Excellent! Choir Boy at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through July 24, 2022)

Pharus is a senior at an all boys school. He is very happy to be the head of the choir. One of the guys in the choir, the nephew of the headmaster, really doesn’t like his style and often calls him gay slurs. Pharus refuses to tattle on him, but he does call a vote that results in the removal of him from the choir, which is just the beginning of the story.  

Photos by Michael Brosilow

This play really draws you into life at this school. From the classroom to the bedroom, to the locker room, it draws a complete picture. It is very heartfelt. Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight) has written a piece that is very worth of the Tony Nomination for Best Play in 2019.

The singing of the a cappella gospel hymns is excellent along with the acting. It’s not a musical, but a play with music. Also, the set is very impressive. It includes five working showers in addition to five large portraits of black leaders.

Jos N. Banks is stellar as Pharus, who is on a journey to find himself. Gilbert Domally is great as the nephew who is dealing with some issues of his own. Sheldon D Brown (Magnolia Ballet) is superb as the very friendly and kind roommate of Pharus. Samuel B. Jackson’s baritone vocals are very impressive. Richard David is great as a fellow choir member focused on graduating. Le Shawn Banks steals many scenes as the energetic headmaster trying his best. Lastly, William Dick is solid as the teacher brought in to teach a special class about thinking.

Cost of a ticket: $74 (Back of the Main Floor)

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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

Get tickets now for Choir Boy through July 24th!

Quinn Delaney

Fantastic! Life After at the Goodman Theatre (Through July 17, 2022)

Alice has a fight with her father right before he dies in a car accident. The crash was at 8:22pm, but he was supposed to be on a flight at 8pm. She wonders why wasn’t he on the flight. Did he skip the flight to go look for her? Was he having an affair?

The mystery of what happened draws the audience in. As more details emerge, more questions arise. Britta Johnson has written an excellent musical about dealing with loss that is never too dark. She drew a lot from her own experience of losing her father at age 13.

Photos by Jeremy Daniel

The singing and choreography is fantastic. Also, the shifting three story set is impressive. This production is definitely Broadway worthy.

There is no intermission. It would be great if some performances have an intermission just like they have some with Spanish subtitles or with American Sign Language.

Samantha Williams is excellent as Alice struggling to find out the circumstances of her father’s death. Paul Alexander Nolan is fantastic as the charming and fun father appearing in many flashbacks. Bryonha Marie Parham is great as Alice’s mother encouraging her to move on. Lucy Panush is solid as Alice’s best friend. Skyler Volpe is excellent as Alice’s sister, who feels a bit overlooked by her father. Ashley Perez Flanagan, Lauryn Hobbs, and Chelsea Williams are all so funny as the Greek chorus constantly commenting on the situation Jen Sese is superb as Alice’s debate teacher, especially in the debate about whether her father’s death was her fault.

Cost of a ticket: $70

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It+

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

Get tickets now for Life After at the Goodman Theatre!

Quinn Delaney

Pick of the Week: River North Live! at theMART’s River Park featuring The Calling, Letdown., Emo Night Brooklyn, Michigander, and Baysik (June 24 – 26, 2022)

The Lineup for River North Live!

Friday (all start times are tentative and subject to change)
The Calling – 8:15pm – “Wherever You Will Go” has 447 Million Streams

Letdown. – 6:00pm – “Love Is A Weapon” has 4 Million Streams

Jaclyn Heuser – 5:00pm – “Forgotten” has 1,800+ Streams

Emo Night Brooklyn – 7:45pm – ENB is an event that celebrates the Emo / Pop Punk genere with DJ sets and live performances

Michigander – 6:15pm – “Misery” has 6.9 Million Streams

Wildermiss – 5:00pm – “Carry Your Heart” has 1.1 Millions Streams


Baysik – featuring Brendan & Ryan of Umphrey’s McGee – 6:00pm
Old Shoe – 4:00pm – “Welcome Home” has 35,000+ Streams

  • Cost of a ticket: $10 – $50 (VIP)
  • PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value
  • Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Get tickets now for River North Live!

Quinn Delaney

Review: Rufus Wainwright does Judy Garland: From I Can’t Give You Anything But Love to Chicago at City Winery Chicago (June 16, 2022)

This concert is inspired by Judy Garland’s 100th birthday on June 11th. Thus, “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” is a perfect fit for the evening. “Now that it’s your birthday, I don’t know what to do / Can’t give you a Thunderbird, or a penthouse with a view / Can’t even buy a little present / I’m much to broke, I find.” It sounds excellent sung by Rufus.

