to say I love you all the time and show you love someone, so repeating is important to have love, so the person won't think your love is fading. There are also other songs about loving and repeating. I thought the song "Kiss My Lips She Did" was really pretty. It is about loving and repeating because it repeats the same sentences over and over again, but it is all about love. All the songs are repetitive but in a good way. Gertrude Stein has an amazing wife that she loves and her poems are always repeating so that is why they called this musical Loving Repeating.

People who would like this show are people who like poetry, amazing love stories, and cows. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. I thought it was touching, funny, and a great show for people who like beautiful stories about finding the person you love.

Photos: Micahel Brosilow

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review of Brown Paper Box Co.'s [title of show]

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called [title of show]. The book was by Hunter Bell and the music and lyrics were by Jeff Bowen.  It was directed by M. William Panek and the musical director was T.J. Anderson. It is about this group of friends who decide to put together a show for a festival. There is a man named Jeff (Yando Lopez) who is writing the music and lyrics and a man named Hunter (Matt Frye) who was writing the scenes. This one is actually about the actual people who wrote the show writing the show that you're seeing, as opposed to, like, Merrily We Roll Along, which is also about people writing a show but it is not the show that you are currently watching. There were also two women who both wanted to act in the show, Susan (Neala Barron) and Heidi (Anna Schutz). There was also a piano player, Larry (Justin Harner), who they included in the show too, which I thought was really awesome. It is about friendship, working hard, and trying to get rid of bad feelings in your life that keep you from making the art that you want.

The best early line ever in the entire history of plays is probably the line "A drag queen stole my shrimp." (That sounds like it could be a blog. I want to make that!) It is so great because it is so strange and weird and you wouldn't expect that to be one of the opening lines of a show. It shows this is going to be a weird and awesome play. It shows that the characters have crazy lives, and it shows you that Jeff and Hunter tell each other everything, even the strangest things. I think that shows a lot about their friendship. I feel like the actors fit the characters very well and it made you feel like they were your friends too. The line is the start of an idea that they have to make this amazing musical that is low-budget but amazing still. The whole musical is about them trying to find what the real show is about and that one line about shrimp is this first little bit of an idea they start having about making the show about themselves.

There is a song called "Monkeys and Playbills." It was a very nonsensical song but I loved it! It is all about Hunter and Jeff trying to write the show. The monkeys are to help Hunter focus on writing the story of the show. The playbills were from flop musicals and they represented how their show might turn out but also how they might do better. And they are inspired by the musicals because some of them were actually good musicals, they were just so much money to produce. They referred to all the musicals and would name them in the lyrics to the song. That was just really funny and clever.

I loved the song "Die Vampire, Die!" It was about how anyone can be mean to you about who you are and what you want to do. But you have to fight back because there are lots of vampires in the world. Not like vampires in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They are metaphoric vampires that you have to metaphorically kill. There are some vampires that you actually want to kill, still metaphoric vampires, not real ones. But you are not allowed to do that, so you just have to say "Die, Vampire. Die!" They might think you are a weirdo but who cares what they think. They are vampires! Metaphoric vampires! I thought Neala Barron did a great job with this song. It was so funny. I felt really inspired by this song, though, too.

I really liked the two songs "I Am Playing Me" and "Secondary Characters" because they were both very funny songs but they also really showed off the actresses' vocal range. "I Am Playing Me" is sung by Heidi in a rehearsal and Jeff keeps telling her that she is hitting the wrong note and then she sings, "That's the note I'm hitting!" but kind of angrily and I found that really funny. It was there to show the rehearsal process and what it actually like. In some shows they are like, rehearsal is great and easy and we never have a single fight. But that is not how it actually is. Especially if you are doing a show with friends who are still working on it and are bugging you constantly to make it the way that they made it. In "Secondary Characters" Heidi and Susan are singing about their relationship with each other and how they had never really noticed how they could be such good friends. I think it is about them really becoming friends because that is what happens in the process of the show. But it is also a really good plot point.

People who would like this show are people who like killing metaphoric vampires, awesome musicals, and shrimp-stealing drag queens. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is a great show with amazing performers! I had so much fun at this show and I really loved it. I felt like I just wanted to sing all the way home!

