Showing posts with label jeff recommended. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jeff recommended. Show all posts

Saturday, February 8, 2020

REVIEW: Jeeves Saves the Day at First Folio Theatre at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook Through March 1, 2020

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

All photos by Tom McGrath

Guest Review 
By Catherine Hellmann

(Setting: A walk in Rogers Park on a chilly, slushy day.)

Me: Want to see a play with me next weekend?
Emily, my oldest, who is often a theater skeptic: Hmmm...what is it? 
Me: It’s British humor. 
Emily: Okaaayy…
Me: It’s in the ‘burbs. Free parking! (Emily has transitioned to the suburbs and often praises the ample no-cost parking to me.) 
Emily: Hmmm…
Me: It’s in a mansion. 
Emily: All right. 

And so my daughter agreed to join me for Jeeves Saves the Day by First Folio Theatre at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook. It’s a delightful show with great characters, a beautiful set, and fun costumes. 

Dan Klarer (Egbert), Lucinda Johnston (Aunt Agatha)

There is a funny script by Margaret Raether based on the characters by P.G. Wodehouse. The play opens with Bertie in the dining room, his head down despondently on the table. He has managed to get engaged to a wealthy woman whom he doesn’t love, and now he worries how he will get himself out of this entanglement.  Christian Gray and Jim McCance have these roles down pat from having portrayed Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, respectively, in five productions now. When Bertie hears that his awful Aunt Agatha will be visiting, he wonders aloud why he dreads seeing her. “Experience,” Jeeves explains drily. 

Jim McCance (Jeeves), Sean Sinitski (Sir Roderick), Lucinda Johnston (Aunt Agatha),
Christian Gray (Bertie)

Lucinda Johnston as over-the-top annoying Aunt Agatha is perfectly irritating. She is thrilled about her nephew’s social-climbing engagement. He wants to weasel out of his situation. She tells Bertie that in order for his “spine to hurt, he must possess one.” In a word association game, Bertie refers to his aunt as “my nemesis.” (For “alcohol,”  he promptly answers, ”Always,”)

Jim McCance (Jeeves), Christian Gray (Bertie)

Dan Klarer deserves special recognition as hilarious Cousin Egbert who is on a drawn-out scavenger hunt, continually bringing home odd items. (The best one is a large birdcage with straps that he wears like a backpack.) His physicality and odd movements are very funny and really add to the character’s goofiness.    

The wordplay is clever, as when a character thinks they see “an apprehension” instead of an “apparition,” and someone else refers to the “banana peels of life.” The language is a treat, as is the entire play.

And you get to see a show in a mansion...with free parking! 

Cath Hellmann is an educator and theater junkie living in Chicago. 

Opening Night
From left to right: Natalie Rae, Sean Sinitski, Lydia Hiller, Dan Klarer, Jim McCance, Joe Foust, Almanya Narula, Christian Gray, Lucinda Johnston

To begin the new year with laughs a-plenty, First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St & Rt. 83) presents the World Premiere production of JEEVES SAVES THE DAY, by Margaret Raether, to continue its 2019-2020 season. Based on stories by P.G. Wodehouse and directed by Artistic Associate Joe Foust, JEEVES SAVES THE DAY previews January 29-31, opens February 1, and runs through March 1, 2020.

Lucinda Johnston (Aunt Agatha), Jim McCance (Jeeves)

Jim McCance (Jeeves), Christian Gray (Bertie)

The indefatigable Jeeves and his balmy employer Bertie Wooster are back. Once again, Bertie finds himself suffering the slings and arrows of misfortune at the hands of his relatives, caught between the magisterial machinations of his fierce Aunt Agatha and the plaintive pleadings of his cousin Egbert. Throw in the imperious Sir Roderick Glossop and the sexy chanteuse Red Hot Maisie Dawson, and you’ve got another precarious predicament that cannot be overcome…unless one calls upon the redoubtable Jeeves to save the day.

Almanya Narula (Maisie), Jim McCance (Jeeves), Dan Klarer (Egbert), Christian Gray (Bertie)

“We are thrilled to present this humor-filled production of JEEVES SAVES THE DAY to First Folio Theatre audiences this winter,” said Director Joe Foust. “We’ve followed Jeeves and his many adventures since First Folio Theatre began telling the Jeeves tales in 2008, and this new tale is filled with more energy and comedy than ever! Our two leads are reprising their roles of Bertie and Jeeves for the fifth time and their characters will experience a predicament unlike any they have faced before. We know audiences will relish the hilarity, hoping that once again Jeeves can save the day.”

In their fifth foray into the roles of Bertie and Jeeves, JEEVES SAVES THE DAY stars Christian Gray as Bertie Wooster and Jim McCance as Jeeves. The production also features Lucinda Johnston (Aunt Agatha), Dan Klarer (Egbert Bakewell), Sean Sinitski (Sir Roderick Glossop) and Almanya Narula (Red Hot Maisie Dawson). 

Almanya Narula (Red Hot Maisie Dawson)

The production and design crew includes Lydia Hiller (Assistant Director), Angela Weber Miller (Scenic Design), Rachel Lambert (Costume Design), Richard Norwood (Lighting Design), Christopher Kriz (Original Music and Sound Design), Wendy Huber and Margaret Garofalo (Properties Design), Dean Gnadinger (Technical Director), Joe Foust (Movement Designer) and Sarah West (Stage Manager) with Wallace Craig (Production Valet).

