Tag: Howard Ashman

Review: Aladdin (Broadway in Chicago)

Adam Jacobs stars as Aladdin singing Proud of Your Boy, Broadway Chicago           
         

Aladdin

Written by Alan Menken, Tim Rice,
  Howard Ashman and Chad Beguelin
Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map)
thru Sept 10  |  tix: $44-$153  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

April 29, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Little Mermaid (Paramount Theatre)

Kari Yancy stars as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Paramount Theatre           
           

The Little Mermaid

By Doug Wright (book), Alan Menken (music), 
  Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater (lyrics)
at Paramount Theatre, Aurora (map)
thru Jan 8 Jan 15  tix: $44-$59  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

December 6, 2016 | 1 Comment More

Review: Little Shop of Horrors (American Blues Theater)

Michael Mahler in Little Shop of Horrors, American Blues Theater, Johnny Knight          
      
   
Little Shop of Horrors 

By Howard Ashman (book, lyrics)
  and Alan Menken (music)
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru July 31  |  tix: $19-$49   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

May 21, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: Little Shop of Horrors (Theatre at the Center)

LITTLE SHOP Eva Ruwe, Reneisha Jenkins, Chadae McAlister, Jonathan Lee Cunningham - Little Shop of Horrors, Theatre at the Center Indiana        
       
Little Shop of Horrors 

Written by Alan Menken (music)
   and Howard Ashman (book, lyrics)
Directed, Choreographed by Stacy Flaster  
Theatre at the Center, Muncie, IN (map)
thru Aug 19   |  tickets: $38-$42   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

July 18, 2012 | 0 Comments 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
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

July 9, 2012 | 1 Comment More

Review: Little Shop of Horrors (Street Tempo Theatre)

John Sessler as Seymour and Erin Creighton as Audrey in Street Tempo Theatre’s “Little Shop of Horrors” at Stage 773. (Photo credit: Linda Gartz)       
      
Little Shop of Horrors  

Book and Lyrics by Howard Ashman  
Music by Alan Menken
Directed by Brian Posen and Kory Danielson
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont (map)
thru May 27   |   tickets: $38   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
           Read entire review
     

May 10, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Beauty and the Beast (Broadway in Chicago)

  
  

Timeless story transcends wobbly production

  
  

Benjamin Lovell, Jen Bechter, Michael Haller, Erin Elizabeth Coors, Julia Louise Hosack, and Noah Jones as Chip

  
Broadway in Chicago and NETworks present
  
  
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
 
Book by Linda Woolverton, Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Directed by Rob Roth
at Ford Center for the Performing Arts, 24 W. Randolph (map)
through August 7  |  tickets: $18-$85  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

The love story between a beautiful girl and a beastly prince has staying power—the original French fairy tale is centuries old. The most recent reincarnation, a horrendous movie featuring an Olson twin, at least illustrates how the tale is still in the modern consciousness. Let’s not forget there was also that ‘80s TV show. The quintessential telling of the story, however, will always be Disney’s 1991 smash hit full of dancing home furnishings, the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture until Pixar Dane Agostinis (The Beast) and Emily Behny (Belle)came along. Logically, Alan Menken’s catchy music in the movie was transformed into a Broadway musical. Now it’s a favorite of high schools around the country. And a new non-Equity tour that’s settling down at the Oriental.

Dollar for dollar, a high school production may be the better value.

Let me qualify that—the performances here are not so bad. The spectacle is pretty neat most of the time. But it’s outrageous that people are shelling out 85 bucks when there is exponentially better theatre in town for a fraction of the price.

The plot follows the story and music of the film closely, with a few stage adjustments to flesh out the characters. The living cutlery looks more human. It’s not as innovative as Julie Taymor’s The Lion King (remember when she was innovative?) but it ain’t plush costumes, either. In fact, the screen-to-stage adaption is graceful and embraces the challenges of the medium.

What’s going on at the Oriental, though, is a roughly-sketched copy of the original. The town’s wishing well is wobbly. The orchestra is stripped down to the bare minimum. And the performances are terribly broad, almost across the board.

Dane Agostinis’ Beast, for example, is pretty un-beastly. Agostinis goes for some weird comic choices that diminish the character. It works for the awkward courtship, but not so much when he is supposed to terrify us. Most of the comic relief characters have a similar problem with commitment to the material. Benjamin Lovell’s Cogsworth gets too caught up in trying to appear stuffy and so he never actually comes across as stuffy. Andrew Kruep’s clownish Lefou (Gaston’s bumbling sidekick) has some great physical bits—he pulls a few moves that look like he stepped out of a cartoon—but he doesn’t back them up with the emotional stakes great clowning requires.

Logan Denninghoff as Gaston, Andrew Kruep as Lefou, and the villagers in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast". Photo by Joan Marcus

Emily Behny’s Belle carries the show well enough. She doesn’t always portray Belle’s driving individuality, but she taps into her sense of humor and genuine sweetness. Logan Denninghoff plays her foil, Gaston, with gusto, something Agostinis could learn from. Michael Haller’s lecherous Lumiere is another shining performance (pardon the pun). His amusing goofiness trumps most of the other objects’ posturing.

