Saturday January 20 10:09 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Equity/Professional Theater

"For the Loyal" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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***RECOMMENDED*** Lee Blessing's play "For the Loyal" was completed in 2015, several years before the #MeToo Movement began. But the piece, receiving its Chicago premiere as part of Interrobang Theatre Project's RAW Series, in which plays are stripped of their classic stage elements so that the emphasis is put upon the script itself, could not be more timely or welcomed as a viable springboard to initiate discussion. Interrobang Co-Artistic Directors Georgette Verdin and James Yost have made a bold and emphatic choice in bringing Blessing's well-constructed and intriguing work to Chicago audiences. 3 SPOTLIGHTS

"IT'S MY PENIS AND I'LL CRY IF I WANT TO" Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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****RECOMMENDED**** Jamie Black, who recently stated that he completely dislikes having to create the titles for his work, has come up with a doozy for his latest: "IT'S MY PENIS AND I'LL CRY IF I WANT TO," which is playing at The Buena as part of the Pride Films and Plays. During the piece, Black even self-deprecatingly suggests that certain men may actually use the title as a battle cry. Black, who is a trans male, has performed this play at multiple Fringe Festivals throughout the United States and also enjoyed a very successful run at the Toronto Fringe Festival in the summer of 2017. 3 and 1/2 SPOTLIGHTS

"BLKS" - a Funny Play about living with Your Besties

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**** Recommended **** Steppenwolf's “BLKS” is a really funny play about living with your besties. Like most twenty-somethings, roommates Octavia (Nora Carroll), June (Leea Ayers) and Imani (Celeste M. Cooper) are trying to find themselves - and a good job, pots of money and someone to love – at least until sh*t happens. Although I did enjoy the production, I missed some of the dialogue when the actors failed to pause when the audience reacted. 3 ½ Spotlights

Kudos to Gary Griffin and the Cast of "Red Velvet"

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**** Recommended **** Of all things I expected when I walked into the Courtyard Theatre at Chicago Shakespeare, theater-in-the-round was not one of them. Yet, there it was - a round stage, with an equally round, red velvet puff curtain suspended high above (I have to assume the curtain was velvet, since the play was called “Red Velvet”). Dion Johnstone’s portrayal of Ira Aldridge, the first black actor to play Othello on the London stage, is a tour de force. “Red Velvet” held my attention from start to finish. 4 Spotlights

“Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Potter Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff”

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Although I didn’t see “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Potter Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff” this time around, I thought you might be interested in my review from 2015.

***** Highly Recommended ***** “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Potter Experience – A Parody by Dan and Jeff” is absolutely hilarious. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt! It doesn’t matter if you’ve read the Harry Potter books or not, Dan and Jeff will put you smack in the middle of the Hogwarts story – sometimes literally! “Potted Potter” is a terrific family friendly holiday option. Your kids will love it – so will you! I give “Potted Potter” 4 Spotlights.

"Peter Pan" reviewed by Alan Bresloff

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★★★★★ One of the hardest parts of reviewing plays is convincing my editors and my spouse that even though I have seen a particular play before, every production is new and often, very different. Yes, I have seen “Peter Pan” ( a musical based on the play by Sir JM. Barrie) at least a dozen times, and so when Jane said, do we really have to drive to Evanston on the Saturday before Christmas, I said “you bet!” One of the reasons is that I know the company that is doing the show-Music Theater Works and the creativity that I was sure Director Rudy Hogenmiller would add to the original”. Ten minutes into the production, she turned to me and said, “we should have brought our granddaughters”. This is the BEST” Peter Pan” I have ever seen”!

Mercury Theatre's Production of "The Christmas Schooner" never fails to move me!

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**** Highly Recommended **** Chicago’s very own bittersweet holiday musical, “The Christmas Schooner” has returned to the Mercury Theatre. No matter how many times I see “Schooner”, it still moves me to tears! You won’t want to miss Chicago’s holiday musical, it is truly special! An absolute must-see, I give “A Christmas Schooner” 4 Holiday Spotlights.

Hubbard Street Dance - Winter Series, “An Evening of Crystal Pite”

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Last time I saw Hubbard Street Dance, I was sitting on the Harris Theatre stage looking out at the entire HSD company sitting in the seats waving at all of us on stage. What a unique experience! So I had some expectations for the HSD Winter Series, “An Evening of Crystal Pite”. HSD was back on stage; the performance was amazing – whether or not the dancers actually have joints was a subject for post-show discussion with my friend Sarah – but it just didn’t touch our hearts. 3 ½ Spotlights

"Turandot" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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***RECOMMENDED*** Giacomo Puccini's final opera, "Turandot," contains all of the elements you would expect from a grand opera. The exotic locale and legendary antiquity of Beijing. An astonishing and atmospheric score. Grandiose sets and colorful period costumes of the finest silks. Vivid and evocatively colorful orchestrations, with one of the all-time most recognizable and fervently loved arias in the entire history of opera itself. Yet all of these things do not add up to a completely satisfying whole in the current, new-to-Chicago production at the Lyric Opera House. The one key thing that it is lacking -- and it's a major component -- is passion. 3 SPOTLIGHTS

"Altar Boyz" - Review by Alan Bresloff

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Highly Recommended **** Whether a large -scale musical, brought down to “storefront” sizing, or a cabaret-type concert show, Theo Ubique always finds just the right talent to make their shows perfect. They are still located in their home at No Exit Café in Rogers Park ( they are moving to Howard Street in Evanston soon), making the Rogers Park Theater scene complete. Under the watchful eye of Artistic Director Fred Anzevino, this smaller theater company continues to bring solid talent to the area. Anzevino has nurtured and developed some of his talented performers to become directors and choreographers as well as performers, expanding their potential, and for the latest production “Altar Boyz”, Courtney Crouse has taken on the duties as director with Sawyer Smith handling the choreography. The musical direction is still under the very able hands of Jeremy Ramey- he is sensational!