5 Stars! Very Highly Recommended!
3 Stars, Recommended Annabel Armour beautifully portrays Joan Didion in this one-woman show “The Year of Magical Thinking.” The story is about an established New York author and how her world is immediately turned upside down when her husband John dies unexpectedly, followed shortly by the death of her chronically ill daughter Quintana. Based on the book of the same name, this 100-minute running narrative (with no intermission) consists of excerpts that have been taken directly from the text and is replete with detailed autobiography and poignant reflections.
5 Stars! Highly Recommended! Exceptional and poignant, “Rasheeda Speaking” is a four-person tragicomedy, based on the late Joel Drake Johnson’s well-crafted script. The dialogue—sad, funny, and very real at the same time—is so well performed that you feel as if you could enter the stage yourself and interact with each of the characters in a real doctor’s office.
4 Stars, Highly Recommended! “Notes and Letters” is a four-character musical, centered around the lives of two couples who live in Chicago between 1916 and 1918. This world premiere presentation is nicely written by Annabelle Lee Revak and is a combination romantic comedy/drama that is based in part on a true story, having to do with a small downtown shop, called Williams’ Custom Pianos.
Just in time for spring, the Chicago Children’s Theatre is back in bloom. Returning to live, in-person productions, Carmela Full of Wishes is a charming tale about the importance of imagination. Adapted for the stage by Alvaro Saar Rios from the children’s book by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Christian Robinson. The quartet of actors here playing an array of characters. The primary, Carmela, is describe by Rios as a “fierce Latina with an awesome imagination”. More on that in just a moment. The show’s official opening attended by a cornucopia of ages, genders and races.
“Intimate Apparel” is a slice of life of a shy hardworking black woman in 1905. Esther sews intimate garments for high society women as well as prostitutes. Her world revolves around these clients, her fabric supplier, an Orthodox Jew and a pen pal prospective husband.
The word “intimate” actually has two separate meanings in this story. Esther sews lovely “intimate” apparel for her mere existence. And, the characters around Esther’s life seek “intimacy”, but never really achieve it.
Steve Martin’s creation pits a 23-year-old Picasso against a 25-year-old Einstein. Each Is on the threshold of fame and both have enormous egos. The banter between them and the Lapin Agile “bar people” makes for fun and friction. It was sort of like “The Million Dollar Quartet” meets “Cheers”, and that’s not bad!
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED A sensation on Broadway before it was one of the first shows to close due to COVID, Moulin Rouge resumed performances last fall and shortly thereafter won the Tony Award. Chicago theatergoers are lucky to be the first to see the show outside of New York, as the National Tour opened to reviewers at the James M. Nederlander Theatre on April 21. This touring production of the musical set in the famed Paris nightclub is every bit the quality of the Broadway company, which this reviewer was fortunate to see in 2019. It is, to quote the lyrics of one of its songs, “spectacular, spectacular.”
Highly Recommended Those looking for a new show in the style of the old classic musical comedies will find a winner in "The Prom." It’s the story of a group of once-successful Broadway performers who try to build their reputations by getting involved in the efforts of a girl from a small Indiana town to attend her high school prom with her girlfriend. Certainly most of the audience members who would attend this show are likely to be on the side of this young girl, "The Prom" gently pokes fun at woke culture as well – and also at the celebrities who embrace social causes.