Author Archives: 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
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Riverdance - Trading Taps - Photo Credit Jack Hartin

Quinn Delaney

Riverdance Photo Credit Jack Hartin

Exceptional Value! Brown Paper Box Co. Presents If/Then at Athenaeum Theatre (Through February 16, 2020)

If/Then opened on March 30, 2014 on Broadway. It ran for a year on Broadway before it began a national tour on October 13, 2015. Idina Menzel played Liz on Broadway and for the first three months of the tour. And now in 2020, this big Broadway musical opens in the small Studio Three at the Athenaeum Theatre.

In the story, Elizabeth divorces her husband and moves back to New York City. She doesn’t have a job lined up yet. Thus, she has a lot of different possibilities of what she could do with her life. On one afternoon, two of her friends invite her to different events. The story splits into two stories, based on which event she chooses. These two paths diverge in many ways. She ends up with different jobs, different boyfriends, and so much more. It’s practically two plays in one!

The style of this musical is very similar to Rent and Spring Awakening. They are all fast paced with a strong focus on relationships. Also, the music is really good with strong lyrics.

IFTHENCast (1)

Amanda Giles is impressive as Elizabeth. She is on stage for nearly the full 3 hours. Bridget Adams-King is powerful as one of her best friends. Parker Guidry is hilarious as the other best friend. Michael Peters is solid as a main love interest. Matthew Fayfer is charming as her coworker. Lastly, the rest of this 12 person cast plus 4 person band are great!

IFTHENCast (2)

Get tickets now for If/Then through February 16!

Cost of a ticket: $34

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

MichaelPetersParkerGuidryBridgetAdamsKingAlannaChavezAmandaGiles

Quinn Delaney

Fantastic Jazz and Dancing! Porchlight Musical Theatre Presents Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies at Ruth Page Center for the Arts (Through March 6, 2020)

This show is a tribute to the late great Duke Ellington. It features Duke’s biggest hits including “Mood Indigo,” “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “Hit Me With a Hot Note and Watch Me Bounce,” “Perdido,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” and “In a Sentimental Mood”. The set designed by Angela Weber Miller is opulent. It perfectly sets the stage for the fantastic singing by the entire cast. Lorenzo Rush Jr. (Memphis), Donica Lynn, and Lydia Burke are especially impressive. The dancing is also outstanding ranging from tap to jazz to swing. Giordano Dance Company would even be impressed. Lastly, the band plays Ellington’s music fantastically. The music draws you into a trance and then suddenly it is two hours later!

Get tickets now for Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies through March 6!

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Cost of a ticket: $72

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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

Quinn Delaney

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Excellent! Victory Gardens and Actors Theatre of Louisville Present How to Defend Yourself at Victory Gardens Theatre (Through February 23, 2020)

A pair of undergrad women are waiting in a gym to take a self-defense class. They are also rushing a sorority together. The two teachers enter, who are members of the sorority. The class was started because one of their sisters was the victim of sexual abuse. They are all determined to learn how to defend themselves. Later on, a quiet and shy girl awkwardly joins. At last, two fraternity brothers show up. They immediately state that they don’t support the masculine culture that lead to the abuse as they try to keep their cool being the only men. 

The group really comes together and supports each other. There is a great moment when the music is cranked up for a great training scene. There is also a lot of funny dialog as they discuss their experiences with college. This leads to them building strong relationships which they then rely on to tackle the bigger issues. 

Walker, Lee, Crivelli, Mahallati, McBride. Liz Lauren Photo

Isa Arciniegas (Fun Home, The Wolves) is excellent as Diana, the strong girl who is really looking forward to learning self-defense and working with guns. Ariana Mahallati is great as the innocent and cheery friend of Diana. Andrew San Miguel is so good as the awkward girl nervously making her way through class. Anna Crivelli is strong as the main teacher, who has something to hide. Netta Walker is complicated as the secondary teacher, who has a lot to say about her sexual preferences. Jayson Lee is very funny as the fraternity brother who is having a lot of trouble finding a girlfriend. Lastly, Ryan McBride is hilarious as the Andy Sandberg type fraternity brother who is naturally charismatic and good with the ladies. 

The entire play is great except for the ending. It kind of comes out of nowhere and doesn’t really fit the tone of the play and they should consider changing it.

Get tickets now for How to Defend Yourself through February 23!

Cost of a ticket: $51

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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

The cast of How to Defend Yourself. Liz Lauren Photo

Quinn Delaney

Fantastic Set! Phillip Phillips at City Winery Chicago (January 30, 2020)

Tonight at City Winery is an intimate evening with Phillip Phillips and Errol Cooney on acoustic guitars.

Early on, he says that the song “Maneater” has a scary title, but it isn’t a scary song. So, he decided to make a scary version, which he goes on to play. It is more creepy and spooky than the original. It’s a bit unusual to have a cover so early in the set, but he makes it work.

“Home” is a crowd favorite. “Cause I’m gonna make this place your home.” The beautiful lyrics along with the great guitar playing are a great fit.

“Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin is a great choice for a cover in this set. Phillips sounds excellent playing and singing this song.

During “Unpack Your Heart”, they launch into an excellent extended jam reminiscent of a Dave Matthews Band show and the similarities don’t end there.

It was a fantastic set and everyone left with a smile on their face. He is very charming and really knows how to handle crowd. He could easily become as big as Dave Matthews and he is definitely talented enough to do it!

Cost of a ticket: $60
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It+
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Some Fun – Miss Behave Gameshow at Bally’s Back Room (Open Run)

Name that tune is one of the first games. They play a song and have everyone shout out the name of the song and the artist. However, they play the song so loud that nobody can hear, especially when the whole crowd is shouting. They should just have one or two people from each team guessing at a time with the music way less loud. For the opposites game, everyone can shout at once because they are all saying the same word.

A lot of small random challenges are fun, such as hit the red button, kickstarter, and skip the ad. It helps to sit in the front row for these.

The score keeping is completely arbitrary at times. One thing is worth 1 point, while another is 5. Giving points for asking for more points. If there was an actual prize and rules, it would be more fun.

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This has the feel of a very small show at iO or Second City. Almost all the props and set is made of cardboard. This is fine for a $10 show, but seems kind of ridiculous for an $80 one.

Get tickets for Miss Behave Gameshow now!

Cost of a ticket: $83

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price –

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

Quinn Delaney