Monthly Archives: February 2020

Impressive! Cirque du Soleil Presents Alegria (Through February 17 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami and June 5 – 28 at Soldier Field in Chicago)

Very early in the show, a group of men come onto the stage with 15 foot long acro poles. Two men hold the end of the poles and fling the third into the air who then lands standing on the pole. It’s like the uneven bars in gymnastics, except the bars are controlled by people. It was very original and quite impressive!

Later on, a fire dancer takes the stage. He is holding sticks where both ends can hold fire. Only one end is lit at first, so he lights his hand on fire to transfer the fire to the other end. This is insane! He also puts the fire end of the sticks in his mouth and holds up the fire directly on his feet. He must be fire proof!

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The first half ends with a giant snowstorm. A plethora of white confetti is blown around with bright white lights shining everywhere. It would be better if the light didn’t shine directly into the audience’s face. Still, it is a cool scene.

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A man and a woman come out to do a performance with aerial straps. The exciting part is that only the man has his hand through the strap. The woman just puts her hands around his neck and off they go, up high above the stage. They do this again where he is just holding her by her hands. This looks very dangerous, which is what makes it so exciting to watch.

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At last, a giant net is set up about 15 feet above the stage. Up near the ceiling, a bunch of people are swinging around aerial high bars. Just beneath them, two men are swinging on a pendulum. Suddenly, one of them flips upside down. Simultaneously, one of the people flings off one of the bars into midair. They catch each other by the hands in an incredible feat. This trick takes incredible timing and must have involved many hours of practice.

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Get tickets now for Alegria through Monday at Hard Rock Stadium and June 5th to 28th at Soldier Field!

Cost of a ticket: $59 and up
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

 

Broadway Quality! Slow Burn Theatre Company Presents Groundhog Day The Musical at Broward Center (Through February 16, 2020)

Phil Connors is not happy that he has to go to the small town of Punxsutawney, PA to cover Groundhog Day. He thinks he is too important to have to cover such a small story. He spends the day being terrible to everyone. The next day he wakes up and discovers that it is Groundhog’s Day again. He is forced to live the same day over and over again. It’s a journey of self discovery mixed with a love story and a comedy.

This musical is based on the 1993 film of the same name starring Bill Murray. It truly captures the heart of the movie and so many of the great comedic moments. It also adds to the movie with the songs that really get at the emotions of the characters. The idea of a musical version of this movie sounds like a cheesy improv theatre show, but they have created a fantastic Broadway quality show.

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This production by Slow Burn Theatre is very impressive. It’s a must see! The sets are very professional and the crew does a great job swapping them in and out rapidly. The cast is excellent. Clay Cartland playing Phil Connors does a fantastic job. Also, the actor who plays Ned is great and looks just like him!

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Get tickets now for Groundhog Day The Musical through Sunday!

Cost of a ticket: $57

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value –

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

 

Quinn Delaney

 

Big Emotions! The Boys in the Band at Windy City Playhouse (Through April 19th, 2020)

Michael has invited a bunch of his friends over to celebrate Harold’s 32nd birthday. They are all having a grand time until an old friend of Michael’s, Alan, calls and announces that he will be swinging by. It’s 1968 the guests are gay. So, they must hide this fact from Alan in order to avoid being outed in a society that doesn’t accept them.

Ryan Reilly, Christian Edwin Cook, Denzel Tsopnang, William Marquez, and James Lee in Windy City Playhouse's The Boys in the Band, photo credit Michael Brosilow

The emotions get really big in this production. This is amplified by the immersive staging. The audience is seated within Harold’s large apartment. (Insider tip: The best seats are in the corner to left of the entrance. From there, you have a clear view of the kitchen and the upstairs bedroom.) This really makes you feel like part of the action, instead of just watching it up on the stage. It is worth the extra cost of the ticket for this immersive experience.

Jackson Evans and WIlliam Marquez in Windy City Playhouse's The Boys in the Band, photo credit Michael Brosilow

The game that they play really racks up the drama. Each member of the party must use the landline to call the person that they love and tell them that they love them over the phone. For most of them, this is something they have never said to anyone.

 

Jackson Evans (Avenue Q, Bunny Bunny) is great as the host, Michael. He shows some really strong emotions as he bares his soul. Christian Edwin Cook is excellent as Alan, who has a few secrets of his own. James Lee is superb as Larry, who is very intelligent and up front about his needs. In fact, the entire cast is solid in this ensemble piece.

 

Get tickets now for The Boys in The Band through April 19th!

