Category: Broadway in Chicago

Three Shows – One Street! Don’t miss out!

Rogers Park Theater Renaissance

By Venus Zarris

When you think of Chicago Theater your first thoughts might go to The Loop. Between The Goodman Theatre on Dearborn and the big commercial venues that produce the Broadway in Chicago product, the other options can get easily lost. Little to no advertising money makes it impossible for them to compete for visibility but that doesn’t mean that their efforts are any less impressive or important.

There is theater being produced all around the city and suburbs, some streets even have a couple options within walking distance but Rogers Park is exploding with outstanding work. Earlier this summer The Side Project saw a production of Sweet Confinement by a new company called SiNNERMAN Ensemble. They formed after training together at the School at Steppenwolf and the fledgling company created bold, provocative, glaringly intimate and urgently powerful theater in a tiny black box.

Keep an eye on this exciting new company and the other eclectic offerings at The Side Project at 1439 W. Jarvis Ave. (map).

Now Showing On Glenwood!!!

Within about a three block radius on North Glenwood, just off the Red Line Train Morse stop, there are three plays by three very different and very impressive companies.

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The Mark Of Zorro

Seldom do you ride a continual and exhilarating wave of energetic entertainment during an entire production but Lifeline Theatre’s world premier adaptation of The Mark of Zorro delivers a tsunami of charming delight!

"Mark of Zorro" at the award-winning Lifeline Theatre This show has everything going for it, both creatively and technically, but the two elements that keep rising to the surface are the unbridled humor and the flawlessly swashbuckling fight scenes. It is always a treat to go to a comedy and giggle but it is an unexpected pleasure to go to an adventure tale and squeal with laughter.

Just when you have caught your breath from the whimsical comedy you are swept away by the exciting swordplay. Normally even the best staged fight scenes tend to break the suspension of disbelief. They look telegraphed, rehearsed and contrived. But Geoff Coates’s gifted and dazzling fight choreography delivers the most believable and invigorating swordplay that I have ever seen on stage, and he does it with a large cast in a relatively small space! Long hours of rehearsal dedicated exclusively to the fight scenes pay of in terms of childlike thrills for the audience. WARNING TO THE FRONT ROW: You might just soil yourselves because the action is so close and so real!

If you are looking for exciting exploits, dastardly villains and a handsome, lovable, laughable hero, run to see The Mark of Zorro!

Rating: ««««

(“The Mark of Zorro” extended through July 20 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood. 773-761-4477.)

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Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night

Theater is a pretty remarkable proposition. A group of people from varied backgrounds and disciplines come together with a unified goal of presenting a piece of work. One might think that this is a recipe for chaos, and sometimes that is the case. But miraculously it is often the ingredients for something entertaining and or evocative. Occasionally it transcends the normal conventions and expectations and the synchronicity of creation lends itself to something exceptionally compelling. It taps a vein of emotions in a way that is rare and unique. This is the case with Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night, produced by the award-winning theatre company Theo Ubique.

JacqueBrel You enter the wonderfully quaint little venue of No Exit Café, far north of the hustle and bustle of the Loop and nestled next to the Red Line elevated train tracks, and are relocated to another time and another place. But the time and place are more so the setting of altered emotions and atmosphere, rather than a specific location. You are transported to comradery, inebriation, celebration, passion, longing, betrayal, loss, and melancholy.

Director Fred Anzevino and his eloquent company create a rare gift to the audience and an exceptional contribution to the exclusive theatrical choices that Chicago has to offer. Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night is a lovely homage to Brel’s talent and the perfect vehicle for Theo Ubique’s incomparable imagination.

Rating: ««««

(“Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers Of The Night “ extended through August 30 at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave. 773-743-3355.)

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Questa

People’s Theater of Chicago delivers a solid Midwest Premiere of  Questa, by “NYPD Blue” writer Victor Bumbalo. The urban landscape is simply and immediately rendered by Patricia Perez’s exceptional mural design, starkly yet warmly depicting a skyline in ruins, and also by James Scalfani’s explosive interior cityscape design of color on black box walls, creating an homage to the vibrancy of New York with a black light painting on black velvet effect. The contrast of vitality and desolation evokes the city’s heartbeat as well as the contrasting emotions in the lives of Bumbalo’s characters before the play even begins. Annah Zaman’s subtly lovely original music infuses the production with an appropriately overwhelming melancholy.

questa Director Madrid St. Angelo works wonders with his resources. He creates as much honesty and consistency as possible with an uneven cast and an overly ambitions script. Shaun F. Conway, as Nicholas, and Cliff London, as Daniel, deliver the productions most believable and emotionally realized performances.

The convoluted script is thought provoking, albeit not completely engaging, and the overall production proves to be a strong effort by an up-and-coming company with plenty of dedication, talent and potential.

Rating: ««

(“Questa” runs through July 19 at The Heartland Studio Theatre, 7016 North Glenwood Ave. 773-371-1868.)

July 15, 2008 | 2 Comments More

"Jersey Boys" – no smoking allowed!

It’s official – all smoking scenes in Chicago’s long-running Broadway hit, Jersey Boys, have been snuffed out.  Chicago’s smoking ban does not offer exemptions for indoor performances, and – unlike many American cities – also does not allow for any type of substitutions, such as clove cigarettes (which is a common practice in many theatres around the country). 

A theatrical telling of the rise of Frankie Valli and his singing group, it is natural that the characters would smoke in certain scenes, just as they did in real life.  Unfortunately a theatre patron lodged a complaint with the city, so the smoking scenes had to be rewritten and restaged.  (some people just need to have something to complain about, you know?)

The New York and London version of Jersey Boys cast will continue with the smoking scenes, as these cities have indoor smoking bans that offer exemptions for theatrical performances

"Jersey Boys", now playing at the Bank of America Theatre in downtown Chicago .

July 9, 2008 | 0 Comments More

For WGN Radio – My summer picks…

Chicago - My Kind of Theater Town - cropped

For Kids and Families:

  • Lyle, Lyle, the Crocodile, Lifeline Theatre
    • June 13th -July 13th; Friday-Sunday at 1pm
    • Tickets: $10
  • Cirque Shanghai: Gold ; Navy Pier outdoor theater
    • Runs all summer through Sept. 1st
    • Performed at outdoor theater at Navy Pier (just east of Ferris Wheel), so take in the show, then experience the huge fireworks display every Wednesday and Saturday evening.
    • Tickets: $12.50-$30
  • Willy Wonka, Chicago Shakespeare at Navy Pier
    • July 8th – August 17th
    • Tickets: $18-$23
  • Blue Man Group, Briar Street Theatre
    • Super-fun for kids of all ages
    • Tickets: $49-$59 (box office: 773-348-4000)

For Teens (and the young-at-heart):

  • Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Neo-Futurists
    • Experience Chicago’s longest running play – 20 years and counting!
    • Days/Times: Friday-Saturday, 11pm, Sunday 7pm
    • Price: $6 plus the roll of a dice (so $7-$12 – is that cool or what?!?)
  • That’s Weird Grandma, Barrel of Monkeys
    • Monday nights, 8pm
    • Adults: $9 // Kids: $4

Broadway In Chicago (the big downtown shows):

  • Wicked, Ford Center for the Performing Arts (Oriental Theatre)
    • After 4 super-successful years,Wicked, has announced that it will officially close in January 2009.  So catch it while you can!
    • Ticket Price: $30-$95 (Box Office: 312-902-1400)
  • Jersey Boys, Bank of America Theatre (formerly Schubert Theatre)
    • Open run
    • Ticket Price: $30-$95 (Box Office: 312-902-1400)
  • Shout!, Drury Lane Watertower
    • Through July 20th  
    • Tickets: $45-$55 (Box Office: 312-902-1400)

For Date Night:

My two-pennies worth:

You haven’t experienced Chicago until you’ve ventured north to The Heartland Cafe in East Rogers Park.  First opened in the 1970’s, this earthy restaurant and bar jettisons you back to the late 1960’s and early 70’s (in a granola and incense kind-of-way).  The musical review, Lonesome Losers of the Night, is performed in an intimate coffee house down the street from Heartland, so first grab a bite to eat at Heartland, walk down the block to the performance, then mosey back down to The Heartland for drinks and nightly live music.

 

Comedy

  • Campaign Super Nova: or How Many Democrats Does It Take To Lose An Election?
    • Second City’s newest review
    • Open run, tickets: $19-$25 (Box Office: 312-337-3992)
  • Dead Man’s Cell Phone, Steppenwolf Theatre
    • runs through July 27
    • Tickets: $20-$68 (Box Office: 312-335-1650)
  • Co-Ed Prison Sluts, Annoyance Theatre
    • Annoyance Theatre brings back their raunchy long-running hit of the 80’s and 90’s.
    • Runs July 4th – August 29th
    • Tickets: $15 (Box Office: 773-561-4665)
  • Comedy Sportz – Comedy Sportz Theatre, Belmont and Clark
    • audience-interactive comedy competition between two teams of improv comedians, who perform a series of scenes and songs, all based on suggestions from the audience
    • Open run, now in their 21st year
    • Ticket prices vary, (Box Office: 773-549-8080)

Drama

  • A Steady Rain, Royal George Theatre
    • extended through Oct 5 (then on to Broadway?)
    • Tickets: $50 (box office: 312-988-9000)
  • Taste of Honey, Shattered Globe Theatre Ensemble
    • runs through July 5th
    • Tickets: $15-$35, (box office: 773-871-3000)
  • Hizzoner, Prop Thtr (performed at Beverly Arts Center)
    • Running for over 2-years, this play eerily depicts the infamous Mayor Richard J. Daley and inner-workings of “The Machine”
    • runs through July 29th
    • tickets: $40