Photos: CB Lindsey

Friday, July 17, 2015

Review of The Little Mermaid at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Disney's The Little Mermaid. It was directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell. The music director was Roberta Duchak. The book was by Doug Wright and the music was by Alan Menken. The lyrics were by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater. It was about a teenaged female mermaid named Ariel (Rachel Eskenazi-Gold) who was in love with this human prince named Eric (Brandon Springman). It was like a typical teen romance, only cooler because there were fish. I think this is a great show to take your kids to, especially if they are Disney fans. It doesn't really matter how old your kids are, because they will still like it because it is an exciting, cool, and fun play. I really enjoyed it. It was a very welcoming atmosphere and it was a lot of fun. The acting and music were so amazing; I already loved the music already, but these actors made me love it even more. It was a lot like the movie, so basically you can see one of your favorite movies up close and on stage. And if you didn't like the movie, you still might like this because Ariel makes better decisions even though some of them are still under-thought.

I really liked the tap-dancing Seagulls (Matthew Crowle, Este'Fan Kizer, Peter Scharbrough, and Steven Spanopoulos). I wasn't expecting tap dancing in a show about mermaids because mermaids don't have feet! I thought that was pretty funny that they had that and pretty awesome too. The song was called "Positoovity," and it showed the know-it-all aspect of Scuttle (Crowle) because he is like "Show positoovity," and everyone is like, "I'm not sure that's how it is pronounced." And he's like, "I'm pretty sure that's how it is pronounced" and he sings an entire song about it. And that was really funny. The tap-dancing was really fun and silly too. It was one of my favorite parts of the show. I also thought the costumes (by Theresa Ham) that they had were really amazing too. They reminded me of seagulls, but they reminded me of messy seagulls which you sometimes see by the beach not like perfect beautiful seagulls. And I thought that was really right for the characters.

I thought that Ursula (Rebecca Finnegan) was an amazing character. She is my favorite character in the movie because I always like the evil characters who are not perfect and who always have amazing plans and their singing is always really amazing. I think she was even better in the musical than in the movie. I do love the movie, but I think Finnegan's portrayal was so cool and amazing and I have already seen a few of the other shows she's been in, and I loved those too. I felt like this was an amazing part for her and I loved it. I felt like her voice was so great for the songs. You also got to see a version of Ursula that wasn't pure evil; sometimes she would Ferris Bueller it and not break out of character but show you her private personality, the one that is not pure evil. In the asides she changes who Ursula is. Ursula is more like a human being and less like an evil mastermind when she says things like, "I don't know what is wrong with her. Maybe it is teenage hormones."

I felt like "Under the Sea" was a very circusy, cool part of the show. There were people bouncing up and down on bungees and people on lyras. I thought that was so cool. I felt like it was a great big spectacle for one of the most popular songs in the show. I thought Sebastian (Joseph Anthony Byrd) had a great voice and he was really funny too. He had so much energy throughout the show and that brought a lot to the story. I loved his wig (by Melissa Veal) because it looked like a crab was on top of his head. In the movie he says he's a crab but he looks more like a lobster.

Flounder (Matthew Uzarraga) was an amazing singer and maintained his energy throughout the show and I thought he was really great. I thought his wheelies and mohawk were real cool. I thought his crush on Ariel was really funny and sweet. I really liked the song he sang with the mersisters (Missy Aguilar, Allyson Graves, Hannah Rose Nardone, and Erica Stephan) called "She's in Love." It was a very catchy song and the choreography was really fun too. It was kind of like lounge singing with backup girls.

People who would like this show are people who like mohawked fish, tap-dancing seagulls, and amazing evil octopus ladies. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is a lot of fun and I think everyone will love it.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review of Soon I Will Be Invincible at Lifeline Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Soon I Will Be Invincible. It was adapted by Christopher M. Walsh based on the novel by Austin Grossman. The music and lyrics were by Christopher Kriz. It was directed by Paul S. Holmquist and the music director was Laura McKenzie. It was about this superhero squad called the Champions and they wanted to save all the humans on earth from Dr. Impossible (Phil Timberlake). Fatale (Christina Hall) is the newest member of the squad and she is a cyborg and she has x-ray vision, she can shoot lasers out of her hands and she is very strong too. The head of the squad is a woman named Damsel (Corbette Pasko) who reminded me of Wonder Woman because she comes from an alien planet. She is a strong person but in distress about her marriage to Blackwolf (Tommy Malouf) who is an autistic Wolverine-like character. There was also a girl named Elphin (Sarah Scanlon) who was an elf who was a good fighter and reminded me of Thor. Mr. Mystic (Frederick Harris) reminded me a lot of Zatanna because he was a magician. There is also Rainbow Triumph (Taryn Wood) who reminded me of Harley Quinn but not evil and she was Blackwolf's sidekick. Lily (Justine C. Turner) was like a mix of Lois Lane (I won't tell you why) and Mystique because says she comes from the future. She used to be a supervillain and date Dr. Impossible, but now she was with the Champions. They are all trying to find CoreFire (Jason Kellerman) who is like Superman--he has all the power and everybody knows about him--so they can defeat Dr. Impossible. It is about discovering who you are and how superheroes have problems too. I thought this show was a good idea because I like superheroes and it is fun to see superheroes do kinds of stuff that normal people do.

