Saturday, May 5, 2012

tick,tick...BOOM! at Porchlight Theater



 


In this particular moment, we are here alive and feeling and let us make the most of this moment, for we do not know what the future holds. Those words are not uttered by any character in Jonathan Larson's “tick, tick...BOOM!” that opened at Stage 773 last night and concludes Porchlight Music Theatre 2011 – 2012 season but it is the obvious theme that is present though out the show and in his other piece the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning rock musical RENT. It's certainly the theme of Jonathan Larson's short but well documented life which serves as the the basis for the one man show that was re-shaped by Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright David Auburn and presented off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theater in 2001.

Tick, Tick....BOOM! Tells the story of Jon an aspiring composer, who lives in New York City in 1990 and close to is 30th birthday is frustrated at where his career in musical theater is and more importantly where is life is. Jon is torn worried that he hasn't contributed anything of note while his best friend Michael has given up his passion for acting for a successful career in Marketing and his girlfriend Susan wants to leave the stress of the city and settle down for a simpler future.

 

Jonathan Larson writes passionate anthemic music that can leave you at the moment exhilarated and emotionally devastated such as he is has with Johnny Can't Decide, Real Life, See Her Smile, Come to Your Senses, Why, and Louder Than Words. All songs that rise above the story and can affect the listener on a deeply personal level the only problem is that they like is general theme are all very much of the moment and not something that are easily relateable or memorable to everyone.

Which is not to say that there is not an audience for these songs or that this is not memorably powerful music in story that everyone who is of a certain younger lost generation can relate to. It is and it is stuff that if you are inclined to see this point of view can haunt you and stay with you for quite a while. However for the other half of the audience who is probably more inclined to be on the side of his best friend Michael might leave unmoved and left out, the ones who realize how important today is but still can't ignore the incoming future and if nothing us make sure they are prepared for it. Those who have a harder time just letting go and living life for today without fear or consequence for the future would have a completely realistic yet different viewpoint on the show and might not succumb to the raw emotion this music much like rock music provides.


However all of this is built into the piece itself and to a larger degree Jonathan Larson's work in general, it is in no reflection attributed to Porchlight's stellar production directed and choreographed by Adam Pelty who directs his small cast to convey all the emotional confusion with impending adulthood while never choreographing a step that doesn't look or feel unnatural. 

In in the exhausting leading role Adrian Aguilar projects so much honesty and isolation not too mention while belting the vocally difficult role like its nothing. At the beginning I was worried that the band was a little excited and would drown him out but by the finale “Why” he soared at the right moments and had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand. As his friend Michael Bear Bellinger displayed some lovely towns in the intensely dramatic “Real Life” is able to show that other side of the piece. The friend who has given up on fantasies and wants to prepare for the reality of the future in order to forget about the harsher realities of today. As his girlfriend Susan and the only female in the piece Jenny Guse reminding me of another Chicago favorite Roberta Duchak (long absent from the Chicago stages but currently music directing Writers Theater's upcoming production of “A Little Night Music”) doesn't sacrifice the realistic needs of the character for wanting something different in life even at the expense of what the leading man wants. She sells her two solo's Green Dress and “Come to Your Senses,” which as a personal note this reviewer wishes would have been included as a character song instead of song within the show as to maximize the full potential of it being an emotional knockout piece.

Jonathan Larson wanted to write rock music for the theater and without a doubt he has succeeded. He has written music that speaks to a particular generation, a particular type of person, and a particular time in someone's life when that person can forget regret and believe that there is no day but today however with that said just like any really good rock music out there his music depending on their perspectives can divide an audience just as much as it can bring them together.

Porchlight Music Theatre presents Jonathan Larson's tick, tick....BOOM!, directed by Adam Pelty with music direction by Diana Lawrence, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., April 28 – June 10. The performance schedule is Fridays at 7:30 pm., Saturdays at 8 pm. And Sundays at 2 pm. There is an additional Friday June 1 performance at 10 pm. Single tickets are $38 with group and student discounts available. All tickets are available at stage773.com, porchlightmusictheatre.org or by phone 773.327.5252.

Friday, April 20, 2012

HAIRSPRAY at Drury Lane Theatre


You can't stop the beat or as director Tammy Mader has proven in Drury Lane Theatre's infectiously delightful production of the Tony Award-winning “HAIRSPRAY” that opened tonight and is running through June 17th nor would you ever even want to.
Based on the 1988 John Walters cult classic film, that starred a young Ricki Lake and was the final film for Walter's muse Divine, which was then turned into a hugely successful 2007 movie musical that starred John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer . HAIRSPRAY is the exuberant story of big-hearted, pleasantly plump teen Tracy Turnblad played with charm and heart by the adorably big voiced Lillian Castillo. Tracy will stop at nothing to fulfill her lifelong dream of appearing on the popular Corny Collins Show (Rod Thomas whose voice is as big as his smile) and win the heart of the coolest kid in town Link Larkin played by Erick Altemus who is all teen idol mixed and is able to make his character land. As Tracy's parents one wishes that Saturday Night Live cast member Tim Kazurinsky had more charm and possessed additional chemistry with Jeff Award winning Michael Linder who is comedic gold as Edna Turnblad.


In additional roles as Penny Pingleton Rebecca Pink steals every moment she is on stage and possesses one of the largest voices I've heard in the role and Holly Lyn Laurent as Amber nails the ruthlessness of the role without sacrificing any of the camp. Speaking of being ruthless as the villain of the piece one misses the haughty grandeur that Hollis Resnik brought to the role in the Marriott Linolnshire production a few years back but one can't ignore Keely Vasquez's star quality and sensational voice.

Sadly I'd say the one disappoint in this sensational cast is Tony Award Nominee Felicia Fields as Motormouth Maybelle. Ms. Fields a Tony Award nominee for Outstanding Featured Actress for her role in The Color Purple on Broadway seemed to be missing the vocal heft for the role and the drama that could have made her big solo “I Know Where I've Been.” I've witnessed Ms. Fields perform ever since I first caught her at a benefit for Dale Benson at the now defunct Candlelight Dinner Playhouse where she stopped the show with a rendition of Family from “Dreamgirls.” The woman has vocal flourishes to spare and can sell a performance like its no ones business which she proved in an impromptu bit right before the second act finale so maybe it was just an off night for her.

It's amazing that a show such as HAIRSPRAY that is currently so popular and probably in the DVD players of so many kids today plays so fresh and doesn't miss any of the well orchestrated laughs that are built into the piece, from the opening wake-up scene all the way to Edna's entrance at the end. This is all due to the talents of director and choreography Tammy Mader who makes everything work so well and pop on stage. She's ably assisted by assistant choreographer Ariane Dolan and musical director Malcolm Ruhl who taken this big comedic show and made it work without missing a beat.

