Thursday, July 31, 2008
Bailiwick's Repertory's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (7/31/08) was a mixed bag. Created (book, music, lyrics) by the Styxx's Dennis DeYoung, this pop musical contains some very effective musical sequences, performed with gusto by a totally committed cast. In particular, Dana Tratta, a local musical actress whose work I have not been a fan of in the past, shone as the seductive gypsy, Esmerelda. However, the production was hampered by an amateurish book and Bailiwick's typically production values.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Steppenwolf Theatre's First Look Repertory is in full swing, and I caught Perfect Mendacity (7/30/08) by Jason Wells, an "ethics" play. Although it's being robustly performed and most of the dialogue is engaging, I have a feeling some of the dynamics between characters have yet to be fully calibrated.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Chicago Shakespeare Theater won this year's Tony Award for best regional theater because of programming like this summer's "Funk It Up About Nothin'" (7/16/08), the hip-hop / rap adaptation of the Bard's "Much Ado About Nothing". It's firecracker production, which I really appreciated for its successful attempt at stretch the boundaries of theater. It's intensely performed by its young cast, who were clearly having a ball up there ... as was the audience.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Circle Theatre in Oak Park / Forest Park put on an enjoyable production of Noel Coward's "Hay Fever" (7/12/08). However, this production could not erase the memory of the sensational production of the same play by the Court Theater a few seasons back. As an aside, the Circle needs to update seats / sightlines in its auditorium; this theater-going experience was was uncommonly uncomfortable.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Raven Theater presented a solid production of Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" (7/11/08). Fun summer fare, but lots of competition out there!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Victory Gardens' put on James Sherman's new play "Relatively Close" (7/10/08) in the historic Biograph Theater (which VG beautifully converted into a live theater venue). The mostly winning play was full of funny moments and some really distinguished performances. However, at the moment, the play feels more like a first draft of something truly special.
"Ain't Misbehavin'" (7/10/08), the Tony-winning revue of Fats Waller songs, on the larger Albert stage of the Goodman Theatre complex was spunkily revived. Special mention to E. Faye Butler, in the role that made Nell Carter a star, for her vocally gutsy performance.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Cirque du Soleil's "Kooza" (7/9/08) has taken up summer residence in the United Center's parking lot. This show is trademark Cirque, with more emphasis on the circus acts, which was refreshing. Also, I loved the jammin' live band, a nice change from the ethereal Euro-garble typically associated with Cirque shows.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
On Steppenwolf Theatre's mainstage, I saw Tracy Letts' followup to his Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play, "August: Osage County", "Superior Donuts" (7/5/08), which is set in Chicago's gentrifying, but still-sketchy, Uptown neighborhood. Compared to the monumental "August", "Donuts" is a minor work, but one that is entertaining (and even moving) and winningly performed.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Upon my return to Chicago, I saw an uneven production of Frank Wildhorn's "Jekyll and Hyde" (7/3/08) (I had seen the original Broadway production twice) put on by Boho Theatre Ensemble at the Theater Building. The cast was fully committed, but was a bit too young and vocally unstable for the material.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Having been wowed by "Mystere", nothing could have prepared me for the dark magic and poetic spectacle of "O" (7/2/08) at the Bellagio (where I stayed), another Cirque du Soleil production. Although less playful than "Mystere", "O" featured the same trademark seamlessness of the previous show. What this show had though was a world totally and meticulously realized, complete with magnetic and memorable cast of renegades ... and a 1.5 million gallon pool as a stage / playground!
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
The next Vegas extravaganza was Cirque du Soleil's "Mystere" (7/1/08) at the Treasure Island. I was amazed at how traditional circus acts were seamlessly incorporated into a (almost) wordless world saturated with surreal yet playful images. A highlight were the shenanigans of the baby-clown, one of the funniest performances I've seen all year ... in, can you believe it, a Cirque show!