With a focus on character development and the struggles of a tiny Wisconsin town, "The Spitfire Grill" is not your typical musical. It's a story of resilience and hope, yes, but it's also a nicely woven exploration of the fragile thread that keeps us from despair, mistrust and cruelty. Insight Theatre Company's current production plays small, drawing the audience in and delivering a warm, intimate story accompanied by heartfelt songs.
The MUNY Theater closes out its eight-week season with this classic American musical, and I don't imagine they could make a better choice. With hummable songs, witty dialogue and pratfalls aplenty, this is the type of show the MUNY excels at -- it's big, bold and filled with laughs, romance and hope.
The MUNY opens its 96th season with the heartwarming and hopeful musical "Billy Elliot," based on the popular movie, with book and lyrics by Lee Hall and music by Sir Elton John. The moral, a combination of "be true to yourself" and "don't give up your dreams," is clear from early on, and it's nicely conveyed; but it's the dancing that keeps the audience riveted the entire performance.
New Line Theatre's "Hands on a Hard Body" delivers a sobering, but ultimately hopeful, look at contemporary America. Focused on a car dealership contest held in Texas until 2005, the musical features rock songs and pop-influenced ballads interspersed with dramatic scenes. Though the theme of the show has some dark overtones, the feel is warm, a slice of life with a small town familiarity.
Lovely and heartfelt, “Once” tells the story of two musicians who share a deeply profound love that can only be expressed through songs. This beautifully staged and performed tale is bittersweet and softly played in gentle melodies and pure harmonies, with just the right mix of Irish and Czech-influenced folk traditions.
Expressing the intimacy of a relationship, and the pain of loss, can be a difficult task for actors. Translating these very personal emotions and character choices from the silver screen to the stage is doubly hard. When songs, choreography and fantastic special effects are added, characters can quickly disappear into the spectacle.
The writers and producers of "We Will Rock You" are bringing down the house at the Fabulous Fox with a fitting tribute to the rock band Queen's enduring popularity that is also an incredibly good time.
The rock musical "Rent" is an unflinching, uncompromising look at the struggles of a community of young artists in New York City late in the twentieth century. At its heart, it's a coming of age tale, and New Line Theatre takes this broad concept and distills it into an intimate, emotionally charged production filled with memorable performances. The show isn't always pretty and the situations not easily packaged, but there's an honest, hard-earned integrity that reveals an underlying hopefulness.
There's a contemporary swagger present in the Fox Theatre's current production of "Jersey Boys" that slides smoothly into the history of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The combination works well, resulting in a smart, snappy production that thoroughly entertains. Openly addressing the influence of perspective and self-interest, the show also avoids self-reverence, even as it keeps the conflict light.
There's a sweet and honest charm to "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." The show doesn't over-promise and it's impossible to take too seriously, ensuring it remains a favorite go-to show for amateur and professional companies alike. With a focus on frequent and easy laughs, the show is also a can't-miss crowd pleaser.