Performances take place at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, located at 1717 31st St., off Rt. 83, in Oak Brook. First Folio is easy to get to via the East-West Tollway (I-88) or the Stevenson Expressway (I-55). Free parking is available on the grounds. Preview tickets are $25. Regular priced tickets are $34 Wednesdays and Thursdays (seniors and students are $29), and $44 on Fridays through Sundays (seniors and students are $39). Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased by calling the box office at 630.986.8067 or online at

Sean Sinitski (Sir Roderick), Jim McCance (Jeeves), Lucinda Johnston (Aunt Agatha),
Christian Gray (Bertie)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

OPENING: Pay-What-You-Can World Premiere of KINGDOM Via Broken Nose Theatre Through 4/7/18 at The Den Theatre

Chi IL Live Shows On Our Radar:

World Premiere!
Broken Nose Theatre Presents
By Resident Playwright Michael Allen Harris
Directed by Kanomé Jones
March 8 – April 7, 2018 at The Den Theatre

I'll be out to review Broken Nose Theatre's KINGDOM on March 15th, for ChiIL Live Shows, so check back soon for my full review. I can't wait to catch this JEFF recommended world premiere! 

Broken Nose Theatre is pleased to launch its 2018 Season with the world premiere of resident playwright Michael Allen Harris’ kitchen sink comedy KINGDOM, directed by Kanomé Jones. The new play about an all-LGBTQ African American family in Orlando will play March 2 – 31, 2018 at BNT’s new resident home, The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. 

Tickets for KINGDOM on sale at Tickets for all Broken Nose Theatre productions are available on a “pay-what-you-can” basis, allowing patrons to set their own price and ensuring theatre remains economically accessible for all audiences. 

KINGDOM features BNT and artistic associates Watson Swift+ and RjW Mays+ with Byron Coolie, Christopher K. McMorris and Michael Mejia-Beal.

When the state of Florida legalizes same sex marriage, Arthur and Henry (his partner of fifty years) come to terms with their differing opinions on the necessity of becoming husbands, even as their son Alexander finds himself wading through some rough new waters of his own. KINGDOM is the story of an entirely-LGBTQ African American family that lives in the near-literal shadow of Orlando’s magical kingdom, as they struggle to create a life together that captures a little bit of that same magic.

“We’ve been in love with this script for two years, and could not think of a better way to kick off our sixth season than a homegrown world premiere by one of our resident playwrights,” says BNT Founding Artistic Director Benjamin Brownson*. “Michael’s voice is Tennessee Williams meets August Wilson with a dash of Dan Savage for good measure. He has written a new kind of family dramedy that is lyrical, queer, fresh, timely, resonant and hilarious. We can’t wait to share it with Chicago.”

KINGDOM was developed in conjunction with The Paper Trail, BNT’s new play development program.

The production team for KINGDOM includes: Caswell James (scenic design, technical director), Marci Rodriguez (costume design), Michael Joseph (lighting design), Grover Hollway (sound design) Devon Green+ (props design), Rylee Freeman (hair and make-up design), Chloe Baldwin (fight director), Elizabeth Gomez (master electrician), Rose Hamill* (production manager), and Echaka Agba* (assistant director) and Nikki Marquardt (stage manager) and Julia Farrell (asst. stage manager).

* Denotes BNT company member
+ Denotes BNT artistic associate

About the Artists
Michael Allen Harris (Playwright) As a writer, Michael has collaborated with Chicago Theatre companies such as Broken Nose Theatre, Jackalope Theatre, Arc Theatre, Stage 773, Fine Print Theatre, Chicago Home Theater Festival and The New Colony. His play Rocky Road received its world premiere at the New Studio Theatre of Columbia College Chicago and was directed by Chicago actor/playwright/director Tom Mula. It was the first production featured in the Main Stage season that was authored by an alumnus. His play The Velvet Tabernacle was featured in a development series on behalf of Fine Print Theatre. One of his most recent plays, Kingdom, was nourished in a season-long development on behalf of Broken Nose Theatre, and received a staged reading at the Richard Christiansen theatre space of Victory Gardens in June 2016. In the fall of 2017, his play Punk received its world premiere on behalf of The New Colony, where he recently became an ensemble member. In December of 2016, Michael became the first Resident Playwright of Broken Nose Theatre. His other plays include Ascension. Short plays include: The Woman Who Stared into The Eyes of the Red Horseman, House of Samurai, They Let Him Bleed, Project Agatha (a collaboration project based on Regina Taylor’s play Stop. Reset.) and Bind. As an actor, he has worked with numerous Chicago theaters such as Adventure Stage, Eclipse Theatre, Gift Theatre, Teatro Vista, The-Massive, Stone Soup Theatre Project, Infusion Theatre, Broken Nose Theatre and Cold Basement Dramatics. He is an artistic ensemble member of Eclipse Theatre Company. Michael is currently pursuing his MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Kanomé Jones (Director) has been performing and working in Chicago for over five years. She works with several theater companies here in the city, wearing different hats for each one. She is the Casting Director for Strawdog Theatre Company and the Associate Producer for Midsommer Flight. She also works with Stage Left Theatre and Waltzing Mechanics as an ensemble member. In the past, Kanomé has worked with Broken Nose Theatre as a performer in their first Bechdel Fest and as a director in their second iteration. She has also directed an installment of EL Stories with the Waltzing Mechanics.  Other recent performance credits include Building the Wall and The Firestorm (Stage Left Theatre), understudy in The Book Club Play (16th Street Theatre) Twelfth Night (Midsommer Flight) and Titus Andronicus (Babes with Blades Theatre Company). She is proud alumni of the Professional Training Company at Actors Theatre of Louisville and BFA graduate of Missouri State University. 

