Monthly Archives: November 2021

Indie Rock Musical! Kokandy Productions Presents Hundred Days at Chopin Theatre (Through January 9, 2022)

Abigail and Shaun Bengson are a married couple that formed a family band. They are performing a show that tells their true life story. The show is more like an indie rock concert by Arcade Fire than a musical. They talk about their whirlwind meeting leading to them getting married after only three weeks of dating. After a car accident, they go on a journey of living as if they only had 100 days left to love.

The first performance of Hundred Days was on January 4, 2017 at the New York Theater Workshop. Shaun and Abigail played themselves in this original run.

The cast makes a great band together. They all sing very well in addition to playing multiple instruments. Emile Modaff is excellent as Abigail Bengson. They play Abigail so well that the audience isn’t sure if this story is actually about them. Royen Kent is charming as Shaun and he plays the mandolin beautifully. Alec Phan alternates playing Shaun with Royen. Mel Vitaterna’s solo as Max is superb. The rest of the ensemble includes Grace Bobber, David Gordon-Johnson, Lucas “Looch” Johnson, and Brennan Urbi.

Cost of a ticket: $42

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

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

Get tickets now for Hundred Days through January 9th!

Quinn Delaney


Stunning! Brian McKnight at City Winery Chicago (November 24, 2021)

Brian McKnight starts the set off singing to just a backup track. It’s a bit like karaoke as he sings “Sexual Healing” by Marvin Gaye. He also sings a few of his own songs in this style.

Photos by Janet M. Takayama

Later on he sits down at the keyboard and plays what he calls a “sad song medley”. This includes “Get Over You” and “Lonely”.

He then returns to karaoke style with a tribute to a few artists who have passed away. This includes the great “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross. “Oh, my love. A thousand kisses from you is never too much. I just don’t wanna stop.” It sounds great sung by McKnight and it’s a shame he stopped after just one verse and chorus. He stops short like this for most of the songs tonight, including his own songs.

In the middle of the set, he launches straight into his biggest hit (158 million plays on Spotify), his 1999 song “Back At One”. Instantly, many in the audience are transported back to their high school homecoming dance or prom. It’s a beautiful song that still sounds great today. Thankfully, he doesn’t cut this one short.

He then opens up the set for requests. Instead of having people shout out, he has them raise their hands. This is a great idea. I think Second City should use this as well for taking suggestions. Beforehand, he warns us that since he has 20 albums, he might not remember the words. However, for tonight’s show he nails all the requests.

Later on he describes how he recently wrote the best song of his career, “Nobody”. He wrote it for his wife of 10 years, his muse. “I’ll hold.. nobody’s hand but yours. You can believe for sure, I’ll be nobody’s man but yours.” It’s amazing how after 30 years of writing songs, he can still write a stunner like this one.

Cost of a ticket: $70

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

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

Quinn Delaney

Right Angle Entertainment Presents Love Actually? The Unauthorized Musical Parody at The Apollo Theater Chicago (Through January 2, 2022)

This parody fully makes fun of the 2003 film, Love Actually. Definitely watch the movie beforehand to understand all the references. Also, being familiar with the other work by the actors involved is important as they play off other characters they have played. They use actor names instead of their character names, which is quite funny.

Songs in this spoof of the hodge-podge montage rom-com include:

“Messages of Love, Actually”

“He’s the Prime Minister (of Rom-Coms)”

“Dark Deeds in Dark Corners”

“British Girls”

“Keira Knightly Actually”

“A Joni Mitchell CD? (For Your Continued Emotional Education)”

“The Lament of Laura Linney”

“The Language of Love”

“American Girls”

“The 11 O’Clock Grand Gesture Number”

“Love is Actually”

The cast is so versatile and funny. Each one of them has to play multiple characters with completely different outfits. Ann Delaney is great as Laura Linney wondering why she is in this film. Jake Elkins is hilarious as one of the body doubles looking for love. Ryan Foreman is so funny as Tiny Tim. Dan Plehal is hilarious as the guy travelling to Milwaukee for the ladies. Amanda Walker is stellar as Keira Knightley and truly nails the Keira facial expression. Christopher Wayland is so funny as Professor Snape, aka Alan Rickman .

Cost of a ticket: $43 and up

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price +

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Get tickets now for Love Actually through January 2nd.

Quinn Delaney

Hilarious! The Best Decision You’ve Ever Made at The Second City Etc (Open Run)

Chuck gets on to a bus and takes a seat. They put on their headphones and play “Get Low” by Lil Jon. Immediately, everyone on the bus starts dancing. They remove the headphones and everyone goes back to normal. They put them back on and the dancing resumes. It’s a simple concept, but yet so hilarious. What makes it so funny is how into the dancing all the other cast members get followed by how quickly they stop and act normally.

Everyone from the cast of Grinning from Fear to Fear returns in this show except for Andrew Knox, who is replaced by Alex Bellisle. She is excellent in the song about being white passing.  Atra Asdou (Grinning from Fear to Fear) is hilarious playing Joe Biden doing ASMR. EJ Cameron is so funny as a sleepwalker. Mark Campbell shows his expert improv chops as a video editor who is interested in anime. Laurel Krabacher was not present tonight. Lastly, Chuck Norment is powerful in the scene where their dad doesn’t talk and their mom is very critical.

Cost of a ticket: $34 and up
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It +
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Get tickets now for The Best Decision You’ve Ever Made!

Quinn Delaney

Excellent! Donna Missal Opening for Chvrches at the Aragon Ballroom (November 19, 2021)

Donna Missal and her band open with “How Does It Feel”. This smooth track starts their set off strong and gets the audience moving.

Midway through the set they play “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead. Missal’s voice sounds excellent on this song accompanied by just an acoustic guitar. She says it is one of her favorite songs.

Second to last is “Best Friend”. This one is a good rocker and Donna truly uses her voice as an instrument here as she varies her volume and pitch expertly.

They close with “Let You Let Me Down”. “I let you let me, let me, let me down, down, down” she sings in the chorus as she falls to her knees and then fully on her back. You can feel her releasing the pain of this breakup through this song.

Through this short opener set, it’s clear that this band has a bright future. Catch them on tour now!

Cost of a ticket: $68

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

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

Quinn Delaney

Marvelous! Broadway in Chicago Presents Paradise Square at The Nederlander Theatre (Through December 5, 2021)

It is 1863 in Five Points, a neighborhood in Lower Manhattan. This neighborhood is called home by Irish immigrants escaping The Great Famine and Black Americans, born free and escaped slaves. Paradise Square is a saloon that is a true melting pot way ahead of it’s time in a young America.

From the opening number, it’s clear this is a Broadway bound musical. It’s full of big voices and strong emotions. The set is also very large with big moving parts. The drama between the characters slowly builds throughout the show. It all leads up to the Civil War Draft Riots in July of 1863.

Joaquina Kalukango is exceptional as Nelly O’Brien, the owner of the saloon. This is especially true in her show stopping number, “Let it Burn”. Chillina Kennedy is superb as Nelly’s sister-in-law and a strong leader. A.J. Shively is excellent as newly arrived Irish immigrant battling to not be drafted. Sidney Dupont is marvelous as the escaped slave waiting for his love to meet up with him.

Get tickets now for Paradise Square through December 5th before it heads to New York City.

Cost of a ticket: $63 to $200

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price +

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

Quinn Delaney

P.S. It has been 3 years since the last Broadway preview opened in Chicago. That show was Tootsie.

World Class! Bug at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through December 12, 2021)

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 MarloweThe Leftovers) is fantastic as the waitress. She completely becomes this lonely character searching for connection. It’s amazing to see her transformation as the relationship builds. Namir Smallwood (True West, BLKS) is superb as the drifter. He expertly changes from mostly normal to a paranoid schizophrenic. Randall Arney, Jennifer Engstrom, and Steve Key are all great in their supporting roles. Tracy Letts (The MinutesLinda 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 and thrilling.

Get tickets now for Bug through March 15th!

Cost of a ticket: $20 to $110 (Most tickets are $84)

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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

Also, check out the Carrie Coon episode of the Half Hour podcast here!

