Monday, December 28, 2015

Ada Grey's Top 10 Plays, Top 5 Musicals, and Top 5 Kids' Shows of 2015

Once upon a time I reviewed one hundred and eighteen shows. This has been a great year for lots of different kinds of shows. I saw some great musicals and I saw some great kids' shows and I saw some great plays. When you went to see a kids' show, you could have seen an adaptation of Disney's The Little Mermaid or zoo animals doing Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (Lions in Illyria). You could have seen a musical about a sci-fi convention (Fanatical) in a small festival or a huge Broadway tour about gentlemen murdering people (A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder). You could have seen a creepy show about a murderer at the Columbian Exposition (Holmes vs. Holmes) or a creepy show about The Simpsons (Mr. Burns). You could have seen a funny show about con artists (Trust Us / Screw You) or a funny show about women thinking about cheating on their husbands in ridiculous ways (Fallen Angels). You could have seen a classic Shakespeare play with a magical twist (The Tempest) or an adaptation of a classic Ibsen play with a lot of modern references (Ibsen's Ghosts). You could have seen an exciting noir show with gun shots and duct tape (The Sweeter Option) or a show (Inana) about trying to keep an artifact safe (without duct tape). You could have seen a show about a family just beginning that has some problems (Barefoot in the Park) or about a family that has been around a long time but is just getting to know who they are (Marvin's Room). I'm really looking forward to seeing more shows next year!

Top 10 Plays

Theater Wit's Mr. Burns (Photo: Chalres Osgood) 

Barefoot in the Park
(Step Up Productions)

     People who would like this show are people who like adorable couples, funny arguments, and knichi.

Fallen Angels (Remy Bumppo)

     People who would like this show are people who like Frenchmen, suspiciously talented maids, and profiterole food fights.

Holmes vs. Holmes (E.D.G.E Theater)

     People who would like this show are people who like the Columbian Exposition, murder mysteries, and tea fights.

Ibsen's Ghosts
(Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company)

     People who would like this show are people who like dramatic stories, intimate spaces, and swearing pastors.

Inana (TimeLine Theatre Company)

     People who would like this show are people who like artifacts, suspense, and lingerie that your wife won't let you see.

Marvin's Room (Shattered Globe Theatre)

     People who would like this show are people who like courageous women, soap opera weddings, and awkward dancing gophers.

Mr. Burns
(Theater Wit)

     People who would like this show are people who like The Simpsons, cheesy commercials, and funny scary stories.

The Sweeter Option (Strawdog Theatre Company)

     People who would like this show are people who like noir, action, and literally instant coffee.

The Tempest
(Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

     People who would like this show are people who like amazing magic, conjoined monster twins, and alcoholic beverages.

Trust Us / Screw You
(The Neo-Futurists)

     People who would like this show are people who like card castles, con pranks, and exasperated ATMs.

Top 5 Musicals
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Fanatical (American Demigods at the 2015 Chicago Musical Theatre Festival)

    People who would like this show are people who like science fiction conventions, awesome music, and awkward women trying to seduce their heroes.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Porchlight Music Theatre)

     People who would like this show are people who like comedy tonight, not-good-at-math courtesans, and Beaker eunuchs.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
(Broadway in Chicago)

     People who would like this show are people who like charming murderers, amazing music, and identical D'Ysquiths.

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

     People who would like this show are people who like Miami Sound Machine, festive dances, and bar mitzvah conga lines.

Plastic Revolution
(The New Colony)

     People who would like this show are people who like old-fashioned commercials, Tupperware, and insanely long scarves.

Top 5 Kids' Shows

The Secret Life of Suitcases (Photo: Anne Binckebanck)

Lifeboat (Filament Theatre Ensemble)

     People who would like this show are people who like    , suspense, and friendship.

Lions in Illyria (Lifeline Theatre)

     People who would like this show are people who like hugs, candy, and pirate monkeys.

The Little Mermaid
(Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

     People who would like this show are people who like mohawked fish, tap-dancing seagulls, and amazing evil octopus ladies.

The One and Only Ivan (Lifeline Theatre)

     People who would like this show are people who like gorilla best friends, elephants with human spirits, and adorable Bob dogs.

