**** Recommended **** "Skates A New Musical" playing at the newly renovated Studebaker Theatre through June 26th, is a polished production, but the story didn’t resonate for me. It’s kind of a mash-up – a pop star takes a nostalgic trip back to a particular place and time, Windy City Skate in the ‘70s. Once there, however, she gets to meet and interact with her teen-aged self. Skates is colorful, fast-paced and fun to watch. 3 ½ Spotlights
5 Stars! Very Highly Recommended! The line outdoors should have been much longer on the opening night of Noël Coward’s comedy “Blithe Spirit” at the Skokie Theatre. But on a summer-like evening when there was so much competition for theatre dollars, many seats were left unfilled—when they shouldn’t have been! This was a stellar performance by the Eclectic Full Contact Theatre Company, featuring a brilliant and convincing cast who handled this classic farce sensationally! Witty, funny, and smart, this nearly three-hour play (including intermission) went by in the blink of an eye. What a delight it was! How we were all howling with laughter! And how great it was to laugh together with a live audience!
5 Stars! Very highly recommended! Sheer brilliance dominates the Joffrey Ballet’s enactment of “Don Quixote” at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House. This classical ballet, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, features the original French choreography by Marius Petitpa and the original music by Ludwig Minkus, dating from the Bolshoi Ballet of the late 19th century. Yet Possokhov has added his own touches, with a renewed focus on the title character Don Quixote (Miguel Angel Blanco) and his squire Sancho Panza (Derrick Agnoletti) through a series of dream sequences.
**** Recommended **** Somewhere Over the Border is Brian Quijada’s tribute to his mother and her journey from El Salvador to the United States. Although I’m sure the trek was scary dangerous, Quijada takes a lighter approach, modeling his musical on The Wizard of Oz – consistently light-hearted but always determined and goal-oriented – even through the scary bits! Quijada’s original music includes cumbia, Mexican mariachi boleros, American rock and hip hop styles – all played by a live band. Kudos to Teatro Vista for a toe-tapping joyous show. 4 Spotlights
**** Highly Recommended **** If you were thinking about getting a ticket to see the Joffrey Ballet this season, the absolutely fabulous "Don Quixote" is your last chance this season – and if I were you, I’d be ordering my tickets now! Yuri Possokhov, who choreographed "Don Quixote" to music written by Ludwig Minkus more than 150 years ago, combines classical ballet with Spanish flamenco to create a masterpiece. Travis Halsey’s colorful costumes complement the choreography, adding Spanish color and flair. "Don Quixote" is spectacular, the best I’ve seen in a long, long time. 4 Big Spotlights
Four Stars! Highly Recommended! “Grandma’s Jukebox” is a charm! The point of this cute story is that a grandmother’s legacy can live long beyond her death: not just in the characters’ memories of her but in how they subsequently choose to lead their lives. The genre of this show is what’s known as a “jukebox musical.” The songs within it are all popular hits that have been previously recorded by major artists; these are then recreated and assembled around a story, invented at a later date. Playwright and director Michelle Reneé Bester has done just this, using her own grandmother as her inspiration. The plot is centered on the concept of a (physical) jukebox as a means of tying the music, characters, and action together.
For Shakespeare aficionados, Promethean Theatre Ensemble has done a tremendous job in their performance of William Shakespeare’s “Richard III” at Chicago’s Factory Theater.
5 Stars! Very Highly Recommended!
**** Recommended **** "Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations" isn’t your typical jukebox musical, it’s more of an ‘icon-ography’ – the biography of a rock group. The Temptations, with their smooth moves and mellow sound, were – and still are – rock ‘n roll royalty. Still, the Temptations are just men, with lives and problems and bills to pay, almost like the rest of us. "Ain’t Too Proud" lays it all out there, the good, the bad and the really ugly – against the best music of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and more. 4 Spotlights
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.