Tag: Danni Smith
The Great American
Trailer Park Musical
Music and Lyrics by David Nehls
Update: Now extended through July 3rd!
More American than apple pie!
|Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre presents|
|Some Enchanted Evening:|
|Directed by Fred Anzevino
Music Directed by Austin Cook
at No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood (map)
through June 5 | tickets: $25-$30 (dinner: $20) | more info
Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer
The purest patriotism possible in this troubled land is just to love the subject of this show. The beautiful Broadway created by Rodgers and Hammerstein is broad indeed, and a way to everything that’s (still) good about America. We can enjoy the optimism of Oklahoma, dangerous ambition of Carousel, courage and tolerance of South Pacific, family values of State Fair, curiosity and growth of The King and I, assimilation of Flower Drum Song, and, well, the love of singing in The Sound of Music. It’s there in melodies (Rodgers) you could get drunk on and lyrics (Hammerstein) that feel good because they’re just true.
Framed as a rehearsal that turns into a performance, Fred Anzevino’s generous, two-hour tribute to R&H’s glorious Americana showcases five splendid singers flawlessly directed by musical director and pianist Austin Cook. The uncredited compilation offers clever to sumptuous arrangements in a program that lets the songs talk to each other almost as much as they resonate with an equally impassioned audience. We grew up with these songs until they’re now part of our emotional DNA.
At the same time, you’ve never imagined “Maria” as a possible love song about a relationship, not a complaint by nuns, but it works well here. (Less so is the unnecessarily jazzed-up backdrop to “Something Wonderful.”) A few discoveries offer less-known confirmation of the partners’ mastery, like the winsome “A Fellow Needs a Girl” and the sardonic lament “The Gentleman Is a Dope” (Rodgers’ later sequel to “The Lady Is a Tramp”?).
So many favorites are included that it’s easier to mention the ones that aren’t (the power anthems “Climb Every Mountain” and “You’ll Never Walk Along” and my favorite ballad, “What’s the Use of Won’drin’?”). What made the cut, however, is perfection enough, especially as sung by a soaring soprano and euphoric belter like Sarah Schoch, who gives “A Wonderful Guy” a fitting sweep and scope. Dana Tretta is a wicked comedienne in “I Can’t Say No” and a wistful lover in “I Have Dreamed.” Danni Smith brings star quality to the fragile “Love, Look Away” and raw nostalgia and tensile heartbreak to “Hello, Young Lovers.”
Jeremy Trager’s baritone serves him splendidly throughout, never more so than in his driven version of Billy Bigelow’s all-confessing “Soliloquy.” Finally, Evan Tyrone Martin brings a heavenly tenor to “Edelweiss,” a folk song so pure it fits every possible singer, while his tender and haunting take on the little-known “Everybody’s Got a Home But Me” shows how R&H could summon up the blues in spirit if not in note.
Fine as they are, collectively this terrific ensemble turn “Shall We Dance,” “A Grand Night,” “Grant Avenue,” and the seductive title song into harmonious musical gems of a thousand carats each.
Well, the revue’s title says it all. My one complaint is that the whole show should have been a sing-along. But I’ll leave that to “The Messiah.”
All photos by G. Thomas Ward Photography
The Queer Meaning of Christmas: Always Be Yourself
|Hell in a Handbag Productions presents|
|Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer|
|Book/Lyrics by David Cerda
Music by David Cerda w/ Scott Lamberty
Directed by Derek Czaplewski
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark (map)
through Jan 1 | tickets: $15-$20 | more info
Reviewed by Paige Listerud
Hell In a Handbag Productions have run their queerlicious holiday spoof, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer for 13 years, yet it’s Christmas theme could not be more current or relevant than if it were written yesterday. Directed by Derek Czaplewski, this Santa Claus (Michael Hampton) is as Scrooge as they come, running the North Pole like a sweatshop. His terrorized elf population scrambles for job security since he’s outsourced most of the toy manufacturing to India. To generate extra income, Santa cynically develops a series of reality TV shows for NPN (North Pole Network). Sam the Snowman (Christopher Carpenter) lays out the whole scene with casual and realistic world-weariness, just right for this particular recessionary season.
