24th Dec2012

Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” Celebrates 35

by rockchicago

 

Now entering it’s 35th year, the Goodman Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol has become a Chicago tradition, although as a born and breed Chicagoan, I must admit to having never actually having seen any of the previous productions before. I am, however, pleased to report that I wish I had. The show is a joy from the moment the lights rise to the moment they dim. I hardly need to go into the plot of Dickens’ masterpiece of redemption and hope, but for the few of you who are unfamiliar, here’s a refresher. Scrooge, a callous money lender is visited on Christmas Eve by his long deceased partner Jacob Marley, who warns Scrooge that he will be visited by three ghosts throughout the night, who will offer him the opportunity to sympathize with his fellow man, or be forever damned to walk the earth after death in the chains of misery he sewed in life

Ah, but any production of A Christmas Carol is only as good as its Scrooge. This one has a true master on stage. From the moment Larry Yando  (now in his sixth year as Scrooge) takes the stage, Mr. Yando commands it, not a performer afraid to take risks. He finds the lighter sides of Scrooge, so that when he makes his transition it doesn’t come from nowhere.

This production doesn’t skip a beat from Todd Rosenthal’s Victorian gem of a set. Robert Christen’s mood setting lighting. Heidi Sue Martin’s costumes were always period perfection with one notable exception. The Ghost of Christmas Past with her white Peter Pan pixie just didn’t seem to work. Richard Woodbury, and Andrew Hansen’s sound and music always hit the right note. Steve Scott runs a tight ship keeping the evening moving along with brisk pacing, and lively staging

Penelope Walker is first rate as the Ghost of Christmas Present. She brilliantly walks the line between unabandoned joy and no nonsense charm. Ora Jones always a standout was a sheer delight pulling double duty as Scrooge’s gossipy charwoman, and the bubbly Mrs. Fezziwig. Joe Foust is absolutely chilling as The Ghost of Jacob Marley. Nora Fiffer was heartbreakingly radiant as Belle with a pitch perfect Scottish brogue. Jordan Brown very effectively portrays a Young Scrooge. Ron Raines wonderfully masters the long suffering Bob Cratchit. Demetrios Troy and Dana Cruz do strong work as Scrooge’s nephew and his wife.

By the end of the show I found tears steaming down my face as Tiny Tim said that now famous line “God bless us everyone.”

Reviewed by Ty Perry on 12/20/12

22nd Dec2012

War Horse: A Production Worth Betting On

by rockchicago

 

The National Theatre’s EPIC; WAR HORSE, winner of five 2011 Tony Awards including Best Play, has come to Chicago and it’s GLORIOUS. Simply Glorious!

Michael Morpurgo’s novel, War Horse was also the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s feature film of the same name which garnered six Academy Award nominations, including Best Film.

Hailed by the New York Times as “theatrical magic’, WAR HORSE is the powerful story of young Albert’s beloved horse, Joey, who has been enlisted to fight for the English in World War I. In a tale the New York Daily News called, “spellbinding, by turns epic and intimate,” Joey is caught in enemy crossfire and ends up serving both sides of the war before laning in no man’s land. Albert, not old enough to enlist, embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home. What follows is a remarkable tale of courage, loyalty and friendship filled with stirring music and songs told with some of hte most innovative stagecraft of our time. (lifted from Official Press Release)

While I was not a ‘fan’ of the Spielberg film, I’ve long anticipated an opportunity to see the stage production, so my coming face to hooves with the theatrical War Horse of critical acclaim was well worth the wait. While the film was breathtaking to watch, the simplicity of it’s tale was overshadowed by it’s sumptuous cinematography. In the theatrical production it’s the deployment of the imagination that ignites the senses. And this production is aces.

