Bullets Over Broadway

Sometimes you go to the theater and leave changed by what you just witnessed. Thinking about life differently and all that. Other times you just want to be entertained. And that is exactly what the touring production Bullets Over Broadway at the newly named PrivateBank Theatre did for me last night.

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I was amazed at the choreography and always enjoy tap dancing (especially if it’s a group of mobsters!). Laughter was constant throughout the entire show. And who doesn’t love jokes filled to the brim with sexual innuendos?

The male lead David Shayne, played by Michael Williams, was a mix between NPH, Matthew Morrison, and Gene Kelly. So nothing wrong with that! Very entertaining with great facial expressions. Jemma Jane, who played Olive, did the dumb blonde act perfectly well for someone fresh out of AMDA. My favorite was Cheech played by Jeff Brooks, who played the tough guy gangster who could amazingly write a play that people loved. His character is supposed to be unlikable by nature but instead ends up being a crowd favorite. For a guy that played Gaston in the Beauty and the Beast tour, he plays a goofy “bad guy” perfectly.

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The bad of this show? The jokes sometimes fell flat. Also the set handling. Oh my lord the set handling. You could see the screen said “Bullets Over Broadway” before the fake machine gun fired the “holes” into the backdrop. Not cute. There was one moment for over a minute a brick wall was swaying back and forth. And then the top portion of the Boston “set” couldn’t decide if it wanted to be up or down (or the person operating it couldn’t). It was very much amateur hour up there in terms of the stage handling. Also, the intermission kept going and going after everyone was seated for a good 5 minutes. I didn’t think to clock it but it was a “are we going to start soon” and “why on earth did I leave the bar line 15 minutes ago when they flashed the lights” muttering among the crowd.

Also, can someone tell me what on earth the “Yes! We Have No Bananas” was suppose to be about? I got completely lost after that. And my wife had no clue either.

The staging was sometimes larger than life with the train sequences. The tap-dancing was on point. The extended ovation for “Tain’t Nobody’s Biz-ness If I Do” was well deserved and the highlight of the show. The laughs throughout the theatre were tremendous (side note: there was a gentleman with a laugh SO LOUD he kept scaring everyone around him. Often.). And in the end we learn what matters when it comes to art vs. a human life (or love!). Congrats on another hit and I would love to see the movie if Amazon/Netflix can ever make it available!

And just think…the next show I’ll see here will be Hamilton!  All the squees!

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Matilda the Musical

When I was a kid, we didn’t have much money, but one thing I always got if I asked for it was new books. I grew up watching Sesame Street and learning to read before I was 5 years old. So needless to say when I was younger and read Matilda I found a kid I could identify with (except the parents being awful to her that is!).

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I’ve entertained going to Matilda the Musical a few times, and then a partnership with work aligned this so I could go opening night here in Chicago. And I was absolutely blown away and this went beyond my expectations.  Sometimes with traveling shows, the production value can drop – some a bit and some a lot (yikes Mamma Mia!). This one? Based on the photos, reviews, a clips I’ve seen, this was the exact show that is currently on the West End.

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Matilda is an amazing story about a very special child. One who is not appreciated by her parents and treated terribly. School would seemingly be her escape, except that the headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is even more vile. Matilda finds that she can be herself around her teacher, Miss Honey, and the two immediately form a bond.

The musical stays true to the original material and is more magical than I ever would have expected. It is one thing to watch the movie, because through the power of movies, you can show a little girl being thrown around by her pigtails. But the fact that they even did this in the stage production thrilled me. I just assumed they would mention that Miss Trunchbull did such a horrid thing to a student!

The musical numbers get stuck in your head for weeks, trust me. “Naughty” reminds you that sometimes a person needs a bit of mischief. “Revolting Children” makes you want to cheer for the kids as they are indeed, revolting against Trunchbull! But the song that sticks out the most for me is “When I Grow Up” and I can only imagine that is because it speaks not only to the children but to the adults as well. Before seeing the show, I read the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones’ love for this exact song and thought it sounded great already. But seeing it on stage is an amazing feeling. Adding the swing sets from the rafters creating the illusion that the children are flying over the audience made me smile ear-to-ear.

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A song about kids wanting to be adults. What could be more fun? But then the mood changes drastically. Now it’s about the adults losing their childhood. There’s no happy medium apparently. A very real conversation we adults have with each other every day.

Which I believe added to my love for this musical. Not only did I identify with Matilda as a child, but now that I’m older I think I still do. And I’m thankful for that because I never lost a lot of my childlike qualities. I find joy in everything, I attempt to have as much fun as possible (even if there are chores to be done – they’ll get done! Don’t pass up enjoying life!), and my wife and I tend to live our lives just like this. Also, I still read like a fiend and the library is my best friend (Chicago Public Library is seriously amazing!).