Another reason the show works so well is the music of Marc Shaiman, Lyrics by Scott Wittman that evokes the music of the period that still advances the plot and doesn't feel boxed into the wonderful book by Mark O'Donnell and Marc Shaiman that never fails to find a laugh without sacrificing the heart and charm of the show.
That seems to be the strength that is built into the piece and makes it so endearing that from the opening refrains of the innocence of “Good Morning Baltimore” to the driving anthem “You Can't Stop the Beat.” The best way to think about this is show is to look at Ms. Castillo's Tracy Turnblad who is probably one of the most endearing characters in musical theater. Ms. Castillo a modern day zaftig Nellie Forbush who is a girl that no matter what life throws her way is just going to stand up tall, look you up in the eye, and shake the meanest tail feather that you've ever seen and she will probably thank you for allowing her to do it.

HAIRSPRAY is running at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane through June 17, 2012.  The performance schedule is as follows:  Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. ($35), Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. ($35) and 8 p.m. ($40), Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ($45), Saturdays at 5 p.m. ($45) and 8:30 p.m. ($46) and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. ($45) and 6 p.m. ($40).  Lunch and dinner theater packages range from $49.75 tp $68 depending on the day of the week.  Group rates for Student tickets start as low as $20 and Senior Citizen tickets start as low as $30 for matinees and $44.75 for a matinee lucheon package.  For reservations, call the Drury Lane Theatre box office at 630.530.0111. call TicketMaster at 800.745.3000. or visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com.
     

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Pirates of Penzance at Marriott Lincolnshire


In a winningly wonderful revival of their 2000 production of Gilbert & Sullivan's “The Pirates of Penzance” Marriott Lincolnshire Theater once again proves that not only are they at the top of their game when it comes to top of the line musical comedy's but also in allowing Chicago actors the chance to give memorable performances that will stay with you for years to come.


THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE follows the story of young Frederic who, as a child, is mistakenly apprenticed to a band of tenderhearted, ophaned pirates.  Upon completion of his apprenticeship to the pirates on his 21st birthday, Frederic is released from his servitude.  Soon after, he meets the fair maiden Mabel, daughter of Major-General Stanley.  The two fall instantly in love; but as always, obstacles threaten to cause trouble for everyone.  In the Marriott's production that takes a show that was originally done in 1879 and makes it work on so many levels in a testament to all in involved inthis production.        

Let's start off with the joys to be had by the creative team with the production that's running though June 13th and directed with great comedic aplomb by Multi-Jeff Award winning director Dominic Missimi who you never for one second feel like is going to lose the reins of this production. This is a show with a huge cast, lots of music, lots of scene work, and could easily fall apart with a less then skilled director and Mr. Missimi leaves no doubt that he could handle this in his sleep and proves it though out the entire production. He is assisted by the gorgeous costumes of his wife Nancy Missimi and the set design by Thomas M. Ryan who keep everything bright and festival and a pleasure to look at. The musical direction by Ryan T. Nelson, orchestrations by David Siegel with musical supervisor Patti Garwood makes the difficult Gilbert and Sullivan music seem like an everyday stroll in the park. Mr. Gilbert and Mr. Sullivan's work when supported by six of these masters when teamed up make this production seem so effortless that you would think that anyone could stage “The Pirates of Penzance” and get away with it. If you throw in the bouncy syncopated movements created by Matt Raftery then you have the icing of musical comedy heaven.


The other joys in this terrific production is the sensational cast that is able to get the not to be taken seriously but smartly does not fall into the over the top type of acting that comes so easily with this type of show. Throw in some heavenly singing and you have a cast almost as strong as the production team that is assembled for this production.
All of that said though In the starry role of The Pirate King Kevin Early could be a little bit more over the top as this along with a few other roles cries out for some ham and Omar Lopez-Cepero as Frederick could have more of a presence the lovely Patricia Noonan is smart enough to play up the ingenue role without making Mabel an idiot and inflects her role with some stunning vocal trills. As the Sergeant Andrew Lupp expertly handles all the tricky choreography while not losing any of the comedic glee his character has while even dealing with a faulty mic in his solo in the second act. In smaller roles Jeff Max, Susan Moniz, and Kelly Ann-Clark delight with small but quite noticeable touches their roles.

In one of the show's two showiest roles Chicago stage legend Alene Robertson as poor suffering nurse maid Ruth lands everyone one of her lines in her one of a kind dead pan delivery even though one wishes she was a little bit more believable in the role and up to the vocal task. All of this leads up to the performance that is without a doubt going to be picking up several awards this season. Even though he comes in a little bit later in the first act Ross Lehman as the Modern Major General walks off with the show to the point that you might want to rename it “The Model of a Modern Major General” even to the point that I was quite shocked he didn't receive the final bow at the end of the show. This is a performance that I rank up there with some of my greatest Chicagoland stage performances. To say that Mr. Lehman does everything perfect would even still be an understatement as he has the audience and quite clearly the actors eating out of the palm of his hand and can make you howl from just a skip or a turn.


It's quite impressive for a show that's been around so long could still come across as fresh and not as creaky as one might expect to not only make the audience laugh with so much glee and leave with a smile on theirs faces that credit is not only due to the creators of the show but to the creators of this particular production and to top it off Mr. Lehman along with his extremely witty improvisational riff during his solo makes this a must see for anyone.  
 

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE is presented at The Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL opened August 13th and is running though June 10th.  The performance schedule is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Ticket Prices range from $41 to $49, plus tax and handling fees.  Seniors and students recieve $5.00 off a full price theatre ticket on Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m.., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings a limited number of Dinner and Theatre tickets are available for $55.00 per person plus handling fees.  Dinner is at Kings Wharf Restaurant or the Fairfield Inn (based on dining availability).  Free parking is available at all performances.  To reserve tickets with a major credit card. call the Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or www.Ticketmaster.com.  Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for more information.       

Friday, April 13, 2012

MOTHERHOOD THE MUSICAL at the Royal George


I usually have a saying that goes someday's there is God and then there's Oprah and then on others there is Oprah and then there is God. In “MOTHERHOOD the Musical” the saying should go more like there's Mom and then there's God or possibly Oprah, whatever is bigger at that moment but nothing is bigger then Mom.

MOTHERHOOD the musical which opened at the Royal George Theater last night and runs though June 17th is a bouncy, breezy, crowd pleasing type of show that strikes an emotional chord with many in the audience (mostly women) and should enjoy a healthy run while in town.

