That Lovin’ Feelin’ – Chicago Musical Theatre Festival

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The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, now in its third year, is a new-works festival produced by Underscore Theatre Company. We created CMTF for one reason: there’s a wealth of musical theatre creators and performers in Chicago, but the high risks of producing new musicals means that few companies are willing to take a chance, especially on new authors. CMTF is designed from the ground up to keep costs low by sharing resources, return half of all ticket proceeds to producers, and to showcase emerging authors from Chicago and beyond.

That Lovin’ Feelin’.

Book by James A. Zimmerman.

Musical Arrangements by J. Michael Roy.

Direction and Musical Direction by James A. Zimmerman.

Produced by Off Broadway Dinner Theatres, Inc.

The Chicago Musical Theatres Festival couldn’t have asked for a better kick-off production this year than That Lovin’ Feelin’. This jukebox musical originated at the St. Croix Off-Broadway Dinner Theater in 2014, and features a stand-out cast, particularly Joe Keith as Bobby Hatfield and Greg Lund as the young Bill Medley. The book is serviceable for a revue, featuring an older Medley (Leon Hammer) giving a reasonably objective description of the duo’s difficult history to an upstart aspiring reporter, and candidly stating that their heavy influence from African-American music created some tension for them among both black and white audiences when they started out in Orange County, California in 1963.

While a few songs are canned, most are played by a very able band, who change costumes with the times along with the other actors. Lydia Keith choreographed the back-up dancers for a number of Righteous Brothers hits, and having been with the show since an earlier incarnation of it in 2012, Joe Keith and Lund are in top form for such songs as “Unchained Melody,” “Koko Joe,” “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration,” and the titular “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.” Not only are they great singers, but they’re also charismatic, and Keith embodies Hatfield’s reputation for swagger and recklessness. Medley recently revived the Righteous Brothers act in Las Vegas, and several of their songs were written by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil, and Barry Mann, the main characters in the recent hit musical Beautiful. For any fans of that era, this revue’s not to be missed.

Highly Recommended.

Jacob Davis

3jacob.davis@gmail.com

Reviewed August 10, 2016.

Playing in the upstairs at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago. Performances are August 12 at 6:00 pm and August 13 at 8:30 pm. Tickets are $20 per show; to order, visit the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival website. Running time is two hours, with one intermission.