Category Archives: Chicago Theater

Paul Alexander Nolan and Samantha Williams in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Goodman Theatre’s “Life After” Is An Exhilarating New Musical

The Goodman Theatre’s production of Life After is a new musical with heart. With a strong ensemble and engaging story, this is a must-see!

Paul Alexander Nolan and Samantha Williams in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Paul Alexander Nolan and Samantha Williams in Britta Johnson’s Life After

On Alice Carter’s 16th birthday, her self-help author father, Frank, tragically dies in a car accident. This sounds like the beginning of a dire tale, but in Goodman’s production of Life After, a new musical written by Britta Johnson, that isn’t the case.

Life After is the story of Alice’s quest to investigate why her father was where he was during the car accident that ended his life. Surrounded by her mother, older sister, best friend, favorite teacher, and a Greek chorus-like trio who reflect Alice’s inner thoughts and feelings, Alice learns that the father whom she adored as a child was more human and multi-faceted than she ever knew.

Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Lauryn Hobbs, Chelsea Williams, Jen Sese, Skyler Volpe, Bryonha Marie Parham, Lucy Panush and Samantha Williams in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Lauryn Hobbs, Chelsea Williams, Jen Sese, Skyler Volpe, Bryonha Marie Parham, Lucy Panush and Samantha Williams in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Running for one hour and 35 minutes with no intermission, Life After is bursting with talent, great music, fun costumes, and a large number of incredible sets that keep the show fresh and engaging.

With an extraordinarily tight ensemble, every single actor was a standout. While many of us are used to watching a show and proclaiming things like, “The pirate was my favorite,” I can honestly say that throughout this show, I had that moment with every single actor and role.

Samantha Williams and Skyler Volpe in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Samantha Williams and Skyler Volpe in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Samantha Williams’ Alice is a passionately hurting 16-year-old with all of the loving, but self-focused normality of a teenager.

As Kate, Alice’s older sister, Skyler Volpe is a hilariously crunchy vegan with all of the righteousness of a 20-year-old who is discovering where she fits in this world.

Jen Sese and Bryonha Marie Parham in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Jen Sese and Bryonha Marie Parham in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Bryonha Marie Parham plays Alice’s mother, who is just trying to keep her world together in the wake of her husband’s sudden death. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the number “Wallpaper.” With an incredible feat of a song, Ms. Parham first led me to feel her pain so much that my full-body goosebumps overflowed into tears. It was magical.

 Lauryn Hobbs, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Lucy Panush, Chelsea Williams, Samantha Williams in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Lauryn Hobbs, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Lucy Panush, Chelsea Williams, Samantha Williams in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Lucy Panush, as Alice’s best friend Hannah, is a joy in her hilariously innocent and sweet demeanor that is a slight callback to the character of Tai in Clueless.

Paul Alexander Nolan, Jen Sese, Ashley Perez Flanagan, Lauryn Hobbs, and Chelsea Williams each have delightful moments that drive the story and engage the audience. It’s truly a pleasure to watch whatever – and whoever – comes next.

 Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Samantha Williams, Chelsea Williams, Paul Alexander Nolan and Lauryn Hobbs in Britta Johnson’s Life After

Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Samantha Williams, Chelsea Williams, Paul Alexander Nolan and Lauryn Hobbs in Britta Johnson’s Life After

With sets that range from a two-story home to a local restaurant to a high school and costume changes that happen in seconds, Life After allows you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the music – both literally and figuratively. I look forward to seeing where this show goes, but while it’s in Chicago, make the time to see it.

Goodman Theatre: Life After Chicago ReviewLife After is playing at The Goodman Theatre through 7/17/22. Tickets can be purchased at a discount through Goldstar or by calling (312) 443-3800. Goodman Theatre is located at 170 North Dearborn in Chicago.

Ben Rappaport and Sean Hayes in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

Goodman Theatre’s “Good Night, Oscar” Is A Must-See

Ben Rappaport and Sean Hayes in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

Ben Rappaport and Sean Hayes in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

In 1958, actor, pianist, and all around “character” Oscar Levant was one of Jack Paar’s favorite guests to have on his late-night talk show. They chatted, smoked cigarettes, and bantered about topics that would regularly have the NBC executives raising their eyebrows.

