Sunday December 17 3:42 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Spotlight on Reviews

"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!

Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 provides the Background for "The Nutcracker"

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***** Highly Recommended ***** The Joffrey Ballet’s “new” version of “The Nutcracker”, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon is magnificent. By setting “The Nutcracker” against Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Wheeldon gave the city a unique gift. I am in awe! Loved everything about “The Nutcracker”. 4 BIG Spotlights!

Griffin Theatre's "Violet" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Jeanine Tesori, the very prolific and heavily-awarded American female composer (Fun Home and Caroline, or Change) has always gravitated towards projects with unusual or out of the ordinary subject matter, quite often with dark undertones. Her 1997 musical, Violet, is no exception. Following a successful Broadway revival in 2014, the work has been selected by Griffin Theatre Company to launch its 30th anniversary season. Based on the short story "The Ugliest Pilgrim" by Doris Betts and with a book and lyrics written by Brian Crawley, the story recounts the bus journey that Violet Karl makes in September of 1964 from her rural small town of Spruce Pine, North Carolina to Tulsa, Oklahoma. 4 SPOTLIGHTS

“Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Musical” Just didn't Cut It

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* Somewhat Recommended * I was actually looking forward to seeing “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Rock ‘N’ Roll Musical”. In fact, a friend had texted me to ask if I’d seen it, a week before I’d seen it, because it sounded intriguing. Unfortunately, it’s too long; it doesn’t have any original songs; it doesn’t have an original story. It’s not even a musical, it’s a play with songs dropped in wherever they seem to fit. I was bored, bored, bored! 1 ½ Spotlights

"Gobsmacked!" Absolutely blew Me Away!

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**** Highly Recommended **** “Gobsmacked!” absolutely blew me away! The show is a fast-moving musical revue, featuring high-energy a cappella harmonics with beatbox support by international star, Ball-Zee (aka Patrick Hirst). While every member of the cast is a strong individual singer, it is when they blend their voices that they really shine! 4 Spotlights

Ebenezer Scrooge and the Gang meet are yanked into 2017 in Chicago Shakespeare's “Q Brothers Christmas Carol”

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***** Highly Recommended ***** Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s new venue, The Yard, is rocking with the return of “Q Brothers Christmas Carol”. Please note: this is not “A Christmas Carol” as Dickens wrote it. The Q Brothers Collective (GQ, JQ, Jax and Pos) have yanked Ebenezer Scrooge and the gang into the 21st century! I’ve seen this original, cheeky and fun musical at least three times, and it still makes me laugh! I give “A Q Brothers Christmas Carol” 4 BIG Spotlights.

"Barney the Elf" - Review by Alan Bresloff

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★★★★★The Holiday season is here. Time to be “Merry” and “Gay”, and so theater companies such as Other Theatre, whose mission is to tell stories of persons or groups who are “othered” by systems of oppression, has brought back their sensational hit, “Barney the Elf”. This is a very “gay” spoof of the musical version of the hit film “Elf” and even more so, the musical version called “Elf the Musical” ( a version of which I just reviewed at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora). This spoof is written by Bryan Renaud and has musical arrangements by Jermaine Hill. The lyrics by Renaud and Emily Schmidt are designed to take show tunes as well as holiday tunes and use lyrics that will help propel their version of the story- some are very cute, others so-so. The show tunes are done better than the holiday songs, but , let’s face it, the people involved in this production are all “show tune people”!