Tag: Daniel Spagnuolo
Kiss of the Spider Woman
By John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics)
Man of La Mancha
Written by Dale Wasserman (book),
Phenomenal dancing and singing makes ‘Dolly’ a New Year’s treat
|Light Opera Works presents|
|Book by Michael Stewart
Music/Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller
at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston (map)
through Jan 1 | tickets: $32-$92 | more info
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
“Some people paint, I meddle.” A widow makes a living as a matchmaker. Light Opera Works presents Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly!, a big-hearted musical based on Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker, set in 1890.
Before the parade passes by, I want to get in step while there’s still time left.” Dolly Levi wants to start living.
Dolly’s retirement plan is to marry the well-known half-millionaire, Horace Vandergelder. Because Dolly is very good at her job, Horace IS ready to marry… Irene Malloy. Before Horace can pop the question to Irene, Dolly must strike the match. It’s a hilarious intervention as Dolly rearranges multiple lives to marry off herself. Hello, Dolly! is a witty, musical frolic wedded to the courtship dance.
You’re looking swell Dolly. I can tell Dolly. You’re still glowin’, you’re still crowin’, you’re still goin’ strong.
Mary Robin Roth (Dolly) has flawless comedic timing. Roth delivers zesty lines with a side of slapstick, and has all the personality to anchor the show in the title role. The musical orchestration has been adjusted for Roth’s limited singing range; her lower vocal style is robust but in moments awkward. In solo numbers, it’s a unique rendition, but when she joins in on a brightly sung ‘Put on Your Sunday Clothes,’ Roth creates a bit of speed bump.
The best match of the show is the chemistry between Robert Brady (Cornelius) and Patrick Tierney (Barnaby). The dynamic duo sing, dance and lampoon with charm and amusing absurdity. Although Jessye Wright (Irene) has a beautifully operatic singing voice, it’s too serious for the light-hearted romp. It really only works as the parody line Wright sings in ‘Elegance’ to make fun of the sophisticated.
A 22-piece orchestra, conducted by Roger L. Bingaman, sets the tempo for a splendid full-bodied musical chorus.
‘Don’t you think my dancing has a polish and a flare? The word I think I’d use is athletic!’
The dancing IS athletic and amazing! Rudy Hogenmiller channels Gower Champion to choreograph dance sequences that elicit applause DURING the movement. In particular, two memorable moments are actualized by a large segment of the chorus. First, in the parade scene, the band moves into a revolving kick line. For a small stage and multiple dancers, the graceful high-kick turning is incredibly impressive. In the second act, the waiters have a vigorous prolonged dance sequence. The word I think I’d use is ‘phenomenal.’ The synchronization is perfection. The waiters’ jumps are a harmonious spectacle.
Despite promises that ‘Dolly’ll never go away again,’ it’ll be “Goodbye, Dolly!” in a week. So, here’s your goal again, get in drive again, if you wanna feel your heart coming alive again… get your tickets now… before the parade, and the full orchestra, passes by!
Hello, Dolly! continues performances on December 27th, 29th, January 2nd at 2pm;
December 28th at 7pm; December 30th, 31st, January 1st at 8pm. All photos by Rich Foreman.
Running Time: Two hours and thirty-five minutes includes an intermission.
Hilarious musical romp through the wide world of weed
|The Brown Paper Box Co. presents|
|Book and Lyrics by Kevin Murphy
Music by Dan Studney
Directed by M. William Panek
Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western (map)
through October 24 | tickets: $15-$20 | more info
Reviewed by Oliver Sava
The 1938 propaganda film “Reefer Madness” sought to teach the ignorant American masses of the dangers of “marihuana”, including but not limited to grand theft auto, sexual deviance, and murder. Paranoid and misinformed to the extreme, the film’s absurd plot and hilarious depiction of drug users have made it a cult classic, and Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney’s musical spoof is a wonderfully over-the-top expansion of the film’s best ideas, mainly the claims that marijuana turns people into sex-crazed baby-killing socialists.
Directed by M. William Panek, The Brown Paper Box Co.’s production of Reefer Madness is at its best during group numbers, when the cast fearlessly tackles the offensive subject matter with vocal gusto. During the smaller numbers, some of the actors struggle to adjust to the absence of the group, and the singing loses precision and clarity.
The musical revels in gratuitous sex and violence, and the exaggeration of these elements highlights the ridiculousness of the movie’s plot, the tragic tale of high school students Jimmy Harper (Tyler Davis) and Mary Lane (Anna Schutz). Under the false pretense of swing dance lessons, drug pusher Jack Stone (David Geinosky) invites Jimmy over to the Reefer Den, where his life will be changed forever.