In the brand new play Good Night, Oscar, Doug Wright gives us a slice of life from this very time. The dramedy brings us to a specific night where Oscar Levant is set to be a guest on Jack Paar’s show. When Jack is informed by Oscar’s wife that Oscar is currently in a psychiatric facility receiving treatment, a debate ensues. She proceeds to get Oscar a four-hour pass, and regardless of his current mental state – because a professional is a professional – he appears on the Jack Paar show.

 Ben Rappaport, Sean Hayes and Peter Grosz in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

Ben Rappaport, Sean Hayes and Peter Grosz in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

This show is a marvel. Every member of the seven-person cast brought their A-game, and every moment was choreographed beautifully. The timing was sharp, the cast was engaged, and the talent was palpable.

Sean Hayes and Tramell Tillman in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

Sean Hayes and Tramell Tillman in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

I was particularly drawn to Tramell Tillman’s Alvin Finney, the orderly who accompanies Oscar from the hospital. There was a steadiness and peace in his being that elegantly offset the energy of the frenetic Oscar.

 Emily Bergl and Sean Hayes in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

Emily Bergl and Sean Hayes in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

The costumes stole the show during the first 10 minutes of the production. June Levant (played by an unyielding Emily Bergl) wore a yellow and silver flowered dress with a matching overcoat that one couldn’t help but gape at. It made you wonder back to a time when people dressed like that. Did that ever really happen? It should happen again. And the green and white striped sweater that Jack Paar (played by a congenial Ben Rappaport) wore made this reviewer wish she had found it first.

The sets moved smoothly and efficiently, as interesting to watch as one of the characters. The transitions between scenes, as couches and backdrops slid seamlessly offstage while another began to move forward or descend from the sky, was hugely enjoyable. Plus, in the end, as much as you were on the sound stage with Jack Paar and Oscar Levant, you were also in the same padded room.

Sean Hayes in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

Sean Hayes in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

And then there was Sean Hayes as Oscar Levant. To say that Mr. Hayes’ performance was extraordinary is an understatement. I cannot remember the last time I watched an actor only to have to lift my jaw off the floor. From the moment that he entered the stage, not only was he Oscar Levant, but he was a pained, conflicted, and tortured man who knew who he was and who he was expected to be.

Everything from the way that he carried himself to the slouchy clothing (that he wore as much as it wore him) to the constant ticks and movements brought on by both mental illness, previous treatments (such as electroshock therapy), and side effects from the medication, Mr. Hayes was a revelation. And by the time you get to the emotional climax of the show, you are experiencing every movement and intensity right along with him.

Let’s just say plainly – if Mr. Hayes doesn’t receive a Tony nomination and/or win for this remarkable portrayal of Oscar Levant, something has gone terribly wrong.

John Zdrojeski and Sean Hayes in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

John Zdrojeski and Sean Hayes in Doug Wright’s Good Night, Oscar

Luckily for us theatergoers, there are many great shows with which to spend our time – but this is on a whole other level. Magic on the stage should not be taken for granted.

With a six-show extension already, and while it is in Chicago (surely destined for Broadway), make sure that you purchase your tickets now. You will thank me.

Goodman Theatre: Good Night, Oscar Chicago ReviewGood Night, Oscar is playing at The Goodman Theatre through 4/24/22. Tickets can be purchased at a discount through Goldstar or by calling (312) 443-3800. Goodman Theatre is located at 170 North Dearborn in Chicago.

Tony and Maria kneeling on the floor in the Marriott Lincolnshire production of West Side Story

Marriott Theatre’s ‘West Side Story’ Is A Modern Dream

Tony and Maria kneeling on the floor in the Marriott Lincolnshire production of West Side StoryI have to admit, I am a West Side Story loyalist. I was raised on the 1961 classic and wouldn’t be shocked to find out it was in my DNA. When I completed my graduate degree, West Side Story was the DVD that I played on repeat, needing something in the background to keep me company on those long nights of work and papers. I think it’s safe to say that I have watched the movie hundreds of times.

