Friday, August 25, 2017

Review of The Fair Maid of the West at Oak Park Festival Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Fair Maid of the West. It was adapted and directed by Kevin Theis from the play by Thomas Heywood. The fight choreography was by Geoff Coates. It was about a young woman named Bess (Amanda Forman) who is a barmaid and falls in love with a man named Spencer (Zach Livingston), who kills a man in self-defense and then he goes to Belgium with his friend Captain Goodlack (Debo Balogun). When Bess believes Spencer has been killed, she sets out to claim the body. She makes a crew out of a self-obsessed patron of the bar, Roughman (Aaron Christensen), the goofy bartender, Clem (Bobby Bowman), and Goodlack. They have many adventures along the way, including being shipwrecked on a very crazy island ruled by a misogynistic and indecisive king, Mullisheg (Jack Hickey), and his queen, Tota (Melissa Carlson). It is about determination, female power, and redemption. I think that this is a really fun and clever show. I liked it.

There were a lot of really funny parts to the show. One of my favorite funny characters was Roughman. He was harassing Bess, which doesn't sound funny, but he has a change of heart when he learns that he wasn't dueling with a strong strapping man but with Bess pretending to be a man. It was really funny and awesome when he discovered who she was and bowed down to her. I also really liked Alcade (Mark Lancaster); he was Mullisheg's attendant and he was just trying not to lose his job and trying to get everyone hyped up about the king. It was funny to see him struggle to try and please the king and also trying not to reveal to anyone that the king was making a lot of bad decisions. There was also great and humorous audience participation. They give you muffins at the top of the show to hurl at people giving the curtain speech. And they also gave out "flippies" which were flags to wave when Mullisheg, the King of Fez, would come out.

I thought the set (designed by Michael Lasswell) was really cool. I really liked how they used older technology to hoist open a door that they put a bed behind that they would then pull out. I thought it was cool how many levels there were and how they looked like a ship but could also be other locations. I also liked where the fights were placed throughout the show; they all furthered the story. My only complaint was that sometimes the fights seemed slow and didn't seem very captivating because of that. I really liked the fight that Spencer had with Joffer (Drew Mierzejewski) and his guards (Kate Booth, Bill Gordon, Ken Miller, and Bryan Wakefield). I thought it was cool how they did an outnumbered battle, but it was still really badass to watch whenever Spencer would defeat someone.

The play seemed really modern even though it was written a long time ago during the Renaissance. They made it so it was more of a heroic story for Bess and she wasn't a damsel in distress; the man was the one being rescued. I think that is very good for such an old play. I thought it was cool how they had two of the sidekick characters to Bess start out as not her friends but as her enemies. They each had a redemption story. Goodlack is going to take her inheritance by shaming her, but instead he apologizes once he sees what she is really like. And Roughman starts out harassing her and ends up respecting her. I think that Bess shouldn't have forgiven them quite so easily, but it made for an interesting group of people to be on her expedition. I haven't seen very many Renaissance plays that are so focused on the redemption and don't just end the play the minute it happens.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome sets, newfangled old plays, and hype about the king. I think that people should go see this show. It is a good story with great actors and lots of funny moments.

Photos: Cole Simon

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review of Musical Theater Works' Gypsy

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Gypsy. The book was by Arthur Laurents and the music was by Jule Stein. The lyrics were by Stephen Sondheim. It was directed by Rudy Hogenmiller and choreographed by Clayton Cross. It was about a woman named Rose (Mary Robin Roth) who had two children, Baby June (Sophie Kaegi) and Baby Louise (Moira Hughes), who she wanted to become vaudeville performers. She really thinks she wants the best for her children, but is pretty much a stereotypical stage mom living vicariously and precariously through her children. Then June (Rosie Jo Neddy) grows up and decides she doesn't want to pretend to be nine anymore. Louise (Lexis Danca) takes over for her but decides that vaudeville isn't really for her and stumbles into burlesque and realizes that that is what she wants to do. It basically shows how children grow up and they go away and how hard it is for some mothers to deal with that. I think this is a fun musical and I enjoyed seeing it again.

