Monthly Archives: July 2017

Poignant: The Modern Noir of Water and Power at UrbanTheater Company

(This review is spoiler free)

Written by Richard Montoya and directed by Richard Perez, and produced by the UrbanTheater Company (@urbantheater), the Chicano play Water & Power is an intimate, conflicted, and hopeful portrayal of Hispanic urban masculinity. The play follows eponymous brothers Water (Dennis Garcia) and Power (Ivan Vega) through the past and present as it frames their relationship. In the flashback scenes, their father (Juan Delgado), a hardworking immigrant who works for Chicago’s utilities system, encourages his twin sons to seek respect and power in order to escape systematic oppression. The story is never monochrome, the conflicts that the main characters experience in their quest for power and family are never black and white. The show balances two different stories at its core: obligations to family in times of crisis and the acceptable limits of power. Juggling these two themes is ambitious and complicated, and Water & Power smartly intertwines these two stories to create a play that is both emotional and powerful.

The play was originally written to be set in LA.  For the Chicago performances, the writer smartly rewrote the script to reference the Windy City. This, combined with the cramped, one room setting of the play lends the performance intimacy and tension. The script and dialogue intentionally resemble spoken word poetry, but thankfully the performances don’t come across as preachy or unnatural. UTC is renowned in the Chicago arts scene for their satirical performances, and Water & Power represents the studio’s first foray into more dramatic territory. Thankfully, given this experience, the script is peppered with jokes and moments of brevity that help prevent the gravitas of the story from becoming depressing or emotionally exhausting.

Though the show has closed its initial run in Chicago, stay on the lookout for future performances. The play’s charming but conflicted characters, intense performances, and beautiful, poetic writing make this one a must see.

Justin Cabrera

Delightful! Broadway in Chicago Presents An American in Paris at Oriental Theatre (July 26, 2017)

An American in Paris is a new musical that won four Tony Awards in 2015. However, it doesn’t feel like a modern musical as it is based on the 1951 film of the same name. The music also doesn’t sound like it’s from the 50s. That’s because it’s from George Gershwin’s orchestral piece of the same name from 1928.

AAIP_TOUR_0676.jpg –An American in Paris Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

In the story, it’s 1945 and World War II has just ended. Jerry “missed his train home” and has decided to stay in Paris to become an artist. On his first day there, he meets Lise — and he is instantly smitten. He runs into her again soon after and learns that she has a serious boyfriend. He doesn’t let this deter him and he continues to pursue her. On a professional level, he strives to be a designer for a ballet.

An American in Paris is half musical – half ballet. The best parts of the musical half are “I Got Rhythm” and “Fidgety Feet”. The cast does an excellent job singing these songs. The dancing is fantastic as well. A ballet within the show takes place in the second act that showcases the talents on stage. Even the Joffrey Ballet would be impressed.

The play is completely in English, but there are a few French touches. Here are a few translations:

Merci – Thank you

Monsieur – Mr., sir

Madame – Mrs., ma’am

Merde – Damn it!

AAIP Tour 1268 – Nick Spangler and the An American in Paris Touring Company. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Will Jerry end up with Lise? Find out now through August 13th at An American in Paris!

Quinn Delaney

“Best Night of My Summer” – Goo Goo Dolls at Northerly Island (July 24, 2017)

Robby Takac, vocalist and bassist, is having a great time. He’s running around the stage with a giant smile on his face. And why should he? It’s a perfect evening in Chicago at Northerly Island. His band, the Goo Goo Dolls, have been together since 1986, and is still going strong. He isn’t the only one that’s happy tonight.

John Rzeznik, lead singer and guitarist, is also enjoying himself. “This song is for you Chicago. You were one of the first cities to embrace us and pay for our rent before the rest of the world!” They go on to play “Name” from A Boy Named Goo, which came out in 1995. It still sounds great and it had the entire crowd smiling and dancing around.

