Friday, April 28, 2017

Review of Shakespeare in Love at Chicago Shakespeare

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Shakespeare in Love. It was based on the screenplay by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard and adapted for the stage by Lee Hall. It was directed by Rachel Rockwell. It was about William Shakespeare (Nick Rehberger) writing a play that eventually would be known as Romeo and Juliet, not Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate King's Daughter as he first intended. As he is casting the play he meets a young noblewoman, Viola (Kate McGonigle), who is forbidden from being an actor in the theater because (number one) she is a woman and (number two) she is a noblewoman. She cross-dresses as a man and ends up being cast as Romeo. When Will goes to her house to deliver the message to Thomas Kent, her alter-ego, that he has gotten the part, he meets Viola and falls in love with her. Hence the name of the play! It is about romantic love, of course, but also about the love of theatre and finding your inspiration. I thought this was a great show. It was super funny as well as heartbreaking and inspirational. It made me want to go home and write; so I did!

I think it is so cool how they had a scene that inspired Will to write the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet between Viola and Will. I think that was perfect for those two characters because they are basically like Romeo and Juliet except they don't both die at the end. Whenever she would say "speak more to me," he would try to and then mouth "oh, no" because he didn't want to speak any more poetry to her because he wasn't the one composing the poetry: Christopher Marlowe (Michael Perez) was. They did this Cyrano-inspired scene where Kit Marlowe and Shakespeare were at her chamber window speaking poetry to her, but she doesn't know that Kit is there, but he is actually the genius behind all this beautiful poetry she is hearing. But Shakespeare actually becomes a good writer thanks to Kit's help and Viola's inspiration. I thought that was very interesting and funny because now some people are theorizing that Marlowe wrote some of Shakespeare's work. I don't really think the play believes that is true, but they like to tease you about it. It is also clear that Shakespeare was very influenced by Marlowe's plays in real life, and their relationship in the play acknowledges that.

Many of the actors in this show get to play actors. Wabash (Scott Danielson) had a stutter and he got over it on stage. I thought the scene where he did get over his stutter, no matter for how short a time, was inspirational and adorable. Ralph (Ron King) was super funny. He was originally supposed to play Romeo but then Viola as Thomas Kent steps in and steals the role. His response is to be confused and annoyed but then eventually to embrace the role of Nurse, in which he is hilarious. Burbage (Timothy D. Stickney) and Ned Alleyn (Luigi Sottile) are certainly not as adaptable as Ralph was, given that they only will take a role if the character's name is in the title. I thought that was hilarious. They were archetypes of famous actors, which I thought was very funny. I also thought that Fennyman (Ron E. Rains) starts out kind of the villain who is interested in theater only for the money. But as the play goes on he becomes more of a lovable character because of his being so excited about getting to play the Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet. The real villains are the people who don't like theater or women or anything that is good in this world: Wessex (Dennis Grimes) and Tilney (Jerre Dye). Tilney seems to want to oppress theater more than preserve it, even though that is his job. And he seemed to be the inspiration for Malvolio with his yellow stockings. Wessex was just altogether a terrible human. He bought women, he was a jerk to them, he hated the theater, and he had red hair which was a sign of the devil in that time! (Maybe someone told that to him as a child and he felt he had to live up to it.) Dennis did a really good job making me hate his character!

Women in this time period were not allowed to do a lot, but I thought it was cool how, in this version of the character, Queen Elizabeth was a feminist. The very beautiful costumes (by Susan E. Mickey) she wore seemed very restricting which seemed to represent what it was like to be a woman in that era, even the queen. I did wonder why, if she was such a feminist, she didn't say women could act in the theater permanently, since she was queen and could make the rules. But I guess it shows that even the queen didn't have all the power in the world. I also noticed that Viola was kind of like Superman because her alter-ego was Thomas Kent, like Clark Kent! And she is like a superhero because she has two identities and she is fighting for truth in acting. But in the end her kryptonite is her father and his upholding of the patriarchy.

People who would like this show are people who like excited apothecaries, feminist queens, and more realistic balcony scenes. I think this is a great show. It had great actors and a great story. I loved it!

Photos: Liz Lauren

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review of Jesus Christ Superstar at Paramount Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Jesus Christ Superstar. The lyrics were by Tim Rice and the music was by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was directed and choreographed by Ron Kellum. The music directors were Kory Danielson and Tom Vendafreddo. It was about Jesus (Evan Tyrone Martin) in the weeks before his death and Judas’s (Mykal Kilgore) thoughts before he betrayed him. It is about Jesus’ followers Peter (Gilbert Domally), Simon (Mark J. P. Hood), and Mary Magdalene (Felicia Boswell) and what they want from him and who they think he is. It is about the priests Caiaphas (Lorenzo Rush, Jr.) and Annas (Avionce Hoyles) plotting against Jesus to give themselves all the power. It is about devotion, politics, and belief. I think this is a really great show; it has so many great songs and actors. I really loved it!

The first song is called "Heaven on their Minds" and it is sung by Judas. It is about how all of Jesus' followers will soon find out that he is not who they thought he was. Judas thinks Jesus is a good person, but he doesn't think he is the son of God. Judas reminds me a lot of Aaron Burr in Hamilton. He is the person who causes the death of the main character, but he is also the narrator. He isn't really the villain because he didn't really assess or understand the situation correctly. Judas admires Jesus, like Burr admires Hamilton, but then he is also envious of him and doesn't agree with everything he says. It seems like Judas is actually trying to save Jesus from something, so it is almost like he knows how the play is going to end, kind of like Burr in Hamilton. I thought Kilgore did such a great job with the song. He hit those high notes like a boss, and it was so awesome to listen to. He definitely makes you care a lot about Judas and what happens to him in the end--even though everyone knows it is not going to work out too well for him.

