Things I Don’t Care About and Do Care About: June 8-14

Things I Don’t Care About:

-Spencer and Heidi Pratt. And, please, Speidi sounds terrible.

-The Jonas Brothers. Normally I wouldn’t write that here, but my sister doesn’t read my blog.

-Julie Taymor’s “Spider-Man” musical and how expensive it will be.

-ACORN. There, I said it.

-“I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” My mother seems to be a fan of the show. All I know is that I’ve gone two weeks without Rachel Maddow’s show.

-Rod Blagojevich in “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.”

Things I Do Care About:

-What’s happening in Iran. I will be perfectly honest, I’m not talking about it here because I’m a bit clueless about it, but I’m finding it fascinating and intriguing. I highly recommend you go Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic

-Paul Krugman’s column on Friday. Thank you, Paul Krugman.

-The reviews for “A Minister’s Wife” giving me a prompt to go to Glencoe.

-The Jeff wins for Theo Ubique Theatre Co.’s production of “Evita” at No Exit Cafe making me wish I could get to Chicago at the moment.

-The fact that the non-equity Jeff Awards seem more prominent in my memory than the Tonys. The non-equity Jeff Awards were a day after the Tonys.

-For those of you that missed it, this is LGBT Pride Month in America (as per Presidential decree). This weekend: Boston Pride. Bostonist has pictures here and here.

-You can build your own Chicago! So, in essence, I can have a model of the Red Line sitting in my room while I’m waiting to catch the train on the Red Line. (It’s actually been around for a bit, but Gapers Block was bringing it up again. I think it’s cute.) You can also build your own New York City. I also wish the Lyric Opera building was one of the models.

-Speaking of the Red Line

-“La Cage Aux Folles” revival in London transferring to Broadway. My father can’t stop talking about it.

-Theatre Cedar Rapids’ 2009-2010 season.

Get Thee to the Oster Regent!

Note: I had decided to not review “Kiss Me Kate!” and just go see it because I know the director and most of the cast. Actually, I just saw the director this morning. If I had had to review the show and it wasn’t good, I would have actually felt bad about having to express that in my review. I decided that if I liked it that writing a little blurb on here would be much easier.
Liane Nichols’ direction of Cole Porter and Sam and Bella Spewack’s musical “Kiss Me Kate” is a delectable entertainment. Everything about this production shines; from the entire cast of twenty-two actors, to the musical itself, to the orchestra that is made up of three members, to the costumes, to Tim King’s rather complex set to show the backstage area, dressing rooms’ interior, and the set for the musical “The Taming of the Shrew.”

It helps that the production has two phenomenal leads, Brian McCarty and Kristin Teig Torres, as the leads, Fred and Lilli. Not only do they possess singing voices I could listen to all day, but they are great actors that give their characters depth. As the floozy Lois Lane (I’m pretty sure this was written pre-Superman), Rhiannon Talbot is outrageously believable. Greg Holt and Duane McDonald are deeply amusing as Flex and Duey, two well-read gangsters that arrive at the theater to collect a debt from a bet. During most of act one, they were seated in one of the boxes in the Oster Regent eating popcorn and watching the musical-within-a-musical on stage. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch what they were doing because I was too focused on what was happening on stage.

Deb Tuzicka’s choreography is lively and interesting without being flashy. But the choreography makes “Too Darn Hot” very, very hot. And having only three musicians in the pit worked very well and kept the problem of the orchestra overpowering the actors that occurs with many musicals at the Oster Regent from happening.

The show runs has a matinee performance at 2 p.m. today and next week Sunday, when it closes. On June 19 and 20, performances are at 7:30 p.m.. And if you’re a student, I don’t know why you shouldn’t go with tickets being priced at $10. I don’t see why anyone shouldn’t go, unless they don’t like some sexy choreography and the title of Shakespeare’s play “Coriolanus.”

Everything is Running This Weekend

This is a bit delayed, but I’ve been really busy. I’m writing this from my Blackberry. I just wrote my review of “Hello, Dolly!” and in a little more than four hours I’m seeing another show.

Anyway, it seems as though almost every theater in Eastern Iowa has a show running this weekend. “Hello, Dolly!” opened last night at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City and continues tonight and tomorrow afternoon.

Riverside Theater’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was supposed to open last night, but I don’t think it did because it was an outdoor production at it was raining pretty hard last night in Iowa City. But that should have performances tonight. Check Riverside’s website.

Cedar Falls Community Theatre’s production of “Kiss Me Kate” also opened last night and has a performance tonight and tomorrow afternoon. I’ll have some thoughts on it after I see it tonight.

And “The Odd Couple” is still running at the Old Creamery along with “Squabbles” at Iowa Theatre Artists.

So, you can’t say that there aren’t any plays running in Eastern Iowa this weekend.

There’s More to Theater Than Broadway, Part One: Chicago

Left, the Steppenwolf Theatre, home to the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, one of Chicago’s most well known theatre companies.

The subtitle for “The Theater Loop,” the theater blog for the Chicago Tribune, proclaims that it is a blog with “News from America’s hottest theater city.”

Some people might be confused about this subtitle. Chicago is America’s hottest theater city? I thought New York was the mecca of theater in America. While most people associate theater in America with New York City and that subtitle is simply a claim since there are two other Chicago publications have more thorough coverage, to think that Chicago simply has the big Broadway in Chicago shows is a really sad and misinformed thought.

Maybe you could span the horizon a bit more. After all, Chicago is home to the Court Theatre and the Tony Award winning Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre and Chicago Shakespeare. But to quote the 2009 Not for Tourists Guide to Chicago, “You can’t swing Mrs. O’Leary’s cow without hitting a tiny, struggling off-Loop storefront theater.” (Mrs. O’Leary’s cow was the rumored cause of the Great Chicago Fire.)

According to the League of Chicago Theatres, there are more than 190 theater companies in Chicago. That number includes dance companies, college theater groups and children’s theater.

On top of that, in this coming New York theater season and in the past two seasons, there has been a strong presence from Chicago. “August: Osage County”? Came from the Steppenwolf. “Ruined”? Originated at the Goodman. The current production of “Our Town”? The Hypocrites. “The 4th Graders Present an Unnamed Love-Suicide”? Also from The Hypocrites. Robert Falls revival of “Desire Under the Elms” that had an air borne house and didn’t do too well on Broadway? From the Goodman. In the upcoming season, there will be a production of “Superior Donuts.” That was done at the Steppenwolf. That show that Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig are supposed to be in originated in Chicago.

Looking at that list, it seems as though at least the “mecca” of American theater has a strong influence from Chicago. (Did I mention that a lot of David Mamet shows started off in Chicago?) It seems to me that Chicago has one of the most vibrant theater scenes in America. Presently, the list of plays I would like to see that are running in Chicago that I won’t be able to see. Although, I might be able to see Victory Gardens’ production of “Blackbird” or “Busman’s Honeymoon” at Lifeline Theater.

But Chicago seems to at least be the starting block for a lot of Chicago artists. I think that if theater in Chicago didn’t matter, there wouldn’t have been a profile on David Cromer on the front page of the Arts and Leisure section of the New York Times in November.

The opportunities that Chicago offers for theater are pretty much limitless. Want to see a non-traditional approach to “Oedipus”? You can see that Chicago. Want to see a big, splashy, bad musical? Well, you can see that on Broadway, but you can also see that in Chicago. I know some people genuinely like big, splashy, bad musicals, henceforth why I mentioned it.

If you have doubts about what to see, I recommend looking at the Chicago Reader or Time Out Chicago‘s theater sections. Those two publications seem to have the most expansive theater coverage. Too lazy to read? Why not try “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind”? (which I admittedly haven’t seen yet, but I will once I move out there.)

Or, when there are college productions going on, you could always try a college play. Several colleges have excellent theater programs*. And on that same note, a lot of the smaller theaters have lower ticket prices.

Anyone who claims that the theater scene in Chicago doesn’t matter isn’t aware of what is occurring there. Chicago has an expansive and interesting theater scene that offers many different options to people of differing tastes.

*I would like to say that I am a bit biased towards DePaul University’s Theatre School. Although, DePaul’s Chicago Playworks production of “Alice in Wonderland” is the most brilliantly scary show I have ever seen.

There’s More to Theater Than Broadway: An Introduction

Yesterday, I received an email from someone who wrote this,

“y r u covering theater in Chicago and IA? Only Broadway matters.”

Well, I happen to live in Iowa at the moment and I will be living in Chicago. And both areas have very vibrant theater scenes. (Chicago more so than Iowa)

Before you say, “Monica, don’t freak out over some teenager’s opinion,” I can’t let this go by. This is because one of my biggest pet peeves, right up there with people who clap in between movements of music, is that some people think that the only element of theater in America that matters is Broadway. It just drives me up the wall and I view it as being a bit ignorant.

I don’t think that it’s wrong to go see a Broadway show. When I’m in New York, I go see Broadway plays. (although, I confess that I’m much more excited for what I plan to see off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway.) Broadway is a place that songs are written about, a place known to so many people. It’s part of theater too and the actors, stage hands, producers, employees of the theater all need to get paid. But that’s the same case for regional theaters, community theaters, and off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway houses.

So, to try to make the case for why theater is much more than just Broadway, I will be doing a series of four essays. The first one will be about theater in Chicago, the second on theater in Iowa, the third one on off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway shows, and the fourth one on regional theater.


This Is Getting Ridiculous

Anyone remember that “Accent on Youth” got pretty poor reviews? (Well, it did better critically than “The Philanthropist” or “Guys and Dolls.”) Anybody remember how “Ruined” received almost unanimous praise and won several awards, including the Pulitzer?

Did you know that both shows are being done by the Manhattan Theatre Club?

Did you know that “Ruined” has been extended again? I think that this is the seventh time “Ruined” has had it’s run extended. (It is)

This question has been posed by several other bloggers recently, but why hasn’t the Manhattan Theatre Club considered moving it to Broadway? And I don’t mean that they move it specifically to the Biltmore Samuel Friedman. Any Broadway theater is what I’m talking about. Would the show be lost in a big Broadway house? Do they think it’s too risky? I would have to assume that because it’s been extended seven times it isn’t a risk.

Update: The question should be not so much “Why hasn’t MTC considered moving it to Broadway?” because, for all we know they have. The question should be “Why hasn’t MTC moved it to Broadway?”