BROKEN NOSE THEATRE is Chicago’s premiere Pay-What-You-Can theatre company. Founded in 2012, BNT has produced and developed 10 full length plays (including 7 Chicago or World Premieres) and over 40 new womencentric short plays through our annual 
Bechdel Fest. We strive to spark conversation, cultivate empathy, and amplify underrepresented voices, and are committed to making new, exciting and relevant theatre that is economically accessible to all audiences. For more information, please visit

Sunday, January 7, 2018

REVIEW: Nuanced Nevermore Macabre Musical Madness

Through January 28, 2018 at The Edge Theater

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar: 

Chicago Premiere!
Black Button Eyes Productions Presents
NEVERMORE – The Imaginary Life and 
Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe
Book, Music and Lyrics by Jonathan Christenson 
Directed by Ed Rutherford 
Music Direction by Nick Sula
Choreography by Derek Van Barham

This has to be the creepiest, coolest board of headshots I've ever seen! Black Button Eyes Nevermore cast living up to their name.

Following its hit production of SHOCKHEADED PETER, Black Button Eyes Productions is pleased to conclude its 2017-18 season with the Chicago premiere musical NEVERMORE – The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, the moving life story of the iconic American writer told through haunting music, poetic storytelling and stunning stagecraft, with book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Christenson. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Ed Rutherford, with music direction by Nick Sula and choreography by Derek Van Barham, NEVERMORE will play January 5 – 28, 2018 at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at

Running time: 2:10, including intermission.

It was truly a treat to catch Nevermore with my teenage son. We've both loved Poe's work forever, but knew little of his life story. This eerie and excellent musical makes for an entertaining night out. Poe endures one wrenching loss after another throughout childhood and into adulthood. He loses his parents and then his beloved adopted mother to suicide after she's forcibly committed to an asylum. He loses his true love, his chance at a college education, his sobriety, and eventually his mind. 

Photo credit for all: Cole Simon

One of the most striking characters, is the ever-present Raven, who stalks Poe as a grim reaper like specter with a mask reminiscent of the black plague doctors. His spiraling descent into despair and madness parallels his increasing genius in stellar storytelling. As Poe is pouring out his grief onto the pages, he is increasingly haunted by characters, both from his life and of his own making. 

Black Button Eyes Productions does a fabulous job on a storefront theatre budget. The set design is sparse and simplistic, which works well since the story is so dramatic and colorful. The cast’s musical performance of the fitting score is fabulous. The accompanying band of three keyboards (Nick Sula, Michael Evans, TJ Anderson) and percussion (Cali Kasten) does a fine job. Still, I would love to see a remount with a small, live band actually on stage, featuring theremin, dissonant strings, and maybe even a saw. 

Kevin Webb does a standout performance as Edgar Allan Poe, and there's not a weak link in the ensemble. Overall, this is an eclectic and striking production that's well worth seeing. Highly recommended. Catch Nevermore at The Edge Theatre through January 28th.

NEVERMORE features Kevin Webb as Edgar Allan Poe with Megan DeLay, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Ryan Lanning, Matt McNabb, Maiko Terazawa and Jeremy Trager.

Edgar Allan Poe’s life reads like one of his short stories: an unrelenting tale of misery and woe. His death is also shrouded in mystery. Was he just spectacularly unlucky, or did a supernatural shadow fall over his life? This Chicago premiere weaves fact and fiction into a tapestry of music and poetry.

The production team for NEVERMORE includes: Jeremy Hollis (scenic design, technical director) Beth Laske-Miller (costume design), Liz Cooper (lighting design), Robert Hornbostel (sound design), Catherine Woods (props design, puppet design) and Hazel McCabe-Flowers (stage manager).

Location: The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago
Regular run: Saturday, January 6 – Sunday, January 28, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm.

*Please note: there will be added matinee performances on Saturday, January 13, Saturday, January 20 and Saturday, January 27 at 2 pm. 

Tickets: $30. Tickets are currently available at Tickets may also be purchased in person beginning one hour prior to each performance.

About the Artists:
Jonathan Christenson (Book, Music & Lyrics) is a director, writer and composer whose original musical plays have been presented at major theatres and festivals throughout the U.K., Australia, the U.S. and Canada. His work has been recognized with more than 40 British, Canadian and American awards and nominations, including a Lucille Lortel nomination for Outstanding New Musical of New York’s 2015 Off-Broadway season. His plays have been published by Playwrights Canada Press, Newest Press and Bayeaux Arts, recordings of his music can be found on iTunes and at Broadway Records, and his productions are featured in American Theatre, Maclean’s, CTR, PRISM International, Canada World View and All Stages. He was named one of “Alberta’s Fifty Most Influential People” by Venture Magazine and Alberta Playwrights Network chose him as one of Alberta’s one hundred most significant theatre artists of the past one hundred years.

Ed Rutherford (Director) recently directed Black Button Eyes’ Jeff-Recommended Shockheaded Peter, preceded by Amour (Chicago premiere), Goblin Marke, and Stephin Merrit's musical adaptation of Coraline (Midwest Premiere). In 2017, Ed also directed the Jeff-Recommend productions of The Liar with Promethean Theatre Ensemble and Paula Vogel’s The Baltimore Waltz at Brown Paper Box Co. He is an artistic associate at Promethean, where he additionally directed his own world premiere adaptation of the Peter S. Beagle fantasy novel The Last Unicorn, Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle and the company's inaugural production, Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy. As an actor, he has performed with Drury Lane Oakbrook, Porchlight, Theater Wit and many others. A graduate of Northwestern's theater program, he is currently completing his MBA at Kellogg.

