Saturday October 20 12:50 pm

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Equity/Professional Theater

"La Boheme" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** "La Boheme", Giacomo Puccini's 1896 opera, may arguably be the most popular opera in the world and certainly one of the most beloved. First performed by Lyric Opera during the second month of their inaugural season in 1954 and a staple during many of their seasons ever since, this sparkling new coproduction between Lyric Opera Chicago, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Teatro Real Madrid is a joy to behold. If you have never seen an opera performed live on stage before, this is the perfect one to start with. Consisting of a fairly simple love story at its center, a luscious and swoon-worthy score by Puccini, strong acting, stunning set and lighting design and a running time of a tad over two hours this is a great introduction to what world-class caliber opera aspires to always be. 4 SPOTLIGHTS

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” - Review by Alan Bresloff

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Somewhat Recommended ** Many years ago, movie fans fell in love with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. That was 1971 and the tale written by Roald Dahl opened up a new world of imagination to youngsters all over the world. While the story was filled with awe and wonder, it also had a great message relating to greed and selfishness and some wonderful musical numbers written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, who gave us “Stop The World, I Want To Get Off” and “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd”- two of my favorites.

"Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** How ironic -- it rained, she shined! As the patrons slowly filed out of the Nichols Concert Hall on the opening of Music Theater Works' presentation of "Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine" they walked out into a wet and dismal evening in Evanston, still buzzing about the sensational Angela Ingersoll whom they had just seen channel the energy and inimitable spirit of the great Judy Garland. Billed as an homage to Ms. Garland, this musical concert event has Ingersoll belting out all of the famous songs that have been recorded by the artist that she holds very near and dear to her own heart. 4 SPOTLIGHTS

"Oxy, Ohio" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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***RECOMMENDED *** S.J. Spencer's latest drama "Oxy, Ohio" is receiving its world premiere, in a very limited run, presented by the side project. Spencer has set his play in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio, which in 2016 was named the site of the most fatal drug overdoses of any region in America. His play, filled with plenty of humor and some very good acting, takes a closer look at the inhabitants of this relatively small town and makes a statement about the opioid epidemic in this country. Finally making its way into the forum of discussion due to heavy media attention, the loss of some high-profile celebrities and even our current administration in Washington, the extent of this epidemic is both alarming and tragic. 3 SPOTLIGHTS

"Caroline, or Change" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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***RECOMMENDED*** For the first production of their sophomore season, Firebrand Theatre has partnered with TimeLine Theatre Company to present the musical "Caroline, or Change." With music by Jeanine Tesori ("Fun Home" and "Violet") and a book and lyrics by Tony Kushner this through-composed musical spans the final two months of 1963 and is set in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The entire cast, under the direction of the very busy and in-demand Lili-Anne Brown, deliver a very solid and moving show. 3 SPOTLIGHTS

Santino Fontana blew Me Away with His Performance in "Tootsie"

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**** Recommended **** I laughed so much my cheeks hurt watching “Tootsie”, the Broadway-bound musical based on the 1982 movie starring Dustin Hoffman. While the original was firmly mired in the ‘80s, Robert Horn’s script and David Yazbek’s music and lyrics were a lot more polished than I expected. The show is loaded with zingers, so listen up, you won’t want to miss a single one! While this entire cast impressed me, Santino Fontana blew me away! The ending is kind of anti-climactic, but so what? “Tootsie” should be a smash hit on Broadway in the spring. 4 Spotlights

"Curve of Departure" - Review by Alan Bresloff

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Highly Recommended ***** One of the great things about theater in our city is that we have Mike Nussbaum on our stages. Nussbaum is the oldest Equity actor on any stage and at 94 is as sharp as a tack. He may be shorter than he was years ago( but aren’t we all?), but this man is a superior performer. If you have never been witness to him on a stage, I suggest that you make it a point to do so! The current production in which you can do so is “Curve of Departure”. an 80 minute gem written by Rachel Bonds that tells us the story of a “special” family gathering. Sharply directed by BJ Jones, the entire story takes place in a motel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico ( nicely designed by Lauren Nigri). The family is here to attend the funeral of a “family member”, who they all loved, but none liked.

Don't miss Theatre at the Center's Romantic "Ghost"

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**** Highly Recommended **** “Ghost: The Musical” (based on the 1990 move) is an intimate love story – which just happens to have some supernatural elements. It’s not a ‘big’ story, so it doesn’t need a ‘cast of thousands’ in glitzy costumes on a huge stage. Director Linda Fortunato wisely left the story to stand for itself – and the results are outstanding! Just a hint, you’ll want to have extra tissues in your purse/pocket, you’ll need them. Theatre at the Center’s intimate space is the perfect venue for “Ghost”. 4 BIG Spotlights

"Little Shop of Horrors" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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***RECOMMENDED*** "Little Shop of Horrors" is one of those musicals that seems to be almost foolproof. With a zany book and razor-sharp lyrics by Howard Ashman and wonderful music by Alan Menken how could any production fail? This extremely talented duo is pretty much single-handedly responsible for the rebirth of the Disney studio with such classic animated features as "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin" and the 1991 version of "Beauty and the Beast." There may be better productions of "Little Shop of Horrors" out there, with stronger acting in some key roles, but you may never hear a better version of this show than the one currently being presented at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. With some new vocal and orchestral arrangements, under the meticulous music direction of Roberta Duchak, those of you who are only familiar with this show if you have heard the soundtrack from the 1986 film version are in for a sonic -- and all-around -- blast. 3 SPOTLIGHTS

"Sweet Charity" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** One of the reasons that the musical "Sweet Charity" is rarely performed anymore may have to do with the fact that it is a marathon of a role for any female to attempt. Not only must an actress be able to sing and have great comic acting abilities but, most importantly, she must be a dynamite dancer. After all, this is a show that was originally developed, directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse. Thankfully, Marriott Lincolnshire landed a stellar star in casting Anne Horak as the title character and director/choreographer Alex Sanchez (who actually appeared in "Fosse" on Broadway during its initial run) has recreated amazing dance sequences. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS