Tag: James Earl Jones II

Review: Carlyle (Goodman Theatre)

James Earl Jones II in Carlyle, Goodman Theatre         
      

   
Carlyle

Written by Thomas Bradshaw
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru May 1  |  tix: $10-$40   |  more info
       
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April 14, 2016 | 1 Comment More

Review: October Sky (Marriott Theatre)

Susan Moniz and Nate Lewellyn star in Marriott Theatre's "October Sky" by Michael Mahler and Aaron Thielen, directed by Rachel Rockwell. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)       
      
October Sky 

Music/Lyrics by Michael Mahler
Book by Aaron Thielen
Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (map)
thru Oct 11 | tix: $50-$55 | more info
       
Check for half-price tickets    
    

August 31, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Secret Garden (Court Theatre)

Tori Whaples and Elizabeth Ledo star in Court Theatre's "The Secret Garden" by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon, directed by Charles Newell. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)        
      
The Secret Garden

Book and Lyrics by Marsha Norman 
Music by Lucy Simon  
Directed by Charles Newell
at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis (map)
thru June 21  |  tickets: $45-$65   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     

June 11, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: Shrek the Musical (Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

Michael Aaron Lindner as Shrek and Summer Naomi Smart as Princess Fiona in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of "Shrek The Musical", staged and choreographed by Jeff Award-winning director Rachel Rockwell. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
       
Shrek the Musical 

Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Rachel Rockwell
Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier (map)
thru Sept 1  |  tickets: $18-$25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review 
     

July 21, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Sweet Charity (Writers’ Theatre)

Tiffany Topol as Charity in Writers' Theatre's "Sweet Charity" by Neil Simon and Cy Coleman, directed by Michael Halberstam. (photo credit: Michael Brosilow)       
      
Sweet Charity 

Book by Neil Simon
Music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Directed by Michael Halberstam
Musical direction by Doug Peck
Writers’ Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe (map)
thru March 31  |  tickets: $35-$75   |  more info
       
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        Read entire review
     

February 5, 2013 | 0 Comments More

Review: Will You Stand Up? (Erasing the Distance)

Jasondra Johnson, James Earl Jones II, Maura Kidwell, Adam Poss and Craig Thompson star in Erasing the Distance's "Will You Stand Up?", directed by Jason Economus.       
      
Will You Stand Up? 

Adapted by Brenda Barrie, Pat Curtis, Brighid O’Shaughnessy and Craig Thompson
Directed by Jason Economus  
at Center on Halsted, 3656 N Halsted (map)
thru Nov 20  |  tickets: $10-$20   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

November 16, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Dreamgirls (Marriott Theatre)

Raena White as Effie, in Marriott Theatre's "Dreamgirls", directed and choreographed by Marc Robin.  (photo credit: Peter Coombs)        
       
Dreamgirls 

Written by Tom Eyen (book, lyrics) 
   and Henry Krieger (music) 
Directed and Choreographed by Marc Robin 
at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire (map)
thru Oct 28  |  tickets: $41-$49   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

September 4, 2012 | 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
at
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