World Premiere of Drury Lane’s “Hazel, A Musical Maid in America” – A Working Woman in a Non-Working Musical

Reviewed by: James Murray

Not Recommended

Over the many years I have been involved in the theatre I have had the misfortune to see world premiere musicals that bombed; Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, I Love Lucy, The Beverly Hillbillies and Gilligan’s Island. They all failed for much the same reasons; trite subject matter, thinly drawn plots and mediocre to horrendous scores. Therefore it was with trepidation that I went into Drury Lane’s world premiere of Hazel, A Musical Maid in America, based on the hit television series which ran from 1961-1966. Earning two Emmys for its star, the incomparable Shirley Booth. Born in 1961 I watched this show regularly and could relate, as we always had a maid with whom I spent much of my day with. Read more

Anachronistic Costume Design Mars Lyric’s Otherwise Fine ROMEO & JULIET

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Recommended

Reviewed by: James Murray

I must admit I was excited to see that Broadway director Bartlett Sher was brought in to the Lyric to take the reins of Gounod’s classic opera and Shakespearian tragedy Romeo & Juliet. Mr. Sher, whose 2008 stellar revival of Rogers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific brought him well deserved and tremendous acclaim, was nothing short of brilliant while remaining true to the original production’s concept. I have great admiration for Mr. Sher and feel that he is one of the finest Directors around. Read more

Lyric’s Der Rosenkavalier – Grand Opera at Its Finest

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Highly Recommended

Reviewed by: James Murray

For those who relish Viennese confections the Lyric Opera of Chicago has served up a gorgeous treat in Strauss’ and von Hofmannsthal’s and Der Rosenkavalier. From the sumptuous sets and costumes to the flawless casting and vocal chemistry among the performers Lyric is giving Chicago audiences what they want; one of the most glorious Strauss scores, a beautiful and poignant love story combined with grand sets and costumes, and singers in top-notch form with both the acting and vocal skills to pull it off in a world-class manner. Read more

A Dazzling GUYS & DOLLS at Light Opera Works in Evanston

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HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

REVIEWED BY: JAMES MURRAY

Frank Loesser penned what is considered by many the perfect musical, running 1200 performances and garnering the Tony Award for Best Musical for 1950. With a book by Joe Swerling and Abe Burrows and based on Damon Runyon’s stories of The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown and Blood Pressure it tells the story of Miss Sarah Brown, her quest to convert the evil people of New York’s low life, and her expectantly falling in love with one of New York’s most well-known gamblers, Sky Masterson, who pursues her in order to win a bet. In the course of the musical we meet Nathan Detroit, another gambler who has been engaged to the Hot Box songbird Miss Adelaide for 14 years but has refused to wed her. Read more

A World Class Nutcracker – A Bittersweet Farewell to a Chicago Tradition

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Reviewed by: James Murray

Highly Recommended

I have lived in Chicago since 1992. In that time I have seen the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker on Christmas Eve matinee as a part of my holiday ritual. I have my partner Bob to thank for introducing me to it and taking me to see it 19 times. I must admit that while I enjoyed it I always felt something was lacking which turned out to be a consistency of excellence with the dancing. There were always standouts in it but it usually left me feeling a little short-changed. After seeing the farewell and final Joffrey production on Saturday evening my entire feeling about it has changed dramatically. Read more

After 18 Years THE LION KING Remains Theatre At Its Finest

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Reviewed By: James Murray

Highly Recommended

It is hard to believe that Disney’s The Lion King celebrates its 18th year as the reigning king of Broadway, with tours all over the world. Now in a seven-week engagement at the Cadillac Palace Theatre I was reminded why it is still one of the most popular shows that Disney has created and one of the most popular shows running. This is the fourth tour of this show that I have seen and it still moves me, engages my imagination, stirs my senses and touches my heart in a profound way. Read more

Angels Who Have Fallen and Can’t Get Up – Noel Coward’s Fallen Angels

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Reviewed By: James Murray

Somewhat Recommended

Noel Coward’s comedy of bad manners Fallen Angels is now enjoying a run at one of Chicago’s best classical theatre company Remy Bumppo who has a long history of honoring the vision and intent of the playwright by presenting their works much in the manner they intended. They also have the courage to tackle some difficult plays to pull off and Fallen Angels definitely falls into that category. Read more

SHERLOCK HOLMES and The Case of The Dead Play

SLREVIEWED BY: JAMES MURRAY

NOT RECOMMENDED

 

What happens when you take a rambling script, mediocre actors, Monty Python and you package them for Broadway? You get the Sherlock Holmes, now in a one-week, pre-Broadway tour at the Oriental Theatre. Now I am sure this looked good on paper when the producers got the idea of harnessing the current mania for everything Sherlock Holmes and putting pop television stars in a play that won 5 “prestigious” Montreal English Theatre Awards and played to sold out houses in Montreal in 2013. However, what has materialized had many trying to comprehend what was going on, leaving the theatre during the show and lukewarm applause at the end of the first act. I truly felt bad for the actors who were working their tails off trying to make us laugh. Read more

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