Musicals in Chicago
Let’s not mince words, since we’ve already spilled so many of them: Hamilton, writer-composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biography of Alexander Hamilton as refracted through a hip-hop, pop and R&B lens, is a sprawling, stunning, singular achievement. By filtering the story of the American Experiment’s beginning into modern, meticulously rhymed vernacular and populating the stage with performers of color to play the likes of Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson and Madison, Miranda and his regular collaborators (director Thomas Kail, music supervisor Alex Lacamoire and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler) make the founding fathers feel fresh and, miraculously, human. RECOMMENDED: Our complete guide to Hamilton Chicago Weeks out from the country’s naming its 45th president, Hamilton’s new Chicago company arrives to remind us our democracy has always been messy, political, personal, and worth fighting for. Kail and Blankenbuehler fill designer David Korins’s spare set—which suggests that, like the country, it’s still under construction—with movement as thrilling and dense as Miranda’s lyrics. (The few moments of stillness are also used to great counter effect.) The nearly all-new Chicago cast (ensemble member Emmy Raver-Lampman is the sole transfer) easily lives up to the originals while finding their own new moments and shades. Miguel Cervantes is a rather more grounded Hamilton than the more frenetic Miranda, who originated the role, but Cervantes conveys the man’s vital, fatal
Five years in, and now in its third touring appearance in Chicago, The Book of Mormon’s audiences presumably know what they’re in for. That doesn’t mean the show has lost its ability to generate electric jolts. The irreverent musical by South Park honchos Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Frozen composer Robert Lopez, equal parts foul-mouthed, gleefully blasphemous and sweet-natured, still knows just how to ring our bells with its culture clash of Mormon missionaries out of their depth in deeply depressed northern Uganda. The current touring cast doesn’t quite live up to the high bar set in 2012 by the original Chicago ensemble led by Nic Rouleau and Ben Platt, still the best I’ve seen in this show (including the original Broadway cast). But the fine leads here do bring some new shadings to their characters; Ryan Bondy’s upstanding Elder Price displays an unsettling and slightly dark intensity, and Cody Jamison Strand’s take on the misfit Elder Cunningham finds a middle way between Josh Gad’s cartoon spazziness and Platt’s sweetness. The production remains as sharp as ever, and the clever script and score impress anew with their canny mix of Pythonesque ridiculousness, keen social commentary and astute homage to the musical-theater canon. (Having seen a couple of stagings of The King & I since my last viewing only reinforced for me how dead-on is Parker, Lopez and Stone’s skewering of the former’s “Small House of Uncle Thomas” sequence.) For worshipers of musicals, The Book of
Chicago Theatre. Book and lyrics by Timothy Mason. Music by Mel Marvin. Directed by Matt August. With Shuler Hensley. Running time: 1hr 30mins; no intermission. Theater review by Suzanne Scanlon It’s slightly surreal to enter the landmark Chicago Theatre if you are, like me, more accustomed to the drafty charm of Chicago’s modest storefront theaters. This corporate-sponsored touring show of a Madison Square Garden production is an entirely different animal; you might notice this merely in the ticket price, or the details of an excessive production budget (snow over the audience! shooting streamers!) for this rendition of the 2006 musical. How the Grinch Stole Christmas was one of my favorite childhood holiday stories, but I’ll admit to entering the theater with some skepticism—does Dr. Seuss’s genius, so linked to the simplicity of word and image, really need a high-powered Broadway musical version? (The script even makes an attempt to take a swipe at consumerism—as if). And yet. Soon enough, I let my inner Grinch go, and allowed the boisterous piece to work on me. It's not a musical for the ages (the book is, and the television show endures, too), but, at its best, the music and lyrics of Mel Martin and Timothy Mason channel Dr. Seuss’s spirit of smart whimsy. (The most successful songs come straight from the original television program, including "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch".) I loved the Seuss-inspired costume design by Robert Morgan: odd angled coattails and dresses,
A last gasp of the ’80s Euromegamusical, Miss Saigon opened on Broadway in 1991 and ran for nearly 10 years on its blend of saccharine Orientalism and summer-blockbuster bombast. A 2017 revival came and went more quickly, but that was enough to launch a new national tour.
Based on the bestselling YA series by Rick Riordan about a boy who discovers he’s a wizard demigod, this family-friendly musical by Joe Tracz and Rob Rokicki had a well-received Off Broadway run in 2017. The show will try to bring the thunder again when it launches a national tour with a one-week run at the Oriental Theatre.