Monthly Archives: November 2019

Epic! Don’t Miss! The First Deep Breath at Victory Gardens (Through December 22, 2019)

The father is a preacher who rarely demonstrates love toward his children. The children are hungry for his affection and therefore hide their secrets as they also fear his disapproval.  The drama and tension escalate up to Thanksgiving dinner when the shit hits the fan.

The cast is truly fantastic. Each character has their defining moment where they share their deepest feelings and lay out their truth. It’s a wow moment each time as they cease to restrain their feelings and release them.

David Alan Anderson is powerful as the founding pastor of a local church who is focused on its expansion. Celeste Williams (Mies Julie) is heartbreaking as his wife who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Deanna Reed-Foster (Be Here Now) is hilarious as her sister, who has moved in to help take care of her and the house. Clinton Lowe plays the complex oldest child, Albert IV, who has just returned from six years in prison for a crime he may not have committed. Melanie Loren is great as the daughter who is always trying to keep the peace. Gregory Fenner is very affable as her boyfriend who wants to be her husband. Patrick Agada is fantastic as the youngest son, who is afraid to declare what he wants to study in college. Lastly, Jalen Gilbert (Mies Julie) is absolutely excellent as the neighbor who has become part of the family.

At three hours and thirty minutes, you might think this play would feel like it drags on. However, it is such an epic story that it fills this time fully and the time actually flies by. The playwright, Lee Edward Colston II has created a work on the same level as Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Get tickets now for The First Deep Breath through December 22!



Cost of a ticket: $51

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

Quinn Delaney

Excellent! Lindiwe featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Steppenwolf (Through January 5, 2020)

Lindiwe is a young woman from South Africa who is visiting Chicago. She finds her way to Kingston Mines and is moved by the music, and even more so by the drummer. They spend all their time together for the rest of her trip. Soon afterwards, she returns to Chicago and again they find themselves experiencing a strong connection. However, she longs to return home to continue her singing career. Concurrently, he wants to stay in Chicago to continue his career. Eventually, events take place out of their control that force them to make some very big decisions.

At its heart, this play is a love story. But it is also about so much more. It is about two cultures coming together. Also, there is a supernatural part of the story that is very theatrical and mysterious. The purpose of this is very slowly revealed. Perhaps a bit too slowly.

The music fits in so smoothly. The blues band sounds great. In addition, Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s singing is truly beautiful. Additionally, their dancing is so fun. This is their third collaboration with Steppenwolf. Both groups share the same vision of bringing together individuals to form something greater together, an ensemble.

Nondumiso Tembe is a great lead as Lindiwe. She has a great singing voice and a great positive and infectious energy. Erik Hellman (Familiar) is excellent as the drummer, conflicted between his love for Lindiwe and his love for Chicago and it’s music. Yasen Peyankov (The Children, Between Riverside and Crazy) is outstanding as the Keeper, a larger than life Grim Reaper type character that commands attention. Cedric Young (Familiar) is awesome as Lindiwe’s wise grandfather guiding her through her struggles. Lastly, Jennifer Engstrom is solid as the drummer’s aunt.


Get tickets now for Lindiwe through January 5th!


Cost of a ticket: $85 (Main Floor)

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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


Quinn Delaney

Exceptional Value! Augustana at Subterranean (November 19, 2019)

Augustana’s self titled album (2011) and their debut, All the Stars and Boulevards (2005) hit #1 on the Billboards chard for Top Independent Albums. Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt (2008)  hit #2. The single from 2005, “Boston”, hit #10 on the Adult Top 40.

Tonight, they take the stage and get right into playing. The lead singer, Dan Layus, looks very happy and is enjoying his time on stage. The band is from Southern California, but he clearly doesn’t mind the Chicago winter. He starts the show with a hat and a sweatshirt, but he ends up in just a t-shirt by the end.

They have two new songs “For Now, Forever” and “The Heart of It” that sound excellent and prove that Dan Layus still has what it takes to write a great song.

Dan gives props to the opener, Zac Clark, who played a great set. Zac just recently left his previous band of 7 years, Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness.

“This is the part where we would normally leave the stage,” says Layus. “But we’re not going to do that.” This is most likely because to exit the stage at Subterranean requires climbing a small winding staircase that it is quite awkward. Thus, many bands at this venue just say this instead.

The entire set is solid with the crowd singing every song. The songwriting is fantastic and the performance matches it too. The setlist for this show in the same as the one from St. Louis the next day, which is available here.