The Secret Life of Suitcases
(Ailie Cohen Puppet Maker and Lewis Heatherington at Stages, Sights & Sounds)

     People who would like this show are people who like walking suitcases and eating spaghetti on the beach.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Review of The Heir Apparent at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Heir Apparent. It was by David Ives adapted from Le Légataire universel by Jean-François Regnard. It was directed by John Rando. It was about this man named Eraste (Nate Burger) and he was in love with this girl named Isabelle (Emily Peterson) but he was not super rich, so he went to his uncle Geronte (Paxton Whitehead) who he had been taking care of. But he does not want to give the money to Eraste, even though he owes him the most. The story is about Eraste and Geronte's servants Crispin (Cliff Saunders) and Lisette (Jessie Fisher) trying to show Geronte how good a person Eraste is so he can get the money and marry Isabelle. As you may imagine, hilarity ensues. I thought this was an interesting show and it was fun, and I hadn't seen anything like it before.

There were so many very funny things in this show. There is one time when Isabelle is so upset because she is going to have to marry someone who is not her own true love, but somebody who is more gross and more for her mom (Linda Kimbrough). And she throws herself into this circular cushioned bench that looks like a donut and falls face first into it, crying, and her skirt floofs up. And it was so hilarious. Another funny thing that Isabelle did was whenever she would leave Eraste they would turn into this big cheesy soap opera and say a bunch of things in French and just run away. And I loved it. There was also a time when Lisette and Eraste were trying to pull off pretending to be servants to Crispin, who is disguised as Geronte. And he makes them do so many crazy silly things in front of Scruple the lawyer (Patrick Kerr), like telling them to chew up this paper. And when people look away, they spit out the paper and it is hilarious. When Isabelle, Eraste, and Crispin all dress up as pig ladies to fool Geronte that his niece is a pig lady, it was so funny. Crispin comes out at one time, but then the others don't know he is dressing up as a pig lady, so each of them decides on their own that they are going to dress up as pig ladies, and they all keep coming in but as pig ladies in the exact same costume. Eventually they scare Geronte so much that he runs away into the other room because he is too scared of all the pig ladies that are coming.

Geronte transforms over the show into a different personality. He becomes a different person overnight. I thought that is was amazing how much he could alter how he acted in such a short amount of time. That made me like the second act a lot better than the first act because it was really fun to see the transformation and also how people reacted to the transformation. And also, everyone thought that he was dead! So that is also a pretty big change. I thought the people's expressions when he came out for the last time in the second act were hilarious. Their mouths dropped. This play is mostly ridiculousness, but it does show you that people can transform overnight. Just by thinking over their decisions, one can become a better person. Everybody does become better people by the end, but along the way they are worse people because of greed and selfishness.

The language was a not a normal talking language, but it wasn't Shakespeare either. It was more like listening to a rhyming poem with crass humor in it. Most of the language was not appropriate to the time period of the play and I wasn't a huge fan of that. I do understand that they did that because it was a twist on the language of someone who wrote like Molière. I think they wanted the audience to get more of the jokes. I feel like that did happen, but I just didn't feel like I was transported back to that time and I expected to be because of the beautiful set (by Kevin Depinet) and the fabulous costumes (by David Woolard) and the way that they spoke. So when I wasn't, I felt kind of like they told me what they were giving me but then didn't actually end up giving it to me. It didn't ruin the play for me, but it was something that didn't make the play better for me.

People who would like this show are people who like crazy transformations, French soap operas, and pig-nosed nieces. I thought this show was fun and I enjoyed it. And I think if you are prepared for the language to be different from what you expect for the time period, you might enjoy it even more than I did.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Review of Kokandy Production's A Kokandy Christmas

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Kokandy Christmas. It was directed by Michael Potsic and the music direction was by Aaron Benham. The arrangements were by Potsic and Benham. It was basically a concert with stories told by the actors: Emily Grayson, Christina Hall, Garrett Lutz, and Sasha Smith. I didn't see Jaymes Osbourne, but he's usually in it too. I really enjoyed myself. You get to tap your foot along with some of your favorite Christmas tunes. I really liked it.

I thought the stories were all very intriguing. Some were touching and some were funny, but they all captured the Christmas spirit and showed what Christmas meant to the individual people. The story Sasha Smith told was very funny and touching because she sat under the tree with her N'Sync album and her Barbie, crying because those were the two things she really wanted. I thought that was hilarious. But the touching part is that her mom would drive around with her looking at Christmas lights and singing Christmas carols to her and she fell asleep listing to her mom in the dark but lighted night. I thought that was very beautiful. Christina Hall's story I really liked because it was all about her family going to get their Christmas tree, but they lived in Texas so there was no snow. So they decided to get this coating of fake snow on their tree, and then the people in the neighborhood would stop by and say how beautiful it was. And I thought the point of the story was that one small thing can bring a whole neighborhood together. Emily Grayson also had a very moving story because she had been going through some hard times. And she doesn't usually celebrate Christmas, but one time she walked into a Christmas tree lot and realized that Christmas is not just a holiday that other people celebrate; it is something she could feel too. Garrett Lutz had a story about watching Christmas movies with his family, but one year he couldn't do that because he was at college. So he just watched with his friends. And that showed that if you still have your traditions, no matter where you are, it will still make you feel at home.

I really liked the music. One thing that I liked about it was that they always made at least a small little twist on your favorite Christmas songs. "All I Want for Christmas is You" was super funny because it was like a confession at the wrong time. Garett Lutz is trying to sing his song and then Sasha Smith comes in and is trying to seduce him with her Christmas song. And his reaction is kind of like, "Not now, please." But then they start dancing together and it is so hilarious. I loved the song "River" that Emily Grayson sang. I felt like her voice was so perfect with the song. It is about everybody having a lot of Christmas cheer except for you, and you are trying to get away from all the happiness because you don't feel the happiness and you wish you had a river you could skate away on. "The Little Drummer Boy" was the normal song but with a twist. Every time they got to a certain part of the song, the drummer (Scott Simon) would go crazy and play really fast, but then he would get glared at by the bassist (Ben Dillinger) and piano player (Benham). And it was kind of like Animal from the Muppets. I thought it was hilarious.

People who would like this show are people who like Texas Christmas trees, Christmas songs, and N'Sync and Barbies. I think people should definitely go see this show before Christmas. It got me in the Christmas spirit and I really loved it. It made me feel like going and decorating our Christmas tree, eating cookies, and watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special!

Photos: Samuel Rose

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review of Strawdog Theatre's Robin Hood and Maid Marian

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Robin Hood and Maid Marian. It was based on The Foresters by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and adapted by Forks and Hope. It was directed by Matt Pierce. It was about a man named Robin Hood (Caleb Probst) and he was in love with a woman called Maid Marian (Kelsey Shipley). But on his thirtieth birthday he was banished to the forest by Prince John (Andrew Bailes). Maid Marian's problem is that her father (Amber Robinson) is going to lose his land because he can't repay the money he owes the Abbot (Addison Heimann). So then her and her dad run away to the woods to wait for the return of King Richard (Stuart Ritter) and of course she runs into her one true love. Robin Hood is in the woods stealing from the rich and giving to the poor with his band of Merry Men: Much (David Fink), Will Scarlet (Austin Oie), Friar Tuck (Lee Russell), and Little John (Suzanne Ziko). I really liked this show. I thought it was really fun. It had great fights (by Sam Hubbard) and I thought the music (by Oie) was really cool and I was really into the story.

Little John makes a big fuss over very little things in his relationship with Kate (Kaitlyn Majoy), like who kisses who first when it really doesn't matter as long as you kiss. Kate makes a big fuss about Little John almost killing Maid Marian on accident, but that makes much more sense. I liked how Little John was played by a woman because I had never seen that before and it kind of changed up the story and made it a little more "now" because women can get married to each other now. It also made Little John seem like less of a sexist and made him look more like he was just dumb about relationships. So you started to enjoy him more and how funny he was instead of being like, "Oh my god." I liked how it was a discovery moment when Robin Hood kisses Kate and I had forgotten Kate and Little John's agreement that if he saw her kissing another man that they could get back together. And I didn't take it in for a second, and then I realized their agreement and I was very happy.

