“Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker”

                                       “Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker”
                                                                  Black Ensemble
                                                             4450 N. Clark Street
                                                                 Chicago, Illinois
                                           Reviewed by Richard Allen Eisenhardt

The second play of Black Ensemble’s theatre season is based on the life of Josephine Baker. The play has been written and directed by Daryl D. Brooks.

Fourteen outstanding performers make up the cast. Two actresses play Josephine. Joan Ruffin is the older one and Aeriel “Mon Aerie” Williams is the younger one. We find Ms. Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3rd, 1906, in St. Louis, Missouri. She passed away on April 12th, 1975, at the age of 68 in Paris, France, of a cerebral hemorrhage. She is buried in a Monaco cemetery. Her residence was Roquebrune, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur on the French Riviera. She renounced her American citizenship and took up French citizenship from 1937.

Ms. Baker was a successful actress-dancer-singer but was also a civil rights activist. She was active from 1921 to 1975.

She had four husbands and a partner who was Robert Brady.

The show is well worth attending to see how Negros were treated for many years. It is a two and a half hour show.

There are many well-known musical and dance numbers among the eighteen in the show. Included are “C’est Si Bon,” “La Vie En Rose,” “Bill Bailey,” “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” and others ending with “My Way.” You will find you will get a history lesson after seeing this show.

Performers like Lemond A. Hayes, William Roland, Kyle Smith, Dennis Dent, Linnea Norwood, Henri Slater and others play various characters and roles.

“Black Pearl: A Tribute to Josephine Baker” runs through Father’s Day on June 18th. For performance days, show times and reservations call 773-769-4451. Tickets are $55 to $65.

                                                                          -Four Stars-

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                                                     Theatre at the Center
                                                         1040 Ridge Road
                                                       Munster, Indiana
                                 Reviewed by Richard Allen Eisenhardt
“Cabaret” is the second production to open this season at Theatre at the Center.
What a show and what a cast Linda Fortunato has assembled for this classic musical.
The show is set in the Kit Kat Club in 1930’s Berlin. The mischievous emcee is played by Sean Fortunato, a role that Joel Gray played on Broadway in the original. The role of Sally Bowles is being played by Danni Smith and her performance is fantastic. Patrick Tierney plays Cliff. Craig Spidle is Herr Schultz and the outstanding, talented Iris Lieberman is Frauline Schneider.
The show features such songs as “Cabaret,” “Willkomen,” and “Maybe This Time” to name a few. Other numbers are “Two Ladies,” “I Don’t Care Much,” and “If You Could See Her.” Bradshaw is a visiting American writer who falls in love with Sally when he first meets her. The other love story is Schultz and Schneider.
You’ll find it to be a serious musical.
The show will break your heart and lift your spirits more wildly than anything else you can see in any city.
Linda Fortunato has directed and choreographed it. It runs well over two hours.
“Cabaret” runs through June 4th. For show days, times and reservations call 219-836-3255 or 800-511-1552. Tickets are $20 – $44. There is free parking.
                                                             -Four Stars-

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“She Loves Me”

                                                            “She Loves Me”
                                                          Marriott Theatre
                                                         10 Marriott Drive
                                                      Lincolnshire, Illinois
                                  Reviewed by Richard Allen Eisenhardt

The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, Illinois, is opening its season with “She Loves Me.” There is a book by Joe Masteroff with music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.
Aaron Thielen is the show’s director and choreographer. One might say it is a chamber musical and one that hasn’t been done in years.
The show feels like a musical from the past and runs two hours and fifteen minutes.
The show is based on Mirlos Laszlo’s play, “Parfurnerie.” Films based on this work include two movies going back to the 40’s — “Shop Around the Corner,” and “In the Good Old Summertime,” and most currently — “You’ve Got Mail.”
Terry Hamilton plays Mr. Maraczk, who owns the perfume shop. Another standout is Alex Goodrich as Georg Nowack as the shop’s manager.
You’ll hear songs like “Good Morning, Good Day,” “Vanilla Ice Cream,” “I Don’t Know His Name,” “She Loves Me” and several more.
I found the male characters to be strong actors. Elizabeth Telford and Jessica Niamy were all right but you’ll love the male actors.
This is a good family musical.
“She Loves Me” runs through June 18th. For show days, show times and reservations call 847-634-0100. There is free parking as well as valet. Tickets are $50 – $60.
Order tickets by calling 847-634-0200, go to the theater’s website at http://www.marriotttheatre.com or http://www.ticketmaster.com.