When Jimmy takes a hit of marijuana for the first time, rather than experiencing lethargy and munchies, Jimmy life descends into a mess of unbridled orgies, Jesus hallucinations, and running over old men with Mary’s car. While Davis’ jonesing can get a little grating to watch at times, he and Schutz showcase impressive vocals, and the two actors have no problem transitioning from adorable sweetness to devilish insanity. Some of the high notes could have more power behind them, and there needs to be a better balance between the volume of the principals and the chorus behind them, but Jimmy and Mary’s tragic romance is a constant source of humor throughout the production.
As the denizens of the Reefer Den, junkies Ralph (Michael Gardner), Sally (Jillian Kate Weingart), and Mae (Chelsea Paice) have some of the best moments in the show as stumble around the stage, humping and smoking whatever they can. Wiley is fantastically manic as Ralph, and is extra creepy as Sally’s baby in one disturbing interlude. Paice gets one of the best ballads of the show, and while she handles the lower register well, the big money notes are lacking in energy and support. Weingart has a similar problem, but she makes up for it with her powerful belting and fierce sexuality.
Reefer Madness is a musical that is not afraid to offend. Whether it is through explicit sexuality or graphic violence, the show pushes the boundaries of musical comedy, taking it to hilariously dark place. Brown Paper Box Co.’s production needs a little more polish to be truly memorable, but the actors tackle the material with dedication and courage. Despite the lows, this musical never comes down from its high.
Take away these lyrics
|Modofac Productions, LLC presents|
|You Took Away My Flag: a Musical About Kosovo|
|Book, music and lyrics by Henry H. Perritt Jr.
Directed by G. J. Cederquist; musical direction by Jeremy Ramey
At Theatre Building Chicago, Lakeview
Through May 23 (more info)
Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes
Henry H. Perritt Jr., the Chicago-Kent College of Law professor who authored and produced You Took Away My Flag: a Musical About Kosovo knows a lot about his play’s subject — he authored two books about the disputed Balkan territory and spent 10 years working toward its redevelopment as an independent state — and something about writing music.
What he doesn’t know is the first rule of drama: Show. Don’t tell.
There’s so much exposition in this musical, it could be a textbook. And it doesn’t help a bit that it’s a sung-through format, so all this explication comes at us in recitative form. Even worse, the lyrics often jar against the music with too many feet per beat, poor scansion and bad rhymes, in awful couplets like these:
"Your kind heart will keep you from ever
"Must we endure the Serbians’ yoke un-
"Talk all you want. I don’t care.
The exposition begins with the opening song, in which the narrator, a trench-coated American reporter (Brian Birch), gives us some history of the conflict in Kosovo between the occupying, Serbs and the "proud Albanians" — the story is unabashedly pro-Albanian — and sets us up to meet 18-year-old Arian (Jordan Phelps), his best friend, Fahri (Ethan Saks), and Arian’s older sister, Vjosa (Amy Steele). The three all work in a cafe run by the siblings’ father, Fatmir (Joshua Harris).
Arian chafes under Serbian military law, but Vjosa is just as bothered by the strictures of Albanian society, and longs for the freedom of America. She is secretly in love with a Serbian officer, Dragan (Shaun Nathan Baer), an unheard-of miscegeny. The boys enrage some Serbian soldiers by taunting them with the Albanian flag. While Dragan protects Arian, one of his men kills Fahri. Vowing revenge, Arian goes off to join the Kosovo Liberation Army, a band of guerrillas led by Driton (Patrick Cannon).
Meanwhile, Dragan drunkenly asks Vjosa if she still loves him. She does, but she’s not above stealing secret Serbian plans from him to give to her brother. Fatmir and the reporter try unsuccessfully to get the U.N. to intervene in Kosovo. The fighting goes on, the passage of time symbolized by the reporter’s increasingly blood-stained trench coat, and the purloined plans make no difference.
Guilt-stricken Dragan gives the reporter compromising photos of Serbian atrocities that bring international aid at last, and NATO bombs the Serbs out of Kosovo. The proud Albanian Kosovars next struggle with international authorities, ultimately declaring independence but never getting back their Albanian flag.
Parts of the plot seem unlikely, yet not more so than in other musicals. But there’s way too much of it — too many complexities and too many scenes covering too long a time period.
The young cast, all beautiful singers and fine actors, do a heroic job with the material. The music, if not always melodious, is pleasant enough, and sometimes stirring, with a contemporary pop sound. Music director Jeremy Ramey and his musicians (David Orlicz, Nick Anderson and Nick Boettcher) give the score everything they can, but the tunes and the performances have no chance at all against the relentless horribleness of all those words.