Monthly Archives: September 2019

Heartfelt! Tiny Beautiful Things at Victory Gardens Theater (Through October 13, 2019)

Cheryl Strayed (Wild) is working as an advice columnist. She posts anonymously as Sugar. She takes on many different types on inquiries. There is a transgender person who must decide whether to accept their parents back into their life who are now understanding, but who shunned them before. There is the father who lost his 22 year old son and is struggling to move on. In her responses, Sugar shares a lot of about her own life. This includes the story about buying a toddler sized red dress with her mother before she even decided if she wanted children. Interspersed between all these heavy issues are shorter and sometimes funny ones to create a good balance.

The set is very professionally created. It is a monochrome style café with all dark blues. This monochromatic set allows the key items in the play to stick out such as the red dress in a visually striking manner.


Janet Ulrich Brooks (The Children, Native Gardens) is fantastic as Sugar. She treats each letter with complete respect and gives truly heartfelt responses. August Forman (Girl in the Red Corner), Eric Slater, and Jessica Dean Turner are all great as the letter writers. They all embody so many different characters with very little time in between each.

Get tickets now for Tiny Beautiful Things through October 13th!

Cost of a ticket: $56 (Silver)

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Quinn Delaney

Excellent! The Great Leap at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through October 20, 2019)

It is 1989 and Manford really wants to play on the University of San Francisco basketball team. It is mainly because the team is scheduled to play a game in Beijing, China. He is a great basketball player and he also wants to visit his mother country. At this time in history, students across China are protesting to overthrow the communist government.

The theatre is set up just like a basketball gym. There are seats on both sides rising up and a real hardwood floor in the middle with basketball lines. Above the seats are electronic scoreboards. They also play a bunch of songs from the Jock Jams albums. It truly feels like you are at a basketball game, even though there are no actual hoops.

Keith Kupferer (If I Forget, Sweat, Support Group for Men) is hilarious as the tough USF coach. Just like his past performances, he has perfected the hardened blue collar American. Glenn Obrero is great as the athletic Manford stopping at nothing to achieve his goals. Deanna Myers (Two Mile Hallow) is solid as Manford’s friend, helping him along the way. Lastly, James Seol is impressive as the Chinese coach conflicted by the clash in values between the East and the West. The playwright, Lauren Yee (King of the Yees, Cambodian Rock Band) once again truly captures the experience of living as a Chinese American in San Francisco and then visiting a country where everyone looks like you, but you are the enemy.

Get tickets now for The Great Leap through October 20th!

Cost of a ticket: $45

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It +

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Great Leap_4

Quinn Delaney

Very Witty! Bernhardt / Hamlet at the Goodman Theatre (Through October 20, 2019)

It’s 1899 and Sarah Bernhardt is the world’s most famous female actor. She is determined to play the most famous role in theatre, the role in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This causes outrage as Hamlet has always been played by a man. To push things even further, she wants her lover to rewrite Hamlet and remove all the poetry. This just doubles the public outrage!

The show is filled with many of the best scenes of Hamlet being rehearsed and then the actors joking around afterwards while discussing the play and theatre in general. Shakespeare’s language can be very dense and difficult to follow for a full production. It’s much easier in these short pieces. This entire play flows very well and the two and half hours just fly by as the audience laughs and soaks in the witty comments about theatre.

Terri McMahon is commanding as Sarah Bernhardt. She fills the entire stage when she steps up to speak. John Tufts is fantastic as her lover and the playwright, Edmond Rostand. He brings out the complexities in this character. Larry Yando is hilarious as the veteran actor, Constant Coquelin. He seems to have a witty comment for every situation since he has seen it all before. Also, the rest of the cast is excellent in their supporting roles.


Get tickets now for Bernhardt / Hamlet through October 20!


Cost of a ticket: $60 (Main Level) The Full Range: $25 to $80

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Quinn Delaney

Graceful! Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival at Ruth Page Center for the Arts (Through September 28, 2019)

The Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival takes place over two weekends at the end of September at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Ten dance groups perform during the first week. Here is a selection of the best performances from the first weekend.

Giordano IIPeriphery

Choreographer: Joshua Blake Carter

The dancing in this piece is majestic and graceful. The choreography expertly matches the music by Nils Frahm, a contemporary pianist.  This group consistently brings a top grade quality performance to this festival and they have become a staple.

VADCO / Valerie Alpert Dance – Moving Through Memphis Project (Excerpt)

Choreographer: Valerie Alpert

VADCO by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth

All of the dancers sit neatly on the ground in a single file line. As the music by Forest Swords plays, the dancers move in a short explosion of movement and then return to their position. The music in this piece captivates the audience with its dramatic effects which allows room for vivid imagery in its interpretation. Given the loud deep breathing sounds, similar to the sound of a dragon drawing long breaths, perhaps the dances represent a dragon at rest, able to explode at any moment.