All of this being said, I couldn’t see the new Steven Spielberg version. I have incredible respect for the vision and talent of all of the players in the new film, but it feels wrong to me. The new interpretation could never live up to the classic in my mind, as much as I appreciate how many people enjoyed it. No one will be hurt by my excusing myself, so I’m sure it’ll continue to be a success without me.

The Sharks dancing in the Marriott version of West Side StoryThe stage, however, is a little different. Still the modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet with the same music as the movie, there are interesting alterations that can be done in the theatre.

The Marriott Theatre production of West Side Story is chock full of energy and talent. An in-the-round stage is never an easy place to set a production with over 25 cast members, but they did it flawlessly.

Riff and Bernardo having a knife fight on stageWest Side Story is a modern ballet full of passion, anger, and energy, all of which were communicated from the stage. And as much as one wants to discuss the acting, the costumes, the sets, and the voices, if this show doesn’t have a stellar orchestra and seamless dancing, it can’t succeed.

The Marriott orchestra was on-point. Every note was beautiful and you easily forgot what a gift it was to have talented musicians performing this intricate piece because you were in it.

The cast excelled at dance, bodies and lines moving with articulate choreography (by Alex Sanchez), making the most of every inch on the stage. Watching the cast perform during the “Dance at the Gym” was a true marvel.

Maria on the balcony and Tony climbing down the ladder in West Side StoryJake David Smith and Lauren Maria Medina (a passionate Tony and lovable Maria respectively) carried the show well as leads. I’m hoping Mr. Smith will record his version of “Something’s Coming” so that we can all listen to it on repeat.

Anita and the female Sharks dancingA few additional standouts were Marisa Fee as Anybodys (a scene stealer in the best of ways – the eye was drawn to her), Bret Tuomi as Glad Hand (absolutely hilarious, making me wish for the first time ever that the part was longer and had more lines), and Vanessa Aurora Sierra as Anita (feisty and affecting).

The Marriott production of West Side Story is an entertaining creation of gorgeous voices, incredible dancing, and an unbeatable score. Go out and enjoy seeing some theatre in person again with this show.

Marriott Theatre: West Side Story Chicago ReviewWest Side Story is playing at Marriott Theatre through 3/27/2022. Tickets can be purchased by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.

Marriott Theatre’s ‘Kiss Me Kate’ Packs The Talent

Lilli Vanessi fighting with Bill Calhoun in 'Kiss Me Kate'The last time I stepped foot into a musical theatre performance was on December 26, 2019. At the time I had no idea how long it would be until I got to see a live performance again, and because life got in the way, I wasn’t able to go to a show during the first few months of 2020.

Then the pandemic hit and all of the theaters were shuttered. We had the benefit of seeing some viral musical performances online, but there is nothing like the energy of sitting in a theater seat and experiencing the energy of an in-person performance. The performers feel your energy, turn it into magic, and give it right back to you. There’s nothing like it.

So this performance of Kiss Me Kate at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire was my “welcome back.” Always full of the most talented casts, this show did not disappoint.

Kiss Me Kate is the story of a cast that is performing Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and all of the hijinks taking place both backstage and on stage. The leading lady, Lilli Vanessi, and leading man, Bill Calhoun were once married and although she believes he is once again professing his love for her, he is actually interested in a different actress (who isn’t all that interested in him).

While the entire cast has talent to spare, there are a few standouts of note. Susan Moniz (as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine) has a vocal range and power that is effortless. Just as you watch male ballet dancers lift their partners with ease, Ms. Moniz’s ability is something to marvel at.

Alexandra Palkovic (as Lois Lane/Bianca) played her characters (who could have come off as shallow and dislikeable) as women with charm and magnetism. I also felt like she was channeling Amy Adams’ performance in Catch Me If You Can in the most endearing way.

A man and woman singing in Kiss Me Kate Lincolnshire MarriottAs the two hired goons meant to collect a debt from Bill Calhoun, Lillian Castillo and Shea Coffman were hilarious and scene-stealing.

