Monthly Archives: March 2023

Hard Rock! Smile Empty Soul at Lafayette’s in Memphis (March 28, 2023)

The original Lafayette’s was a small venue that hosted some big names getting their start in the 1970’s. These names include Billy Joel, Big Star, KISS, Barry Manilow, and Leon Russell. It reopened 38 years after closing in the 70s. The venue features tables spread out on the floor for the audience to sit down to eat and drink during the show. This is similar to BB Kings Blues Club, Rum Boogie Café, and City Winery.

Smile Empty Soul originated in Santa Clarita, California in 1998. They now call Los Angeles their home. At 830, they take the stage, which is a bit on the early side for them.

Late in the set, they play “Silhouettes” from their 2003 self titled debut album. “I don’t wanna live like my mother / I don’t wanna let fear rule my life / And I don’t wanna live like my father / I don’t wanna give up before I die”. This is such a powerful song about hoping for a better life than your parents.

At the end of their set, they play “Bottom of a Bottle”, also from their debut album, which has over 61 million streams on Spotify. “I do it for the drugs / I do it just to feel alive / I do it for the love / That I get from the bottom of a bottle”. What a fantastic chorus that the crowd happily shouts along with the band.  This song still sounds just as great as it did 20 years ago.

Cost of a ticket: $25

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Quinn Delaney


Hilarious! The Play That Goes Wrong at Theatre Memphis (Through March 26, 2023)

“The Play That Goes Wrong” is a play that was written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields, who are members of a British theater company called Mischief Theatre. They also created The Goes Wrong Show. The play premiered at the Old Red Lion Theatre in London in 2012. It opened on Broadway in April 2017. A long production in Chicago went from December 2021 to May 2022. And now in March of 2023, it opens at Theatre Memphis.

The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are attempting to stage a murder mystery play, The Murder at Haversham Manor. However, as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong does go wrong, leading to a series of hilarious mishaps and misunderstandings.

The play is full of slapstick humor, physical comedy, and farcical situations that keep the audience laughing throughout the show. The over acting is especially funny. Whether you’re a fan of comedy or just looking for a good laugh, this play is definitely worth checking out.

See the program here. Be sure to read the bios of the “actors” on page 17!

Cost of a ticket: $25
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Get tickets now for The Play That Goes Wrong through March 26th!

Quinn Delaney

Great Storytellers! Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams Opening for Shawn Mullins at Old Town School of Folk Music (March 18, 2023)

Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams are a married couple playing as a duo tonight. They met in 1986 when Campbell was asked to play a concert in New York featuring Williams. Two years later they were married. In 1997, Campbell joined Bob Dylan’s backing band and played with them for eight years. Afterwards, they both joined Levon Helm’s band. In 2015, they made their official debut and released their first album. In 2017, they released their second album and now they are touring in support of their third album, Live at Levon’s!

Their sound is a mix of folk, americana, and rock. In addition to being great guitar players, they are also great storytellers. Throughout the night they spin tales that lead right into the songs. Campbell is also excellent on the fiddle.

Towards the end of Shawn Mullins set, he invites Larry and Teresa to join him on stage. They first play “Beautiful Wreck” “I’ve lost count of the times I’ve given up on you” he sings. The audience is fully engaged watching this master of songwriting and singing perform this beautiful song with Campbell on mandolin and Williams providing backup vocals.

At last they launch into Mullin’s 1998 hit, “Lullaby”, which has over 42 millions streams on Spotify. It’s a great song about LA. “It’s kinda like Nashville, with a tan.” “Everything’s going to be alright, Rockaby, rockabye, rockabye”. It’s a perfect end to a fantastic set of music.

Cost of a ticket: $43

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Quinn Delaney

Historical Drama: Describe the Night at Steppenwolf Theatre(Through April 9, 2023)

It’s 1920 and Isaac Babel is writing in his journal about the Polish-Soviet War. Jump forward 90 years and this journal is given to a young man after a mysterious plane crash. It’s a play that blends historical drama, political satire, surrealistic fantasy, and meta-theatrical experimentation.

Rajiv Joseph (King James, Guards at the Taj ) has written a thriller that is on the longer side at 2 hours and 45 minutes. It’s an exploration of truth verse fiction. It is comprised of some great scenes and moments, but they don’t add up very cohesively in this production.

In the ensemble theatre, the set design is forced to be simple. No elaborate backdrop can be created for a theatre in the round which makes it harder to set the scene. Another issue is at all times, the actor will be facing directly away from some of the audience. If they are doing something directly in front of them, it will be missed. Also, many of the seats do not face towards the middle and you will be forced to sit sideways in your seat. This is especially true of the seats in the front towards the end.

