Marry Me A Little

. Marry Me A Little has been updated with the help and blessing of Sondheim to include songs cut from the final versions of Follies, A Little Night Music and Company among others. Based on a concept from Craig Lucas and Norman Rene, the original idea was filled with songs from early Sondheim projects such as Saturday Night, The Girls of Summer, Evening Primrose and Road Show.

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Mary Poppins at the Mercury Theatre Chicago

The magic and mystery of Mary Poppins (is she myth or an angel from heaven?) is effectively played by Nicole Arnold while Matthew Crowle’s Bert guides us through the journey of the Banks family’s awakening with panache and a warm smile. We are totally engrossed and richly rewarded having spent a few hours in Poppins’ world where anything can happen if you take a spoonful of sugar. Matthew Crowle anchors this production.

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In To America

One of the most telling traits of this show is the treatment of common men and women, the real immigrants, not the upper-class privileged immigrants who came here with land grants and armies. This presentation is about common folks in their own words. We hear their plights and their desires – and – their problems one they arrived. We realize that discrimination was always a fabric of the American Experience. That fear of new arrivals, especially those who looked different and had different cultures, was hard to assimilate yet somehow they did become “Americans.”

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Born Yesterday

Featuring an impressive set (designed by Grant Dabin), Garson Kanin’s 1946 dark comedy Born Yesterday is a timely cautionary tale about internal threats to our democracy from corrupt businessmen. (sounds familiar?) Kanin’s clever structured story involves a boorish, crude and loudmouthed millionaire junk dealer who descends on Washington, DC just after World War II to bribe a US Senator in a scheme to salvage all the junk metal (from tanks, trucks, and cannons) in Europe scattered around France Belgium and Germany.

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By the Water

By the Water uses the diaster to trigger deep-seated personal problems and how to move forward from them. Times change, people change, loyalties shift but family core values survive as life moves on. With clever dialogue, surprising humor and realistic characters, By the Water is a smart different family drama. Director Cody Estle has his actors nicely rendering their characters blending their angst with humor and passion. This is a wonderful play that needs to be seen.

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Charlie Parker’s Yardbird

The jazz infused music (conducted by Kelly Kuo) was varied, brassy and nicely conveyed the mood of the piece. Brownlee effectively presented the contradictory side of the troubled genius. We see how heroin destroyed Bird that led to his death at age 35. Much of the best arias in the piece came as the women led a long and heartfelt tribute to the fallen composer. This 90 minute chamber opera is a rare treat about a forgotten jazz giant whom youngsters probably don’t know.

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10 out of 12

Once seated, we continue to watch the crew getting setting up for the play. Only when we hear voices on the headset announcing the start of the tech rehearsal do we realize that the show we came to see is actually starting. We hear constant chatter over our headsets that is idle chatter with techies desiring snacks, gossiping and telling stories to pass the time while the slow process of getting the set located, the props in place plus to lighting and sound cues organized. There are many lag-time delays while the details get are polished and corrections made. Once the actors do some scenes, they need to become familiar with the blocking. That can be difficult since actor’s foibles and even script disagreements surface complicate things.

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The Most Happy Fella

Fella is about love and forgiveness as it plays out in spirited celebrations featuring rich vocals from Roberts, Hernandez and Singleton.The songs offer a fine blend of styles from light comic to lush opera to haunting love songs. Fred Anzevino’s efficient use of the stage at No Exit Cafe contains a polish presentation with energetic choreography, cute comedic bits and stirring emotions come through smartly and flawlessly. Jeremy Ramey’s piano, violin, viola and cello orchestra produced a lush sound.

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