Into this milieu, Jane (Danni Smith) and Tom Donner (Chad) give birth to Rudolph (Alex Grelle), a sweet little reindeer with an instinctual love for feminine attire. Fresh from the womb, Rudolph can already spot Chanel and Prada on other women and lusts in his heart to wear them himself. But mom and dad fear gender non-conformity just won’t go over well in the gossipy and economically strapped environs of Christmastown. So, they force Rudolph into overalls and trot him out to the reindeer games to put a little butch into his act.
The big butch of the reindeer games, Coach Comet (David Besky), uses his position to put the moves on his young reindeer charges. But, like any classic closet case, he – like everyone else – rejects Rudolph when his unstoppable femme side emerges. While reviling base hypocrisy is de rigueur element for LGBTQ comedy, Hell in a Handbag’s spry and professional cast keeps to the situation fresh, the jokes well-timed and humanely on message. David Cerda’s humorous script holds up fabulously well; it helps that the original Christmas cartoon is also about being yourself, no matter what societal pressures deny who and what you are. Cerda and crew boost the original cartoon with a ton of salacious queer fun and Brigitte Ditmars’ choreography makes the most of a tight stage at Mary’s Attic.
Rudolph loses the town’s support but gains a reindeer girlfriend, Clarice (Jennifer Shine), who regales the audience with how HOT his red hose make her. Then there’s Rudolph’s ally Herbie, the elf who wants to be a dentist, who Dan Hickey executes with nostalgic and dorky perfection. Once this pair make it to the Island of Misfit Toys, the audience not only gets to revel in Chad’s exact portrayal of Charlie-in-the-Box, but also the Half-Naked Cowboy (Chad Ramsey), Trailer Trash Barbie (Terry McCarthy) and the Choo-Choo Train (Barbara Figgins) with square wheels.
That Cerda, as the Abominable Drag Beast, tries her grab at fame in a Gaga-esque meat dress, while Ed Jones goes beyond the beyond as Santa’s drunken wife, puts the cherry and nuts on top of Hell in a Handbag’s confection. It’s so bad it’s good for you. But most of all, for all its celebration of pervy practices, Rudolph, the Red-Hosed Reindeer restores a little innocent sweetness to a holiday made hard, jaded and meaningless by rampant commercialism. Always be yourself—that’s the best Christmas message I’ve heard in a long time and something meant to last the whole year round.
2010 Non-Equity Jeff Award Nominees
|Production – Play|
|Busman’s Honeymoon - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
Death of a Salesman - Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
Killer Joe - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½ )
The Pillowman - Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
St. Crispin’s Day - Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
Wilson Wants It All - The House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
|Production – Musical|
|Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre i/a/w Michael James (review ★★½)
Evolution/Creation - Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
|Director – Play|
|Aaron Todd Douglas: Twelve Angry Men - Raven Theatre (review ★★★)
Michael Menendian: Death of a Salesman – Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
Michael Rohd: Wilson Wants It All - House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
Kimberly Senior: The Pillowman – Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
Rick Snyder: – Killer Joe - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½)
|Director – Musical|
|Fred Anzevino & Brenda Didier: Chess – Theo Ubique Theatre (review ★★½)
Jeffrey Cass: The Who’s Tommy – Circle Theatre
Stephen M. Genovese: The Glorious Ones - Boho Rep (review ★★★)
Andrew Park: Evolution/Creation – Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
|The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
Red Noses - Strawdog Theatre Company
Twelve Angry Men - Raven Theatre (review ★★★)
Under Milk Wood - Caffeine Theatre (review ★★)
|Actor in a Principal Role – Play|
|Tony Bozzuto: On an Average Day – BackStage Theatre Company
Darrell W. Cox: Killer Joe - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½)
Andrew Jessop: The Pillowman – Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
Peter Robel: I Am My Own Wife - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)
Chuck Spencer: Death of a Salesman - Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
|Actor in a Principle Role – Musical|
|Courtney Crouse: Chess – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
Tom McGunn: The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
Eric Damon Smith: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
Jeremy Trager: Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
|Actress in a Principle Role – Play|
|Brenda Barrie: Mrs. Caliban – Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★★)
LaNisa Frederick: The Gimmick - Pegasus Players (review ★★)
Millicent Hurley: Lettice & Lovage - Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★★)
Kendra Thulin: Harper Regan - Steep Theatre (review ★★½ )
Rebekah Ward-Hays: Aunt Dan and Lemon - BackStage Theatre