When he was growing up, his mother would accompany him on piano for “Over The Rainbow”. In a tribute to her, he starts singing the song acapella. Aftera few lines alone, the piano and bass join in. It’s a beautiful song and takes everyone back to when they were a child watching The Wizard of Oz.

To start the encore, he says that the original plan was to only play the second half of the concert for the late show. However, he felt it was coming up a bit thin. So, he decided to add a song from the first half that is a can’t miss Judy song, “The Man That Got Away”. This is an unexpected treat that is very welcomed this evening.

“Chicago” is the perfect song to close out the night. “I saw a man dancing with his own wife / And you’ll never guess where… / Chicago, Chicago–that toddlin’ town, that toddlin’ town!” The city still lives up to this great song and Rufus loves to come play here. He was last in town last September at the Chicago Theatre with José González. See our review here.

Cost of a ticket: $85 – $155

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

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

Quinn Delaney

Absolutely Hilarious! Do the Right Thing, No Worries If Not at Second City (Open Run)

Welcome to our country club in Connecticut. It’s diverse because we have him (motions to the one black guy). We have so many amenities including a golf course, two swimming pools, and a sandbox where you can leave your kids. Cut to a scene where a parent is digging frantically in sandbox. My son is buried in the sand! Help! Another person steps us and says “Stop digging, he’s gone. This happens all time, it’s okay.” Cut to later on in the same location. Hi, I’m from Des Moines. Oh, hi, I’m from Marshalltown, which is also in Iowa. Then a third person enters and says “Excuse me, can you move, I’m trying to put here.” Oh, this hole is closed. A kid died here.

Photos by Timothy M. Schmidt

This is the crazy scene completely improvised by the cast for the third act. It exemplifies their great improvisational talent and creativity. The audience is laughing the entire show through scene likes this in addition to all the great scripted material.

E.J. Cameron (The Best Decision You’ve Ever Made, Grinning from Fear to Fear) is great as the one black guy at the country club. He is truly having a great time on stage, especially when making audience members uncomfortable. Evan Mills (Together at Last) is excellent while singing his song in which he instructs people to raise their hand if they fall into certain groups. Both of them could easily be on SNL soon. Julia Morales is so funny as the manager of Blackbuster, where they rent out the black version of every movie. Kiley Fitzgerald is so funny in a scene where she is sprawling around on the floor. Andy Bolduc is exceptional as so many characters including the man doing an Irish goodbye. Lastly, Claire McFadden is hilarious as the immigrant completely lost in the support group for people with unpopular beliefs.

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

Get tickets now for Do the Right Thing, No Worries If Not!

Quinn Delaney

Southern Rock and Roll – Erin Rae opening for Lord Huron at The Vic Theatre (June 11, 2022)

Erin Rae has a very good voice. It’s very soothing and matches well with her folky southern rock and roll style. It’s perfect music for a summer BBQ. The electric guitarist, Sean Thompson, shines during his solos. The drummer, Griffin Photoglou, and bassist, Alec O’Connell, are absolutely solid as well.

To close out the set, they play “Modern Woman”.  “Round up the old perceptions / Lay them on down / They’re only tellin’ stories and they’re / Getting in the way / Right now / Cause you can’t see the future / Can’t change the past / Come see a modern woman”. It’s a great example of their smooth Nashville sound.

See a recent setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Alternative Rock! Lo Moon at Subterranean (May 31, 2022)

Lo Moon are an alternative rock / pop band from Los Angeles, California. Their members include Matt Lowell (guitar and vocals), Sam Stewart (lead guitar), Crisanta Baker (bass and synth), and Sterling Laws (drums). Their self-titled debut album was released in 2018.

Early on they play “Thorns”. “No one can love you / No one can love you the same / I’ll always want you / I’ll always want you this way.” This is a great love song that draws the audience in and has them all paying full attention.

Midway through the night, they play “This Is It”. This song has a great sonic soundscape. The pounding drums, smooth guitar, bass, and vocals all fit together so well.

To close out their set, they play “Dream Never Dies”. “What happened to all the easy days of summer? Back when we were younger, dreaming through the thunder / Radio was blasting, heavens everlasting / If I can make this last, and all I have to do is close my eyes.” This is such a beautiful song. The music matches the lyrics perfectly. It sound like it could be a Coldplay song, which is good company to be in, seeing as they just played two nights last weekend at Soldier Field. Lo Moon could surely be playing the same stage someday.