I really liked the Old Woman scene. Robin Hood went to this Old Woman's (Emilie Modaff) house and he asked to use her clothes so he could disguise himself because Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Christian Stokes) were coming. And Robin Hood's rendition of the old woman was so hilarious I almost died. And when they came in, the Old Woman would scream at the top of her lungs from behind the sound booth and scare the crap out of everyone, and it was so hilarious. And when they discover that Robin Hood disguised as the Old Woman had a bow and arrow on "her" back and can shoot as well as a tie-fighter, they realize that it is Robin Hood and then they go into an awesome, really action-packed battle. All the animals (like the birds they shoot at in this scene) are played by people. The birds wore penguin hats (costumes by Raquel Adorno), and later one of them wore an eyepatch. (You'll have to figure out why on your own. Go see the show.) I thought the animals were hilarious.

Robin Hood and Maid Marian are a really cute couple. They seemed to really love each other. There are so many obstacles in their way, but love overcomes them all. I liked that Maid Marian was super sweet and generous and kind and smart, but she was also a total badass. And Robin Hood takes from the rich and gives to the poor, has an awesome group of friends, is a really good shot, and loves to party, and he is also a total badass. I also really loved their performances. They were both very witty and clever. I also loved the music that they danced to together when they danced at his birthday party. I would have loved to have gone to that birthday party.

People who would like this show are people who like stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, screaming old women, and birds with eyepatches. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It was my favorite Forks and Hope show so far. I really loved it.

Photos: Tom McGrath

Review of 20% Theatre Company's Little Women

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Little Women. It was adapted from the novel by Louisa May Alcott by Timothy Good, with script adaptation by Emma Couling, Phoebe Gonzalez, and Lindsay A. Bartlett. It was directed by Couling. It was about four sisters named Jo (Charlotte Ostrow), Beth (Serena Pomerantz), Meg (Emily Green), and Amy (Rachael Barry), and their father was away at the Civil War. Life was hard for them because they didn't have much money. The story is mostly about Jo and about her writing and her trying to take care of her sisters. I think this show is about sisterhood, choosing an artistic line of work, and discovering things about yourself. I thought this was a good show. The acting was good and I felt like the story was very well adapted. It was amazing that they made such a good show in such a small and not-super-adaptable space.

The girls started this club called the Pickwick Club and they all dressed up like men and would put on these hilarious posh accents. Then they sat around and read the journal that they had written. Eventually they had Laurie (Christopher Ratliff), who is Jo's best friend and has a crush on her, join the club. I thought it showed how the sisters' relationship was; instead of just being miserable and being in poverty, they had fun and played games at home. It also showed how Jo's writing was very exciting and that her other sisters did not share that talent. Beth just wrote a recipe called "The History of the Squash"! I thought that that was really hilarious. And when Jo said that Beth did not have to have a speaking part in the play, Beth hugged her and was so happy. That tells you that Beth is very shy and doesn't really like to perform. This was one of my favorite scenes. I really liked it.

Jo had two men who were after her, Laurie and Professor Bhaer (TJ Anderson). She was very popular in that sense, but she was not a flirt at all. They like her so much because she is not shy at all. You can talk to her and she will most definitely talk back. She is not stuck up, but she still has an opinion and she is also very smart. Laurie is kind of a prankster, and she wants a more honest kind of man. Professor Bhaer and Jo have a lot of the same interests, like books and writing, and they like the idea of seeing the world. And they both like teaching. Professor Bhaer teaches her that she doesn't have to write what the papers want; she can write what she wants to write, which is stories more about her and more based on what she is like and her life. I don't think Laurie is a terrible choice at all, but he's just not right for Jo.

I think that they balanced the humor and sadness very well. They didn't have you bawling throughout the entire show, but you weren't laughing the entire show either. I thought it was funny when Meg would just be going about her work and doing something that wasn't a big deal and then the tutor Mr. Brooke (Nathan Dunn) would walk in and she would immediately freeze what she was doing and smooth out her dress, and I thought it was hilarious. That is so true; that is exactly what you do when your crush walks into the room. It was very sad when Beth was talking about how she wasn't afraid to die. And it was also really sad when Amy found out Beth had died, and she was with Laurie, and he tried to comfort her. I found that really moving too.

