Category Archives: Chicago Tribune

‘N – The Queen of Paris’ to hold Pre-Broadway U.S. premiere in Chicago


The Chicago Tribune reports “Another big new musical with Broadway aspirations has signed up for a pre-New York run in Chicago. Broadway in Chicago said Monday that “N — The Queen of Paris” will make its U.S.  premiere at the Bank of America Theatre in Nov. 2015, before landing on Broadway during the spring of 2016.”

Read more at the Chicago Tribune Theater Loop

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BUYER & CELLAR reviews are in…


It’s a HIT! The critics here in Chicago are loving the show, starring Michael Urie of “Ugly Betty”, which opened on May 8th at the Broadway Playhouse.

“”Buyer and Cellar” manages to probe the darker side of our collective celebrity obsession: our seemingly insatiable need to fully know the very people whom you cannot fully know, the way we mercilessly critique their fish-bowl lives from positions of pathetically limited knowledge and yet also turn to jelly when these living icons afford us the time of day.” – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune Read more

Jones gives the show 3 1/2 stars and calls it “a lot of laugh-out-loud fun, replete with an engaging performance from Urie”.

“Urie takes us through 100 minutes of rapidfire, emotionally charged but oddly warped “interaction” between employee and star. And as he recounts his own experiences, he also brilliantly conjures the eccentric, needy, intimidating star herself; her movie-star husband James Brolin; Sharon, the all-business manager of Streisand’s estate; and his own boyfriend, Barry” – Hedy Weiss, The Chicago Sun-Times Read more

Weiss says the show is “too good to pass up” and it comes “highly recommended”.

“Urie makes a tour de force tour guide, rendering his tale in fluid, charmingly conspiratorial tones and stocking this Cellar with equal parts in-jokes and insights.” – Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago Read more

Vire calls the show “blisteringly funny” and rates it 4 stars.

“Throughout the ninty-minute work, Mr. Urie masterfully narrates the story then begins inhabiting the different characters that affect each other in profound ways.   The initial interaction between Alex and his employer is hysterical as she tries to barter for “FiFi” the doll whose backstory he instantly creates.  As both begin to get to know each other, a tacit bond of trust starts to form as they each understand the loneliness and isolation the other is feeling.” – Michael Roberts, Showbiz Chicago Read more

Roberts calls Michael Urie’s performance a “tour-de-force” and rates the show “highly recommended”.

“Without the need for countless props, vast set or scenery, any costume changes or a plethora of projections and video, it is Urie alone on stage who seamlessly morphs in and out of character with ease and distinction for each voice and identity.

He has the gift of not only the acting craft, but also as a masterful storyteller able to punctuate with humor and emotion.” – Phil Potempa, Northwest Indiana Times Read more

Potempa says the play “offer[s] insight not only about happiness and the price tag of reality but also lessons about friendship and the fleeting need for fame and recognition by others.”

Make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to see the show that has the critics writing raves! Buyer & Cellar performances continue at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place through June 15, 2014.

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A ‘Next to Normal’ Night at Broadway In Chicago

Last night was an incredible night. As I walked home from the theatre, I thought to myself, these are the treasured moments. The times where I get to see an audience moved beyond comprehension, where the walls of the theatre take in the emotion of the audience in a way that you imagine will never leave the building. There is a reason why this show won the Pulitzer – it is one of the most moving nights of theatre you will ever experience. If you have never seen it – no matter how busy you are this week – you simply must go. And if you have been to the show before, now is the time to see it again.

This is not a touring show – this is Broadway at its best In Chicago


‘Next to Normal’ at Bank of America Theatre: A musical perfect for difficult times 

THEATER REVIEW: “Next to Normal” ★★★★ Through May 8 at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.; Tickets: $32 to $95 at 800-775-2000 and

“Can you keep the cup from tipping?” sing Diana and Dan, the loving but fraught married couple at the center of the emotionally wrenching musical “Next to Normal,” “Can you keep your grip from slipping?”

