Tag: Beth Ellen Spencer

Review: 42nd Street (Paramount Theatre)

Tyler Hanes stars as Billy Lawlor in Paramount Theatre's "42nd Street," directed by Rachel Rockwell, music directed by Doug Peck. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
      
42nd Street

By Harry Warren (music), Al Dubin (lyrics),
   Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble (book),
Directed by Rachel Rockwell
at Paramount Theatre, Aurora (map)
thru Feb 9  |  tickets: $37-$50   |  more info
       
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January 27, 2014 | 1 Comment More

Review: Miss Saigon (Paramount Theatre)

Shawna Haeji Shin and Zachary Uzarraga star as Kim and Tam in Paramount Theatre's "Miss Saigon," directed by Jim Corti, music-directed by Shawn Stengel. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
      
Miss Saigon

By Claude-Michel Schönberg (music),
  Alain Boubil and Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)
Directed by Jim Corti
at Paramount Theatre, Aurora, IL (map)
thru Nov 24  |  tickets: $37-$50   |  more info
       
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November 8, 2013 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Music Man (Paramount Theatre)

Stef Tovar), although Marian the librarian (Emily Rohm,        
      
The Music Man

Book, music and lyrics by Meredith Willson
Story by Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Directed by Rachel Rockwell
at Paramount Theatre, Aurora (map)
thru Feb 3  |  tickets: $35-$47   |  more info
       
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January 30, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Annie (Paramount Theatre)

Caroline Heffernan as Annie and Mikey as Sandy the Dog, in Paramount Theatre's "Annie", directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
      
Annie 

Written by Charles Strouse,
    Thomas Meehan, and Martin Charnin
Directed by Rachel Rockwell 
at Paramount Theatre, Aurora (map)
thru Dec 30  |  tickets: $35-$47   |  more info
       
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November 28, 2012 | 1 Comment More

Review: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Chicago Shakespeare)

Emily Rohm as Belle, Beauty and the Beast, Chicago Shakespeare       
      
Beauty and the Beast 

Alan Menken (music), Linda Woolverton (book),
     Tim Rice and Howard Ashman (lyrics),
Directed, Choreographed by Rachel Rockwell
at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier (map)
thru Aug 26  |  tickets: $18-$25   |  more info
       
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July 9, 2012 | 1 Comment More

Review: The Sound of Music (Drury Lane)

Katie Huff, Zachary Keller, Laura Nelson, Ben Parkhill, Arielle Dayan, Emily Leahy, Julia Baker       
      
The Sound of Music 

Written by Richard Rodgers (music)
and Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics)
Book by Howard Lindsay, Russell Crouse
Directed by Rachel Rockwell
Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace  (map)
thru Jan 8  |  tickets: $35-$45   |  more info

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October 28, 2011 | 2 Comments More

Review: Samuel J. and K. (Steppenwolf Theatre)

  
  

Steppenwolf Young Adults feature plays it loose with plausibility, plot

  
  

Cliff Chamberlain and Samuel G. Roberson, Jr. in a scene from Mat Smart's 'Samuel J. and K." at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.  Photo by Peter Coombs.

  
Steppenwolf Theatre presents
   
Samuel J. and K.
   
Written by Mat Smart
Directed by
Ron OJ Parson
at
Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted (map)
through March 13  |  tickets: $20  |  more info

Reviewed by Dan Jakes

There’s no shortage of local shout-outs in director Ron OJ Parson’s Naperville-based family drama. Its dialogue makes generous references to landmark spots and (much to the amusement of the opening morning’s audience) a neighboring rivalry. In promotional materials, playwright and suburban native Mat Smart suggests elements of the play are semi-biographical. The Young Adults presentation will play to many teens who directly relate to its characters and their circumstances. This play wants to be relevant, and wants to be real.

Samuel G. Roberson, Jr. and Cliff Chamberlain in a scene from Mat Smart's 'Samuel J. and K." at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.  Photo by Peter Coombs.Its themes—identity, fate, racial definition, nature vs. nurture, brotherly love—are. So why do the stakes in Samuel J. and K. feel so low? And its story, lacking in authenticity?

Before adopted, black Samuel K. (Samuel G. Roberson, Jr.) walks to receive his college diploma, he and his older white brother Samuel J. (Cliff Chamberlain) indulge in a family tradition down at the basketball court. Too eager to wait, reaction-snap-cam in-hand, J. halts the game and begs K. to open his gift envelope; it contains two expensive, non-refundable, unsolicited and unwanted tickets to J.’s birth city in Cameroon.

Before the first pick-up game is over, the inciting argument comes to a head.

It’s also the audience’s first cue for a small suspension of disbelief: these Sams love each other and are close enough to talk smack and hip-check each other into chain link fences, but they’ve never had the adoptive ‘where is home really’ talk before? At that age? Having not yet built an understanding of the brothers’ dynamic, we’re launched into an issues talk before the relationship study has gotten a chance to get off the ground.

No sooner than we can ponder the implications of the gift or the risk of the trip are we whisked away to a mosquito net-lined bed in Africa—on the last day of the vacation.

Points where one would expect build—the inevitable second discussion (there had to have been more than one), the anxieties leading up to the trip, the arrival—are skipped over, making room for barely conceivable twists, including a borderline absurd subplot involving a mutual romantic interest. It’s a limp, manipulative device seemingly employed for no other purpose than to conjure a requisite “you’re not my real brother!”

Chamberlain makes do with his character’s under-supported choices, lending credibility to some of the play’s more outlandish ideas. As K., Roberson, Jr. has the tendency to over act, the perception of which is compounded by the valleys and holes in Smart’s script.

Lacking enough logic to create dramatic build, Samuel J. and K. is a two-man show in which the eponymous characters remain elusive. What are audiences—young or old—supposed to glean from that?

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

Samuel G. Roberson, Jr. and Cliff Chamberlain in a scene from Mat Smart's 'Samuel J. and K." at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.  Photo by Peter Coombs.

  
  
 
February 28, 2011 | 0 Comments More