Thursday, June 29, 2017

Q Brothers' I HEART JULIET Sold Out for the Summer at Illinois Shakes Fest

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival is reporting that I Heart Juliet, the Q Brothers' hip-hop version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet set to play 11 performances this summer as part of the Festival season, is completely sold out.

Westhoff is a smaller venue than the stage at Ewing Manor, so it's not surprising it would sell out even if the other shows in this summer's season -- A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Amazing Cymbeline -- still have tickets available. No word on how many seats are still open, however, so it's probably best to get your tickets secured now. Keep in mind that season tickets are out, since I Heart Juliet is full, so you will be looking for single tickets to the other two.

A waiting list has been started in case they get any cancellations or additional performances are added to accommodate the interest. You may reach the Festival box office at 309-438-2535 to be added to the waiting list or to ask about Midsummer and Cymbeline tickets. You may also visit the Illinois Shakespeare Festival website for updates and to browse your performance options.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Your Chance to Catch FALSETTOS on Screen in Bloomington July 12, 15 and 16

The recent Broadway revival of Falsettos -- the William Finn and James Lapine musical about a gay Jewish man named Marvin, his ex-wife, his son, his new lover, his psychiatrist (who is smitten with Marvin's ex) and the two lesbians next door -- ended its run at the Walter Kerr Theatre on January 8.

To share the Falsettos joy with those who didn't get to see it in New York, Live from Lincoln Center and Lincoln Center Theater are bringing a filmed version of the show to cinemas nationwide starting July 12.

That means we can all share the Falsettos experience, as Marvin falls in love with Whizzer, his new boyfriend, his son Jason prepares for a bar mitzvah, and ex-wife Trina tries to navigate this new world, with some funny stuff and some very sad stuff, offering a portrait of some of the highs and the lowest lows imaginable for gay men in 1979, when it's set. The 1992 Broadway production won Tony Awards for its score and book, with five more nominations, and the recent revival was nominated for five more, including nominations for its Marvin (Christian Borle), Trina (Stephanie J. Block), Whizzer (Andrew Rannells) and psychiatrist Mendel (Brandon Uranowitz).

We have two options to experience Falsettos in Bloomington, with New Vision Ovation Cinema Grill off Towanda-Barnes Road and Wehrenberg Galaxy 14 on Wylie Drive both offering screenings. Falsettos shows up on the Ovation screen on July 12, 15 and 16 and at Galaxy 14 on July 12 and 16.

For more details or to get your tickets now, or if you are looking for showings in other places than Bloomington-Normal, you can visit this Falsettos page at Screen Vision.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Family Drama, Musicals and More at Community Players in 2017-18

Ready or not, it's time to think about fall seasons at area theaters. Community Players announced their 2017-18 season earlier this month, with season tickets now available. What's up at Players as we move into fall?

Arthur Miller's complex family drama, All My Sons, opens September 1, with performances through the 10th. Bruce Parrish will direct this "gripping classic by a master playwright," which "explores the father son dynamic and the corruption of the American Dream." Miller took the idea for the play from a newspaper account about a World War II scandal involving defective aircraft engines used in military planes. In the play, which is set in 1947, we meet Joe Keller, who was accused of selling a flawed part for aircraft engines that resulted in the death of 21 pilots. He was cleared, but that isn't the whole story. His wife Kate is in denial, both about Joe's part in the scandal and about her son Larry, who has been missing in action for several years. Younger son Chris also went off to war, but he has returned, and his realization that his father is not the man he thought he was forms the central conflict in the play. Parrish will hold auditions for All My Sons on July 17 and 18. You can see details on characters and casting here.

The November choice is the musical Sister Act, based on the 1992 movie with Whoopi Goldberg as a wannabe diva who goes on the lam -- hiding in a convent -- after she witnesses a crime. She is a force to be reckoned with in the confines of the convent, but her musical talent gives her a chance to bond with the sisters. Marcia Weiss will direct this one, with auditions in September and performances November 2 to 19. Alan Menken wrote the music for the Broadway musical version of Sister Act, with lyrics by Glenn Slater and book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner.

