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Monday, December 30, 2013

The Grooviest Theater of 2013

Here are my theatrical favorites of 2013 in order of preference (click on a title to read my complete review):

8) Sweet Charity
I want to thank Writers' Theatre in Glencoe for allowing me - with its engaging production of the 1966 musical - to smile, laugh and frug my way into a satisfying state of musical theater bliss. And Jarrod Zimmerman was "adorkable" as Oscar.

7) Christmas Dearest
David Cerda's camptabulous impersonation of actress Joan Crawford - as well as his wicked sense of humor as a writer - made this Hell in a Handbag production a theatrical gift worth receiving this holiday season.

6) The Pride
Chicago's About Face Theatre gave us a first-rate production of Alexi Kaye Campbell's dark and poignant drama with excellent performances by Patrick Andrews, John Francisco, Jessie Fisher and Benjamin Sprunger.

5) Evita
I enjoyed this touring production - especially Josh Young's outstanding performance as Che.

4) We Three Lizas
About Face Theatre brought their trio of Ms. Minnellis back in this deliciously irresistible holiday musical, and I loved it just as much the second time around!

3) Once
Stuart Ward and Dani de Waal were wonderful as the two leads in this touring production of the Tony Award-winning musical.

2) The Birds
Hell in a Handbag's production of Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 horror classic was a hilarious hoot with its scenic view of Bodega Bay (aka Lake Michigan) and terrific performances by Alex Grelle, Ed Jones, Michael John Lea, David Cerda (as Suzanne Pleshette) and Catherine McCafferty (as Tippi Hedren).

1) Anything Goes
I got a kick out of this entertaining touring production of the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of the 1934 musical. Rachel York's "de-lightful" and "de-lovely" performance as Reno Sweeney put a smile on my face from beginning to end, and this show was the absolute grooviest of 2013.

Grooviest Solo Performances of 2013
Last February I had the great pleasure of seeing the legendary (and recent Kennedy Center Honoree) Shirley MacLaine at St. Charles' Arcada Theatre, where - for two glorious hours - she held court on stage, sharing her fascinating life with us.

Comedian Paula Poundstone is one funny lady. I saw her perform for the first time in October and had a great time.

And Ben Rimalower is one funny guy - and if you're a Patti LuPone fan, a Broadway musical enthusiast and/or a gay man, go see his critically acclaimed solo play, Patti Issues.

Most Disappointing Show of 2013: Big Fish
During this show's pre-Broadway tryout last April, I found it to be the most depressing musical I've ever seen with a forgettable score by Andrew Lippa and heavy-handed direction by Susan Stroman. I'm not surprised that it failed to find an audience on Broadway, closing yesterday after only 34 previews and 98 regular performances.

Worst Show of 2013: Flashdance The Musical
Beware of this dismal show coming to a theater near you in 2014! The new songs by Robert Cary and Robbie Roth will put you to sleep, and if you want to hear the original groovy tunes - like "Flashdance... What a Feeling", "Manhunt" and "Maniac" - stay home and listen to the 1983 film soundtrack. Or just watch the movie - trust me, you'll have a much better time.

The Birds photo by Rick Aguilar.

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