"The Last Supper" is when you really start to see Jesus' vulnerability and that he is not just a messiah: he is an actual person. He and Judas get into this huge fight about betrayal and how Judas is going to betray him. Judas thinks that Jesus has too much power. He calls him a jaded mandarin because he thinks that he is drained and as a result is laying around with his power instead of using it to change the world. And then Judas storms off and he sings this amazing high note that the audience went crazy for.

"Gethsemene" was a really great song. This is the scene where you really see Jesus break down. He's not just scared; he's terrified and doesn't know what to do. Which shows that even the people we look up to most aren't fearless. The song is basically about how he's scared of dying, but he knows that he has to. He is very brave, but he still contemplates if there is any way he can get out of this or get through this well. I felt so much for him during this song. He seemed to be feeling every line. It was so heartbreaking and beautiful to watch.

The song "Could We Start Again Please" was about Mary, Peter, and Judas asking Jesus if they can start again because they feel sorry for what they have done to him and want to save him. I thought it was super moving and it was sung very well. It is saying I want to go back because everything is bad now, which is a familiar feeling--wanting to turn back time so everything that has broken apart can be made good again. There is a connection between this song and "Everything's Alright." "Everything's Alright" is sung by Mary Magdalene to Jesus and it is about how everyone should just calm down and relax, but later in the show "Could We Start Again Please" is when everyone realized that it's not alright now, and we need to go back.

I absolutely loved Herod's Song! Herod (Hoyles) was so fabulous and oh so evil, and his song was so catchy. He is basically demanding Jesus to make a miracle, and then making fun of all the miracles he has performed. He would say stuff like, "Water! Wine!" like "Look I can do miracles too! And I can be a jerk to you at the same time!" It is a cruel thing to do, but it was really funny to watch as part of a big musical number. Whenever he would hit a high note, all of his attendants would ooh and ah and it was pretty funny. His dance moves were flawless, and so were his background dancers and their costumes (by Theresa Ham)! I absolutely loved this scene!

People who would like this show are people who like retellings of old stories, amazing singing, and hilarious Herods. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is a lot of fun to watch and it feels super meaningful. It had great actors and the singing was amazing. I loved it!

Photos: Liz Logan

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review of Aladdin (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Aladdin. The music was by Alan Menken, and the lyrics were by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin. The Book was by Beguelin based on the Disney film. It was about a young man named Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) who lives in Agrabah and one day he meets the princess Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla). Her father's (JC Montgomery) advisor Jafar (Jonathan Weir) and his sidekick Iago (Reggie De Leon) decide he is a threat to the throne, but they also discover that he is the only one who can retrieve a magic lamp because he is a "diamond in the rough." Aladdin finds this magical lamp and meets the Genie (Anthony Murphy) who will grant him three wishes for (almost) anything he desires. It is about keeping your promises, duty, and staying true to who you are. I thought that this was a really amazing and spectacular show. The music, the acting, and the effects were all so great. I had so much fun watching it; I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Aladdin and Jasmine have such an adorable relationship. I've always really loved Jasmine, and she is my favorite Disney princess from that time period because she was the most feminist at the time. She seemed so powerful and sassy in this production and I absolutely loved that. Aladdin was also super great. He was charming but he was still a flawed character. A lot of times in Disney movies the flawed characters are just the villains, but Aladdin is flawed but still a good person--that is why they call him a diamond in the rough. They sang a song called "A Million Miles Away" which was all about wanting to get away from your problems. I think that was a great song because even though they have very different lives in terms of privilege, they still both had very difficult lives. I thought it was very moving because you could see the pain they had both been suffering.

"Friend Like Me" was so full of crazy unexpected spectacle. I thought that was amazing. There were fireworks, magically appearing and disappearing foods, people who gloriously appeared out of pillars, and tap dancing! What more could I ask for in a show! I wasn't completely sure how they could recreate all the animated elements of that song in the movie on stage, but they did--maybe even more beautifully because it was happening in front of your eyes! My favorite part was probably the medley of Disney songs from other movies that the Genie sang as part of "Friend Like Me." He did this whole pop star thing where he was like, "Now, I want to bring down the house a little bit," and he started singing "Tale as Old as Time" from Beauty and the Beast. Everyone started applauding so much; it was very funny. The Genie was such a great presence on stage; he really made you love the Genie. He is supposed to be so charismatic and lovable, and he certainly was!

There were three characters that were not in the movie, Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Phillipe Arroyo), and Kassim (Mike Longo) who were Aladdin's friends. I think they were a great addition to the show. They have been around with Aladdin ever since he was out on the streets. They were good comedy for when the Genie wasn't around and they had a different kind of humor than the Genie. They are more comedy inside of the story and physical comedy, whereas the Genie is more verbal comedy and talks to the audience. My favorite song with the friends was "High Adventure." It was about the three guys going to rescue Aladdin from Jafar's clutches. There were some really good physical comedy moments, like when they were running in slow motion and then there is just a guy walking past normally looking at them like, "What is their deal?" Also, when they meet Jasmine's three attendants (Mary Antonini, Olivia Donalson, and Annie Wallace), they are stunned by their beauty and they flirt with them a little bit, which is a very funny moment. I wish the three attendants had had their own song, like Babkak, Omar, and Kassim did, because I would have liked to know more about their lives. And I wanted to know their names!

People who would like this show are people who like adorable royal couples, fantastic spectacle, and slow-motion running. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It was so much fun to watch, and I absolutely loved it!

