Tag: Hedy Weiss

Chicago Theater: "Xanadu" Reviews

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The hit Broadway-musical Xanadu joyously roller-skated its way onto Michigan Avenue last night at Drury Lane Water Tower

Here’s a collection of Xanadu theater reviews:

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Christopher Piatt  (TimeOut Chicago)

You don’t have to be gay to dig Xanadu; you need to be gay enough.  …(Book writer Douglas Carter) Beane‘s challenge was to stitch the virile, throbbing unapologetically awesome space-pop of Electric Light Orchestra into a credible evening.  The resulting airheaded, upbeat rock follies…has a deliriously screwball quality that channels the lush, berserk American entertainment of the 1930s.

Of the cast, haunted slumlord Larry Marshall adds an appealing noir quality.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth Stanley, the pop-princess chorine who skates and tells jokes, is the star of the goddamn universe. (Entire review here)

Rating: ««««« out of 6

 

Chris Jones (Tribune)

…A shrewdly good time, if you have a few pre-show drinks…

Yes, “Xanadu” knows it’s based on one of the worst movies ever made. It makes fun of jukebox musicals even as it takes its place among them. And with a comparable chutzpah to that which once catapulted Olivia Newton-John to incomprehensible global stardom, “Xanadu” manages to poke fun at the creative bankruptcy of the endless recycling of movies and nostalgia while doing precisely that itself. No armor is more protective than self-awareness.

Rating: ★★★                                                            Read entire review.

Hedy Weiss (Sun-Times)

Talent and fluff clash, but goofy grins prevail.

Let it never be said that playwright Douglas Carter Beane doesn’t possess a gleefully self-mocking sense of his own work. During the course of “Xanadu,” which received its high-energy, high-volume, post-Broadway debut here Wednesday at the winningly intimate Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place, he offers a fine assessment of the show. As one character exclaims: “This is like children’s theater for 40-year-old gay people.”    

Rating: Somewhat Recommended                         Read entire review.

Tom Williams (ChicagoCritic.com)

Let me start my stating that I hate disco music from the 1980’s and I think the Xanadu film may be the worst film of all-time or high on that list. Those biases have colored my take on Xanadu, the musical now at Drury Lane Water Tower Place produced by Broadway in Chicago. To me, there was nothing very cute or funny in this show. It tries too hard to be campy and satirical with dated 80’s referenced jokes. Filled with ELO tunes, leg warmers, roller skating, and a fake Australian accent, Xanadu came off as crass exploitive fluff that I found derivative.

As a consumer advocate, however, let me state that the audience at the opening night performance found the show to be a hilarious romp filed with bouncy, had-clapping songs filled with 80’s nostalgia. It is a feel-good show long on escapist entertainment and short on plot.

Rating: Somewhat Recommended                         Read entire review.

Fabrizio Almeida (NewCity)

I don’t know that the stage show offers any experience, let alone anything that might even qualify this as a fun and fabulous guilty pleasure. Clearly, the biggest problem is with Christopher Ashley’s direction. You can’t force camp, and yet every half-assed joke and lame visual pun has been overly telegraphed and repeated to the point of ineffectiveness. I did laugh a few times: Elizabeth Stanley’s breathy delivery of some stupid lines; the thick Australian accent. But overall I found the ninety-minute intermission-less stage experience tedious, dull and uninspired…………

…….clearly, this is a big misstep for Broadway in Chicago, and I don’t see ”Xanadu” running long or appealing to many theatergoers. Because if this camp-loving, ELO-listening, gay roller-skating lover of “Starlight Express” thought it was crap, what hope is there for you to like it?

Rating: Not Recommended                                        Read entire review.

Xanadu is fun for 5-year kids to 95-year old disco queens!

February 6, 2009 | 1 Comment More

Allison Torem – a theatre star in the making?

UPDATE:  Excerpts from Hedy Weiss’s new article regarding Ms. Torem has been added at the bottom of this post.

I am always incredibly impressed by young theatrical talent that can hold their own among a group of professional actors.  Often these young prodigies easily steal the Torem_Cox_GreatFalls show.  Past examples include Edward Heffernan in American Theatre Company‘s The Dark At The Top Of The Stairs, by William Inge, as well as Lillian Almaguer in Steppenwolf’s controversial production of The Pain and the Itch, by Bruce Norris.

It looks like we have another one of those Chicago prodigies, per Hedy Weiss‘s glowing review of Profiles Theatre‘s Great Falls, by Lee Blessing – that being Allison Torem.

Says Weiss:

One crucial reason to catch the Profiles Theatre production of Lee Blessing’s two-character play “Great Falls” is to witness the astonishing performance by Allison Torem.  An actress of dazzling skill, fierce emotional honesty and breath-taking sophistication, she also just happens to be a senior at the Whitney Young Magnet High School.     (emphasis mine)

Ms. Weiss goes on to say that Torem “triggers memories of the young Jodie Foster“.  Wow.