|Actress in a Principle Role – Musical|
|Danielle Brothers: Man of La Mancha - Theo Ubique Theatre (review ★★★)
Sarah Hayes: Man of La Mancha – Theo Ubique Theatre (review ★★★)
Maggie Portman: Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
|Actor in a Supporting Role – Play|
|Chance Bone: Cooperstown - Theatre Seven of Chicago (review ★★)
Jason Huysman: Death of a Salesman - Raven Theatre (review ★★★½)
Edward Kuffert: The Crucible - Infamous Commonwealth (review ★★★)
Peter Oyloe: The Pillowman - Redtwist Theatre (review ★★★)
Phil Timberlake: Busman’s Honeymoon - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
|Actor in a Supporting Role – Musical|
|Eric Lindahl: The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
Steve Kimbrough: Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical - Hell in a Handbag
John B. Leen: Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
|Actress in a Supporting Role – Play|
|Nancy Friedrich: The Crucible - Infamous Commonwealth (review ★★★)
Vanessa Greenway: The Night Season – Vitalist Theatre i/a/w Premiere Theatre & Performance (review ★★★★)
Kelly Lynn Hogan: The Night Season - Vitalist Theatre i/a/w Premiere Theatre & Performance (review ★★★★)
Kristy Johnson: A Song for Coretta - Eclipse Theatre (review ★★)
Mary Redmon: The Analytical Engine – Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
|Actress in a Supporting Role – Musical|
|Kate Garassino: Bombs Away! – Bailiwick Repertory Theatre
Danni Smith: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
Trista Smith: Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical - Hell in a Handbag
Dana Tretta: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
|Aaron Carter: First Words - MPAACT (review ★★★★)
Ellen Fairey: Graceland - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★)
Tommy Lee Johnston: Aura - Redtwist Theatre
Andrew Park and Scott Lamps: Evolution/Creation - Quest Theatre Ensemble (review ★★★)
Michael Rohd & Phillip C. Klapperich: Wilson Wants It All - The House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
|Bilal Dardai: The Man Who Was Thursday - New Leaf Theatre
Sean Graney: – Oedipus - The Hypocrites (review ★★★★)
Frances Limoncelli: Busman’s Honeymoon - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
Frances Limoncelli: – Mrs. Caliban – Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★★)
William Massolia: Little Brother - Griffin Theatre
|Kevin Bellie: The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
Brenda Didier: Chess - Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
James Brigitte Ditmars: Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical - Hell in a Handbag Productions
|Original Incidental Music|
|Andrew Hansen: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Kevin O’Donnell: - Wilson Wants It All - House Theatre (review ★★★)
Trevor Watkin: The Black Duckling - Dream Theatre
|Ryan Brewster: Chess – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (review ★★½)
Gary Powell: Evolution/Creation - Quest Theatre (review ★★★)
Nick Sula: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
|Tom Burch: Uncle Vanya - Strawdog Theatre (review ★★★)
Alan Donahue: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Heath Hays: On an Average Day - BackStage Theatre Company
Bob Knuth: The Analytical Engine - Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
Bob Knuth: Little Women - Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
John Zuiker: I Am My Own Wife - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)
|Diane Fairchild: The Gimmick - Pegasus Players (review ★★)
Kevin D. Gawley: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Sean Mallary: St. Crispin’s Day – Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
Jared B. Moore: The Man Who Was Thursday - New Leaf Theatre
Katy Peterson: I Am My Own Wife - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★★)
|Theresa Ham: The Glorious Ones - Bohemian Theatre (review ★★★)
Branimira Ivanova: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Joanna Melville: St. Crispin’s Day - Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★) Jill Van Brussel: The Taming of the Shrew - Theo Ubique (review ★★★)
Elizabeth Wislar: The Analytical Engine – Circle Theatre (review ★★★)
|Mikhail Fiksel: Oedipus - The Hypocrites (review ★★★★)
Michael Griggs: Wilson Wants It All - The House Theatre (review ★★★)
Andrew Hansen: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Joshua Horvath: Mrs. Caliban - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★★)
Miles Polaski: Mouse in a Jar - Red Tape Theatre (review ★★★)
|Kevin Bellie: Projection Design, The Who’s Tommy - Circle Theatre
Elise Kauzlaric: Dialect Coach, Busman’s Honeymoon - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★)
Lucas Merino: Video Design, Wilson Wants It All – The House Theatre of Chicago (review ★★★)
James T. Scott: Puppets, Evolution/Creation - Quest Theatre (review ★★★)
|Geoff Coates: On An Average Day - BackStage Theatre Company
Geoff Coates: Treasure Island - Lifeline Theatre (review ★★★½)
Matt Hawkins: St. Crispin’s Day - Strawdog Theatre Company (review ★★)
R & D Choreography: Killer Joe - Profiles Theatre (review ★★★½ )
More info at the Jeff Awards website.
