TimeLine Theatre raises $60k

TimeLine Theatre Company celebrated the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the career of legendary Broadway lyricist Sheldon Harnick with “Step Into Time: The White City” on Saturday evening, March 29, 2008, in the process raising nearly $60,000 in net proceeds to benefit the company. The event, held at Preston Bradley Hall in the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street, was attended by nearly 300 supporters and friends of TimeLine.

“We celebrated in style with a truly memorable night,” said TimeLine Artistic Director PJ Powers. “This was the largest event we’ve ever undertaken, and it was breathtaking to see it all come together. We were honored and humbled to have Sheldon Harnick there and to see and feel the enthusiasm in the room from our supporters.”  To see the Columbian-Exposition-stylized program book, go here.


April 2, 2008 | 0 Comments More

“Food Court Musical” – Sondheim’s current project!

Okay, I’m not sure whether or not it’s Sondheim’s current project, but it certainly sounds like something he’d write…  🙂  Either way, this is a really fun video.  I especially like the staging with the food court trays.  Didn’s they do this in “Grease”????  

March 30, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Review – “Talking It Over” at Lifeline Theatre

Talking It Over - WeddingTalking It Over

 Producers: Lifeline Theatre (map) 
 Set-Up: When steady Stuart (John Ferrick) marries the enigmatic Gillian (Elise Kauzlaric), his impetuous school chum Oliver (Christopher Hainsworth) senses that three has become a crowd.  But who will end up on the outside, as this love triangle struggles to find balance?
 Pros: The performances, save for Ferrick’s overdone drunkenness, are commendable.  The characters themselves are rather grating, which makes them even harder to pull off, and the cast overcomes this obstacle.  Nice sets and staging.
Cons: As mentioned earlier, the characters in this play are difficult to stomach. This has nothing to do with whether they’re “good” people or not – you can have a villain that is a joy to watch because they have something that they truly believe in, and have a reason for choosing what they do – and then they go for it.  But these characters. save for Stuart’s best friend Val (Katie McLean), are whiny, clothed in layers of victimhood – but unfortunately lack targeted purpose.
Technicals: The set, designed by Andre LaSalle, works well.  Consisting of three raised stages, LaSalle has placed layers of large paintings-in-progress behind each of the stage areas; the respective paintings torn down to match the scene.  This works well, especially as the character of Gillian is a painting restorer.  Lighting (Fullilove-Nugent) and Sound Design (Fiksel) fit nicely into the show. 
Environment: Lifeline Theatre maintains a pleasant lobby and facilities, and the personnel are warm and helpful. The theatre space itself is nice-sized, perfect for more intimate works.  The neighborhood wrapping around the theatre may seem a bit iffy, but don’t let that assuage you – Rogers Park is a quickly-gentrifying neighborhood, and Lifeline is certainly one of the stalwarts of this transformation. (Directions to the theatre can be found on Lifeline’s website.  I suggest taking the el, as the theatre is less than a block away from the Morse red-line el stop)
Summary: Talking It Over has a number of things going for it – including nice staging and decent performances from the majority of the cast.  Unfortunately, these positives are overshadowed by the underlying idea that we just don’t care about the trio’s separate stories.  There’s a clever analogy inserted into a scene where Gillian explains – as she is restoring a painting – the thrill she gets when she uncovers objects in the painting that have been obscured over years of painting wear-and-tear.  An analogy can be projected that we are seeing the same thing happen with the characters, that parts of their personalities and inner struggles are uncovered through their conversations with us.  Unfortunately this done not happen. 

Rating: ««

Other Reviews: Timeout ChicagoTribune, TheatreInChicago.com  

Personnel and Show Times

Adaptor: Peter Greenberg
Director: Dorothy Milne
Sets: Andre LaSalle
Lights: Maggie Fullilove-Nugent
Costumes: Branimira Ivanova
Sound Design: Mikhail Fiksel
Dialect Coach: Phil Timberlake
Stage Manager: Ellen Willett
Featuring: Elise Kauzlaric (Gillian)
Katie McLean (Val and others)
John Ferrick  (Stuart)
Christopher Hainsworth (Oliver)
Ann Wakefield (Madame Wyatt and others)
Location: Lifeline Theatre  6912 N. Glenwood Ave. (map)
Dates: Through March 23rd
Show Times: Fridays – 7:30pm; Saturdays – 4pm and 8pm; Sundays – 4pm

Talking It Over 5

Talking It Over 9

Talking It Over 6

March 16, 2008 | 0 Comments More

It’s a black (casting) thing

In 2004, the Goodman Theatre presented an amazing all-black cast production of “Proof”.  Looks like Broadway is finally playing catch-up, including an all-black “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”.  Hey Broadway – get with it!

March 16, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Gus Giordano – father of jazz dance – dies at 85

Gus Giordano 1When leafing through the Chicago Tribune this morning, I was surprised to read about the death of Gus Giordano, the father of jazz dance, at the defiant age of 85.  I had direct contact with Gus back in the 80’s, when I was music-directing for Northwestern University’s Waa-Mu show.  Each year, Gus was always the choreographer, and I was always impressed in how well he was able to work with the Waa-Mu cast.  And he was always a warm and good-natured guy.  I’m very sorry to see that he has passed away, but he definitely has left a cultural mark, his jazz-dance style being incorporated into everything from musical theatre to music videos.  Bravo!

