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Three to See: August

August 8th, 2016 Comments off

Summer heat in New York City is no joke. We’d almost rather sit through a revival of Mamma Mia! than suffer in the stench of Gotham at its worst. Fortunately, no such production exists… yet. But theatres are still fairly quiet. The New York Musical Festival wrapped up its 13th season and The New York International Fringe Festival (August 12-28) is about to get underway. But we suggest using those frequent flyer miles and getting out of dodge so this month’s picks cross state (and country) lines!

(l to r) Rachel York and Betty Buckley in 'Gray Gardens.' (Photo: Craig Schwartz via The Broadway Blog.)

(l to r) Rachel York and Betty Buckley in ‘Gray Gardens.’ (Photo: Craig Schwartz via The Broadway Blog.)

Grey Gardens
Who can forget Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson’s Tony Award-winning performances in Grey Gardens. You just may after seeing Rachel York and Betty Buckley take on the roles of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ most eccentric relatives. Their notorious recluse and fall from society (captured in the 1975 documentary by the same name) is newly restaged by director Michael Wilson at Center Theatre Group.

Grey Gardens
Center Theatre Group
135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles
Through August 14

Marriott Lincolnshire

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
There’s a reason why this musical about the rise of fictional character J. Pierrepont Finch up the corporate ladder is constantly revived. The musical won seven Tony awards and the Pulitzer Prize for drama. This fantastic score by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows gets a theatre-in-the round (or square, in this case) interpretation at one of Chicago’s longstanding dinner theatres. Directed by Don Stephenson.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Marriott Theatre
Ten Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire
Opening night: August 31

"The Naked Magicians" (Photo: London Theatre Direct via The Broadway Blog.)

“The Naked Magicians” (Photo: London Theatre Direct via The Broadway Blog.)

The Naked Magicians
Admittedly, we’re going below the belt for our third pick of the month, but hey—sometimes it’s nice to get a bit naughty. The show features magic, mirth and a touch of mayhem as these two hilarious Aussie magicians say abracadabra and take magic to a whole new level.

Stripping away the top hats and capes (and the rest of their attire as well), The Naked Magicians’ juicy magic is baffling and entertaining, bringing full frontal illusions and a new meaning to “now you see it…” Good magicians don’t need sleeves and great magicians don’t need pants. This show proves just that.

The Naked Magicians
Trafalgar Studios, London
Opening night: August 31

 

Dinner and a Show: Chicago Theater Week, Part II

March 8th, 2013 Comments off

For those of us growing up in the Rust Belt, dinner theater was the ultimate all-in-one entertainment option. I would purchase my Prime Rib-Pygmalion combo ticket months in advance, waiting for the dusty costumes and faded sets to ship in from some bygone regional theater production. The performance would usually star a long-retired soap opera star and the meal wasn’t much fresher.

Christine Sherrill in "Sunset Boulevard" (photo: Drury Lane Theatre)

Well, times have changed. For decades, Chicago’s suburbs have been home to dinner theater venues like Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook. They are the filet mignon of dinner theater, regularly snagging Jeff Awards (Chicago’s equivalent to the Tony Awards) and Broadway-caliber talent. This season is proving to be another grand slam for the theaters, which are producing timeless classics along with new works. Currently, Andrew Lloyd Webber seems to be the flavor of the month.

Sunset Boulevard, directed by Drury Lane Theatre’s Artistic Director William Osetek, plays through March 24. It is the final show in a season committed to works inspired by movies. Sunset Boulevard’s original Broadway production won seven Tony awards including Best Musical.

This production stars Christine Sherrill as Norma Desmond, a role originated in London by Patti LuPone and on Broadway by Glenn Close. Chicago Theatre Review said, “Miss Sherrill is luminous in the role made famous on film by Gloria Swanson. Christine deliciously dominates the stage in every scene, whether playing Norma as the spoiled, self-deluded diva, the coquettish aging sex kitten or the desperate, wounded martyr.”

Head north of Chicago to Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, where the best of Chicago’s musical theater performers have staked their claim for more than 30 years. Currently under the watchful eyes of Executive Producer Terry James and Artistic Directors Andy Hite and Aaron Thielen, the venue sells more than 400,000 tickets per year.

Stephanie Binetti and dancers. (photo: Marriott Theatre)

Currently playing is Now and Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. This compilation of some of the composer’s most notable works also features two of Chicago’s leading ladies: Linda Balgord and Susan Moniz.

Balgord is no stranger to Webber’s work. She appeared as the final Grizabella in Cats on Broadway and played Norma Desmond in the First National Tour of Sunset Boulevard. Moniz delivered a legendary performance as Eva Peron at Drury Lane in the 90s and has been belting her way throughout Chicagoland ever since. Now and Forever runs through March 24.

What’s up next?
Oliver! at Drury Lane Theatre, opening April 4.
South Pacific at Marriott Theatre, opening April 3.