**** Highly Recommended **** There are so many good things to say about Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s production of "All’s Well That Ends Well", it’s hard to decide where to start. It is so well written it might just be Shakespeare’s best, although it was never staged during his lifetime. The characters have more depth, the women’s roles are stronger, and it appeals to our 21st century selves. Kudos to Director Shana Cooper who has assembled a stellar cast. The CST production will keep you spellbound until the end. 4 BIG Spotlights
**** Recommended **** Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of "Spring Awakening" is musical adaptation of an 1891 play by Frank Wedekind, a frequently banned drama about a sexually oppressed community in Germany. Steven Sater (book and lyrics) and Duncan Sheik (music) have turned it into an alternative rock, coming-of-age musical. No matter the century, teen angst is teen angst, after all. Porchlight's production, led by 18-year-old Maya Lou Hlava, is an ensemble piece, and the blend of voices is superb! 4 Spotllights
**** Highly Recommended **** As I’ve come to expect, the Joffrey Ballet’s Spring Program, Serenade and Of Mice and Men was an extraordinarily perfect blend of classic and contemporary ballet. In fact, it’s not just an illustration of the company’s versatility, it’s a demonstration of all that makes the Joffrey such a leader in contemporary ballet. The Joffrey’s incredibly talented dancers execute the most complicated choreography with flawless technique. 4 BIG Spotlights
**** Recommended **** In order to survive, humans need connections with other humans – friends, lovers, mates. Northlight Theatre’s production of Lynn Nottage’s play, "Intimate Apparel" is a thoughtful story about a lonely black woman who desperately wants an intimate connection with someone. It is a good play, well-acted and beautifully staged but somewhat repetitious. In fact, I found myself zoning out a couple of times during the first act. 3 ½ Spotlights
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 **** Are you ready to rock? "Rock of Ages", the fabulous jukebox musical playing at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, is the show for you! Although "Rock of Ages" has a plot, 'save the Bourbon Bar' as well as a boy-meets-girl sub-plot, the music is the real story – and it rocks! Seriously, the score includes 28 hits from artists like Bon Jovi, Journey, Styx, Pat Benatar, Poison, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Europe, Starship, Quiet Riot, REO Speedwagon and more. You’ll be dancing in your seat! 4 BIG Spotlights
**** Highly Recommended **** No matter how many times I’ve seen "The Sound of Music", it doesn’t get old. Marriott Theater’s new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic is one of the best. There are seven reasons I say this – the seven Von Trapp children – who are amazing! The rest of the cast is pretty darn good too! All in all, I think everyone (except a couple of curmudgeons I know) will love this show. 4 BIG Spotlights
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.”