 

The ensemble work in this flawless touring production is seamless and anchored masterfully by a handful of leads. Actors; Brian Keane (Arthur Narracott), Angelo Reed (Rose Narracott), Andrew Veenstra (Albert Narracott), and Michael Wyatt Cox (Billy Narracott) deliver brazenly boisterous, emotionally fluid and painstakingly nuanced performances. In particular, Mr. Veenstra is an endearing delight to watch maneuver through the emotional mine fields of the relationship he shares with his pal Joey and throughout the 2 hours plus of the plays compelling story. Serving as the plays roving minstrel, the play is strewn together in song by actor John Milosich. Milosich’s presence throughout the play is both haunting and mindful of the daily toil of the men and woman who work the land, pushing forward through and towards the uncertainties of tomorrow. Tomorrow’s filled with family, friendship, strife, hope and war.  Milosch is a haunting and emotional presence.

The true ‘stars’ of this production however, are the puppeteers. These performers and in this show in particular, may be some of the hardest working performers currently employed in all of showbiz. With eloquence of neigh and fanciful, delicate footwork, they trod, plod, dance and prance in grand fashion. Their work is amazingly detailed and quite fantastic to watch. AT every turn one’s imagination is encouraged to engage in the fantasy of skillfully crafted inanimate objects coming to full life. At the play’s end, after the actors had bowed, the horses were trotted out, and respectfully surrendered to a standing ovation from the audience. What these puppeteers do is rarely seen and simply should be seen by all lovers of performance and theater.

 

Execution of craft, solid directing, a wonderful story and a stupendous mastery of puppetry make WAR HORSE a truly moving and amazing theatrcial experience. A Must See to top everyone’s list. Neigh, one of our great cities best BETS!

Reviewed by Madrid St. Angelo on 12/18/12

22nd Dec2012

“The Book of Mormon” Strikes Gold in Chicago!

by rockchicago

The Book of Mormon has finally reached Chicago! The Book of Mormon has garnered positive critical response and numerous theatre awards including nine Tony Awards, one of which was for Best Musical, and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. Now the musical, written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q writer Robert Lopez, has finally settled down in Chicago after Broadway. The show has already sold-out in Chicago through March.

From the moment you walked into the Bank of America Theatre, you can see the lavish sets by Scott Pask, looking so heavenly. You knew you were in for a treat. The Chicago production is directed by Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw, who also choreographed the show as well, and let me tell you; the dancing was incredible.

For those of you who are not familiar with The Book of Mormon, let me help you out. The story revolves around two young Mormon Missionaries named Elder Price (Nic Rouleau) and Elder Cunningham (Ben Platt) sent to a remote village in northern Uganda, where a brutal warlord (David Aron Damane) is threatening the local population. Naïve and optimistic, the two missionaries try to share the Book of Mormon, one of their scriptures—which only one of them knows very well—but have trouble connecting with the locals, who are more worried about war, famine, poverty and AIDS than about religion.

American Idol alum Syesha Mercado stepped in at the last minute to play the role of Nabulungi, daughter to Mafala Hatimbi (James Vincent Meredith). For coming in last minute, not only was she funny, but her vocals were superb. Mercado and Platt blended really well together onstage.

Vocally, Nic Rouleau was spectacular. Andrew Rannells originally played the role on Broadway. Rouleau is not as good as Rannells but he was close enough. Ben Platt was hilarious the entire show. I prefer him over Broadway’s Josh Gad any day. It also seemed that Platt was adding a little bit of improv to his character, which made it ever more enjoying to watch. I recently saw Platt in the film Pitch Perfect. After seeing him play Elder Cunningham, I will gladly follow his career from here.

Before I get more into this show, if you never liked the TV show South Park, then you might not like this show. The humor is pretty much the same. I have been watching South Park for 16 years and have seen Parker and Stone’s past films including South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Team America: World Police and BASEketball. Everyone in the audience on opening night were laughing hysterically throughout, which proves that Parker and Stone’s humor can reach from young to old. The ages in the audience ranged from most likely 13-year-olds to 80-year-olds. I will tell you there is a lot of strong language in this show, so I wouldn’t neccessarily bring your kids to this.

The music in this show is outstanding, perhaps Lopez’s best work yet. With songs like “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” “Sal Tlay Ka Siti,” “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” and “I Am Africa,” Lopez, Parker and Stone really dig into their filthiest to produce what has to be the most hysterical musical I’ve ever seen, and the way that these songs are staged just makes you want to come back for more.