Nick Sula (Music Director) is a pianist, arranger and award-winning music director for theater and cabaret. He is proud to return to Black Button Eyes where he performed as music director for Amour and Coraline. Recent theater credits include music direction at Porchlight Music Theatre, Pride Films and Plays, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble and Chicago Theatre Workshop. Nick is an instructor, music director and vocal coach at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. He is also a member of the Chicago Cabaret Professionals, performing with vocalists at venues such as Davenport’s, Uptown Underground, Stage 773, Victory Gardens, The Twisted Vine and the Park West.

Derek Van Barham (Choreographer) is the Associate Artistic Director of Pride Films & Plays, a member of the Red Tape Theatre ensemble and a former Artistic Director of The Ruckus. For PFP, he has directed Angry Fags (Steppenwolf Garage Repertory), Songs from an Unmade Bed (Jeff nomination: Best Director of a Musical or Revue), PRISCILLA, Queen of the Desert: The Musical (co-directed by David Zak). He also wrote, directed and choreographed BITE: A Pucking Queer Cabaret and Kill Your Boyfriends. Other directing credits include Three Days of Rain (Boho), Miracle! by Dan Savage and Skooby Don't (Hell in a Handbag) and Trash (New American Folk Theatre). He has choreographed for Black Button Eyes (Shockheaded Peter, Coraline the Musical, Goblin Market, Amour), Permoveo (Albert Cashier), The Plagiarists, Inappropriate Theatre,and Salonathon. He can currently be seen improvising with the LGBT team Baby Wine (Fridays at The Annoyance). He was recently named one of Windy City Times 30 Under 30, recognizing individuals from Chicago's LGBTQ community. He holds an MFA from Chicago College of Performing Arts.

About Black Button Eyes Productions
Along with the Jeff-Recommended Chicago storefront premiere of Shockheaded Peter, the other production of the 2017-2018 season, Nevermore continues Black Button Eyes Productions' mission to bring to Chicago premieres and seldom-seen works containing elements of fantasy, in which the magical and surreal invade reality. The company was founded in 2014 with the acclaimed Midwest Premiere of the musical Coraline, and continued in 2015 by producing the musical Goblin Market in its first Chicago production in over 15 years, attended by the author, Chicago native Polly Pen. In 2016 the company presented the Chicago premiere of the musical Amour.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

JEFF RECOMMENDED: Chicago Premiere I Saw My Neighbor on the Train and I Didn't Even Smile at Redtwist Through December 18th

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar:

A dysfunctional family of three generations of alienated women with vastly different personalities are thrown together due to circumstances they can’t quite control. They immediately disrupt each other’s lives, then drastically change each other’s worlds, and finally enrich each other’s souls.

CAST (in alphabetical order)
Adam Bitterman (Jamie), John Blick (Paul), Jacqueline Grandt (Rebecca), Emma Maltby (Sadie), Kathleen Ruhl (Daphne), Joshua Servantez (Eric)

Understudy cast: Daniel Dauphin (Paul), Isabel Sophia Dieppa (Sadie), Buzz Leer (Jamie), Darrelyn Marx (Daphne), Jeanne Scurek (Rebecca), Jared Sheldon (Eric)

Erin Murray (Director), Max Colvill (Assistant Director), Jenn M. Thompson (Stage Manager), Josy Gonzalo (Assistant Stage Manager), Joel Collins (Production Manager), Johnnie Schleyer (Tech Director), Arnel Sancianco (Set Designer), Daniel Friedman (Lighting Designer), Sebby Woldt (Sound Designer), Kotryna Hilko (Costume Designer), Abigail Cain (Props Designer), Natalie Santoro (Scenic Charge), Ashley Neal (Vocal Coach), Jan Ellen Graves (Graphic Designer & Marketing), Charlie Hano (Casting Director), E. Malcolm Martinez (Box Office Manager), Charles Bonilla & Johnny Garcia (Box Office Associates), James Fleming & Michael Colucci (Producers)

Showtimes: Thu, Fri, Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 3pm
Understudy Performance: $20, (seniors & students $5 off), Tue, Dec 12, 7:30pm
Closes: Mon, Dec 18 (7:30pm show)
Running Time: 1:45, no intermission
Tickets: Thursdays, $35; Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, $40 (seniors & students $5 off)

Call: 773-728-7529

Redtwist is located at 1044 W Bryn Mawr, 2 blks W of LSD, 2 blks E of the Red Line EL station.

Valet parking for Redtwist is available across the street in front of Francesca’s Bryn Mawr for most performances—hours vary. Dining is not required. 

Limited FREE street parking is available on side streets. There is metered street parking via app or 3-hour Paybox on Bryn Mawr and 2-hour Paybox on side streets. Free on Sundays, and after 10pm Mon thru Sat.

Monday, September 12, 2016

REVIEW: Jeff Recommended Scarcity Disturbs and Delights at Redtwist Theatre

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:  
by Lucy Thurber
A Chicago Premiere directed by Cody Estle
Sept 10 to Oct 9, 2016

If you're eager to see a happy comedy full of family values and fun times, this is not the play you're looking for. Scarcity is dark, edgy, and seeps under your skin. Its very title, Scarcity... scare city... scar city, speaks of poverty, want, shortage, and the fear that living in a constant state of economic deprivation leaves. This family is not getting out of this without deep and lasting scars. Sometimes when one has nothing, pride is all that's left worth fighting for, and losing that leaves a simmering, potentially explosive rage. 

Even the ending is a cliff hanger, lacking in closure and leaving the audience with a sense of foreboding and inevitable evils yet to come. If you're up for embracing the darker side of human dependents, dependence, and interdependence then we highly recommend Scarcity. The psychological and physical manipulation is palpable and despite just about all the characters insisting they've done nothing wrong (yet), suspicions, sexual tensions and innuendos abound.