The show written by author and songwriter Sue Fabisch, tells the story of Amy played with a tad bit of perkiness from Madeline Duff-Feins who is thrown a surprise baby show by her neighbors and friends Barb, an over-worked stressed out mother of five Brooke, a lawyer who works too much and barely sees her kids and Tasha, a single mom struggling to balance work, family and a divorce. Each of these three mothers spend the 20-song cycle informing Amy of both the highs and lows of motherhood.

The show in structure, style, and almost musically borrows a lot from other shows in similar theme as I saw a lot of Dan Goggin's “Nunsense” in this particular show down to the gospel number at the end. However the old saying should stil apply “If it ain't broke, don't fix it.”



The cast works in overtime to sell each of their vaudeville style numbers with everything they've got and then some. As Barb or Sister Robert Anne, Jennifer Chada has some of the crudest material of the three but delivers it like its Andrew Lloyd Webber and with a voice to match that style of music. Melody Betts as Sister Hubert has a personality almost as big as her voice and delivers her numbers like this was the last performance she was ever going to give. I hope the Marriott is thinking about her as Effie for there upcoming production of “Dreamgirls” because she can sing the stuffing out of anything. As Brooke, the mother with the least to do or otherwise known as Sister Mary Leo, Kimberly Vanbiesbrouck has some great dance steps and stops the show with her performance of the song “Costco Queen.”

The moves along quickly though at 20 songs after a while all the songs seem to sound the same and the show could use with some editing however such crowd favorites such as Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Minivan, I'm Danny's Mom (sung beautifully by Jennifer Chada, however no where in the rest including when she names each of her children does she mention Danny again), Not Gonna Take it Anymore, and The Kids Are Finally Asleep had the audience eating out of the palm of cast and creators hands.

However all that said as I looked around and judging by expressions on a lot of the women's faces I could tell that this was a show that most in the audience got due to the fact that they could see a lot of themselves up on stage and for an audience life experience can be as strong a bond as motherhood.

MOTHERHOOD THE MUSICAL is playing at the Royal George Theater though June 17rd. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays t 7:30 pm., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. And Sundays 5:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com by calling 800.982.2787 or at the Royal George Theatre box office, 1641 North Halsted Street. For additional ticket information, visit www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.

JERSEY BOYS at The Bank of America Theatre


Jersey Boys

At the end of the show when the full company joins together and sings “Who Loves You?” its quite clear by the audiences reaction that question does not need to be asked.

After making its return to Chicago after a triumphant run in Chicago that broke box office records at the Bank of America Theatre and played from 2007 to 2010 “JERSEY BOYS” which opened last night at the Bank of America Theatre will play for nine weeks though June 3rd.

JERSEY BOYS is the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons like its predecessor “Dreamgirls” shows the backstage life of a group from the humble beginnings to their super star reunion complete with all the backstage fighting’s, betrayals and personal demons. Where as “Dreamgirls” told a fictional tale of a girl group JERSEY BOYS is the story of Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito, and Nick Massi set to the music of that era. The show contains such classics as Earth Angel, Cry for Me, Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like a Man, Oh, What a Night, Stay, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You, Woking My Way Back to You, and Who Loves You? songs that that are embedded in the ears and hearts of almost everyone out there.

The show's book by Rick Elice moves as fast an furious as those classic songs do and with direction by two-time Tony Award winner Des McAnuff they are able to fit an entire life of these men plus everyone they seem to have ever met into their lives in under two hours which is surprising that the finale moments involving a personal tragedy seems so rushed though other then that the show is a knockout and definitely a crowd-pleaser from top to bottom.

The excellent cast also work very hard to make these fully realized sympathetic characters when they could have easily been caricatures that sing just some classic songs, with each of the Boys has his moment to shine during the proceedings. Joseph Leo Bwarie displays an impressive range that evokes Franki Valli's range and tone and while having the least of the charismatic roles still lands with his portrayal. As the groups founder Tonmy DeVito, John Gardiner takes the standard tough guy role and is able to build an impressive arc while Michael Lomenda's Nick Massi makes you feel for the Ringo of the group even though there is a lot of mystery towards him. As the man who provided them with so many great songs Bob Gaudio Preston Truman Boyd projects a sincerity and honesty with his acting that matches his youthful appearance.

The resent of the large ensemble works overtime to make their characters memorable and not just scenery that rushes past the stage with standouts being Jonathan Hadley, Karla Tremel, and Joseph Leo Bwarie.

At one point in the show Nick Massey speaks that their fans weren't like the Beatles fans were that there music appealed to the everyman and with this show and this production it's quite clear why that is as you walk into the show humming the music and walk out of it singing the lyrics.

JERSEY BOYS is playing at the Bank of America Theatre though June 3rd tickets are on-sale now and start as low as $7. Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnit), the Broadway in Chicago Ticket Kiosk at Water Tower Place (845 N. Michigan Ave.), the Broadway in Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations (including Hot Tix and select Carsons Pirie Scott, Coconuts and fye Stores), and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

For more information on JERSEY BOYS, go to www.BroadwayInChicago.com or www.JerseyBoysTour.com.

Friday, March 16, 2012

PREPARE TO ROCK THE MAGNIFICENT MILE THIS SUMMER


CHICAGO (March 6, 2012) Broadway In Chicago is thrilled to announce that the five-time Tony Award® nominated musical ROCK OF AGES is returning to Chicago this summer by popular demand, June 5- August 5, 2012, for a highly entertaining, intimate, rock concert experience at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 East Chestnut). Individual tickets for ROCK OF AGES go on-sale Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 10 a.m.
"This is certain to be a high-energy magical experience for all those who attend. Returning to its roots, this will be the first time since it was conceived that ROCK OF AGES will play an intimate venue where the audience will feel like they are part of the hair band party," says Eileen LaCario, Vice President of Broadway In Chicago.
ROCK OF AGES is a worldwide phenomenon with smash hit productions in Australia, London, South Korea and still rockin' on Broadway, featuring 28 classic rock tunes including“Don't Stop Believin'”, “We Built This City”,“The Final Countdown”, “Wanted Dead or Alive”,“Here I Go Again”, “Harden My Heart”, “Can't Fight this Feeling”, “Renegade” and “I Want To Know What Love Is.” And now it will sit down at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago for nine weeks this summer.

In 1987 on the Sunset Strip, a small-town girl met a big-city dreamer – and in L.A.’s most legendary rock club, they fell in love to the greatest songs of the ‘80’s. It’s ROCK OF AGES, a hilarious, feel-good love story told through the hit songs of iconic rockers Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Pat Benatar, Whitesnake, and many more. This five-time Tony nominated musical, with a star studded motion picture in the works, is rockin' its way across the USA. Don't miss this awesomely good time about dreaming big, playing loud and partying on!
Individual tickets for ROCK OF AGES go on-sale Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 10 a.m. and tickets range from $70 - $80. A select number of premium seats are also available for all performances. Tickets are available now for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710.
For more information on ROCK OF AGES visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com or www.rockofagesontour.com.

