Tag: Melanie Brezill

Chicago’s Best Theater of 2016

  

Miguel Cervantes stars as Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Broadway ChicagoDana Omar and Gay Glenn star in Cinderella at the Theater Potatotes, Hypocrites TheatreKaren Rodriguez stars in The Way She Spoke, Solo Celebration, Greenhouse Theater 3ETHL_ShowPageFINAL_450x665James Vincent Meredith and Bethany Jillard in Othello, Chicago Shakespeare TheatreBryce Gangel, Jessica Ervin and Charlotte Thomas in Dry Land, RivendellJulissa Contreras, Sarah Cartwright and Ada Grey in The Haven Place, Red Orchid TheatreEvan Linder and Liz Sharpe in Byhalia Mississippi, New Colony Definition TheatreBrian Parry and Aaron Kirby in The Drawer Boy, Redtwist TheatreChristian Castro and D’Wayne Taylor in Jesus Hopped A Train, Eclipse TheatreThomas Cox, Bolden. (Back) Ruiz, Sullivan, Brown. Photo by Michael Brosilow (2)Mary Beth Fisher and Harris Yulin in Long Day's Journey Into Night, Court TheatreEliza Stoughton and Sam Hubbard in A Loss of Roses, Raven TheatreBlair Brown and Alan Wilder in Mary Page Marlowe, Steppenwolf TheatreChristina Saliba with mirror from Learning Curve, Albany Park Theater ProjectThe Joffrey Ballet presents Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker, Auditorium TheatreJustin Keyes, Chris Sams, Tyrone L. Robinson, Will Skrip and Sean Blake in Smokey Joe's CafeDash Barber and Christopher Borek in Posh by Laura Wade, Steep Theatre LMSarah Goeden, Justine C. Turner and Nicole Bloomsmith in Once in a Lifetime, StrawdogSydney Charles and Julian Parker in Prowess, Jackalope TheatreIt’s the classic tale of the Sharks versus the Jets in West Side Story, one of the greatest musicals ever, playing March 16-April 24, 2016 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. For tickets and information, go to ParamountAurora.com or call (630) 896-6666. Photo credit: Liz Lauren.Brian Quijada in Where Do We Sit On the Bus, Teatro Vista Chicago 2Amy Stricker, Britain Gebhardt, Max DeTogne, Lizzie Schwarzrock, Kelly Baskin, Caitlin JacksonMonica Raymund stars in Thaddeus and Slocum, Lookingglass TheatreBrenda Barrie, James Doherty. Michael E Martin, Johnny Arena and Rudy Galvan in United Flight 232

     

See our picks below the fold

     
January 3, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Top 10 Chicago Productions of 2016

 

Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda at PrivateBank Theatre, Broadway in Chicago 3Brenda Barrie, James Doherty. Michael E Martin, Johnny Arena and Rudy Galvan in United Flight 232The Joffrey Ballet presents Christopher Wheeldon’s The Nutcracker, Auditorium Theatre 27Jessica Ervin and Bryce Gangel in Dry Land, Rivendell TheatreMichael Holding by Laura Wade in Posh, Steep Theatre GGMaria Velazquez in Library from Learning Curve, Albany Park Theater ProjectThomas Cox, Bolden. (Back) Ruiz, Sullivan, Brown. Photo by Michael Brosilow (2)Cecelia Wingate and Liz Sharpe in Byhalia Mississippi, New Colony Definition TheatreSydney Charles and Julian Parker in Prowess, Jackalope Theatre (Joel Maisonet)Amy Stricker, Britain Gebhardt, Max DeTogne, Lizzie Schwarzrock, Kelly Baskin, Caitlin Jackson

Another year, another 12 months of great theater! 2016 blessed the Windy City with inspired new works and riveting revivals from a wide range of companies – from the largest equity houses and dance companies to the smallest of Chicago’s storefronts. Taking into account the hundreds of productions that we reviewed this past year, here are our picks, in alphabetical order, for the best 10 productions of 2016. Bravo to all!!  

See our picks below the fold

     
January 2, 2017 | 0 Comments More

Review: Man in the Ring (Court Theatre)

Thomas Cox, Bolden. (Back) Ruiz, Sullivan, Brown. Photo by Michael Brosilow (2)           
      
  

Man in the Ring 

Written by Michael Cristofer
Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis (map)
thru Oct 16  |  tix: $45-$65  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

October 6, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Chicago’s Best Theater of 2015

 