On the whole, this performance of Kiss Me Kate is chock full of talent, peppered with beautiful costumes, and a fun 2 1/2 hours at the theater. It’s time to go back and experience some of the magic you’ve been missing.

Marriott Theatre: Kiss Me Kate Chicago ReviewKiss Me Kate is playing at Marriott Theatre through 1/16/2022. Tickets can be purchased by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.

Marriott Theatre’s ‘Grease’ Is The Word

Pink Ladies at a table in GreaseThe greasers are back! When the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds descend onto a stage, you know that you’re in for some nostalgia. Marriott Theatre’s new production of Grease brings just that.

Danny and Sandy in GreaseA story of young love, Sandy and Danny meet at the beach and spend a summer together. When school starts, they both assume they may never see each other again. After a setup by their friends, they find that they attend the same high-school. Can “summer Danny” be the same guy he was at the beach? And can “summer Sandy” be cool enough for the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds? Those are the questions that need to be answered.

The play of Grease is different from the movie, so don’t go to the theater expecting to see Olivia Newton John in tight black spandex. The characters are a little different, the couples are a bit different and there are some songs and scenes that you won’t be familar with. Give it a chance! If you have always wanted to see Sandy punch someone, this is your opportunity.

While you are going to be familiar with many of the songs in the score (“Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightning,” “You’re The One That I Want”), there are a few numbers in the Marriott production that really stood out.

Jan and Roger in Grease“Those Magic Changes” is a fun song that is only sung in the play, not the movie. Performed by Doody (a charismatic Michael Kurowski) and the rest of the company, it is charming and swoon-worthy. “Mooning” is an adorable number sung by Roger and Jan (an endearingly hilarious Tiffany T. Taylor) that will give you the feels.

If you’re familiar with the movie, you know the “Hand Jive” song from the dance, but this version is even better. There is so much to watch and so many fun tricks being performed, you wonder how they can manage it every single performance.

Teen Angel and Frenchy in GreaseThen there is the Teen Angel. Pink Lady, Frenchy (a very cute Landree Fleming), wishes that she had a guardian angel to help guide her way – and he appears, along with his hair-roller-clad ensemble. Crooner Jonathan Butler-Duplessis struts onto the stage and entertains everyone as the Teen Angel – right down through the number encore. You’ll find yourself hooting at this one, believe me.

T-Birds in GreaseOverall, Grease is an entertaining show where each character gets a chance to highlight a little of their own world for the audience. You’ll leave with songs in your head and a smile on your face. A good time all around.

Marriott Theatre: Grease! Chicago ReviewGrease! is playing at Marriott Theatre through 3/15/2020. Tickets can be purchased by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.

Orphans in Oliver! sitting at a bare table

Marriott Theatre’s ‘Oliver!’ Is A Comfortable Take On A Classic

Orphans in Oliver! sitting at a bare table“Please sir, I want some more.” It’s a line and a meme that you’ve heard and seen a hundred times, and it all started with Oliver!

Oliver!, now playing at the Marriott Theatre, is the story of Oliver Twist, a young orphan who is sold to an undertaker in order to be a coffin follower. After being mistreated by all of the adults in his life, he runs away to London (with no money, food or contacts) to seek his fortune. He is quickly found by the Artful Dodger, another child who is one of a gang of petty thieves. This gang is led by Fagin, a would-be father figure (moldy sausages and gin anyone?), teaching each of the children the best way to be a pickpocket. When Oliver is arrested and ultimately taken in by the man he attempted to rob, Fagin, along with acquaintances Bill Sikes (a career criminal) and his girlfriend Nancy (fun and sympathetic, but woefully loyal) attempt to get him back before he divulges anything about their criminal enterprise.

Kai Edgar and Matthew R. Jones in Oliver!The Marriott production of Oliver! is great fun. There are 18 children in this show and approximately the same number of adults, so there is always something – and someone – to watch.

The cast of Oliver! at Marriott LincolnshireThis show being a classic, it is one that many of us have seen before – whether it be the movie version or live. Myself being one of those people, I enjoyed watching the different takes each performer had on their character.