People who would like this show are people who like Pickwick clubs, moving stories, and the history of the squash. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think this theater company should have way more people at their shows because I really enjoyed this and Fugue for Particle Accelerator.

Photos: Ashley Ann Woods

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review of Remy Bumppo's Fallen Angels

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Fallen Angels. It was by Noël Coward and it was directed by Shannon Cochran. It was about these two women, Julia (Emjoy Gavino) and Jane (Eliza Stoughton), who had been married for five years to two men named Fred (Fred Geyer) and Willy (Jesse Dornan). And they had been dreaming of Maurice (Joshua Moaney) who they had each fallen in love with before they were married. Maurice is from France and has just written both of them postcards saying that he is coming to visit them. They are super excited about it, but then they realize they are both married now. I don't really blame them for wanting to go with Maurice. Their husbands do seem kind of boring. It is about friendship, fantasies, and fighting your instincts. I thought this was a really great show. It was very very very very funny.

One of my favorite scenes was when Julia and Jane were waiting for Maurice to arrive. They were waiting for Maurice and trying to make it look like they ate like Kings and Queens everyday, but they end up eating like slobs, by just picking up the steaks on a knife and gnawing on them, because they didn't have any forks which is exactly what you need for steak. They have kind of starved themselves because Maurice hasn't shown up yet and they have drunken themselves into oblivion. And when they are drunk they try to walk down steps in high heels and they immediately collapse at the same time at the top of the stairs. Also they started throwing profiteroles at each other and they made a clunk on the ground which I thought was hilarious. Then they get tangled up together in the phone wire because they think it is Maurice and those gags were all hilarious. One time Jane sits on the edge of the couch and just falls completely backwards and I couldn't stop laughing. And it is really funny when she gets mad at Julia for stealing her shoes, but Julia did not steal her shoes. They were in plain sight but she didn't see them because she is insanely drunk.

Saunders (Annabel Armour) was their maid---or was she? She was a very mysterious maid because she had all these talents--like knowing how to play the piano and sing, knowing everything about golf, and being a nurse in the war--that you wouldn't have to know to be a maid. And she had a great hangover remedy too. She was also hilarious and she kind of pretended the house was her own. She kind of sometimes neglected her job and would just play the piano for awhile or go upstairs with a strange man for awhile. I wanted to see the maid's blonde hair. There is a blonde hair in the coffee and Julia is very weirded out by that, and Saunders starts tugging at her black-haired wig. It would have been funny if she took off her wig and blond hair fell down to her toes. I really wanted that. Having her in a wig made her even more weird than she was when you found out all the weird things she knows how to do or does. It would have been cool if you found out that she was actually a secret agent or something.

The last scene was so funny. I don't want to give too much away, but at the end the expression on the husbands' faces when they realize how dumb they are to have let their wives go out of their sight with another man was hilarious. They just were talking nicely and then something overcame them at the exact same time and they realized how dumb they were. This play is hilarious and not really serious, but it also teaches you a lesson: that relationships are precious things and you don't want to ruin them. So don't neglect the man or woman you are with or they will neglect you for a French person.

People who would like this show are people who like Frenchmen, suspiciously talented maids, and profiterole food fights. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. I absolutely loved it. It was very funny and clever. The acting was great and it was so fun to watch!

Photos: Johnny Knight

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Review of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. The book was by Douglas McGrath and the words and music were by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was directed by Marc Bruni and the music director was Susan Draus. The choreographer was Josh Prince. It was about Carole King (Abby Mueller) who became an amazing singer-songwriter starting in the 60s. She is a very big inspiration to a lot of women, and if you see this musical she will be even more of an inspiration to you. She goes through so many very hard times, but she always gets through them and she keeps writing her beautiful music. I thought that this was an amazing show. The music is so lovely and the acting is fabulous; you just feel all the things the characters are feeling.