Cost of a ticket: $20

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Hilarious! Shattered Globe Theatre Presents Rasheeda Speaking at Theater Wit (Through June 4, 2022)

Ileen works for Dr. Miller as the office manager. The doctor tells her that their other coworker, Jaclyn, a black woman, isn’t a good fit. He wants Ileen to write down any infractions she makes to bring to HR Ileen is hesitant, but eventually agrees. Then, Jaclyn arrives in a very friendly manner, but she soon notices things are a bit off. This includes the fact that they had the day’s patient’s meeting before she arrived.

This play is very hilarious as the audience gets to know the characters. Joel Drake Johnson has written a very sharp workplace comedy. It builds very well to a dramatic conclusion.

Deanna Reed-Foster (The First Deep BreatheBe Here Now)  is so funny and confident as Jaclyn. With just a look after someone does something a bit off or racist, she has everyone laughing. Daria Harper is excellent as the naïve Ileen who mostly goes along with whatever the doctor says. Adam Schulmerich (the understudy) is great as the unlikable Dr Miller who is probably unaware of his offensive comments. Lastly, Barbara Roeder Harris is solid as the recurring patient with some interesting ideas about slavery.

Cost of a ticket: $45
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It +
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Get tickets now for Rasheeda Speaking through June 4th!

Quinn Delaney

Interesting: Timeline Theatre Presents The Chinese Lady at Theatre Wit (Through June 18, 2022)

It’s 1834 and The Chinese Lady is the newest exhibit at the museum The cost is 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. It features the first Chinese woman to arrive in the United States, a 14 year old. She is surrounded by shelves with Chinese things. She has bound feet, which are created through a very painful process. Part of the show has her walk around to demonstrate her feet. They also have her eat Chinese food with chopsticks. She is very excited to be in American for 2 years in this exhibition. She is joined by a translator, who is very self deprecating.

This play showcases a very odd part of American and Chinese history and it makes a very interesting story. At 95 minutes, the production is a bit long to not have an intermission.

Mi Kang is excellent as The Chinese Lady. She displays such great enthusiasm to explore America and teach the patrons about Chinese culture. Glenn Obrero (The Great Leap) is hilarious as the translator. He perfectly delivers many great lines.

Cost of a ticket: $47

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price +

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

Get tickets now for The Chinese Lady through June 18th.

Quinn Delaney

Masterful! Teatro Vista Presents the World Premiere of Somewhere Over The Border at Windy City Playhouse (Through June 12, 2022)

Brian Quijada’s idea to combine his mother’s story with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is excellent and the execution of it is exceptional. The Dorothy character, based on his mother, wants to move to the USA to make a better life for herself and her son. Her mother, the witch, doesn’t want her to go. She first meets the scarecrow character, a banana farmer who wants to earn an American college degree. Then she meets the Tin Man character, who oils himself with booze and lost his heart when his family moved to Pennsylvania. Lastly, she meets the Cowardly Lion, who needs the courage to pursue her dream of being a rock star in the states. The Wizard of Oz is the coyote who will take them across the border.

(From left) Brian Quijada, Tommy Rivera-Vega, and Gabriela Moscoso. Photo credit: Joel Maisonet

Brian Quijada, the Narrator, is outstandingly charming and impressive in the many roles he plays along with his singing and guitar playing. In addition, he also wrote the book, music, and lyrics. It’s a masterful piece of work.

The fantastic music is the heart of the show. It includes original cumbia, Mexican mariachi boleros, American rock and hip hop. The band plays it all fantastically. The members are Guido Acevedo (Cajón), Yendrys Céspedes Carballosa (Keyboard/Percussion), and Roberto Carpacho Marin (Upright Bass).

(from left) Andrés Enriquez, Gabriela Moscoso, and Amanda Raquel Martinez

Gabriela Moscoso is excellent as the Dorothy character driven to find the American Dream. Claudia Quesada is solid as the Witch character, who is very angry with her daughter’s decisions.  Tommy Rivera-Vega (Support Group for Men) is so funny and smart at the Scarecrow character. Andres Enriquez (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Adding Machine) is great as the Tin Man character, hilariously drunk and heartbroken from his loss. Amanda Raquel Martinez (American Mariachi, La Ruta) is superb, especially during the rock song she sings declaring her rock star dreams. Just like in the film, these characters also play someone from Dorothy’s hometown.

Brian Quijada (center)

Cost of a ticket: $53

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

Get tickets now for Somewhere Over The Border through June 12!

Quinn Delaney

If you like this musical, you’ll also like the brand new Notes & Letters. See our review here.