Chicago Tap Theatre Takes a Fairy Tale to the Dance Floor
Chicago Tap Theatre-Little Dead Riding Hood
May 29-June 14
The music-theater team of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice may have helped spawn the rock opera with such hits as Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar. But Chicago's own Mark Yonally seems to have singlehandedly created what he calls the tap opera. Subjects have ranged from David Bowie to comic-book superheroes. His company, Chicago Tap Theatre, will premiere its fourth full-length summer story show May 29 through June 14 at the Athenaeum Theatre. Its title, Little Dead Riding Hood, could have been slowly extracted from Wes Craven's twisted brain. But Yonally insists the show, which is suitable for all ages, finds humor in the darker side of fairytales.
That said, Little Dead Riding Hood has no ties to post-modern reinventions of these stories, like Into the Woods or Shrek. Nor is it a diatribe against Disney. Yonally and his versatile dancers and designers are really exploring the idea of changing one's prescribed destiny. A villainous Mother Goose, who serves as the Narrator, tries to control the characters' lives. To throw off the domineering hen, a mischievous Little Red Riding Hood tears out pages from Mother Goose's storybook. That allows, for instance, Cinderella's Step Sisters to land in Goldilocks' universe. These familiar figures are basically transformed by their own free will over the course of this two-act story, which is told through tap dance, pantomime and original music by Andrew Edwards.
At a recent rehearsal, the Wolf and Little Red Riding – following a scuffle – fell in love. And one of the Step Sisters clumsily hit on the Woodsman, who practically had to fend her off with his ax. The Woodsman, as it turns out, makes one of the most flamboyant transformations – from a macho protector to a gay hairdresser who dreams of opening his own salon. In his toolbelt, he carries a hairdryer and scissors and even gives the Step Sisters a makeover.
Costume designer Anna Glowacki cleverly deconstructs traditional fairytale costumes by piecing together vintage fabrics. The Snow Queen wears a corset resembling blocks of ice and has strips of lace snowflakes hanging from her gown. Mother Goose, a disheveled Victorian prude, sports bird nests in her hair. One of the Step Sisters has wide green petals for hips.
It's a small-scale tap-theater production with many Freudian twists.
Chicago Tap Theatre's Little Dead Riding Hood runs May 29 through June 14 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave.