Monthly Archives: January 2020

Holy Cow! Cirque du Soleil Presents Zumanity at New York New York in Las Vegas (Open Run)

Fifteen minutes before the show is scheduled to start, Cassanova appears. He moves around the crowd flirting with the women and entertaining the crowd until he is dismissed by two women. They move around the crowd flirting with the men and handing out strawberries. Both of these acts are very funny and should not be missed.

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A muscled man descends from the ceiling with a D shaped device. The straight part is a metal bar and the curved portion is a chain. Towards the end of the performance, he raises up about 40 ft holding onto the bar and tilting his head back over the chain. He then removes his hands and holds himself up only by his head. This is insane! He then repositions himself upside down and suspends himself with just one foot. Holy cow!

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Later on, a giant glass bowl rises from beneath the stage filled with water and two women. They proceed to display impressive balancing feats combined with great contortions.

Those are the three highlights of the show. Zumanity is 18+ due to some of the performers appearing topless. As with all cirque shows, the space is quite small and there is no bad seat.

Get tickets for Zumanity now.

Cost of a ticket: $75 and up

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price +

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

 

Alternately Delightful and Disappointing – Mandy Patinkin at the Chicago Theatre (January 23, 2020)

It might be that you are a fan of Mandy Patinkin’s from “Homeland” or “The Princess Bride,” but chances are that if you’re buying tickets to see him in concert, you’re more concerned with his Broadway credits. But Patinkin is more than Georges Seurat, Ché and Archibald Craven. So if you were just hoping to hear his show tunes, the show will alternately delight and disappoint.

 

The show confuses, particularly with “From The Air,” a spoken word piece from Laurie Anderson, an avant-garde performance artist. The lights dim and Patinkin sits and delivers this piece that makes you wonder if you are at a bad college performance that you forgot to get high for. “A Few Words in Defense of Our Country” is another low light.

 

 

Also bizarre is “Refugees/Song of the Titanic.” Patinkin sings beautifully in Yiddish against a backdrop of videos and photos of refugees, including footage of those who have drowned. After the song, Patinkin sings two Sondheim songs from “Company” and then the show is over. The effect is jarring.

 

 

You have witnessed something incredibly painful and are left with no context. Patinkin works with the International Rescue Committee (https://www.rescue.org/mandy-patinkin) to “bring global attention to the ongoing refugee crisis.” But he shares nothing of his work. There is no intro nor lead-out. And following it up with “Sorry/Grateful” and “Being Alive”? Not the right choice.

 

 

This aside, he is still Mandy Patinkin. Hearing him sing “Sunday” is alone worth the price of the ticket and “Being Alive,” though oddly placed, was magnificent. And though the song choices of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Over the Rainbow” are hokey, it’s still a joy to hear him sing them.

 

But still, you’ll leave the theater wondering. . . what the hell did I just see?

 

Edward Boyle

Passionate! Broadway in Chicago Presents Once On This Island at the Cadillac Palace (Through February 2, 2020)

There’s always a worry when a show tours that it will lose its energy once it leaves New York. The original cast is gone, the set is simpler and the venues are much larger. Certainly, for the revival of “Once On This Island” which played at the very intimate Circle in the Square in Manhattan and is now playing at the Cadillac Palace in Chicago, this last concern is no trifling matter. Compare a capacity of 840 to 2,344!

 

And so while it is inescapable that the tour is a different production in many ways, it was a delight to discover that the passion is the same.

 

 

“Once On This Island” tells the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who falls in love with Daniel, a descendant of the French aristocracy. They meet when Daniel is injured in a car accident. Ti Moune nurses him back to health and when he returns to his side of the island, she follows him and enters his world. While Ti Moune and Daniel are learning about each other, the gods of earth, water, love and death are watching and intervening. They are challenging each other to see if love is stronger than death, based on what happens to the two lovers.