Photos: Deen Van Meer

Ada Grey Interviews for You: Isis Elizabeth of The Wiz at Emerald City

I had so much fun talking to Isis Elizabeth from Emerald City Theatre's The Wiz. Here's our interview!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review of Porchlight Music Theatre's Marry Me a Little

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Marry Me a Little. The music and lyrics were by Steven Sondheim and it was conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman René. It was directed by Jess McLeod and the music direction was by Austin Cook. It is a compilation of many of Sondheim's songs in the context of two neighbors falling in love. I think this is a super fun show; I love Stephen Sondheim's work and I thought the performers (Cook and Bethany Thomas) were really lovable, talented, and had great voices. It wasn't just fun, it was also emotional at times, and you do come to care about the characters.

This play is about two people falling in love unexpectedly, so it is no wonder they have so many duets together. Two of my favorites were "Bang" and "Two Fairy Tales," both from A Little Night Music. I really liked the song "Bang." It was all about the noise that The Man's piano was making upstairs. They were clearly overreacting to the situation; they acted like this was war. They actually said "This means war!" in the song right after The Woman had banged on the ceiling of her apartment. I found that very funny. If he hadn't been playing so loud, they wouldn't have met, which means it was kind of a good thing. The song "Two Fairy Tales" was kind of their bonding song where they bonded over their childhood stories that they used to read. I thought it was really sweet, and I really liked that song. They were basically connecting the two stories, so they sounded like one crazy fairy tale with two different endings. One has a happy ending and one doesn't, so when you put them together you get a kind of bittersweet ending. And that is exactly what happens in Marry Me a Little. The story is about happiness and heartbreak in the same relationship.

The first song The Woman sings, "The Girls of Summer," is a very seductive song, but it is kind of about how dumb these seductive girls are. The Woman is the girl who isn't a girl of summer. The girls of summer get their hearts broken and don't remember anything by fall, but The Woman has protected herself from getting her heart broken, but then she didn't have much of a summer at all; she hasn't gotten her heart broken because she hasn't been in love. Another song that she sings later on in the show is "I Remember Sky." It was all about the times when things were better. She is going through some hard times with The Man, and she is remembering when things were better for them. I thought this song was really beautiful, and it was really moving how her beautiful acting and beautiful singing made the whole effect of the song so huge and meaningful. She also had more hilarious songs, like "Can That Boy Foxtrot." I think it was so funny because of all the tricking that she would do of the audience by making them think she was about to say something that she wasn't. So she would say "Boy, can that boy fffff--oxtrot." And everyone thought she was going to say a different word, but she never did, which was pretty hilarious.

The Man also had some really great solos. "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here" was all about how he wanted to be alone but if you want to find him he is at this undisclosed location. And he was so furious as he was playing the piano, which was really interesting to watch. He seemed like he'd gone off the deep end, which is understandable because of the situation he was in. He can barely find himself even, like he's saying "Don't look for me, because I can't even find myself." "You Are the Best Thing That Ever Has Happened" was not technically a solo, even though it was mostly sung by him, because The Woman has a few interjections. It was such a sweet song, but it was actually more bittersweet because they had broken up. He was reminiscing on when they were truly happy, but he is actually pretty angry at her at the same time. He sang this song with so much intention and love and loathing at the same time and that was very heartbreaking. I think that is a very relatable feeling.

People who would like this show are people who like combining fairy tales, fatefully loud piano playing, and fff-oxtrotting. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It has so many great songs sung by two great performers. I really loved it!

Photos: Brandon Dahlquist

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review of NightBlue's Tarzan: The Stage Musical

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Tarzan. It was based on the Disney film adapted from the story "Tarzan of the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The music and lyrics were by Phil Collins, and the book was by David Henry Hwang. It was directed and choreographed by Kevin Bellie and the music director was Michael Kaish. It was about a man named Tarzan (Jomar Ferreras) who had been raised by apes since he was a boy (Jean-Eduard Rodriguez). Then a expedition comes to his jungle and he meets a girl named Jane (Rachel Juncker) and they develop a very close bond. It is about finding out who you truly are, remembering your roots, and doing whatever it takes for love. I enjoyed many of the performances in this show. It is not my favorite script for a musical, but I thought they did a good job with what they had.

I thought that Tarzan and Terk's (Juwon Tyrel Perry) relationship was really adorable. They seemed to have such a close friendship, which was really sweet. And it was so sad to see how much Terk didn't want Tarzan to go with Jane, because they were such close friends. They have a song called "Who Better Than Me?" that they sing twice. The first time it is Terk saying "Who better than me to become your mentor and friend?" and the second time it is "Who better than me to help you get the girl and help you be able to live among the humans?" I think that song worked really well for both of those situations and it was really heartwarming to see them reprise the song with a different meaning. Instead of Tarzan beginning his life with the apes, he is going away from it. Terk also had another really awesome song called "Trashing the Camp," which was mostly scat singing. And I was tapping my foot the whole time.

Tarzan's relationship with Kala (Khaki Pixley), his adoptive mother, is very close. It shows how important the relationship between a mother and her son is, even though they are not from the same species. That shows you that love has no boundaries and that love is love. I think that is a pretty good moral to a story. They sing a song together, "You'll Be in my Heart," that is all about how she is always going to protect Tarzan. The second time they sing it, it almost made me cry. It was really moving to see a relationship between a son and mother that was so close and to see them leaving each other.

Tarzan and Jane's relationship was really cool to see grow throughout the course of the play. They had a very pedagogical relationship, meaning that they would teach each other things. The song, "Strangers Like Me," that they sang together, was really cool and crazy catchy. I'm still singing it. It is about how they want to know everything about the other person's culture. They respected each other's culture more than the other people on Jane's expedition, especially Clayton (Garret Haley), who wanted to kidnap gorillas and sell them to circuses. Tarzan and Jane's relationship was also super charming and adorable. I thought how they acted with each other on stage seemed really natural.

