**** Highly Recommended "MJ The Musical", the summer’s must-see musical, is fabulous! If I were to rate it on a scale of one to 5 WOWs, "MJ" would get a 10! Roman Banks, the young man who played Michael Jackson, has the perfect voice for the part. Christopher Wheeldon’s brilliant choreography took Jackson’s signature moves to the next level in the production numbers. In all the years I’ve been reviewing, I’ve never/rarely seen a production number getting a standing ovation. "MJ" got three! By the way, I can’t remember seeing so many sequins – and that was in the audience! 4 BIG Spotlights
**** Highly Recommended The Copley Theatre production of "Next to Normal" is a beautiful rock musical about a heart-wrenching subject, mental illness and its effect on a family. It is gripping, emotional and beautifully performed (with some of the best voices I’ve heard anywhere). I won’t give away all the plot turns, but be warned, all is not what it seems. I give it 4 Spotlights.
**** Highly Recommended **** Dunes Summer Theatre’s third production of the season is an adult-oriented comedy called "Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike". Don’t let the name put you off, this Chekhov spoof has a lot of farce elements. The characters are wacky, the brother-sister bickering is spot-on, and Spike, the boy toy, is too much. Vanya and Sonia got me laughing in the first minute, and the laughs just kept coming! 4 Spotlights.
**** Recommended **** I absolute love Mercury Theater’s production of "Rock of Ages"! The boy-meets-girl plot is almost non-existent, but who cares, the music really rocks! Seriously, the score includes 28 hits from artists like Bon Jovi, Journey, Styx, Pat Benatar, Poison, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Europe, REO Speedwagon and more. I hesitate to use the term ‘cult icon’, but this jukebox musical is something special. You’ll be dancing in your seat! 4 Spotlights
*** Recommended *** "No Man’s Land" might be heavy going for many people. Harold Pinter’s 1974 drama about a couple of old sots resembles a battle of words with no real winner. Everything is clearer after a lot of alcohol is consumed, right? Almost everyone I knew in college indulged in deep philosophical discussions after having a few too many adult beverages. Most of us grew up. These guys never did. 3 Spotlights
**** Highly Recommended **** Northlight Theatre’s production of "Marie and Rosetta" is not to be missed! Marie and Rosetta features powerful performances by Bethany Thomas and Alexis J. Roston, two of the best voices in Chicago theater – and some of the best gospel music you’ll ever hear outside of church! "Marie and Rosetta" is directed by another powerful Chicago voice, E. Faye Butler. This is a fabulous show! Don’t miss it. 4 BIG Spotlights
**** Highly Recommended **** I absolutely loved the Kokandy production of "The SpongeBob Musical"! SpongeBob is colorful, campy and true to the cartoon. The musical numbers, all written by different people, shouldn’t have worked together, and yet they totally do! The enthusiastic and energetic cast, all wearing neon-bright, multi-colored costumes and wigs, were terrific, dancing and singing their heart out! What a fun show! 4 BIG Spotlights
*** Recommended *** Kate Arrington’s new play, "Another Marriage", onstage in Steppenwolf’s newest space, is an interesting depiction of a relationship – the courtship, the marriage, the birth of a child, the girlfriend, the divorce, and the afterwards – all told from the teen daughter’s somewhat skewed perspective – of what she knew and what she guessed. The relationship at the heart of Another Marriage is curiously superficial. 3 Spotlights
**** Recommended **** A big thank you to Writers Theatre for graciously allowing me to attend a performance of "A Distinct Society" near the end of the run. It would have been a tragedy to miss this gripping human drama. Based on a true story, this one-act play packs an emotional wallop! I have to admit I had a tear or two in my eye at the end. 4 Spotlights
**** Recommended **** The latest production at the Towle Theater, a rock opera called "Murder Ballad," is an undiscovered gem about a love triangle (?) that goes bad – really, really bad! By the way, in a rock opera the music continues throughout the story meaning there are no pauses for applause. I really enjoyed "Murder Ballad," although a couple of my friends weren’t so sure. The cast is strong but it was really hard to hear the words whenever they sang softly. It’s just too bad it’s only a two week run. 4 Spotlights