I really like the song "Mr Goldstone." It is really fun and it really shows how people feel when something really exciting happens to them. You start to jumble up your words and get overly excited and try to do everything to make the person you are excited about really like you. Like when Rose calls Mr. Goldstone "Mr. Egg Roll" it is hilarious to me. This is a song that is super weird but I think it works because it is not trying to be serious; it is them blatantly saying "this is weird and we know it." Unlike "Little Lamb," which is kind of terrifying. It is literally an adult woman talking to her stuffed animals and asking them how old she is. It doesn't seem to further the story in any way, at least not in any way I can see. "Little Lamb' is trying to be serious, but it is still ridiculous. I think this is not the performer's fault at all, it is just the lyrics are so weird but not weird in a funny way. They weren't going for funny.

There was a song, "All I Need Is The Girl," sung by Tulsa (Clayton Cross), which was about how all he needed for his dance number was the girl. And Louise had a really big crush on him and was dancing along with him, which was very cute. But if you've seen the musical, you know how that works out. I thought the dancing was so good. It was really impressive--it looked like he was gliding across the floor. It reminded me of Fred Astaire--all he needs is Ginger Rogers to be the girl! This is basically showing off what Tulsa is capable of, even though he is stuck in Mama Rose's musical numbers, repeating "Extra! Extra! Hey would you look at the headline!" no matter how little it applied to the situation like when they turn the show into a farmyard version. It shows you that Mama Rose is not the best of songwriters. But that is hilarious. I don't know why it gets me every time even though I'm prepared for it.

"Rose's Turn" is such a well-written song. It is such a great wrap-up the show because she is literally belting her opinions about how her life has been, and it wraps up the show so neatly. It really makes the show go out with a bang. She is basically saying "I messed up my life. I did too much for my kids." She feels like she's not getting enough appreciation for what she did for her kids, but the problem is she is not really taking into account what her kids might actually want. She is admitting to some mistakes, but not the mistakes she actually needs to apologize for. Like she doesn't say "I'm so sorry. I made you do things. That you never. Wanted to do. I didn't care. What you wanted to do. I just lived. Vicariously though you." (That would work with the music. Try it.) But really it is an anthem; it is Rose's song and it's basically about her and not about her children who were the ones who were being hurt in the situation. It works so well because it is catchy but not annoying. It is a such a powerful song.

People who would like this show are people who like great dancing, belting your feelings, and egg rolls. I think this is a fun show with weird and great songs. It really makes you appreciate your mother!

Photos: Brett Beiner

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Review of Trevor at Writers Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Trevor. The book and lyrics were by Dan Collins based on the film Trevor. The music was by Julianne Wick Davis with orchestrations by Greg Pliska. It was directed by Marc Bruni and the musical direction was by Matt Deitchman. The choreography was by Josh Prince. It was about a boy named Trevor (Eli Tokash) who was in middle school in the 80s, obsessed with Diana Ross (Salisha Thomas), and was discovering his sexuality and that apparently it wasn't ok, according to his friends and family, for him to feel the way he did. He has fallen in love with Pinky Faraday (Declan Desmond) who is a football player and they become friends. But it doesn't seem like Pinky is interested in him in a romantic way, and Trevor's secret diary gets discovered and causes problems for him. It is about identity, adolescence, and inspiration. I think this is a really great show. It has a talented young cast, really good music, and a powerful story.

I really liked the opening song "On With the Show." It was a great way to begin the show; it introduced some of the characters in a way that was concise but still specific and detailed. It was adorable how Trevor talked about who Pinky Faraday was: "with a name like Pinky you'd think he'd be...but he's not." It shows how he feels about Pinky before you've even seen them have an interaction. This song establishes Trevor's motivations, his relationships, and the upbeat tone of the first act. Because he talks directly to the audience, you get to know his thoughts and see how lovable and relatable he is. And he hits a high note that was really amazing! The song "Weird" felt very true. The first time it is sung it is more of an accusation against Trevor by Mary (Eloise Lushina) and Frannie (Maya Lou Hlava), the queen bee of the school and her friend. The second time, it is sad because Trevor is singing about how he can't quite figure out why he feels how he does. It is interesting to see Trevor taking the word weird and applying it to himself. He isn't really able to take into account that he might be gay because that is not something he had been educated about. It made me think a lot about how hard it would have been to have been gay in this time period and not know anything about it because kids didn't have as many positive resources to find out what it feels like when you are gay.

Trevor had two different role models. One was Diana Ross who he would possibly never meet and Diana probably didn't really know about him, though he fantasizes that she does. The movements that Diana and Trevor would do together were so beautiful because they were so connected and showed you how connected he felt to her in his brain. Diana Ross had great fashion, a great voice, and was in a great musical, The Wiz, which might have sparked Trevor's interest in musicals. And all of her songs seem to be encouraging people to be themselves and do what they want. She's a great icon for people trying to find their identity and be who they want to be no matter what kind of prejudice people have against them. But Trevor also actually needs a role model for his everyday life, not just in his fantasies, which he finds in Jack (Jhardon DiShon Milton) who is a candy striper who was also obsessed with Diana Ross and who shows Trevor that his life will get better and inspires him to talk to Pinky face to face.

This show was very moving, but that doesn't mean it didn't have a lot of funny moments. I really loved the song "Underneath (Turn the Page)." It was so funny and also a realization song for Trevor. He realizes that he isn't attracted to women because his friend Walter (Matthew Uzarraga) is doing a science experiment with an underwear catalog. It was hilarious when Trevor gets obsessed not with the looks of the women but how uncomfortable the ways they are posing are. There is a girl who is sitting on a bale of hay in her underwear and he says, "Wouldn't that be itchy? I want a girl who is more intelligent than that." And Walter did this amazing dance. It was really great how fluid it was, but it was also hilarious because of how into it he was. Trevor's other friend, Cathy (Tori Whaples), also had some humorous moments. I loved how obsessed Cathy was with Trevor, and it was hilarious how she came on to him. She would act like she was being subtle, but she wasn't at all; it was gold. She had to take out her rubber bands whenever she thought she might kiss someone; that was so hilarious and awkward because she would say, "hold on just a second" and then take out the rubber bands and resume the conversation so that it could be romantic in the moment. Also there was a scene about the priest, Father Joe (Jarod Zimmerman), who came to talk to Trevor about Trevor's feelings. It was so hilarious and uncomfortable how detailed he was about what sex is like. It was just perfectly awkward.

People who would like this show are people who like being weird, Diana Ross, and studying underwear catalogs. I think that people should definitely go see this show. There were so many things I loved about it. It is a such an amazing and unique new musical. I loved it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review of The Comrade's In The Wake

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called In The Wake. It was by Lisa Kron and it was directed by Alex Mallory. It was about a woman named Ellen (Rose Sengenberger) who was in love with two people, Danny (Mike Newquist) and Amy (Alison Plott), while her country and the political world were falling apart around her. She was a devoted democrat while George W. Bush was elected and reelected, and because she is so obsessed it starts to influence her relationships. It is about choices, politics, and blind spots. I think this show has a really strong message about choosing who you want to be with and the way the political world affects everyone. It had really realistic and intriguing dialogue and a strong ensemble. I really liked it.

I really liked the first scene between Ellen and Judy (Kelli Walker), Ellen's friend who is an aid worker with refugees from Sierra Leone in Guinea. Judy has come to crash at Ellen's place in New York on her way to her mother's funeral. I think this scene shows a lot about the relationship between Ellen and Judy because Ellen wants to help Judy but is also sort of constantly annoyed with her. Judy isn't exactly the person you'd expect to be helping all these refugees; she's very sarcastic and cut off from emotion. Even though Ellen is the person that is more deeply interested in what is happening in the political world, Judy is the one actually doing things to try and stop the bad things in the world. Even though Ellen thinks she is very progressive and liberal because she's always arguing with people, she's not doing anything to help progress the nation. Judy thinks people shouldn't be focused on the politics themselves but on the trouble politics is creating, which I think is really true, and I'm glad that the play addresses this. Judy is the less flawed character in the situation, even though she is less easy to get along with. I think this is really great storytelling because it doesn't make it so you are just rooting for one character and not others. All the characters in the play are flawed in some way but they are also easy to empathize with.

