I decided not to do a recap post about the theater I saw in 2017 because, well…there just wasn’t much to recap. I saw some great shows, don’t get me wrong. Snagging a last-minute ticket to Dear Evan Hanson on Broadway was totally worth it. Catching the touring company of Les Miserables never gets old. Taking my mom and kid sister to the Lyric’s My Fair Lady will always be a favorite Mother’s Day memory.
But overall, I feel like I made a poor showing of it at the theater last year. Six shows in twelve months? What a travesty!
(I kid. Mostly.)
I’m happy to report that 2018 is already starting off super strong. We’re a month in, and I’ve already seen five productions, from a world premiere at Steppenwolf that’s headed to Broadway (well, was headed to Broadway) to a couple storefront productions that were…less than inspiring.
This influx of live theater in my life is thanks to the work I’m a part of over at Third Coast Review. Have you checked out Third Coast Review yet? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
I still oversee the film and television coverage; recently, I’ve started volunteering for theater coverage, too. Chicago’s theater scene is as strong as ever, and with so much to see, several of us pitch in to cover as much as we can. It just so happened that this week two shows opened; when the emails came through for opening night press tickets, I snapped them up.
On Tuesday, I was in the fourth row at Porchlight Music Theater’s Merrily We Roll Along. And on Wednesday, I got a dress circle seat to The Humans, touring the country after its 2016 Tony Award in for Best New Play. (Those links go to my respective reviews on 3CR.)
I try to volunteer for whatever shows fit into my schedule, regardless of the show or the company presenting it. That’s the call of the critic, right? But when a show comes up for grabs that I know I actually want to see? I don’t mind admitting that I’m all-freaking-over it. Case in point: Merrily and The Humans.
The Humans was a no-brainer. Anything that’s won theater’s top honors is on my To See list, and given the option to see it via a (free) press ticket or pay the exorbitant ticket fees for a nose-bleed seat, you’ll forgive me (and my budget) for choosing the former. And it was worth it. I laughed, I cried…if you’re in Chicago and can carve out the time before it disappears on Feb. 11, I highly recommend it.
Merrily, on the other hand, had me at Sondheim. I’m a total Sondheim junkie, and I knew enough about the production to know I needed to see it for myself. First produced in 1981, it was such a flop they made a documentary about how poorly it went. The show itself has been retooled enough to be restaged again and again more than thirty years after it first premiered, and Porchlight’s production is a blast. It’s a dark show when you stop to think about it, but thanks to raucous staging and hummable tunes, it’s a total delight.
I’m not sure there are any more two-show weeks in my future; I’ve got an opera to check out later this month, and there will certainly be more to come. Either way I’m looking forward to a much heartier list of shows seen when 2018 comes to a close.