The idea of the show is that they would have little intervals between the scenes about writing the songs to show the song they were writing in a performance. I thought it was super cool how they made that part of the show. There was a song called "On Broadway" that was really really good. I loved how Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig) was so obsessed with Broadway and Broadway musicals. And she named a song she wrote with Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) "On Broadway" so she could still have some of what she wanted even though she was writing pop songs. The Drifters (Josh A. Dawson, Paris Nix, Noah J. Ricketts, and Dashaun Young) had this amazing dance to go with the song. I see why they were called The Drifters because they kind of glided around the stage. There was another song called "The Locomotion" that Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) wrote together which their babysitter Little Eva (Ashley Blanchet) ended up performing which I thought was hilarious. That shows you that they meet a lot of really talented people and they don't even realize it until they give a song to their babysitter and it becomes a hit. All the other songwriters are like "Why are they so lucky? Why do they keep getting hits out of their babysitter?" I felt like the dance that went with it was super cool too. I've seen it before online but it was super cool to see it live. There was kind of like a conga line but you were making your arms move like the wheels of the train. I thought it was a really fun song and dance.

Carole King had a group of friends who were songwriters, including her husband Gerry and Cynthia and Barry. They would all hang out together, but sometimes things would go wrong between Gerry and Carole because they were going through a really hard time in their relationship. They had gotten married when they were very young because they were in love but also she was pregnant. He's finding that he feels like he doesn't belong with Carole anymore even though it is pretty clear that he does. That is one of the things that makes this play super sad. At the beginning you really like Gerry, but at the end you just feel sorry that he made such stupid mistakes and he missed his chance at an amazing life. Even though this story is sad, there are also some very inspiring moments like when Carole tells Gerry that they are over and she finally realizes that she can't change him and if he is just going to hurt everyone so much she doesn't want to be with him anymore. People should be inspired to stand up for what they want and what is right. There is a song called "It's Too Late" that I think comes out of what happens in that scene. And I felt like it was a very beautiful song and, with the inspiration of it, it made it very sad but also happy because you could see Carole King would probably live a better life without him. That big change in her life also lets her express herself more and she doesn't let herself stay behind the scenes. She shows the world that she is not just a songwriter but also an amazing singer.

I felt like Cynthia Weil was the comic relief but she was also Carole King's best friend. She would not just have the comedy lines, she would also try to help Carole in any way possible because it seemed like she really loved her. I loved this one scene where Barry and Cynthia had first met. They are writing a song and they have stayed up all night and they both say that they want to keep it strictly professional, but then it is clear that they don't! Her personality was very outgoing but she was also very competitive. I love when she comes in complaining about how she and Barry aren't selling any songs but Gerry and Carole are selling songs that are hits with their babysitter. She was inspiring too because she was such a good friend and she wrote such good lyrics that people still love today.

People who would like this show are people who like inspiring stories, beautiful music, and talented babysitters. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think it is an absolutely gorgeous story. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry. I loved it!

Photos: Joan Marcus

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review of Paramount Theatre's A Christmas Story

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Christmas Story. The book was by Joseph Robinette. The music and lyrics were by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul based on the movie by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark. It was directed by Nick Bowling with music direction by Tom Vendafreddo. It is about a boy named Ralphie (Michael Harp) and he really wanted this BB gun for Christmas. But his parents don't really want him to get one. He is trying to deal with bullies (Ricky Falbo and Reid Patrick Tomasson) and he is also having trouble not being influenced by his dad's (Michael Accardo) language. He is trying to subtly hint to his mom (Danni Smith) and dad that he really wants a BB gun and to get that he has to be good and not say anything bad about people and stay out of fights so that he can get that BB gun. It is about family, wanting something that you can't have, and the hard age of nine. It was very funny and the musical numbers were amazing. And the dances were awesome too.

"You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" was a great musical number. It was very funny and it was set in the 20s, which I thought was super cool. The costumes (Sally Dolembo) were really awesome and the way they danced (choreography by Rhett Guter) was super cool. I thought that Ralphie was amazing at tap dancing. I take tap dancing lessons so it was super fun to watch him bust out his moves. I loved it when Ralphie started tapping faster and faster until you could barely see his legs anymore. I liked how the schoolroom (set design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec) was transformed into the wild west in "Ralphie to the Rescue" and into a 20s nightclub for this song. They would change the door and move around the desks and they would also project on the chalkboard different things. You get to see inside Ralphie's head and you see him project what he thinks his teacher (Ericka Mac) is being like, which is mocking him about what his parents have been saying. They have been saying he'll shoot his eye out with a BB gun.