Before playing a new song, he asks everyone if they can hold their pee. “I know everyone likes to go to the bathroom during the new song so they don’t miss ‘Iris’”. It’s so true! And when he does finally play “Iris” as the finale of the set, it’s a beautiful moment with everyone singing along.  “Now this was a fucking rock concert!” he says.

For the encore, they play “Give A Little Bit” by Supertramp. It’s a fantastic end to a great night of music. “This was the best night of my summer!” says Rzeznik. It had been almost exactly one year since they played at Northerly Island with Tribe Society and Collective Soul opening (see the review here).  Here’s to keeping this annual tradition going!

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Highly Recommended! School for Lies at The Artistic Home (July 22, 2017)

David Ives has a talent for taking old plays and adapting them in verse to modern English. In 2010, he adapted Pierre Corneille’s The Liar. The Promethean Theatre recently did an excellent production and the review is available here. In 2011, he adapted Moliere’s The Misanthrope under the title School for Lies. The Artistic Home’s production is equally fantastic.


In the play, Frank is at the center of a love triangle. Both Celimene and Eliante wish to make him their lover. Things are further complicated when Philinte confesses to Frank that he desires Eliante. It’s a wild ride as all these characters struggle to fulfill their desires and handle their challenges while speaking in rhyming couplets.

The costume design is world class. All the outfits are so colorful and extravagant. That is, except for Frank, who purposely sticks out as the outsider in all black. Along with the excellent makeup work, the characters truly look they have stepped out of another world, Paris in 1666. It’s quite a sight to see.


The acting is superb. Everyone makes their characters larger than life and very interesting. They speak the verses with a poetic flair and talent that makes this production a work of art.

The Artistic Home is a small intimate space that seats about 40 people. The production doesn’t play down to the small space at all. In fact, it is worthy of playing a much larger theatre such as the Chicago Shakespeare theatre, who did their own version in 2013.

Get tickets now for School of Lies through August 13th!

Quinn Delaney

Absurd Realism – Hir at Steppenwolf Theatre (July 19, 2017)

Upon entering the theatre, a large curtain is covering the entire stage. Seems pretty normal, right? Except, Steppenwolf doesn’t usually use a curtain. Thus, this emphasizes that the following performance will be theatrical. In fact, it will be be hyper realism.


In Hir, Isaac returns home from war after being gone for three years to discover everything has changed since he has been gone. His father (Francis Guinan) had a stroke and is now a shadow of his former self who can barely speak. His mother is rejecting all her former duties as a housekeeper and has let the house become incredibly dirty and messy. His sister has come out as transgender. He was hoping for comfort when he returned, but he has found none. Thus, he takes it upon himself to return things to the way they were. That is, except for transgender sibling. He accepts that change fully.


This play is both funny and dramatic. It’s very real and extremely bizarre. It’s about a formerly traditional nuclear family that is now anything but. The acting is phenomenal. All of the actors make the characters so real on stage which makes the action that takes place even more absurd.

Can Isaac return things back to the way they were? Find out now in Hir through August 20!

Quinn Delaney

Hilarious Parody! Broadway in Chicago Presents Something Rotten at the Oriental Theatre (July 12, 2017)

Nick and Nigel Bottom need to come up with an original play quickly. Nick seeks out the help of Nostradamus to tell him about a future hit by Shakespeare. Nostradamus can see the future, but he mixes up a bunch of hit musicals into one. This leads to the song, “A Musical”, which is full of references to other shows. All the musical references in this song and “Something Rotten! / Make an Omelette” have been compiled into this Spotify playlist:

Fun Notes:

Rent – “Seasons of Love” – Adam Pascal (who plays Shakespeare) sings on this song as the original Roger

Annie – “Hard Knock Life” – Jay Z samples this song in his version of Hard Knock Life

Guys and Dolls – “Luck be a Lady” – Frank Sinatra has a great version on his album, My Kind of Broadway


There are many more references to musicals throughout the entire play. This is a must see for any big fan of Broadway. And this line just has to be mentioned: “Don’t be a penis, the man is a genius!”


