Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mini-update ... AND NOW PRESENTING

Dear Readers, 
September is here and a full blog will be out on or shortly after Labor Day.
Tons of terrific theater, music, dance, arts, museum exhibits and you-name-it will dazzle stages and galleries in the South Suburbs and across Chicagoland this fall and the details will be on this site!
Meanwhile, as promised, here are two theater reviews in case you are looking for a musical to fill one or more evenings during the holiday weekend: Route 66 Theatre's Chicago premiere "High Fidelity" and Drury Lane Oakbrook's stellar "Cabaret" starring Zarah Mahler (pictured) as Sally Bowles.
BTW: The two reviews are formatted slightly differently because the documents refused to cooperate when I copied and pasted them. Sorry about that.
I hope to see you this fall and please keep those press releases coming to Anyone who is not on the blog update list can get on by sending me an e-mail.
Finally, please take a look at the last mini review and the full blog before it for events that may continue on into September and October.
Happy Fall ... almost.

Route 66 'High Fidelity' dazzles, sometimes disappoints

By Sarah Gross

On its own, without comparing it to the hit movie or Nick Hornby’s novel, Route 66 Theatre Company’s re-staging of the Broadway musical “High Fidelity” is a smart, charming and funny production with some stand-out performances and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The show runs through Oct. 11 at Pipers Alley.

The story, which follows local record-store owner Rob and his broken heart, is buoyed by colorful performances by supporting characters including store clerks Barry and Dick. 

The songs, which could be described as a hybrid of show tunes with rock and blues, range from catchy and clever to utterly forgettable. The music is played live by a skilled band (some actors double as band members), and the clever staging makes for smooth transitions between dialogue and music. Stef Tovar’s performance as Rob is inspired and believable, but his singing voice isn’t strong enough for even a non-traditional musical such as this.

As ex-girlfriend Laura, Tricia Small unfortunately lacks the warmth and vulnerability to make the audience relate to Rob’s longing for her. The real scene-stealers (and laugh-inducers) are Michael Mahler as Dick, Dana Tretta as the couple’s friend Liz and Michael Webber as the new-age hippie neighbor who becomes Laura’s rebound relationship.

Realistically, for better or for worse, most audience members will compare the musical production of “High Fidelity” to the book and/or movie. And while the show is fun and entertaining, it lacks the gravity of its predecessors. Much of the appeal of the book and movie lie in the endless references to popular music, which draw in music fans of all ages and eras. The musical production drops from its script all but a few of these references, favoring focus on its own original score.

There are instances in which the play shines in its own utilization of the stage medium, including some hilarious moments where they create “split scenes” onstage, and some brilliant physical comedy in which a scene is rewound and re-done several times over in different ways. 

The play is fun and entertaining (if a little long). It’s best experienced with an open mind and with expectations of an experience quite different from its origins.

Pipers Alley is at 1608 N. Wells St., Chicago. Tickets are $29.50 to $39.50 at (312) 664-8844 or at


Corti's 'Cabaret' a stunning production at Drury Lane Oakbrook
Berlin’s fictional Kit Kat lounge and the evil and decadence surrounding the rise of the Nazis in pre-war Germany are vivid onstage at Drury Lane Oakbrook in a brilliant production of “Cabaret.” Jim Corti takes the audience into the lives of American expatriate Sally Bowles (a powerful performance by Zarah Mahler) and American would-be author Clifford Bradshaw (convincingly portrayed by Jim Weitzer). Mahler easily slips into the jaded showgirl’s life and Weitzer looks and acts the part of the naïve young writer who is about to learn some bitter truths about life under Nazis. Rebecca Finnegan easily transitions from a middle-aged German woman running a rooming house, Fraulein Schneider, into the almost blushing fiancée of her middle-aged Jewish roomer Herr Schultz (caring, tender performance by David Lively). Kit Kat Cabaret’s Master of Ceremonies, Patrick Andrews, will not remind viewers of Joel Gray’s performance in the 1972 Academy Award-winning film. Rather, under Corti’s stellar direction, Andrews’ look, musical numbers and demeanor establish a compelling, less gaudy character and perhaps more sinister emcee. Corti’s “Cabaret” does not let the viewer off easily. The Nazi era threads its way through the script with startling clarity. In fact, the entire production, directing and acting, live music to striking costumes, staging and lighting brought the audience to its feet with huge applause when the curtain went down. Cabaret runs through Oct. 13 at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Tickets are $33 at (630) 530-0111 and at 
                                                                                                                                       Myra Eder







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photo by sarah gross

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About Me

Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.