I thought it was hilarious how the dad thought the lamp was a major award. He shouldn't have even gotten it for himself, because his wife answered all the questions. And she doesn't even like it, so....she should have a say in it, duh! But it's still a good number! It was super funny to see all these girls dressed up in lampshades coming out and doing the can-can. If you know the story, you know the lamp is not the most appropriate of lamps, because it is a fishnet-stocking-wearing leg. And i find that so hilarious. I just love how much he admires it. I love the kind of ridiculous song where someone, in this case the dad, is super excited about something he doesn't need to be excited about.

There was a song called "Up on Santa's Lap," which was about all the children at Higbee's department store, which is like the Macy's of Indiana, waiting to see Santa (Mark David Kaplan). And Santa is not the "real" Santa; he is some drunk that they probably found on the street and said, "Put on this Santa suit. We lost our real 85-year-old man." I love those movies and t.v. shows where they are trying to cover up that their Santa isn't the "real" Santa and is a drunk. (And smells like beef and cheese, like in Elf, or in this case smells like whisky.) The slide was very cool. I loved how the kids would start down the slide looking very happy and at the bottom they would look very disappointed and sad. I was wondering, "What's inside that slide?!" I loved when the brother Randy (Theo Moss)just ran away screaming when it was his turn to meet Santa. I find that so true. There are so many kids, when you go to see Santa with your little cousin, who just run away screaming. Santa is pretty scary, especially if he has a flask...or a knife.

People who would like this show are people who like great tapping, scary Santas, and sexy dancing lamps. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is not for really little kids, but it is a fun family musical, and you will laugh your butt off watching it.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Review of A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Christmas Carol. It was by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, and it was directed by Henry Wishcamper. It was about a man named Scrooge (Larry Yando) who was very rich and his partner Marley (Joe Foust) had died. The Ghost of Marley goes to Scrooge and tells him that he'll be visited by three spirits. Marley and the ghosts all warn him that if he continues his selfish ways, he will have chains on him when he dies. It is about changing so that you can show more kindness, forgiveness, and charity. I think that this is a really great show. It is so touching and funny, and it gives you goosebumps.

This show was pretty scary at some parts, but it would still be okay for most kids. It is important for it to actually be scary because the Charles Dickens' book is not all fun and games. When Marley comes out of the painting it is super scary because it just looks like a normal painting and then when you take a second glance at it you see what Scrooge sees. When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (J. Salomé Martinez and Kareem Bandealy) was on stage that was also very creepy because it looked like this giant version of the Grim Reaper, which is even creepier than the smaller Grim Reaper. The director has these ghosts jump-scare you because they tell Scrooge the worst news, which is that if he continues being an ungenerous person that he will not be remembered fondly. In these moments, you feel fear when Scrooge does. The fear scares Scrooge into doing things he thought wouldn't work out well, like being kind and being generous and being free spirited. He was afraid before that if he did those things he would lose all his money, but now he is less fearful of that because he is more afraid of messing up his life than of not having all the money in the world.

There are a lot of very funny moments in this show. Scrooge is a very very funny character. Before he is changed, you laugh at how ridiculously cold-hearted and cheap he is. After he is changed, you laugh at how giddy he is. And he laughs too. He is kind of like a kid in a candy store, but the candy is Christmas spirit and making up for the wrong things he's done. It is happier after his change because when you laugh at someone, it can be mean, but when you are laughing with someone, it seems more like a family. And now we are family with Scrooge; he has made a connection with the audience. Close to the end of the show, Bob Cratchit (Ron E. Rains) comes to work late and he is expecting for Scrooge to get super mad when he sees he is late. So he is going as quietly as possible, and it turns into this entire comedy routine. I thought it was very funny when he got his scarf stuck in the door, and he had to go and retrace all his steps, and scootching the chair back was where he got caught. He got past all these crazy-hard obstacles, but he couldn't get past scootching the chair!