I think Amy and Ellen had a special relationship; they really clicked together. The only problem was that Ellen was also in love with her current partner, Danny. I think she gets a lot from each person, which is sad for her because she has to leave one of them behind. If she chooses Amy, she leaves behind her chosen family--Danny, his sister Kayla (Adrienne Matzen), and Kayla's wife, Laurie (Erin O'Brien). If she chooses Danny, she leaves behind a person who is basically like her, loves being with her, and who she has an intellectual and romantic relationship with. All we see of the blossoming of Amy and Ellen's relationship is their first meeting, kiss, and the suggestion that they have sex. I think the way Ellen starts the relationship with Amy is important because if she had sex and then went home and told Danny about it, I wouldn't think very well about her because she didn't talk it over with her partner before she acted on her impulses. If she was offered the option, went home and talked it over with her boyfriend, and then came back to act on her original impulses, I would think better of her because her boyfriend would have given his consent. The play isn't really clear about which happened, which makes it hard as an audience member to decide if she is right.

The scene that introduces Tessa (Samantha Newcomb) was very compelling because you meet a new character who has very different views from everyone else in the show. Tessa is Judy's niece, and Judy is now her full-time guardian. She comes from a tiny town and she is now visiting New York and she finds out that the people who have been showing her around the city--Kayla and Laurie--are lesbians and she is very surprised and slightly grossed out. She really likes Kayla and Laurie as people, but she let herself get distracted from how much she liked them by who they were attracted to. She also disagrees with them about George W. Bush, who she thinks is actually helping the U.S. This scene made me think about 9/11 in a different way. I hadn't realized that a lot of people were scared of what would happen if Bush wasn't president anymore. And even though people were in small towns who were probably not going to be the target of terrorist attacks, they were still terrified that something could happen to them. You see how scared people were, and you see where they were coming from when they reelected Bush because they thought that he could "help" them feel safe. But they weren't really thinking about the people who were in 9/11 or the people who were actually being hurt by Bush's decisions. It is a good illustration of how people hurt themselves by cutting themselves off from what is actually there because they are thinking too much about what they are supposed to be scared of and not enough about what they should be doing to feel safe. They could do that by looking at the actual situation of a loving relationship between two women instead of their ideas about it, and looking at the fact that terrorists don't represent all of Islam instead of just lumping everyone in a country or religion together. The scene wasn't all really deep; there was also a section about how much Danny wanted congee. It was really funny because everyone else was like, congee is really the thing you want Tessa to take away from this trip to New York? It was hilarious how he kept trying to defend his opinion of how amazing this Chinese rice porridge is.

People who would like this show are people who like in-depth looks into politics, stories about complicated relationships, and congee. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think it has a really involving story with a talented ensemble. It made me think about what it was like to be alive at the turn of the century. This show reminded me a lot of how life is right now. And it is sad that we are kind of reliving this situation.

Photos: Paul Goyette

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review of Fight City at The Factory Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Fight City. It was by Scott OKen and it was directed by Jill Oliver. It was about a dystopian future where women are in charge and men are degraded and oppressed. It is about how if one gender is in power, even if it isn't the one in charge now, it doesn't mean everything would be better. The problem with society is inequality not who is in charge. It is about a woman named Barb (Jennifer Betancourt) who is a cop in this society where women are in power because there had been a disease that affected only men. Her mother Margaret (Mandy Walsh) used to be a fighter extraordinaire on the force, but one of her former students, Erica (Kim Boler), has gone rogue. So Barb and her partner Janet (Almanya Narula) go on a mission to find Erica and stop her from her evildoing. And a man, Weatherfoot (Harrison Weger), has just been placed on the police force which is very unusual, and he has to prove himself to the force and his boss (Jen Bosworth). I thought this show had a compelling story and world with really good fights (by fight directors Maureen Yasko and Chris Smith).