 

The highlights of the show are Courtnee Carter in the role of Ti Moune and Cassondra James as Erzulie (Goddess of Love). Carter brings a wide-eyed innocence to the role that allows you to sympathize with the character, rather than roll your eyes about a modern retelling of “The Little Mermaid” where once again, a girl makes grand sacrifices for a boy she has just met. But for a hint of her strength and defiance, preview her vocals on “Waiting For Life”:

Once on This Island

Once on This Island

 

James also had big shoes to fill, stepping into a role played by Lea Salonga on Broadway. But her gentle “The Human Heart” was exquisite.And perhaps the one moment that truly makes you forget that you’re seeing the show in a large theater as opposed to a small theater in the round is during “Ti Moune’s Dance,” a pivotal (and lively!) moment of the show that the cast handles deftly.

 

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The show is one act, 90 minutes with no intermission and once it’s over, you just might want to buy a ticket to see it again.

 

Get tickets now for Once on This Island through February 2!

Edward Boyle

Incredible! V – The Ultimate Variety Show at V Theater in the Miracle Mile Shops of Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino (Open Run)

Wally Eastwood – Juggler

This man can juggle. I mean, really juggle. He juggled about 4 ping pong balls using his mouth to launch the balls up. It was insane. Later in the show, he brought out a piano that plays a note whenever he drops a ball onto it. He very impressively plays “Fur Elise” by Beethoven using about 6 balls. It was truly incredible.

Iouri & Gabor – Ultimate Balancing Act

This impressive duo features a lot of incredible balancing positions. In one of them, the man on top uses just one hand on the other’s head to balance himself. The most grand one was when the man on the bottom held the other one upside down with their heads back to back, just using their shoulders. It was unbelievable!

Russ Merlin – Prop Comedian

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Russ Merlin begins his show by trying to find four men that are 5’11” by looking at the seated audience. He successfully finds 3 and the 4th is 6’1”. Not too shabby. He then invites them all on stage. He goes on to put very funny masks on all them and teach them all some basic actions to do when he taps them on the shoulder. In essence, he turns them into his puppets and it makes for a very funny show.

The Skating Aratas

On about a 4 foot wide circular platform, the performers spin up to 45 mph on roller skates. The man picks up the woman and spins her around just by her legs. Then, to increase the intensity, they use a figure 8 device that puts a loop over each of their heads. He then proceeds to spin her around without using his hand in a fantastic finale. The crowd gave them a standing ovation!

 

Cost of a ticket: $95

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price +

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

 

Quinn Delaney

Rock Focused: X Burlesque at Bugsy’s Cabaret at Flamingo – Las Vegas (Open Run)

Merriam-Webster defines burlesque as theatrical entertainment of a broadly humorous often earthy character consisting of short turns, comic skits, and sometimes striptease acts. This productions focuses on the striptease acts. Only one of the dances was comical. It’s an airplane based scene where an audience member is brought on stage. After teasing him for a while, they wheel him behind a screen and the word “Occupied” appears. Behind the screen, you can see one of the dancers kneeling in front in the audience member as everyone wonders what is happening back there. It is a very moment.

There is one sexy scene which doesn’t feature any dancing. Instead it is a stop motion piece where the dancers pose for a few seconds in the light, the stage goes dark, and then they move into the next position. The scene involves a bathtub and pouring water onto each other in a scintillating manner.

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There is one aerialist who very athletically performs. She flips and flies across the stage in an impressive manner. In fact, most of the acts are big, rocking, and showy. The title of X Rocks more accurately describes this show than X Burlesque.

Get tickets now for X Burlesque.

Cost of a ticket: $73
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

 

Hilariously Stupid Characters! Open Fist Theatre Company Presents Neil Simon’s Musical Fools at Atwater Village Theatre featuring James Byous and Parvesh Cheena (Through January 26, 2020)

A schoolteacher travels to a new town for a new job. However, this is no ordinary town. Everyone here is an absolute fool. They are comically stupid. A curse was put on the town to make everyone dumb. The only way to break the curse is for a young woman to marry the strange older man who lives up on the hill. To complicate things further, the schoolteacher is falling in love with this woman. Hilarity ensues.