Cost of a ticket: $95 (On Weekends)

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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

 

Quinn Delaney

Police Drama: Shattered Globe Theatre Presents Sheepdog at Theatre Wit (Through February 29, 2020)

Amina and Ryan are two young police officers. They fall in love and move in together. Everything is going great until Ryan, a white male, shoots a young black man to death. He says the young man drew a knife and stepped towards him. A knife was found on the young man. Amina, a black female, questions the course of events. She starts an investigation to find out the truth.

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The play is narrated by Amina. She describes the events taking place and then steps into the scene she has created. It’s a bit too much narrating. It’s better to show rather than tell. By adding one more actor to the play, a lot of the narration could be removed. Still, the story is gripping as she digs deeply into the events of that night. She questions if Ryan is racist and if he planted the knife. This puts a huge dramatic toll on their relationship.

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Leslie Ann Sheppard is excellent as Amina. It’s an impressive feat to narrate the entire story and act in it as well. Drew Schad (Crime and Punishment, Born Yesterday)  is great as Ryan. He is so fun and caring with Amina and then very intense when he is on the job. The audience doesn’t know whether to root for him or against him.

Get tickets now for Sheepdog through Febuary 29th!

Cost of a ticket: $42

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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

Quinn Delaney

Electric Jam Rock with Soul! Robert Randolph & The Family Band at City Winery Chicago (February 6, 2020)

“I need more love everyday of my life!” sings Robert Randolph. With these words on top of an incredibly funky bass line accompanied by Randolph shredding on the steel pedal guitar, it’s impossible to not to start dancing. It’s such a great uplifting song.

During a long jam, Robert gets up and switches instruments with the drummer. Then, the bassist switches instruments with the keyboard player. This is all done without stopping the song. It’s a very cool moment that really adds to the intimate jam atmosphere. They all sing “Sunset coming. Walk of shame coming!”

It really is a family band. The bassist Danyel Morgan and drummer Marcus Randolph are his cousins. The backup vocalist is his sister, Lenesha Randolph. Also, Brett Andrew Haas plays the guitar.

For the encore, as they play, the entire room is singing “Thank you for letting me be myself again”. They are truly a great live band.

Also see our review of The Word featuring Robert Randolph here.

Quinn Delaney

World Class! Bug at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through March 15, 2020)

A waitress is living alone in an Oklahoma motel room. One day her friend introduces her to a drifter. They get along so she invites him to sleep on the floor. Slowly, they develop a relationship and get to know each other. One night, the man exclaims that he has been bitten by a bug. He kicks her out of the bed as he very carefully searches everywhere for bugs. Later on he tells her that the bugs are in his blood and that he is infected. The drama builds from there.

(Trailer from the 2006 film adaptation)

The first half of the play is a slow build. And then in the second half, things really pick up as they dive into conspiracy theories. This is truly live theatre at it’s best. The acting and production are at such a high level that the audience completely loses themselves in the story. It is very cinematic and it’s no surprise that they made it into a movie in 2006.

Carrie Coon (Mary Page Marlowe, The Leftovers) is fantastic as the waitress. She completely becomes this lonely character searching for connection. Namir Smallwood (True West, BLKS) is superb as the drifter. He expertly transforms from mostly normal to a paranoid schizophrenic. Randall Arney, Jennifer Engstrom, and Steve Key are all great in their supporting roles. Tracy Letts (The Minutes, Linda Vista, Mary Page Marlowe) is a master writer. Every play he writes is a must see. He wrote this one in 1995 and it still feel completely fresh.

Get tickets now for Bug through March 15th!

Cost of a ticket: $58 and up

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

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Quinn Delaney

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Exceptional! Broadway in Chicago Presents Riverdance at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (Through February 9, 2020)

Riverdance is much more than just Irish dancing. It is also a fantastic concert with fiddle, saxophone, drums, Uilleann pipes, and tin whistle. It’s incredibly beautiful and exciting music that captures the culture of Ireland. The music accompanies the dancing perfectly. As the tap dancing increases to lightning fast speed, so does the music. When all the dancers join hands and dance in a circle, the music sounds like a big party.

In the second act, a dance-off takes place between the Male Troupe and the American Tappers with a backdrop of NYC. It’s a very exciting back and forth as they push each other back and forth across the stage. The American Tappers poke fun at the Irish Dancing but then adapt it to their own style. One of the Tappers throws in some hip hop moves. It’s a cool blend of styles that would have been great to see even more.

The two principal dancers, Jason O’Neill and Maggie Darlington are exceptional and they have a lot of stage time.

Riverdance - Riverdance - Photo Credit Jack Hartin

See the fantastic choreography in the 25th Anniversary Tour of Riverdance through February 9th!

Cost of a ticket: $61 (Orchestra)
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Riverdance - Trading Taps - Photo Credit Jack Hartin

Quinn Delaney

Riverdance Photo Credit Jack Hartin