Tag: Jim Steinmeyer

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 Magic Play (Goodman Theatre)

The Magic Play review, Goodman Theatre           
      
  

The Magic Play

Written by Andrew Hinderaker
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru Nov 20  |  tix: $10-$40  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

November 8, 2016 | 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

Last chance to see new musical "Not Wanted on the Voyage"

 

Not Wanted on the Voyage

…an epic new musical.

 

Not Wanted on the Voyage 01 

Not Wanted on the Voyage is a provocative new musical about an ordinary family faced with extraordinary circumstances.  Secrets lie just beneath the surface in this darkly funny, modern re-imagining of the Great Flood – the first time the world ended.  Broadway writers Neil Bartram and Brian Hill have teamed up with award-winning director Amanda Dehnert to create an epic production, complete with rain, fire, magic and a soaring, eclectic score.  Here’s just a taste:

Produced by the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University’s Ethel M. Barber Theatre, 30 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston (map)

 

 

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The production needs to invent a fantastical, timeless world in which this modern story can take place,” says award-winning director, Amanda Dehnert.  “Illusion and spectacle create moments of surprise and connection for the audience, and they allow us to realize the more epic moments of the family’s voyage in thrilling, visually innovative ways. 

Illusion consultants Jim Steinmeyer and Jeff Grow advised on the design of magic elements performed by actor Andrew Howard who plays family patriarch and self-proclaimed amateur magician, Dr. Noyes.  Steinmeyer, the acclaimed illusion designer who developed the concept behind David Copperfield’s landmark illusion in which he made the Statue of Liberty disappear, has long-advised Dehnert on the use of magic in her theatrical productions.  New York-based magician Jeff Grow, traveled to Chicago to teach Howard how to perform an elaborate magic act within the show. 

Working with Jeff was thrilling,” says Howard, a recently graduated senior at Northwestern.  “The technical skill that goes into even the simplest tricks was surprising, exciting and incredibly challenging.  But now I can produce a light bulb out of thin air, and you can bet I’ll be using that at parties. 

The illusion design elements combine with a revolving platform stage amidst projections, soaring vocals, and stunning backdrops. The production makes use of onstage rain and fire, and Eugene Lee’s barn wood set sits in a moat of water.   

The production is epic” says AMTP producing director, Heather Schmucker.  “We make it rain in the theatre, we burn down a barn, and we have a magic show within the show. Not to mention the age-old theatre saying, ‘Never work with animals or children.’ We’ve got both.” 

 

 

     
       
August 4, 2010 | 0 Comments More