RIVERDANCE at the Oriental Theatre


Back in 1994 when RIVERDANCE was first performed during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest who would have ever thought that it would grow into such a world wide phenomem that along with a tour that doesn't ever seem to die includes recordings, and PBS specials.

The recent U.S. tour that opened March 13th at the Oriental Theatre and is playing for only eight performances here is being billed as the a goodbye to Chicago. Which makes one think will they never be allowed to perform here again? If anyone is caught Irish jig dancing or singing an Irish ditty if they would be arrested and thrown out of the city. Judging by the huge turnout and thunderous applause that simply will not do for the proud Irish Chicagoan's who flocked to see this production.

And flocked is the right word for a show that has played over 10, 000 performances, been seen love by over 22 million people in over 350 venues world wide, travelled 600, miles, played on television to over 2 billion people, sold over 3 million copies if a Grammy winning CD and sold over 10 million videos. Those are stats that even Rent and Wicked can't match.


The show makes a strong case for the amount of Irish influences in flamenco dancing as performed in
two sizzling solo's by Marita Martinez-Rey and with a show stopping tap routine from DeWitt Flemming Jr. and Michael E. Wood who besides stealing their scene from principle dancers James Greenan, Padraic Moyles, and Jason O'Neill had the audience eating out of the palm of their hands.

So much has been said about the dancing, the performers that attention must also be paid to the impressive 5 piece on stage band lead by Declan Masterson and a showstopping fiddle turn by Rose Duffy who is impressive enough in her solo pieces that any dancers would look like props to her.

The unfortunate aspect about this tour is that it is obviously a copy of a copy of a few other tours which most notable in the costume and set budget making the costumes look like they were borrowed from a high school production of “Brigadoon” and the projections at one point reminded me of a community theater production of The Wizard of Oz however those are small things for a show that seems to be beyond critic proof especially in a town that wears the pride of the Irish heavily on its sleave. This is a show that you leave your cares and worries along with your thoughts behind and just go and enjoy some amazing dancing.

Riverdance is playing at the Oriental Theatre for eight performances till Sunday March 18,. Individual tickets are currently on-sale now and ranger in price from $30-$85. Tickets are available at all Broadway in Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 75 E. Chestnut), the Broadway in Chicago Ticket Kiosk at Water Tower Place (845 N. Michigan Ave.), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations (including Hot Tix and select Carson Pirie Scott, Coconuts and fye stores), and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com. Groups of 15 or more may receive a discount on most shows by calling (312) 977-1710. Gift certificates, which can be redeemed for any production or for season ticket packages, can be obtained at Broadway in Chicago box offices, www.BroadwayinChicago.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 775-2000.

For more information on RIVERDANCE visit BroadwayinChciago.com



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Legally Blonde at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre

 
“Omigod You Guys, “Legally Blonde the Musical” kicked off The Marriottt Theatre 2012 season in a brightly pink and amped up production that leaves you both exhilarated and dizzy if not a little exhausted from all the excitement that's going on the Marriott stage.

The musical based on the novel by Amanda Brown and then turned into the hit 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon packs a lot of punch in the short amount of time and if sometimes if you feel that the message that the wiliness to do anything for love ultimately gives into the power of personal self acceptance passes you by rather quickly, it does leave you with a fun-filled score that's filled with as much wit as it is product placement.

Legally Blonde as many know who have seen the movie, however for those who haven't is the story of the ever popular and ever determined Elle Woods, who at the start of the show's main goal seem to be to become the wife of the equally popular Warner Huntington III.   Her plans get sidetracked when Warner dumps her to attend Harvard Law School and also to marry someone who appears to be more serious. However to prove appearances can be deceiving, Elle like any modern women decides to hit the books and apply to Harvard where not only does she get in she's able to rise to the top of her class, get everyone to like her, and belt out a pop score with ease.  All of this while maintaining her signature wardrobe of pink.      



In the starring role of Elle, Chelsea Packard sometimes lacks the likeability that is required for the role but provides a strong voice and lands the comedic aspects of the role with aplomb. As Emmett, Elle's champion David Larsen isn't able to make much of an impact except during his song “Chip on My Shoulder.” Much like Jennifer Coolidge in the film and Orfeh on Broadway Christine Sherrill as Paulette steals the show with both her belting and her comedic skills making her role the crowd pleaser it deserves to be. As Professor Callahan Gene Weygandt is able to make a terrible song like “Blood in the Water” land and as Vivienne Stephanie Binetti is able to convincingly turn her character from being unlikeable to slightly more likeable in the matter of a few moments. The rest of the cast are all excellent and energy levels are as up as if the cast were being pumped with several red bulls.

The show is paced so fast that it only allows a few seconds to breath but all of that is handled expertly by director/choreographer Marc Robin's who does wonders with the material. Costume designer Nancy Missimi is able to do wonders with the differences between East Coast and Wet Coast attire and Diane Ferry Williams lighting design never misses a beat.

The music written by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin is catchy and tuneful and feels such power pop anthems as “What You Want,” “Positive,” “Chip On My Shoulder,” and “So Much Better” and the book by Heather Hatch is quick with the one liners and keeps the action flowing while still remaining true to the movie as to not confuse people not familiar with the material.

Legally Blonde the musical gives you the impression that any dream in life can be accomplished with a little hard work, a fabulous wardrobe and to always remain positive no matter what hurdles live might throw you. Isn't that what we all wish life should really be about all the time?


The performance schedule is Wednesdays at 1:00 pm and 8:00pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturday at 4:30 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm. Ticket prices range from $40 to $48, plus tax and handling fees. Seniors and students receive $5.00 off a full price theater ticket on Wednesday at 1:00 pm, Saturday at 4:30 pm and Sunday at 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings a limited number of Dinner and Theatre tickets are available for $55.00 per person plus handling fees. Dinner is at Kings Wharf Restaurant or the Fairfield Inn (based on dining availability). Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets with a major credit card, call the Marriott Theater Box Office at 847.634.0200 or www.TicketMaster.com. Visit www.MarriottTheater.com for more information.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

MadKap Productions Presents
the Midwest Premiere of



at the Greenhouse Theater Center
from January 19 Through March 11, 2012

Chicago – Wendy Kaplan, President of MadKap Productions, announced today that the riveting new production CLUTTER: The True Story of the Collyer Brothers Who Never Threw Anything Out will make its Midwest Premiere at the Greenhouse Theater Center,2257 N Lincoln Ave., previewing January 19;opening Friday, January 20; and closingMarch 11, 2012.CLUTTER is written by seven-time Emmy Award winning playwright Mark Saltzman (The Muppets andSesame Street, Writer’s Guild Award nomination, and five L.A. Ovation Award nominations including Best Musical).Wayne Mell, Managing Director at Citadel, will direct the production. CLUTTER originally made its World Premiere at the Colony Theater in Burbank in 2004 to much acclaim.