I loved the look of the play. I thought the set (by Alan Donahue) was really cool and it reminded me a lot of a headquarters--like the doors came up and down automatically. It was so cool! The projections were really cool too; they made everything look like it was in Ben-Day dots. The set had platforms covered with Ben-Day dots too. I thought that was really amazing. I saw little inspirations from characters I knew already in the costumes (by Aly Renee Amidei), like Damsel's kind of looked like Wonder Woman but it didn't look so much alike that you just thought it was Wonder Woman. I also really liked Fatale's outfit; it looked like an actual cyborg and had all the cyborg parts and the mask was really cool. I thought Rainbow Triumph's outfit was really colorful and cute and I really liked it. Lily's outfit had a don't-mess-with-me-or-I'll-kill-you kind of look. It matched her voice! She seemed very icy, and I thought that made the character more mysterious and awesome.

The scene where they were trapped in the forcefields that Dr. Impossible made showed a lot of what the characters really felt for each other. I really like scenes where you get to realize new elements to characters. You watched Fatale and Damsel talking and realized that they actually really liked each other and that they weren't enemies. You also got to see a new side to Lily, but I won't talk about that because that is a big reveal. I thought that this was a really crazy scene because it turns out that the long lost love of Dr. Impossible has been standing right in front of him all the time. You never expected that person because she doesn't seem like a sweet nice girl.

I thought it was pretty cool how they made Dr. Impossible one of the narrators even though he was still the villain. They didn't try to find a way to make him good or anything. His narration was pretty funny because he basically admitted everything. Like he said, "The cape is just for effect; it doesn't do anything." I thought that character was pretty cool. Most supervillains don't seem to admit they've been defeated, but Dr. Impossible did and he wasn't like one of those supervillains who don't seem to remember ever being defeated. I thought that was pretty cool to have a villain like that, but I really wish I could have seen Dollface too.

There were some things in the show I found unnecessary. I found some of the songs kind of repetitive, like it felt like it would just be the chorus over and over again in some songs. I wish there had been more scenes and fewer songs because, if a lot of the content had gone into scenes where you can get more information and characters spoke directly to each other, that would have made the story more intriguing. I felt like a lot of the songs sounded the same, so that made the story seem more repetitive and predictable. But I felt like all the singing and all the performances were great.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome Ben-Day dot sets, amazing costumes, and great acting. I think this is a very fun idea for a show and I loved the performances. Your last chance to see it is this weekend!

Photos: Suzanne Plunkett

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review of Kinky Boots (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Kinky Boots. The book was by Harvey Fierstein and the music and lyrics were by Cyndi Lauper. It was directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell and the music supervision, orchestration, and arrangements were by Stephen Oremus. It was about this man named Charlie (Steven Booth) who owned a shoe factory. And he met this drag performer named Lola (Kyle Taylor Parker) and he hired her to work as a designer at his factory so now they could make boots for men who dressed like women. The shoes they used to make aren't selling because nobody wants to buy those kind of shoes anymore. But then a lot of conflict happens between Lola and Charlie, Charlie and his fiancée Nicola (Grace Stockdale), and Lola and Don (Joe Coots), who is one of her co-workers who says Lola can't be a man and dress like a woman. And a girl named Lauren (Lindsay Nicole Chambers) is in love with Charlie but thinks she shouldn't be because he has a fiancée. What they are trying to do is to sell kinky boots to the world and not make people think they are just weirdos. It is about friendship, acceptance, fashion, and trying to find your passion.