Carmen Molina, Claudia DiBiccari, Mykele Callicutt, Paula Ramirez, Preston Tate Jr., Deanna Reed-Foster and James McGuire in Cold Basement Dramatics' "Heat Wave".Scott Danielson, Garrett Lutz and George Toles star in Kokandy Productions' "The Full Monty".Laura Osnes as and Steven Pasquale star in Lyric Opera's "Carousel" by Rodgers and Hammerstein.John Mahoney and Audrey Francis in Steppenwolf Theatre's "The Herd".Sarah Lynn Robinson, Anthony Whitaker and Greg Zawada in Porchlight's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Form" by Steven Sondheim. Monica West, Kasey Foster and Emma Cadd in Lookingglass Theatre's "Moby Dick".Mariann Mayberry and Brittany Uomoleale star in Steppenwolf Theatre's "Grand Concourse".Steve Haggard and Karen Janes Woditsch star in Writers Theatre's "Doubt: A Parable".Charli Williams , Anna Dauzvardis, Katrina D.  Richard, Brandon Greenhouse, and Kevin Patterson star in Raven Theatre's "Direct from Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys".Bernard White and Nisi Sturgis in Goodman Theatre's "Disgraced".Rafael Davila and Bradley Smoak star in Lyric Opera of Chicago's "Bel Canto".Drury Lane Oakbrook presents "Billy Elliot: The Musical," music by Elton John.  Becca Savoy, Michael McKeough and Sandy Elias star in Griffin Theatre's "Pocatello".Larry Yando and Eva Louise Balistreiri star in Chicago Shakespeare's "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare.Matthew Sherbach and Armand Fields star in Northlight Theatre's "Charm".Brendan Connelly, Chris Schroeder and Brenda Scott Wlazlo star in Red Theater and Oracle Productions' "R + J: The Vineyard".Melanie Brezill and Patrick Budde star in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane." Colte Julian as Curly and Allison Sill as Laurey in Paramount Theatre's "Oklahoma!". Mike Nussbaum stars in TimeLine Theatre's "The Price" by Arthur Miller. Eunice Woods stars in American Theater Company's "The Project(s)" by PJ Paparelli and Joshua Jaeger.Luce Metrius and Ashley Neil star in A Red Orchid Theatre's "Red Handed Otter." Kelsey Brennan and Greg Matthew Anderson star in Remy Bumppo's "Travesties" by Tom Stoppard.Johanna McKenzie Miller and Alex Goodrich star in Northlight Theatre's "Shining Lives," directed by Jessica Thebus.Brian Parry and Jacqueline Grandt star in Redtwist Theatre's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" by Edward Albee.Eileen Niccolai and Daniela Colucci star in The Shattered Globe's "The Rose Tattoo" by Tennessee Williams. , Shattered Globe Theatre, Brosilow

In a theater community as diverse and talented as Chicago’s, every aspect and genre of stage productions can be found throughout the city on a given week.  2015 was no exception to this fact, as one can see from our reviewers’ picks of the year’s greatest and most memorable works.

See our picks below the fold

December 31, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Chicago Children’s Theatre)

Melanie Brezill stars in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane," adapted by Dwayne Hartford from book by Kate DiCamillo, and directed by Stuart Carden. (Photo credit: Charles Osgood)         
      
The Miraculous Journey
   of Edward Tulane
 

Adapted by Dwayne Hartford
  from book by Kate DiCamillo 
Ruth Page Arts Center, 1016 N. Dearborn (map)
thru Nov 15 |  tix: $10-$39 | more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
    

November 5, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Review: A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre)

Larry Yando and Matthew Abraham star in Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, directed by Steve Scott. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
       
A Christmas Carol 

Written by Charles Dickens
Adapted by Tom Creamer
Directed by Steve Scott  
at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru Dec 29  |  tickets: $25-$82   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

November 29, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Crowns (Goodman Theatre)

Jasondra Johnson (Velma) demonstrates “hattitude” in Regina Taylor’s 10th anniversary production of Crowns at Goodman Theatre. (photo credit: Liz Lauren)        
       
Crowns 

Written and Directed by Regina Taylor 
Adapted from book by Michael Cunningham
       and Craig Marberry
at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
thru Aug 12  |  tickets: $31-78   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets  
         
        Read entire review
     

July 10, 2012 | 1 Comment More

Review: Aida (Drury Lane Theatre)

  
  

A solid production of flawed Elton John/Tim Rice musical

  
  

Jared Zirilli and Stephanie Umoh star in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical AIDA at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace. Photo by Brett Beiner.

