**** Recommended **** “Sweat”, the latest production at the Goodman Theatre has been a difficult play for me to review. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. Lynn Nottage has written a gripping drama about ordinary people whose livelihood is dependent on one factory. When management decides to make changes, things get ugly. Judging by my experiences, I think the language used and the emotions expressed are remarkably true to life. 4 Spotlights
***RECOMMENDED*** For the two young brothers at the center of Anna Jordan's play "Yen" it may initially appear that all they need is a strong dosage of love. No offense to Lennon and McCartney, but sometimes love is not always all that you need. These adolescent ruffians could have greatly benefited from a firm regulating hand in their early family life and development; to at least have had one dependable and sober parent to always be there for them in times of turmoil and to teach them valuable life lessons and make them feel secure along the way. Sadly, left to their own devices, which include PlayStation 4 gaming and streaming pornographic videos, it's not surprising to witness the wretched and unfortunate outcome of these truly uninspired youths. 3 SPOTLIGHTS
★★★★★ There are musical productions that belong on the large stage and others that seem to fit into the scheme of things at TheoUbique Cabaret Theatre. “The Bridges of Madison County” based on the novel by Robert James Waller, with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and the book by Marsha Norman was a big hit at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, but the T-U version, in their new theater on Howard Street is “AMAZING”!.
**** Highly Recommended **** The Second City continues to do what they do best, make people laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more, with a new edition of last year’s hit – and all-female – revue, “She the People”. This version is titled “She the People: The Resistance Continues” and I think it might just be funnier than last year’s revue. From the first snicker to the last guffaw, this revue scored a ten on my hilarity scale. Get tickets soon, you’ll love it! 4 BIG Spotlights
*** Recommended *** As people walked out of the Nederlander Theatre the other night, I listened. Most people said that “A Bronx Tale” was good, which is exactly what I thought. Not great, but good. It has catchy, jazzy ‘60s music written by Alan Menken (who also wrote “Little Shop of Horrors”, “The Little Mermaid”, Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin”). The story revolves around a bad-guy-with-a-heart, the hero is likeable, and there’s a great kid! This is the perfect show to bring men into the theater. It’s just not for me. 3 Spotlights
**** Highly Recommended **** When I walked into Broadway Playhouse and saw all the people gathered around an onstage bar, it was like déjà vu, flashing me back to the opening of “Once”. The cute guy taking selfies of the himself and the audience, not to mention the other eight good-looking guys roaming the stage, quickly dispelled that illusion. When the stage cleared and the guys started singing in nine-part harmony, I knew we were in for something special! “The Choir of Man” is one of the best shows I’ve seen in ages! 4 BIG Spotlights
**** Recommended **** It seems like there’s a production of “Little Shop of Horrors” every year. This year, ‘Audrey II” is wowing audiences at Mercury Theater. Seymour is still nerdy, Audrey is still vulnerable, and “Little Shop” is still charming. Although the opening night audience was a bit over-enthusiastic, “Little Shop of Horrors” is still one of my favorites, so I give it 4 Spotlights.
*** Recommended *** I always look forward to openings at Black Ensemble Theatre because I know I’m going to hear great music, and “Mahalia Jackson: Moving through the Light”, is chock full of the best gospel music you’ll hear anywhere. The story is weak, trite and contrived, and omits huge chunks of Jackson’s life, but the music is so good, I just didn’t care. 3 Spotlights
***RECOMMENDED*** There is always good reason to celebrate when new operas join the repertoire of major opera houses. "Ariodante" at the Lyric Opera is no exception. It is somewhat shocking that George Frideric Handel's 1735 masterwork has never been seen at Lyric in their 64 years of existence but the long-awaited premiere of this Baroque classic arrives containing some major surprises -- one of which was not planned by the production team. 3 SPOTLIGHTS
★★★★★ Very often, I am asked about the smaller theaters that are difficult to find. It has been a while since I have been to a play on Broadway ( yes, Virginia, we do have a Broadway in Chicago) but tonight I journeyed over to Pride Films & Plays Center’s Broadway Theater, located in yet another Chicago “storefront” at 4139 N. Broadway. They are doing the Chicago premiere of “Southern Comfort”, a musical based on a film documentary that tells the story of a transgender self-made community living life on their own terms in rural Georgia. With a book and lyrics by Dan Collins and music by Julianne Wick Davis, this musical is filled with Blue Grass music, and while you will not be humming as you leave the theater, you will have a good feeling as the characters find some happiness.