Chicago's theatre scene is booming, with productions playing at the Shubert, the Goodman, Steppenwolf, the Marriott Lincolnshire, Organic Theatre, Northlight, the Raven, the Court, Equity Library Theatre, Apple Tree, Candlelight DT, European Rep and so many others at any one time.
For our Chicago-area members, here is your chance to try your hand at theatre reviewing -- and to let theatre fans around the world know what's happening in your city. If you've seen a drama, comedy or musical that aroused strong feeling pro or con, please take a few minutes to type your feelings in a review. Make sure to include the title, author, theatre, city and end date.
E-mail your review to Playbill On-Line managing editor Robert Viagas
Please include your town and state, and please note whether you'd like us to include your full e-mail address so you can receive responses. This is optional, of course. Reviews will be posted in this file as they come in.
Here are the results so far. Playbill thanks those who took the time to write.From Landon Shaw:
Guys and Dolls by Frank Loesser, Pheasant Run Dinner Theater through July 20.
Pheasant Run Resort's production of Guys and Dolls is thoroughly disappointing. We bought tickets expecting a professional production and what we got was a mediocre high school production. I am not one to enjoy geriatric theater with 50- and 60-year olds playing roles they are 20 years too old for, but by the same token I don't want to pay to watch teenagers and kids barely in their twenties playing roles they are 20 years too young for. If this is the kind of talent that they have to pull from then they should consider doing shows like Grease and Bye Bye Birdie and other high school shows. If they want to try to tackle adult productions then they should cast adults. And please, no matter what age we're talking about - how about some talent on that stage. The kids hit most of their notes in the songs and did some nice dance steps, but it wasn't anything I couldn't have seen at a high school production. Honestly, it was like community theater with expensive tickets. (3/26/97)
From Tammy Coggin:
Cat On a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams, Woodstock Opera House
Over the last several years Chicago has benefited from extended stops by a host of exceptional touring productions: "Joseph...", "Stomp", "Show Boat", etc... A few times a year my mother and I try to see a play or a musical. While we try to support local theaters too, like the Goodman and Steppenwolf, lately their productions just haven't measured up. We went to see "Buried Child" at Steppenwolf last year before it moved to Broadway - and it was really disappointing, Ethane Hawke came across as untalented as Keanu Reeves!
Anyway, with this track record for local disappointments, I was very surprised that for the theater this month my mother picked the "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof" revival instead of the Broadway tour of "Sunset Boulevard". While the choice surprised me, it ended up being grand. In fact I ended up going back again to take my husband.
When Maggie first entered I figured we were in for another disappointment with Chicago theater. She just didn't have that look you expect for Maggie. I realize not everyone can look like Elizabeth Taylor, but I expected Maggie to at least be attractive. The girl playing the part (Deborah Swingford) was just kind of dumpy. As it turned out, she was pretty damn good in terms of acting. But it took a while to get over her looks.
Now, my mother has been married to my father for nearly 30 years, and I am happily married myself, but when Brick first emerges from the shower -- glistening with mist, wrapped in just a towel - we both literally gasped. Tall, dark, and handsome does not begin to describe him - try tall, dark, muscular, and stunningly handsome. Ricky Travolta (the actor playing Brick) made me forget all thoughts of Paul Newman.
But, I think being so sexy might be a double-edged sword for him. When men are as beautiful as Tom Cruise or Antonio Bandaras or this young man -- it is sometimes hard to see past their looks and recognize their acting. And Travolta put on one of the most dynamic acting performances I have ever seen. He covered every range of emotion from violent rage to gentle amusement to self-wallowing depression. I have seen lots of actors play emotional turmoil but this was the first time I've ever seen real tears streaming down an actor's face during a live show.
Maggie got better as the show went on. She did a good job of playing the determined wife still in love with a man who no longer loves her and is determined to kill himself with booze.
D.E. Donaldson in the role of Big Daddy was what I expect from Chicago theater - good but forgettable. He served his purpose but after the show you still think Burl Ives when you think of Big Daddy. He just came across somewhat one dimensional - the old "yelling equals anger" approach to acting. Maybe he would have been more memorable if most of his scenes weren't opposite Brick who was so strong.
The guy playing Gooper was the one truly awful thing about the show. It was like watching a bad Forest Gump impression. But his wife Mae was just great. She was so convincingly self-centered and despicable you couldn't help but root for Maggie by default.
Granted it wasn't the best overall production I've ever seen, but even with its faults it was better than most of the local stuff I've sat through. It didn't have the elaborate sets and costumes like the Broadway tours do, but I think standout performances make an even better show than standout sets, and Brick gave the most standout performance I've seen in a long time. (3/25/97)