I'm not sure this was a good movie to make into a live musical because it is literally a story that is about a man and his family of apes and it is kind of hard to represent those apes well on stage. I think the actors did as well as they could be expected to do, but they still have to speak and sing, which does not make them seem like apes. In the movie it worked because it was all animated. It is adding on another layer of disbelief to have them be played by humans when you can see their bodies. Talking animals are fine in a animated movie, or even on stage, but you are supposed to be noticing all the cultural differences between apes and humans in this show, and how they should all be treated with respect, but it seems sometimes like just humans and humans in different costumes. The moral of the movie is that we should treat all living things with the same respect, even if we're different. But I felt like the differences got lost here without animation or real gorillas.

People who would like this show are people who like crazy-catchy songs, adorable relationships, and scat-singing apes. I think this was a fun show. It had some awesome songs and performers.

Photos: Drew Peterson

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review of Artemisia's Visiting

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Visiting. It was by Ed Proudfoot, and it was directed by Carrie Lee Patterson. It is about a young woman named Penny (Sarah Wisterman) who is suffering from manic-depression and her family has been hiding something from her: that her Aunt Lauren (Julie Proudfoot), who also has depression, is really her mom. But Penny still wants to have an actual life outside the hospital, so Penny and her family have these picnics where they talk about what they should do. When they get there they seem like they are just going to sit around and talk, but every time there is more to the picnic than that. It is about family, depression, and taking risks to have a better life. I thought that this was a really heartbreaking, effective, and beautiful show.

This play was very sad to me because of the pain you could see all the characters were feeling. Penny and Aunt Lauren are very close to each other even before Penny knew they were mother and daughter. They are not just sad because of their own depression but because of the other's suffering because they feel so close to the other and feel responsible for each other. Rachel (Millicent Hurley) was the woman who raised Penny and was always known to Penny as her mom, even though she was her mom's sister. Her pain was because she felt like she had done so much for Lauren and Lauren still wasn't completely better. And she thinks of Penny as her own daughter and she is worried about her daughter killing herself. And her pain is also because she misses her own mom so much. Holly (Carin Silkaitis) is the rebel sister of Rachel and Lauren. She lives in Chicago, while the rest of her sisters stayed in Indiana, and she is not afraid to speak her mind. She wants everyone to listen to her. She doesn't seem like a person who would feel a lot of pain, but by the end you see her kind of broken down. Even though Holly is really mad at Lauren, they still have a really strong bond, and you really see Holly regret her choices about how she speaks to her sister. Carol (Maggie Cain) is the wife of the sisters' brother. She is very religious and almost too sweet. I think she is the happiest of all of them, because she seems kind of oblivious, but she has her own problems with her marriage. I think the writer wanted all these characters to seem very vulnerable and relatable. But they are all still fighting to have normal lives and they try to help each other out even though they all have their differences.

I thought it was interesting how they used just a picnic table and screens for the set (design by Eric Luchen), but it worked for everything: the hospital, the house, and the rest stop. There was one section where they used blinking lights (lighting design by Rebecca A. Barrett) and an alert sound (design by Kallie Rolison) to show that Penny has escaped from the hospital. They also use blinking lights when she is having her treatments done. I think they use the blinking lighting in both instances to signify the danger she is in. When she escapes from the hospital she is in danger because she might kill herself. The play doesn't completely show them solving that, but she is alive in the next scene so you assume they did. The treatments are dangerous because they might not work and it will be a lot of pain for nothing. I thought the language was super interesting. It was very poetic but it wasn't Shakespearean. It was very realistic at the same time. They would talk to each other like real people who were in reality, but a reality that was altered by the strange lens of depression. I think this is a really good choice for this show because it gives you a sense of the strangeness of what the world seems like when you're depressed, and that is really effective. The set also helped give you a sense of that strangeness because it was all mellow colors that didn't really draw your attention to the set but to the story, which makes it more audience inclusive.

I liked that the message of the show was that people with depression should not deny themselves the happiness of raising a family just because they have a disease. But they need their family to get through it all. I think the final scene where all the women of the family have gotten together was super heartwarming. The whole play shows a blend of the depression and the happy moments, which I think make each of the happy moments more effective. There was one moment when they brought out the cake for Penny's birthday, but they didn't bring a knife to cut it. So they all started to pass the cake around from person to person. I thought that was a super heartwarming moment. But it was also kind of sad because of the sad thing they had just been talking about. Even though it is a sad moment and they don't have what they need, they are making do. Even when things are hard, there can still be cake...and Carol's flying chicken tea towel that she made for Penny.

People who would like this show are people who like picnics, heartbreaking and heartwarming stories, and flying chicken tea towels. I think people should go see this show. It is a beautiful story. I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Kat Tushim

Friday, April 14, 2017

Review of Shattered Globe Theatre's For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday. It was by Sarah Ruhl, and it was directed by Jessica Thebus. It was about a group of siblings--Ann (Kathleen Ruhl), Wendy (Eileen Niccolai), Michael (Patrick Thornton), John (H.B. Ward), and Jim (Ben Werling)--whose father (Doug McDade) was dying. They are reflecting on how easy it was when they were kids, and then they all went back to the days when they were little and pretending to be in Peter Pan. It is about family, not wanting to grow up, and reflection. This is such a moving play and it is funny too. I thought it was great.

The first main section is in a hospital room. They are all there waiting for their father to die. They are all at different levels of dread and do different things to kind of calm themselves. Ann is doing a crossword puzzle; the guys want to watch football; Wendy kind of wants to pamper her dad--she is massaging his feet. They are all trying to be calm and they are all trying to make the best out of the situation. I think when a person dies they would never say, "Everyone should be sad for years." That's why I think it is okay for people to be trying to make the best out of the situation like people in this show are doing. They want their dad to die happy, but you can't really tell if that happens, which is kind of a sad thing to think about.

The second section of the play takes place at the family house. They are all sitting around telling jokes as part of celebrating their dad. And they are also getting pretty tipsy while they are at it. And their father as a ghost keeps walking into the room and his children can't see him. And he is just going about his day: making his Metamucil, eating a grapefruit, and petting his adorable dog. (I think that dog should win a Jeff for most adorable dog in a play.) When they say "Dad, if you are here, give us a sign," he knocks the lid off a tin. And everybody is like "Well, that was weird," but they don't really pay much attention. I thought that was interesting because they didn't have this big discovery: ghosts are real! Instead they just go back to their conversation. Wendy believes very strongly in a higher power. And Ann is the opposite of that. Everybody else is kind of on the fence about it, and they get into a heated discussion about why they do or don't believe in a higher power. I think that was very interesting to watch because they had all different opinions even though they were part of the same family. I kind of want to hear a podcast with all of them because I thought all their opinions were interesting.

The third section was all based on Peter Pan, with Ann playing Peter and everyone else playing their namesakes, except for Jim who was Captain Hook and Tinkerbell. The lines were much more simple in this section because everything was simpler when you were younger and more oblivious to everything. I liked how they acted like they were in the Peter Pan stories until they all realized what their responsibilities were at home as adults. I think that when older people don't want to grow up it is because they are afraid of dying. And they have just been reminded about all of that because of their father passing away. Thematically Peter Pan is all about not wanting to grow up. And all of these adults are grown up, and there is kind of no turning back from that now, but they still want to keep from getting older. I think the reason why this play is so moving is because all of them are haunted by the inevitability of death. Even though some of them say they aren't, I think they all secretly are. This section felt sad at moments of course, but overall it was amusing to watch because it was kind of a spoof of Peter Pan.

People who would like this show are people who like Peter Pan, moving stories, and adorable dogs. I think people should go see this show. It is such a different and interestingly beautiful play.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Monday, April 10, 2017

Review of Mary Poppins at Mercury Theater Chicago

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Mary Poppins. It was based on the stories of P. L. Travers and the Walt Disney film. The book was Julian Fellowes. The original music and lyrics were by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. New songs and additional music and lyrics were by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. It was directed by L. Walter Stearns. It was choreographed by Brenda Didier and the music direction was by Eugene Dizon. It was about the Banks family, George (Kevin McKillip), Winifred (Cory Goodrich), Jane (Sage Harper when I saw it; Pearle Bramlett at other performances) and Michael (Casey Lyons when I saw it; Peyton Owen at other performances), who wanted the perfect nanny. And then one flies from the sky, and that nanny is Mary Poppins (Nicole Armold). She teaches the whole family to take everything with a spoonful of sugar, basically not to be so pessimistic. It is about family, not worrying about respectability, and enjoying life.

I absolutely loved Armold in the role of Mary Poppins. She was so poised and upright but never stiff. She was gently sarcastic in a humorous way. Everything she did, she did with some flair. You can understand why everyone loves Mary so much, as you can see in "Jolly Holiday" and basically any song where Mary Poppins steps outside. Whenever Mary was around, Bert (Matt Crowle) seemed dazed and it was adorable. They had great chemistry on stage. You also kind of feel bad for Bert because Mary likes him back but she is like a goddess so she can't really have a mortal boyfriend. Maybe she has love interests in every town she goes to like Zeus.

My favorite song was "Brimstone and Treacle." I thought Miss Andrew (Holly Stauder) did a really great job with the vocals. Most of the time I really love villains in musicals and this is no exception. She rocked the part and made me want Miss Andrew to have more stage time. When she has her showdown with Mary Poppins in the reprise, it is like they are polar opposites. Good vs. evil, sugar vs. treacle, and rum punch vs. brimstone. It was so cool when they faced off. When you think of Mary Poppins you don't think of epic battles, but there sure is one. Mary Poppins and Miss Andrew both had flair, but different kinds. Miss Andrew's was more like terror flair.

I usually really like productions of big musicals in smaller spaces; you feel closer to the characters and you feel more of the action. The danger with doing Mary Poppins that way, though, is that the magical elements can seem fake. I felt like the cake in "Spoonful of Sugar," the hatstand and mirror from Mary's carpet bag, and the birds were all victims of unmagicalness. There was also a moment where the ensemble was using lights to be stars. The whole ensemble was dressed in black except for their faces. I think that if they had worn masks it might have been more magical because you wouldn't see the floating heads. Floating heads can be magical, but I don't think that's what Mary Poppins had in mind when she took the children for their final goodbye in "Anything Can Happen."

People who would like this show are people who like spoonfuls of sugar, gentle sarcasm, and epic nanny battles. The singing and the performances are great, and I think this is a really fun script.

Photos: Brett A. Beiner

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Review of Cavalia's Odysseo

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Odysseo. It was created by Normand Latourelle. It was a show that includes two of my favorite things: horses and circus. I thought it was such a fun show to be at. It was such an interesting and awesome concept to have horses being adorable, people doing tricks off of the horses, people up in the sky on a lyra, and people doing crazy backflips all in the same show. I felt like the entire experience of the show was really enjoyable.