Cost of a ticket: $24

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

Quinn Delaney

Nonstop Hilarious! Do You Believe in Madness? at The Second City (Open Run)

A group of students is about to take a test. One of the students, Mary, asks to use the restroom. While she is out of the room, each of the students gets a suggestion from the audience. Tonight’s answers are Portland Seadogs, Country Road, It, and Barack Obama. After Mary returns, the test begins. Mary doesn’t know the answers, so she asks the other students for help. Then, one by one, they act out the answers without talking. Impressively, Mary gets all of the answers quite quickly! It’s hilarious watching them act out the answers and then after she gets the answer, they always have a few one liner jokes to tack on. This combination of a sketch and improv is absolutely fantastic and has the crowd laughing non stop.

Do You Believe In Madness_ PR Photo 005

Everyone in the cast is making their debut on the Second City Mainstage. Andrew Knox (Gaslight District, Grinning from Fear to Fear) is absolutely hilarious in every scene in which appears, especially as the stranger at the bus stop hesitant to make a new friend. Adam Schreck (America; It’s Complicated!) also shines often. This includes playing a father who puts on a game show to determine who ate his pretzels. Asia Martin is so funny, especially when she is making her very silly faces and dancing. Jordan Savusa is also great and his song about being from Hawaii is golden. Mary Catherine Curran is excellent throughout and really shows her chops in the classroom scene. Lastly, Sara Dell’Amico is solid as the girlfriend who is suspicious of her too perfect boyfriend. This cast is so good, that surely at least of them will end up on Saturday Night Live. Catch them now while they are still in Chicago!

Do You Believe In Madness_ PR Photo 007

Cost of a ticket: $36

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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


Quinn Delaney

Wide Variety! Dance Chicago’s 25th Anniversary Party at Athenaeum Theatre (November 16, 2019)

Dance Chicago has put together a night of a vast variety of dances. Between each dance, everyone is pulling out their flashlights on their phones to read who is on next. They should have a screen on stage that displays the next performer or have an announcer / host.

Here are some of the highlights:


It’s about the journey

Choreographer: VioLa Elkins / Tarik Hasan (freestyle)


This freestyle hip hop dance is excellent. The performers are so graceful and talented.


Water Street Dance Milwaukee

Choreographer: Morgan Williams

This group from Milwaukee just formed this year. The performance is very athletic and impressive and they are off to a great start.


Gus Legacy Co

Choreographer: Sarah Ford Hardy

Music: Coming in Hot by Andy Mineo

Gus Giordano is known for jazz dance. However, they also do hip hop. This performance features 9 dancers decked out in sleek red and black outfits. The choreography is fantastic as it combines full company movement with many solos.


Comedy Dance Chicago

Tiny Dancer, Return to Innocence, Cheek to Cheek, Staring Contest

This group provides the comic relief for the night. It’s not laugh out loud funny, but it will make you smile. The music selections of I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing and Tiny Dancer are great choices.

Comedy Dance Chicago

Visceral Dance Chicago


Choreographer: Nick Pupillo

Spring to Dance festival organized by Dance St. Louis at Touhill Performing Arts Center of the University of Missouri in St. Louis on May 23-25, 2019.

This is a great finale with 19 dancers filling the stage with movement. The choreography is excellent as everyone moves in sync.

Quinn Delaney

Exciting! The Path at Puzzle Effect in Phoenix (November 13, 2019)

You and your fellow explorers have entered an ancient temple. You must complete the challenges before the ancient evil consumes the earth.

This room is very unique in that it doesn’t use traditional locks. Instead, everything is controlled by weights and magnets. When you successfully solve a puzzle, you’ll often hear something open or drop in the other room. You then excitedly run in to figure out what just happened. The puzzles and riddles are very well created and involve Chinese characters, phases of the moon, constellations, maps, dragons, and the Chinese calendar.


Tonight’s team, the Quinnsters, finished in just the nick of time with just 2 seconds remaining! During the escape, you don’t have to ask for clues. Instead, the administrator will guide you if something is unclear and you are stuck. The end, when everything comes full circle, is a truly exciting moment!


Book The Path now at Puzzle Effect!


Cost of a ticket: $27 (per person)

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It – (Especially when it’s just one person)

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


Quinn Delaney

California Reggae Rock! Through the Roots at Last Exit Live in Phoenix (November 10, 2019)

On a warm night in Phoenix, locals are looking to let loose.  Through the Roots is here to bring a little Southern California to the crowd.  Listening to their set transports you to a warm and sunny beach in San Diego.  You can feel the sand between the toes as you admire the backdrop of colorful lights the color of a sunset.  As they play “Weekend”, the audience happily dances along.  “’Cause baby this weekend, I’m doin’ what I wanna do.”

