Let Me Entertain You: Jule Styne’s Greatest Hits

Tunes from Funny Girl (lyrics by Bob Merrill) with like know shows that produced songs that became standards, this songfest produces one tuneful song after another. we remember songs like “The Party’s Over,” ” Don’t Rain on My Parade,” I’ve Heard That Song Before,” “It’s Been A Long Time,” “Saturday Night Is the Loneliest Night of the Week, “It’s Magic, ” “Time After Time,” and “Make Someone Happy” and “People” are among the wonderful tunes that not only were sung expertly but presented with their meaning or spirit.

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Das Rheingold

In a new production, the Lyric Opera of Chicago has mounted the finest staging that I have ever seen of an opera! Wagner, who wanted his Der Ring des Nibelungen to be know as a music drama, would be proud of David Pountney’s stage of Das Rheingold which was based on Johan Engels and Robert Innes Hopkins designs. Below you’ll see a vast array of photos in order for readers to get a feel for this magnificent staging that enhances Wagner’s music drama as a compliment to Wagner’s power score and the fantastic voices from the world class singers.

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The Love Potion (Le Vin Herbe)

Sung in English (translation by Hugh MacDonald) with a large video depicting the story with a huge English super titles, The Love Potion works well. Featuring music that sounds like film underscoring rich in piano and string sounds, The Love Potion’s singing makes the story come alive. The 12 person ensemble (a kind of Greek chorus) sounded terrific and the leads led the way.

From tenor Bernard Holcomb’s Tristan to soprano Lani Stait’s Isolde to baritone Nicholas Davis’ King Mark, these featured artists carried the opera with their expressively skilled voices

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Smokey Joe’s Cafe at Drury Lane Theatre

This fast-paced two hour revue is a non-stop songfest that has enough well performed classic rock, pop and R & B to please. . Director/choreographer Dodge has the cast doing movement and dance routines that work effectively on stage. The harmonies and the blended vocal arrangements together with the outstanding musical arrangements by Roberta Duchak sounded terrific. These nine performers demonstrate their talents and we get to hear the songbook of two relatively unheralded composers. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s tunes come alive in this fun revue. Smokey Joe’s Cafe ranks as one of the longest running reviews on Broadway (2,036 performances) and it has had a long run in the city by Theo Ubique a few years ago.

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“Oh, Coward!” by Dead Writers Theatre Collective

Filled with the words and songs of Noel Coward (1899-1973), the English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit and flamboyance, Oh Coward! is a sharp 35 song-fest that is nicely performed by Michael Pecas, Joanna Riopelle and Ian Rigg with terrific arrangements by Gerald Bailey with fine piano work by Howard Pfeifer. The non-Equity cast delivered a slick, sophisticated, mostly well sung musical revue.

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Operetta In Exile 2016

Operetta in Exile begins with six songs from Die Blume von Hawaii, a 1931 collaboration between three Jewish artists, Paul Abraham, Alfred Grunwald, and Fritz Lohner-Beda. The story is typical of what defines an operetta: it is light-hearted, uses stock characters, and a formulaic plot. However, between the songs we learn about Abraham’s persecution at the hands of the Nazis.

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The Cousin from Nowhere 2016

One of the joys at this operetta is in the fabulous 22 member orchestra, conducted by Anthony Barrese that sounded magnificent! The cast of classically trained singers projected and enunciate expertly despite no amplification. The cast has professional singers from both the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Choruses. I was particularly impressed by the skilled comic chops from Nicholas Pulikowski who carried the lead with immense empathy. He gave one of the strongest performances seen on a Chicago stage this year!

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An Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse Songbook

This cast creates a spell both with their acting/singing skill making this 80 minute show into a polished art piece that Beckett would enjoy as well as Newley and Brisusse. An Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse Songbook is a most entertaining revue with energetic singers covering a sophisticated songbook of almost forgotten composers. This review is a showcase for a fresh, youthful and amazingly talented newbie – Graham Thomas Heacock.

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Second City e.t.c.’s 40th Revue – A Red Line Runs Through It

Safe to say, the scope of topics played upon is wide enough that if you live in America and have Internet or cable, you’ll be heartily entertained.

This was only my second foray into Chicago’s sketch-comedy scene, but it’s not hard to see why The Second City is so highly regarded: the energy never lagged, the jokes always landed for someone (particularly the guy across the aisle from me), and the agit-prop nimbly toed the line between discomfort and comedy. I can’t imagine sketch comedy gets any better than this.

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Dry Land

I think this play is for women, mothers and teen girls. They will relate and maybe understand the talk more than I did. The speech patterns of the girls – their tendency to talk fast and run their words together with the contemporary pop culture references made it difficult for me (a senior male) to understand. The younger folks, especially the women, laughed at the comments while I was clueless.

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