We particularly liked the fantastic portrayal of the mother, Martha, by Jeff Award winning actress, Jacqueline Grandt. An Arlington Heights resident, Jacqueline Grandt is a 4-time Jeff nominee and won the Non-Equity Jeff Award for her role in Bug at Redtwist. 

Another standout is daughter, Rachel (Ada Grey), with beauty, brains, a preternatural talent for "seeing", and an obsession with reading tarot cards. She's a fascinating character who can glimpse some of the future, yet she's trapped in her own present and powerless to change much of it. 

Ada Grey has been reviewing plays and interviewing actors since she was 4-years old. She writes a blog called Ada Grey Reviews for You.

Ada Grey, Jacqueline Grandt, Mark Pracht

The son, Billy, brilliantly depicted by Brendan Meyer, is charming, smart, and gorgeous, with an irresistible grin, a predilection for drinking, and anger management issues, not unlike his father. He's already mastered the art of manipulation and domination in an unsettling way for a kid as young as 16.

Emily Tate, Brendan Meyer

There's a certain genius in these deeply flawed characters, portrayed so well. Scarcity embraces many disturbing, yet all too human themes, including hints of unfulfilled incestuous desires, a teacher's affair with an underage student, and the parents' tacit consent for their children to "do whatever you have to do" to survive and get out. 

There is passion and compassion still, amid the grinding poverty, hard work, and the struggle to stay afloat, but it comes at a steep cost. There's also still a spark of hope for the smart, beautiful children who are determined for something better. Yet there's a fatalism and a sense that these parents were once attractive, intelligent children too, before they were beaten down by life and succumbed to mind numbing alcoholism. 

Yet the show is not without it's humor. There were quite a few laugh out loud moments. And the rapport the family members had through the arguments, intensity and the tenderness came across in a genuinely moving way. 

Jacqueline Grandt, Ada Grey, Brendan Meyer

That said, there's a macabre train wreck of an aura surrounding this family. The audience can see the impending crash, but they're powerless to look away. We highly recommend this captivating drama.

Debra Rodkin, Mark Pracht, Jacqueline Grandt, Johnny Garcia

A family stuck in the sticks and struggling to make ends meet has a chance to get their brilliant son into an advanced program when his obsessed math teacher becomes mesmerized by Billy's intellect and potential and offers to help with his college dreams. But what are her real intentions? And will the family grab this golden opportunity for a way out? 

Filled with dark humor and grittiness, Scarcity is an intense look at ambition and ambivalence within a family from the wrong side of the tracks.

Featuring Redtwist Company Member & Jeff Award-winner Jacqueline Grandt, along with fellow Redtwisters, Johnny Garcia and Debra Rodkin, as well as guest artists Ada Grey, Brendan Meyer, Mark Pracht, and Emily Tate

CAST (in alphabetical order)
Johnny Garcia (Louie), Jacqueline Grandt (Martha), Ada Grey (Rachel), Brendan Meyer (Billy), Mark Pracht (Herb), Debra Rodkin (Gloria), Emily Tate (Ellen)

Sarah Liz Bell (Ellen), Nick Dorado (Herb), Judith Laughlin (Gloria), Michael Lomenick (Louie), Jeanne Scurek (Martha), Elodie Tougne (Rachel), Harrison Weger (Billy). Understudy performance on Tuesday, October 4, at 7:30pm

Cody Estle (Director), Max Colvill (Assistant Director), Mary Brennan (Stage Manager), Erica Bush (Assistant Stage Manager), Jeffrey D. Kmiec (Set Designer), Emma Deane (Lighting Designer), Jim Alrutz (Sound Designer), kClare McKellaston (Costume Designer), Laurel McKenzie (Prop Designer), Jan Ellen Graves (Graphic Designer), Josh Hurley (Tech Director), Elyse Balogh (Scenic Charge), Elise Kauzlaric (Dialect Coach), Sam Hubbard (Fight Choreography), Catherine Miller (Dramaturg & Casting Director), Malcolm Martinez (Box Office Manager), Charles Bonilla (Box Office Associate), Jan Ellen Graves, James Fleming, & Michael Colucci (Producers)

Mark Pracht, Jacqueline Grandt, Ada Grey, Brendan Meyer, Emily Tate
Call: 773-728-7529

Opens: Sat, Sep 10, 3pm (note: there is no evening performance on opening day)
Showtimes: Thu, Fri, Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 3pm
Understudy performance: Tue, Oct 4, at 7:30pm. $20 (seniors & students $5 off)
Closes: Sun, Oct 9
Running Time: Approximately 1:45, which includes one intermission

Tickets: Thursdays, $30; Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, $35 (seniors & students $5 off)

Redtwist is located at 1044 W Bryn Mawr, 2 blks W of LSD, 2 blks E of the Red Line EL station.

Valet parking for Redtwist is available across the street in front of Francesca’s Bryn Mawr for most performances—hours vary. Dining is not required. 

Limited FREE street parking is available on side streets. There is metered street parking via app or 3-hour Paybox on Bryn Mawr Av and 2-hour Paybox on side streets. Free on Sundays, and after 10pm Mon thru Sat.

Want more?

13th Season Announced For Redtwist Theatre
Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, Redtwist has long been a favorite of ours on the blackbox storefront theatre scene. They're polished, professional productions and edgy late night choices keep Redtwist on our radar. Mark your calendars. Their lucky 13th season looks like a winner. Click here for our past coverage and full details on Redtwists' upcoming season.

"Home is where the HURT is" examines the fabric of 
family relationships. 

How do we live in the present when the future is looming? 
How far will we go to reach our potential and make our dreams a reality? 

And will that help or hurt the ones closest to us?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

WIN A Pair of American Theater Company's XANADU Tickets ($116 Value) Via ChiIL Live Shows

‘80s date night ticket giveaway: 
ATC's Jeff Recommended XANADU

Photo Credit for all production photos: Michael Brosilow

Here at ChiIL Live Shows we're absolutely elated to be partnering up with American Theater Company on a fabulous ticket giveaway. One of our lucky readers will win 2 tickets ($116 value) to American Theater Company's Jeff Recommended production of the musical comedy Xanadu. 

Tickets are good for the winner's choice of one of the following performances: June 24 at 8 p.m.; June 26 at 2 p.m.; June 29 at 8 p.m. or June 30 at 8 p.m. 

ENTER HERE for your chance to WIN!
Enter early and often through midnight June 21st. 

American Theater Company’s production of the musical comedy Xanadu turns the theater’s warehouse space into a roller disco. This spoof of the 1980's camp classic film features Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) songs including “Evil Woman” and “All Over the World.” Don’t forget your leg warmers!

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar
Check out our full review below:

Ah Xanadu. The high art of 80's neon, leg warmers, rainbow unicorns and roller disco lives on! American Theater Company's scrappy little musical deserved their unanimous standing ovation for this one. Don't be fooled by the storefront aesthetic. This cast is full of powerhouse vocalists and quadruple threat pros who not only sing, dance and act, but do it on roller skates! 

Photo Credit for all production photos: Michael Brosilow

I'm still grinning ear to ear from this hilarious and heartfelt parody. And I'm dazed and amused they managed to transform their storefront into a full on mini roller rink and theatre in the round! This sweet setup makes for intimate staging, and provides some great audience interaction laughs, and in your face (or your lap) physical comedy.

One line from the show keeps coming back to me, "It's like children's theatre for gay 40 year olds." Yes... Yes it is. This campy comeback is sure to steal hearts. It's wittier and far funnier than the movie it sprang from, with the original pop hits and absurd premise intact, and the addition of better tunes, too. Lili-Anne Brown (Director) has guided this production to the height of hilarity. Landree Fleming (Kira) is a stellar stand out. The quick pacing and impeccable comedic timing of the entire ensemble makes this show a true treat. 

Gone are the peasant blouses and billowing skirts of the movie version of Kira, though the muses do have modified 70's versions of toga like robes in the form of maxi dresses and parachute pants. We dig Kira's ultra 70's costume choices of a terrycloth jumpsuit, leg warmers and giant pompons on the skates. Sonny was a vision of the past in tube socks, head band, cut offs and neon. 

The casting of several of the muse sisters as men added extra levels of fun to this production, and they camped it up classically. We also loved the gentle and too true digs on the whole 80's aesthetic, and on Olivia Newton John's Australian accent and affectations. They even snuck in a nice little Singin' in the Rain tribute for Gene Kelly, who was also in the original 1980 movie. The muses have a much bigger role in the stage version, including an overt plot to hex Kira and make her fall in love with a mortal. 

I prepped for the opening with a family XANADU movie night with my husband, who vaguely remembered it, and my teens who had never seen it. XANADU came out when I was 13 and my husband was 15 -- exactly the ages our kids are now. It was a fun trip through the waaaaay back machine, especially since the movie recreates both the 40's and 80's. ATC's musical version stands alone as a fun romp through the decades, whether you've seen the movie or not, but if you have seen the movie (especially recently) the stage show lampooning is far funnier.

It's tough to strike a balance between parody and snark and ATC's XANADU rocks that balancing act with panache. This is an absolute must see and fun for all ages. This ATC tribute is performed in memory of one of their inspirations, former artistic director, PJ Paparelli, who's untimely death last year shook the company and sent ripples through Chicago's theatre community. It's so great he can be remembered for his driving, documentary style productions on social problems, like Chicago's public housing crises, and also in a playful, high camp way, with XANADU. Maybe he's hangin' on the other side with Zeus and the muses today?! I wouldn't be surprised. At any rate, his life, and work, and even his silly film favorites continue to inspire ATC and Chicago's creative scene.


Xanadu takes place in VeniceCalifornia in 1980. Struggling artist Sonny Malone seeks to create his own version of the American dream by renovating an abandoned warehouse into a venue for world-class entertainment – a roller disco! A hilarious and modern update of the1980’s camp classic, Xanadu celebrates the artist’s muse, even when it comes from the most unlikely of places.

Xanadu Performance Schedule:
Regular Run: June 7–July 17: Tuesday–Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

American Theater Company (ATC) opened musical comedy Xanadu, the final production of its Legacy Season, Sunday, June 5. Presented as a tribute to ATC’s late Artistic Director PJ Paparelli—a not-so-secret fan of this camp classic—Xanadu is directed by Lili-Anne Brown and runs at ATC now through July 17, 2016. The production has music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar and a book by Douglas Carter Beane, based on the 1980 Universal Pictures film of the same title.

Single tickets for Xanadu range from $48-$58. Student tickets are available for $15 with valid student ID in-person at the Box Office. More information and tickets are available by visiting the ATC Box Office at 1909 W. Byron Street, by calling 773-409-4125 or visiting 

The cast for ATC’s tribute production of Xanadu includes Missy Aguilar (Calliope), Kasey Alfonso (Erato) Karla L. Beard (Melpomene), Jim DeSelm (Sonny), Landree Fleming (Kira), Aaron Holland (Danny Maguire, Zeus), Michelle Lauto (Kira U/S & Swing), Hanah Rose Nardone (Euterpe), James Nedrud (Terpsichore/Sonny cover), Daniel Spagnuolo (Thalia/Danny cover), and Cameron Turner (Swing).