Get tickets now for Something Rotten! through July 23rd!

Quinn Delaney

Also, see this video of “A Musical” with references here.

Top 5 Moments: Slightly Stoopid at Northerly Island (July 9, 2017)

Slightly Stoopid know how to keep a party going. They bring their San Diego SoCal vibe wherever they go, and tonight they’re rocking Chicago. With the temperature hovering right around 80 degrees during their night time show and 12th Street Beach just beyond the venue’s fences, it feels just like California.

Here are the Top 5 Moments:

  1. Kyle, the lead singer, kept giving praise to Chicago. “We’ve been coming here for 16 years and we love it!” Chicagoans returned the love with continuous cheers and dancing along for the entire 2 hour plus set.
  2. The horns were on fire tonight. It was a highlight every time they took the lead on a song.
  3. They played a Grateful Dead song in tribute to their final performance, which happened at Soldier Field less than a mile away.
  4. “Collie Man” – This is such a great tune!
  5. Members of their crew joining picking up instruments and joining them on a song or two. This is really unique and an awesome thing for the band to do.

Quinn Delaney

Incredible! Passion Pit at the Taste of Chicago (July 8, 2017)

Over the course of my life, I’ve been to Chicago dozens of times, but I’ve never been able to attend Taste of Chicago. I’d heard stories from my mom, a Chicago native, about how expansive the festival was decades ago, so naturally I became curious as to what the festival looked like today. When I finally showed up on Saturday, I was not disappointed.

Though it seemed as if every person in the city took off work to attend the festival, it never felt too crowded. The setup was spacious and wide, giving breathing room and allowing attendees to take their time and browse all of the vendors. There was an overwhelming variety of food available, reflecting Chicago’s wonderful ethnic diversity. As an incredibly impatient person, I was very thankful that the line for the ticket booth went by quickly. Hungry and eager to expand our suburban midwestern palettes, my friends and I set off to eat. First, we bee-lined to the Ricobene’s stand to try their fried steak sandwich, named by USA Today writer Ted Berg as the best sandwich in the world. Coming topped with oozing mozzarella cheese and spicy giardiniera (an Italian relish comprised of vegetables pickled in oil or vinegar), the piping hot sandwich was a delicious way to start things off. The crunchy texture of the steak juxtaposed itself perfectly with the warm, intense flavor of the giardiniera. While I’m not nearly qualified to say if it’s the best sandwich in the world, it’s certainly one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. Next, we tried something we were all a little more unfamiliar with: Vee-Vee’s African Restaurant. We ordered the jerk chicken with red beans and rice. The chicken was tender, seasoned well, and most importantly, spicy. As someone who LOVES spicy food, the chicken hit that spicy sweet spot of being subtle enough to have complex flavor, but bold enough to be exciting. The red beans and rice complimented the chicken well, being not too wet, not too dry, and evenly seasoned. Lastly, we searched the festival for some tried and true Chicago barbeque. We ended up getting barbeque ribs from the humble but exquisite Ben’s Bar-Be-Cue. Barbecue is a delicate art, and it is extremely difficult to hit that perfect blend of spice, smokiness, fat, cut, and bone. Many barbecue dishes that have been going viral on cooking blogs lately have featured overzealous slatherings of sugary sweet sauces to disguise low quality meat. Ben’s does away with all of that superfluous nonsense and instead focuses on a more subtle, smoky flavor. The sauce uses peaches and apricots, which combined with her vinegar hot sauce, lead to a unique and bold taste. Food wise, my first Taste of Chicago experience lived up to my expectations, and I’m excited to return next year.

After eating our hearts out, we headed to the ticket booth to see Passion Pit. To our surprise, the attendants were literally GIVING the tickets away. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, my friends and I went into the viewing area to enjoy the show.