The Chicago Tribune has a fitting obit online.

March 11, 2008 | 2 Comments More

Review – “Carter’s Way” at Steppenwolf

Carter’s Way 1Carter’s Way

Producers: Steppenwolf Theatre  

Set-up: It’s 1935.  In America, it’s the middle of the Great Depression.  In Kansas City, it’s the peak of the city’s legendary jazz era.  The Kansas City jazz scene is hopping with recording deals and jam-packed clubs like Planet Mars, owned by Peewee Abernathy (ensemble member K. Todd Freeman).  Here at the Planet Mars, life revolves around Oriole Carter (James Vincent Meredith), a brilliant black saxophonist, who leads the house band.  Carter is falling head over heels for the white girlfriend Eunice (Anne Adams) of a local mobster, just as a brand new invention called the radio can possibly make Carter a nationally-recognized star.  Will this taboo relationship ruin Carter’s expectant success?

plus Great performances: Meredith’s Carter is dead-on as the talented, agonized saxophonist (and he plays the saxophone riffs himself); ensemble member Ora Jones’ portrayal of piano-playing caretaker Marilyn Stokes offers up nuanced surprises throughout; Freeman’s impersonation of Peewee adroitly displays the character’s struggles between running his nightclub at a profit all the while appreciating the talents of the club’s band.  Neil Patel’s set works wonderfully, most of the action taking place on the first floor of Planet Mars, with extra scenes using a room built directly above the club.  Darrell Leonard’s original music is remarkable in that one senses that the tunes must have been originally written during the 1920’s era.  Barry Funderburg’s sound design is exemplary and flawless.  Finally, this rave review would not be complete without mentioning the multi-talented ensemble-memberEric Simonson, the playwright and director of Carter’s Way – kudos in every definition of the word.

minus From my inspection, there are/were two weaknesses inherent in the production, although all of them can be remedied (though not during Steppenwolf’s run).  The first, less formidable weakness falls on the performance from Anne Adams, playing love-interest Eunice – she comes across second-rate when lined up with the rest of the ensemble powerhouse; unconvincing in presenting a case for her reckless and selfish behavior and choices.  Secondly, the role of the up-and-coming mobster Johnny Russo (Keith Kupferer) really demands a deeper exploration – the character, exhibiting an imaginative entrepreneurism that goes against the grain of the mobster culture, proves intriguing. 

Summary:  In the end, Carter’s Way is a well-crafted, moving play – one that effectively played games on my emotions, as I nervously told myself “Don’t do it.  Don’t screw this up”. The production looks and sounds great, and the overall talented, adept performances propel this drama tragically forward, much like a snowball rumbling down a hill.  Without hesitation, I proclaim Carter’s Way as highly recommended.

Rating: «««½

Related Links: Chicago Tribune review, Sun-Times review

UpdateIt appears that I made a mistake in my review regarding my misgivings with Peewee’s final dialogue.  I have thus made an adjustment. Carter’s Way at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre

Personnel and Show Times

Playwright: Eric Simonson
Director: Eric Simonson
Sets: Neil Patel
Lights: Keith Parham
Costumes: Karin Kopischke
Sound Design: Barry Funderburg
Dramaturg: Edward Sobel
Stage Manage: Malcolm Ewen
Featuring: K. Todd Freeman (Peewee Abernathy)
James Vincent Meredith (Oriole Carter)
Ora Jones (Marily Stokes)
Keith Kupferer (Johnny Russo)
Anne Adams (Eunice Fey)
Robert Breuler (Boss Jack Thorpe)
  Scott Cummins (Corky, Henry, Billings, Andy)
Calvin Dutton, Curtis M. Jackson, Michael Pogue (ensemble)
Dates: Through April 17, 2008
Show Times: Tuesday through Sunday, 7:30pmSaturday and Sunday matinees at 3pmAdditional matinees on April 9, 16 and 23 at 2:00pm (Wednesdays)
Tickets: $20 – $45
Producers: Steppenwolf Theatre



March 11, 2008 | 8 Comments More

Sondheim Master Class: “Send In The Clowns”

I really enjoyed coming across this video on YouTube.  It’s amazing and enlightening to see Sondheim in action.  I don’t know about you, but I would have been scared sh*tless knowing I was to sing one of Sondheim’s signature compositions in front of Sondheim himself!  So who know that one ought to separate the t’s in “ought to”?  This is great stuff….

February 23, 2008 | 1 Comment More

Chicago Dramatists to hold extra farewell performance

Craig Spidle and Ian Forester as used car salesmen arguing over a commission      Craig Spidle, Kathy Logelin, and Rob Riley as used car salesmen gearing up for the last sales day of the month 

I definitely enjoyed Chicago Dramatist’s world-premiere of Bill Jepsen’s  “Cadillac”. (see my review here).  And I definitely am not the only theatre critic with this viewpoint.  It makes sense then, that – due to audience demand and critical acclaim – Chicago Dramatists would announce an extra farewell performance on Sunday, February 24, at 6:30 p.m. (the show will close immediately following this performance).  So, if you haven’t yet seen this superb production, you only have 4 days remaining to see it for yourself. 

February 20, 2008 | 0 Comments More