This gem is exquisitely polished
Strangeloop Theatre presents:
reviewed by Paige Listerud
Thomas Murray is a long time scholar of Brian Friel, the Irish playwright best known in America for Dancing at Lughnasa. The Mid-America Theatre Conference named him an Emerging Scholar for his research on Friel. How happy for Chicago’s theater community that his turn as director crafts the subtle and balanced execution of an earlier, more experimental play of Friel’s, Living Quarters: after Hippolytus, now at Trap Door Theatre. Small and simply produced by Strangeloop Theatre, it is the very definition of excellence.
Written in 1977, Friel ventured away from overtly political theater toward using meta-theatrical devices and non-linear storytelling. Through Sir (Jillian Rafa), the play’s own deconstructionist, the drama examines a critical day in the life of an Irish family. Living Quarters shows strong Chekhovian influences. Murray’s superbly balanced cast transposes the shifts from action to reflection on the action with all the smoothness of liquid silk, making the transitions seem effortless and familiar.
Commandant Frank Butler (James Houton) is being honored at the pinnacle of his military career—a career that, more often than not, absented him far from family life. Daughter Helen (Danni Smith), returning from her life in London, joins sisters Tina (Kelley Minneci) and Miriam (Kathryn Bartholomew) in preparations for the big day. Their estranged and somewhat derelict brother, Ben (Martin Monahan), also rejoins the family in celebration, while the deconstructive storytelling unveils to the audience his illicit affair with his father’s new, young wife Anna (Shannon Bracken).
In the course of reviewing precarious family dynamics, the play floods with memories–joyous, convivial memories and, inevitably, dark and regretful ones. Heavy among these are the family’s memories of the commandant’s former wife, a strict and exacting invalid with a severe case of class prejudice. Past incidents between Ben, Helen, and their mother reverberate into the present, demonstrating their power to renew long buried pain. Smith especially shows adept grace at portraying deep filial love, while suggesting a sensitive and fragile mentality underneath.
As the betrayed commandant, Houton is nothing less than profound and immaculately precise. Besotted by the freshness of his young wife, soaring jovially in his hour of glory, the revelation of his son’s cuckoldry brings him down like Icarus. His performance is perfectly complemented by Paul Tinsley’s warm and friendly family alcoholic, the Chaplin, Father Tom. Friel’s politics still manifest themselves in his subtle digs at these two pillars of Irish society, but they are humanely tempered by each and every character’s mournful wish for things to have happened differently.
Plus, even the most tragic families have their happy moments. Friel places these in shimmering contrast to the sorrowful ones and Strangeloop’s production follows that delicate silver thread like Gospel. Much like Eugene O’Neill’s work, Living Quarters is a paean to regret—only Friel’s lighter touch makes us realize how deeply regret is colored by time and memory. So whose memories are these, anyway–set down, note by note, in the book Sir carries around onstage? The question hangs suspended in the air like a cloud, like a moment of grief that won’t go away.
Featuring: Kathryn Bartholomew, Shannon Bracken, Ross Compton, James Houton, Kelley Minneci, Martin Monahan, Jillian Rafa, Danni Smith and Paul Tinsley.