Lola was my favorite character. Sometimes she was the comic relief but sometimes she had hard parts in her life like anyone does. She was very funny and colorful and just an amazing character. One of my favorite funny moments was when Lola comes out of the shoe factory and sees Charlie and his fiancee and she just introduced herself and said this entire long sentence really fast and then had this big smile. And everyone just stared at her like, "What's the matter with her?" even though she is an amazing person. If she were real I would totally want to be friends with her. I really thought it was touching but kind of sad when she came and performed "Hold Me in Your Heart" at the nursing home and her dad (Horace V. Rogers) was there. I thought the kid playing young Lola (Jomil Elijah Robinson) was also amazing and had a great voice. I really saw the similarities between young Lola and the grown up version, because young Lola liked women's shoes but her dad wouldn't let his son wear them because he felt like they weren't manly. I understand that because women's shoes are not manly in everyone's mind. But manly should not even be a word because manly doesn't mean anything. Anything a person who is a man does can be manly and I don't think a man has to do pushups every day to be a man.

I really liked Lola's song that she sang called "Land of Lola" which is the introduction to the grown-up character. And she does this dance with sparkly outfits that were amazing (costumes by Gregg Barnes) and her backup dancers the Angels (Joe Beauregard, Darius Harper, Tommy Martinez, Ricky Schroeder, Juan Torres-Falcon, Hernando Umana) and I thought it was amazing. I thought the song was so catchy and I loved the tune of it. And all the great dance moves were so crazy. There was also a song that I really liked called "The Sex Is in the Heel" which was all about how amazing these kind of shoes were and how you can't just have a flat boot. And one of the backup dancers did this insane going-int-the-splits-and-just-bouncing-up thing. It was just insane and I want to learn how to do that. I mean, all the dancing was amazing. And there was another dancer who came out and did a crazy backflip and backflipped all the way off to dance some more.

I also really liked "Everybody Say Yeah." It was all about how happy they were that they made their first kinky-boots boot. I thought it was a great way to end act one because it was so hyper and peppy. It kind of tricks you into thinking the whole rest of the play is going to be happy, but then act two gets sadder. There was this big dance number that happened on the conveyor belt for the shoes where they would jog with the boots and then they would do like some cool shuffle arm move and it was crazy. I thought this dance number was amazing.

One of my other favorite songs was "The History of Wrong Guys" which was sung by Lauren which was all about all the weird guys she has dated and that maybe she has finally found one she can really love. I loved it when she got out one of the driers that was hooked on to the conveyer belt and used it to blow around her hair and dry under her armpits so then she smelled better. It was funny because she was trying to be sexy but she was kind of failing because she was just blowing around her hair with a utensil from work basically. I thought that was really funny.

I think they should have ended with a different song than "Raise You Up/Just Be." I just thought it was kind of repetitive. I liked it fine, but I thought it could have better if it had been a more peppy song. I think they should have done "The Most Beautiful Thing in the World" as a reprise because it was all about shoes and being yourself, and that is what the last scene was about.

People who would like this show are people who like inspiring drag performers, sparkly outfits, and conveyor-belt dancing. I think people should definitely go see this show. I really liked it and I would see it again!

Photos: Matthew Murphy

Monday, July 6, 2015

Review of The 2nd Annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival Opening Night

Once upon a time I went to three shows that were part of The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival: American Smoothie, Fanatical, and How to Run for Mayor. I think this festival was a very good idea. It is fun to see brand new musicals that no one has ever seen before! I thought the performances were mostly really strong and I really really loved one of the musicals and it was called Fanatical. It was a really funny and interesting story and plot line and the music and lyrics were so new and unpredictable and I'm still singing them because I loved them so much.

How to Run for Mayor was directed by Aaron Aptaker who wrote the music and lyrics. The book was by Gilbert Tanner. It was about this girl Kim (Grace Palmer) who just got out of college and she didn't have a job so then she decided she would run for mayor, but just as a joke. But then people started to take it seriously and thought she was really running for mayor against Rahm Emmanuel (Trent Eisfeller). I thought that it was kind of mean the way they portrayed Rahm Emmanuel, like he was just a sissy and they made fun of him going to Sarah Lawrence and dancing. I think it is ok to make fun of someone for making bad decisions about schools, but that isn't mostly what they did. I do think it was good that Kim learned that she should put other people in front of herself sometimes. I'm not really into politics, so this might have been more fun for me if I had been.