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James Byous (Westside) is charming and hilarious as the schoolteacher. His facial reactions when confronted with idiocy are priceless. Parvesh Cheena (OutsourcedCrazy Ex-Girlfriend, Chicago Sketchfest) is so funny as the shepherd who can’t keep track of his sheep, except for in his dreams. Jason Paige is a major highlight as the strange older man. In his solo, he singing about wanting people to like him has the whole audience laughing. Bruce Green is excellent as the young woman’s father. He acts so proud of her for doing the simplest things!

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Ron West and Phil Swann did an excellent job turning Neil Simon’s play into a musical. They truly have a hit on their hands.

Get tickets now for Musical Fools through January 26th!

Cost of a ticket: $35

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It +

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

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Quinn Delaney

 

Excellent! Theatre Planners Present Salvage at Lounge Theatre (Through January 19, 2020)

A middle aged man named Preacher is playing an acoustic guitar in a rundown bar. He is singing and drinking as the bartender, Johnson, looks on. A young man, Harley, enters the bar with excitement in his eyes. He exclaims that this is the bar where one of his musical heroes killed himself. He can’t believe that he found it. Preacher is annoyed by the interruption.

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Harley goes on to say that he is planning to sell his guitar at the pawn shop across the street. His wife is pregnant and it is time for him to give up on his dream. He needs to get a steady job and support his family. Preacher sees a bit of his younger self in Harley. He tells him that this plan will never work. He may try to let go of his dream, but it will never let go of him. As the afternoon goes on, they discover they have a lot more in common than they could have ever expected.

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David Atkinson is excellent as the preacher, who is similar to Jeff Bridges’ character in Crazy Heart. Both of them are older musicians full of heartache who never found success. Christopher Fordinal is great as Harley, the young musician ready to give up on his dream. They are both good guitar players and singers. Nina Herzog is solid as Destiny, Harley’s wife. However, the one weakness of this play is that her reactions to the situations in the play seem a bit unrealistic. Lastly, Leonard Earl Howze is golden as Johnson, the bartender. He’s a great listener who sees the big picture and then shares this wisdom.

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The music in this play is excellent. It’s singer songwriter style acoustic rock. Hopefully they will record a cast album!

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Get tickets for Salvage now through January 19th!

Cost of a ticket: $35
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It +
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

 

PlaylistHQ Winners of the 2020 Capezio A.C.E. Awards at The Montalban: #1) Chase Bowden #2) Matthew Kazmierczak & Daniel Bernardo #3) Caleb Brauner #4) Alan Salazar (January 15, 2020)

PlaylistHQ Winners:

#1) When You Love Someone

Choreographer: Chase Bowden

Music: “When You Love Someone” by James TW

A beautiful piece that begins with a married couple in a fantastically choreographed fight that leads to their divorce. It then turns to their son, who is really struggling with the split. They each try to confort him separately. It’s a full story encapsulated in just three and a half minutes. The choreography was very impressive.

#2) Remind Me

Choreographers: Matthew Kazmierczak & Daniel Bernardo

Music: “Remind Me” by Emily King

An exceptional piece about a couple who first meet on a bench in a park. They fall in love as they remind each other of something that they used to feel, something they had been missing. The dancing fully captures the song and is so full of joy.

#3) Self-Reflection

Choreographer: Caleb Brauner

This was the opening piece. In a competition show, it can be difficult to win when you go first. It’s very hard to remember at the very end. Also, when the audience is watching it, they don’t have anything else to compare it to. Nevertheless, this one was a fantastic start and thus earns the #3 spot.

#4) The Man and the Machine

Choreographer: Alan Salazar

Music: “The man who married a robot” by The 1975 w/ and Sh’Diah by Bon Iver

A very unique piece in which a man falls in love with the internet. The only light is from handheld lights held by the dancers. The main character has a blue light, while the others have orange and red. It is very visually pleasing and a great representation of the song.

 

The official winners of the 2020 Capezio A.C.E. Awards:

1) Grayson McGuire & Shiori Kamijo

2) Noelle Marsh

3) Sarah Steben and Brandon Croisetiere

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The musical choices all night were excellent. Here are a few of the other songs used:

Scott Joplin – The Entertainer

Donovan Woods – Portland, Maine

Lo-Fand – “You’re The One That I Want”

Jesse Marchant – Reminders, Defeats

JSMN – Talk is Cheap

Natalie Cole – This Will Be

Get tickets now for full shows choreographed by last year’s winners through Saturday at https://www.themontalban.com/moves.

Cost of a ticket: $40 and up
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It +
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

 

Funny and Impressive! Aura CuriAtlas Physical Theatre Presents Dream Logic and The Fool and the World at Steppenwolf Theatre (January 11, 2020)

Krayola

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The light shines down on the three crayons. They jump up and down hoping to be chosen, fighting each other for position. The light goes off and disappointment fills their faces. They were not picked. Shortly after, the light returns and they again jockey for position and try to push the others out of the way. This is a hilarious and very fun opening piece. The performers are clearly enjoying themselves and the audience is eating it up.

 Couples Therapy

A couple begrudgingly enters the room. A voice tells them to begin. They start on the obstacle course and the woman quickly trips. “Again!” says the voice. This time, the woman jumps over the obstacle, but then the man gets hit in the face. “Again!” This choreography unfolds in a cyclical pattern and the audience has an opportunity to enjoy their success as they progress with each sequence. This piece not only provides entertainment, but it truly draws the audience in as it evokes feelings of connectedness and relatability. The performers beautifully depicted the power of perseverance and true partnership and its impact on successful and happy relationships

 Lecture (Excerpt from A Life With No Limits)

 A man enters to give a lecture. While he lectures, the other performers lie on the ground and pass him along mainly using their legs. Afterwards, the lecturer places them in various intricate and acrobatic positions. This piece is very impressive, both athletically and visually.

 The Fool and the World

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The idea of this piece is to create a dance to represent each of the 22 main tarot cards. After performing the full deck, an audience member is invited on stage to draw three cards, which they will perform. The audience is instructed to think of a question that is personally important to them. Firstly, she draws The Sun, which represents the past. This dance is very joyful and playful and could represent a fun childhood. Secondly, she draws The Emperor. The dancers perform this act with power, control, and strength, which could represent a hard-working adulthood. Lastly, she draws The Devil. The performers present a feeling of personal demons and struggle. This could represent a major challenge in midlife. It was a very interesting way to explore the tarot cards through acrobatic dance.

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Check out the other productions coming up as part of Steppenwolf’s Lookout series.

Quinn Delaney

Very Funny! Chicago Sketchfest Opening Night Featuring Hacks and Parv & Pudi (Through January 19, 2020)

Hacks

Maeve Devitt and Kimberly Florian are very funny together. Early on in the show, they do a great bit about cuffing season where they go into the audience and handcuff themselves to strangers.

Later on, Kimberly does a parody of a Christmas song with the lyrics changed to be about invading Iraq. The result is very comedic indeed.

Maeve’s father was a widower before he married her mom. She performs a song about her “cool” mom compared to her alive mom. It’s very edgy, a little cringe worthy, and absolutely hilarious.

The piano player gives them puzzle pieces throughout the show. They eventually put together the puzzle and it is an invoice. He hasn’t been paid yet!

Hacks does very smart, political, and edgy comedy!

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Parv & Pudi

Parvesh Cheena (Outsourced, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and Danny Pudi (Community) are two of the biggest names in this festival. They do a funny sketch where one of them plays an uber driver and the other is the passenger. The drivers asks “Where are you from?” “Chicago.” “No, where are you really from?” says the driver, wanting to know where in India. After giving the answer, they quickly switch spots and repeat the sketch enforcing how often this happens to them. It’s mildly funny.

At the end of the show, they perform four short comedic dances. The punchline is then the titles of the dances, which they reveal afterwards. “I don’t have to go to the bathroom.” “Move out of the way”. It may have been funnier to hear the titles first.

Get tickets for Sketchfest now!

Quinn Delaney