                                                                 -Three Stars-

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                                                       Drury Lane Theatre
                                                      100 Drury Lane Road
                                               Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois
                                 Reviewed by Richard Allen Eisenhardt
“Chicago” is opening the new season at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook. So far their season is a major hit! “Chicago” is considered a musical vaudeville that has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb. The show is being directed by William Osetek and he has assembled a marvelous cast. The show has choreography by Jane Lanier with musical direction by Roberta Duchak.
The show was a major movie in 1975. If you want murder, greed, corruption, violence and adultery just pick up a 1917 newspaper if it is still around.
Kelly Felthous is Roxie and the role of Velma is played by Alena Watters, two newcomers making their local debuts and they are truly tops in this show with their performances.
Two additional standouts are Chicago’s E. Faye Butler as Matron Mama Morton and Gary Lockard as the sleazy lawyer, Billy Flynn. The show moves fast in its two and a half hours of song, dance and comedy.
The show opens with the musical number “All That Jazz.” It is followed by “All I Care About is Love,” “A Little Bit of Good,” “Roxie,” “I Can’t Do it Alone,” and “Mister Cellophane” to name a few of the eighteen numbers.
My favorite was “When You’re Good to Mama,” sung by E. Faye Butler. It is a standout number as is “Razzle Dazzle” and “Class.”
Michael Accardo plays the Master of Ceremonies and Justin Brill is Amos Hart. One stitch is J. London as Mary Sunshine. They head up a cast of twenty-one.
The costumes by Sully Radke are a knockout.
“Chicago” runs through June 18th. For show days, show times, and reservations — call 630-530-0111. Tickets are $45 to $60. You can also go to the website http://www.ticketmaster.com. There is free parking as well as complementary valet parking. Handicap seating is available.

                                                          -Four Stars-

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“The Columnist”

                                                    “The Columnist”
                                           American Blues Theatre
                                                       At Stage 773
                                           1225 West Belmont Ave
                                                Chicago, Illiinois
                         Reviewed by Richard Allen Eisenhardt

The American Blues is presenting David Auburn in “The Columnist,” that is being directed by Keira Fromm on the stages of Stage 773.
The story deals with Joe Alsop, one of our nation’s most important columnists. The play tells about the power of the press.
Alsop lived from 1910 to 1989. His column was syndicated in over 190 newspapers.
It was an interesting play about his personal life if you were not familiar with him.
Phillip Earl Johnson is Alsop and did a wonderful job in the role in this two-hour show.
“The Columnist” ran through April 1st. Tickets were $19 and $49.

                                          -Three and a Half Stars-

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“Mary Poppins”

                                                          “Mary Poppins”
                                                        Mercury Theatre
                                                   3745 N. Southport Ave.
                                                         Chicago, Illinois
                                Reviewed by Richard Allen Eisenhardt

L. Waltler Stearns has put together the musical “Mary Poppins” that is based on stories by P. L. Travers and the Disney film. The book for the show is by Julian Fellows with original music by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman with new songs by George Stiles and Andrew Drewe. The show is directed by L. Walter Stearns and choreography is by the very talented Brenda Didier with musical direction by Eugene Dixon.
The several original songs are all there “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Anything can Happen,” and “Feed the Birds,” and of course that spelling bee number that has over thirty four letter in it, but everyone sings along!
Nicold Arnold plays the Nanny Mary Poppins and Mathew Crowle is Bert, the role played in the movie by DEick Van Dyke. And yes you’ll find Mary Poppins flying in the sky on stage. Cory Goodrich is Winfred Banks in her “dream come true” performance as the mother of the children, Jane and Michael, played by Pearle Bramiett and Casey Lyons.
Didier’s “Step in Time” is a knockout.
Kevin McKillip, as George Banks, has a lot o comedy in his performance.
The show has a huge cast and it runs two hours and thirty minutes.
“Mary Poppins” runs through May 25th. For show date, show times and reservations call 773-325-1700 or visit the website at http://www.mercurytheatrechicago.com. Tickets are $30 – $65.

                                                                     -Four Stars-

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“Marry Me a Little”

                                                           “Marry Me a Little”
                                                           Porchlight Theatre
                                                                  at Stage 773
                                                       1225 West Belmont Ave
                                                            Chicago, Illinois
                                  Reviewed by Richard Allen Eisenhardt
Stephen Sondheim’s “Marry Me a Little,” is a two-character musical featuring songs that one might call trunk songs cut from Sondheim’s hit shows like “Follies,” “Anyone Can Whistle,” “Company,” “A Little Night Music,” “Road Show,” “Forum,” “Into the Woods,” and several others. They are good songs that are sung by the two talented performers who are African-American — Bethany Thomas and Austin Cook, who is one of Chicago’s top musicians.
The show is being directed by Jess McLeod. The show deals with two urban singles who are each alone in the same apartment building and are separated by only floor boards and a ceiling. The female is annoyed by the gentleman, played by Cook, and when she goes upstairs to complain and they meet on a Saturday night they share a night of sweet fantasies and deep yearning and the end of their lonely dreams.
In this seventy-minute show songs like “A Moment With You,” “Your Eyes are Blue,” “It Wasn’t Meant to Happen,” “Happily Ever After,” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” and others tell the story.
“Marry Me a Little” runs through May 21st. For show times, show dates and reservations call 773-327-5252. Tickets are also available online at http://www.porchlightmusictheatre.org. Tickets are $38 to $51.

                                                                    -Four Stars-

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