Written by Kingsley Day and Philip LaZebnik
An intersection of cute and ordinary
|City Lit Theatre presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
In the 1800‘s, my ancestors migrated from Ireland to Chicago. They chose it to be their hometown. In the 1900’s, I chose it to be my hometown. History and folklore of all- things-Chicago interest me. So, a new musical about my hometown directed by Second City’s legendary Sheldon Patinkin? Yes, please!
City Lit Theatre presents the world premiere musical comedy State Street. It’s Chicago,1871. Names like Marshall Fields, Palmer, and Drake aren’t just buildings. They are men defining Chicago’s history. These well-known institutions join infamous characters in Chicago’s past, like; tavern owner Mickey Finn, crime boss Mike McDonald, and madam “Gentle Annie” Stafford. One day, Uranus H. Crosby and Jenny Comstock arrive in town. Crosby is a con artist. Jenny is an orphan. They both want something from Chicago. Crosby wants a million dollars. Jenny wants a home. Just when their dreams are coming true, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow changes everything. State Street is “Music Man” meets “Best Little Whorehouse” at Second City.
This show is sweet and homespun. It is a throwback to the heyday of musicals on Broadway in the 1950’s. The collaborating team of Kingsley Day (book,musical direction) and Philip LaZebnik (book, music, lyrics) use facts, fiction and comedy to reminisce. The characters are colorful. The storyline is simple. The comedy is vaudevillian. And Day and LaZebnik’s songs are catchy combos of all those attributes.
Numbers like “Chicago Ain’t No Sissy Town” and “Opening Night” are standout moments of spoofery and harmony. This lyrical ensemble is at its best in these collective tunes. The quartet of Robert Brady (Fields), Harter Clingman (Palmer), Kevin Bishop (McCormick), and Sean Knight (Nickerson) bring especially charming shtick.
A certain amount of expectation surrounds a comedy directed by Sheldon Patinkin. Afterall, Patinkin is synonymous with the iconic Second City franchise. But State Street doesn’t quite reach the Second City vicinity. It stops at the intersection of cute and ordinary. It’s not just the historical material that is well-known. It’s the story mechanics that are also dated. Councilmen turned barbershop quartet. Whore and cop in love. Naive gal falls for con. It’s like making a feast from leftovers of your favorite meals a few decades back: familiar, but stale. The taste might not have the same impact but you know what you’re getting. State Street is revisiting the past, Chicago’s and Broadway’s.
State Street continues through June 24th at City Lit, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm. Tickets are $30, and are available by phone (773-293-3682) or online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at CityLit.org. (Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, which includes an intermission)
Photos by Timmy Samuel
Kevin Bishop, Rob Brady, Harter Clingman, Matt Edmonds, Sarah Hayes, Callie Johnson, Matthew Keffer, Sean Knight, Diane Mair, Chase McCurdy, Annie Passanisi, Matt Rockwood, Patti Roeder, Ed Rutherford, Clay Sanderson
behind the scenes
Sheldon Patinkin (director); Kingsley Day (music director, accompanist); Amy Uhl (choreography); David Yondorf (fight choreography); Liz Cooper (lighting); Amy Hilber (costumes); Roger Wykes (set); Timmy Samuel (photos)