The Book of Mormon is definitely a controversial show to many, but it has a heart of gold and a good message to go along with it. The creators should be very proud of their show, as everything and everyone was casted right in their position here. Anyone and everyone should come see this show if they can. If you’re Mormon, you might not like it so much. But, hey, if you have a sense of humor about it, then sure enough, you will. The show is actually sold out through March 3rd. But you should be able to get tickets for the coming months afterwards, as it is sitting down in Chicago for awhile.

For more info on The Book of Mormon visit www.bookofmormonbroadway.com

Playing at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe, Chicago, IL, call 800-775-2000, www.broadwayinchicago.com, tickets $45-$115+, Running time is 2 hours, 35 minutes with intermission, through June, 2013

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 12/19/12

19th Dec2012

Broadway Star Karen Mason Cheers Up Davenports

by rockchicago

 

I must admit that in the wake of the tragedy that befell the town of Newtown, CT and our nation on Friday, the last thing I wanted to do was review a cabaret show, even one by a performer as gifted as Broadway and Cabaret veteran Karen Mason. I don’t envy any performer who has to take the stage in the wake of a national tragedy, but Ms. Mason as she took the stage asked, “That for the next hour we let her be a diversion from the craziness of the outside world”, and a splendid diversion she was. After a rocky technical start she was off with a  spirited take on unwanted Christmas gifts, “Not this Christmas.” After that, a heartfelt “Taking a Chance on Love.” From there, she slinked into a Fosse inspired “Santa Clause is Coming to Town”. Switching gears, Mason introduces us to her partner in crime for the evening; Chicago Cabaret stalwart Becky Menzie. The two then launch into a wonderful Christmas medley that featured “Joy to the World/I’ll be Home for Christmas/Silent Night, and We Three Kings”. From there she sailed breezily through  a wonderful pairing of “We Need a Little Christmas/What the World Needs Now”  into a devastating “Christmas Song.” Throughout the evening, Ms. Mason demonstrated time and time again her firm command of lyric, and melody from her touching cover of Joni Mitchell’s “River” to her haunting rendition of “Silent Night”. She did what any performer can only aspire to do in the wake of the days events, transport the audience to another world, and take their minds off the craziness outside world, and I for one was very grateful for that gift.. This special two-week engagement will take place at Davenport’s, 1383 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, Wednesday, December 12th through Monday, December 23rd. Show times are 8pm (7pm on Sunday) and there is a $30/$35 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday shows) and two drink minimum. Due to the demand, reservations are highly recommended by calling 773.278.1830 or online at DavenportsPianoBar.com.

Reviewed by Ty Perry on 12/14/12

13th Dec2012

The Polyphonic Spree Bring the Party to Chicago

by rockchicago

The Holiday Extravaganza began with “Xmas Time Is Here,” with a delivery that shouted joy throughout the Logan Square Auditorium. Pre-show, the mood was quite right after a volunteer Santa read “The Night Before Christmas” in its entirety. “Holidaydream” is the title of their newly released Christmas Album.  What is a psychedelic Christmas party without a cover of Lennon/Yoko “Happy Xmas”(War Is Over). The highlight of the Christmas set was a very rocking version of “Little Drummer Boy”. The show ended with a heartfelt rendition of the half eager, half shy children’s choir that joined the band on stage, singing “Silent Night’ & closing the ceremony with “Joy To The World”.

Christmas Set:

Xmas Time Is Here

Silver Bells

Happy Xmas(War Is Over)

Do You Hear What I Hear

Little Drummer Boy

Its Xmas

Chestnuts

Silent Night

Town Meeting Song

Feliz

Silent Night

Joy To The World

This was my first ever Polyphonic Spree show. The Polyphonic Spree never directly lift up their myriad voices for God except in an ancient Egyptian Sun/Ra worship sense, yet one can’t help but think of their members as the direct offspring of the Jesus Christ Superstar movie cast. It has all the fever of a religious gathering.

