Monthly Archives: December 2018

Rock with a Jazz Twist: Ryley Walker at Empty Bottle (December 28, 2018)

The Empty Bottle loves their late shows, and tonight is no exception. Ryley Walker, from right here in Chicago, doesn’t take the stage until midnight.

“I’d buy you a drink, but my credit is quite shit. We can all laugh and have tap water” sings Ryley Walker on “The Roundabout”. It’s a beautiful song and his most popular on Spotify, with 2.4 million streams. On this song and for the whole set, the band really vibes well together. It’s Ryley on guitar with Ryan Jewell on drums, Andrew Young on bass, and Brian Sulpizio on lead guitar.

Ryley’s stage banter is a bit eccentric. After an applause, he quickly says “Thank you, we appreciate it.” He also says “This is our first time at the Empty Bottle, so we are a bit nervous.” However, once he starts playing, the nerves melt away and he sounds great. This is especially true during long jams that are filled with a jazzy / experimental sound.

Ryley released a full album cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “The Lillywhite Sessions”.  With each song, he definitely puts his own style into it and often extends into long improvisational jams. Unfortunately, he didn’t play any of these songs tonight.

Cost of a ticket: $18
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Hilarious! Yippee Ki-yay Merry Christmas! A Die Hard Musical Parody at the Den Theatre (Through January 12, 2018)

First off, if you haven’t seen Die Hard, go and watch that first. Or at the very least, watch the trailer below.

Bruce McClane has just flown into LA from NYC to win back his wife, Holly Generic, at her office Christmas Eve party. Only, things don’t go as planned when a group of terrorists led by Hans Olo takes everyone hostage as they try to break into the vault to steal the bonds. With the help of Carl Winslow, Arnold Schwartzen-Schnitzel, and more, Bruce tries to save the day.

The cast is excellent. Bill Gordon does a great 80’s style Bruce Willis. Gary Fields is devilishly delightful as Alan Rickman, aka Hans Olo. Erin Long is hilarious as the terrorist twins, Klaus and Tony. Jin Kim’s performs with gusto as Nintendo Joseph Nakatomi. Nate Curlott is incredibly intense and in your face to great comedic effect as FBI Johnson. Lastly, Alex Divirgilio’s Schwarzenegger impression is pretty darn good.


During tonight’s performance, the actors improvised in response to comments shouted out by the audience showing off their comedy chops. Adding in a few short scenes that are supposed to be improvised could really boost this show. Also, in one scene, McClane plays an acoustic guitar where he really should be playing an electric guitar with heavy distortion.  About halfway through the show, Hans Olo says they need to escort the hostages to the bathroom. This is the perfect spot for an intermission that was missing for this just under two-hour show. Also, it they want to really make this a holiday show, Santa really should show up at some point!


Get tickets now for Yippee Ki-yay Merry Christmas through January 12th.

Cost of a ticket: $45

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother


Quinn Delaney

Challenging! La Ruta at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through January 27, 2019)

Brenda has disappeared. She went to work at the maquiladora (factory) in Juarez, Mexico and she didn’t come home on the bus like she usually does. Her mother, Yoli, is distraught. The play jumps back in forth between after her disappearance and before, slowly revealing the details of what took place.

The cast does an excellent job with this very heavy piece. Laura Crotte plays the acoustic guitar and sings beautifully as Desamaya. Charin Alvarez (Lettie) is strong and determined as Marisela, another mother who has lost a daughter. Sandra Delgado is fiercely emotional as Yoli struggling to find her daughter. Karen Rodriguez (The Doppelganger, The Rembrandt) plays Ivonne as a very complicated character stricken by the situations she finds herself in. Lastly, Cher Alvarez is perfectly delightful and innocent as Brenda.

The music does a great job setting the tone. It consists of many Mexican traditional songs and Mexican staples. The tones vary from joyous to haunting.

Just like their previous show in the Upstairs theatre, Downstate, this show is challenging and rewarding as an audience member.  Get tickets now for La Ruta though January 27th!

Cost of a ticket: $70

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

La Ruta_5

Quinn Delaney

Funny and Dramatic! Broadway in Chicago Presents Fiddler on the Roof at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (Through January 6, 2018)

Fiddler on the Roof first opened on Broadway in 1964. It went on to win nine Tony Awards including Best Musical. In 1971, a film version was released. It is currently, the 16th longest running show on Broadway. And now, in December 2018, it opens at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

It’s 1905 in Imperial Russia. Tevye works as a dairyman in a Jewish community with his wife and five daughters. He arranges for the eldest to be married to the butcher, Lazar Wolf, as recommended by the matchmaker. However, she wants to marry a boy her age, the tailor. This is against Jewish tradition. On top of this, he is dealing with the Tsar who is hostile towards all Jews in Russia and forces them all to only live in the Pale of Settlement in the western part of the country.

Yehezkel Lazarov is incredibly impressive as Tevye. He’s on stage for the majority of the show. He can sing, dance, and act – a true triple threat! He is the leader of a fantastic cast that really shines with expertly choreographed dances and fantastic songs including “Tradition”, “Matchmaker”, and “If I Were a Rich Man”.

It’s funny. It’s dramatic. It’s no wonder this play has been so popular for so long! Get tickets now for Fiddler on the Roof through January 6th!

