Post image for Chicago Theater Review: THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER (Mercury Theater Chicago)

I SAW TREE SHIPS! Anchors aweigh! Twenty-two years after its advent, this show has become as essential to Chicago’s Christmas as the LEDs on the Magnificent Mile, the parade on State Street, the “Zoolites” of Lincoln Park, the skating rink by the Park Café, or the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre. (I’d include A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre, […]

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Post image for Chicago Opera Review: TURANDOT (Lyric Opera)

TURANDOT MISSES THE PLOT It’s difficult to know what to make of Puccini’s Turandot, much less to pronounce the title properly. (Is the final ‘t’ silent? Who knows?) The composer’s last, unfinished opera is so unlike anything he had done previously. Turandot seems to have the epic historical sweep and musical grandeur of Tosca, yet […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: RED VELVET (Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

BURNT BY THE TRAIL HE BLAZED What in theater is ever off limits? And, above all, who? Besides the probability of the part, are there bounds to the roles an actor can play? Believing that merit mattered more than credentials or cachet, Napoleon promised careers open only to talent. Color-blind casting is the logical extension […]

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Post image for Los Angeles Music Review: TCHAIKOVSKY’S FIRST PIANO CONCERTO (Sergio Tiempo, Xian Zhang and the Los Angeles Philharmonic)

TIEMPO’S TANTALIZINGLY TEMPESTUOUS TEMPO Sergio Tiempo is the real deal. When a pianist can take a work as familiar as Tchaikovsky’s 1874 First Piano Concerto and turn it into an exciting Olympic event, I’m more than sold. Appearing at a packed Disney Hall this morning (in a program that runs through Sunday), the very cool […]

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Post image for CD Review: I FALL IN LOVE TOO EASILY (Katherine McPhee on BMG)

TAKING IT MCPHEEASY It took a few spins of Katharine McPhee’s standard-drenched new CD to realize that not all interpretations of the Great American Songbook have to strike you over the head with originality and flair. Sitting in the producer’s chair is the great Don Was, who ensured that this languorous, lush, piano-lounge set puts […]

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Post image for Los Angeles Dance Preview: THE NUTCRACKER SUITE (American Contemporary Ballet)

BUSTING A NUTCRACKER Before you grumble and run screaming, “Not another Nutcracker Suite!” — trust me when I tell you that American Contemporary Ballet has something up its red-fur, white-trimmed sleeve with an all-new imagining that presents new choreography while putting you directly inside the Land of the Sweets. When I was told patrons will […]

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Post image for Theater Review: BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL (National Tour)

MAKING YOUR MUSIC MATTER If notes make joy, these 150 minutes are the elixir of happiness. Spanning only 13 years of its creator’s career (1958-1971), Beautiful: The Carole King Musical balances life against art. Magnificently. Its wonderful songs both stand on their own and preserve the pain and pleasure that went into their making. Douglas McGrath’s […]

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Post image for Los Angeles Theater Review: THE HEART OF ROBIN HOOD (The Wallis in Beverly Hills)

WE GET EVERYTHING BUT THE HEART Certainly one of the most gorgeous lavish sets ever seen at the Wallis, with gorgeous sumptuous costumes, and gorgeous talented athletic actors. With all of the boisterous shenanigans, you won’t be bored; there’s undeniable entertainment value. But what happens when you throw everything into a show to make sure […]

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Post image for Los Angeles Theater Review: PACIFIC OVERTURES (Chromolume Theatre)

PLEASE HELLO! Remarkably, one of the most difficult things about Pacific Overtures is that Harold Prince directed the original production utilizing the ancient Japanese theater-form, Kabuki, which isn’t necessary to elucidate John Weidman’s book (can you imagine if every production of Merrily We Roll Along used a teenage cast, as Prince’s original production did?). The […]

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Post image for Chicago Theater Review: GOBSMACKED! (Broadway in Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse)

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BEAT Now in a very brief visit to Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse, Gobsmacked! is a good title for a show that slaps sounds out of seven performers’ fertile heads. It hits an audience too for almost two hours of fervent imitation. This touring U.K. troupe mimic every percussive instrument imaginable. They’re a lot like Australia’s Stomp! without […]

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