Cabaret at The Theatre at the Center

Cabaret’s opening, “Willkommen” (one of the best ever of a Broadway musical) must create the sleazy atmosphere of the 1930 Berlin club. Sean Fortunato is powerfully enticing as the Emcee. He uses the eye-popping expressions and campy style to make his Emcee the featured persona at the Klub. He welcomes us into his world. With the terrific Kit Kat Girls and the sweet Kit Kat Boys; the Kit Kat Club has a staff of deliciously sexy performers. Linda Fortunato’s opening choreography was innovative and original.

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Paradise Blue

With original trumpet jazz music played in part by Al’ Jaleel Mcghee, the actor-musician playing Blue the owner of the Paradise jazz club in 1949 in Detroir’s Black Bottom neighborhood, playwright Dominique Morisseau has mounted a haunting urban drama. This is an enticing work with strong characters each caught in an urban struggle that finds city hall moving to displace a black neighborhood for an Interstate Highway. Black Bottom was home to dozens of jazz night clubs where black musician could play and develop their craft uninhibited.

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Tight End

In small town, Midwest, USA, football is based on tradition, on which then legend itself is built: just ask Ash’s late father, whose name became legend and his story myth after he beat the town’s rival football team during Homecoming so many years ago. Ash Miller (Bryce Saxon) wishes to live that legend—or, rather, she only wishes to play the sport she loves with the same hustle and success as her father—but as herself, regarded as her own person.

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My Fair Lady at the Lyric Opera of Chicago

The current production of My Fair Lady was initially directed by Robert Carsen for Paris’s Theatre de Chatelet with this “revival” being staged by Olivier Fredj. With British stars Richard E. Grant as Henry Higgins and Nicholas Le Prevost as Colonel Pickering, this Broadway at Lyric production as a ‘very British’ sensibility. Americans who play Higgins (Nathan M. Hosner, Kevin Gudhal, and Nick Sandys among others) give Higgins a sharper bitter edge than Britishers like Richard Grant do. That is not to say that Grant’s performance as Higgins wasn’t superb, it was. It’s just that he has a the English gentleness that American audiences are not used to. Lisa O’Hare (who did the 2008 American tour produced by Cameron Mackintosh) was splendid as Elisa as she sang well and presented a strong Elisa who stood up to Higgins effectively.

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She Loves Me

Set in a Hungarian perfume shop in the 1930s, the delightful characters inhabit a world suffused with love and longing. The central story revolves around the two feuding clerks, Georg and Amalia, who secretly find solace in their anonymous romantic pen pals, little knowing that their respective correspondents are each other. Made into a good looking jewel box musical, She Loves Me is pure fun, full of fine songs and witty lyrics and cute, loveable characters.

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Jesus Christ Superstar at Paramount Theatre

Evan Tyrone Martin is Jesus, Mykal Kilgore is Judas and Felicia Boswell is Mary. They are the stars but do not underestimate the talent of those high priests Lorenzo Rush, Jr. as Caiaphas, Avionce Hoyles as Annas and King Herod (I just realized he played both roles). Rufus Bonds, Jr. as Pontius Pilot amazed me at the dream. Everyone in this cast is a star after all, it takes a village or in this case a bunch of disciples and villagers to make this show as spectacular as it is.

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Forty-Two Stories: A High-Rise Condo Comedy

Forty-Two Stories’ first two performances were as radio plays. Given how many meaningless, tangential stories are told by the characters—from how one woman is faking a leak in her apartment, to how this guy stabbed this woman and some other woman jumped off the roof because of it—I can imagine how listening to this while sitting in a car on LSD in the middle of rush-hour traffic might be entertaining. Unfortunately, it is not so while sitting in a theatre for two hours. In a theatre, it is boring—not unlike sitting in a car on LSD in the middle of rush-hour traffic with the radio turned off.

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My Name Is Annie King

Their latest musical is My Name Is Annie King, A New Blusgrass Thriller with book by Krista Pioppi and music and lyrics by Aaron Albert and Katy Rea. Alex Higgin-Houser directs. This new work ambitious, complicated and unique in its musical composition. It is billed as a bluegrass musical but minus the banjo and mandolin, it sounds as much more of a pop/folk score with hints of bluegrass and down-home country.

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Chicago, A Musical Vaudeville

In their latest reincarnation at Drury Lane Theatre in Oabrook, Roxie and Velma have taken the attractive forms of Kelly Felthous and Alena Watters, respectively, and it is a most striking meeting indeed. Both faces are making their local debuts and bringing sparkle and luster to an old favorite. Ms. Felthous’ Roxie Hart may not be the brightest bulb in the brain department, but she’s no pushover either. Give her a piano to perch on and she can sell a tune like nobody’s business, and she can command the stage with or without her backup boy quartet. Her facial expressions and characterization are superb. The sinewy Ms. Watters is positively cat-like as she springs into Broadway veteran Jane Lanier’s sultry choreography as if she were born to own the limelight.

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The Liar

I myself am not a fan of stiltedly “period,” ribald farces—but this one won me over rather quickly. Some of this may be due to Ives’ adaptation, but I’m more inclined to give credit to Director Rutherford’s direction and the cast’s performances that kept the acting grounded even in the midst of the patently ridiculous. Josh Hambrock’s Dorante is remarkable: he gets into his role body and soul with the sweat and agility of a boxer, blotting his brow between rounds of his full-contact performance. Other notables include Michael Hagedorn, the father, whose eyes and face are a book on acting credulity; and Megan Delay, who plays two twins of polar personalities with comedic gusto—and quick costume changes.

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