Year in Review – 2017’s Best Non-Muscials

#1. Gloria – Goodman Theater

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Jeanine Serralles and Ryan Spahn

With just six actors (each playing multiple roles), Gloria creates a panoramic of the modern workplace complete with winners, losers, and those stuck in between. Branden Jacob-Jenkins’s script ends the first act with the only scene of the year that literally left me shaking in my seat—so much so that I found myself purchasing the last ticket in the house for Gloria‘s last performance so I could take it all in a second time.

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Year in Review – 2017’s Best Non-Muscials

Hedwig and the Angry Inch—Oriental (3/16/17)

The fall of the Berlin Wall inspires one of the most striking images from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. The stage goes black following the searing, heavy metal song “Angry Inch,” and when the lights fade in, Hedwig stares straight into space. And the audience laughs—not out of cruelty, but because, as Hedwig says, “I laugh, because I would cry if I don’t.”

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Euan Morton performs “Tear Me Down.”

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch—Oriental (3/16/17)

Year in Review – 2016’s best non-musicals

#1. Sunset Baby – Timeline Theater

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(left) Phillip Edward Van Lear and AnJi White; (right) AnJi White and Kelvin Roston, Jr.

If you have never heard Nina Simone sing “Don’t Let Me be Misunderstood,” you need to click here.  Dominique Morisseau’s masterpiece script embodies the pain and desperation of Simone’s song (which serves as a backdrop).  The struggles Nina (AnJi White), Kenyatta (Phillip Edward Van Lear), and Damon (Kelvin Roston, Jr.) face in escaping crime are all the more heartbreaking with the realization that not all three will find the happiness they seek. Each is a soul whose intentions are… if not “good,” at least essential for survival. A stellar script (second in recent memory only to Bruce Norris’s The Whale) thrives with three award-worthy performances and expert direction from Ron OJ Parson.

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Year in Review – 2016’s best non-musicals

Finding Neverland—Cadillac Palace (11/25/16)

One of the first shows I saw on Broadway was Beauty and the Beast*.  Even at 15 years old, I remember feeling perplexed by a subplot that did not exist in the movie.  Evidently, the Beast never learned to read, and Belle needs to teach him how to read, and when he is learning to read he transforms into a bratty child.  “Told ‘ya!” is his response to Belle when he correctly predicts a plot twist in the book she is reading to him… a line that always elicits giggles from children in the audience.

Unlike Beauty and the Beast, which forces adults to cringe through that condescending subplot for only two minutes, Finding Neverland is a two-and-a-half hour extension of that legacy started by Beast’s illiteracy.  In short: Broadway musicals marketed toward children are allowed to stunt character development and sacrifice plausibility by creating adult characters that transgress in maturity for the sake of “comedy.”

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Kevin Kern and Tom Hewitt

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Finding Neverland—Cadillac Palace (11/25/16)

Thrones! The Musical Parody—Apollo Theater (11/21/16)

Midway through Thrones! The Musical Parody, I came to a realization.  I have spent more time in Westeros than in any other literary kingdom.

As an audiobook reader, I am through book four (of five).  I have listened to 121 CD’s regaling every strategic move, sexual relation, and torturous murder in George R.R. Martin’s series.  That’s roughly 141 hours, which we can easily round up to 150 hours with the additional time spent on Wikipedia, where I have outsourced my memory of minor characters that disappear for thousands of pages and then reappear as critical players.

Even with 150 hours under my belt, I only caught about 70% of the jokes in Thrones!  The Musical Parody, but my ignorance did not reduce my enjoyment of this Scottish import currently extended at the Apollo Theater through January 15.  The jokes that flew over my head reinforced that the fan worship of Game of Thrones is just as ripe for mockery as the series itself.

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Nick Druzbanski, Madeline Lauzon, Caitlyn Cerza and Beau Nolen

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Thrones! The Musical Parody—Apollo Theater (11/21/16)

One-Man Star Wars Trilogy — Broadway Playhouse (4/21/16)

I’m very, very excited to tread new ground with this blog post.  For the first time at theaterinchicagoreviews, we have a guest blogger: Star Wars fan and emerging theater enthusiast Matt Davis (a fellow English teacher at Bartlett High School).  Please enjoy not one but two analysis of this enduring one-man show.

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One-Man Star Wars Trilogy — Broadway Playhouse (4/21/16)

Hairspray — Paramount Theater (2/6/16)

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E. Faye Butler (center) and the cast of Hairspray performing “You Can’t Stop the Beat.” Photo credit: Liz Lauren

On Broadway, since the year 2000, only three of the 16 Tony Award winners for best musical focus on a woman as the main character—Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002); Hairspray (2003); and Fun Home (2015).  Certainly a number of Broadway hit musicals include complex female characters and female-centered relationships, but for every Wicked there are two or three musicals like Spamalot or Gentleman’s Guide… shows where female characters are relegated to flat supporting roles.

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Hairspray — Paramount Theater (2/6/16)