****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** What a joy it is to have the supremely talented director David Cromer back at Writers Theatre. The North Shore native, who has been living in New York City for the past decade, returns to direct his sixth show (but the first in the new Writers Theatre building) with a touching and simply sensational rendering of the 2009 musical "Next to Normal." Chicagoland audiences once again have a chance to see the very special magic that a director as gifted as Cromer can bring to a show, and all of this only a year after Cromer's Broadway production of the musical "The Band's Visit" swept the 2018 Tony Awards ceremony, winning Cromer the coveted Best Director trophy. 4 SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** If you have never seen "West Side Story" on stage before, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago, part of their Broadway at Lyric series, may just be the most definitive version of this beloved musical that's available and you are highly encouraged to seek it out. Conversely, if you feel that you have seen this show too many times before, well, you have never seen it like this. Get your tickets now or you will be missing out on a unique opportunity to see it on such a grand scale. Regardless of your history with this show, Francesca Zambello's production of "West Side Story" is stellar for three very distinct reasons. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
Highly Recommended **** One thing is for sure! When you go to a theatrical production at Timeline Theatre, not only will you be entertained, you will be educated! In their lobby, they always feature items and stories that help with the education portion of the evening ( or afternoon, for a matinée), but it is onstage where they shine. They are currently offering a Chicago “premiere”, a drama that goes back to the 1960’s and the Civil Rights movement. For many in the audience tonight, a time we lived through and for the younger audience members, a “message” in history that they may not have known about.
***RECOMMENDED*** There are certain drinking establishments that have a signature cocktail or are known for specializing in a specific type of alcoholic beverage. Upside-down margaritas in a barber's chair, anyone? Ray's, the Chicago tavern that is the setting of Leonard House's new play "One 4 the Road" and produced by MPAACT has one such tradition. Here, at this Southside bar, any patron who can stomach more than one shot of Malört, the extremely bitter liquor produced by Chicago's very own Carl Jeppson Company, gets to have their name proudly etched upon the wall of fame. 3 SPOTLIGHTS
Highly Recommended ***** Over the years, we have seen many a story on stage depicting events of World War II and the “behind the lines” stories that are memorable and compelling. “Hannah and Martin” written by Kate Fodor, is based on the affair between German-Jewish political theorist, Hannah Arendt ( played by the glorious Christina Gorman) and her “teacher” Martin Heidegger ( played to perfection by the always powerful Lawrence Grimm). The story unfolds during the years from 1924 thru 1946 and is done with some flashbacks and forward movement to take us through the war and its residue.
When asked to review “Sentimental Journey” at the ‘Citadel Theater, I quickly looked up the story line. Initially my reaction was…”this is going to be a ‘ho-hum’ experience”.
At first it seemed like my expectation was right; it appeared a little hokey but Ross (Robby) Lehman, telling the story of his parent’s relationship before, during, and after World War 2, quickly won me over with his warmth, and pleasant singing voice.
★★★★★ Broken Nose Theatre Company is geared for young theater-goers, with limited funds, who seek entertainment that is not what their parents viewed as “theater”. Their works strive to evoke and spark conversation, cultivate empathy and based on the productions I have witnessed in their home at The Den, they do this with ease for their actors and for their audience.
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** There is clearly no question that Porchlight Music Theatre's "A Chorus Line" is definitely one singular sensation. Director Brenda Didier has crafted a highly impassioned production, cast with a combination of plenty of spirited young talent mixed with some seasoned veterans that have given this legendary and iconic 1975 Broadway musical a very contemporary feel while being acutely aware of the sensibility of the original production's impact. The motivational force that was the genius of Michael Bennett -- who not only conceived this seminal work but also was the original director and choreographer -- can be found in many of this production's finest moments. Undoubtedly, "A Chorus Line" connects with its audience, as it ran on Broadway for over 15 years. Porchlight's version proves wholeheartedly just why this particular musical is so popular and essential. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Tough, rare and bloody. These three words are used by the crew members of the ship, The Pequod, to describe the act of killing and subsequently butchering a shark or a whale and the quality of its flesh. It could also be used to define the mettle that was required to be a harpooner on just such a whaling vessel, or the peerless few who could sustain the occupational hazards. But, most aptly, those three words encapsulate Chicago Opera Theater's Chicago premiere of "Moby-Dick." Tough to take Hermann Melville's 1851 sweeping epic and distill it into as gripping and poignant of a libretto as Gene Scheer has miraculously done. Rare to hear a more hauntingly beautiful and stylistically varied score in a contemporary opera than what Jake Heggie composed for this 2010 work which has already been deemed a masterpiece. Bloody? Well, let's just say that this entire production is a bloody brilliant success. The only drawback to this is that far too many people will miss the opportunity to get a chance to see it. Following last evening's opening there is only one remaining performance to experience this essential, very American classic. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS
****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** Oh, those memories, how they light the corners of our minds. But, as our narrator in “Buyer & Cellar” quickly points out, the human brain is round, so how could it have any corners, unless it is warped? Well, enough about trying to parse the lyrics written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman to the theme from “The Way We Were.” Instead, let’s focus on the product of the slightly warped and wickedly creative mind of playwright Jonathan Tolins, whose 2013 off-Broadway hit “Buyer & Cellar” is getting a rousing production at Pride Films and Plays that is as thoroughly hilarious as it is genuinely heartfelt. 4 SPOTLIGHTS