I really liked the "Village Celebration" in act one. It was so fantastic to watch. They had people (Anton Savytskyi, Maksym Ovchynnikov, Pavel Skyba, an Lucas Altemeyer) on stilts jumping over hurdles. And they were doing these flips that were so awesome. How high they would get off the ground was just so crazy. Even though they had these flexible jumping stilts, I still thought it was impressive not just because they were on stilts but because it was clear that it took a lot of practice. The acrobats (Alseny Bangoura, Sékou Camara, Mohamed Sylla, Mohamed Conte, Alseny Sylla, Alhassane Sylla, Younoussa Sylla, Michel Kamono, and Balla Moussa Bangoura) also were so amazing. The amount of backflips they would do! It was amazing; I don't know how they did it without getting sick on stage. I know about spotting, but how fast they were doing them was just out of this world. It was crazy. They created such an awesome relationship with the audience. They responded to applause so genuinely and that made the audience love them even more. They had another number as well called "The Call of Africa" and they did this whole call and response singing and had the audience singing and clapping along. It was so awesome because they did all of their acrobatics and the audience applauded for them for like five minutes. Also, the "Village Celebration" included horses (Utah, Drago, Quetzal, Quartz, Melchor, Motion, Fadista, and Tutor) and their riders (Amelie Bauza, Jérémy Gutierrez, Steven Paulson, Benoit Drouet, Jonathan Gil Delgado, Arnaud Attou, Batraz Tsokolaev, and Guillaume Dubrana), and it was so cool. The horses were also leaping over the hurdles. It was cool to see how people in stilts, people not in stilts, and the horses could all jump over the same hurdles.

They had this huge carousel that was lowered from the ceiling in "Carosello." They had these poles with fake horses on them. The performers (Altemeyer, Moniz Gmach, Uys DuBuisson, Elisa Penello, Samuel Alvarez, Julissa Panus, Ovchynnikov, Skyba, and Savytskyi) would hang off these poles and they would hang off of them upside down and sometimes they used no arms and it was just mesmerizing. They also would do tricks together; one would hold the other by the hand and they would be responsible for the other not falling. It was cool how the carousel was rotating the entire time so you could see what everyone was doing. I also really liked "The Angels" which was all done on silks. The performers (Jacqueline Ward Kehrwald, Panus, Penello, and Karolina Melska) were carried in on horses (Juglans, Licenciat, Bello, and Gavilan) and they were lifted up off the horses and became these angels. They had long wings that hung down to the ground; those were the silks. That was another time they used rotation but this time it was from the sky. They were so high off the ground that you were kind of worried for them, but they were angels, so I guess they probably wouldn't fall.

"The Great Adventure" was so amazing. It was this dancing horse named Omerio with a woman (Elise Verdoncq) on his back. At first all you see is a silhouette of them on the hill. And the horse dances and it was so majestic and pretty. And then the lights come up and you see them. The entire thing was like a flood of beauty. (That is the cheesiest thing I've said on this blog, but it is also true.) You see they had flooded the front part of the stage in the dark, and it was so beautiful. And Omerio went down to the water and started doing the same tricks he had been doing on land in the water. And then they had these white horses (Gus, Frosty, Nezma, Gee-Gee, Chief, Bravas, Shake, Pearl) run through the water and it was so beautiful to see their manes flow and the splash of their hooves in the water. It was so glorious that it made me and my mom almost cry. It was really pretty.

People who would like this show are people who like mesmerizing acrobatics, dancing horses, and human carousels. This is such an amazing show to see. I really enjoyed being there and I hope a lot of people get to see it.

Photos: Cavalia

Friday, April 7, 2017

Review of Griffin Theatre Company's In to America

Once upon a time I went to a show and I was called In to America. It was by William Massolia, and it was directed by Dorothy Milne. It was about the immigrant story in the United States and how American history is the stories of immigrants. It is a compilation of a lot of real life stories given mostly in direct address to the audience and occasionally using other actors to play other characters in a scene. I think this is a really interesting and important topic for a show. I think this show is very educational and moving. I liked it.

There were a lot of very moving parts of this show. There was a woman from Afghanistan named Asia Rahi (Rasika Ranganathan) whose home was destroyed. And she decided to leave with her children. But one of her daughters had an asthma attack and she needed to get some air so she lifted up her burqa, and the guards started beating her and the son distracted them but he didn't get away from them. I think that the brother was so brave to have done that. It is so sad because if they had gone at a different time or if she hadn't had the asthma attack, everything could have worked out better. I'm sure Asia Rahi loved all her children equally, so to lose one child for another must have been terrible. Mao Hiet (Scott Shimizu) was from Cambodia. He talks about his escape, where he loses some of his family members and is shot at by the Khmer Rouge. At the end of his story, it is not a happily ever after for him even though he has survived. He says he doesn't know why the U.S. didn't help save millions of lives. There was a man from Syria (Omer Abbas Salem) who talked about how a bomb had hit his house and his son had to carry out parts of his mother and sister so they could be buried. I think the saddest part to me was how his son kept writing "Mom" in his notebook over and over again. I can't imagine how terrible that would be and I really wish I could have done something about that. The play shows an instance where it is too late to help (in Cambodia) and then it shows an instance where we can still do something about it (in Syria) to suggest that the U.S. can still help there. (My mom and I found this list of charities that actually help.)

Even though a lot of the experiences in this show are sad ones, I think the show still has a lot of inspiring moments. During the Great Migration, John H. Johnson (Christopher W. Jones) went from Arkansas to Chicago for schools and resources available to African American people. He later founded the Johnson Publishing Company, and I think that is super inspiring to see this story of a kid moving somewhere so he could go to a good school and then getting a great job and starting his own publishing company. Susie King Taylor (Anesia Hicks) went to a school that only taught thirty children and it was in an free woman's house. The free woman was teaching a secret school for African American children in the south during slavery. I think that teacher is so inspiring because she stood up for what she believed in, that everyone should have an education, and she actually made a difference with the kids. There was a woman named Lilly Daché (Elizabeth Hope Williams) who immigrated from France in the 1920s, and she was looking at all the things in the city. And a taxi driver gets really mad at her and tells her to wake up and then she does and looks at all the amazing things around her in the bustling city. She said she felt like she was discovering America. I think that is a really beautiful line. If you don't look up, you won't discover all the strangely beautiful stuff around you. And later in her life she becomes a fashion designer.

