WBEZ | Broadway in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/tags/broadway-chicago Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en What 'Hamilton' Can Teach Us About Central Banking http://www.wbez.org/news/what-hamilton-can-teach-us-about-central-banking-114096 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/ham.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" id="1" src="http://www.marketplace.org/sites/default/files/styles/primary-image-766x447/public/ham.jpg?itok=e3wW6kzV" style="height: 362px; width: 620px;" title="Cast of Hamilton perform at 'Hamilton' Broadway Opening Night at Richard Rodgers Theatre. (Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)" typeof="foaf:Image" /></p><div><p style="margin: 0px 0px 1.42857em; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Georgia, 'Times New Roman', Times, 'DejaVu Serif', serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">Authorities at the Federal Reserve are meeting next week on whether to start raising interest rates for the first time in nine years. And i<span style="line-height: 1.42857em;">f you head over to Broadway, there&#39;s a history lesson being performed every night about Alexander Hamilton fighting for what would eventually become the Fed.</span></p><p style="margin: 1.42857em 0px; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Georgia, 'Times New Roman', Times, 'DejaVu Serif', serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><span style="line-height: 1.42857em;">Jeffrey Seller, one of the producers of the Broadway blockbuster, joined us to talk about taking a risk on a show about&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.42857em;">America&#39;s first treasury secretary, and what the show&#39;s ticket lottery system teaches us about queuing theory.</span></p><p style="margin: 1.42857em 0px; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Georgia, 'Times New Roman', Times, 'DejaVu Serif', serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><span style="line-height: 1.42857em;"><em><a href="https://soundcloud.com/marketplace/why-the-rockefeller-foundation-is-getting-behind-hamilton" target="_blank">Here&#39;s our conversation with&nbsp;Judith Rodin</a>, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, about subsidizing &ldquo;Hamilton&rdquo; tickets for NYC high schoolers:</em></span></p><p style="margin: 1.42857em 0px; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Georgia, 'Times New Roman', Times, 'DejaVu Serif', serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"><span style="line-height: 1.42857em;"><em><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/236623029&amp;color=ff5500" width="100%"></iframe></em></span></p></div><p>The Associated Press reports that a production of &quot;Hamilton&quot; is headed to Chicago:</p><blockquote><p>Producers said Tuesday that performances will begin Sept. 27 at the newly named The PrivateBank Theatre. It&#39;s a coup for&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;since the city has lured the hottest stage show in years and beaten a rival theater town where it might play well, too &mdash; Washington, D.C.</p><p>Group tickets for the&nbsp;Chicago&nbsp;run will go on sale Jan. 5. Single ticket sales will be announced at a later date.</p></blockquote><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.marketplace.org/2015/12/08/business/what-hamilton-can-teach-us-about-central-banking" target="_blank"><em>via Marketplace</em></a></p></p> Tue, 08 Dec 2015 11:27:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/what-hamilton-can-teach-us-about-central-banking-114096 Daily Rehearsal: A chance to see Cyndi Lauper http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/daily-rehearsal-chance-see-cyndi-lauper-100462 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/2570180046_6d42359b98_z_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Show closing this week</strong></span></span> include:<a href="http://www.the-hypocrites.com/">&nbsp;The Hypocrites</a>&#39;&nbsp;<em>Romeo Juliet </em>(Thursday&#39;s show is sold-out);<em>&nbsp;<a href="http://chicagodramatists.org/production-change-the-world">I Am Going to Change the World</a> </em>from&nbsp;Chicago Dramatists; and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.redtwist.org/CurrentProduction.html"><em>The Cripple of Inishmaan</em></a>&nbsp;from Redtwist Theatre.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- An abridged line-up for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.upcomedyclub.com">UP</a>&nbsp;</strong></span></span>during&nbsp;July and August: Pablo Francisco (July 12-15); a tour of the cast of TBS&#39; new show <em>Sullivan and Son</em>; the stars of <em>Workaholics </em>Maribeth Monroe and Eric Griffen doing their show <em>Horrible Women</em>; Sheryl Underwood of CBS&#39;<em> The Talk</em>; and Adam Ferrara.