The World Premiere of CLUTTER received rave reviews. The Los Angeles Times selected the play for the “Critic’s Choice” Award stating, “This examination of the Collyer brothers—the world’s most famous packrats—is shamelessly entertaining… richly comic… brilliant.”The Hollywood Reporter raved that “CLUTTER is charming [and] delightful… wise, generous and witty.”KABC enthused that CLUTTER is “a riveting play… As a study in bizarre behavior and obsession, the play is engaging and engrossing… hilarious… an intoxicatingly theatrical milieu… scores a clean dramatic sweep.”

CLUTTER is based on the compelling true story of the wealthy, reclusive Collyer brothers whobecame hoarders in their Fifth Avenue mansion in 1920s Harlem. After years of compulsive collecting, the brothers have become notorious shut-ins in their aristocratic New York neighborhood. Langley Collyer is missing and Homer Collyer is found dead amongst floor-to-ceiling piles of newspapers, books, and junk. The police investigating the case, two brothers with a strained relationship mirroring that of the Collyers, are simultaneously making discoveries about themselves. Narrated by the brothers and the police investigating the bizarre case, this darkly fascinating tale is a poignant and profound exploration of human behavior.

There will be a talkback session immediately following the performances every other Thursday evening beginning on January 19. Dr. Scott Kaplan, an Illinois licensed clinical psychologist, will facilitate talkbacks to address questions about hoarding and other themes addressed in the play.

CLUTTER stars Andrew J. Pond as “Langley Collyer” (Metropolis, Citadel, Piccolo, Redtwist, Blue Heron, and Circle Theatre); Northwestern and University of Chicago graduate Edward Kuffert as “Homer Collyer” (Center Stage, City Lit, Inconceivable, Halcyon, Hubris, GroundUp, Big Noise, Citadel, and Jeff nominated as “Danforth” inThe Crucible at Infamous Commonwealth); Joe Mack as “Sgt. Reilly Dolan”; and Michael Jay Bullaro as “Patrolman Keven Dolan” (Goodman, Citadel, and Harper Theatre Ensemble). The production also features Jeff Award winner Stephen M. Genovese (former Artistic Director of Bohemian Theatre Company and Tim Walsh.

The artistic team for CLUTTER is led by director Wayne Mell who has been Managing Director at Citadel since 2009, most recently directingSomething’s Afoot (which starred CLUTTER leads Andrew J. Pond and Edward Kuffert). Mell began his directing career in 1976, receiving the Talented Student Scholarship from Northern Illinois University, going on to continue his study of directing at Victory Gardens, as well as improvisation at The Second City. He continued to direct at Citadel, Attic Playhouse, and Bailiwick Repertory’s Director’s Festival.

Sound Design is by Bob Boxer, Lighting Design is by Matthew R. Godlewski, Properties Design is by Mary Odowd and Set Design is by Andrei Onegin.

Playwright Mark Saltzman, who began his career writing forThe Muppets with Jim Henson, is the winner of seven Emmy Awards for his work onSesame Street. He has also been nominated for the Writer’s Guild Award and five L.A. Ovation Awards, including Best Musical. Notable works includeA, My Name is Alice; The Tin Pan Alley Rag; Romeo and Bernadette; andMr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood. His work has been shown at Laguna Playhouse, The Ballroom, Soho Rep, 13th Street Theater, Village Gate, Pasedena Playhouse, Goodspeed, The Cleveland Playhouse, Florida’s Maltz Jupiter Theatre, New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company, Miami’s Coconut Grove Playhouse, and New Jersey’s Paper Mill Playhouse.Film credits include Disney, Showtime, SONY, and Universal, includingMrs. Santa Claus (starring Angela Lansbury), The Adventures of Milo and Otis,Three Ninjas Kick Back, and The Red Sneakers. Years after being scolded by his mother, who referred to him as a Collyer brother for having a messy room, Saltzman’s research on the famous hoarders inspired him to write CLUTTER.

Producer Wendy Kaplan has been producing theatre since the age of eighteen. She was previously Managing Director of Stage Two Theatre Company and has produced for many regional theatre companies and worked on various Broadway productions, including Lost in the Stars, The Changing Room, Spofford, and Leonard Bernstein’s Mass. She has also produced many shows at Citadel Theatre Company in Lake Forest, includingSomething’s Afoot, directed by CLUTTER director Wayne Mell.

Performances for CLUTTER will be Thursday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from $ 15.00 for students, $30.00 for seniors $30-35 for groups and $40 for general admission. For tickets, call the Greenhouse Theater Box Office at 773.404.7336, or visitwww.greenhousetheater.org. The Box Office is open Wednesday through Saturday 12-8 p.m. and Sunday 12-4 p.m. For group tickets call 312.423.6612 or visit www.grouptheatertix.com.


"Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting" at Lookingglass


Opening at the Lookingglass Theatre Company tonight and playing though February 19th 2012 located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works is the new play "Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting: written by Ed Schmidt and directed by ensemble member J. Nicole Brooks.    

Baseball’s Opening Day is one week away, and Branch Rickey, General Manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, will call up Jackie Robinson to break the color-barrier and play as the Major League’s first black ballplayer. If he agrees, Robinson will face loud and heated opposition from virtually every owner, manager, and player in baseball – and it won’t be a cakewalk with the fans, either. Who will be his allies be if he makes the most daring and important play of his life? 

Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting features Artistic Associates Kevin Douglas (Clancy Hope) and Anthony Fleming III (Joe Louis), Javon Johnson (Jackie Robinson), James Vincent Meredith (Paul Robeson), Larry Neumann, Jr. (Branch Rickey) and Ernest Perry (Bill "Bojangles" Robinson).

Award-winning Ensemble Member J. Nicole Brooks (Black Diamond, Fedra: Queen of Haiti) directs this dazzling fast-ball script by Ed Schmidt. When 1947’s biggest African American personalities – baseball great-to-be Jackie Robinson, boxer Joe Louis, entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, actor and activist Paul Robeson – meet, ideas and ideals clash and sparks fly, and America’s national pastime will never be the same.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

THE ADDAMS FAMILY at the Cadillac Palace Theatre



They're creepy and they're kooky...well sort of. In today’s world of odd families such as the Kardashians and the Osbournes one can't help but look at the Addams as almost any typical normal family out today and in the national tour that returns to Chicago after debuting here in 2010 it brings a feeling of closeness that was missing in the original production.