The lead singer constantly says how much he enjoys coming to play in Arizona. He always has a great time playing here. Another thing he loves is a good fog machine. The stage is constantly filled with a thick fog.

Late in the set they play “Higher”. “I believe that if we come together, we can get higher, higher, higher.” It’s such a beautiful song that puts a smile on everyone’s face.

They also played a few tracks from their new album, Arrival. The new songs sound great and prove that this band is still going strong. Their entire set kept a fantastic vibe going the entire time.

Quinn Delaney

Vibrant! San Fermin at Valley Bar in Phoenix (November 10, 2019)

Finding the Valley Bar is a bit of a challenge. When you arrive via Google Maps, there is nothing there but a dark alley. You nervously head down the alley and then find around the corner there is a very small red neon sign that states “Valley Bar.” After showing your ID to bartender, even if you are in your 50’s, you head down the stairs into the basement of a building. The concert takes places in a small room with a bar that could hold maybe 150 people.

San Fermin is the creation of Brooklyn composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone. Their self-titled debut album is strongly influenced by Ludwig-Leone’s unique background in classical music, which includes a job assisting composer/arranger Nico Muhly. After finishing his musical studies at Yale, Ludwig-Leone wrote the album in six weeks while holed up in a studio on the mountainous border between Alberta and British Columbia. He focused on lifeʼs top-shelf issues – youth, nostalgia, anxiety, unrequited love – and tied these vast themes to different characters through vocal contributions from longtime friend Allen Tate, as well as Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius.

Tonight, the eight-piece band fills the small place with their vibrant sounds.  Claire Wellin commands the stage with enthusiastic tosses of her huge mane of hair and brilliant smile.  Karlie Bruce displays her vocal talent during their hit song, Sonsick, and provides wonderful back-up vocals with Wellin throughout. Many songs feature fantastic brass that energizes the band and the crowd. Allen Tate’s vocal performance is impressive as well and sounds similar to the lead singer from The National.  The rendition of Methuselah brought the house down.  During a lively instrumental, the trumpet and saxophone players come to the front of the stage the cheers of the audience who are enthusiastic for the entire performance. They close the memorable night with “Cairo” from their 2017 album, Belong.

Quinn Delaney



Powerful! First Floor Theater Presents Sugar In Our Wounds at The Den Theatre (Through November 23, 2019)

It is the middle of the civil war. A group of slaves are living in the deep south. One of the men is secretly being taught to read by the master’s daughter, who wishes to become a teacher. This is the only nice thing that she does.  He reads about the possibility of all the slaves being freed. An unexpected newcomer arrives and a love story forms in this most unlikely situation.


This play truly brings to life a dark time in our nation’s history. It’s one thing to read about it in history books, and quite another to see it played out right in front of you. It’s a very powerful production and the actors go through the ringer to put it on every night. During the talkback, they all mention how afterwards they need to disconnect and focus on self care.


Ashley Crowe is excellent as Mattie, who is looking for love even in this terrible situation. Renee Lockett is outstanding as Aunt Mama, who tries to care for everyone. Grainne Ortlieb puts on a powerful performance as the master’s daughter, who is very racist and the villain of the story. During the talkback, she says how playing this character can be lonely and wouldn’t be possible without the great support she gets from her fellow castmates. Londen Shannon is great as the newcomer who is standoffish at first. Michael Turrentine is great as a young slave facing some difficult decisions.


Get tickets now for Sugar In Our Wounds through November 23!


Cost of a ticket: $35

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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


Quinn Delaney

First Chicago Show! Angie McMahon opening for Hozier at The Chicago Theatre (November 3, 2019)

This is Angie McMahon’s first show in Chicago. Talk about starting at the top! She is also playing solo tonight without her band. After introducing herself, she says she is now going to play some sad songs. She plays beautifully and her voice is fantastic as well. The audience is incredibly encouraging and gives her a giant round of applause after each song.

“This is another song about my dating experience,” she says. On one date, she spent the whole dinner explaining gender equality. The next song definitely had some anger behind it.

She is very charming and wins the crowd over talking between songs. “I’m from Australia,” she says. “But, you can probably tell that from my accent!” Later on, “I’m wearing my own merch. These socks say ‘Slow Mover’. You can buy some in the lobby, or not.”

It was a great short set and a great start to a promising career.


Hozier was excellent as well. See our past review here.

Quinn Delaney