Missy Aguilar (Calliope) most recently appeared as Baby Rose in Babes in Arms, Oolie/Donna in City of Angels with Porchlight Music Theatre and U/S Ivy (performed) in The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes with Mercury Theatre. Last spring and summer she was happy to spend on the pier at Chicago Shakespeare Theater with Disney’s The Little Mermaid (Atina/Ensemble, U/S Ursula), and Sense and Sensibility: A New Musical (U/S Fanny/Mrs. Jennings, performed). Ms. Aguilar’s other recent Chicago area credits include: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Ivan’s Concierge, U/S Lucia) and The Beverly Hillbillies (Cousin Pearl/Gloria) with Theatre at the Center; Les Miserables (Ensemble & U/S Mdme. Thenadier) with Drury Lane; Nunsense (Sister Hubert) with Fox Valley Repertory; and In The Heights (Ensemble & U/S Abuela Claudia) with Paramount Theatre.

Kasey Alfonso (Erato) makes her ATC debut. Chicago credits include: West Side Story, Rent and In The Heights (Paramount Theatre); Seussical (Chicago Shakespeare); Iphegenia in Aulis (Court Theatre); Wonderland (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Carrie: The Musical (Bailiwick Chicago); and Smokey Joe’s Café (Theo Ubique). She also stars as Kid Zhuyin in the web series The Adventures of Jacketmen. Ms. Alfonso is a proud graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts.

Karla L. Beard (Melpomene) returns to ATC after appearing in Rent. She has appeared in Second City productions of What the Tour Guide Didn’t Tell You in the Up theatre, Soul Brother, Where Art Thou, Rush Limbaugh! The Musical, The Absolute Best Frigging Time of Your Life on the ETC stage, an assortment of Second City BizCo productions, several episodes of Chicago Live! and briefly in The Second City Guide to the Opera and Let Them Eat Chaos. TV/Film credits: Chicago PD, Empire, Mind Games and a variety of commercials. Other credits include: Mamma Mia! (National Tour); Doubt and Little Shop of Horrors (Peninsula Players); Sunday in the Park with George, Anyone Can Whistle and Princess and the Black-eyed Pea (Ravinia); The Amen Corner (Goodman Theatre and Huntington Theatre); The Piano Lesson (Madison Repertory Theatre; artist and music director); Miss Saigon and Hot Mikado (Marriott Lincolnshire); Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Arkansas Repertory); and Ragtime (Porchlight Theater). Ms. Beard received Jeff Nominations for her portrayals of the title character in the Midwest premiere of Dessa Rose, TiMoune in Once on This Island and Young Barbara Jordan in Voice of Good Hope at Victory Gardens.

Jim DeSelm (Sonny) makes his ATC debut. Chicago area credits: West Side Story and Beaches (Drury Lane Oakbrook); Road Show (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); James Joyce’s The Dead (Court Theatre); Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre); South Pacific (Marriott Theatre); Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar (Theatre at the Center); Juno (TimeLine Theatre Company); A Catered Affair (Porchlight Music Theatre); Parade and Floyd Collins (Boho Theatre; Jeff Award Nomination - Actor/Musical); The Mikado (The Hypocrites); The Last Five Years (Kokandy Productions, Jeff Award Nomination - Actor/Musical); and Pump Boys & Dinettes (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, Jeff Nomination - Music Direction). Regional Credits include: Snapshots (Village Theatre/Arizona Theatre Company); Oklahoma!, Once Upon A Mattress and Plain & Fancy (Round Barn Theatre). Television credits include Chicago P.D. (NBC) and Double Cross (Investigation Discovery).

Landree Fleming (Kira) makes her ATC debut. She was most recently seen as Penny in Hairspray (Paramount Theatre). Other Chicago credits include: Seussical (Marriott Theatre); Spelling Bee (Drury Lane Theatre, Griffin Theatre, Theatre at the Center); Gypsy (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Godspell (Theatre at the Center); She Kills Monsters (u/s, Buzz22); Reefer Madness (Circle Theatre, Jeff Nomination - Best Actress); and The Giver (Adventure Stage Chicago). Ms. Fleming is a member of musical sketch comedy group Off Off Broadzway. She is represented by Gray Talent.
Aaron Holland (Danny Maguire, Zeus) returns to ATC. Recent Chicago credits include: SISTER ACT! (Marriott); Seussical! (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Hair (American Theater Company); The Color Purple (Mercury Theatre); A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre); Goodnight Moon and Dot & Ziggy (Chicago Children’s Theatre); and Passing Strange (Bailiwick Chicago). TV credits: Chicago Med. Mr. Holland received a BFA in Theatre Performance from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Michelle Lauto (Kira U/S & Swing) makes her ATC debut. Favorite credits include the Chicago premieres of Murder Ballad (Bailiwick Chicago), 35mm (Circle Theatre) and The Boy From Oz (Pride Films & Plays). Ms. Lauto is a proud graduate of The Second City Training Center Conservatory.

Hanah Rose Nardone (Euterpe) makes her ATC debut. Chicago credits include: Bye Bye Birdie and White Christmas (Drury Lane Oakbrook); The Little Mermaid (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); and The Wild Party, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Ripper and Spring Awakening (CCPA at Roosevelt University). Regional credits include: 42nd Street, Big River, Legally Blonde and The Sound of Music (The Little Theatre on the Square); Guys and Dolls, Boeing Boeing, Footloose and Cabaret (Timber Lake Playhouse). Ms. Nardone recently received her BFA in Musical Theatre from The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

James Nedrud (Terpsichore/Sonny cover) makes his ATC debut. Recent credits include: Angry Fags (Pride Films and Plays at the Steppenwolf Garage); Mary Poppins (Paramount Theatre, Aurora); Les Miserables (Drury Lane Theatre, Oak Brook); Applause (Porchlight Revisits); WOZ: A Rock Cabaret (Kim Lawson at Victory Gardens); Three Little Pigs (Emerald City); and Under a Rainbow Flag (Pride Films and Plays; Jeff nomination for best supporting actor in a musical). He has also worked with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, About Face Theatre and Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, among others. Mr. Nedrud is a proud graduate of the Chicago College of Performing Arts and member of Pride Films and Plays.

