Short and Sweet Reviews
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Posted Oct 28, 2016 6:37 AM
Short & Sweet: Opening night polls declare ‘Hamilton’ a winner!
“Hamilton” burst onto the Chicago stage at PrivateBank Theatre recently, enchanting audiences just as much as the original production on Broadway in New York City. Diana Martinez and guest critic Kari Otteburn of Palatine were blown away by the music and the energy of the show, with Otteburn adding that she liked the Aaron Burr character the best, because his internal struggles changed the course of the show, and history as well. The rock-opera style show features an ensemble cast with each character just as strong as the next.See below for a review by Diana Martinez of Broadway in Chicago:It’s election season in America, but in Chicago the opening night polls declared Hamilton the winner in a landslide! There couldn’t be a better time to open this musical that tells the story of revolutionary ideals for a society inspired by tolerance, diversity and equality. What makes this show so powerful and relevant is that it’s told by today’s America in a multicultural celebration of hip-hop and rock music. The opening night audience in Chicago was electrified by this incredible production and cheered for this amazing cast from start to finish with enthusiasm and excitement.The casting isn’t the only thing that is revolutionary; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 11-time Tony Award winner is a game changer for American musical theater. He has pushed the limits of a rock-opera into a full-blown stylized rock-concert theatrical experience complete with an amazing ensemble of spectacular, sexy backup dancers.Miranda’s energized story is based on the book by Ron Chernow and follows Hamilton’s life as he ascended from an orphaned immigrant who then moved to New York, worked under George Washington in the Revolutionary War, led the battle of Yorktown, promoted the U.S. Constitution through writing the Federalist papers, and then went on to create the financial system our country.What makes this version of the story so compelling is it brings out the inner drive, determination and also the insecurities and challenges Hamilton, along with everyone, faces when trying to prove themselves. The lyrics are powerful and make this show so relatable and transferable — we all have had that moment when we thought “I’m not throwing away my shot,” “You can be a new man,” “I will never be satisfied,” and our hopes to “Be in the room where it happens.” Miranda’s songs encapsulate the passion and hopes of ordinary immigrants and Americans in the Revolutionary era that ring just as true today. I suspect the themes in Hamilton will stand the test of time for generations to come.The production team of “Hamilton” includes scenic design by David Korins, costumes by Paul Tazewell, lighting by Howell Binkley and choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Led by director Thomas Kail, it’s clear this show is a well-oiled machine. They produced a unified compelling conceptual world that transcends historical expectations and exemplifies collaboration. Each show I invite a Daily Herald reader to be my guest audience critic and give you their take on the show. Kari Ottenburn from Palatine was my guest and we both were just blown away by this phenomenal show and felt that the entire ensemble was fantastic. We really loved the passion displayed by Joshua Henry as Aaron Burr, whose vocal power is truly impressive, and we believed Alexander Gemignani stole the show as King George in his hysterical, dry Monty Python-like portrayal of King George. Kari and I also both strongly suggest watching the PBS special “Hamilton’s America” or reading a quick synopsis of the plot before you go because the show moves fast!
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Updated Mar 2, 2016 10:53 AM
Short & Sweet critic Andrea Biwer reviews If/Then with Diana Martinez of Broadway in Chicago
The choices we make - big and small - have the power to radically change the trajectories of our lives. This the the prevailing theme of If/Then, a Broadway in Chicago musical, that Short & Sweet critic for the day Andrea Biwer of Mount Prospect found herself thinking about in the days after she saw the play. Beyond the deeper themes, Biwer was drawn to the music and the lead character’s voice, confidence and stage presence. “[Jackie Burns’] voice is unbelievable,” says Biwer.The following review is by Diana Martinez of Broadway in Chicago:If Then is a unique new show at the Oriental Theatre that will leave you talking about it long after the curtain comes down. The non-linear story line focuses on Elizabeth who moves to New York at 40 years old after a failed relationship to rebuild her life. The story line offers alternate endings to scenes and explores what could have been through a parallel story line.The show also illustrates how we present ourselves differently to different people. To her new best friend, Kate, she is “Liz”, a vivacious woman who is ready for romance and burgeoning on new life and adventure in the Big Apple. To her old college friend, Lucas, she is “Beth”, who has come back to