There were so many touching moments in this show. There are families going through hard times and you keep having more sympathy for Scrooge. Like when you see the terrible school that young Scrooge (Aaron Lamm) went to and how he was mistreated, but then you get to see his sister Fan (Paige Collins) and how she loved him even though his parents had kind of neglected him. And another moment where you feel sympathy for Scrooge is when Belle (Kristina Valada-Vlars) breaks off their engagement because she can't trust him to want to raise a family instead of just making money. I think at the end he should go and get old-person married with her because I think she would really like this Scrooge even more than the Scrooge she knew at first. Also, when Scrooge has his reunion with his nephew Fred (Anish Jethmalani), it is super touching because Fred has always loved Scrooge even though Scrooge has made it clear that he doesn't feel the same way. When they hugged, it brought tears to my eyes because you wanted it for a while; you wanted him to apologize to the people he had hurt, and the hug was so beautiful because it seemed like an actual hug, not a quick stage hug. They seemed like they actually meant it.

People who would like this show are people who like creepy Christmas stories, scarf comedy, and family. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was beautiful, funny, and amazing!

Photos: Liz Lauren

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review of Rough House's Sad Songs for Bad People: A Puppet Play

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Sad Songs for Bad People. It was co-directed by Mike Oleon and Jeremy Ohringer. The text was by Claire Saxe and the play was devised by the performing ensemble. This was a puppet show but it wasn't like a slapstick comedy puppet show; this wasn't anything close to that. It was a sad-song and scary-song puppet show. But then there were little pieces of comedy because sometimes the way people died or what they did was so ridiculous. I thought it was super exciting, and I saw puppets (designed by Grace Needlman and Cammi Upton) in a brand new dark and scary and funny way.

My favorite song was "Step It Out Nancy" by Robin and Linda Williams. It was about a girl named Nancy (Kay Kron) who had been betrothed to a man she didn't love because she was in love with a cowboy. In this song they used one-dimensional puppets and shadow puppets, and I thought it was cool to see the transition from one kind of puppet to another, and sometimes both at the same time. They had canvas that they flipped over for each new scene, like it was a drawing pad, and it would create new characters and new scenery. This song was really awesome because the woman in the song didn't let people just take things from her. She wanted to fight for things. Even though she couldn't control who she married, she still was very powerful.

There were two people named Jam Jam (Sean Hughes) and Whiskers (Andrew Yearick) and they were the musicians for the play. I thought it was awesome that they had live music. It also added a comedy act because while the sets were being changed they would do this short little comedy act. And it usually went wrong somehow, like someone wouldn't get the joke or somebody would get into a argument about what the joke meant. And I thought that was very hilarious and it made the set changes more entertaining and gave you a break from bawling about the sad songs.

There was this medley called "Teen Tragedies" which was three different songs ("The Hero," "Nightmare," and "Leader of the Pack") about scary accidents that happened to teens and they put it all into one story. There were three different girls (Kron, Maddy Low, and Saxe) who had these tiny bodies but huge heads. And the heads were people's heads but the bodies were puppets' bodies. Seeing that weirds you out, but in a good way. At first it is pretty funny, but then when you find out one of them killed somebody, it is very creepy. It is like thinking that Littlest Pet Shop toys are going to come kill you in the night. I loved how they put two accidents, which was a bus accident and a motorcycle accident, and they put them together and made them one big 'palooza of death and gore. So there were mashed-up songs and mashed-up people.

There was this song called "The Curse of Millhaven" by Nicholas Edward Cave, which was all about this girl (Oleon) who was the curse of Millhaven because she had a taste for murder. I loved the puppets. They looked kind of like a little kid's drawing and that made it even more creepy. Creepiness level: 100%. Everything seemed so nice and then it all went wrong when you saw the other side. Like the houses looked like nice colorful houses, but when you turned them around there was a dead woman inside.

People who would like this show are people who like creepy murder songs, powerful women, and figurative and literal mashups. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is a small company that should get noticed, and I really loved this show.

Photos: Kaitie Saxe, Zach Sigelko.