HIGHLY RECOMMENDED When I first heard that little Theo Ubique, the cabaret theatre in Rogers Park was going to bring “Cats” to their little storefront theater, I wondered How? I know that this award winning theater has amazed and awed Chicago audiences, and for the last several years has become a frequent JEFF AWARD RECEPIENT, but “Cats”, the big glitzy Andrew Llloyd Webber musical based on T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” in a storefront, dinner theater at No Exit Cage- impossible!
Impossible is a word that doesn’t exist in the mind ( and heart) for Fred Anzevino, Artistic Director of TheoUbique. Challenge does, and challenge is from what I see , one of his favorites. All right! “Cats” is more of a dancers musical than an actor’s so, he goes out and gets Choreographer Brenda Didier to not only do the choreography, but to take on the full direction of this production. Challenge met! Success imminent! Didier brings a new heart and soul to this show by starting it off , not in the junk yard we are used to, but instead in a study of sorts where T.S. Eliot opens a chest and brings out a stack of poems that he hands over to a young girl ( based on the stories, probably his God-daughter). As she begins her journey through these poems, we, the audience , begin our journey into the lives of Eliot’s “Cats” as interpreted by Didier. An experience that I will relish with great pleasure and even though I have seen numerous productions over the years, none more intimate and warm as this one.
“Cats” is truly an ensemble piece, as they must all work together as well as do some solo roles, but it is f the greatest importance that we remember that this is a special night for the Jellicle Cats who have gathered for a specific reason, the rebirth of one of them. The show is filled with the same magic that has been felt over the years in the larger theaters, but in this tiny storefront, we are touched by the nearness of each cat as they move about the room- the intimacy truly makes this a memorable experience. Ethan Deppe and his musicians are amazing. Five musicians under the leadership of Gary Powell ( who is a master at the keyboards) makes this music soar and fill the theater, yet, at no time are any of the performers drowned out. That takes hard work, but truly pays off for the audience.
For a production like this to work, each piece of the puzzle has to fit perfectly. We know that Didier and Deppe ( as well as Powell) succeeded with their parts and then there are the other ingredients to make the recipe for success- Lighting ( Michael Nardulli), Costumes ( amazing work by Matt Guthier), Wigs ( extraordinary detail by Michael Buoninconto) and one of my favorites ( and most overlooked) prop design- Justin Goh, all I can say is Wow! In a Theater the size of No Exit Cafe, each detail must be perfect as the audience is inches away from the action and the magic is more difficult to create at close range. Theo Ubique knows how to create the illusions that the larger venues do, but in a much smaller space. This is a tribute to their entire staff.
Now , on to the ensemble of performers. Many new to TheoUbique ( they just keep finding great talent, or is their reputation so strong that performers make their way to Chicago to have an opportunity to do a show in Rogers Park?): Roy Brown, Eliot Burton, Sydney Charles ( who will send chills down your spine with her version of “Memory”),Josh Hupport, Matt McNabb ( he truly shines as Old Deuteronomy), Shannon Mulvey, Brian-Alwyn Newland (one of the most powerful Gus portraylas I have seen), Hillary Patingre, Rebecca Pink, Maggie Portman ( who just keeps proving her talent has no limitations), Tommy Rivera-Vega, Emily Rogers ( who is about as acrobatic as they come) and Tiffany Cheris Taylor. Many of these ensemble members are recent college grads ( Rivera-Vega is still in school) and newcomers to our theater scene. I welcome them for their talent and look forward to watching them grow and mature in the productions they will be in. Try to imagine 13 actors taking on 20 roles ( 30-32 is the normal number), but lets face it, they are working on a stage that barely fits the 13 for the curtain call and in many dance numbers 6-8 are moving all over this tiny stage and never even look as if they are in an awkward position. I would have to say they are as graceful as cats.
“Cats” is scheduled to run through January 2nd at No Exit Cafe located at 6970 N. Glenwood, but I have a feeling this one will be extended. The performance schedule until otherwise notified is as follows:
Thursday at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
There are special holiday changes- No show 11/25, and 12/24 and 12/25
There will be shows on Wednesday 11/24 and 12/22
Tickets range from from $30-$35 and there are some dinner packages available at $50 and $55 New Yeras Eve $100 includes a gala party to welcome in 2011.
To order and reserve your chance to see this theatrical experience, a “memory” that will last you a lifetime, call 800-595-4849 or online www.theoubique.org or you can call 773-347-1109
There are only about 60 seats for each performance, s I would not put off calling for yours.
Free parking is available at the lot located at Morse and Ravenswood where you will get a free ride to the theater ( and back after the show)