Quinn Delaney

Fantastic! Dan Layus from Augustana at City Winery Chicago (November 15, 2021)

Tonight, Dan Layus takes the stage alone and gets right into playing. He opens with their biggest hit, “Boston”. This song would normally be saved until the end, but tonight he is playing songs in chronological order. This single from 2005, hit #10 on the Adult Top 40. The audience is surprised, but they dig it.

Next he plays “Stars and Boulevards”. He says it can be a bit weird playing songs from this debut album because it was so long ago and before he even met his wife. All the Stars and Boulevards (2005) hit #1 on the Billboards chart for Top Independent Albums.

Later on he plays “Fire”. Layus only recently learned that this song almost didn’t make it on the album because the producer and the label didn’t think it fit in well. This album, Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt (2008) hit #2 on the charts.

Dan gives props to the opener, John-Robert, who played a great set. Dan and JR only just met a few days ago, but hopefully they’ll collaborate later on in the tour 

Dan says they decided to make their third album self-titled because it really felt like who the band really is. This self titled album (2011) also hit #1 on the Billboards chart for Top Independent Albums. 

To close out his set, he plays “Make Someone Happy” by Jimmy Durante. On this track, he sounds a lot like Rufus Wainwright, which is great company to be in.

Photos by Janet Mami Takayama

Throughout the night, he looks very happy and is enjoying his time back on stage after the pandemic hiatus. The entire set is solid with the crowd singing every song. The songwriting is fantastic and the performance matches it too. The setlist for this show in the same as the one from Columbus, which is available here.

Cost of a ticket: $25 to $35

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

Quinn Delaney

Great Singer! morgxn opening for Smallpools at The Bottom Lounge (November 13, 2021)

morgxn (pronounced Morgan) opens his set by singing acapella. At first he can’t be heard, but then everyone quiets down to listen. The audience quickly learns that he has a great voice. Soon afterwards he sits down and proceeds to play the keyboard while singing.

Midway through his set he plays a very slow version of Jimmy Eat World’s “Middle”. It works very well and matches his style.

“I’m going back home to the place where I belong, there’s nothing like it” he sings on “home”. He says when he thinks of home, he thinks of live music venues. It’s so great to be back home!

Later on he plays “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac. It’s a hit and everyone sings along. It’s clear that he has a wide range of influences.

To close his short set, he plays “WONDER” which he recorded with Sara Bareilles. He released a full album of reimagined versions which includes a version by Smallpools. Written during the pandemic shutdown, this song features this great line “I wonder if anyone will hear this.”

Later on, morgxn returns to the stage for the Smallpools encore to sing the song they wrote together, “Slowdown”. It’s a great song and it’s very cool to see him reappear again on stage. It’s always great when artists that tour together do a colloboration.

Quinn Delaney

Broadway Worthy! Sister Act at The Mercury Theatre (Through January 2, 2022)

In June of 2020, the Mercury Theatre announced that they were shutting down permanently. In a tribute to them, we posted this list of their best shows. Then, in April of 2021, they announced that they would return. Thus, it is only appropriate that their first show is about a Catholic church and resurrection.

In May of 1992, the film Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg and Harvy Keitel was released. It was later adapted in a musical with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Glenn Slater. The first premier was in October of 2006 in Pasadena, California It opened on Broadway in April of 2011. And now, in November 2021, it opens at the Mercury Theatre.

In the story, lounge singer Derloris witnesses her boyfriend commit murder. The police decide to hide her in a convent as a nun, the last place her boyfriend would look for her. She doesn’t fit in very well until she finds her place and becomes the leader of the choir. The choir gains widespread attention which then leads to more issues.

The cast in this production is fantastic and truly make this show hilarious and Broadway Worthy. Ed Kross (Shear Madness) is hysterical as the priest. Each time he grabs the mic, he cracks the whole audience up. Leah Morrow (Avenue Q, The Producers) is so funny as the nun who just loves everything about her job. Gilbert Domally strikes comedic gold as Sweaty Eddie, especially during his solo song, “I Could Be That Guy”. Austin Nelson is so funny as TJ with his one-liners Lastly, Alexis J. Roston’s voice is fantastic as Deloris.

Cost of a ticket: $35 – $80

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value –

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

Get tickets for Sister Act now through January 2nd!