This Beauty and the Beast feels fundamentally cheap. Instead of reevaluating concepts and execution, it feels like NETworks is trying to put up a Broadway-level show with a much smaller budget. The diminished orchestra fails to fill the space and many of the ensemble numbers seem empty of vibrancy. “Be Our Guest,” one of the most cherished numbers of the original, is anticlimactic no matter how much Haller hams it up. They should have took the show back to the drawing board and played up their strengths.

Nevertheless, the classic parable of inner beauty wins out. This non-equity tour is much less fun than the movie, but it has its fair share of magic up its sleeves. The tour feels like an imitation in every sense. If you’ve always hankered to see the animation in real life, this is something you should check out. Otherwise, I’d implore you to see something local with more spirit.

  
  
Rating: ★★
   

 Emily Behny as Belle, and the cast of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" in the number "Be Our Guest". Photo by Joan Marcus

   

July 2, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Little Shop of Horrors (La Costa Theatre)

My, What a Strange and Interesting Play!

 

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La Costa Theatre presents
   
Little Shop of Horrors
 
Book/Lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by
Alan Menken
directed by
Dan Sanders-Joyce
Music direction by Ryan Brewster
at
La Costa Theatre, 3931 N. Elston (map)
through July 11th  |  tickets: $25   |  more info

reviewed by Keith Ecker

I have a confession. Little Shop of Horrors is my favorite musical of all time.

I have loved the play ever since I saw the movie version as a child. I own a VHS copy of the director’s cut of the film, which features an alternate ending that falls more in line with the play, and I have the Little Shop of Horrors Broadway revival cast recording, which for three months straight was the background music for my workout DSC_0494 routine at the gym. So it was with great excitement that I sat down at the La Costa Theatre, which sits above an auto shop, to see Chicago’s most recent rendition of this contemporary classic.

Overall, I can’t say I was disappointed. I think La Costa has planted the seed for an amazing production. But it hasn’t quite blossomed just yet. And if that’s not enough plant metaphors for you, I believe after a few more shows, this production has the possibility of growing into a four-star play.

Little Shop of Horrors takes place in skid row, a dilapidated, impoverished city slum. Mr. Mushnik (Peter Verdico) is the proprietor of an eponymous flower shop that, like most businesses in the neighborhood, is failing.

Mr. Mushnik employs the fragile Audrey (Ashley Bush) and the nebbish Seymour (Jonathan Hymen). Audrey dates a sadomasochistic dentist (Tom Moore) whose pastimes include riding motorcycles and domestic abuse.

Everyone’s life is pretty miserable until Seymour comes upon a strange and mysterious plant that he dubs the Audrey II (voiced by Brian-Alwyn Newland and controlled by puppeteer Paul Glickman). The plant’s mere presence creates a boon for Mr. Mushnik’s flower shop, and Seymour becomes a highly sought after celebrity.

However, Seymour harbors a terrible secret. The plant hungers, and the only thing that can satisfy its ever-growing appetite is human blood. And it demands that Seymour feeds it.

The acting is spot on. Hymen’s Seymour is the quintessential underdog nerd. He’s slouchy, he’s disheveled and he’s meek. Still, Seymour is a very passionate character, especially when it comes to matters of the heart and of ethical decisions, and Hymen transmits this with the required restraint.

Bush’s Audrey isn’t as much of a bimbo as other incarnations that I’ve seen, which is completely acceptable as Audrey isn’t stupid so much as she is incredibly insecure and self-effacing. This is a girl who honestly believes she deserves to be abused. But despite being damaged goods, Audrey is also a hopeless romantic, dreaming of one day living in a suburban home where the furniture is wrapped in plastic. Bush captures this hopefulness and hopelessness. It also doesn’t hurt that she has one of the strongest voices in the cast.

 

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I’m sure it must be very difficult to create a giant, man-eating puppet for the stage. But Glickman, who has years of experience as a puppeteer, has created a remarkable Audrey II. I was blown away by how a small independent theatre company managed to create such an amazing special effect for the stage.

There was a technical downside to the production. The sound quality throughout the play was at best adequate and at worst terrible. The balance of the vocals and the live music was completely off. Often the thump of the bass would drown out all of the singers. Even when no music played, the volume of the actors’ mics varied widely. I had hoped this would have been fixed by the second act, but, to my surprise, it was not.

Also, director Dan Sanders-Joyce didn’t do a very good job of spreading the action throughout the theater. The space is rather large, but much of the actors’ movements are relegated to a small part of the stage. This often leads to poor views for half the audience.

La Costa desperately needs to fix Little Shop of Horrorstechnical glitches. (I suppose you could say they need to nip them in the bud.) Otherwise, the company has well-crafted and entertaining production.

   
   
Rating: ★★★
 
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June 6, 2010 | 0 Comments More