Tag: Bethany Thomas

Review: Marry Me a Little (Porchlight Music Theatre)

Austin Cook and Bethany Thomas star in Marry Me a Little, Porchlight Music Theatre 2           

Marry Me a Little

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Conceived by Craig Lucas, Norman Rene
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru May 21  |  tix: $38-$51  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   

April 23, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Tempest (Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

Nate Dendy and Luigi Sottile in Chicago Shakespeare's "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare, adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)      

The Tempest 

Written by William Shakespeare
Chicago Shakespeare, Navy Pier (map)
thru Nov 8 | tix: $48-$88 | more info
Check for half-price tickets    

September 21, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: We Three Lizas (About Face Theatre, 2013)

Mark David Kaplan, Bethany Thomas and Danielle Plisz star in About Face Theatre's "We Three Lizas" by Scott Bradley and Alan Schmuckler, directed by Scott Ferguson. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)       
We Three Lizas

Book and Lyrics by Scott Bradley
Music, additional lyrics by Alan Schmuckler
Directed by Scott Ferguson
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru Jan 5  |  tickets: $45   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

December 13, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Ragtime (The Milwaukee Rep)

Josh Landay and Mallorey Wallace star in Milwaukee Rep's "Ragtime" by Terrence McNally, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, directed by Mark Clements. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        

By Terrance McNally (book), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics)
  and Stephen Flaherty (music) 
Directed by Mark Clements
at Quadracci Powerhouse, Milwaukee (map)
thru Oct 27  |  tickets: $20-$85   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
                   Read review

October 19, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: South Pacific (Marriott Theatre)

Emily Morales and Ben Jacoby star in Marriott Theatre's "South Pacific" by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, directed by David H. Bell. (photo credit: Peter Coombs)        
South Pacific 

Music/Lyrics by Rodgers and Hammerstein
Book by Joshua Logan 
Directed by David H. Bell
at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (map)
thru June 2  |  tickets: $40-$48   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

April 11, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Harold and the Purple Crayon (Chicago Children’s Theatre)

Alex Goodrich and Nate Lewellyn star in Chicago Children's Theatre's "Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Don Darryl Rivera, Bob Burgess and Auston James. Directed by Sean Graney. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        
Harold and the Purple Crayon 

By Don Darryl Rivera (book),
Bob Burgess (lyrics) and Auston James (music)
Directed by Sean Graney 
at Ruth Page Center and other locations
thru Nov 18  |  tickets: $20-$36   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
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October 14, 2012 | 1 Comment More

Review: Rodgers & Hart, A Celebration (Light Opera Works)

Tiffany Desmond, Amy Brophy and Brianna Borger - Rodgers and Hart, Light Opera Works Evanston
Rodgers & Hart:
        A Celebration

Conceived by Richard Lewine, John Fearnley
Based on music by Rodgers and Hart
Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller 
at Second Stage, 1420 Maple, Evanston (map)
thru Nov 6  |  tickets: $27-$42  |  more info

Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review

October 9, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Porgy and Bess (Court Theatre Chicago)


We loves you, Porgy and Bess!


Harriet Nzinga Plumpp

Court Theatre presents
Porgy and Bess
Written by George Gerwin, Ira Gershwin,
and Dorothy and
DuBose Heyward
Directed by Charles Newell
Music direction, new orchestrations by Doug Peck
Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis (map)
through July 3  |  tickets: $10-$55  |  more info 

Reviewed by Barry Eitel 

On first glance, Porgy and Bess looks like the tale of a perpetual sucker. The crippled beggar Porgy, living in an impoverished South Carolina hamlet, falls for Bess, the most shunned woman in town, a coquette who runs with a jealous meathead. Due to Porgy being the only person who’ll let her stay at his house, the mismatched pair gets together, yet the woman retains a wandering eye. But Porgy puts up with all, even when she runs to New York when he’s out of town. Instead of throwing up his hands, he takes up his crutch and starts the journey north.

Alexis J. Rogers and Todd M. KrygerHowever, as Charles Newell’s excellent production at Court makes clear, there’s something astoundingly human about this tale. George Gershwin’s magnum opus showcases love and forgiveness in its treatment of Porgy and Bess’ relationship. Titular characters aside, the opera also delves into how a community copes with hardship. Even when those hardships are as insidious and gigantic as racism, poverty, and natural disaster.

Out of the millions of debates spurred by this show, easily one of the stupidest is if it should be classified as an opera or musical. Newell and music director Doug Peck took the best of both genres. I’d say the show is about 90% singing, keeping many of Gershwin’s recitatives. But they aren’t afraid to throw in a few spoken lines when a character needs to drop a truth bomb without the flourish of music. Newell also chopped down the supporting townsfolk of Catfish Row, so the stage isn’t flooded with actors with one line roles. It also makes the whole strong ensemble memorable.

Newell’s envisioning of this controversial tale adds a vibrancy and immediacy to the octogenarian opera. John Culbert’s off-white set invokes a weathered Carolina beach house, which goes well with Jacqueline Firkins’ breezy white costumes. Stark as it may seem, the design has its fare share of breathtaking surprises. Peck also tweaks the arrangements to great effect, adding some great traditional Gullah drum breaks as well as haunting stripped down acapella numbers.

While initially shunned, Porgy and Bess has seen lots of love from opera houses around the world (including a production at the Lyric in 2008). These productions promise grandiose sets and superstar vocals, with the plot lagging behind as an afterthought. That’s not the case here, where the plot (based on DuBose Heyward’s 1926 novel) is the main selling point. With Newell’s minimalist take, nearly all of the storytelling responsibility falls to the cast. They deliver with aplomb, searching the story’s intricacies and themes alongside us in the audience. I already had chills when Harriet Nzinga Plumpp warbled the first few notes of “Summertime.”


Rogers and Jones - V Kryger - V Plumpp and Newland - V

Todd M. Kryger’s hulking performance as Porgy is just the right blend of majesty and vulnerability, and Alexis J. Rogers correctly portrays a Bess torn by love and lust. But the real jewel here is the supporting cast. Bethany Thomas as the pious Serena steals the show with her wickedly expressive singing style. She shreds right through the heart of “My Man’s Gone Now.” Sean Blake’s slick Sporting Life, the neighborhood dope dealer, is a similar delight. His rendition of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” drips with fun—it’s clear he’s having a great time up there.

Court boasts that this production is scrubbed clean of the racist smudges that have dogged Porgy and Bess from its opening night in 1935. I don’t know if I completely agree with that—much of the music still leans towards Europe instead of Africa. But Porgy and Bess is an American treasure, a spunky musical journey that combines stodgy Old World opera with the uniquely American creations of jazz, gospel, and blues. Newell’s production is a treasure in itself, grabbing this overly-familiar piece (“Summertime” is one of the most covered pop song in the world) and thrusting it into relevance.

Rating: ★★★★
Bethany Thomas and Brian Alwyn-Newland Joelle Lamarre, Bethany Thomas, Wydetta Carter, Todd Kryger, Alexis Rogers
May 23, 2011 | 3 Comments More