Review: Changes – A Science Fiction Tap Opera to the Music of David Bowie (Chicago Tap Theatre)

| July 2, 2017

Isaac Stauffer stars in Changes Science Fiction Tap Opera, Chicago Tap Theatre           

Music by David Bowie
Choreography by Mark Yonally  
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru July 16  |  tix: $23-$37  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


A tap dance stunner


Aimee Chase, Mark Yonally and Heather Latakas star in Changes, Chicago Tap Theatre

Chicago Tap Theatre presents
Changes: A Science Fiction Tap Opera

Review by Lauren Whalen

David Bowie was both artist and revolutionary. Constantly challenging genres – and gender norms – Bowie taught a generation of kids that not only is it okay to be different, it’s beautiful. His 2016 death was hard to face for many of these kids, now grown but forever changed by Bowie’s refusal to conform and his embrace of the weird. Chicago Tap Theatre first staged Changes, its sci-fi tap tribute to Bowie, 11 years ago in the company’s infancy with barely any money or resources. Five years later they revived the show with Isaac Stauffer stars in Changes Science Fiction Tap Opera, Chicago Tap Theatreconsiderably more flash, and despite Changes being Chicago Tap Theatre’s most requested revival, thought they were done with Bowie. This changed with the singer’s death last year, and now with the addition of new dancers and musical arrangements, a director and a lot of lasers, Changes is back and better than ever.

A tribute to 1940s sci-fi and a classic battle of good vs. evil, Changes follows Major Tom (company member and rehearsal director Kirsten Uttich) a wide-eyed innocent who blasts off in his rocket (sent off by ground control, of course). Major Tom lands on a planet full of despair: the evil Altech (Mark Yonally) and his henchpeople (Aimee Chase and Heather Latakas) have blinded the winged natives with fame and seduction, only to enslave and isolate them. It’s Major Tom to the rescue – but what happens when he, too, is captured?

Director Harrison McEldowney succeeds at ensuring the story stays cohesive, which can be difficult to do when there is so much going on. While Bowie’s original tracks are prominently featured, music director Kurt Schweitz provides original arrangements for cello and violin, gorgeously executed by Molly Rife and Anna Gillan, respectively. Lighting designer Dustin Derry goes wild with laser effects that would make Bowie proud, and Emma Cullimore’s costumes are simple but comic book-like, perfect for a classic battle.

Anna Robbins, Sara Anderson, Sarah Owens, Jennifer Pfaff Yonally, Isaac Stauffer and Chris MatthewsChris Matthews, Sara Anderson, Sarah LaVanway, Sarah Owens, Jenna Jozefowski, Isaac Stauffer, Anna Robbins

Artistic Director Yonally’s choreography makes the piece iconic, knowing exactly when to power through and when to scale back. His steps come with both a sense of death-defying drama and a palpable joy, even when things get rough for our protagonists. As always, Chicago Tap Theatre showcases the best and brightest hoofers in the Midwest. Yonally is appropriately smarmy and scary, while Uttich’s wide smile and Danny Kaye-esque showmanship are a perfect fit for Major Tom, the ultimate adventurer hero.

Telling a story through movement isn’t limited to ballet and modern dance: tap provides just as much potential for narrative. The sounds are loud and powerful, but tap can also be subtle and thoughtful. A duet set to “Golden Years” tells a courtship story, “Changes” brings in a force of good among the resident evil and “Heroes” reminds the audience of the potential within us all. In the current political climate, the plot of Changes feels newly relevant: who doesn’t want to see a fame-hungry deceitful wannabe dictator go down? Bowie’s voice, exuding a bizarre, colorful purity, combined with Yonally’s choreography and the vibrant, athletic Chicago Tap Theatre dancers, serve as much-needed inspiration. We can be heroes, if just for one day.

Rating: ★★★★

Changes continues through July 16th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map), with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $37 (seniors: $30, students & dancers: $23), and are available by phone (773-327-5252) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 80 minutes, includes an intermission)

Anna Robbins, Isaac Stauffer, Sarah Owens, Sara Anderson and Kirsten Uttich star in Changes

Photos by Josh Hawkins




Kirsten Uttich (Major Tom), Mark Yonally (Altech), Aimee Chase, Heather Latakas (Henchpeople), Jennifer Pfaff Yonally, Isaac Stauffer, Sarah Owens, Sara Anderson, Sarah Lavanway, Jenna Jozefowski, Chris Matthews, Anna Robbins (Alliance)


Anna Gillan (violin), Molly Rife (cello)

behind the scenes

Harrison McEldowney (director), Mark Yonally (choreographer), Kurt Schweitz (musical arrangements, music director), Dustin Derry (lighting design), Emma Cullimore (costume design), Jimmy Jagos (set and prop design), Jacob Reich (sound design), Sarah Lackner (stage manager), Josh Hawkins (photos)

Heather Latakas, Mark Yonally and Aimee Chase star in Changes, Chicago Tap Theatre


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Category: 2017 Reviews, Chicago Tap Theatre, Dance, Extensions-Remounts, Lauren Whalen, Stage 773

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