I thought all the fights were really well done. One of my favorite fights was the one where Margaret confronts Valentine (Susan Wingerter), Erica's engineer who has created this gun. Guns are forbidden in this reality. Valentine and her posse discover Janet and Margaret having a heart to heart and decide to ruin that by shooting at them. Margaret spits out a tooth and there is lots of face-bashing-in. It was very violent and it was super badass and I really liked watching it. It was sort of gross, but it was awesome to see women kicking butt, and you don't see women fighting ruthlessly that often in plays and movies. I also thought that Weatherfoot's fight with Steele (Eric Frederickson) was super awesome and it was part of the big buildup to the fight with Barb and Erica. I think it really added a lot to the intensity of the final scene. I think the ending battle with Erica really utilized everyone in the scene but not so much that it took away from the duel between the mortal enemies Barb and Erica. There is one character who is dead by this time who I really wish would have been involved; it didn't ruin the fight for me, but it would have added an emotional element to the end of the show. The death added to Barb's motivation, but I thought of another way she could have been motivated by a different character dying. I felt like it would have added to the effectiveness of the final scene if you got a little bit of an epilogue so it wasn't just that the fight ends and then the show ends.

I thought it was a really interesting concept that this world would be sexist toward men. The way they portrayed it was really good because it made me sad just like I would feel if the sexism was directed toward women. That shows that it was really good writing because it made me feel bad for them even though in our society right now men are the people in power. I think that Relf (Josh Zagoren) was a particularly good example of this. The actor did a really good job of portraying him as someone who was vulnerable but not feminine. He was a man but his demeanor was smaller. That is what made it powerful when he was being treated like crap all the time; he was clearly scared in an actual way. One scene that really got to me was when he came into the squad room in the police station with bruises all over him and no one ever seemed to notice the bruises. That really reminded me of things that happen to women today; they show up somewhere and something is clearly wrong, but people don't pay attention. Not all the men are defenseless though. Verne (Frederickson) can fend for himself and he starts a campaign for men's rights. He has this speech at the end of the show that is going on when the end battle is happening. It was really motivational because while this violent fight is going on in one corner, he is talking about the future of this world and how he is going to try and make it better. I liked that the men's rights group had a woman (Grace Odumosu) in it, but I wished that one of the main characters had been masculinist too. It was kind of hard to root for people who were grabbing men's butts without consent all the time. Weatherfoot is just trying to follow the rules of the system; he isn't really an activist. It was upsetting how he keeps being objectified by the women just because he's there.

I thought it was really interesting how the relationship between Janet and Margaret was all about looking out for Barbara. They were both mother figures even though only Margaret was her actual mother. I also liked how Margaret had taught Janet everything she knew, which made Margaret more of a mentor toward her. I wanted to see more of this relationship and more of each of their relationships with Barb. I would have also liked to delve deeper into Margaret's backstory with Erica. That is a common problem in shows that are generally based around fights, but I think they could have made it a bit longer and given more time to develop those relationships.

People who would like this show are people who like alternate realities, badass fights, and spitting out teeth. I think people should go see this show. It is a lot of fun to experience. I really enjoyed the fights and the universe the show puts you in.

Photos: Michael Courier

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review of Brown Paper Box Co.'s They're Playing Our Song

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called They're Playing Our Song. The book was by Neil Simon, the music was by Marvin Hamlisch, and the lyrics were by Carole Bayer Sager. It was directed and choreographed by Daniel Spagnuolo. The musical director was Iliana Atkins. It was about a man and a woman, Vernon (Dan Gold) and Sonia (Carmen Risi), who were both songwriters; she writes lyrics, and he writes music. They start writing songs together, and at first they absolutely loathe each other, and then as time goes on they start to feel romantically toward each other. But they don't seem very compatible. She is an optimist and he is a pessimist. She will help anyone in need, and he doesn't really want to help anyone once he's cut ties with them. She is more adventurous, and he is more set in his ways. Also, Sonia has a ex-boyfriend that she is still taking care of. It is about the ways we make decisions, who you are meant to be with, and artistic collaboration. I think this is a very intriguing and funny and heartwarming show. It made me think about the ways gender roles can hurt relationships and how broken relationships can restart.

