15 Favorite Chicago Shows in 2015

My New Year’s resolution for 2015 was to see more theatre, and given that I went to 326 shows in 2015, I think it’s safe to say that I succeeded. On average, I went to 27 shows a month (32 in both April and July, 31 in August). 47% of shows were plays; 32% were musicals; 10% were readings; 3% were operas; 3% were concerts; and the last 5% were other kinds of shows (puppet, magic, dance, etc.).

I saw 153 plays, and although nearly all of them were separate plays, I did see the Hypocrites’ 12-hour-long Greek play festival All Our Tragic twice. I saw 104 musicals, though only 70 different shows (I tend to return to musicals). I made my first trip back to Broadway since 2006 – over two weekends, I saw nine shows, including the 2015 Best Musical Tony Award winner Fun Home and the presumptive 2016 Best Musical Tony Award winner Hamilton. And since Broadway shows like Hamilton rather skew the results, I will limit my 2015 list of favorite shows to Chicago productions.  Continue reading

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Broadway 2015

While I haven’t been able to see all of the new shows on Broadway this year (living in the Midwest makes that particularly hard), the shows I did see were enough to know that 2015 was a tremendous year for Broadway. Something Rotten! gave us one heck of an entertaining show with terrific performances. The King and I breathed new life into a classic. And then there were the groundbreaking musicals that, by their very existence, expanded the possibilities of the new Broadway normal: Fun HomeHamilton, and Spring Awakening. Continue reading

Nine Broadway Haiku for 2015

 

The curse of being a perfectionist is that, unless harsh deadlines are imposed, things are rarely finished. Therefore, my 2016 New Year’s resolution will to post reviews more frequently, starting with reviews for the nine shows I saw on Broadway in 2015. Until then, however, I will leave a few brief words on my initial reactions to each show, just for fun, in the order in which I saw them. Continue reading

REVIEW: The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide [The Hypocrites]

The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide is a play written by All Our Tragic adaptor Sean Graney and produced by The Hypocrites in special collaboration with The Yard at Senn Arts Magnet High School. Between All Our Tragic and this, though wildly different at first glance (the former a 12-hour adaptation of Greek tragedies, the latter an original play about a group of children reenacting a play a fellow classmate left behind as a suicide note), Graney demonstrates an unmistakable talent for combining comedy and tragedy in a way that is both thoroughly entertaining and deeply moving.  Continue reading

Non-Equity Jeff Awards 2015

Twice a year, the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee honors theatrical productions and artists with “Jeff Awards” – one set of awards for Equity theatre and one set of awards for non-union theatre. The 2015 Non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony was held at Park West last Monday night, June 8th. Unlike the major awards show the night before (the Tonys), there were no official “winners,” no “Best Musical” or “Best Play.” That is because, as the Jeff Awards website puts it, “The Committee does not endorse the use of the words best or winner. There are no losers in the Chicago theatre community, and Jeff recipients are cited for outstanding achievement rather than the more competitive notion of best.” I admire that attitude, one that was displayed whole-heartedly at the Non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony, at which the various theatre companies cheered each other on. Continue reading

REVIEW: The Jungle [Oracle Theatre]

The director and adaptor of Oracle Theatre’s The Jungle, Matt Foss, writes in the director’s notes about Upton Sinclair’s disappointment that his book “led to sweeping pure-food laws, rather than to changes in the living and working conditions of America’s workers.” In comparison, Foss’s adaptation focuses tightly on the workers, creating the most disturbing, powerful, impactful piece of theatre I have seen all year.

In The Jungle, brutality and corruption reign supreme, particularly over the poor and unwary. While unions remain a shadowy specter around the edges of the play, the gains they have made are starkly obvious against the nigh impossible working conditions in the play. The Jungle follows a small group of Lithuanian immigrants who arrive in Chicago in the early 1900s, knowing no English beyond the city’s name. They have minimal savings and a friend who owns a delicatessen – very modest beginnings, but by the end of the play, their starting point seems unreachably high. Continue reading