In the current version of the show Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness played with comedic gloom by Cortney Wolfson is all grown up now and in love with a sweet, smart young man from a sadly respectable family played by Brian Justin Crum.

And if that wasn't bad enough Wednesday is feeling the growing pains that every child does and is losing the closeness she feels towards her mother Morticia played by Sara Gettelfinger who does everything she can trapped in a role that was created for Bebe Neuwirth. Now Gomez Adams must do something he's never done before – keep a secret from his his beloved wife. Everything happens to change though for the whole family on the fateful night that they host a dinner party for Wednesdy's “normal” boyfriend and his parents.

In the original production Nathane Lane who played Gomez made the role more about Nathane Lane playing Gomez and in the toru you get the impression that Douglas Sills has greated an original take on Gomez and supplied him with an exciting almost operatic voice that makes songs like “Trapped” and “Not Today” come alive and sound exciting. As mentioned above one feels for Ms. Gettlefinger a gorgeous statuesque actress who's saddled with a role that has a limited singing range and limited dancing due to the originator but makes the most of what she has in every way. Martin Vidnovic and Crista Moore as the boyfriens parents finally free of the squid storyline that plagued the original production are good though less steller then Terrence Mann and Caroleee Carmello who originated the roles. Blake Hammond as Uncle Fester gets the crowd pleasing and delightful “The Moon and Me” and is able to make it work by his voice and sweet disposition. As Grandma Pippa Pearthtree lacks any of the comedic force that original Jackie Hoffman had and it is notably absent.

It's interesting that after seeing the national touring production of La Cage aux Folles the week before the similarities within the script between shows an how each of them tackle the sitcom stylings of family disapproving of child's love and how everything’s overcome by a song and dance.

The show still feels like it needs a better storyline then they have given it and if the songs could be a little more original and distinct then they are it's surprising how well the actual show holds up with audiences. In today's age where we are presented with so many crazy television families that seems like they love the audiences more they love each other it's nice to spend some time with a healthy typical American family like The Addams.

THE ADAMS FAMILY is playing at the Cadillac Theatre through January 1st and for more information on tickets, visit www.BroadwayInChciago.com

Friday, December 23, 2011

La Cage Aux Folles at the Bank of America Theater



At one point late in the second act of Jerry Herman's and Harvey Fierstein's “La Cage aux Folles” one of the characters shouts out Homosexuals to the two leading characters the effect is supposed to be shocking. I'm sure when the show first opened on Broadway 1983 it was but in the recent tour that opened up Wednesday at the Bank of America Theater and playing a 2 week engagement the effect has become more muted and less shocking then it was when the show originally opened. It could do with the source material which has been covered everywhere from an Oscar winning foreign film, to several sequels, to a big box office smash remake “The Birdcage.” It could be that the subject matter has transitioned from being a gay “Guess Who's Coming to Dinner” to something that would fit in a half hour sitcom. I think the problem lies more in a by the numbers production that seems to borrow from other recent revivals for ideas.

However with all that said at the center of the show is a heart and soul about love, family bonds, and acceptance that is timeless and very hard to ignore even trapped in a production that could have been pulled together, walked though its paces and then thrown on stage for all to see.

La Cage Aux Folles tells the story of Georges, the owner of a glitzy nightclub in lovely Saint-Tropez, and his life partner Albin, who moonlights as the glamorous headliner Zaza. When Georges' son brings his financee's conservative parents home to meet the flashy pair and let's just say that madcap hilarity ensures!

The one thing this national tour has going for it is a sensational full out top of the line Diva performance by Broadway veteran Christopher Sieber as Albin/Zaza. Mr. Sieber channels everything into his performance playing the laughs at full hilt, the drama with complete conviction, and the

Albin's rejection with a pain that is both real and unbearable all the while belting out his showstoppers “Put a Little More Mascara On” and the showstopping anthem “I Am What I Am”. It's the type of performance that will bring fans all over the country to him.

Sadly the same can not be said by headliner George Hamilton who plays his role with a breezy attitude that almost comes across as sleep walking.

He does though posses natural chemitrsy with Mr. Sieber that makes one understand their relationship though when it comes to his music it became almost painful every time you realized he was going to slowly pace though one of Mr. Hermans's stunning ballad. World class songs like “Song on the Sand” and Look Over There” were given 15th rate edition performances that belonged at an airport cabaret lounge.

The rest of the cast ranged from excellent Bernard Burak Sheredy and Cathy Newman as the in-laws the Dindon's to the adequate Billy Harrigan Tighe who is saddled with the role of the son Jean Michael but posses a serviceable singing voice to the way over the top Jeigh Madjus who seems
to have just been eliminated from RuPaul's Drag race right before going on stage.

The production directed by Terry Johnson who won a Tony Award for the revival really should be sending a bouquet of flowers to Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall for borrowing heavily on their concept for the smash revival of “Cabaret”. There were also traces if not full replications of Sweet Charity, and Kiss of the Spiderwoman in both design and choreography. Matthew Wright's costumes though we used to great effect and teetered the line from flashy to downright trashy which seemed right at home in this production.

At this point when you have a story as timeless as La Cage aux Folles is it might be better served with a show that isn't as dated as this particular production is and if its going to be that way then spruce and sparkle it up with an exciting cast and production around it.

La Cage Aux Folles is playing at The Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe from December 23rd, though January 1st tickets can be purchased though the

website at www.broadwayinchicago.com



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Marriott Theater: Irving Berlin's "White Christmas"


I was at the store today and found it
extremely odd that right next to all the Halloween candy and costumes
there were Christmas decorations out. In this seasonal mash up it
made me forget that from Halloween to Christmas there is still an
entire month between them. In the Marriott's production of Irving
Berlin's “White Christmas” that opened last night the thought of
that time period looms over an otherwise enjoyable production.


The show which played in an opulent but
hollow production that played at Bank of America theater last year
seems to have found the heart at the expense of the physical
production.


In the Marriott's production things Rod
Thomas and Andrew Lupp add warmth, charm, and robust singing voices
to their roles of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis. Mr. Thomas scores
particularly with the classic ballad “Count Your Blessings Instead
of Sheep” while Mr. Lupp leads a showstopping dance number to “I
Love a Piano.”


As the sisters Betty and Judy Haynes,
Stephanie Binetti and Tammy Mader sound beautilful together even if
their roles aren't as fleshed out as the men in the show.


In yet another scene stealing role
Alene Robertson proves that there is simply no one else who can
delivery a line with deadpan ferocity and still belt “Let Me Sing
and I am Happy”with power and her trademark gutso.


