Photo by Gavin B  &  by Sean Will (L to R Top to Bottom): Billy Stark, AnnaleighBilly Porter, Stark Sands • Jerry, Harvey, Cyndi • Billy Porter, Annaleigh Ashford, Stark Sands • Stark Sands, Billy Porter 

by David Cohen

Last night, October 17, 2012, four-time witty and charming Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein, pop icon and Grammy Award-winner Cyndi Lauper who made her musical theatrical debut, and director choreographer Tony Award-winner Jerry Mitchell, put their foot down as they captivated the Chicagoan audience at the world premiere of the highly anticipated new musical "Kinky Boots," at the Bank of America Theater in Chicago. 

Based on the 2005 British film, Kinky Boots the musical will inspire your soul just as it did to an entire town in Northern England years ago. This true story is about Charlie Price who was forced the save his family's shoe factory after the death of his father.

Lola, a fabulous drag queen performer comes to the rescue as the savor. Together Charlie and Lola revitalize the failing business, and bringing the shoe factory back to life, while they fighting their own long life battle of living at their fathers' shadow. During this process the two men are becoming the type of men their fathers always wanted them to be, while transforming the entire community through the power of acceptance.

Kinky boots brings many talents together off and on stage. There is no one else who can write bette drag then Fierstein. Along with Cyndi who composed character songs, club music, disco, ballads and dance numbers just like "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" the show delivers a great musical, and it is another great hit that Fierstein can add to his resume. As alway, Fierstein is on the right track, and his writing gives 'Kinky' the character and essence the show needs. This is a fun musical, fresh, and it is a solid entertainment as every musical should be. 

Just as Fierstein gives life to his writing, Billy Porter gives life to Lola.  From the moment Lola gets on stage, she conquers the audience's attention.  With her entourage of super duper fabulous drag queens who fill the stage with life and exhilarating energy, Porter delivers one of the best diva drag queen I have seen on stage, a roll that every drag queen would love to fulfill. His acting ability and commanding voice, should put him in the race for a Tony-winning performance for the coming year.

One of the best surprises came from the extremely talented Annaleigh Ashford in the role of Trish. Ashford delivered a perfect and brilliantly comic performance, and without no doubt her remarkable voice deserves a a winning Tony too. 

Overall, Kinky Boots is another great musical hit. It is fun, full of life, it is a  musical that doesn't stop for a moment and keeps you on your toes for two full hours. Go find out what a bunch of drag queens can do to you and others... I promise, they will ignite your body, soul and spirit. Surly, they will ignite more than just your boots!

Through November 4th, 2012Bank Of America Theater • 18 W. Monroe Street • For tickets ($33-$100) and more information visit  www.BroadwayinChicago.com.

 
 
Photos by Danny Nicholas

by David Cohen

In true Black Ensemble Theater style where the music takes center stage, Musical Director Robert Reddrick gives live to One Name Only (A Different Kind of Reality Show) a tribute to the music of the Ladies of Soul, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner and Whitney Houston.

One name Only is the story of ten women finalists competing for the title "Best Star Singer," set in a reality TV show with a panel of judges. Just as in the popular American Idol the reality TV show, each contestant tries to make their way to the top, and with one third of the final vote the audience decide who is the winner for that evening. This ensures that every night the outcome of every show will be different.

And if this is not enough, the Founder of BE Jackie Taylor promises to deliver more surprises. There are going to be special guest appearances by national recording stars, including the one-and-only Dionne Warwick, and of course the date of her appearance is kept as a secret. On some nights, “guest judges” will include some of Chicago’s brightest stars and powerhouse singers. Surly, this is a clever way of creating excitement and making us experience the "real" world of reality TV shows.

Written and directed by by BE Associate Director Rueben Echoles, this world premiere musical is entertaining, unique in its approach to  the theatrical experience, but it is not as great as the previous show The Marvin Gaye Story. The first act is too slow and too long. It did lack the energy and the power of the second act, which has the best hits, solos performances of the entire production. Dawn Bless who performed as Ms LaBelle, delivered the best moments of the entire production singing the classic hit Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Ms Bless brought the audience to their knees, and won an stand-ovation for her superb and outstanding ability as a singer and actor. Nonetheless, Lisa Beasley as Tanika and Candace C. Edwards as Marylin, are remarkable in the leading roles. With their commanding voice and talent, the two delivered a perfect final round as they did justice to Houston's hits, and gave this production of One Name Only the essence of what the Black Ensemble is all about. Overall, One Name Only is a good and fun show that will send you home happy and satisfied.

Through November 11, 2012 • The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street • Valet parking is available. 
Tickets from $55-65. 10% discount for students, seniors, and groups.  Available at www.ticketmaster.com, or call 773-769-4451.

 
 
in the photo: Alejandro Cerrudo, resident choreographer at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

The 35th Anniversary Season of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will feature the work of Hubbard Street Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo who was inspired by Marc Chagall’s famed America Windows, permanently on view at the Art Institute of Chicago. Commissioned by Hubbard Street Cerrudo created a single theme, entitled One Thousand Pieces, to celebrate the Company’s significant 35-year history as Chicago’s premiere contemporary dance company. This world premiere will be given in honor of Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Harris Theater.

“For 35 years Hubbard Street Dance has showcased Chicago’s extraordinary local talent and vibrant cultural community to the world,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I am committed to making Chicago a worldwide destination for dance and look forward to celebrating this wonderful cultural institution in our city.”

“I am honored that Hubbard Street Dance Chicago can celebrate the start of its 35th Anniversary in our hometown with this beautiful tribute,” comments Hubbard Street Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton. “I knew immediately that I wanted the launch of this monumental season to embody all that Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is — a dance company proud of its hometown and collaborations with like- minded cultural institutions; a company that is deeply seeded in choreographic development and new works; and a company that believes in the importance of all art forms, in this case dance, visual art and music melding together for this cultural event. It is only natural that in honor of our 35th Anniversary, we give this new work to The City of Chicago in tribute to Mayor Emanuel and his commitment to make Chicago an international destination for dance.”

The monumental panels of stained glass, created by Chagall especially for the Art Institute and dedicated to Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley (1902–1976), commemorate the American Bicentennial. The glowing glass infuses the artist’s landscape of familiar American icons, references to Chicago and symbols of the fine arts that suggests the creative expansiveness made possible by American freedom and liberty.

“Hubbard Street has given me the opportunity to launch my career as a choreographer and I will always be grateful for that,” reflects Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. “Choosing Marc Chagall’s America Windows is a nod to the year that Hubbard Street was founded, as well as to the feelings and energy that these beautiful panels convey to me. Having thought about this work since last year, I am eager to get started on creating this tribute. With America Windows as my inspiration, the music of Philip Glass as my frame, the Harris Theater stage as my canvas and the dancers of Hubbard Street as my paintbrush, I hope to create a magical evening that does justice to this renowned dance company, and honors a City that has become my home.”

At the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, October 18-21, 2012. Tickets from $25 to $99. For more information about Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s 35th Anniversary Season and subscription packages, please call the Hubbard Street Ticket Office at 312-850-9744 or visit www.hubbardstreetdance.com.

Source: Press release.