Aerial Dance ChicagoStacked

Choreographer: Chloe Jensen

aerial dance

In the dark, three aerialists climb the silk rope hanging from the ceiling and strap themselves to cords hanging at three different lengths. The silk is removed, the lights come up, and the dancers spin and twist around on the cords. At the end, the lights go off and they bring back the silk rope to help them climb back down. Perhaps they should leave the lights on, as the performers getting in and out of position is a very interesting glimpse at the logistics of this performance.

Kybele Dance TheatreSonsuz

Choreographer: Seda Aybay

This professional contemporary dance company from Los Angeles puts on a work of art. It consists of beautiful movements of the dancers. As the program states, it is an abstract interpretation of Mary Oliver’s poem, “When Death Comes”.

See our reviews from last year here!

Get tickets now for the second weekend of the Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival through September 28th!


Cost of a ticket: $25

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price +

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Quinn Delaney

An Intense True Story! Dana H. at Goodman Theatre (Through October 6, 2019)

This is a true story that took place in 1997. Dana Higginbotham was working as a chaplain of a psych ward when she met Jim, an ex-convict and member of the Aryan Brotherhood. Jim abducts Dana and involves her in his criminal activities. For example, the owner of a strip club wants his daughter’s boyfriend killed. So, they buy supplies at a Walmart and build a bomb. She later learns that the boyfriend was killed by a car bomb. On multiple occasions, she tries to escape but the police will not help her. They know about Jim and the Aryan Brotherhood and they won’t do anything in fear of crossing him.

Dana was interviewed and recorded by Steve Cosson, a friend of the playwright, Lucas Hnath (The ChristiansHillary and Clinton). Lucas is Dana’s son. These tapes were edited down to become the text of the play. The actress lip synchs to these tapes blurring the lines between a documentary film and theatre. Deirdre O’Connell (The AffairEternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) puts on a fantastic performance as she truly captures Dana’s voice, rhythm, and small quirks. If they didn’t tell you in advance that she was lip synching, the audience might not have even been able to tell. It’s really unlike any other show out there.

The show is incredibly intense. Not only with the content, but also with the stage effects. Particularly, one scene combined both sound and light to evoke feelings of fear, intensity, and despair as a method to connect the audience to the emotions experienced by the character. While not suitable for children, this show will speak to those seeking thrilling theater and thought-provoking dialogue.


Deirdre O’Connell in the world premiere of Lucas Hnath’s “Dana H.” Directed by Les Waters, “Dana H.” runs through June 23 at Center Theatre Group’s Kirk Douglas Theatre. For more information, please visit Press Contact: / (213) 972-7376. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Get tickets now for Dana H. through October 6th!

Cost of a ticket: $20 – $40

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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Quinn Delaney

Hilarious! Midsummer (A Play with Songs) at Greenhouse Theatre (Through October 6, 2019)

Helena is a divorce attorney looking for a way to keep her mind off of her dark secrets. Bob is a criminal doing odd jobs waiting for his next assignment. This ill-matched couple meet in a bar in Edinburgh, the capitol of Scotland. Soon afterwards, they are back at her place in what they both assume is a one night stand. However, it leads to a wild night out the very next day. The evening is highlighted by the spending of $15,000 in cash which Bob just acquired after selling a stolen car.

[Listen to the music here]

Patrick Mulvey is hilarious as Bob. Patrick’s gift for comedy is accompanied by his musical talent on guitar and his fantastic vocals. Matching him step for step is Chaon Cross as Helena. Chaon plays the ukulele and has a delightful voice. In addition, both actors display a knack for subtle Scottish accents!


This show is not a musical. Midsummer is a play with about ten indie rock style songs which is similar to Once, the musical about an Irish busker in Dublin and a Czech woman. Both shows are great plays about love with music.


Get tickets now to Midsummer though October 6th!

Cost of a ticket: $25

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value –

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Quinn Delaney

Great Performance! Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn at the City Winery Chicago (September 10, 2019)

Berlin is celebrating 40 years together a band. However, this tour isn’t just a nostalgia trip. They are making new great music with their latest album, Transcendance, and putting on a great performance.

Early on in the set, the lead singer, Terri Nunn, introduces “I Want You” as a song about sex in her 50s from the new album. It doesn’t have to be important, she says. “I just want to get laid”. She continues this trend by introducing “Animal” saying it about sex in her 40s. And last in this series is “Touch” about her first one night stand in her 20s.

Later on in the evening, Nunn sings a cappella “Watching every motion, In my foolish lover’s game” in a stripped down introduction to “Take My Breath Away”. Then, the band kicks in and everyone recognizes the song instantly. It’s a giant singalong as she glides through the audience.


In a softer moment, she talks about speaking with her mother shorty before she passed away. She gets emotional while talking about this moment when she asked her mother what it is like to let go. She put her response into the lyrics of “Transcendance”:

Maybe it’s love
Maybe it’s emptiness
Maybe I just want to believe again
Maybe it’s love
Maybe we’re limitless
Maybe it’s not just in my head

To introduce the finale, she quotes the writer of the song, Malcolm Young. If you want serious lyrics, listen to REM. But, at the end of the night, everyone just wants to get laid! The band then goes on to close the night with “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC. It’s a fun way to close out the night.