The rest of the cast handles the Babes
in Arms story of let's put on a show with comedic shots and great
dancing. The costumes done with the usual intelligence and style by
Nancy Missimi are excellent and the direction and choreography by
Marc Robin is nothing but first rate all the way.


Even though as the show ended and we
walked into the October night it still made you imagine that it was
winter time instead of fall.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

For the Boys at the Marriott Theatre

Thanks for the memories seem to be the theme running though “For the Boys,” a new musical based on 1991 film which starred Bette Midler and James Caan that opened at the Marriott Theatre this past Friday night. Marriott is presenting the World Premiere of this musical and there are many things in this production there are also several things that one might wish had been explored a little bit more to eally provide a satisfying show. For the Boys follows the story of 1940s big-band inger Dixie Leonard played here with comedic ease and a big powerhouse voice by Michele Ragusa who along with America's premier entertainer Eddie Sparks played with comedic flair in a thankless role by Timothy Gulan,who became America's ouple entertaining the troops in times of war and peace.

Though out the 30 year time span we see Dixie and Eddie fight, joke, and sing a lot of songs together, the script is well put together provide character depth for the most part
and an abundance of some great liners. The role of Eddie Sparks seems to suffer however from the creators not knowing how to sculpt his journey along with Dixie, he's either a jerk or a great guy and at times both. It's hard for the audience to get behind him with an outline instead of an actual character. The other issue I had with the show was with all the time and energy devoted this could have been a great show with an original score. So much of the show seemed like it was willing to soar and then the music would start and the show felt grounded. The creators are smart to provide us with a classic score but with a story this rich and interesting it could
have been so much better with a score that was original and appropriate to the time otherwise it gives off a why bother feeling to the proceedings. The cast is excellent particularly Anne Gunn as Loretta Brooks, who opens the 2nd act with a belty showstopper “That's Loyalty” and sparkles though out the show.
The direction and choregraphy by Marc Robin are top notch and the costume design by Nancy Missimi is at the usual top level. With all the time, energy, and talent put into this production its a shame that the same couldn't be done about creating an original score that could have made this production soar when at best it plays on
the ground.

For the Boys is playing at the Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire though October 16th. Ticket prices
range from $41 to $49 plus tax and handling fees. Seniors and Students receive $5.00 off a full price theater ticket on Wednesday 1:00pm, Saturday at 4:30 p.m. And Sundays at 1:00 and 5:00pm. To purchase tickets with a major credit card, call the Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or Ticketmaster.com. Visithttp://www.marriotttheatre.com/
for more information.


Monday, August 22, 2011

The Student Prince at LIGHT OPERA WORKS




In “The Student Prince” young love blossoms in Old Heidelberg as the betrothed heir to the throne goes off to a university, only to fall for a beautiful waitress in the local beer garden.



No this is not a plot to the latest National Lapoon film but actually the story that the 1924 Sigmund Romberg and Dorothy Donnelly operetta is based on and minus that small detail the rest of the show is structured with a glittering production by Light Opera Works that opened Saturday night at Cahn Auditorium and runs until August 28th.



In the German kingdom of Kalsberg, the young prince Karl Franz sung in glorious voice by William Bennett takes a year off from his impending marriage and ascension to the throne. In his travels he brings his lifelong confidant and educator, the kindly Doctor Engel, played by Bill Stone, who is the type of mentor anyone would want, who also happens to posses some power house pipes. Along for the ride and to the benefit of the production is Karl Franz's valet Lutz and his footman Hubert. As Hubert Mark Anderson has some delightful moments and would normally have much more singled out but opposite a scene chewing criminal such as Dale Benson as Lutz all is lost to him. A Chicago stage legend that I grew up with at the old Candlelight/Forum Theatre's Mr. Benson's knows just the right performing style for this type of show, taking each line and making it memorable. In the second and third act he's joined by Jody Goldman another pro at milking the right tone for these scenes, their work here a lesson in comedy.







In every Operetta there is a fiery soprano and here she is played by Danielle M. Knox, looking very similar to Chicago actress Susan Moniz, she inhabits here role with warmth and charm and enough trills to impress the audience. One wishes she was just a little bit stronger of a fiery presence to see why everyone in the town in captivated by her but those are small potatoes compared to everything. The other female lead of Princess Margaret is played with grace and dignity by Stephanie Stockstill.



The rest of the principals and large chorus handle everything with precision and ease from the 26 member orchestra that's conducted with expertise by Roger L. Bingaman, who makes you feel like he has a strong handle on some difficult music.



The pacing and the sequences of the show felt like they could have been snapped up a bit but overall the direction by Rudy Hogenmiller is solid, he also manages to pull off the difficult task of making a show that could be stuffy and slightly out of place and is able to make it entertaining and relate able to a contemporary audience.



It's interesting to note that the show was the longest running show on Broadway in the 1920s, beating the far more popular and much more enduring musical Show Boat. It's a joy that Light Opera Works took this piece on and presented it as its not done around here anymore and I commend them for putting together a wonderful production with some of the best resources at their disposal.



LIGHT OPERA WORKS presents The Student Prince Opening Saturday August 20th and playing Sunday August 21st at 2pm, Wednesday the 24th at 2pm, Friday the 26 at 8pm, Saturday the 27th at 8pm and Sunday the 28th at 2pm. It's playing at the Cahn Auditorium at 600 Emerson Street, Evanston, Il with tickets on the Main Floor for $48, $68, $77, and $92, The Balcony for $32, $48, $68, $77 ages 21 and younger half price.



Tickets can be order by either calling (847) 869-6300 or though the website at http://www.lightoperaworks.com/



As a completely unrelated note I did keep thinking while watching “The Student Prince” how I would kill to see a production of Alan Jay Lerner and Kurt Weill's rarely done “Love Life” and possibly a revival of “Lady in the Dark” with Mary Ernster as Liza, other classic shows that bridge the gap from Musical Theater to Opera. I know Light Opera Works has tackled “Lady in the Dark” before but with America's obsession with exploring there dreams might off set the woman are only happy with the right man aspects. As “Love Life” a show that has been done only a few times spans the American Dream's 150 years, if they could at all pair that up with Leonard Bernstein's “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” another problematic show with stunning music, people from all around would come.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kelly Clarkson review of leaked song's

Over this past weekend dealing with the lingering depression of having my identity stolen, yeah, sorry still can't let that go, getting another year older, which doesn't bother me except for the week before my birthday and then the week after and then I'm fine, and then being left alone after family leaves. I needed something to cheer myself up and early Sunday morning it came though the powerful sounds of The Lady Clarkson and some leaked new material from one of the greatest powerbelters ever! Ms. Kelly Clarkson, who besides being, so much more then the original American Idol winner is also one of the few artists who is able to transcend the style of music with just her voice alone. Doubt me if you will, but think about it, there are a lot of people who hate American Idol but still love Kelly Clarkson. There are people who will mock all the achievements from anyone connected to Idol but will still say that Idol found its one true superstar on the first season.

