* Somewhat Recommended * I was really looking forward to seeing “Pride and Joy: The Marvin Gaye Musical” because I’ve always loved Marvin Gaye’s music. What a disappointment! The cast is talented – they all have really good voices – and the music is Motown, but the book (the storyline) is awful! If I were to rank the jukebox musicals I’ve seen over the years, “Pride and Joy” would probably come in dead last. 1 Spotlight
***RECOMMENDED*** Firebrand Theatre is concluding their sophomore season with a Chicago premiere that, in some ways, is slightly similar to their dazzling inaugural production in October of 2017.
Highly Recommended **** I must preface this review by stating that I never expected to give this particular show a rating this high, but Toma Tavares Langston and his quartet of fabulously talented performers have brought this show to a new level for me (and I suppose based on what the opening night response ) and others. When the touring company came by several years ago, I believe my rating was “somewhat recommended”. The current production in the very intimate space at Theo Ubique is far and away a masterpiece compared to what BIC brought in.
★★★★ In the past few months we have seen several plays that deal with stories of the family and in particular an aging member of same. In two cases, David Darlow has played that father and I might add, to perfection! Victory Gardens Theater is now presenting the Chicago premiere of Steven Levenson’s “If I Forget”. This is a tile that can throw one off as to what is the story. What could it be about? I think many might think about aging and the process, and while there is a story that does deal with aging, the total story is about a family and its stories!
★★I truly do not enjoy using a rating system for a new work. As many of us know, Chicago gets many pre-Broadway shows that leave here looking like a short run is in store, but with fixes, the show survives and often plays for years there and on the road. Some plays return to their original starting theater unrecognizable to us. The new production of “Grace, Or The Art of Climbing” written by L.M.Feldman, a “Queer”, feminist playwright (and circus artist) tells us a story about Emm ( Alex Molnar is terrific, except for projection to the back row) who due to some bad stuff decides to enter the world of competitive rock-climbing. note: who even knew that there was such a thing?
Recommended *** Do you remember the 1960’s? I know that I do and one of my favorite musicals, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying “ with a wonderful score by Frank Loesser and dynamite book by Abe Burros ( think “ Guys & Dolls”) that relates to the business world and more of that period. Yes, it is very dated and while our world has changed a great deal over these fifty plus years, once in awhile isn’t it nice to just step back and take a break from the world of computers and texting to just enjoy a simple story. Thanks to Music Theater Works, you can!
*** Recommended *** If it’s June, it must be time for Canterbury Summer Theatre, one of two true summer stock theaters in northwest Indiana. CST always begins the season with a drama rather than a musical in a very short run (4 days). This year, they’ve kicked off the season with a play called “Constellations” which seemed more like an acting exercise than a fully realized play. As I watched the actors repeat the same lines over and over, I kept thinking to myself, “Are we there yet?” 3 Spotlights
**** Recommended **** Dunes Summer Theatre is one of my favorite summer destinations. Combine my love for this ‘gem in the woods’ with my love of murder mysteries, and I had a perfect afternoon recently. I really enjoyed their production of “Smoke & Mirrors”, a farcical murder mystery. Although I’m pretty good at figuring out “who dunnit,” this play had a couple of plot twists even I didn’t see coming. It’s a hoot! 4 Spotlights
**** Highly Recommended **** As a long-time fan of Hubbard Street Dance, I try to see every series, and I have never been disappointed. The artistry, strength and grace that the dancers bring to the choreography is world-class, the choreographers are inventive and original, and lighting, sound and costume always complement and enhance the work. At the beginning, I always marvel that humans can achieve such feats of athleticism and discipline of their bodies and minds. But tonight's performance was truly breath-taking.
*** Recommended *** Beatnik Entertainment’s latest production, “Dearly Departed” is a 'drop-dead' funny comedy (excuse the pun there, I couldn’t resist). The story opens at the breakfast table, with Raynelle Turpin (Bonnie Johnson) reading a letter out from her born-again sister-in-law to her husband, Bud (Rip Johnson). As she finishes the letter, Bud falls off his chair, dead. As his crazy family gathers, we learn that the rituals of death are just a little bit different at the Turpin home. “Dearly Departed” had the audience laughing. 3 Spotlights