It’s always interesting to me to see if a muscial really GOT to me or not. And the fact that I saw it a couple weeks ago and it’s still in my head says it did. Particularly the chorus of “Naughty”.

Just because you find that life’s not fair, it
Doesn’t mean that you just have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it,
Nothing will change.
Even if you’re little you can do a lot, you
Mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you.
If you sit around and let them get on top, you
Might as well be saying you think that it’s OK,
And that’s not right.

My office mate, who attended the show with me, and I both came in the next day to work talking about that particular line. If you’re unhappy, change what’s making you that way. You don’t have to take it. And that resonated with the both of us.

If Matilda the Musical comes through your city, don’t pass it up because it’s a “kids show”.  It’s really so much more than that. You’ll find yourself in there, I promise.

ALL the tickets!

Yesterday was new subscriber package purchasing day. Which we all know was about to be my favorite day of the year. I was on my phone at 9:58 ready to sit on hold with Broadway in Chicago.

Yesterday I WERKED

The only thing was that there was no queue – you had to keep calling back! Eek. But LUCKILY the musical gods showed me the love and on call #4 a lovely lady by the name of Frankie picked up and I tried not to squeal like a teenager.

And then again my hopes were dashed when I discovered I was just giving my information to a person, not really for certain getting subscriber tickets. I was so confused because in the past I sat on the phone with a person and we picked out my seats together (which is part of the fun of subscribing to theatre packages IMO!). I got off the phone deflated. The excitement was gone.

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BUT on the bus ride home I received a call from Kevin at BIC. Long story short I didn’t have to wait until April to get my golden ticket. My card was charged, my seats were selected (even got all aisle seats as requested), and a wonderful, beautiful email come through last night confirming my dates.  It’s official! So I clinked glasses with my wife and relaxed.

Out of excitement I put the photo below on my Instagram (which you should follow):

It was a strange way to process tickets in my opinion, but I’m also not on their side of things. Being at an institution with a blockbuster exhibition happening, where we get 400 phone calls a day at least, I can only image Broadway in Chicago’s situation.

I will say I wish there was a magical way to sort out the people that wanted to see ALL the shows and not just Hamilton! 😛 But ah well, I’m happy and got my first choice. So kudos to the BIC team and a shout out to their social media person for handling questions, particularly mine, on Twitter!

Now the waiting begins for these shows. Aladdin is over a YEAR away. *cries* But I’m sure it will be here before we know it.

My Blog Has Abandonment Issues

Whoa.  Way to abandon a blog for two years sweetie!  That said, though I never stopped going to the theatre it has lessened due to a pesky thing called grad school sadly.  What happened then you may ask?  Well, new job for one which I’ve been in for about a year. AND occasionally gives me #jobperks such as tickets. 

I LOVE TICKETS.

So I’m wanting to get this going again, and we will have LOTS to talk about in 2016.  

First and foremost: Broadway in Chicago’s 2016 Fall Season.  Oh hello.  I’m a subscriber again (or I will be on March 1st).  Yes, yes, Hamilton is on there BUT check out the rest of this line-up….

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What do all these productions have in common?  To the best of my knowledge, they’ve never been to Chicago. Not to mention I think they’re all relatively newer tours of shows. The whole reason I sadly left my perfectly picked out seats with BIC is the lack of rotation (or just plain dumb shows no one wanted to see).  But this? THIS is amazing and I could not be more excited. 

Hamilton – No-brainer. Can’t get NYC tickets? Next best thing!

Aladdin – Disney musicals are either really good or really not-so-good. This one that I’ve heard so much about though I can’t wait to see

Hedwig – Saw it with Neil Patrick Harris in NYC. AMAZING show. I can’t wait to hear who the traveling Hedwig is. The best 90 minutes in theater.

Curious Incident of the Dog – Loved the book when it first came out and I was a Borders employee. The cast recording sounds great so I’m excited.

Bodyguard – The only one I’m skeptical about but in the end, it should be fun with good music.

What else is upcoming?  Well so far we’re going to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) Semifinals.  That’s right.  Just like Pitch Perfect!

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Also, Matilda the Musical which I love that cast recording and am very much looking forward to that production.

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I’m sure there will be much, much more to come in 2016.  Anything else in the smaller theater world that you’re seeing and keep staring longingly at the tickets on the fridge, wishing the day would get here sooner??
  

Finally, we got to say "HELLO!"

If there has been one statement we’ve gotten a little tired of hearing it’s been “you guys haven’t seen Book of Mormon yet??”.  No, no we haven’t.  And for no particular reason really.  We had the money, we had the time since you had to buy the tickets about 6 months out, but we never got the motivation to just go buy them.  

Then one day Val’s sister, who I think has never seen a musical in her life, got free tickets to see it in St Louis.  Then it got to the point of “well if she’s seen it we have to go now!”.  And I’m glad we did since I had just discovered the news that it was leaving Chicago soon.  So I went to the box office and scored two balcony seats within the next month by not being too picky and Val and I would have to sit one behind the other (which actually, the people next to me never showed so the second half we got to sit together!)

Now, onto the actual show.  Elder Price is usually played by Nic Rouleau, but like most matinees, we got the understudy of Stephen Mark Lukas.  I don’t know of Rouleau and haven’t heard anything fantastic about him as the Elder, but Lukas was not fantastic.  It took him a few beats to find the pitch.  His voice didn’t make it through “I Believe”.  And he was just dull.  Now, that being said, having not seen Mormon before this could be how they all act (dull, not off pitch) but I could have cared less about the character.

So Elder Cunningham helps the show out.  That’s how it is?  The Elder Cunninghams in NYC and West End are usually the ones I hear about.  And now look at Josh Gad on TV!  In any case, this Cunningham was play by Ben Platt, who if you’re a music nerd like us, you’ll remember as the Star Wars nerd from the (amazingly funny) movie Pitch Perfect.  He played Cunningham as a bit mentally challenged it seemed.  He got a ton of laughs.  His voice, also not strong, but still better than Lukas’.  I think he did the character very well and it was nice to have someone that didn’t sound exactly like the original cast recording.  

Now, having been listening to the cast recording for about two years now, and knowing every single line, I was set up for disappointment.  But I wasn’t in the end.  It didn’t blow me away at all, but it was one of the most highly entertaining shows I’ve ever seen.  Seeing it finally in person was even funnier than listening to the recording or watching clips from the Tony Awards.  The set was really detailed for a touring show, the costumes are basic though.  One thing that we both enjoyed is that every character plays several minor characters in the show.  I can only imagine the costume changes going on backstage during those times!  

Though we weren’t impressed with Lucas, and I liked Platt while Val was meh about him, the one we both loved was the kid that played Elder McKinley, Pierce Cassedy.  He lit up the stage as the closeted gay Elder.  His singing was more decent than his cast mates.  And all around with his dancing and acting skills, he was a delight to watch.  Also, we want to now be BFF’s with him.  I thought about asking when passing him in the theater hall with his Broadway Cares bucket.  

I’m SO happy we finally saw this show. There is nothing like looking over on a Sunday at 2pm and seeing 70 year old people laughing at jokes about clits being cut off, maggots in scrotum  and AIDS.  It’s something I can’t imagine ever experiencing again.  It’s not a show you come out feeling renewed in humanity or found you learned a valuable lesson.  But in the end you laughed your ass off and it was worth it.  Don’t go for amazing singing – go to have fun.  Because I was crying several times and I know every word to the music in this show.  They did a great job bringing these interesting characters to light for sure!

No more Mormon in Chicago?

Man, talk about right timing.  So the rumors are going this week Book of Mormon is about to be done with it’s course here in Chicago.  THIS was a very well put together article in the Tribune today as to why they think so.  

I loved having Wicked in Chicago as a semi-permanent staple, but the really neat thing was hearing how many people knew someone actually in the show.  BoM is a touring show, so these people aren’t Chicago actors.  

So I breathe a sigh of relief knowing my tickets are hanging on the refrigerator and will finally see it in a week.  It was a great gift for Chicago to get the extended run.  I’m also almost relived we’re seeing it so we don’t get asked why haven’t we seen it yet??  I feel like I know the soundtrack so well already that I’m not going to LOVE it like I should but I have a bit of hope since I keep hearing how well Ben Platt is doing as the role of Elder Cunningham.  He did great on Pitch Perfect, so we shall see!  

But time for Book of Mormon to move on and something else to roll into the Bank of America theater!  



Been waiting since 2011…

….and in two weeks the day will finally be here.  We’re finally going to see Book of Mormon here in Chicago.  

Any theater ticket that has “Explicit Language” is okay by me
Marquee of Chicago’s Bank of America Theater

Almost every single person we know, whether they enjoy musicals or not, has seen this show, and the two who based their wedding on musicals because they love them so much?  Yeah, haven’t gotten around to it just yet.  I finally found a random matinee a month out that had two not-so-high balcony seats with one seat on the aisle and another single one behind it.  We don’t need to talk during the show, so that worked out just fine – and much cheaper than the inflated floor seats (NOT saying it’s not worth it though).  

Entrance to Book of Mormon Chicago


In any case, I have a fear that it won’t live up to my expectations.  And it might not.  It might be like Les Miserables and the two tries we’ve given it now.  But at least we’re fortunate enough to live in the next major city for Broadway theater and Book of Mormon decided to stay here for awhile instead of just a two week engagement.  

And it’s at my least favorite theater of course.  Groan.  But we shall persevere and say “Hello!” to Book of Mormon Chicago soon!