Highly Recommended ***** When people ask me to compare the New York Theater “scene” with our Chicago “scene”, they have no choice but to listen to the pride in my voice. I am very happy to call myself, as a member of the press, also a member of our Chicago Theatre Community. It is with great pride in this community that I tell you about a special performance that I was witness to this evening. A benefit performance at Mayne Stage, a lovely venue that is primarily used for Cabaret on Morse avenue in Rogers Park. Tonight this theater was alive with some of the songs of protest and empowerment from times past. The songs from the 60’s and 70’s in many cases were as powerful in today’s world as they were back then.
Yes! “Black lives still matter (perhaps, even more so with our changing times)”, Women’s rights have progressed, but they are still not treated as equals and last but not least, the United States still remains as the place where strangers can come to start anew. Tonight’s fund -raiser for Route 66 Theatre Company, it’s 2017 Mile Markers Benefit was called “Revolution” and was an amazing two hours of watching some of the greatest talent in the world perform, mostly as a favor to the company so it can continue to bring quality new works to its stage. This goes to show what an amazing group these actors/singers/performers are- a true “brotherhood (and sisterhood)”, caring about each other as they sang their hearts out.
Directed by Tammy Mader with musical direction by Michael Mahler, who also conducted the musicians and played several instruments himself, this was an all-star cast of Chicago’s top-talents. The kicker is these are The performers/actors who at this time are NOT WORKING! The venue, Mayne Stage is unique in the setting. Tables and chairs on several levels with a stage at one end, I counted under 240 seats, all with good vision to the stage. The bar is in the outer lobby so there was no interference with drinks being delivered during this wonderful show. I only wish that this was not just a one- nighter as it was an amazing entertainment experience that any theater lover would enjoy tremendously!
The show began with Vasily Deris bringing his powerhouse voice to the stage with the Beatles “Revolution”. There was no question as to setting the tone for the evening! It was done! This was followed by “For What It’s Worth” performed by Malcolm Ruhl with back-ups by the Mueller Brothers (Andrew & Matthew) along with Michael Mahler. As the first set went on, we were entertained by Jonathan Butler-Duplessis and the amazing Bethany Thomas who sent shivers down my spine with her rendition of “Think”, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar”, was also a mind-boggling number as sung by Audrey Billings, with Missy Aguilar and Brianna Borger (along with all of the women in the show) With the great videos displayed on the back wall, the impact of the music presented was even more powerful.
The second set began with Chicago stage veteran Don Forston doing “Eve of Destruction”, followed by Mahler and his wife, Dara Cameron doing “Turn, Turn, Turn”. They backed up Diana Lawrence for “Big Yellow Taxi” and then the Mueller boys returned to the stage for a bit of Dylan (“time They Are A-Changin'”/”Blowin’ In The Wind”. A powerful Adam Michaels blew our minds with “Born In The USA” and what he said made sense. Many of us, love the music, but hardly know the words. I came home and immediately looked them up. Every American should do like-wise!
Founder of Route 66 Theatre Company, Stef Tovar, who continues to prove that he can sing, did a superb rendition of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” with Mahler and his musicians; Jim Barclay (drums/percussion), Liam Davis (bass), Bob Gilmartin (lead guitar) and Scott Stevenson (keyboard) bringing the audience to their feet, followed by the dynamic duo Devin DeSantis and Stephen Schellhardt leading the ensemble in “Freedom”.
This was a special night indeed. Names such as Keeley Vasquez, Lara Filip, Dina DiCostanza, Heidi Kettenring, Bryon Willis and this great cast of artists, made this evening one to remember. Yes, it was a benefit, and is not something that everyone can see, but, I relate this to you so the next time, and there will be a next time, you want to make sure you get your chance to have an evening such as the one we had tonight. Stay with this company- keep up by following at www.Route66Theatre.org. Our theater community is special, caring, and loving- not only to each other, but to the people who come to see them perform as well. They appreciate you and you can always count on them exceeding your expectations. They are the best!