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>-&nbsp;&nbsp;Broadway in Chicago</strong></span></span> has bowed out of the Taste of Chicago line-up but are doing their same summer concert in Millenium Park on August 6. Since one of their <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-02-22/daily-rehearsal-kinky-boots-definitely-set-chicago-96622">productions this year will be <em>Kinky Boots</em></a>, songstress Cyndi Lauper will perform,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/stage/13427198-421/broadway-in-chicago-plans-millennium-park-show.html">reports the <em>Sun-Times</em></a>.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><strong>- Oh and there were several theaters</strong></span></span> spotted at Pride with floats varying in size and impressiveness, like Broadway in Chicago and About Face. What were your favorites?</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="http://kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Wed, 27 Jun 2012 09:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-06/daily-rehearsal-chance-see-cyndi-lauper-100462 Act locally, think Broadway: Tax credits for big commercial shows http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-02/act-locally-think-broadway-tax-credits-big-commercial-shows-96896 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-02/6710697131_d7e310a4e8.jpg" alt="" /><p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size:10px;">Listen to Jonathan Abarbanel and Kelly Kleiman discuss tax breaks for theaters on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>, and Chicago Fusion Theatre's 'Las Hermanas Padillas'</span></p><p><span class="filefield_audio_insert_player" href="/sites/default/files/120302 848 SEG B_0.mp3" id="filefield_audio_insert_player-126862" player="null">120302 848 SEG B.mp3</span></p></div></div><p>Late last year, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation granting extensive tax breaks to a pair of super-wealthy corporate entities (Sears and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) in response to their threats that they would take their business elsewhere. This legislation, which turned even reformist governor Pat Quinn into a political whore, was widely reported and debated in the media.</p><p>What was not debated and little-reported was that the bill included additional provisions providing tax “incentives” (to use the politic word) for other businesses as well, one of them being Broadway producers of live theater, who now may be granted tax credits similar to those offered movie producers who bring feature film and TV production to Illinois.</p><p>The wording of the theater-related provisions is significantly odd. The preamble states, "It shall be the policy of this State to promote and encourage the&nbsp; training and hiring of Illinois residents who represent the diversity of the Illinois population through the creation and implementation of training, education, and recruitment programs organized in cooperation with Illinois colleges and universities, labor organizations, and the commercial for-profit live theater industry." It reminds me of my high school intelligence tests: “Which of these words does not belong in the group?”</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-02/6710697131_d7e310a4e8.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 463px;" title="(Flickr/Steve Minor)"></p><p>The bill goes on to state that tax credits for Illinois labor and production expenditures will be granted only to producers holding an “accredited theater production certificate,” and that said certificates will be issued only to shows spending $100,000 or more which are performed in theaters of 1,200 seats or more, and either are scheduled for Broadway within 12 months of playing Chicago or are scheduled for a “long-run” here, which is defined as more than eight weeks and at least six shows a week.</p><p>Whether benefiting Sears, the CME or a Broadway show, this bill is an egregious example of special interest legislation, and special interest legislation always is sleazy, sneaky, skanky, shady, greasy, garbanzo and Doc. One thing it definitely is not is Bashful. Each and every piece of it has its defenders and apologists, but the essence of it—literally by definition—is a denial of government of the people, by the people and for the people. Whether in Congress, state legislature, county board or city council, such laws rarely are debated, often&nbsp; are passed in the dark of night (such as being tacked on to some unrelated piece of legislation) and virtually never are transparent. Whenever a piece of special interest legislation is enacted, you can smell the political fat sizzling in the pan.</p><p>Yeah, but this one is <em>my</em> special interest legislation: it serves the industry I cover as a critic and arts business reporter and, if successful, it will make my work and Chicago theater-going a lot more exciting. Whenever our Downtown theaters are doing business, a helluva lot of others also do business: hotels, restaurants, parking garages, taxi cabs, etc. as well as stage hands, electricians, musicians, ushers, concessionaires, actors, etc. All of these service-providers, both individuals and companies, in turn pay their taxes to the city, county and state. The performing arts (and other arts) are a proven economic engine that returns far, far more to the city/county/state than any public dollars invested.</p><p>Maybe this thing actually is good for everyone, even though it directly benefits only a very narrow range of entitites. Who does it benefit? The voting and tax-paying public, in whose name this law was enacted and signed, has every right to ask.</p><p>The bill’s set of parameters could provide tax credits on the one hand for a pre-Broadway show playing here for three or four weeks (as did <em>The Adams Family</em> and <em>The Producers</em> for example) or, on the other hand, for the umpteenth repeat visit by <em>Cats</em> or <em>Mamma Mia</em>, providing they stayed here for at least eight weeks and a day. On that basis, the number of possible producers and production companies is open-ended.</p><p>Far more limiting is the bill’s requirement that an “accredited theater production” must be staged in a venue with 1,200 or more seats. In theory, this could benefit shows coming to the Rosemont Theatre, the Chicago Theatre, the Civic Opera House or Aurora’s Paramount Theatre, for example. However, the current professional theater landscape strongly suggests that the most likely candidates are shows coming to theaters under the Broadway In Chicago brand name.</p><p>Broadway In Chicago (BIC) is the local outpost of the New York-based Nederlander Organization, which owns a huge amount of theater real estate across the country and also invests money in Broadway shows. In Chicago, the Nederlander Organization owns the Oriental, Cadillac Palace and Bank of America theaters, leases the Broadway Playhouse (former Drury Lane Theatre in Water Tower Place) and also programs occasional theater attractions into the Auditorium Theatre, all under the Broadway In Chicago name. With the exception of the 500-seat Broadway Playhouse, all the BIC houses can host “accredited theater productions.”</p><p>BIC makes it money by renting out its properties, and by providing management and marketing services, so the more shows presented in its properties, the merrier all around. It should come as no surprise that BIC executives were among the movers and shakers who moved this bill along. They don’t like their theaters to sit dark and empty for weeks or even months at a time, as the Cadillac Palace and Oriental have been sitting recently (and will through most of the summer).</p><p>The BIC folks, and their bosses at the Nederlander Organization in New York, are nothing if not savvy and smart players. BIC theaters already have played host to numerous long-run attractions and pre-Broadway try-outs. <em>Jersey Boys</em> was here for over 18 months and <em>Wicked</em> for over two years. And pre-Broadway try-outs over the last decade include <em>The Producers</em>, <em>Jekyll and Hyde</em>, <em>Pirate Queen</em>, <em>The Adams Family</em> and <em>Sweet Smell of Success</em>. Now they want more such shows to come more often, hence the tax credit.</p><p>They want the market value of a blockbuster Broadway hit sitting down here for months or years, and they want the glamor of big-name stars trying out a brand-new show. Frankly, I want them, too. Both of these things would make Chicago even more important than it already is as a national theater center, and that would make Chicago’s theater critics—hey, that’s me—more powerful and prominent nationally.</p><p>However, it plays out, this new legislation already has greased the skids: a Broadway In Chicago executive has told me that Chicago will see a half-dozen shows in the next year that will take advantage of the tax credits, the first of them being the pre-Broadway <em>Kinky Boots</em> (with Cindy Lauper) coming in the fall, followed in December by <em>The Book of Mormon</em>, which will sit-down here for a multiple-month run.</p><p>But is there any direct benefit to audiences, to the folks who slap down the debit card to buy the tickets? Will the thousands of dollars in weekly/monthly savings be passed along in the form of lower ticket prices? Will the $100 dollar orchestra seat fall to $80? The $65 balcony seat to $50? The $40 second balcony seat to $25? Now, <em>that</em> would have direct and meaningful value to the Good People of Illinois in whose name this legislation was signed and sealed.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 02 Mar 2012 13:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-03-02/act-locally-think-broadway-tax-credits-big-commercial-shows-96896 It is better to give than to receive?: The Live Theater Tax Credit http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-27/it-better-give-receive-live-theater-tax-credit-95138 <p><p>I<span>n </span>a joyful press release, Broadway i<span>n </span>Chicago recently a<span>n</span><span>n</span>ou<span>n</span>ced that the Live Theatre Productio<span>n </span>Tax Credit had bee<span>n </span>passed by both houses of the Illi<span>n</span>ois legislature, a<span>n</span>d that Gover<span>n</span>or Qui<span>n</span><span>n </span>was expected to sig<span>n </span>it.&nbsp; <span>N</span>aturally the credit, "which applies o<span>n</span>ly to lo<span>n</span>g-ru<span>n </span>a<span>n</span>d pre-Broadway shows," is good <span>n</span>ews for Broadway i<span>n </span>Chicago.&nbsp; But is it good <span>n</span>ews for the theater commu<span>n</span>ity, or the city, as a whole?</p><p>Probably<span> n</span>ot.&nbsp; To begin with, of course, tax breaks are relevant only to for-profit businesses, when the overwhelming majority of Chicago theaters are nonprofits (and nonprofits newly faced with city water bills, by the way).&nbsp; Then, as is ge<span>n</span>erally the case with tax breaks, a bu<span>n</span>ch of<span> n</span>umbers are throw<span>n </span>arou<span>n</span>d to justify the credit, with very few of them actually releva<span>n</span>t to evaluati<span>n</span>g its cost or be<span>n</span>efit.&nbsp; I<span>n </span>its press release, Broadway i<span>n </span>Chicago estimates that "the additio<span>n </span>of o<span>n</span>e year to a lo<span>n</span>g-ru<span>n </span>show could ge<span>n</span>erate a<span>n </span>eco<span>n</span>omic output to the city a<span>n</span>d state of over $500 millio<span>n</span>, attracti<span>n</span>g more tha<span>n </span>800,000 people with more tha<span>n </span>42% comi<span>n</span>g from out of the market, stayi<span>n</span>g i<span>n </span>area hotels a<span>n</span>d eati<span>n</span>g at local restaura<span>n</span>ts."&nbsp; Great; but is the credit<span> either n</span>ecessary or sufficie<span>n</span>t to achieve that outcome?</p><p>Agai<span>n</span>, probably<span> n</span>ot.&nbsp; Decisio<span>n</span>s about how lo<span>n</span>g a touri<span>n</span>g or pre-Broadway productio<span>n </span>sits dow<span>n</span> i<span>n </span>Chicago are based o<span>n </span>how popular the show proves to be a<span>n</span>d o<span>n </span>how soo<span>n </span>it's judged ready for a Broadway ve<span>n</span>ue (a<span>n</span>d vice-versa).&nbsp; <span>N</span>either of these factors is eve<span>n </span>fai<span>n</span>tly affected by the credit.&nbsp; Sure, it will reduce the costs of operati<span>n</span>g a show--but that is<span>n</span>'t a<span>n </span>eco<span>n</span>omic be<span>n</span>efit (of $500 million or otherwise) to the city or state.&nbsp; Rather, it's a cost--a<span>n</span>d a cost that remai<span>n</span>s carefully u<span>n</span>specified.</p><p>"The passage of a<span>n</span>y tax credit i<span>n </span>these eco<span>n</span>omic times takes both courage a<span>n</span>d foresight," observes the press release.&nbsp; Yes, if for "courage" you substitute "gall" a<span>n</span>d for foresight, "bli<span>n</span>ders."&nbsp; Mo<span>n</span>ey give<span>n </span>to Broadway i<span>n </span>Chicago--or the Chicago Merca<span>n</span>tile Excha<span>n</span>ge, or Sears--comes out of the pockets of the rest of us.</p><p>Is this really what we mea<span>n</span>t by "a seaso<span>n </span>of givi<span>n</span>g"?</p></p> Tue, 27 Dec 2011 15:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-27/it-better-give-receive-live-theater-tax-credit-95138 Dueling Critics Rumble Over 'West Side Story' http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-22/dueling-critics-rumble-over-west-side-story-89514 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-July/2011-07-22/westside.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong>JONATHAN:</strong> They used to call it Hell's Kitchen, but now the substantially-gentrified West Side of midtown Manhattan is called Clinton, and the Puerto Rican vs. Polack gangs of <a href="http://www.broadwayinchicago.com/shows_dyn.php?cmd=display_current&amp;display_showtag=WestSide11"><em><strong>West Side Story</strong></em></a> are history. Some folks feel this landmark 1957 musical is history, too, or at least dated, and its romanticization of New York adolescent street gangs (a socio-ethnic fact going far back into the Big Apple's 19th Century history) probably does make it so. Still, the story of star-crossed lovers is timeless, and so&nbsp;is the&nbsp;music by Leonard Bernstein. Working at the peak of his powers, Bernstein composed in overlapping succession two of the most complex and brilliant musical theater scores ever written, <em>Candide </em>(1956) and <em>West Side Story</em>. This touring version of the 2009 Broadway revival recreates both Jerome Robbins's brilliant original dances and also the original orchestrations to greatly satisfying effect.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-22/westside.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 333px; " title=""><br> &nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: left; "><strong>KELLY:</strong> Oh, Jonathan, only you could make a gorgeous musical confection into "a socio-ethnic fact" and other locutions designed to make people feel that seeing the show is the moral equivalent of eating their peas! The real fact (socio-ethnic or otherwise) is that <i>West Side Story</i> is almost beyond criticism: it's so nearly perfect it seems like something that grew onstage rather than something created by the hand of man. But it was, of course, created by four of the most talented hands ever to work in music theater, those of Bernstein and my idol Robbins. And they were building, of course, on the work of two of the most talented hands ever to work in any kind of theater: those of Shakespeare. This not-quite-contemporary <i>Romeo and Juliet</i> does a great job of portraying the timelessness both of young love and of pointless violence, and if you don't want to pay attention to any of that you can just watch the amazing chorus do impossible dances and the remarkable leads hit impossible notes.<br> <br> My only quibble with this production is its decision to take some of the lyrics and translate them into Spanish. I understand that it's more "realistic" to have Puerto Ricans talk and sing in Spanish when they're among themselves, but realism is hardly the point in musical theater. In this version, there's too much Spanish for Anglophones and not nearly enough for Spanish-speakers, so the translation seems like a pointless exercise in phony inclusiveness. And it deprives us of wonderful lyrics (by another talented guy, Stephen Sondheim) like, "It must be the heat, or some rare disease, or too much to eat--or maybe it's fleas." A perfect description of you, J.!</p><p><strong>JONATHAN:</strong> Lice, maybe. Fleas, never. OK, I like it and you like it, so what are you hockin' me about? The Spanish thing was put into action by Arthur Laurents, the fourth important set of hands in creating <i>West Side Story</i> (along with Bernstein, Robbins and Sondheim), who wrote the original and revised books of the show and directed this Broadway revival, and who died&nbsp;in May&nbsp;at the age of 92.&nbsp;Laurents thought&nbsp;the Spanish thing&nbsp;was a good idea, and Sondheim agreed. Sondheim was 27 years old when the show opened, and he still believed in love: "Tonight, tonight! It all began tonight. I saw you and the world went away."</p><p>All right, this&nbsp;production ain't gonna' win no awards for scenic design, basically using the 400 year old concept of a wing-and-drop set, but it doesn't matter when the show's&nbsp;aggressively handsome cast begins to sing and dance.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-22/westside2.jpg" style="width: 350px; height: 225px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; " title=""><strong>KELLY:</strong> Actually, I thought the scenic design was quite striking, particularly at the start of the rumble when the West Side Highway came down at the same moment as a fence came up, trapping the gangs in the tragic moment. But you're right (for a change)--the strength of the show is in its cast. I've always been impressed by the forethought of <em>West Side Story</em>'s creators--rather than ask the impossible, they wrote two roles for singers (Tony and Maria) and two roles for dancers (Anita and Riff). In this case, as in the original Broadway production and in the film (Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno, anyone?), we get a superlative singer as well as dancer in Anita, played by Michelle Aravana. The others are fine--Kyle Harris as Tony is in particularly strong voice--but Aravana makes the show. She manages to avoid all the cliches about Latin spitfires while still being as mouthy and funny and in-your-face as the part requires.</p><p><strong>JONATHAN:</strong> I had a problem with how Tony and Maria interpreted their roles musically, especially Tony, and I think it may be the fault of music director John O'Neill. This isn't the conductor, but the higher-up who coaches and shapes the musical performances in rehearsals. He has&nbsp;them singing much too much of the time <i>sotto voce</i>, in a whisper, especially Kyle Harris as Tony. While appropriate for certain moments and phrases, Tony also needs to belt the high notes at least SOME of the time. If he doesn't have the chops to sing both high and loud, he shouldn't be in the role. And Harris is so ingratiating that I'd prefer to think it's the way he was coached. Even so, I'll take this <i>West Side Story</i> over any other I've seen, including the Broadway run of this very production, which I saw two years ago.</p><p><strong>KELLY:</strong> I suspect the only real problem is your unfamiliarity with the concept of speaking softly! And my concern is equally trivial: Joseph J. Simeone looks so young as Riff that he makes Tony look almost too old--particularly when faced with Ali Ewoldt's Maria, who looks about 14. This disturbed me til I remembered that Juliet was only 14 herself.</p><p>But my bottom line is the same as yours: see this show.&nbsp;<i>West Side Story</i> runs Tuesdays through Sundays through August 14 at the Cadillac Palace, 151 West Randolph. Tickets start at $32 and run past $95; so far they're not on Hot Tix but hope springs eternal, so keep checking.</p></p> Fri, 22 Jul 2011 15:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-22/dueling-critics-rumble-over-west-side-story-89514 Biggest Chicago theater disappointments of 2010 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/%EF%BB%BFonstagebackstage-biggest-chicago-theater-disappointments-2010 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//brother sister.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="332" width="500" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-16/brother sister.jpg" alt="" /></p><p>1. &quot;The Brother/Sister Plays&quot; at <a href="http://www.steppenwolf.org/">Steppenwolf.</a> This trilogy was supposed to be the unveiling of a major new talent addressing the African-American experience, and instead it turned out to be a single excellent one-act flanked by one that was mediocre and another that was out-and-out poor. (&quot;Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet,&quot; seemed virtually pointless.) Tarell Alvin McCraney may be a big deal but we have yet to see it except in &quot;The Brothers Size,&quot; which also had the unfair advantage of starring K. Todd Freeman, who just gets better and better.</p><p>2. &quot;Candide&quot; at <a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/">the Goodman</a>. When Leonard Bernstein, Voltaire and Lillian Hellman (to name only a few) meet Mary Zimmerman, what could possibly be bad? In this case, the answer is &ldquo;this musical,&rdquo; and actually it shouldn&rsquo;t have been a surprise: when that many people have had to take a crack at a piece, there&rsquo;s most likely something fundamentally wrong. In the case of &quot;Candide,&quot; what&rsquo;s wrong is that a very time-and-place-specific satire doesn&rsquo;t transfer well from 18th Century France to 2st Century America; and that even if it did the satire wouldn&rsquo;t be well-served by music; and that even if it would this particular group of songs wouldn&rsquo;t be worth listening to. &ldquo;What a day, what a day, for an auto-da-fe&rdquo; is supposed to be daring and witty, but to me it&rsquo;s just reaching, and failing to grasp. And no amount of Zimmerman-style reinvention, or the brutally hard work of the cast, could fix that.</p><p>3. &quot;Krapp&rsquo;s Last Tape&quot; at <a href="http://www.goodmantheatre.org/">the Goodman</a>. Brian Dennehy did an extraordinary job in the companion piece, &quot;Hughie,&quot; which turned out to be pure distillate of O&rsquo;Neill&mdash;every one of his themes and characters embodied by two actors in one act. But even Dennehy&rsquo;s thoughtful munching on a series of bananas, and the lively work of the signer for the hearing-impaired, couldn&rsquo;t conceal that &quot;Krapp&rsquo;s Last Tape&quot; is less distillate of Beckett than the dregs. The play is historically significant but that doesn&rsquo;t mean it needs to be inflicted on audiences.</p><p>4. &quot;101 Dalmatians&quot; at <a href="http://www.broadwayinchicago.com/">Broadway in Chicago</a>. How do you take a well-nigh perfect cartoon musical and ruin it? By promising real dogs on the stage and then using people in spotted dog suits to portray the actual characters. Of course, what else could they do? Dogs can&rsquo;t actually talk. But the result was that the pooches&rsquo; red-carpet arrival, and their program bios identifying most of them as rescue dogs, were more engaging than the goings-on onstage. I felt ripped off, and I saw it for free. Imagine what parents who&rsquo;d paid big bucks for the privilege were thinking as they watched a canine/human collective laying an egg.</p><p>5. &quot;The Comedy of Errors&quot; at <a href="http://www.courttheatre.org/">Court Theatre</a>. Sean Graney is known for bringing a fresh approach to familiar works, and it&rsquo;s hard to imagine a work needing a freshness more than &quot;The Comedy of Errors,&quot; Shakespeare&rsquo;s first and least sophisticated play. But it&rsquo;s still Shakespeare, and therefore most likely still worth doing with at least some of its text intact. Apparently, though, Graney didn&rsquo;t agree, because every second of his gimmicky rendition felt like the work of someone who thinks the play is worthless&mdash;in which case, why direct it at all? The device of having each set of twins played by one person wasn&rsquo;t enough to sustain the evening, even an evening that&rsquo;s only 70 minutes long, and it drew attention away from the stage to the wings, where presumably impossible feats of costumery were taking place. In fact, the best part of the production was that it acknowledged its costume run crew in the curtain call.</p><p>'The Brothers/Sister Plays' rehearsal photo of ensemble member Alana Arenas with Jacqueline Williams. (photo courtesy of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company/Mark Campbell)<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 16 Dec 2010 19:59:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/%EF%BB%BFonstagebackstage-biggest-chicago-theater-disappointments-2010