I think the songs "If She Really Knew Me" and "If He Really Knew Me" were really interesting songs because they sound like they would be the exact same song only replacing pronouns, but then they are actually different in an important way. They both want the other to help them find out who they really are, but she is more talking about if he has lived up to her expectations of who this great songwriter was. And for Vernon's song it is more about what she wants and if he is good enough for her. It kind of seems like Sonia knows she is good enough for him and doesn't need to shape up but just needs to realize if he's lived up to her expectations. And he wants to live up to her expectations, but he doesn't seem to really have any expectations for her. But as the play progresses you start to see those develop a little bit more. I think it is important because the message of the songs evolves so that Vernon wants her to actually do things instead of just for her to like him. It is good writing because you see the relationship evolve into both of them having expectations for the other.

I really liked the song "Right." I thought it was a really fun pep-talk-to-yourself song with Sonia and her voices (Elissa Newcorn, Ariana Cappuccitti, and Deanalis Resto). I really liked how her voices were like a girl group in the background that reminded me of The Supremes. The song was really catchy. Vernon also had voices (Mike Danovich, Bradley Halverson, and John Marshall Jr.) that would sing to him about his decision making, his romantic choices, and his songwriting choices. I thought that was a fun touch--cheesy but in a fun way. I thought the arc of "Right" was also really good. The voices in her head start out being pessimistic, but then they are won over and decide that maybe Sonia and Vernon have a chance after all. Another funny song was "They're Playing My Song" that happened when Sonia and Vernon went to a club on their first date. I don't feel like this is the most original melody in the world, but I have never heard a song about hearing your own song being played. And it was great to see all the performers having a blast with the song. It was funny how when they would hear their own songs they would jump up and immediately start jamming. I think if their songs hadn't been played they wouldn't have gotten up and danced and eventually gotten together. It shows that they are kind of self-involved people, which might actually make for a good couple because they won't notice when the other person isn't paying attention because they'll be so obsessed with themselves.

I think "Fill in the Words" is a very pretty but sad song. It is about how Vernon knows he needs to work on himself to get Sonia back. And he is worried that maybe she won't still be there by the time he gets back, even though she bought him a mini piano. He's realized that asking her to always fill in the words (or do all the emotional work in the relationship) is not the right way to keep a relationship healthy. I think it is really sweet how all of Vernon's voices came in and played some notes on his piano during this song. It shows you that he using all his voices to compose this song and the voices are all getting along. This song leads perfectly to the end of the play. I think it is a really good way to make the ending make sense because you know his internal monologue and the reason why he goes to visit Sonia in the last scene.

People who would like this show are people who like hearing their own songs, girl-group pep talks, and mini pianos. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is a fun show with talented performers and interesting ideas, and I really liked it.

Photos: Zach Dries

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Review of An American in Paris: A New Musical (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called An American in Paris: A New Musical. The book was by Craig Lucas inspired by the motion picture. The music and lyrics were by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. It was directed and choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. The musical score was adapted, arranged, and supervised by Rob Fisher. It was about a man named Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox) who was an artist who has left the army after World War II ends and decides that he is going to stay in Paris to pursue his career and a lady. The lady is Lise (Sara Esty) who is a dancer who he keeps running into and eventually they develop a friendship that isn't really just a friendship but she keeps trying to convince herself that it is. Jerry becomes friends with two other men, Adam (Etai Benson) and Henri (Nick Spangler), who just happen to also be in love with and/or engaged to Lise. It is about true love, rejection, and art. I think this is a really beautiful show to watch. I loved the changes they made to the story from the movie to make it less sexist and a more realistic look at post-war life. In the movie it seems like you show up in Paris and everything is calm. The problem in the movie is just that he can't get the girl, but in the musical it is also that resources are scarce and everyone is worried that something terrible will happen again. I liked that because they are doing more justice to history.