Daniel Spagnuolo (Thalia/Danny cover) has worked at The Paramount Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre, ProfilesTheatre, Boho Theatre Ensemble, The Little Theatre on the Square, and Light Opera Works. Danny’s choreography credits: Rent (Theo Ubique Cabaret); The Full Monty (Kokandy Productions; Non-Equity Jeff Award Nomination); Godspell and A New Brain (Brown Paper Box Co.; Broadway World Nominations); The Little Mermaid (Drury Lane Oakbrook); and Ruthless (Big Noise). Mr. Spagnuolo has served as assistant choreographer on such productions as A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Porchlight Music Theatre) and American Idiot (The Hypocrites).
Cameron Turner (Swing) makes his ATC debut. He is a Chicago-based actor/director/choreographer and proud graduate of The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Previous performance credits include: Jesus Christ Superstar (Theo Ubique Cabaret); DamnYankees and Annie Get Your Gun (Light Opera Works); and Les Miserables and A Chorus Line (Timber Lake Playhouse). Other Chicago credits include: 35MM: A Musical Exhibition (Director/Choreographer - Circle Theatre); The Boy From Oz (Choreographer - Pride Film & Plays); Jesus Christ Superstar (Asst. Choreographer - Theo Ubique Cabaret); and The Wild Party (Asst. Choreographer - Bailiwick Chicago).

Douglas Carter Beane’s (Playwright) plays include: The Nance, The Little Dog Laughed (Tony, Olivier nominations; GLAAD Media Award), Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, As Bees in Honey Drown (Outer Critics Circle, Gassner Playwriting awards), Advice From a Caterpillar, The Country Club, Music From a Sparkling Planet, The Cartells.  Musicals: Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella(Tony nom.), Sister Act (Tony nom.), Lysistrata Jones (Tony nom.), Xanadu (Tony nom.; Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle awards). Revues: White Lies; Mondo Drama; The Late, Late Show. Opera: Die Fledermaus (Met). Screenplays: To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar; Advice From a Caterpillar (Best Feature, Aspen Comedy Festival).  Producer: 21 plays as founder and artistic director of New York’s Drama Dept. Member of the Dramatists Guild and is on the Playwrights Walk of Fame at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.
Jeff Lynne (Music and Lyrics) is a founding member of the Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO, whose discography includes five platinum-selling albums: Face the Music, A New World Record, Out of the Blue, Discovery, and Xanadu. In addition to his recording work with the ELO, Lynne co-produced studio albums by George Harrison (Cloud Nine), Roy Orbison (Mystery Girl), Tom Petty (Full Moon Fever), Ringo Starr (Time Takes Time), and Paul McCartney (Flaming Pie). He co-founded the "supergroup," the Traveling Wilburys, with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison. Lynn co-wrote and produced the track "Let It Shine" for Beach Boy Brian Wilson's debut solo album in 1988.

John Farrar (Music and Lyrics) is a music producer, guitarist, singer, and former member of the British rock group, The Shadows. He worked extensively with Olivia Newton-John, producing fourteen of her albums and writing many of her hit singles, including "You're the One That I Want" (Golden Globe nom.), "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (Academy Award nom.), and "Have You Never Been Mellow." He co-wrote with Tim Rice songs for the 1995 musical, Heathcliff, and collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola to create songs for a new musical, Gidget.

Lili-Anne Brown (Director) is the Artistic Director of Bailiwick Chicago. She received the Joseph Jefferson Award in 2014 (Direction of a Musical) for her direction of Ahrens & Flaherty's Dessa Rose. Other directing credits include: Michael John LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See (Steppenwolf Theatre Garage Rep), the critically acclaimed Chicago premiere of Passing Strange (BTA Award for Best Director of a Musical, Jeff Award nomination for Best Director of a Musical), and the world premiere of Princess Mary Demands Your Attention by Aaron Holland, for Bailiwick Chicago; On the Boards and Hearts of Darkness at Roosevelt University; and Hairspray, Unnecessary Farce, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, all at Timber Lake Playhouse, where she is an Artistic Associate. Upcoming next season: American Idiot at Northwestern University and Jabari Dreams of Freedom by Nambi Kelley at Chicago Children's Theatre. She works as an actor, director and educator, both locally and regionally, and is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA, and an associate of SDC. Lili-Anne is a Northwestern University graduate (Performance Studies), and a proud native Chicagoan.

About American Theater Company
American Theater Company (ATC) challenges and inspires its community by exploring stories that ask the question, "What does it mean to be an American?" ATC’s Ensemble includes Patrick Andrews, Kareem Bandealy, Jaime Castañeda, Kelly O’Sullivan, Tyler Ravelson, and Sadieh Rifai.

American Theater Company is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and CityArts grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at Prince, and the Shubert Foundation.

Disclosure: Thanks to American Theater Company for providing one of our lucky readers with 2 tickets ($116 value) to their Jeff Recommended production of the musical comedy Xanadu. I have also been given a pair of tickets for the press opening to facilitate my review. As always, all opinions are my own.

Google Analytics