“Cats” and “Les Miserables” have both returned to Chicago this summer, and “West Side Story” is in the throes of a renaissance. Here are some brief impressions about all three musicals as experienced in their recent incarnations.
Hedy Weiss: Theater Reviews
Steppenwolf’s fabled 1982 production of Sam Shepard’s darkly comic tale is a foundational part of Chicago theater history. And now, two of the company’s “next generation” of actors are bringing their own high-octane intensity to the play.
With its volcanic staging of Jonathan Caren’s intensely physical play, Windy City Playhouse has carved out a unique niche for itself in Chicago with a style dubbed “immersive theater.”
It might not be a Broadway-style blockbuster, but this intimate musical very skillfully mixes romantic comedy tropes with an uncompromising look at self-destructive behavior, self-doubt, alcoholism and complex friendships.
A wonderfully imagined riff on the Ada Lovelace story, Lauren Gunderson’s fascinating, emotionally feverish play is now receiving a vividly realized Chicago premiere production by The Artistic Home.
For all it’s polish and ambition I can’t say the show has turned me into a fan of the operetta style. But “The Flower of Hawaii” is unquestionably an artifact of musical theater interest, and this might just be the only chance you will ever have to experience it.
Despite the dire warnings about “the demise of the audience for classical music,” there is a significant audience in Chicago that values this incomparable art form. Two recent, radically different CSO concerts are prime examples.
Arriving at Theo Ubique as the final show of the theater’s first season in its spacious new Evanston home, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” serves as definitive proof that this company can finesse anything and everything in the musical theater repertory.
The unlikely combination of Vivaldi, Beethoven and Gershwin with two contemporary works was full of delightful surprises and unexpected revelations.
The titles of the four pieces provide a telling suggestion of the psychologically probing works being performed with the company’s trademark blend of uncanny fluidity, plasticity, control and ensemble perfection.
In some ways, “For Services Rendered” is an old-fashioned play, but it is a beauty. And coming at a moment when Britain is undergoing a different sort of social and economic upheaval, it seems ideally timed for a revival.
This unabashedly flamboyant fantasia by Tina Landau and Tarell Alvin McCraney spins the true story of Joan Jett Blakk, who helped found the Chicago branch of the Queer Nation Party and ran for Chicago mayor in 1991.
“There Is Greatness In Me” is the defining song in this riveting musical that releases the full “greatness” in its lead character by way of an electrifying performance by veteran Chicago actress Barbara E. Robertson.
The 200th anniversary of “Frankenstein” was celebrated by a slew of Chicago theaters last year. Lookingglass’ new production has arrived a bit late in the game, but with its raw beauty and feverish emotion, it turns out to be well worth the wait.
Forget about spending your last dime for tickets to The Rolling Stones’ concerts at Soldier Field next month. Instead, check out the fire-breathing female royalty of this sensational musical at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.