New York to fight as an activist for fair housing and to heal from a broken heart in the comfort of friends. The costume designer helps the audience to clarify which side of life she is exploring by a pair of glasses that the character wears when she is “Liz”.This new age show will have a large appeal to the millennial generation who struggle with commitment and personal fulfillment. Will she return to fight as a housing activist? Or will she take a high profile job as a city planner working for her former flame? Or will she accept a date from the handsome military man she keeps bumping into? In the end the show leaves you debating questions of fate conquering all or if all the analysis and time we spend on decisions we face are a fruitless effort.However, what is not debatable is the amazing songs and the incredible singing this show provides thanks to Jackie Burns and her powerhouse belting voice. She is a dead ringer for the Idina Menzel sound, the actress who originated the role on Broadway. She is a powerful and authentic actress that truly carries the show with song after song that requires jaw-dropping vocal athleticism. The casting of the show offers a diverse 21st century cast and features relationships that are gay, straight, lesbian, bi-racial and contemporary which is refreshing and fun, adding unique texture to the characters. I think what I like most about the show is the variety of perspectives each audience member will take from the experience. My guest audience critic, Andrea, picked out vastly different take-aways than I. Plan to go for a drink afterward and discuss because this show provokes good conversation and interesting perspectives and interpretations. The show runs about two and half hours with an intermission and is playing at the Oriental Theatre through March 6. It’s appropriate for those 17 and up and is a great girls night out, or date night show. Don’t leave this decision to fate, get your tickets and make the choice for yourself to see this complex and thought provoking show! Thanks for reading; I hope to see you at the theatre!
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Updated Feb 18, 2016 4:27 PM
Short & Sweet critic Karen England shares her perspective on Cabaret
Short & Sweet critic for the day, Karen England of Lake Zurich, was as impressed by the high-quality vocal performances, dances and set design as she was by the deeper themes and historical context. Set in pre-war Berlin, England notes that despite the exuberant musical numbers, throughout the performance there is a sense of “impending doom.” Despite a few shocking moments - England admitted to gasping out loud a few times - England had no complaints: “It’s just a wonderful, wonderful musical.”See below for a review by Diana Martinez of Broadway in ChicagoCabaretThe 1998 Tony award winning production of Cabaret, co-directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, has been resurrected in honor of RoundAbout Theatre Company’s 50th Anniversary. It was also the first opening at the newly named The PrivateBank Theatre. For those of you who love the movie, you will love the voices of this cast - but fasten your seatbelt, this version is edgier.Cabaret is the story of a group of people associated with the Kit Kat Club, located in Berlin during the rise of Nazi Germany. The story is told in cabaret style, with scenes that are “play within a play” weaving in and out of the lives of various characters. The ensemble seamlessly provides social and political comedy and serves as a metaphor for ominous political developments. This Cabaret is a little darker and a little more decadent than the original, appealing to a 21st century audience and still standing strong as a relevant piece of theatre in 2016. Andrea Goss is a petite and peppy Sally Bowles with a surprisingly powerful voice that hits all the right notes. The sarcastic and funny Randy Harrison takes on the role of the Emcee where he really plays best to his strengths when he’s in the audience, in an improvised top of Act II opener. The real tension and heart of the story comes from the subplot of a developing love affair between Sally’s boarding house owner, Fraulein Schneider (Shannon Cochran) and her elderly, kind and Jewish suitor, Herr Schultz (Mark Nelson). Their engagement party uncovers the tension of discrimination rising from the Nazis when one of Frauline Schneider’s guests reveals his unwarranted disdain for her fiancé.As the song says, “life is a cabaret” and this show perfectly portrays how life can imitate art through compelling and poignant song and dance. The opening night audience was riveted at the disturbing tension mounting toward the finale. It’s a powerful show with a strong reminder of a time where the most horrific anti-Semitic behavior catapulted us into the most widespread war in history.This Tony Award-winning musical is in Chicago through Feb 21, 2016 at The PrivateBank Theatre, The show runs about 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission and is suitable for those 16 and up. On behalf of the Daily Herald, and Broadway In Chicago, I’m Diana Martinez and I look forward to seeing you at the theatre! Thanks for reading!
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Updated Jan 7, 2016 12:07 PM
Short and Sweet Host Diana Martinez reviews Gotta Dance by Broadway in Chicago
The world premiere of Gotta Dance just opened at the Bank of America Theatre right here in Chicago this week and it was welcomed with open arms. The show is directed by Jerry Mitchell who brought you the Broadway hits Kinky Boots and On Your Feet! and he knows how to entertain a crowd. Gotta Dance is based on the true story of the New Jersey Nets basketball team who garnered publicity by creating the first-ever hip-hop halftime dance team that was comprised of dancers who were 60 years of age and older. It’s sort of like A Chorus Line but filled with an all-star cast of veteran TV and stage stars that you have seen through the years. The book by Chad Beguelin, who wrote Aladdin, and Bob Martin, who wrote The Drowsy Chaperone is fresh, funny and poignant. This writing team does a great job of layering in humor and touching moments. It’s much more then the cliché challenges of seniors trying to physically meet the demands of hip hop dance. The show goes farther by revealing the real issues of a hard working generation of seniors who are now trying to connect to their grandchildren, who are part of the self-centered generation of Millennials.One of the most touching moments was the song “The Waters Rise” where a sweet and happy Mae (Lori Tan Chinn) sings about her husband slipping away due to Alzheimer’s. Georgia Engel, who you remember as Georgette from ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’, brings the comedy in her character. She plays a meek and proper grade school teacher who secretly loves rap and hip hop. These are real seniors with something to offer and they are represented with respect and humor. They have the ability to laugh at themselves and it makes the audience root for them and cheer them on. This pre-Broadway premiere of Gotta Dance is in Chicago through January 17, 2016 at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago. See this all star cast right here BEFORE it opens on Broadway. The show runs about 2 hours and 15 minutes with an intermission and is suitable for all ages. I brought a group of theater lovers from the McAninch Arts center to the show and everyone LOVED it! Broadway in Chicago does a fantastic job with groups and I highly recommend the suite service it’s worth every penny. So go see Gotta Dance! It’s clever, funny, entertaining and leaves you smiling. On behalf of the Daily Herald, and Broadway in Chicago, I’m Diana Martinez and I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!
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Updated Jan 7, 2016 12:07 PM
Short and Sweet guest critic Susan DeBouver shares her perspective on Beautiful: The Carol King Musical with Diana Martinez of Broadway in Chicago
The opening night performance of Beautiful at the Oriental Theatre was full of heart, thanks to an honest and sincere performance by Abby Mueller as Carole King. Imagine how challenging it would it be to play a role that your sister originated and won the Tony for on Broadway? That’s what she does in this production. Abby Mueller plays the part with a perfect, understated control that depicts a singer-songwriter who started her career more comfortable behind the scenes than on stage. King and her college sweetheart develop a relationship that is bound by their song-writing power and is challenged by her husband’s depression and infidelity. Ben Fankhauser and Becky Gulsvig play their best friends, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. This dynamic, funny and powerful songwriting couple is challenged only by their fear of commitment to each other. They are the perfect sidekick comedy duo and inject hysterical laugh-out-loud comedy and energy into every scene they step in. The show features not only King’s music, but also those of Weil and Mann “Who Put the Bop”, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”. This jukebox musical offers over 24 favorite songs from the 50’s and 60’s and depicts the life and challenges faced by songwriters of the era.My guest audience critic : of Schaumburg wrote such a great review that sums up the opening night so I wanted to share it in its entirety.Last night’s performance of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical was just that (Beautiful) from start to finish. The opening and closing scenes with Abby Mueller (Carole King) sitting at the piano anchored this performance front and back. The body of this production itself was so well put together on every level from settings, to song selections, length of scenes, story lines, perfectly timed humor, talent and timelines. It showcased the shiny suits and smooth choreographed back-up singer groups of the late 50s and 60s that made you smile, sway and warmed your heart like a fond childhood memory. This musical was one of the best I’ve ever seen. The talent on that stage was in comparison to the talent that Carole King holds in and of herself - perfectly congruent. Although many of the words and music were performed by others and elevated into the Top-40, in my estimation, they couldn’t quite capture the passion that came across when Carole sang the songs she herself created or wrote in unison with Gerry Goffin.Seeing the show for the mere talent and entertainment factor would be enough. However, there’s yet another hidden gift. The joy of seeing how her challenges catapulted her into her true calling: Singing her own songs. It’s an example how believing in yourself and living one’s true purpose blesses the world of the gifts that we are all better off for. Carole, where you lead, I will follow. You’ve got a friend.This Tony Award-winning musical is in Chicago through February 21, 2016 at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, The show runs about 2 hours and 30 minutes with an intermission and is suitable for ages 12 and up. It’s a great family show, date night show or group outing. It’s clever, touching and funny in all the right places. On behalf of the Daily Herald, and Broadway in Chicago, I’m Diana Martinez and I look forward to seeing you at the theatre!
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