If you need to lighten up your January, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), may be just the ticket. This funny, fast and furious race through the works of Shakespeare, with the history plays as a football game and Hamlet in 30 seconds (and then in 30 seconds backwards), has been very popular since the three men (Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield) who created the Reduced Shakespeare Company and launched The Complete Works at Edinburgh's Festival Fringe in 1987. Look for auditions for this three-person (usually three-man) show in November and performances January 11 to 21, 2018. Brett Cottone will helm the Reduced Shakespeare madness for Community Players.

After that, it's Into the Woods, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's fractured fairytale musical that offers a different look at the magical obstacles facing Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (the one with the beanstalk), a childless Baker and his Wife, a pair of charming Princes, and a Witch who has a thing about her garden. Into the Woods premiered on Broadway in September 1987, with a well-received revival in 2002. Those two productions earned a total of 20 Tony nominations; the show was named Best Revival along with awards for its score, book and lighting design, and best actress Joanna Gleason, who played the Baker's Wife in the original production. Into the Woods will be on stage at Players from March 8 to 25, under the direction of Sally Parry.

Then we're back to scalding family drama -- with some very black comedy at its heart -- in the form of Tracy Letts' blistering August: Osage County, focusing on the messed-up members of the Weston family. Entertainment Weekly called it "Southern-fried familial dysfunction" and that's as good a description as any. August: Osage County premiered at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater in 2007, followed by a Broadway run that earned five Tony Awards, incouding Best Play. It also won a Pulitzer Prize for Letts. August takes the stage from May 8 to 14, 2018, directed by John D. Poling.

The season finishes up with family-friendly Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the perennial favorite from Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice that tells the Biblical story of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, who can read dreams to predict the future. His 11 brothers are not happy about their dad's favoritism, spurring a nasty plan that sends Joseph into Egypt as a slave. He may start out with nothing, but he ends up interpreting dreams for the Pharaoh and rising to power and influence before once again coming face to face with his brothers. Aimee Kerber will direct this pop-rock musical in performance from July 5 to 22, 2018.

Season tickets are now available, either by downloading the order form at the top of this page or this page. For more information, you can try the box office at 309-663-2121 or email

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Young at Heartland Takes the Spotlight June 23 and 28

It's always a hot ticket when the Young at Heartland troupe of senior actors perform. Every summer, they take the stage at Heartland Theatre for two showcases that highlight their acting and writing talents.

Young at Heartland's actors, all over 55, will perform at Heartland Theatre on Friday June 23 at 1 pm and Wednesday June 28 at 7:30 pm. There are no reservations and no set price; they simply ask for a donation at the door. And yes, it's a popular event, so you are warned to get there early -- at least 20 minutes before curtain, when the doors open -- if you want a good seat.

No word on what they'll be performing in this year's program, which represents the culmination of a two-month acting workshop led by veteran director Sandra Zielinski, but I can see what looks like chefs, clowns, firefighters, a matador, a bunch of Wizard of Oz characters, and a bevy of fans and fanatics in this year's photo. (Click on the image above to see a larger copy.) The scenes and short plays these actors perform were all written just for them by current and former YAH colleagues.

Young at Heartland was founded by Ann B. White and continues under her leadership, with two semesters of workshops and performances each year. Ann is the one holding her pom pom high (fourth from the left) in the photo above. She was recently named one of eight area "Women of Distinction" by the YWCA of McLean County for her stellar work with Young at Heartland.

For more information on Young at Heartland, click here. You can also see their entire schedule of area performances here.

Monday, June 19, 2017

IWU School of Theatre Arts Announces Mainstage Choices for 2017-18

Illinois Wesleyan University's School of Theatre Arts has announced via Facebook what will be on stage for the mainstage part of their 2017-18 season. No dates yet and the official IWU Theatre page is still showing last year's schedule, but at least we know what we'll seeing if not exactly when. I'm guessing checking back on that page periodically should yield a schedule at some point.