Lucy Godinez as Nancy in Oliver!Lucy Godinez (with an incredible voice that alternatingly cuts like a knife, provides goosebumps – and sometimes both), plays Nancy as deeply pained and loyal, regardless of the cost. If Ms. Godinez ever decides to perform a musical version of the phone book, you will want to get tickets.

William Brown as Fagin in Oliver!William Brown’s Fagin fascinates me the most. Often, Fagin is played in “Disney villain over-the-topness.” Even though the character quietly knows who he is and what he does, you often see him tenting his fingers or twisting his mustache between scenes.

Mr. Brown’s interpretation gives the impression that this underground leader of petty thieves actually has some real intelligence, insight, and self-awareness. It was as if there is a touch of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof inside this man. Different from what I’ve experienced before, but I really enjoyed the portrayal.

Ziare Paul-Emile, Patrick Scott McDermott and Kai Edgar in Oliver!In the end, it is ultimately the children that you can’t keep your eyes off of. Adorably led by Kai Edgar as Oliver (alternating with Kayden Koshelev), the kids are dirty, energetic, full of deviousness and fun.

This Marriott production is an excellent take on a classic. With familiar songs like “Consider Yourself” and “Where Is Love?,” you will find yourself humming long after the performance is over. And considering that it is over 50 years old, it has aged pretty well.

Marriott Theatre: Oliver! Chicago ReviewOliver! is playing at Marriott Theatre through 12/29/19. Tickets can be purchased by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.

The cast of Something Rotten!

Marriott Theatre’s ‘Something Rotten’ Is The Cream Of The Crop

Nick and Nigel Bottom in Something Rotten!If you plan to see a single show this year, make it Marriott Theatre’s hilarious new production of Something Rotten! Sharp and witty, with inuendo to spare, this show is two and a half hours of constant belly laughs.

*Disclaimer – everything written in this review is underselling the show because it is impossible to capture the magic in writing. That is how good it is.*

Nick Bottom and Nostradamus in Something Rotten!Something Rotten! is the story of the Bottom brothers, two writers who are desperate to create a hit production. In a time where Shakespeare is a rock star and every other playright is seemingly second-rate, Nick Bottom consults Nostradamus (although, not the Nostradamus) for ideas. Based on his not-so-accurate visions of the future – and what would become “A Musical” – the brothers produce a show that would never be forgotten.

A hilarious script that was Tony nominated for both Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score in 2015, Something Rotten! has something to offer to everyone. Filled with constant moments to appreciate in both spoken word and song, the experience leaves you thinking about when you can return to see it again.

Will Shakespeare in Something Rotten!What’s better, the talent in the Marriott Theatre production is off the charts. Every single member of the cast is on-point, clearly enjoys what they are doing and has incredible performance skills. A few standouts are KJ Hippensteel as Nick Bottom (phenomenal), Cassie Slater as Bea (hilarious), Ross Lehman as Nostradomus (killer comedic timing), Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as the Minstrel (what a voice), and the scene stealing Sawyer Smith (in several smaller parts) who you won’t be able to stop watching.

Bea in Something Rotten!If you are a fan of musicals, give yourself the gift of this show. With frequent nods to other popular musicals that you have likely seen or are familiar with, the references are are like little firecrackers of delight. This show loves and understands musicals in the same way you do, so sharing those inside jokes is a constant bonus.

The cast of Something Rotten!There were several times during this show that I wished I could rewind and watch the moments again. The story, the music, the talent, and all of the costumes, sets and lighting make for an incredibly fun and memorable few hours. Get your tickets early! If you don’t, you’ll be sorry you missed it!

Marriott Theatre: Something Rotten! Chicago ReviewSomething Rotten! is playing at Marriott Theatre through 10/20/19. Tickets can be purchased by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.

Marriott Theatre’s ‘Darling Grenadine’ Never Quite Fills Your Glass

Harry and Louise facing each otherWhen one thinks of musical theatre, there are certain staples that you expect. You expect a story that is driven by drama or comedy, characters that you may or may not like (but hope to find a connection with), and music that drives all of it forward. In Marriott Theatre’s new production of Darling Grenadine, in its Midwest premiere, we got some of that. There is both drama and comedy, a few characters that are endearing, and well performed musical pieces. The issue was the lack of connection.