American Smoothie had a book and lyrics by Nick Jester and music by David von Kampen. It was directed by Emma Couling with music direction by David Kornfeld. It was about these workers who worked at an office for a place called American Smoothie. There was a man named Brian (Brian Elliot) who was in love with one of his co-workers whose name was Brie (Katy Fattaleh). Also Brian worships John Grisham (Sarah Sapperstein) and has a really weird roommate (Katie Sherman) who has her own puppet game show. Chad (Jonathan Wilson) was a guy who was supposed to be too perfect, and all the ladies were supposed to be obsessed with him. I thought it was funny how perfect he was, but then he turns out to have a terrible dark secret! There is this quite strange relationship between two of his co-workers Samantha (Cami Rene Philgreen) and Jerry (Michael Palmenderi), and Samantha has a bird fetish so they have strange bird relationships with each other. I thought Philgreen did a very good job with this very strange role because the thing is she made her character so lovable even though she was so very very weird. People who would like this show are people who like insanity! It was so crazy and weird that you couldn't really believe it! I think this show could be a little bit shorter because there were some songs that didn't seem to have anything to do with the story, and the ending was almost too weird to handle. Sometimes the show was so weird it was funny, but sometimes you were like, "What did I just watch?"

Fanatical was presented by American Demigods and directed by Kate Staiger with musical direction by Ellen Morris. The book was by Reina Hardy and the music and lyrics were by Matt Board. It was one of the best plays I have ever seen. It was funny. It was well-written. It had an awesome plot line. The songs were so well-written and clever and fun. I thought everyone had an amazing voice and their characters, even if they didn't have a lot to do, were always detailed and interesting. It was about this science fiction convention for this tv show based on a comic called Angel 8. It is about all the problems that happen during the convention, all the romances that might not work out, and about being a fan and being proud of it.

There was this really funny song that Trix (Kat Evans), basically the manager of the convention, sings when she is trying to distract her hero, Scott Furnish (Rory Leahy), the writer of the tv show. The funny thing is that she is so bad at acting sexy to a man, and she is using terrible grammar, like she says "I want to make sex at you," but she means have sex with you. And she does these really awkward sexy moves, like she's trying to like show how skinny and beautiful she is, but she actually just ends up looking like a robot. I thought that was really funny. It was one of my favorite songs. It was so hilarious, even though the chorus was not really rated G.

There is also this undercover reporter from this magazine for tough men who don't like nerds named Craig (Stephen Garrett). But then he falls in love with one of the nerds who is there, Andra (Charlotte Ostrow). She is basically the main character and she loves Angel 8. She is dressed as a character from the show and that makes her feel more secure about herself. And you find out how much she loves that character in the song "You Should See Her Fly." I thought that song was really pretty. And there is a love triangle between Craig and Baxter (Michael Carten) who are both in love with Andra. It was not like a lot of love triangles, because you liked all the characters and the two men end up being more the same than you think in the first place, so they are both pretty good options. Baxter, I thought, seemed like one of the sweetest characters. "Me Slash You" was a song that he sang all about how he and Andra should date. I thought it was really funny but also kind of sad because he's like, "Well, I'll just keep on trying!"

I also really liked the song Bernard (Jeffrey Bouthiette), Jillian (Sarah Inendino), and Lizette (Annie Passanisi) sang about their favorite parts of Angel 8. It was fun but also sad because it was about their favorite parts of a show that got cancelled. I think this song really showed what people felt like when Firefly was cancelled after one season. Even though I watched it many years after it came out, I was still really sad it had only one season. It is important to share your favorite parts with people so then other people can share their favorite parts with you. If you remember something you love, it always makes you feel better. And when you share it with other people you get to show what makes you a fan. And then you listen to the other people and put all your ideas into one big thing. That is what the fandom means. Everybody should have their favorite parts; it is the law of being in the fandom. There was also a song about fan art and fan fiction that showed you their devotion to Angel 8 and how they build off this one idea that they love. They are still expressing themselves even if it is not all their very own idea.

People who would like Fanatical are people who like science fiction conventions, awesome music, and awkward women trying to seduce their heroes. I think people should definitely see this show. It is amazing, hilarious, and I wish I could see every show of it. There are only three performances left: July 11, 15, and 19. (Don't think I took my pretty little time writing this. There were only 5 shows total!) I hope there is a remount of this so that everyone can see it!

Photos: Braden Nisen

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Review of On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called On Your Feet! The book was written by Alexander Dinelaris and the music was by Emilio and Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine. It was choreographed by Sergio Trujillo and directed by Jerry Mitchell. It was about Gloria (Ana Villafañe) and Emilio (Josh Segarra) Estefan's life, the good times and the hard times, their families and how they expressed themselves through music. This was a very fun and heartbreaking show. It had some very funny moments but it was also bittersweet. I loved the music and I loved the dancing and singing too. I thought this was a very very fun show. I loved it so much and I think it most definitely should make it on Broadway!

One of the very first scenes took place in the neighborhood in Miami where Gloria grew up. The younger version of Gloria (Olivia Coronel) starting singing this song and everyone started singing along with her and this big awesome dance number started. The dancing was so crazy and everyone seemed to be so flexible! It was so fun and I loved the song and the dancing. And then suddenly when she went behind some of the people's laundry she came out as the grown-up Gloria. And it was a really cool change: the little Gloria was gone and grown-up Gloria was standing in her place wearing the same dress. I loved it! I felt like this song was a traditional song and dance so it showed how the Cuban traditions would always live on in her music.

I loved the part where Emilio first came to Gloria's house and couldn't really talk to anybody. Gloria Fajardo (Andréa Burns) is Gloria's mom and they have same name. And that confuses Emilio, and he says, "You can't be Gloria. You are too old." And grandma Consuelo (Alma Cuervo) says, "This is her mother," and he realizes the big mistake that he just made. He makes it so funny by the look on his face that is like, "Oh no! I didn't mean it!"

I thought that her audition for The Miami Latin Boys was really beautiful. I thought it was super cool how her sister Becky (Genny Lis Padilla) sang "Anything for You" with her because Gloria needed help because she was shy a lot of the time. She made a very big leap from being the shy one to being one of the most famous people on the planet! If you were watching Emilio you could see him realizing what a beautiful voice she had and he was kind of falling in love, but not as much as later. I thought that her mom was starting to get slightly scared that Gloria would grow up too fast. I think her mom wants her daughter to be happy, but she is doing the same thing to Gloria as her own dad did to her when he told her that she couldn't be the Spanish-speaking Shirley Temple. Her mom was very talented, as you see when she sings in the night club in a flashback, but she wasn't allowed to show it. Gloria's abuelita Consuelo was very supportive of her granddaughter. I thought the grandmother was really sweet and nice and she was also very funny. She reminded me of my grandmother because she is also very supportive. In this scene you find out how much her grandmother supports her and is ok with her hanging out with a bunch of boys, but her mother is not. And I thought the song was really beautiful, and I liked that she got the idea from her grandmother.

After Gloria joins the group they change their name to Miami Sound Machine because now there is a girl in there. I guess they could have been The Miami Latin Humans, but that isn't as cool as Miami Sound Machine, which makes them sound like awesome robots--robots of pop! They are very successful in the Latin department but no one thinks that they can cross over to be pop stars. Then they write this song called "Conga" and they take it to like a Bar Mitzvah, and Italian wedding, and then they finally go to Vegas. The little boy who played the person who was having his bar mitzvah (Felix Monge) was a great dancer--I mean he was unbelievable! In the Italian wedding they were wearing these long bridesmaids dresses and then when they went to Vegas they ripped the skirts off and threw them off stage and then they started dancing really vigorously! I loved the part where Gloria was singing "Conga" and then she started a big Conga line where she would invite people from the audience to join the conga line with her. I thought it was so cool!

There is a scene that happens in the hospital that is so sweet and made everybody in the audience that has parents (which everyone does) want to cry. And if you are a parent it probably hurts even more! What happens in the scene is that the mother sings about how she doesn't want to lose her daughter and then she makes up with Emilio and she says "I'm sorry I yelled at you all these times," because she didn't like him that much even after they got married. But now she sees how much he loves Gloria. I liked how the mother and Emilio sing the song together. That shows you that they have made up and everything is alright between them. And it shows you they both have something in common: they both love Gloria. Then also, when Gloria is going into surgery, they have a dance where they bring back all the people she loves who have died and also her younger self, even though she hasn't died. I thought that dance was very beautiful and it was very touching because you got to see all the people that she missed.

People who would like this show are people who like Miami Sound Machine, festive dances, and bar mitzvah conga lines. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is so fun and hilarious and bittersweet. I just loved it so much.

Photos: Matthew Murphy