If the order of the photos indicated the order of the shows, first up will be Dancing at Lughnasa, Brian Friel's wistful, haunting memory play set in County Donegal in Ireland in 1936.  The Lughnasa in Dancing at Lughnasa refers to the August harvest festival. The five Mundy sisters are struggling to get by, from the eldest, Kate, a tightly wound schoolteacher, to Christina, the youngest, who has a child but no husband or other means of support. Their lives only get more difficult when their older brother, who'd been a Catholic missionary and chaplain in Africa, returns for unspecified reasons, but has trouble mentally balancing the world he left behind and the one he's reentered. Christina's son Michael is the narrator of the play, standing in for Friel. He appears as an adult to step back into the action of his childhood. Dancing at Lughnasa was first produced at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, thereafter transferring to London, where it won the Olivier Award for Best Play in 1991. On Broadway, it also took the Tony for Best Play, along with awards for director Patrick Mason and Best Featured Actress in a Play for Brid Brennan, who played Agnes, the shy, tentative sister somewhat overshadowed in the middle of the family, in its Dublin, West End and Broadway productions.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1949 musical South Pacific comes next in the picture scroll. Everybody knows "Some Enchanted Evening," "Bali Hai" and "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair," right? Based on James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, this South Pacific features music by Rodgers, lyrics by Hammerstein and book by Joshua Logan, telling the stories of Americans stationed on islands in the Pacific. There's Navy nurse Nellie Forbush, who faces her own prejudices when she falls in love with a French plantation owner named Emile de Becque who has mixed-race children; a squadron of rowdy Seabees led by Luther Bills; and Lieutenant Cable, a forthright young officer in the midst of dangerous missions and a love affair with a native woman. As a child, I remember thinking Nellie was an idiot for her bigotry against two kids who were half-Polynesian, but that's the point of South Pacific, that our prejudices are not innate or logically justifiable but "carefully taught." The original Broadway production won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and piled up ten Tony Awards, including winning Best Musical along with awards for its book, score, director, producer and scenic design, and sweeping the acting categories, with wins for leads Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza, who played Nellie and Emile de Becque, and featured actors Myron McCormick, who played Billis, and Juanita Hall, who played Bloody Mary, the enterprising mother of Cable's beautiful love interest.

Next on the list in Eugene Ionesco's absurdist drama Rhinoceros, wherein the citizens of a French town inexplicably start turning into stampeding rhinoceroses. One by one, they sprout horns and hoofs, as a lone man, Berenger, tries to hold out against the onslaught. Rhinoceros was written in 1959 and is widely regarded as a cautionary tale about how mass movements like Fascism and Nazism can take over and turn people who were once reasonable human beings into fanatical monsters. In other words, it's perfect for our current international political landscape. Although actor/producer/director/mime Jean-Louis Barrault played Berenger in the original French production and Laurence Olivier took the role in London, it was Eli Wallach who made Berrenger (now with an extra R) his own on Broadway, with Zero Mostel as his intellectual friend John (originally Jean) who turned rhino in front of his eyes. In the showier role, Mostel was the one who won the Tony as Best Actor. In the 1973 film, Gene Wilder played a new version of Berenger called Stanley, with Mostel reprising his role.

In a real change of pace from the politically and personally provocative to just plain fun, the last show in IWU's mainstage season is the roller disco musical Xanadu, based on the 1980 film that starred Olivia Newton-John as a Greek muse. On Broadway, Kerry Butler took the Newton-John role, while Cheyenne Jackson played the man she's trying to inspire. Douglas Carter Beane spruced up the book from the film script, adding more mythology and a whole lot of parody to send up the campy movie. Along with the roller skates, songs from the movie like the title song and "All Over the World" came with it from screen to stage, with added hits like "Have You Never Been Mellow?" and ELO's "Strange Magic." Click here to see Jackson, Butler and the rest of the cast perform "Don't Walk Away" on the Tonys.

In case you're wondering, it was Kelli O'Hara who was nominated but did not win the Tony for the 2010 revival of South Pacific, whose poster image you see up top, while Kerry Butler -- the blonde in the poster just above -- was nominated but did not win for Xanadu in 2008.

Watch this space for more details on all these shows as dates are added. Check here for IWU's Laboratory Theatre schedule once that's added.

Monday, June 12, 2017

DEAR EVAN HANSEN Wins Big at Lackluster Tony Awards

After last year's Hamilton-a-palooza, I suppose any Tony Awards ceremony would've been a let-down. But this year... Yeah, it was really a let-down. Most of that stemmed from host Kevin Spacey, who seemed more interested in showcasing himself than the various winners and nominees. One more impression and I was going to throw something. Do the people who are in love with Dear Evan Hansen even know who Johnny Carson is?

Don't get me wrong. There were a couple of fun performances -- Bandstand and Natasha, Pierre et al. looked like fun and had a lot of energy -- and some more-than-worthy wins, like the marvelous Gavin Creel for the revival of Hello, Dolly! and Illinois' own Laurie Metcalf for A Doll's House Part 2. I was also happy to see Kevin Kline win his third Tony, with this one 36 years after his last. In case you're wondering, he last won as the lead actor in a musical for The Pirates of Penance back in 1981 and before that, as a featured actor in a musical for On the Twentieth Century in 1978. All he needs is featured actor in a play, and he will have the acting categories covered.

I also loved that the authors of nominated plays got the spotlight to introduce their own plays instead of dragging out some unrelated hockey player or Hollywood star. Playwrights Lynn Nottage and Paula Vogel should've been on Broadway well before this, so let's applaud the fact that we got to see them on the Tony stage if only to introduce their plays. More of that, please!

On the downside, it's a travesty that James Earl Jones received his Special Tony for Lifetime Achievement during a commercial, along with sound designers Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, who received a special Tony for their work on The Encounter, the folks from Regional Tony winner Dallas Theater Center, and Isabelle Stevenson humanitarian award winner Baayork Lee. I'd rather see any and all of them ten times over than Kevin Spacey's impressions or the Rockettes.

Here are your nominees, with winners in bold and listed first:

Dear Evan Hansen
Come From Away
Groundhog Day
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Oslo by J.T. Rogers
A Doll’s House, Part 2 by Lucas Hnath
Indecent by Paula Vogel
Sweat by Lynn Nottage

Hello, Dolly!
Miss Saigon 

Jitney by August Wilson  
The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman
Present Laughter by Noel Coward
Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare

Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly! 
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day

Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly! 
DenĂ©e Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 
Christine Ebersole, War Paint 
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon 

Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen 
Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 
Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos 

Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen 
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly! 
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos 
Jenn Colella, Come From Away 
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

Kevin Kline, Present Laughter 
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Chris Cooper, A Doll’s House, Part 2 
Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
Jefferson Mays, Oslo

Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2 
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
Laura Linney, The Little Foxes

Michael Aronov, Oslo 
Danny DeVito, The Price 
Nathan Lane, The Front Page
Richard Thomas, The Little Foxes
John Douglas Thompson, Jitney 

Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes 
Johanna Day, Sweat 
Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll's House, Part 2
Condola Rashad, A Doll's House, Part 2
Michelle Wilson, Sweat

Christopher Ashley, Come From Away 
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 
Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen 
Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day 
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly! 

Rebecca Taichman, Indecent 
Sam Gold, A Doll's House, Part 2 
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes

Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly! 
Linda Cho, Anastasia
Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Catherine Zuber, War Paint 

Jane Greenwood, The Little Foxes
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
Toni-Leslie James, Jitney
David Zinn, A Doll's House, Part 2

Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Rob Howell, Groundhog Day
David Korins, War Paint
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!

Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
David Gallo, Jitney
Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
Michael Yeargan, Oslo

Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Howell Binkley, Come From Away
Natasha Katz, Hello, Dolly!
Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen

Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
Jane Cox, Jitney
Donald Holder, Oslo
Jennifer Tipton, A Doll's House, Part 2

Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen
David Hein and Irene Sankoff, Come From Away
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Tim Minchin, Groundhog Day 

Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen  
David Hein and Irene Sankoff, Come From Away
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Danny Rubin, Groundhog Day 

Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand 
Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day 
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn
Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 

Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen 
Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand 
Larry Hochman, Hello, Dolly!
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

And that's all she wrote for the Tony Awards of 2017. Let's hope that's also all she wrote for Kevin Spacey as a Tony host.