Musicals:

  • Fiorello, Timeline Theatre 
    • runs through July 20th
    • Tickets: $15-$30 (Box Office: 773-281-8463)
  • Ain’t Misbehavin’, Goodman Theatre
    • running June 21st – July 27th
    • Tickets: not yet announced (Box Office: 312-443-3800)
  • Jekyll & Hyde, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble
    • through July 20th
    • Tickets: $20-$27 (Box Office: 773-327-5252)
  • Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bailiwick Repertory
    • composed by Dennis DeYoung of the band “Styx
    • runs through July 6t
    • Tickets: $25-$45 (Box Office: 773-883-1090)
  • Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace
    • runs through July 27th
    • tickets: $28-$33
June 8, 2008 | 1 Comment More

“Wicked” is “Popular”!!!

Wicked” marks its 1,000th-Performance!!

Tonight marks a momentous occasion in Chicago theater history – for the first time a big Broadway show has reached its 1000th performance (that’s a “1” followed by 3 zeros).  And the show is still selling well, having just made another 3 months of tickets available.   Wicked, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz seems to have really hit a nerve especially with teenage girls, with themes of trying to fit in, and realizing that it’s better to be true to yourself rather than be popular. 

November 14, 2007 | 0 Comments More

“Jersey Boys” sets theater sales record

Good news indeed for the folks over at Broadway In Chicago (not to mention the show’s investors) – “Jersey Boys“, running open-ended at the LaSalle Bank Theatre, has set a house record in gross ticket sales for the week ending on October 21 – a total of over $1.1 million dollars!  This still runs behind the records over at Wicked, but the Oriental Theatre also has a much larger seating capacity. 

A new block of tickets for Broadway-in-Chicago’sJersey Boys” will be going on sale the second week of November, covering performances through July 2008.

October 25, 2007 | 1 Comment More

Review – “Altar Boyz” at Drury Lane

altarboyz2.jpgProduction: Altar Boyz
ProducersDrury Lane Water Tower
Synopsis: The Christian rock band, The Altar Boyz, is holding their final concert before they break up, and you’re the audience.  In the process of the evening, a handy “Soul-ometer” updates the audience as to how many souls have been saved as the concert continues.  Will your soul be saved by this kitschy group of boy band popsters?
Pros: Cleverly cute songs, including “Jesus Called Me On My Cell Phone” and a lesson in maneuvering a Catholic mass (“Stand up, sit down, kneel, go in peace…).  The mostly-local cast is great, and the show’s gimmick, the large digital “Soul-ometer”, works well, holding the show together.
Cons: Songs trend towards pop fluff, high ticket price.
Overall: Though you will not walk away from Altar Boyz spiritually enlightened, you definitely will be exhausted from the pure fun and athleticism of the show.  Check it out!

Rating: «««½

October 14, 2007 | 1 Comment More

Praises abound for “Altar Boyz”

AltarBoyz - Chicago Cast

Chicago cast of Altar Boyz

From Chris Jones at the Chicago Tribune :

Despite the dizzying array of competing entertainments on offer this fall, I suspect “Altar Boyz” will do well at Water Tower. Just 90 fast-moving minutes in the company of an attractive male cast, this will be irreverent enough to please shoppers out to let loose a little on the Magnificent Mile and affectionate enough to ensure no one cancels church.  (To read entire review, click here.)

And Hedy Weiss at the Sun-Times calls Altar Boyz “A high-spirited journey to epiphany”, adding:

As for the “boyz,” they are tireless and neatly differentiated. Devin DeSantis is Matthew, the easily charming lead boy; Brian Crum is Mark, the megavoiced “gay Catholic”; Tyler McGee is Luke, the ever “exhausted” substance abuser with acrobatic skills; Adam Zelasko is Juan, the Mexican foundling, and Nick Verina is Abraham, the wandering Jew and lyrics writer. The powerhouse onstage band, led by Chicago’s Alan Bukowiecki, is hot. Now all that is needed is a DVD featuring the Altar Boyz’ workout routine.  (read entire review here.)

Kris Vire of TimeOut Chicago:

Altar Boyz ends not a moment too soon—any longer than 90 minutes and the joke would overplay its welcome—but for anyone with a religious background and a sense of humor about it, these five triple-threat actors (a more sparkling crop than we often get in Chicago musicals) should win over plenty of converts. (read entire review)

MORE REVIEWS: Tom Williams at ChicagoCritic.com – “…entertaining, catchy, and pleasant”,

October 10, 2007 | 1 Comment More

In honor of the opening tonight of “Altar Boyz”

As tonight is the opening of “The Altar Boyz” in downtown Chicago, I thought I’d post a little teaser that I found on YouTube.  Enjoy!

October 7, 2007 | 0 Comments More