I think this play got rid of a lot of things that make the movie uncomfortable. But some of the things that were changed made some of the moments they kept in a bit stranger. For example, the song "I've Got Beginner's Luck," takes place during the scene where Jerry goes to a store to see Lise to tell her she got the part in the ballet. In the movie, he shows her that he is nice to old ladies and has good taste in perfume, and she is won over by his charms and GeneKellyness. In the musical, the scene in the store seems a little like he's trying to get her fired by ransacking the store, which is a little bit strange because he doesn't tell her that she got the part until after he starts doing this mischievous stuff. She can't really be super in love with him in the musical right away because she feels indebted to Henri and his family (Gayton Scott and Don Noble) for hiding her during the war, and because she is so resistant to him it seems like Jerry is being slightly forceful and creepy. There are a lot of good classic stories that feel slightly creepy now because of how we think about consent now. You do get distracted by the more theatrical elements like the dancing, singing, and visual elements, all of which I thought were gorgeous and amazing. There is also a song called "Liza," which was basically Jerry talking to Lise about how she doesn't seem like a Lise, because it seems like such a sad name. She seems more like a Liza to him. Generally, I don't think it is great that he is calling her by something that is not her name, but eventually she is won over by it, and you can see she wants to be Liza, and that might be why she wants to be with Jerry. She wants to be a happier person and he helps her become that.

I found the three rejected lovers had just as interesting plot lines as the lead characters, which I thought was really good writing. They didn't just seem like add-ons to further the plot for the main characters. You really get to know them on a personal level. I really liked the relationship between Henri and Milo (Emily Ferranti), Jerry's rebound girlfriend. They seemed to be genuinely good friends and they bonded over the people they had been with being together now. It is also nice that they are not romantically interested in each other. He seems kind of like her gay best friend. They sing a duet together called "Who Cares," where they are in different places but they are both telling their partners the same thing: that they don't really care what their partner does anymore. They know they deserve someone better for themselves and their partner deserves to happy. I think this is a really bittersweet song because you can see how sad they are to leave these people that they wanted to be with. They wanted their relationships to work out, and you see they still love them, but it is for the best to end their relationship. Milo also has a duet with Adam, "But Not for Me," which is about how everybody seems to be having a great time and I'm just over here in a corner, being single. I thought it was a really pretty song, but it was also slightly angry. It was basically like someone singing a lonesome song and then halfway through becoming very angry, which is the best idea for a song ever because it really captures what it feels like to be alone. You don't just pity yourself and be sad about it, you are also kind of angry at the world.

I think that the choreography in this show is absolutely magnificent. It is a perfect mix of the dance style from the movie with the choreographer's own style. I also really liked the "An American in Paris" ballet and how it was based on Jerry's art. I think it was really cool how geometrical the stage picture was and how the costumes (designed by Bob Crowley) were all so colorful. The women had these skirts that were like separate triangles, and when they would spin, all the triangles would shoot out and make a star around them. The whole ballet was hypnotizing because you were so intrigued by every movement. "Fidgety Feet" was a really catchy song and I still have it stuck in my head right now. The dancing was super upbeat and happy and perfectly contrasted with the rest of how that scene goes. Everybody seems happy for a bit, but the rest of that party doesn't go very well in the end. Everyone is sitting down for a lot of the dance, so just their feet are moving and then they'd switch seats by doing a fan kick, and I thought it was really awesome looking. It was very Broadway. The whole song was everyone was breaking out in dance in a very proper setting. In some musicals, they have like a rebellion where they win over all the people who were against what they were doing--like dancing or playing rock music. I think this was a really good version of that because there wasn't a huge fight or anything, just everyone having a good time even if it wasn't the most proper fun time.

People who would like this show are people who like songs that capture loneliness, colorful ballet, and fidgety feet. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It has beautiful choreography, good singing, and a really great revised story!

