Category Archives: Theater

Tony-Winning Once Makes Music in Illinois

Playbill, May 2018 — Done on a tiny budget of $150,000, the independent Irish film Once barely made it into theaters. And it easily could have disappeared without a trace, but audiences were captivated by its simple story about two musicians writing songs together and falling in love. After it screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2007, Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips became one of its earliest and most enthusiastic champions, calling it “the best music film of any stripe” anyone had made in decades.

But was director John Carney’s film a musical? Not exactly. It certainly wasn’t one of those spectacles where characters suddenly burst into song while fantasy dance numbers break out around them. In fact, it felt more like a documentary, with cameras capturing intimate moments from the real lives of people struggling to make a living with their music. Read the rest of my story about Once at the Paramount Aurora.

Photo by  Liz Lauren

Lorin Latarro’s A Taste of Things to Come Captures the Inception of Feminism

Playbill, March 2018 — Cooking contests are an American pastime. After a long history of local bake-offs at county fairs and churches around the country, competitions hit the big time in 1949, when Pillsbury held its first national recipe contest. During that prosperous post-World War II era, Americans were watching television for the first time and buying new gadgets for their kitchens. And hundreds of thousands of people were hoping to strike it rich by concocting a tasty dish no one had ever sampled before.

Most of those contestants were women. This was the 1950s, after all, a time when the kitchen was still seen as the traditional domain of housewives. The lives of those women—and their kitchen conversations—are captured in the new musical, A Taste of Things to Come, which runs March 20 to April 29 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.
Read my story.

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Why This Chicago Theatre Put a Modern Spin on The Emperor’s New Clothes—With the Help of Ahrens and Flaherty

Playbill, March 4, 2018 — Imagine you’re a child watching a live theatrical performance for the first time. You’ve seen plenty of movies and television shows, but this is something new and exciting — actual people walking, talking, dancing and singing on a stage, conjuring the illusion of a story right in front of your eyes. Read the rest of my story about The Emperor’s New Clothes at the Marriott Theatre.

Why Escape to Margaritaville Won’t Be Just Another Juke-Box Musical

Playbill, November 2017 — The first time Jimmy Buffett saw a rehearsal of Escape to Margaritaville, the new musical based on his songs, it was pretty obvious that he was having a good time. “He was smiling and laughing,” recalls Greg Garcia, co-writer of the musical’s book, who was sitting just in front of Buffett. “I kept looking back at him, and he was just loving it. Afterward, I go, ‘That’s the first Jimmy Buffett concert that you’ve ever been to, isn’t it?’ And he looked at me and smiled and said, ‘Yeah, man! I see what the fuss is all about!’” …

Read my story at Playbill.

Photo: Matthew Murphy

Why Newsies’ Regional Premiere Is Unlike Any Other Staging of the Tony-Winning Musical

Playbill, October 2017 — People love to root for the underdog. And who’s more of an underdog than a ragtag kid shouting “Extra!, Extra!” as he sells newspapers on the crowded streets of a big, dirty city? That’s a big part of the appeal of Newsies.

“It is an immigrant story,” says Aaron Thielen, artistic director of the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, which is producing the regional premiere of Disney’s Newsies, the stage adaptation of the 1992 Disney film. “You root for those kids because you see yourself—or your grandparents. There was a time when every family that came here had to fight to survive.” …

Read my story at Playbill.

Photo: Amy Boyle