Photos by Michael Brosilow

Despite the issues mentioned, the cast gives great performances. Glenn Davis (King James, The Christians) is excellent as the KGB agent. James Vincent Meredith (The Minutes) is stellar as Isaac Babel, a Jewish writer journaling about the war. Yasen Peyankov (Lindiwe ) is haunting as the Russian soldier.  Sally Murphy (The Minutes, Linda Vista) is splendid as the wife of the Russian soldier. Caroline Neff (You Got Older, Linda Vista) is great as the reporter trying to escape the country. Jack Cain and Charence Higgins are solid in their Steppenwolf debuts.  

Cost of a ticket: $68

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Get tickets now for Describe the Night through April 9th!

Quinn Delaney

Intense! Broadway in Chicago Presents TINA – The Tina Turner Musical at the Nederlander Theatre (Through April 2, 2023)

TINA – The Tina Turner Musical had it’s first performance in April 2018 in London. It first opened on Broadway in November 2019. What’s Love Got to Do with It, the Tina Turner biopic, was released in 1993, starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. Now it opens at the Nederlander Theatre in Chicago in March of 2023.

The musical starts with Tina’s humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee. It then moves to her career in Ike Turner’s band. At last, it moves on to her solo career.

The first half of the show is intensely dark. It’s hard to watch as she is abandoned by her mother, abused by Ike Turner, and deals with racism in the south. The second half is much brighter as enters the solo phase of her career.

The most heartbreaking scene is when Tina sings “What’s Love Got to Do with It” to the band member that she has been seeing after she accepts an engagement to Ike. “Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” It’s such a powerful moment.

One of the highlights is the choreography by Anthony van Laast, which is both exciting and mesmerizing. The dance numbers are perfectly synchronized and complement the music perfectly, creating an immersive experience that will leave you wanting more.

“The Best” is the grand finale. “You’re simply the best / Better than all the rest / Better than anyone / Anyone I’ve ever met”. It’s a great song of triumph for Tina as she finally has found a great partner in Erwin.

After the curtain call, Zurin Villanueva returns as Tina to sing “Proud Mary” for an encore. On alternate nights, Ari Groover stars as Tina. This is necessary as the vocals required in this show that no one person could do eight shows per week. “Big wheel keep on turning / Proud Mary keep on burning / Rolling, rolling, rolling on the river”. It is a fantastically joyous way to end the night.

Cost of a ticket: $145 (Orchestra)

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Get tickets now for TINA – The Tina Turner Musical through April 2nd!

Quinn Delaney

Mandolin Mastery! Sam Bush at City Winery Chicago (March 11, 2023)

Sam Bush is touring supporting his latest album, Radio John: Songs of John Hartford. It’s full of covers including “In Tall Buildings”, which he plays early in the set. He sings “So it’s goodbye to the sunshine / Goodbye to the dew / Goodbye to the flowers / And goodbye to you / I’m off to the subway / I must not be late / I’m going to work in tall buildings”. It’s a beautiful song about what you give up to go work in an office.

Parents are spotted shuffling out their kids right as he begins to play “Granny Wontcha Smoke Some Marijuana”. “When it gets dry and you wanna get high, I gotta clean them seeds just one more time.” This is such a fun bluegrass song that puts a smile on everyone’s face.

“Dinosaur Birthday” is a song by the banjo player, Wes Corbett. It was inspired by the party his wife through him for his 30th birthday, which was dinosaur themed, because she knows him so well. It’s a very fun and happy bluegrass tune.

To close out the set, they play a long jam that includes many melodies from different songs including “Midnight Rider” by The Allman Brothers Band. Sam Bush also lays down some lightening fast mandolin playing.  It’s a great rocking way to end the set.

Cost of a ticket: $53 (Middle)

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Quinn Delaney

Raw Emotion! VÉRITÉ at Lincoln Hall (March 9, 2023)

A theme of the concert tonight is songs about heartbreak. First, she plays a string of “pre-breakup” songs.

On “Phase Me Out, she sings “Don’t you want to stay here or do you want to phase me out?” She fully expresses the pain and heartache in this song.

“I don’t want your body, but I hate to think of you with somebody else”. This is from “Somebody Else” by The 1975. Her cover of this song has exploded on Spotify with 133 million listens. It fits in very well with her songs.

On “younger women”, she sings “If you don’t want me anymore… just say it.” The audience eats this song of raw emotion up.

Then, there are the post-breakup songs. On “think of me” she sings, “I hope you fuck her with your eyes closed… and think of me.”

This tour is in support of the album she just released on February 24th, love you forever. She plays seven songs from this album, including “by now”, which is the last song of the night.

While most of the songs are dark, it’s actually a joyful night. Music gives us the power to feel and express these emotions which makes us feel better in the end.