The band was formed in 2000 by former “Tripping Daisy” frontman Tim Delaughter, whose life was changed by the overdose death of bandmate Wes Berggren. The experiment in orchestral pop music blossomed in the following years into a two-dozen member band operating out of Dallas, Texas. The 6th song of the night was a cover of  “Live And Let Die” because Paul McCartney is my favorite of the mop tops this lightened the mood for me. For someone like myself  the Spree’s up in your face yip-pity do dah ness didn’t really do the trick for me. Song’s like “2000 Places” were a more relaxed invite onto the pop roller coaster that the show rolled on to be for me. The most well received songs of the night would have to be encore track’s “Light & Day” as well as Nirvana Cover “Lithium”. It is well known that the Spree sports a cult like style dress code. Despite Tim Delaughter’s white dress rock event, I can’t comment on how Uncle Cobain would react to the pink balloon dropping sing along of his bands song.

Rock Set:

I’m Calling

Hold

Light to Follow

Soldier

Live and Let Die

Stabs- Get Up And Go

Running Away

2000 Places

Lala/Middle of Day

Championship

TWH (Love)

Light and Day

Amazed

Lithium

 

Reviewed by Bobby Flavin on 12/11/12

11th Dec2012

‘25 or 6 to 4’ Brings Back Old Days with Smoking Hot Brass

by rockchicago

 

It was truly a Chicago Experience at St. Viator High School, in Arlington Heights, featuring the tribute band “25 or 6 to 4” with special guests, the voice of the Buckinghams, Dennis Tufano, and Chicago’s original drummer Danny Seraphine. It’s hard to imagine that more than 40 years ago those two were parts of bands that had huge Top 40 hits in Chicago and across the United States.

Leading off and playing as house band for the show were “25 or 6 to 4” going through more than a dozen songs that were chart-toppers by Chicago, the local band that was originally named Chicago Transit Authority. Lead singers Don Steiger, Brian Hemstock, and lead guitarist Ron Brandt gave new life to more than a dozen songs that were hits by Chicago from its beginning in Rush Street night clubs in 1969 through the 1980s and today.

Opening with “Old Days” (1975), the band played five more songs before being joined on stage by Tufano for “Beginnings” (1969). Tufano picked up the pace with the Buckinghams’ number one hit “Kind of a Drag” followed by “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and “Hey Baby”. The songs sounded as fresh as they did when they first hit the airwaves back when the WLS Silver Dollar Survey gave them notoriety. Tufano was the lead singer on the Buckinghams’ hits from 1967 to 1968. He is still in good shape and hasn’t lost a word or note over the years.

“25 or 6 to 4” took over the stage once again firing up the Chicago’s signature brass sound for a few more hits before joined on stage by Chicago’s original drummer Danny Seraphine. Seraphine burned it up with some hard-driving drumming showing why he’s considered one of rock music’s top drummers.

Seraphine engaged 25 or 6 to 4’s drummer Adam Cowger for dueling drum solos in “Motorboat to Mars”. Despite Cowger’s excellent effort, Seraphine was in top form. He dominated the stage and captured the audience.

With Tufano back on stage, the ensemble played Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park”, the Buckinghams’ “Don’t You Care” and “Susan”, and closed the show with roof-shattering “I’m a Man”.

Lead by general manager Nick Krengiel on alto sax, 25 or 6 to 4’s brass section, including Tim Falls, Steve Frost, and Andy Hofer, were smoking hot throughout the show. Rounding out the group were John Kattke on keyboards and guitar, and Greg Brucker on bass.

“25 or 6 to 4” is not only a tribute to the music of Chicago but offered a renewed appreciation for the band’s achievement and extensive song catalog. The two-hour show with two dozen songs had those in attendance on their feet. The event raised funds for St. Viator’s Fine Arts program.

Tufano and Seraphine are still performing. For more information on “25 or 6 to 4” visit its web site at www.25or6to4theband.com.

Reviewed by Joe Cosentino on 12/1/12

11th Dec2012

Chick Corea & Gary Burton Bring the “Hot House” Tour to the North Shore

by rockchicago

 

For my first time at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, it was really beautiful inside, and may I say, what a theatre! Tonight, 2 of the biggest legends in Jazz were playing the closing date of their tour here in Skokie; the incredible Chick Corea and Gary Burton with the Harlem String Quartet.