I thought this show also had some funny and heartwarming stories. Like one of my favorites was about a woman who had come from Japan, Riyo Orite (Jennifer Cheung), and she was making biscuits for all the men who worked with her husband. She has only just learned how to make biscuits because they didn't really make them in Japan. And the biscuits turn out to be so hard that they call them dogkillers. There was also a heartwarming story about a man from Ireland, Emmanuel Steen (Sean McGill), and once he got to America he was so excited to be there, and he sees a hot dog cart and ice cream sandwich cart, and he tries both of them and thinks they are amazing. It is so sweet to see somebody get excited about foods we see everyday and experience them for the first time. There was a woman named Lupe Macais (Juanita Andersen) who had a funny story about crossing the border from Mexico to get to America that was sweet at the end. Basically she was kind of over-prepared because she had this coach who was terrified for her and gave her so much information at once, which was very funny to watch. But once she gets to the border, they just let her go through without talking to her. The look on her face is just so giddy but also kind of relieved. I thought that was so sweet. I really liked that scene. Another really sweet moment was about this woman from Italy, Elda Torini (Katie Campbell), who had come to America after World War II had ended and was waiting for her boyfriend who had been in the American army. She didn't care that everybody else had to wait in the line. She just ran through. She didn't care that it was snowing; she didn't care that she had high heels on. She just ran to him, and a few days later they got married. I thought that was such a sweet story.

People who would like this show are people who like moving stories, secret school, and hot dogs. I think that people should go see this show. These are beautiful, moving, and important stories of the immigrant experience.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review of Remy Bumppo Theatre Company's Born Yesterday

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Born Yesterday. It was by Garson Kanin and it was directed by David Darlow. It was about a woman named Billie (Eliza Stoughton) whose boyfriend, Harry Brock (Sean M. Sullivan), wants her to be more proper because he is rich and in Washington D.C. So he hires a tutor, Paul Verrall (Greg Matthew Anderson), who instead of teaching her how to be proper helps her learn to think for herself. It's about knowledge, doing what's best for you, and earning what you get. I think this is a funny and great play. I really love the message of the show. I think that a lot of women in the '40s when this play was written didn't see women learning in plays, books, and movies, so I think this play is very meaningful.

I think that the message of the show is great. It is basically that education is important to fulfill your duties as an American, like voting and understanding the government. I think the evolution of Billie is a really interesting one to watch. She evolves from someone who just follows around a boyfriend and mostly values having things to someone who is a intellectual person who reads books and has conversations about current events. She starts to read the paper and learn what is happening in the real world and not just in her bubble. Also her ideas on love change. She thought that relationships were more about attraction, but now it is about attraction but also having conversations and enjoying time together. I like how she doesn't transform into someone who is completely different; she still has her accent and her sassy personality. But she uses her knowledge to make herself actually happy by getting a life she wants to live instead a life following around Harry who treats her like crap.

There were a lot of funny moments. One of my favorites was when Harry and Billie were playing gin rummy and Billie kept winning and got amazing hands. She was also taking the whole game really seriously. You can also see in Harry's eyes that he was slightly mad how much she was winning. That was pretty funny to watch. I also thought it was funny when the lawyer, Ed Devery (Shawn Douglass), was stumbling around drunk. He seemed like he didn't even know that he was intoxicated. When anyone seemed to notice that he was, he just thought they were weird. Also, when act two started, you see Billie reading the paper, and when she takes down the paper you see that she is wearing glasses. I think that's really funny because she had been strongly against glasses. It seems they have grown on her.

Money is a really big topic in this play. It means a lot of different things to different people. At the top of the show you see Helen (Maggie Clennon Reberg), the maid, talking to Paul about how it dumb it is how rich people pay for really expensive hotel rooms. She is telling him this as she makes up the fancy room that costs two hundred and thirty five dollars. She would have to work for months to spend one night there, which I think is pretty crazy. It shows you how some people by doing the wrong thing get rewarded, and some people can do the right thing and work hard and all they get is eighteen dollars a week. On the other side of the spectrum we have Harry; he thinks that money is the meaning of life. In Harry's mind, his money shows that he is powerful. He thinks he got rich without any help and by working hard, but he wasn't working hard honestly. He was taking what belongs to others. And now that he is rich, he thinks he should be able to make all the rules. He is bribing Senator Hedges (Brian Parry) to be able to make even more money than he makes already which was already a huge amount. It kind of reminded me a bit of how Trump is trying to make life easier for rich people but not for poor people. And it is already harder for poor people! Billie at the beginning of the show also thinks money is the best thing ever. But as the story goes on, she realized that you don't live life for money; you live it for knowledge.

People who would like this show are people who like stories of change, intoxicated lawyers, and gin rummy. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think it is such a great story and it is so relevant for today. I loved it!

Photos: Johnny Knight

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles. It was created by Steve Landes, Joey Curatolo, Joe Bithorn, Ralph Castelli, and Mark Lewis. There wasn't really a story or a plot, but it was exactly like the videos I have seen of real Beatles' concerts. They got a lot of the unique characteristics of John Lennon (Landes), Paul McCartney (Curatolo), George Harrison (Alastar McNeil), and Ringo Starr (Aaron Chiazza) just right. I thought this was a super fun show. I have been a Beatles' fan since I was six, and I would have loved to go to a Beatles' concert. Sadly, by the time I was born, there were only two Beatles members still alive. So it was really fun to get the chance to see what it was like to see them on stage.