I will always have a special place in my heart for the following Idol women: Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Katharine McPhee, Carly Smithson, Allison Iraheta, Crystal Bowersox, and Haley Reinhart but none of them will ever equal my love for The Lady Clarkson as I like to name her because she is simply fantastic. I even went as far as to join the Kelly Clarkson fan club to show my love for her, well that and they also offered premium seats for her concerts and I got to tell everyone I am a member of the Kelly Clarkson fan club. Which surprisingly doesn't get you the dates that you'd expect it too and allows many people to mock a thirty something just because he dares show his love for Ms. Kelly Clarkson.

Anyhoo, in the midst of my weekend depression, not to be confused with my weekday depression, they are in separate categories of course I found “unreleased” tracks that are supposedly going on Kelly's fifth studio disc. I have heard that in the past when her songs have leaked they are instantly removed from consideration from her album, however I hope that with some of these that thought is reconsidered as both the song and her delivery deserve a professional release. I'm not going to include links to these songs as you can find them with a little help from google but I will review them as they were leaked.

Dumb + Dumb = You” - Yes that is the actual title of the song, and if there is anyone in music today that can sell a title like that it's Kelly Clarkson. If you don't believe me just look at “My Life Would Suck Without You” too understand. From the opening guitar riffs to the moment that Kelly's voice starts off seductively and then builds, you know this is not the type of song your expecting. Like most Clarkson songs she starts with a slow burn that builds into a catchy chorus that finds the listener singing along and getting to tell off an ex when they never had the actual chance too. No one tells off an ex like Ms. Clarkson can.

I Forgive You” - The opening sounds almost have a kazoo sound to them with Kelly starting off “I forgive you, I forgive me, now when do I start feeling again” in a simple tone until the chorus bursts out with her pleading that the damage is done and they need to feel again. To describe this song is not enough, this is one where you not only have to listen to it once but several times to feel the hook, but once your hooked you can't get enough. This quiet simply could be single material from her.

Let Me Down” - With the opening strains you think you're getting a song that has been played before and then with the opening lyrics of “I think I might be a fortune teller, I read your face just like a letter, the funny thing about forever, is that it comes with a side of never never” you think you're going to get a crappy B-side song, that is until Kelly lets loose on the chorus and proves that any of her songs could be a single based purely on vocal capability. She goes further in the song building and building until she unleashes a “I Know by Know” that ranks up there with the power of her “Behind These Hazel Eyes” or “Because of You” as sheer Clarkson bombast. This is the type of song only someone with the vocal power of Kelly Clarkson could make work and she makes it work.

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger” - Starting off with a sound that reminds you of Coldplay and then going into an intro that is strictly Kelly. It has one of those you think you got the best of me, you think you got the last laugh and then unleashes into the trademark I will survive deliveries that Kelly is famous for. Gloria Gaynor had to tell us that “I will Survive” while Kelly can do it with her voice and delivery alone. She makes this into an anthem on delivery alone, she builds from the soft passages to the full out powerbelting that she is known for. The magic about Ms. Clarkson that I think is missed is that she's able to bring emotion to her voice in a way that I think is missing with most of the current singers. This could be one of those kiss off anthem songs that everyone knows only if the music bigwigs decided to release it that way.

Those were the songs that have been leaked within the past few days I'm also going to include a few songs that I've found and hope are included in her fifth studio release.

Empty Handed” – Starting off with the strains of an acoustic guitar followed by the da,da's you think you're going to get a simple song but with Ms. Clarkson any simple song starts out and then builds to a full out singalong chorus to the strains of “You took me for granted, I don't understand it, when looking for answers I came up empty handed, but don't worry about me I'm stronger then you think....” and there lays the magic of any Clarkson song. She will move on and get stronger no matter what her ex thinks and in reality isn't that we all want in life.

Tell Me a Lie” - This is a tricking type of song. The first lines of the song make you think it's a song that's decent but not a great song, that is until you hear the lines “Your Words cut like a knife...then you get further into the song until the chorus where Kelly is pleading “tell me I'm a screwed up mess, that I never listen.... Until it blasts into full power chorus, which is the area that NO ONE will ever be able to beat Kelly vocally. This is one of those songs that comes to life during the choruses but once it's alive it won't die. She sells this song all the way.

It's unclear at this point which if any of these songs will make her fifth studio disc and if history is any indication the fact that these have now been made public will decrease their chances of making it. It is a shame because these are in the context of pop music pretty good songs that is anything so off the power of Kelly's vocals and her delivery and should be included on her next studio disc. If for nothing else then as bonus tracks so we can have even more unreleased tracks to go along with these leaked tracks.

As a side note I do have to mention Kelly's killer version of the White Stripes song “Seven Nation Army” that she performed at an event for Coca Cola earlier this summer. She starts off with simple jazz tones that makes the non-Clarkson fans think the song is too big for her, and that's where she unleashes the vocal beast that we love her for. She builds the song until she's belting up a storm and is simply is a vocal powerhouse that can't be bettered by anyone.

http://youtu.be/MwcFL39IM9s

“Shout! The Mod Musical” at Marriott


The days of summer are long, tedious, and draining but those are words that I could never use to describe anything about Marriott Lincolnshire blistering production of “Shout! The Mod Musical” that opened up earlier in July and would have been reviewed much sooner if I didn't have a birthday and computer hacker at the same time.


The last time “Shout!” was done it was more of a meek whimper then the Marriott's production which seems to be saying we're sorry for coming out with a whisper and to make up for it we're going to “Sell it Girls.” Which works as this show pays homage to the 60's a decade with some of the most irresistible girl singers and groups that ever existed in the first place. You give anyone today the music from this era and how can they not shine with these songs. From anything to Jessie Muller's perfectly modulated “How Can I Be Sure,” Tammy Mader's defiant “These Boots are Made for Walking,” to Raena Whites belted out take on the title tune these are fresh delivery’s on classic songs staged to perfection by Rachel Rockwell who is becoming the director of Chicago musical theater.


My only complaint about this entire production and it has nothing really to do with “Shout” I just wish Marriott would spend more time doing book musicals then revues but that is a small complaint especially on a show that fulfills in so many other ways. Their production of “Shout! The Mod Musical” is as loud and strong as any of their other revues and a great way to get over the Chicago heatwave.


Shout! continues through Aug 14 at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire. Tickets are $41 – $49. For more info, go to www.marriotttheatre.com or call 847-634-0200.