Kudos to Ms.Torem, and to Profiles for presenting such an exemplary production.

Great Falls continues through March 1st. Starring Darrell W. Cox and Allison Torem, direction by Joe Jahraus, Chelsea Meyers (set design), and Kevin O’Donnell (sound design).

Read the entire review here.  Other reviews: Trib, ChicagoCritic,

Great Falls, by Lee Blessing

UPDATE: Chicago Sun-Times’ Hedy Weiss has also written a post regarding Allison Torem on her blog.  A few quotes:

She didn’t see much theater as a child, but when she broke a finger in a bowling accident at age 9, she stopped taking karate and violin lessons and enrolled in classes at Prologue Children’s Theatre. In eighth grade she took classes at the Second City, but confesses: “I was seriously insecure. It would be a whole lot more fun for me now.” She also tried her hand at musicals as part of the youth-oriented Entertainment Project.

At first I was taken aback when reading this:

Torem, a slight girl with an interesting face that can shift between beauty and something far more challenging, admits to being stunned by her glowing reviews.

But then I realized that, for the stage, an actor’s ability to manipulate their expressions is an a coveted talent.  Read the entire article here.

Once again – bravo!

January 29, 2009 | 0 Comments More

Chicago Theater – Best of 2008 (Chicago Sun-Times)

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 Hedy Weiss, theater-critic extraordinaire for the Chicago Sun-Times, has put together an excellent list of her 10 favorite plays of 2008.  Along with the list, Hedy notes the wonderful year Chicago theater has had on the national stage:

…this was the year that Steppenwolf Theatre picked up five Tony Awards for its Chicago-bred Broadway production of Tracy Letts‘ “August: Osage County” before the cast crossed the pond to remount the show at London’s National Theatre, and when the Chicago Shakespeare Theater was feted with the “Best Regional Theater” Tony.

Continuing:

But that was just the beginning. Next Theatre‘s production of the new musical “Adding Machine,” was hailed in its Off Broadway incarnation, with director David Cromer racking up plaudits for his work on that show, as well as for his revelatory revivals of “Our Town” (at the Hypocrites) and “Picnic” (at Writers’ Theatre). Profiles championed the work of incendiary playwright Neil LaBute to grand effect. Remy Bumppo earned laughs with its tale of financial chicanery in a revival of an Edwardian classic, “The Voysey Inheritance.” And director Sean Graney experimented boldy with productions of “The Threepenny Opera” and Marlowe‘s “Edward II.”

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Now here are Hedy Weiss’s favorite productions in 2008:

 

1. Caroline or Change  (Court Theatre)
by Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori
Standouts: Charles Newell (director), Doug Peck (musical director); performances: Malcolm Durning, E.Faye Butler
     
2. Ruined  (Goodman Theatre)
by Lynn Nottage
Weiss comments: Worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, the play will soon move to New York’s Manhattan Theatre Club.
 
     
3. Gatz  (Elevator Repair Service Theatre)
by John Collins
 
     
4. Our Town  (The Hypocrites)
by Thornton Wilder
Standouts: David Cromer (director)
 
     
5. Requiem for a Heavyweight  (Shattered Globe)
by Rod Serling
Standouts: Lou Contey (director)
 
     
6. Amadeus  (Chicago Shakespeare)
by Peter Schaffer
Standouts: Gary Griffin (director), Daniel Ostling (set designer); performances: Robert Sella, Robbi Collier Sublett, Elizabeth Ledo, Lance Baker
 
     
7. As You Like It  (Writers’ Theatre)
by William Shakespeare
Standouts: William Brown (director), Performance: Larry Yando
 
     
8. Drowsy Chaperone  (Cadillac Palace Theater)
by Laura Wade
Standouts: Casey Nicholaw (director)
 
     
9. Around the World in 80 Days  (Lookingglass)
Standouts: Laura Eason (adaptor/director); Performances: Philip R. Smith, Kevin Douglas, Joe Dempsey, Ravi Batista, Anish Jethmalani, Ericka Ratcliff, Nick Sandys and Rom Barkhordar
 
     
10. Columbinus  (Raven Theatre)
by Stephen Karam and P.J. Paparelli
Standouts: Greg Kolack (director); Performances: Matthew Klingler and Jamie Abelson
 

To see the Hedy Weiss’s complete description and thoughts on her favorite plays, click here.

January 3, 2009 | 2 Comments More

David Cromer’s "Our Town" coming to NYC

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As reported on Playbill.com and the Chicago Tribune’s blog “The Theater Loop” by Chris Jones, David Cromer’s acclaimed Chicago production of Our Town, by Thorton Wilder, will make a reappearance in Spring 2009 at an Off-Broadway theatre.  This is becoming something of a trend for David Cromer, as his production of The Adding Machine recently finished an award-winning run at Off-Broadway’s Minetta Lane Theatre.

Other info:

  • Auditions are currently under way
  • Ont The Town will be produced by Scott Morfee (who also financially-backed Adding Machine)
  • Begins in February at the Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village.
  • The cast is expected to be a mix of Chicago and New York actors.
  • Cromer directed and played the Stage Manager in the Windy City run, but it is not yet known whether Cromer will reprise the Stage Manager role.
  • In regards to the set, the Barrow Street stage will be stripped bare to echo Cromer’s earlier concept.

As for The Adding Machine, which premiered at Evanston’s Next Theatre (see my review here), Playbill relays:

Cromer’s intensely visual staging of the musical Adding Machine was one of the best-reviewed productions of the 2007-08 season in New York City. The musical by composer and co-librettist Josh Schmidt and co-librettist Jason Loewith played the Minetta Lane Theatre Feb. 8-July 20.

For its New York run Adding Machine was awarded two Outer Critics Circle Awards (Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical, Outstanding New Score), four Lucille Lortel Awards (Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Director, Outstanding Lead Actor, Outstanding Lighting Design) and four Obie Awards as well as nominations from the Drama Desk and Drama League awards.

More links of interest:

December 15, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Goodman Theatre’s top-notch recruitments

In the world of professional sports (and college sports for that matter), recruitment is everything.  Entire sportscasts are dedicated to the subject of  which team has recruited which top sports talent.  Additionally, successful recruitment is often accredited to successful seasons.

Though the arts are often caricatured as the antithesis of sports, ironically, recruitment of artistic talent can be just as important to successful theatre seasons as they are in sports..

For their upcoming season, the Goodman Theatre has snatched up (i.e. recruited) a number of creative stars:

  • Anna Shapiro – fresh from her Tony Award for August: Osage County, will direct the world premiere of Regina Taylor’s new play, Magnolia, a contemporary take on Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. (production dates: March 14-April 19, 2009)
  • Jeff Daniels, known for his roles in Terms of Endearment” and “The Purple Rose of Cairo”, has been signed on to star in the world premiere musical-fantasy Turn of the Century, by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.  (Production dates: September 19-October 26, 2008 )
  • Broadway legend Tommy Tune (9-time Tony Award winner) has been recruited to direct Turn of the Century.  Broadway veteran Rachel York has been cast as the play’s female lead.

I have great confidence that Goodman’s top-notch recruiting will secure a very successful season, both artistically and financially.

h/t Hedy Weiss

June 23, 2008 | 1 Comment More

A Red Orchid Theatre’s new Artistic Director: Kirsten Fitzgerald

kirsten-fitzgerald.jpgKirsten Fitzgerald has been a veteran ensemble member for A Red Orchid Theatre (based in Old Town) for many years.  She now can add another title to her acting bio – that of artistic director.  Kirsten Fitzgerald will replace Guy Van Swearingen, who has been the AD since the theatre’s founding in 1993.  In an interview with Sun-Times’ theatre critic Hedy Weiss, Fitzgerald explained:

“We’ve been discussing a transition for a while…..It has been by sheer force of will, energy and devotion on the part of Guy and the ensemble that we’ve flourished all these years, and we want to keep that spirit going.”

And, regarding Guy Van Swearingen’s replacement by someone from within the theatre ensemble, Chris Jones, in his Trib blog “The Theater Loop“, adds:

“It’s unsurprising that A Red Orchid picked one its own. The long-standing company is known for its fiercely loyal company members, a group that includes the stage-and-screen actors Michael Shannon and Danny McCarthy.”

Congratulations Kirsten!!

February 9, 2008 | 0 Comments More

Live Bait Theater putting theater space up for sale

Hedy Weiss reports that Wrigleyville-based Live Bait Theater (3914 N. Clark – map) has recently put their performance space up for sale.  Husband-and-wife owner-operators Sharon Evans and John Ragir will be reconfiguring their organization, with future partnerships being discussed.  With the slow-down in the realty market, the sale might take awhile, so events are still scheduled for the performance space through late spring.  Read more here

January 17, 2008 | 0 Comments More

“Little Women” gets Big Praises

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Marriott Theatre’s new productions of Little Women has received stunning reviews. 

As Sun-Times’ Hedy Weiss relays:

The depth of the acting, the clarity of the singing and above all, the complete trust placed in the human scale of the story are crucial here. Veteran director Joe Leonardo has cast the production ideally, and he and his performers have injected the show — the work of Allan Knee (book), Mindi Dickstein (whose lyrics are particularly lovely) and Jason Howland (music) — with a zestful energy, humor and clarity sorely missing before. And in Heidi Kettenring, his superb leading lady — who plays the role of Jo March, Alcott’s protofeminist alter ego — he has tapped genuine star power.

December 14, 2007 | 0 Comments More