When Passion Pit (@passionpit) first started getting Top 40 radio play back in 2008 with their hit single “Sleepyhead,” the mainstream pop scene was being flooded by indie music. Apparently, the public was starting to become sick of the ringtone rap spearheaded by Soulja Boy and Flo Rida, as the “indie sound” quickly became the newest trend in music. Quirky vocals and crystalline synths soon became the norm. Many of these bands produced only one hit wonders, fading quickly into obscurity. However, Passion Pit’s nostalgic, uplifting sound and respectable work ethic made them stand out amongst their peers. The band is revered within the scene for combining sparkling, upbeat electronic melodies with intimate songwriting and booming kick drums. If you listen closely, the lyrics are often not as uplifting as the instrumentation suggests, the soulful and vulnerable falsetto of frontman Michael Angelakos nonetheless serve to lift up and inspire. Their set at Taste was incredible; Angelakos brought humble charm and striking stage presence. I was surprised that he was actually able to hit all of the band’s famous falsettos live. Angelakos threw beach balls into the crowd that everybody smacked as they were screaming along. They performed all of their hit singles, ending off the night with “Sleepyhead.” The crowd was electrified, and I’m happy to say that Passion Pit’s performance exceeded my expectations.

Justin Cabrera

Great Opening Night! Alessia Cara at the Taste of Chicago (July 5, 2017)

“Is anyone here a fan of Disney?” asks Alessia Cara. The crowd responds with the loudest screams of the night as she is hinting that the next song will be “How Far I’ll Go” from the Moana soundtrack. It’s a fantastically uplifting song and everyone joyfully sings along. “See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me. And no one knows, how far it goes”.

After singing this hit, it’s clear the night is close to ending. Cara says “how I wish I could stay.” Once again the crowd erupts as the music begins for “Stay”, her collaboration with Zedd, a German record producer, DJ, and musician who primarily makes EDM. “Stay” is a great club anthem and it gets everyone up and dancing.

When Alessia returns for an encore, she is carrying an acoustic guitar. “This is a cover by Fleetwood Mac called ‘Dreams’”. This song was released in 1977, 19 years before she was born. None of her younger fans knew the song, but all of their parents did! Her great voice shined on this song. As an interesting note, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie just performed two days ago only two miles away at Northerly Island (See that review here!).

This was a fantastic opening night to the Taste of Chicago. Catch the rest of the festival through the weekend!

Quinn Delaney

Pick of the Week! Passion Pit and The Kickback at Taste of Chicago (July 8, 2017)

Indietronica legends Passion Pit (@passionpit) and Chicago indie rock staple The Kickback (@thekickback) will be among the bands performing at this year’s Taste of Chicago festival (@TasteofChi).

The iconic Taste of Chicago festival is the largest food festival in the world, and will host over 60 food vendors, five dinners planned by professional chefs, cooking demonstrations, and a brand-new arts installation, which will feature art galleries and live performances. Admission is free but tickets must be purchased to enjoy the food and drink ($10 for 14 tickets).

Cambridge-based indietronica act Passion Pit exploded onto the scene with their singles “Sleepyhead” and “Take A Walk”. Today’s popular electronic music usually falls within one of two camps: sparse, minimalistic post-punk or bombastic, drop-focused bubblegum pop-trap. Passion Pit forgoes both of those styles and combines sparkling, upbeat electronic melodies with intimate songwriting and booming kick drums. While the lyrics are often not as uplifting as the instrumentation suggests, the soulful and vulnerable falsetto of front man Michael Angelakos nonetheless serve to lift up and inspire.

Supporting act The Kickback will also perform at the festival. Based in Chicago, this local favorite indie rock band brings energy, wit, and bravado to the scene. Their music often features dichotomous composition that alternates between bursting Smashing Pumpkins-esque ballads and extended, complex instrumental breaks. The band is also famous for its podcast Disas-tour, in which the band humorously documents its tours on a daily basis. The series highlights the bizarre and unconventional things that influence the band’s music, such as The Muppets or Michael Keaton movies.

Justin Cabrera