  
Drury Lane Theatre presents
   
Aida
  
Music by Elton John, Lyrics by Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton, with R. Falls and D. H. Hwang
Directed and Choreographed by Jim Corti
at Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace (map)
through May 29  |  tickets: $35-$46  |  more info

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

When Egyptian captain Radames (Jared Zirilli) captures the beautiful Nubian princess Aida (Stephanie Umoh), the two fall in love despite the war between their countries, and are forced to choose between their political duties and their affections for each other. Elton John and Tim Rice adapt Verdi’s classic opera Aida through the lens of a late ‘90s Disney animated feature, candy-coating the tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers with family-friendly pop-rock that occasionally detracts from the emotional life of the story. Yet despite the musical’s problems, Jim Corti directs a sharp production with a cast of strong singers and dancers that perform the material cleanly, but could use some more passion. Using the influence of ancient Egyptian art, Corti creates images on stage through the actors posing and positioning in profile, like this painting:

actient Egyptian wall painting

While it’s a nice effect, it’s also representative of the production’s largest problem: stiffness that prevents the beauty of the music from truly taking off. The actors perform the music with precision, but there are times when it feels like they’re holding back, which could partly be because of the imbalanced musical material.

The ballads have a similar emotional resonance as John/Rice’s Lion King work, but whereas that musical has a unifying musical sound, Aida’s score essentially becomes a musical journey through the different stages of Elton John’s musical career. Tim Rice pushes the plot with his lyrics, but there are times when John’s score seems mismatched with the action on stage, mostly during the first act. The show’s fist number is sung by Amneris (Erin Mosher), the daughter of the Pharoah AIDA--Grant Thomas, Monique Haley, Stephanie Umoh, Jared Zirilli(Nicholas Foster) and Radames’ arranged bride, and Mosher’s powerful voice is pitch-perfect, with her dignified presence befitting the character’s initial introduction as the story’s narrator. Then the show transitions into the Rent-lite “Fortune Favors The Brave” as Ramades belts over inspirational power chords while Nubian women are pillaged in the background. It’s great music for a lease-burning, but not so much for an act of war. It gets worse when Radames’ father Zoser (Darren Matthias) reveals his plot to usurp the Pharoah’s throne in “Another Pyramid,” a groan-inducing reggae meets Tumbleweed Connection number that turns into a goofy dance fight. Thankfully, that’s the worst number in the show and happens early, but it’s also not the best way to start a musical.

As the musical progresses, it becomes clear that Elton John’s music shows the differences between Egypt in Nubia through the styling of their songs. Egyptians have the classic rock ‘n roll of John’s early years, while the Nubians utilize the gospel-tribal fusion of The Lion King, but there’s still a strong disconnect between numbers. “My Strongest Suit,” where Amneris does her best Tina Turner impression, and “The Gods Love Nubia,” a stirring tribute by a downtrodden Nubian people – they don’t sound like they belong in the same show. This is mostly a problem in the first act, and as the two groups begin to combine in act two, the music gains a stronger focus.

     
Stephanie Umoh and Jared Zirilli star in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical AIDA at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace. Photo credit: Brett Beiner. L to R-- Jarrett Kelly, Grant Thomas, Branden Springman, Jaquez Sims, Peter Vandivier, Michael Glazer, Todd Rhoades, and Stephane Duret star in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical AIDA, at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace. Photo credit: Brett Beiner.
Jarrett Kelly, Peter Vandivier, Brandon Springman, Darren Matthias, Michael Glazer and Todd Rhoades in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical AIDA at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace. Photo credit: Brett Beiner. Erin Mosher in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical AIDA at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace. Photo credit: Brett Beiner.

The two female leads both showcase stunning vocals, but while their singing is wonderfully expressive, they suffer from that aforementioned stiffness, particularly Umoh in the title role. Aida is a free spirit that has always felt confined, and she is given the opportunity to escape through song, yet Umoh is locked in place when she sings. She relies on her voice to do the heavy lifting, and despite being a powerful instrument, the image she portrays physically doesn’t match up. This prevents the chemistry between Ramades and Aida from really exploding, as Zarilli is forced to give more without ever getting much in return. The cast proves that they’re skilled performers, but there’s a lack of freedom in their technique that translates as restraint, a dangerous flaw for a show like Aida that relies on spectacle.

Despite the production’s flaws, fans of Aida will find much to love about Drury Lane’s production. The music is well performed, with crisp staging and choreography from Corti, who incorporates tribal dance into the standard Broadway footwork. Like a lost Disney cartoon put on stage, Aida lacks the gravitas of the original opera, but the crowd-pleasing score turns the tragic story into a family-friendly rock musical sure to please fans of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Schwartz.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  
'Aida' group in white in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical AIDA at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace. Photo credit: Brett Beiner. Stephanie Umoh and Jared Zirilli star in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical AIDA at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace. Photo credit: Brett Beiner.
James Earl Jones II stars in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical AIDA at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace. Photo credit: Brett Beiner. Monique Haley, Erin Mosher and Natalie Williams in a scene from Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical AIDA at Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace. Photo credit: Brett Beiner.

All photos by Brett Beiner

     
     
March 26, 2011 | 0 Comments More