They started out the night with Chick’s “Love Castle” and some classic material from their past repertoire with just the two of them on stage. I do have to say that I’ve never seen Gary Burton live. My guests who were my dad and the incredibly talented Howard Levy from Bela Fleck & the Flecktones have both seen him live in the past. I was told that he is the only vibraphone player to use a double mallet when performing.

After the short set of past material, they went into performing songs from their latest album Hot House which the tour is in support of. Hot House is an album of covers picked out by Chick and Gary. Some highlights from the album that they played included Art Tatum’s “Can’t We Be Friends,” Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House,” Thelonius Monk’s “Light Blue” and my personal favorite, The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.”

They ended the first set with “Strange Meadowlark,” a tribute to Dave Brubeck who recently passed away. Chick said that when he sent Brubeck the finished product of his song and sent it to him, he was very pleased.

For the second half of the show, the boys brought out the Harlem String Quartet, who sat in with them. The set consisted of a brand new composition that Chick decided to close the Hot House album with called “Mozart Goes Dancing.” It was probably one of the best songs of the night. There was also a point in the set where Chick arranged a piece just for the HSQ and it sounded superb. They closed out the show with a number from Chick called “La Fiesta,” which was cover from Return to Forever.

With the blend of Chick, Gary and the string quartet, you would not be disappointed. Gary Burton has to be one of the most amazing musicians you can witness onstage with his control, his playing and his technique. Same goes for Chick who is a mastermind with Jazz compositions. After all, Return to Forever was very successful throughout the years too. As a matter of fact, Return to Forever IV toured last year and released a new album entitled The Mothership Returns. If you have not heard this album, listen to it.

Overall, it was fantastic concert. Getting to see these two legends together was truly an honor; especially meeting them after the show with Howard Levy. Since Howard played with Chick on the last tour with Bela Fleck & The Flecktones. The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts is definitely a great theatre to see concerts at!

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 12/6/12

11th Dec2012

“Elektra” Electrifies the Lyric Opera

by rockchicago

 

Long before cinematic spectaculars, special effects, long before the wonders of animation, computer and otherwise, long before electric lights even, there was opera.

And at its best, it delivered, big time. Famously. On the grand stage. I can recall a 1963 Das Rheingold at La Scala where, when the gold first appeared, it was very special, and very effective. All accomplished with nineteenth century technology. Magical things occur on the opera stage. When Herbert von Karajan conducted Mirella Freni’s Mimi in la bohéme the same season, it proved a star vehicle. An Aïda staged by Franco Zeffirelli earlier that year was so spectacular it was dubbed “Aïda all’americana.” When Renée Fleming sang Rusalka’s Song to the Moon in San Francisco in 1989 it was a show stopper. It brought the house down – almost literally. Next month the S. F. Opera House was closed for two years for retrofitting after the Loma Prieta earthquake.

To be sure, cinematic magic can do things now that were not even imagined two hundred years ago. Onstage duels and battles are rare in opera. Mostly we’re treated to a character reacting in horror to an offstage scream. But when they occur, crowd scenes, armies marching, and peasants parading can be timelessly spectacular.

Before Cecil B. DeMille, there was Verdi. Before Indiana Jones, there was Wagner. Before Mel Brooks there was Rossini. And before them all was Greek tragedy. Couple that with post-Wagnerian, almost Expressionist, music, and you have Elektra. The music is dense, intricate, and intense from beginning to end. A bit edgy in places, as was the world the first decade of the twentieth century. Arnold Schönberg was already making waves in Vienna by 1909, the year Elektra appeared, and Igor Stravinsky was hatching plans for audiences in Paris. Remember that Richard Strauß outlived Alban Berg and Anton Webern.

Elektra is one of the more demanding rôles in all of opera. No other opera comes to mind where the title character is onstage for so much time. Christine Goerke is to be saluted even for attempting the rôle, because it is a task you either do amazingly well, or not at all. The 1991 Elektra I saw in San Francisco featured Dame Gwyneth Jones. With Sir Andrew Davis conducting in Chicago, you can see that this is exalted territory. OBEs abound. An echo of the noble, occasionally royal patronage that fostered the art form at its height, and sometimes overflowed onto the stage.