See the full setlist here.

Cost of a ticket: $25

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Quinn Delaney

Heartfelt! Broadway in Chicago Presents Annie at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (Through March 19, 2023)

Annie first opened on Broadway in 1997. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical. In 1982, the film version was released starring Carol Burnett and Albert Finney. In 2014, a new film version was released starring Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx. Now, in March of 2023, it opens at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

It is 1933 and Annie is living at an orphanage in New York City. Her parents dropped her off when she was a baby in 1922. A local billionaire, Mr. Warbucks, has his secretary choose an orphan to spend two weeks at his house for Christmas. Annie is selected and they quickly form a strong bond. He wants to adopt her, but she wants to find her parents. So, he agrees to launch a big search and offer a $50,000 dollar reward to anyone who can prove they are Annie’s parents.

This musical has fantastic songs. On “Tomorrow”, Annie sings “When I’m Stuck With A Day That’s Gray And Lonely / I Stick Out My Chin And Grin And Say / The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow / So You Gotta Hang On ‘Til Tomorrow, Come What May / Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love You, Tomorrow / You’re Always A Day Away.” It’s such a great optimistic song and it sounds great at this performance.

Another big song from the show was used in JAY-Z’s hit from 1998, “Hard Knock Life”. The chorus features children singing “It’s the hard knock life for us. Instead of getting treated, we get tricked. Instead of kisses, we get kicked!” It’s not often that an rapper will use a song from a musical. In this instance it works really well.

This cast is fantastic. The kids are especially remarkable as they act just as professionally as the adults. The very well trained dog is also very impressive.  This musical is truly fun for the whole family. It’s a great balance of dialog and songs. It’s truly funny and heartfelt.

Cost of a ticket: $86 + fees (Orchestra)

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Get tickets now for Annie through March 19th!

Quinn Delaney

Instrumental Rock – Eric Johnson at The Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix, AZ (March 3, 2023)

The first set is all acoustic. It’s a very mellow and relaxing set.

The second set is electric and kicks off with “Righteous”. It’s a rocker and the vibe is instantly transformed.

Later on comes “Trademark”.  It is such a cool groove and it puts a smile on everyone’s face.

“Nothing Can Keep Me From You” is one of just a few songs with lyrics in the second set. “If you could just, give me one more try / ‘Cause I’m down on my knees”. It’s a great song about asking for one more chance at love.

Up next is “Manhattan”. It invokes a classy night out in downtown NYC, no lyrics required.

A very long extended intro leads into his masterpiece, “Cliffs of Dover”. The audience erupts into applause when they recognize the song. His fingers fly across the fretboard during this fantastic rock song. It’s the perfect way to end the set!

Cost of a ticket: $84 (Orchestra)

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See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Outstanding! An American in Paris at The Phoenix Theatre (Through March 12, 2023)

An American in Paris is a new musical that won four Tony Awards in 2015. However, it doesn’t feel like a modern musical as it is based on the 1951 film of the same name. The music also doesn’t sound like it’s from the 50s. That’s because it’s from George Gershwin’s orchestral piece of the same name from 1928.

In the story, it’s 1945 and World War II has just ended. Jerry “missed his train home” and has decided to stay in Paris to become an artist. On his first day there, he meets Lise — and he is instantly smitten. He runs into her again soon after and learns that she has a serious boyfriend, a nightclub performer. He doesn’t let this deter him and he continues to pursue her. On a professional level, he strives to be a graphic designer for a ballet. The composer that is working on the music for the ballet also has a crush on Lise.

An American in Paris is half musical – half ballet. The best parts of the musical half are “I Got Rhythm”, “‘S Wonderful,” “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and “Fidgety Feet”. The cast does an excellent job singing these songs. The dancing is fantastic as well. A ballet within the show takes place in the second act that showcases the talents on stage. Even the Joffrey Ballet would be impressed.

The play is completely in English, but there are a few French touches. Here are a few translations:

Merci – Thank you

Monsieur – Mr., sir

Madame – Mrs., ma’am

Merde – Shit!

Brianna Abruzzo (Spielberg’s West Side Story) is graceful as Lise. Her ballet dancing is most impressive. Michael Starr (Eric Andre’s Bad Trip) is fantastic as Jerry Mulligan, the ambitious and romantic American. Their chemistry together is very strong. Nicholos Barakos is very funny and charming as the composer, Oscar Levant’s role in the film. He steals a few scenes. Lucas Coatney-Murrieta is fantastic as the nightclub performer. The scene where he is writing his proposal letter to Lise is outstanding.

Cost of a ticket: $126 (Front) to $66 (Back)

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Will Jerry end up with Lise? Find out now through March 12th at An American in Paris!

Quinn Delaney