Cost of a ticket: $40
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See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

An Exceptional Value and Hilarious! Monty Python’s Spamalot at Mercury Theatre Chicago (Through November 3, 2019)

Spamalot is the musical lovingly ripped off from the motion picture Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which was released in 1975. The original screenplay was written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. It was adapted into a musical by Eric Idle and John Du Prez. Spamalot’s world premiere took place as a preview at Chicago’s Schubert Theatre starting on December 21, 2004 and then moved to Broadway beginning on February 14, 2005. It was nominated for 14 Tony Awards and it won three including Best Musical. Now, in September 2019, it opens at the Mercury Theatre Chicago.

In the story, King Arthur gathers a group of men to find the holy grail. On their quest they come across a wide variety of characters including the Lady of the Lake, the French Taunter, the Knights of Ni, Tim the Enchanter, the Black Night, and many more. One of the best scenes starts with a man ringing a triangle asking everyone to bring out their dead. Bodies are dragged out into the street to be removed. Then, one of the bodies simply says “I’m not dead yet.” “Yes, he is” says the man who dragged him out. “I feel happy”, says Not Dead Fred who then launches into a full song and dance number!

Spamalot 8

Jonah D. Winston (Avenue Q, Jesus Christ Superstar, Machinal, Longer! Louder! Wagner) is a strong, commanding, and hilarious presence as King Arthur. Matching his charisma and humor is Meghan Murphy as the Lady of the Lake. Many of the actors portray multiple roles with great style and oh so many costumes. Adam Fane is so funny as Not Dead Fred, Minstrel, and more. Karl Hamilton is exceptionally cast as Sir Lancelot, the Knight of Ni, and more. David Sajewich is solid as Sir Dennis Galahad, the Black Night, and Herbert’s Father.  The rest of the cast is absolutely fantastic also.

It’s a Broadway worthy show at midsize theatre prices! Get tickets now for Spamalot through November 3rd!

Cost of a ticket: $50

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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Spamalot 5

Quinn Delaney

Pick of the Week! Your Smith with K.Flay and Houses at Riviera Theatre (September 19, 2019)

Your Smith with K.Flay and Houses at Riviera Theatre (September 19, 2019)

The Minneapolis native relocated to Los Angeles in 2016 and after years of releasing her music under her given name, Caroline Smith, she let go of her insecurities and reawakened herself under the new moniker Your Smith. Her newfound steadfastness, boldness, and unapologetic nature through her alter ego flourishes in her latest, acoustic driven single, “You Could’ve Told Me,as she sings, “You could’ve told me, when you met me, all your love was gone.”

Smith’s freedom of her new self appears through her previously released, carefree single, “Wild Wild Woman,an anthem for the wild woman that lives inside us all, begging to be let out. The warm, synth-pop gem is tinged with Funk and R&B rhythms, Smith’s silky, smooth voice, and a beat that’s danceable until the very end. Following this lighthearted essence, Smith released “In Between Plans,a song inspired by an acid trip on a catamaran in Nicaragua. Written in a jungle hut at Neon Gold’s prestigious NEON GOLDEN writing retreat, the session was attended by Tove Lo, Phoebe Ryan, What So Not and more. It was there she was able to shove self-doubt aside and take her artistry to a new level.

Your Smith is opening on this tour, but don’t be surprised if she is the headliner next time around!

Get tickets now for the September 19th show!

Cost of a ticket: $42
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It!
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Also, check out her fantastic cover of St. Lucia’s “Closer Than This”!



Relaxed Pace with Great Music! Broadway in Chicago Presents The Band’s Visit at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (Through September 15, 2019)

In 2007, The Band’s Visit was first released as a film. In 2017, it opened on Broadway. The next year, it won 10 Tony Awards, including best musical. And now, in September 2019, it opens at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

It is 1996 and an Egyptian orchestral band travels to Israel to play at an Arab Cultural Center. “You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t that important.” This a great example of the humor of this show. The band ends up in the wrong town due to a miscommunication. They enter a café where they learn of their error. Thankfully, the owner of the café offers them hospitality and a place to stay until the next bus leaves the next day. It’s a great slice of life story about a small town in Israel, Bet HaTikvah, in the middle of the desert.

Chilina Kennedy & Sasson Gabay. Photo by Matthew Muprhy

The characters are all very real to life and the story moves along at a relaxed pace. It also has a good song to dialog ratio of about 50/50. At about 105 minutes, it’s a bit long to not have an intermission. It’s a feel good story without any politics or violence.

The music in this show is excellent. Some of the musicians are seated off stage, but many of them are on stage and have lines to speak. The instruments played on stage are violin, cello, clarinet, darbouka, oud, and a trombone. They play traditional Egyptian music and a little Chet Baker.

Get tickets now for The Band’s Visit through September 15th!

Cost of a ticket: $92.50
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

The company of The Band's Visit North American Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy (2)

Quinn Delaney