**** Highly Recommended **** For the first time, I celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend at the Auditorium Theatre seeing "Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah", an annual event that’s been going on for 17 years! It was absolutely amazing! What a fantastic experience! "Too Hot to Handel" delivered all the magnificence of Handel’s Messiah – plus jazz and gospel rhythms! 4 BIG Spotlights
** Somewhat Recommended ** If you’re an "Oklahoma!" purist, you’ll probably find the new touring production at the CIBC Theatre heavy going. If you’re open to a completely new interpretation of this perennial favorite, then this is the show for you! Although it’s advertised as Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "Oklahoma!", it’s just not. Director Daniel Fish had a new idea. Now I don’t care if he changed the set, the costumes and the time line, but he wasn’t finished. He also changed the songs! They do still sing the original lyrics but the music is played bluegrass style. The talented cast tried to win me over but no, I am a purist. 2 ½ Spotlights
**** Highly Recommended **** "The Play that Goes Wrong" is one of the funniest plays I’ve ever seen. I can’t remember when I laughed so much. The laughter, which started well before the show began, continued until the very end. If you’re feeling blue, “The Play that Goes Wrong” will chase those blues away! Don’t miss it! 4 BIG Spotlights
***** Highly Recommended ***** The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is rocking with the return of Q Brothers Christmas Carol. The Q Brothers Collective (GQ, JQ, Jax and Pos) have yanked Ebenezer Scrooge and the gang into the 21st century! I’ve seen this cheeky, snarky, funny and very, very original musical every year (and twice one year – but that’s another story) since it premiered in 2013 as a developmental work-in-progress (that’s 7 years, I think), and it still makes me laugh! It’s become my very own holiday tradition! 4 BIG Spotlights
**** Highly Recommended **** Mr. Dickens’ Hat, A Play with Music, is definitely not what I expected. I thought maybe it would be another holiday story, maybe with a Dickens theme. As soon as I saw the ‘steam punk’ set, I knew this would be something unique – and it is. Mr. Dickens’ Hat is actually about a hat that did belong to Mr. Dickens, a hat that’s been on an adventure or two. I really enjoyed Mr. Dickens Hat, and I think you will too. 4 Spotlights
*** Recommended *** "Pretty Woman: The Musical" is a likeable show that mostly follows the plot line of the 1990 film starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. The music is good but not memorable. The talented cast includes Broadway favorite Adam Pascal and Olivia Valli (Frankie Valli’s granddaughter). It was entertaining and engaging. 3 Spotlights || A sad note: Pretty Woman has cancelled the rest of the Chicago performance due to COVID.
***** Highly Recommended ***** The Joffrey Ballet’s “Chicago-centric” version of "The Nutcracker", choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, is quite simply magnificent. By setting “The Nutcracker” against Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Wheeldon gave the city a unique gift. This was the fifth time I’ve seen/reviewed “The Nutcracker” and I still love everything about it! I did notice that a few things which were just slightly different, which actually improved on something that I thought was just about perfect. Every movement was graceful, precise and exquisitely performed. By the way, Tchaichovsky’s glorious music was played by the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Scott Speck, the Joffrey’s Music Director. 4 BIG Holiday Spotlights!
**** Highly Recommended **** You should make time in your holiday season to see “Holiday Inn” at the Drury Lane Theatre. While the story is kind of sappy, the production is scrumptious. Packed with spectacular tap dancing to Irving Berlin's wonderful melodies, “Holiday Inn” is an effervescent holiday treat. The cast is marvelous, the choreography blew me away, and the costumes are drool-worthy. Dee-lish! 4 BIG Spotlights
**** Recommended **** As I’ve come to expect, Paramount Theatre’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s "Cinderella" was truly wonderful. The cast, the costumes, the set, the music were fairy-tale perfect. If you’re bringing a small princess to the show, be aware that this is not the Disney version of Cinderella, the songs are all different and there’s no Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo in this show! It was a joy to watch! 4 Spotlights
***** Highly Recommended ***** After a five-year hiatus, Towle Theater’s "A Fabulous 50’s Christmas" is back! I can’t quite believe it but the first time I reviewed this show was in 2004! According to Director Jeff Casey, the show pays homage to the old Perry Como/Andy Williams TV specials. It’s just not Christmas without "A Fabulous 50’s Christmas", a delightful holiday must-see! 4 BIG Spotlights