Photos: Matthew Murphy

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review of About Face Youth Theatre's Brave Like Them

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Brave Like Them. It was devised by the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble and it was directed by Ali Hoefnagel and Kieran Kredell. It was about a person named Danni (Kyla Norton) who at the start of the show identifies as female. She had gone back to her home town after her parents divorced and is exploring her sexuality and gender identity. She and her friend Jamie (Sandy Nguyen) discover the Riot Grrrls and want to join the movement until Danni realizes how lacking in inclusion the group at the club is because they aren't welcoming to Danni's new friends who are LGBTQ+. But Jamie has become close with the main Riot Grrrls in the town and doesn't want to give that up, even for her best friend. It is about identity, feminism, and inclusion. I thought this was a good show. It had a lot of really talented young actors in it. I think it is a powerful story and it made me think a lot about what it means to be inclusive and how important it is to be aware of your privilege.

I think the relationship between Danni and Jamie started out as a sweet one, but as the play goes on you see it fall apart in a way that is really heartbreaking. They used to be such good friends when they were younger and now you start to see them grow apart as they start to be interested in different things and start to disagree on more topics. I never really fight with my best friend, and I am ten years into that friendship, and it is terrifying to think what might happen to our friendship when we go to high school. But it is a sad truth that friendships that you have when you are young often do fall apart when you go to high school. Another reason why it is so sad is that I feel like their conflicting opinions don't need to drag their friendship apart, but they do. I think the way they try to heal the friendship by the end is really smart and grownup. After watching these teens act like teens, I think it is really great to see them make a grownup decision that doesn't end in anger and works for both of them. This is not just a discovering-who-you-are story, which is about being with yourself and discovering who you you want to be. It is also a story about growing up, making grown-up decisions with other people and thinking about what is best for everyone. You also see how much Danni grows in the scenes with her/their mom, Lydia (Mia Vivens). They admit to their mom that they prefer to use the pronouns they/them/theirs. And they also show their mom their 'zines. I think their relationship is really sweet, and you can see they went through some really rough times together. Danni basically ends up showing their mom their diary which I think is brave and meaningful.

Danni discovers who they really are when they become involved with a band soon to be called Space Sex Vacuum. The people in the band are Chris (Ben Flores), Noa (Jude Gordon), and Coe (Jimbo Pestano) and they want to rebel against the Riot Grrrls because that group is not welcoming they/them/theirs-identifying people to The Crocodile Club. I really liked their song about the audience at Riot Grrrl shows being polar bears and snowstorms. I loved the scene in the record store. It was really funny and a little heartwarming because you see all these people become themselves around each other. The Shopkeeper (Sharon Pasia) was really high and talking about space and what it would be like to have intercourse in space, how there would a space sex vacuum. The band has come to record store for band name ideas, and then the clerk ends up giving them the idea. She was a really funny character, but in the end she has sort of helped everyone like a guardian angel in charge of helping you find your place in the movement towards equality.

The sort-of villain of the show is the lead Riot Grrrl, Hannah (Lilian McGrady), who is basically trying to make it so girls can take over the punk scene. The movement starts out wanting to help girls feel safe and powerful, but it ends up excluding a lot of people. People shouldn't be excluded because of their identity, they should be excluded because of their actions, but Hannah is assuming that every man will do something terrible if they haven't done it yet. It is hard to have a safe space without excluding people, but when you exclude people they get angry about it and you are also not necessarily ensuring it is a safe space. It is so complicated because the Riot Grrrls in this show want to make a safe space for women, but they end up making something that is not welcoming to they/them/theirs- and male-identifying people even though a lot of those people probably haven't done anything threatening to women. I thought this show was going to be about the positive things the Riot Grrrls did for society, but it ended up making you aware of all the problems that the movement had with practicing inclusion. I was disappointed to know that, but I think it is important to come to terms with it.

People who would like this show are people who like stories about finding yourself, record store guardian angels, and crazy band names. I think people should definitely go see this show. It has some really great performances and an intriguing story. I really liked it. It closes on August 6, so everyone should go see it before the run ends!

Photos: Emily Schwartz