Harry at a piano with a drinkDarling Grenadine is the story of Harry (played by Heath Saunders), a bar owner and composer, who meets and charms Louise (played by Katherine Thomas), an actress. The two develop a relationship with normal ups and downs until Louise gets wind of the fact that Harry is a struggling alcoholic. With more downs than ups, and doing her best to support him through a tragedy and family disfunction, their relationship finds its way to a conclusion that is ultimately best for both of them.

Paul and Harry singing at a pianoThere are a total of five actors in this show, and each is a stellar performer. They work as a cohesive unit, with two (“Woman” played by Allison Sill and “Man” played by Brandon Springman) taking on all of the small roles throughout the piece (think customers, Louise’s co-stars in the play, a couple walking on the street, etc.) and the other three playing the leads. Nick Cosgrove (a standout) plays Harry’s brother and Louise’s confidante who helps to gel the pieces of story together.

Harry with Paul the dogOne progressive choice in casting is Harry’s dog. Paul the dog is another character in the show, and a main character at that. Performed by Phillip Huber of The Huber Marionettes, Paul the dog is lifelike and magnetic in the way that living dogs are. He plays, jumps, drinks, and breathes just like a real dog. And while one first notices Mr. Huber as the marionettist on the stage, he quickly becomes less of the focus as  Paul the dog integrates into the story. Mr. Huber’s black clothing, gloves, and brimmed hat, plus the fact that he keeps his eyes on Paul, leads the audience to also watch Paul. In a few short scenes, Paul the dog is just who he is – Harry’s trusty sidekick.

Louise sitting at a tableThere are many intriguing aspects of Darling Grenadine that feel unique and risky. A serious story about an alcoholic and his downfalls isn’t your typical musical theater setting, but it works. Bits of Louise’s play performed intermittently throughout the show could have been a stretch, but it works. A marionette dog on stage? It works.

The main issue in this piece is the lack of connection between the show and the audience. There is music that is well written, but little with enough substance that you don’t find yourself humming afterward. The storyline has compelling overarching topics, but nothing to really draw you in. While there is substantial quality in the piece and the music within it, I was left wondering if the show knew what it wanted to be. And if the piece has trouble defining itself, it is difficult for the audience to become invested enough to discover what it has to offer.

Overall, Daring Grenadine is 2 1/2 hours of impressive talent, intense story, interesting canines, and a couple pieces of licorice. That said, I still feel like I’m missing something.

Marriott Theatre: Darling Grenadine Chicago ReviewDarling Grenadine is playing at Marriott Theatre through 8/18/19. Tickets can be purchased by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.

Marriott Theatre’s ‘Footloose’ Is Mostly Fancy-Free Fun

Actors dancing in FootlooseWhen you hear the title Footloose, many of you may be like me. You go back in time a little bit, envision Kevin Bacon with his Walkman and start singing in your head (or out loud!) “Everybody cut footloose, footloose. Kick off the Sunday shoes…” I know I’m not alone here.

I will admit that I was curious when I heard there was a Footloose musical. With all of the remakes that we have seen onscreen and on Broadway of late, I wasn’t sure whether to expect brilliance or blah. In the end, the brilliance of the cast at Marriott theater overshadowed some of the blah that was the play itself.

Footloose is the story of Ren, a big city teen who moves to a very small town after his father abandons him and his mother. Due to a horrible accident years before that resulted in the deaths of four teenagers, all forms of dancing and rock and roll music have been banned. When Ren meets Ariel, the daughter of the town Reverend and sister to one of the teens who died in the accident, they help each other find a way out of their sadness and bring the town along with them.

While some of the script was dry and a little slow at times, the cast of Footloose did everything they could to overcome the issues – and they succeeded. The characters – decked out in full 80’s clothing, hair and makeup – were extremely enjoyable and the cast was loaded with talent.

Lucy Godinez (Ariel) had a singing voice that could cut through the silence like a knife – in the best way you can imagine. I would happily listen to her sing the phone book and likely ask her to do it again when she finished. Ariel’s three friends Rusty, Wendy Jo and Urleen (Monica Ramirez, Sara Reinecke, and Keirsten Hodgens respectively) were not only fun, but the actresses’ voices and harmonies were phenomenal. Then you had Ben Barker’s Willard who was fun comic relief with lots of personality.

Footloose cast

In terms of musical numbers, there were some absolute standouts. “Holding out for a Hero” (yes, the song that you know) was a teenage cast number that was led by Ariel and her three friends (again, outstanding voices). It was set at the lunch tables and its choreography reminded me a little of “Summer Nights” from Grease – only with much more energy and style. “Almost Paradise” was also stellar, as our two leads find some peace with each other under the stars. This is one of those songs that you wish you could hear again because their voices melded so beautifully.

Overall, while there was some script awkwardness, the cast and crew of Marriott Theater’s Footloose had the talent to overcome and thoroughly entertain. If this was a movie that you loved or a song you find yourself singing, let this cast show you what they can do.

Marriott Theatre: Footloose Chicago ReviewFootloose is playing at Marriott Theatre through 6/2/19. Tickets can be purchased by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.

Marriott Theatre’s ‘Murder For Two’ Will Have You Dying With Laughter

Zany, funny, wacky, and quick. These are the words that emerge when I think about the new production of Murder For Two at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. And tissues! I should mention tissues. You’ll need them to wipe away the laughing tears streaming down your face.

Marriott Theatre's 'Murder For Two' will have you dying with laughter!Murder For Two is a show about a murder. Well, it’s less about the actual murder (and the invisible body that gets suddenly noticed, tripped over or ignored altogether) and more about the twelve suspects. When a writer is shot while entering his surprise party, everyone in attendance becomes a person of interest. Enter Marcus Moscowicz, a small town policeman, who has arrived to try to solve the case. He is not a detective yet, but is determined that this case – and the solving of it – will launch him into the position. If he can just figure everything out before the real detective arrives…

Marriott Theatre's 'Murder For Two' will have you dying with laughter!The twelve suspects are each unique and hilarious in their own way. They run the gamut from a sophisticated and sexy ballet dancer to three boys from a children’s choir to a wheelchair-bound psychiatrist – and they are all played by the same actor.

For a full hour and a half (with no intermission), there are two actors on the stage who play every character in the show. Marcus Moscowicz (played with endearing kookiness by Noel Carey) is the (fairly) stable center and the twelve suspects (played by Jason Grimm, brilliant) provide all of the spokes of a wheel. This duo is also in charge of the music for the show. Both actors play the piano proficiently and frequently – so much so that it almost becomes a character of its own.

Marriott Theatre's 'Murder For Two' will have you dying with laughter!It is difficult to say much more about the plot of the show without ruining the fun, so forgive me for not doing so. I have your best interests at heart. That said, I don’t remember the last time I laughed at a performance the way I did at this one. And it wasn’t just me. There were cackles and pauses to allow for laughing throughout – which was gracious of the performers, because we the audience could not contain ourselves.

Marriott Theatre's 'Murder For Two' will have you dying with laughter!Murder For Two also provides another unique situation for the actors. It is just the two of them up there, surrounded by semi-gaudy chandeliers and décor that is the character’s house. When it is a two person cast, there is the potential for knowing each other very, very well on stage. And just like those skits on Saturday Night Live, we were privileged to be able to see two of those delicious moments when the actors were legitimately breaking character for a split second because they were having so much fun. Where they were looking at each other with a twinkle in their eyes, and we got to be witness to it. These moments made the night that much more fun.

Marriott Theatre's 'Murder For Two' will have you dying with laughter!Murder For Two is a nutty romp that is absolutely worth the hour and a half of your time. With two actors who are as talented as these gentleman, give the gift of taking yourself out of the world for a bit and laugh until you cry. This is one murder that you truly want to know more about.

Marriott Theatre: Murder For Two Chicago ReviewMurder For Two is playing at Marriott Theatre through 8/26/18. Tickets can be purchased by calling (847) 634-0200. Marriott Theatre is located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.