Quinn Delaney

Short Film Screening Style – Ok Go: The Live Video Tour at The Mesa Arts Center (December 14, 2018)

This is not your typical concert. Instead, it is more of a short film screening with live music. The evening begins with OK Go’s first recorded performance, “C-C-C-Cinnamon Lips”. They appeared on a local TV show in Chicago that could not record music, so they had to lip sync while they danced. They included a band pretending to play behind them, including two notables from NPR: Ira Glass on drums and Peter Sagal on bass!

After the video, the band came on stage and introduced the next song as their first real music video, “Get Over It”. This song remains their second most popular song on Spotify with 13.7 million streams.

Next, they described how at the end of their live shows early on, they would end with a choreographed dance to “A Million Ways” as their band signature. So, they did the dance live to the audience’s delight. By no means are they great dancers, but the performance is very humorous and fun.

Next up, they had the audience download a simple app. The app randomly assigned a music player to each user with one of five different colors.  Each player had three buttons, which each play a different note. The band then taught the crowd how to hit the buttons in time with shapes falling on the screen based on the color of their player, Guitar Hero style. Everyone was then able to play along with “What To Do”.

During one of their frequent Q&A sessions, an audience member asks if it bothers them if their videos outshine their music. The lead singer replies: “How many bands do you like for their music? Maybe ten to a thousand? How many bands do you like for their videos? One? We are happy to be that band!”

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Broadway Worthy! Arizona Theatre Company Presents The Music Man at the Temple of Music and Art (Through January 27, 2019)

In 1957, The Music Man first opened on Broadway. In 1962, the film version was released starring Robert Preston, who originated the role on Broadway with 900 performances. The producers considered casting Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant, but they ultimately chose Preston who had perfected the role. And now, in December 2018, it opens at the Temple of Music and Art is Tucson, AZ.

Harold Hill is a con man. He travels from town to town promising to lead a youth band. He sells them all the instruments and uniforms and then promptly leaves town. But there’s something different about River City, Iowa. Can Hill change his ways?


This production by the Arizona Theatre Company is impressive. Huge double story sets slide in and off the stage. The cast consists of 39 actors plus a high school marching band of about 12. Much of the cast are locals, but many of them have flown in from all over the country. Everyone’s singing voice is excellent and the choreography is fantastic. As on audience member from New York says, it is Broadway worthy!

The songs in this show are iconic from “Ya Got Trouble” to “Gary, Indiana”. And then the audience is blown away by “Till There Was You”. It’s no surprise this show is still going strong after 60 years.

Get tickets now for The Music Man in Tucson through December 30th and Phoenix through January 27th!

Cost of a ticket: $25 – $89

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It (Go with the $25 seats in the front row!)

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Superb: Rightlynd at Victory Gardens Theater (Through December 23, 2018)

Nina Esposito lives in Rightlynd, the 51st ward of Chicago. She is tired of the alderman only catering to the large Applewood development company. So, she decides to run herself to fight the gentrification and she wins. As she works to save the Rightlynd she knows from gentrification, it becomes clear that it’s not as easy as it seems. Her values are tested and she faces many challenges.

This play is the first chronologically of a seven part series by the playwright, Ike Holter. The last of these seven, “Lottery Day”, was part of the Goodman’s New Stages Festival. It is now part of their new season, premiering on March 29, 2019.

Within the main story is a romance tale between Nina and Pac. This provides much needed comic relief and fun within a very serious political piece. There is also a slow motion fight scene that is quite entertaining.

The cast is superb. Monica Orozco (Lottery Day, Six Corners) as Nina expertly portrays the growth of the character throughout the play with a great range of emotions. Eddie Martinez (Fade) is charming as Pac, the ex-con and love interest who is so very likeable. Robert Cornelius (Lottery Day, Wit) is a strong Chicago presence as Robinson. Lastly, Anish Jethmalani (In The Next Room) is solid as Benny, the writer for The Daily News.


Get tickets now for Rightlynd through December 30th!

Cost of a ticket: $41 – $61

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It (Go with the $41 tickets)

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother


Quinn Delaney

An Amazing Night! John Butler Trio at The Chicago Theatre (November 29, 2018)

John Butler Trio’s latest album Home blends in perfectly with their current catalogue.  The night begins with “Wade in the Water” and “Tahitian Blue from the new album. Both songs feature fantastic melodies, skilled guitar playing, and smooth vocals.  The set continues with “Better Than” from the Grand National album. This popular upbeat tune is immediately recognized by the audience as one would expect with 16.5 million streams on Spotify. Everyone sings along “Life’s not about what’s better than!”


In the middle of his set, John dismisses the band to play an instrumental titled “Ocean”. With just his guitar, looping machine, and pedals he creates an exceedingly full sound. During a long extended jam, a couple gets engaged up near the stage. “She said yes!” yells the brand new fiancée.  The couple is quickly congratulated by the great community of the Trio’s fans.

Butler says that the album was inspired by the struggle that comes from being a musician. He is either touring, missing his family at home in Australia, or he is at home missing his fans and the joy of playing concerts. Through relentless touring, JBT have truly perfected their own unique sound and their live shows. It was an amazing night that just flew by.

Cost of a ticket: $75
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney