Tag Archives: chicago

Chicago brings “all that jazz” and more to Huron Country Playhouse

8 Jul
Jodi McFadden and Company in Chicago, 2015 Season.Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Jodi McFadden and Company in Chicago, 2015 Season. Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

By Diva Caroline Thuss

As the lights dim in the theatre, I know that my husband is in for an interesting experience, as he has no background knowledge (other than the quick Cole’s notes version I gave in the car ride to Grand Bend) about the iconic Broadway sensation Chicago.

Boy, was I right.

The opening night of Drayton Entertainment’s Chicago at the Huron Country Playhouse had the audience captured from the start. Lots of long legs, toned abs and barely-there costumes along with amazing musically talented ensemble definitely grab the attention of all in the theatre. This is not a show for young children!

The darker, sultry side of life in the 1920s Chicago comes alive through edgy dancing, strong musical numbers and humour as the cast razzle dazzles its way through the story of the two divas, Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, who vie for the spotlight in Cook County Jail after doing away with their cheating lovers. Both Jodi McFadden (Velma) and Jayme Armstrong’s (Roxie) powerful voices demand the audience’s attention from the moment they start singing.

It is hard not to find a soft spot in your heart for Geoffrey Whynot’s Amos, Roxie’s hapless husband, who just wants to be seen but can never catch up to the spotlight. His rendition of Mr. Cellophane captures the sympathy of the audience, as Amos is just pathetic.

Dean Hollin portrayed the sly lawyer Billy Flynn and made me hate how slimy and sleazy his character was but done in such a smooth way. Valerie Boyle gets the audience going as Mama Morton after her opening song “When You’re Good to Mama” that had us cheering for her and her powerful vocals.

HCPgazeboMy husband and I enjoyed some salted caramel ice cream bars during the intermission under the new, large gazebo that has been recently built on the front lawn. It was great to overhear conversations from other viewers about what they thought so far. Many talked about the athletic ability of the ensemble and the vocal talents of the whole cast. Others discussed the costumes (mostly the men) who seemed to be pleased that their wives and significant others brought them to the Huron Country Playhouse.

R. Markus as Mary Sunshine’s operatic voice could possibly shatter glass. I loved the shocker that comes from the character at the end!

The ensemble is simply mind blowing. It demonstrates beauty and strength in its dance routines, and is definitely not hard on the eyes, thanks to Ivan Brozic edgy costume designs that leave little to the imagination. This ensemble is full of talent as its members, especially the men, take on many roles throughout the performance. The murderesses’ “Cell Block Tango” is a favourite of mine along with their performance alongside McFadden in the opening number “All that Jazz”.

I loved the two-storey jailhouse set design that allowed for a very smooth transition between scenes and the orchestra being moved to the second level of the jailhouse just within view.

Director and choreographer Mike Jackson has a hit with Chicago. Alex Mustakas, the artistic director of Drayton Entertainment, calls Chicago “…the hottest ticket in town this summer” and both my husband and I agree! As we walked to the car, my husband was humming “All that Jazz” and was discussing how many of his friends would enjoy seeing it.

The Playhouse was packed on opening night and I am sure tickets will be limited so I would suggest clearing an afternoon or evening in your calendar to catch this show before it’s gone.

Chicago runs until July 18.

Tickets are $42 for adults and $25 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets for preview performances and groups of 20 or more are $34. Tickets may be purchased online, in person at the Drayton Entertainment Box Offices, or by calling (519) 238-6000 or toll free 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).

 

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Theatre in a uniquely beautiful setting

3 Jul

By Diva Jennifer Mossop

According to NASA, Jupiter and Venus are a “jaw dropping few degrees apart” right now and clearly visible at sunset in the Western Sky. Venus is all about love and beauty. Jupiter is the planet of the abstract mind, ruling higher learning, and bestowing a yen for exploring ideas, both intellectually and spiritually. A perfect analogy for the experience that awaits you on the shores of Lake Huron, at the Huron Country Playhouse on the outskirts of Grand Bend.

There is something quite precious and picturesque about an evening at the Huron Country Playhouse.   The farmers’ fields are very green now, and filled with promise. The sky is big, blue and endless. And nestled in the midst of all this natural delight, is a seat of culture – an iconic member of the Drayton Entertainment family. For over 40 years, generations have been coming to this renovated barn to be treated to the entertaining, mind expanding, soul searching and soul satisfying delights of live theatre.

We drove along the B line from Highway 21, feeling the lush summer country landscape engulf us. My daughter sat beside me – 12 years old now, and dressed in crisp white shirt, black pants and a scrubbed clean look ready for her first “real job”. At age 12, children in the surrounding area are invited to usher at the Playhouse. Ushering is now ranked as a tradition and an honour, shared by generations in the Grand Bend area. These are the eager young faces that meet you as you arrive. Eager to serve and eager for the chance to watch professional live theatre!

Photo Credit: Kevin Kruchkywich and Daniela Vlaskalic in Last Chance Romance, 2015 Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke

Photo Credit: Kevin Kruchkywich and Daniela Vlaskalic in Last Chance Romance, 2015
Photographer: Darlene O’Rourke

There are two theatre options, with the main productions housed in the old barn and the smaller Playhouse II accommodating lighter fare.   Last year, Les Miserables met with ecstatic reviews, as did a pantomime version of Peter Pan. This year, Anne of Green Gables has already stolen many hearts, and now Chicago is just ramping up. This was the production my daughter took in as she helped hand out programs in the main theatre. I, on the other hand, had tickets for the Playhouse II, for the comedy, Last Chance Romance.

Jodi McFadden and Company in Chicago, 2015 Season.  Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Jodi McFadden and Company in Chicago, 2015 Season.
Photographer: Hilary Gauld-Camilleri.

Sets and costumes are always creatively, meaningfully and well done, and the calibre of performer and performance continually meets with approval from seasoned theatre-goers and critics, alike.

Intermission brings the chance to step out into the fresh country air, and gaze at the magnificent sky, ablaze in setting sun glory. Collecting a refreshment, we ventured out on to the lawn to see the new gazebo and met up with the Chicago goers, gushing about the production next door. Note to self, buy tickets now.

At end of the evening, we collected our daughter, her eyes wide and shining with the new experience. Climbing into the car, we looked over the fields at the rising full moon to the East, and enormous Venus and Jupiter in the Western Sky. Natural beauty and human experience in a satisfying balance. If you haven’t been to the Playhouse yet, or yet this season, don’t miss the chance. Check its website here.