With scenic design by Glen Anderson, costumes and props by D.J. Reed, lighting by Leigh Barrett and sound by Jesus Contreras.
Bohemian Theatre Ensemble presents:
The Glorious Ones
Reviewed by Aggie Hewitt
The Heartland Studio, home base for the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (Boho), is one of the smallest black boxes I have ever been to in Chicago. As you walk in off the street, you find yourself inside a box office not much bigger than a phone booth. Finding your seat in the theater is more like squeezing your way into a crowded elevator than getting ready to experience high art. And on Friday night, as the lights went down in that small, communal space, and the actors took to the stage to begin performing the regional premiere of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’s The Glorious Ones it was the least lonely place in the world. What could be better, on a cold Chicago night, than to see a group of young, vibrant performers fill a small space with their white hot energy? This is a far from perfect production, but the dedication and energy of this vibrant cast is a treat.
Director/set designer Stephen M. Genovese has created a fine and audacious set; a blank old-world-looking wood stage dressed with simple red curtains and the occasional charmingly low tech surprise. It’s a set that screams, “Fill me! Bring the best you’ve got!” – and Mr. Genovese and his cast make a wholehearted attempt…and sometimes succeed.
The play is set in 16th century Venice, during the creation of Comedia del’ Arte. “The Glorious Ones” are a Comedia troupe, led by the pompous and egocentric Flaminio Scala (based on a real-life Comedia performer) played by Eric Damon Smith. The scenes of actual Comedia are great fun. One sketch is repeated three times, as a mapping device for what we know is going on behind the scenes. The best though, is “Armanda’s Tarantella,” slyly performed by the fearless Dana Tretta. Most of the large group scenes have merit. “Flaminio Scala’s Historical Journey to France” is a showstopper, and highlights the energy and force behind these performances that make this show worthwhile.
The thing the show is missing, and it is sorely missed, is honesty. The one-dimensional character of Flaminio Scala is prouder than proud and intensely serious. He speaks of his work with dignity and pride, and yet, seems to have no relationship with it. The man as a comedian is never explored, or even dignified with attention. In a pivotal scene, Flaminio embraces a struggling street performer (Courtney Crouse), after watching him perform, and takes him under his wing. Flaminio didactically spells out his lesson plan to build the young raw talent into his protégé. Here, Flaminio gets the opportunity to talk about his work; instead of reveling in it’s humor like a comedian, he discuses it with the wistful dreaminess of a school girl recanting her favorite lines from Twilight. Mr., Smith has the most stage time, and so bears the burden of being an example, but I assure you the lack of truth on stage was a cast-wide epidemic. From the audience, it seems that Mr. Genovese focused too intently on the larger than life aspects of the show and forgot that a show needs honesty to be relatable.
About two-thirds of the way through, Danni Smith as Coloumbina breaks the monotony of disconnected energy and hits one out of the park with “My Body Wasn’t Why,” an empowering and tear-jerking ballad about art, aging and womanhood.
Lynn Ahrens’s interesting book races through the first half of the show, asking the audience to simply accept the characters without working for it. In the second half of the show, when the action finally slows down, it is difficult to muster empathy for anyone.
The wonderful thing about it, though, is the subject matter. We are invited to experience the creation of Coloumbina, the sassy maid; Pantalone, the miserly old man; Dottore, the quack doctor, and Harlequin, the sly prankster, which is a real treat for a theater lover. Stephen Flaherty’s music is full-bodied and emotional, and paired with Lynn Ahrens’s lyrics makes for a great soundtrack. It is in this partnership that these two create strong work, but Lynn Ahrens’s book independently leaves much to be desired in terms of character development.
The thing you have to do to enjoy this show is to understand that it is not a musical comedy. It is a musical about comedy. But the entire cast invites you warmly into their view of history, and you get to see a neat, shiny version of the creation of an art form. If you are a comedy lover (who isn’t?) go see this show. It’s a musical about the creation of something really important, and it is worthy of your attention. For a theater lover, this production is a historical journey worth taking, even if there are a few unintended pratfalls along the way.