It’s just a rhetorical question in a clever song lyric, I suppose, but in modern-day America, a good many of us are not so sure. On some days, at least.

I’d had such a day Wednesday — when overextension comes uneasily close to panic, when the frowns of disappointed colleagues and family members start piling up, when a plethora of inconsequential but time-consuming trees fully obscure whatever woods might be visible this soggy April in Chicago. That could explain why “Next to Normal” hit me so hard Wednesday night, even though it was the second time I’ve seen the show. There are a lot of superlatives that can justly be applied to this contemporary musical from Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, the winners of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in drama, but surely no other musical has better caught the way we all now try to shove our family time into smaller and smaller boxes, ever more fractured, Blackberry-interrupted segments. Despite our self-assurances that we can have everything, we know that the inevitable consequence is increased isolation in a world where self-sufficiency is completely impossible.

It is concerned with mental illness, but “Next to Normal” is so moving because it paints a picture of a deeply loving suburban family (mother, father, son, teenage daughter), and then proceeds to reveal just had much they fail to help each other. Simple as that, really. Yet it socks you in the gut with the force of recognition.

If it were not for the ending — this was a Broadway musical, after all — you could almost consider “Next to Normal” a kind of communal tragedy. As this quartet — with occasional guest appearances by psychologists — try to figure out the right balance between filling your own needs and taking care of the needs of others (good luck with that), this show certainly sends your mind spinning down a lot of lines of existential questioning: Why is pain distributed so unequally across families? Do you always tell your loved ones the truth, even when it hurts them? Are painful memories always preferable to forgetting? How on earth do you move on from an agonizing loss without wiping its memory from your mind, and therefore wiping away your lost loved one at the same time? How? Huh? Huh?

But on deeper contemplation, I’ve come to think that my experience Wednesday had a lotmore to do with Alice Ripley. Ripley, who won the Tony Award for her performance as Diana Goodman, the central character of “Next to Normal,” and is starring in this top-drawer first national tour, has now disappeared so far inside her struggling, bi-polar character that it is as if she took one of the walks down the dark staircases that one of her procession of doctors, hypnotists and shrinks suggested, all in an attempt to arrive at some intersection between Diana and normal.

It is a wholly different experience from the one on offer in New York, a couple of nights before opening. Ripley and Diana are in a wholly different and far deeper place. There are a variety of opinions, there will always be a variety of opinions, about Ripley’s unusual vocal approach to this show. It breaks some of the usual rules. It does not blend. But then “Next to Normal,” which is about a family struggling with mental illness in its midst and is largely expressionistic, doesn’t work unless Diana is genuinely other and genuinely dangerous. Ripley is other and dangerous, all right. With every note that surges from her mouth. Not to mention confounding, quizzical, needy.

This a towering, gutsy, must-see performance — of the kind that a theater city like Chicago should support and that is rarely found in a modern touring show. But then this is the kind of rare tour that delivers the entire original experience — on balance, even a superior experience to the one on Broadway.

For his touring cast (only Ripley was part of the original Broadway cast), director Michael Greif has found comparably exquisite singers (this gently gorgeous, guitar-soaked score deserves no less) while moving noticeably closer to, well, normal.

On Broadway, I remember watching the glamorous Jennifer Damiano (now Mary Jane in “Spider-Man”) and thinking that her character’s problems would never be so bad. But Emma Hunton, who now plays the daughter Natalie, feels much more like a real teenager for whom life really could go either way. Asa Somers, who plays husband Dan, is every inch the standard suburban dad, well-meaning and fundamentally decent, but ill-equipped in so many ways, as many of us are. Curt Hansen also creates a more normal Gabe, if anything about his presence could be said to be normal. Preston Sadleir is guilelessly charming as Natalie’s well-meaning boyfriend, Henry. And Jeremy Kushnier — once the star of “Footloose,” now a dignified shrink — brings a new emotional force to a doctor doing his best but using only that to which he has access, which may not be any good at all.

Not for Diana, not for any of us for whom normal is both a pejorative and an aspiration.

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