The stage at the Lyric Opera production was cannily designed to allow for minimal changes, maximal results. More detailed, even nineteenth century in design, compared to the stark austerity of the San Francisco production. A chiaroscuro crucible for the intense action. Never mind walking out of the theater humming tunes. After this two and a half hour roller coaster ride, you’re glad to be alive.

Reviewed by Tom Constanten on 10/30/12

(Tom Constanten is a former member of The Grateful Dead and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

11th Dec2012

P.O.D, 3 Doors Down & Daughtry Rock Hard at the Akoo Theatre

by rockchicago

 

3 Doors Down, Daughtry, and P.O.D. isn’t just a tour that sounds great on paper. It is easily one of the best co-headline tours this year. P.O.D. opened the show Sunday and always brings their A- Game and throws down like it’s nobodies business. Combining rap with hard rock, P.O.D. has created their own style since forming 20 years ago in San Diego, CA. Wheter doing a high energy song or bringing it down a bit, they sound great at any volume. They’re certainly one group that makes you want to jump around. Their set included “Youth Of The Nation,” “Boom,” their biggest hit “Alive,” which featured the audience on the chorus, and closed with a cover of Sublimes “What I got.”  Although they’re set was short (30 mins), they made the most of it, and left the audience wanting more.

 

It seemed like the women were there for Daughtry and the guys came out for 3 Doors Down. However, it was easy to see the whole audience was a fan of both bands as they sang along throughout the show. What l like about Chris Daughtry is that his songs have meaning and reach out to many people. He proves you don’t need to win American Idol to become a big rock star. Since being a season 5 finalist in 2006, Daughtry has released 3 albums and has a had a number of hits and earned numerous awards in just six years. Daughtry started their set with “Break The Spell” and included “Gone To Soon,” a cover of Phil Collin’s “In The Air Tonight” which also featured 3 Doors Down’s Brad Arnold on vocals, “Home” “September”, and closed with “It’s Not Over.” On several songs Daughtry played guitar. After “In The Air Tonight” Chris Daughtry shot out T-shirts like at a basketball game. It was easy to see how much Daughtry loves Chicago, since it was common theme throughout his show whether it was talking about how much he enjoys coming here or that the show had the loudest fans. At the end, the band shook hands with everyone in the front, and throughout guitar picks, and drum sticks.  Both acts are tough to follow. This night 3 Doors Down closed the show.

 

3 Doors had a very simple stage with just a drum riser and a few amps, but the lighting system was very cool. They didn’t need any effects to enhance their performance. Throughout their set they were moving around the stage constantly and coming right out the front even on the first song they played which was “Time Of My Life” Frontman Brad Arnold mentioned half way through the set that just two weeks ago their greatest hits album was released and how thankful they were for the fans that had been there since the beginning. On “Here Without You,” Chris Daughtry came onstage and sang. The following song “Citizen/ Soldier” a 2nd drumset was rolled onstage halfway through the song and Arnold jumped behind it then returned to singing after playing along with drummer Greg Upchurch. Next was a cover of Megadeth’s “Symphony of Destruction.” The encore included “Kryptonite,” and When I’m Gone.” Originally the tour was scheduled to end Dec. 15th at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Just today more dates were added and tour resumes January 25th and goes through February 23rd. One thing in common among both bands was how much fun they were having so it’s easy to see why the tour will continue through 2013, and because it is a great co-headline.

Review and photos by Alex Kluft on 12/9/12

P.O.D. Setlist

Lost in Forever

Youth of the Nation

Murdered Love

Boom

Higher

Beautiful

Alive

What I Got (Sublime cover)

 

Daughtry Setlist

1.    Break The Spell

2.    Feels Like Tonight

3.    Outta My Head

4.    Crawling Back To You

5.    Start Of Something Good

6.    What I want

7.    Gone Too Soon

8.    Tennessee Line

9.    Over You/ No Surprise

10.    In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins Cover)

11.    Every time You Turn Around

12.    Home Encore

13.    September

14.    It’s Not Over
3 Doors Down Setlist

Time of My Life

Not My Time

Duck and Run

The Road I’m On

Away From the Sun

Let Me Go

Goodbyes

Loser

There’s a Life

Landing in London

One Light

Here Without You (with Chris Daughtry)

Citizen/Soldier (Brad plays drums)

Symphony of Destruction (Megadeth cover)

The Better Life

Encore: Kryptonite

When I’m Gone

10th Dec2012

Joffrey Ballet’s Glorius “Nutcracker” Commemorates Company’s 25th Anniversary Production

by rockchicago

 

Christmas simply wouldn’t Christmas without The Nutcracker. While Ringling Bros. lays claim to being ‘The Greatest Show On earth’, the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker may very well be The Greatest Nutcracker in all the world. The company currently under the Artistic Direction of Ashley C. Whealer, has ushered in a taut, finely nuanced production commemorating the The Nutcracker’s 25th Anniversary conceived originally by company founders Robert Joffrey and Gerald Alpino. The Joffrey’s Nutcracker 2012 is simply gorgeous and flawless in every way conceivable and it borders on the divine.

Brimming with the classical grace and refined elegance that has, from the company’s 1987 production inception, come to define this Joffrey production, the production’s attention to detail is astounding. The first half of the ballet production indulges Mayor and Mrs. Stahlbaum as they prepare for their family’s annual Christmas party. Every single gesture bemoans a doped up elegance that both inspires and titilates. From the curtains rise the Joffrey’s Nutcracker wisks the audience away to an otherworldly fantasy land of peace, joy and all things holiday.

 

For those unfamiliar with The Nutcracker story it goes something like this; on Christmas Eve, the Stahlbaum family prepares for it’s annual Christmas  party. The tree is trimmed and gifts are revealed and exchanged to the sheer delight of family, friends and countless children. All the wonder of the holiday beams across the faces off those in attendance, in particular on the faces of the Stahlbaum children; Fritz and Clara. Last to arrive to the gathering is Dr. Drosselmeyer; Fritz and Clara’s godfather.

Drosselmeyer’s special gift to Clara is a wooden nutcracker doll to add to her doll and toy collection She is overjoyed. During the night, Dosselmeyer weaves a magical spell which brings the wooden doll to life. What transpires is a whimsical, magical, ride into the fantastical, viscerally enchanting world which is The Nutcracker. A world of battles between evil mice and men and a nasty Rat King. A dreamscape fairy tale world of princes and princesses, living dancing toys and all kinds of vibrant, childhood visions reenacted to larger than life scale.

 

The Nutcracker, simply put is Holiday Ambrosia. A compelling excercise of the imagination; a treat for all five senses. Suffice it to say that there is simply no holiday offering more glorious than the Joffrey’s adaptation of The Nutcracker.

While the Joffrey notably boasts a roster of internationally reknown world class dancers; stand out performances are performed by April Daly (Snow Queen), Dylan Guiterriez (Snow King), Kara Zimmerman (Sugar Plum Fairy), Mauro Villanueva (Nutcracker Prince) and Arron Rogers performing in multiple roles. Act 2’s Coffee from Arabia dance offering features dancers Mahalia Ward and Fabrice Calmeis in a breathtaking number. I thoroughly enjoyed Jack Thorpe-Baker’s Dosselmeyer. Thorpe-Baker portrayal is mysterious, commanding and thoroughly engaging. He is a joy to watch on stage. The Chicago Philharmonic, led by Joffrey Music Director Scott Peck, provides live accompinament, delivering Tchaikovsky’s score in gorgeous fashion.

The timelessness of The Nutcracker is just that: timeless. Throughout the years it has appeared in a myriad of styles and in different adaptations, but NONE outshine, or out grace The Joffrey’s production. It’s not only landmark, but it’s nare on par with Gabriel’s glorious and prophetic Christmas pronouncement.

Reviewed by Madrid St. Angelo on 12/8/12

The Joffrey Ballet’s 25th Anniversary Production of The Nutcracker

Performed through Dec. 27, 2012

Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University

Tickets/Info: www.Joffrey.org

 

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