I think it is really cool how much they captured the personalities of the real members of the Beatles. Paul has a lot of energy and is most of the time moving. He is always smiling and has great stage presence. John is more focused on the music that he is playing than on the fans--until the song is over. John and Paul would talk to each other on stage, which showed how close they were. George seems to have his own thing going, but he still goofs around a bit. I was really happy that Ringo got to sing a song ("With a Little Help from my Friends") in this concert because he is literally in the background because he plays the drums, but if it wasn't for Ringo there would be no rhythm, which you really need for a band. You see them all evolve over the years. At the beginning they are literally all wearing suits and their performance style was more straightforward. Then we get to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and they are much more carefree because they know what they are doing. They kind of know that they can be crazy and it will be thought of as the most awesome thing ever. They've gotten the idea that they are famous by that point!

I really liked how similar the songs were to how they sounded on the album and in the real concerts. In this show, Mike Beyer played all the instruments that the Beatles didn't usually play in concert, so that you could have something that sounded like the album arrangement. I thought that the guitar solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was absolutely amazing. It was crazy how good it was; seeing it live rather than hearing it recorded was so amazing because you get to see him actually playing the guitar and how fast he's playing. I'm so happy they played "Eleanor Rigby" because that is one of my favorite songs. I think that one sounded the most similar to the album track to me. I also thought it was really cool how during "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" they used projections from really old movies. They reminded me of, and might have been from, A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès. I guess ladies in the sky were a big thing in the early 1900s! I thought it was super cool how at the end they involved the whole audience in singing "Hey, Jude." It was great to sing all together. The Beatles were all about peace and love and equality, which I think is something that we really need now. Everyone was really together when we were singing, and I thought that was really beautiful.

People who would like this show are people who like nostalgia, rock and roll, and community. I think that people should go see this show. It is so fun to be at and I loved it.

Photos: Richard Lovrich

Review of The House Theatre of Chicago's The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz. It was based on the story by L. Frank Baum. It was by Phillip Klapperich and it was directed by Tommy Rapley. It was about a young woman named Dorothy (Kara Davidson) who was trying to find what she wants to do with her life, gets blown away by a tornado, and meets a lot of new people who become her friends. She also makes some enemies that she will have to defeat to get home. It's about growing up, loss, and building relationships. I think this is a really great show. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry. Altogether, it's an awesome show.

I think that the visual aspects of the show were spectacular! The flying monkeys (Elana Elyce, Ben Hertel, Carlos Olmedo, and Tina Muñoz Pandya) were so awesome to watch and, at the same time, kind of terrifying. They would fly (choreography by Ryan Bourque) over the audience, and it was so cool! I also really liked the costumes (by Mieka van der Ploeg). I especially loved the witches' outfits. The Witch of the West's (Anji White) dress seemed like it was ripped and falling apart but still strangely beautiful, and the gloves were so awesome, and the way she moved her fingers in them added to the creepiness. Also I loved how Glinda (Amanda de la Guardia) looked so regal and the trees on her cape were so cool! Both of the witches had trees on their dresses, which I thought was really awesome. The Wicked Witch's dress looked more like roots, the part that doesn't get seen but does everything for the tree. And that might be the reason she became evil: that she had always been in the shadow of Glinda. I thought the boots Dorothy gets from the Witch of the East were so awesome because they answered a age-old question I always had: "Shouldn't there be blood on those shoes?" And the answer is: "Yes, there should be." It makes Dorothy look like so much more of a badass. I mean, Dorothy was already a badass in this show, but the boots just added to it. I also think that the puppets (designed by Jesse Mooney-Bullock) of the Kalidah, the crows, and the wolves are so cool. They looked like they were made from twine, and you can see the puppeteers inside the Kalidah. It's cool how you can see the actor using the puppet and emoting what the puppet is feeling.

I think that all of the main characters' monologues were so amazing because they really let you see what the characters were thinking. And that just made you love the characters more. I really loved Toto's (Joey Steakley) speech. It was so sweet and after this speech you absolutely adore him. You thought he was cute before, but now that you know what he is thinking, he is a more awesome and developed character. He was saying how much he loved Dorothy and how she rescued him from being killed because that's what they would've done to him if she hadn't adopted him. The Scarecrow's (Christine Mayland Perkins) speech was also really great. It was basically about how she had discovered that the Wizard of Oz (Benjamin Sprunger), the mayor of the munchkin land, and the man who had rescued them from a giant beast using a horn were all the same person. That kind of proves the Scarecrow really does have a brain. I thought that was hilarious because it acknowledged that the same actor was playing all of those parts. I think that's pretty funny. The Lion's (Michael E. Smith) speech almost made me cry. I can't tell you the reason why I was crying. You have to go see the show to find out. He was so upset and feels responsible for what had happened; that was really heartbreaking to watch. One of the speeches was not really a speech: it was a song. The song was sung by the Tin Woodsman (Jeremy Sonkin). It was about how he missed his old life when he could feel love. It was great how he got a band of Munchkins (Elyce, Hertel, Olmedo, and Pandya) to play the music for him. It was awesome.

There were a lot of very sweet and funny moments in this show. After Dorothy had been locked up by the Witch of the West, she got a mysterious phone call which happened to be from the Lion. No one ever knows how he got her number and called her, and I thought that that was absolutely hilarious. She asks him how he got her number, but he just says, "There's no time for questions," which basically avoids the question completely, but that makes it more hilarious. I think my favorite moment, which falls into the sweet moments category, was when the Tin Woodsman was saying goodbye to Dorothy. She says something along the lines of, "You have a heart now." And he says, "What if you're my heart?" And my heart just broke. I am going to have to go see the Wizard to get a new one. I ship Dorothy and the Tin Woodsman so much. Tinorothy for life.

This play is okay for kids, but it is not aimed at kids and some younger kids might get a little freaked out especially if they think they know what the story is going to be like. I think that parents should definitely go on the website and read the parent's guide because kids have different tolerances for sad things and darkness.

People who would like this show are people who like badass boots, actually flying monkeys, and mysterious lion phone calls. I think that people should definitely go and see this show. I think it is so fun, amazing, and dark. I loved it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow