Theo Ubique’s A VERY MERRY MADRIGAL Is Traditionally Impaired

AVMM_02The holidays are here and with it all the music that we have grown to love (and tolerate).  It seems this musical tradition begins earlier and ealier each season, especially if your radio dial is turned to 93.9 FM whom I believe started playing their Christmas sections in July.  All this made me so thankful when I heard the title of Theo Ubique’s holiday offering A Very Merry Madrigal, which theoretically would entail an evening (or afternoon) of some classic choral pieces which would break us free from the ties that bind us commonplace mundane, oft repeated songs.

Needless to say, the show gets off to a grand and glorious sounding start, where the ensemble (who double as serving wenches) are pitch perfect in rarely heard traditional fare.  Tom Chiola instantly takes charge of this talented six person cast and his comic instincts are right at home in crowning the evening’s King and Queen.   As we are in the company of royalty, food and drink is served during the performance as it become a grand family affair that in which we all feel the joy of the season.

Then, for no apparent reason, director David Heimann takes the production way off track when all of sudden harmonies of the past are thrown out and modern day numbers are attempted to be woven into a medieval tapestry, with very mixed results.  Canadian muse Anne Murray’s 1970’s Snowbird (“snow” is the apparent through line here) is given a new treatment (the old one wasn’t that memorable anyway); while the show stopping number from the musical Promises, Promises “Turkey Lurkey Time”, is attempted to almost laughable results.   [Note to the world, “Turkey Lurkey Time” only works in context of the show proper and ONLY with Michael Bennett’s choreography, so do not try this at home].

Even with the show’s derailing, there are some very lovely vocal moments, especially with Andrew Sickel and Greg Foster whose voices meld seamlessly like Simon and Garfunkel in “Winter/The River”; while Molly Kral gives us a “Santa Baby” that even Eartha Kitt would be envious of.   All this is under musical director (and accompanist) Jeremy Ramey who proves himself again to be one of the best working in Chicago’s theatre scene.

Missteps aside,  A Very Merry Madrigal at its core reminds us how integral music is to our very being, albeit holiday or otherwise.   It is an hour spent with a talented cast who by the end, make you feel as welcome as if they were inviting you into their own home.  That is really what the holidays are about and in that aspect, they succeed.

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre’s A Very Merry Madrigal runs through December 22, 2013 at No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago.  For more information visit www.theo-u.com.  For calendar information visit www.TheatreInChicago.com