WBEZ | Off-Loop http://www.wbez.org/tags/loop-0 Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Jessie Mueller scores in B'way debut; local troupes move north http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-13/jessie-mueller-scores-bway-debut-local-troupes-move-north-94858 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-13/AP111211064956.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-13/AP111211064956.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 266px; height: 400px; " title="Mueller on opening night. (AP/Charles Sykes)">“It’s an ill wind that blows no one good,” goes the old proverb. While the breezes were rather chilly concerning the Broadway revival of <em>On A Clear Day You Can See Forever</em>, they shifted to southerly and warm for Jessie Mueller, the Chicagoan making her Broadway debut in the show. That’s another way of saying the critics generally panned the show, but had only praise for Mueller, in what appears to be a star-making role for her.</p><p>The odd 1965 musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane—about past-life regression, hypnosis and reincarnation—opened Sunday (December 11) at the St. James Theatre on the Great White Way to mixed-to-negative reviews for the total show and definitely negative notices for star Harry Connick, Jr. (stiff, wooden and uncomfortable, they said). However, Mueller was singled out as a ray of sunshine in the leading female role, a 1940’s singer named Melinda.</p><p>“Mueller combines period vocal technique with natural, uninflected charisma and an on-stage relaxation not often seen outside of Chi-town,” <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/12/theater-review-on-a-clear-day.html">said <em>New York Magazine</em>&nbsp;reviwer Scott Brown</a>. “Her voice contains notes of Garland, but she’s no diva—this is a star of supreme self-possession, one who doesn’t need to blind us to impress us.”</p><p>In <a href="http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117946735?refcatid=33&amp;printerfriendly=true"><em>Variety</em>, Steve Suskin wrote</a>, “The main items of interest in this misguided affair are the performances of the split-in-two heroine. Jessie Mueller, as the glamorous Melinda, is a find; the character has been transformed into a 1943 jazz singer, and Mueller handles this extremely well when given a chance . . . .”</p><p>In the influential <a href="http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/on-a-clear-day-reincarnated-nicely-1.3382599"><em>Newsday</em>, Linda Winer said</a>, “It helps credibility that Jessie Mueller . . . happens to be pretty irresistible, too. Mueller, a Chicago talent in her Broadway debut, has a forthright, confident rhythm that suggests a young Liza Minelli but a delicate, deliciously precise sound all her own.”</p><p>Even Ben Brantley, in the all-powerful<em> <a href="http://theater.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/theater/reviews/on-a-clear-day-you-can-see-forever-at-st-james-review.html?hpw">New York Times</a></em><a href="http://theater.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/theater/reviews/on-a-clear-day-you-can-see-forever-at-st-james-review.html?hpw">, said that</a> “Ms. Mueller, who has a fetching affinity for swing-era song stylings, comes off better. (Her version of ‘Ev’ry Night at Seven’ . . . is the show’s high point.)”</p><p>If the show runs for even a few months, perhaps limping into the spring on the strength of Harry Connick, Jr.’s drawing power and a few mixed-to-positive reviews, Jessie Mueller might find herself with a Tony Award nomination in her Broadway debut; but the shorter the run the less likely that will be. Whatever the fate of the show, however, Mueller comes out smelling like a rose in what the industry likes to call “a break-out performance.” The big and bright future for Ms. Mueller, predicted long-ago here in Chicago, certainly is upon her.</p><p><strong>I can’t name names just yet</strong>, but look for an announcement early in the new year about a major move by a stalwart Off-Loop theater company. The North Side troupe has had landlord problems for a long time, despite nearly 20 years of residency in its current location. Fortunately, the company has identified a larger, better venue in the same extended neighborhood and will be making the move official shortly after January 1. The troupe expects to open a show in the new space in mid-winter.</p><p>Teatro Luna, the 10-year old collective of Latina writers and performers, also is making a North Side move. The company has been without a permanent home since giving up its Pilsen storefront at least five years ago. As an itinerant company, they’ve played venues in Little Village and The Loop as well as several on the North Side. Now the company has signed a five-year lease for the Live Bait space at 3912 N. Clark Street, previously occupied by The Artistic Home (and, of course, Live Bait before that). The double storefront space has two theaters, which will give Teatro Luna opportunities to sublet one or both theaters when they aren’t producing themselves. The current Teatro Luna show, <em>Crossed</em>, is playing at The Viaduct through Dec. 18. The</p></p> Tue, 13 Dec 2011 16:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-13/jessie-mueller-scores-bway-debut-local-troupes-move-north-94858 Lacey Holmes new Stage Left managing director http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-15/lacey-holmes-new-stage-left-managing-director-89223 <p><p><strong>Stage Left Theatre</strong>, which begins its 30th anniversary season in August, has named <strong>Lacey Holmes</strong> as managing director, effective Monday (July 18). She succeeds Laura Blegen who is leaving after three years at Stage Left to pursue an MBA at The University of Wisconsin at Madison.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Holmes’ experience and education make her eminently suitable to head the business side of an established Off-Loop troupe such as Stage Left. Her resume includes positions at Broadway In Chicago, Theater on the Lake, Writers' Theatre and Steppenwolf Theater where she worked in the Audience Services department. She also worked for two years as a contract associate at Actors Equity Association. Holmes has a bachelor's degree in theater arts from Alfred University (New York) and an master's degree in arts management from Columbia College Chicago.</p><p>The socially progressive Stage Left was founded in 1982 by Debra Rodkin, Michael Troccoli, Randy Burgess and Ann Fournier. Vance Smith is the current artistic director. The troupe produces its shows at Theater Wit and will open its 30th season Aug. 8-Oct. 9 with the Chicago premiere of Beau Willimon's very contemporary political drama, <em>Farragut North</em>.</p></p> Fri, 15 Jul 2011 19:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-15/lacey-holmes-new-stage-left-managing-director-89223 Chicago theater loses Off-Loop pioneer Patricia Hart http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-10/chicago-theater-loses-loop-pioneer-patricia-hart-85001 <p><p>One of the pioneers of Chicago Off-Loop Theater, costume designer Patricia Hart, died at dawn Sunday morning (April 10) after a two-year on-and-off battle with brain cancer. She was 64.</p><p>Hart was born in St. Louis and eventually migrated to Chicago to take a degree at the old Goodman School of Drama at the Art Institute of Chicago. Graduating in 1969, she immersed herself in the then-brand-new Off-Loop Movement which was centered on Lincoln Avenue at the Body Politic and the Kingston Mines Theatre Company. In the late 1960's and throughout the 1970's, Pat Hart and her husband, actor and sound designer Larry Hart, were the "go-to" couple for costumes, poster designs and sound effects, especially for our town's growing number of budget-squeezed theater troupes in storefronts and old warehouses. In those years, Hart designed costumes for Pary Productions, Chicago Theater Strategy, the Performance Community and Chicago Repertory Company among others.</p><p>As with so many of us who started out in alternative theater in the late 1960's, Patricia Hart eventually morphed into an Establishment designer, growing up with the Off-Loop theater industry (vs. the early "movement") to design costumes for multiple productions at the Next, Victory Gardens, Touchstone, Lifeline and New Tuners theaters among others in Chicago, and for theaters and dance companies across the country. In the late 1970's she began designing for local TV ("The Magic Door") and then a few years later was selected by film director John McNaughton to design costumes for "Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer." Thereafter, Hart enjoyed a steady flow of film and TV work. For the last 10 years Hart also has taught theater and film design at the School of the Art Institute.</p><p>For 20 years Hart also was engaged in a unique photo-journalism project, documenting the lives--and the personalities--of gorillas at Lincoln Park Zoo, notably Jojo and Makari with whom she established bonds of recognition and affection. Her work with the gorillas is recorded in the short documentary film “Capture," produced by Harriet Spizziri (a co-founder of the Next Theatre Company). The film has proved to be an audience favorite at international film festivals in San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.</p><p>Patricia Hart is survived by her husband of 43 years, Larry, their son Michael (of Arlington, VA) and by her mother and two brothers. A memorial tribute is in the works for late April or May, to be hosted by Spizziri.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Sun, 10 Apr 2011 23:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-04-10/chicago-theater-loses-loop-pioneer-patricia-hart-85001