Tuesday November 21st 2017

“Changes” Chicago Tap-reviewed by Carol Moore

 Highly Recommended **** When I saw Chicago Tap Theatre’s fantastical science fiction tap opera, “Changes”, it felt like a time warp, flashing me back to my favorite space hero on TV, Flash Gordon, traveling through the galaxy in his spaceship, fighting cosmic villains.  Everything was there – a hero, a villain, minions, captured/oppressed people, a rocket, even a cheesy laser weapon.  Choreographer Mark Yonally’s ingenious choreography uses tap shoes to tell the story.  Add to that the spacey score (pun intended), a mélange of David Bowie’s song tracks with live additions by CTT Music Director Kurt Schweitz and Lighting Designer Dustin Derry’s laser lighting, and you get a spectacle.  4 Spotlights

This is apparently the third manifestation for “Changes”, but since I didn’t get to see the earlier versions, it was brand new to me.  “Changes begins with the Alliange – winged angels – Jennifer Pfaff Yonally, Isaac Stauffer, Sarah Owens, Sara Anderson, Sarah Lavanway, Jenna Jozefowski, Chris Matthews and Ann Robbins, joyfully dancing to David Bowie’s “Life on Mars”.
The evil Altego (Mark Yonally) – think Ming the Merciless – and his halberd-carrying Henchpeople (Aimee Chase and Heather Latakas) seduce an unwary angel (Jennifer Pfaff Yonally).  As she introduces each of her angel friends to Altego, the Henchpeople rip off their wings.  When she realizes what they are doing and protests, they ripped off one of her wings.
Altego and the Henchpeople forced the damaged angels to work, carrying heavy parts to Altego’s workshop where he was assembling a laser gun. 
When Major Tom (Kirsten Uttich) – wearing a red jumpsuit and an oversized white helmet – comes upon the oppressed angels, she exhorts them to rise up against Altego.  When they try, the Henchpeople use their halberds (which light up like those wands you buy at the circus or the ice show) to zap Major Tom and their three leaders and imprison them.  Inside the cells, indicated by lights on the floor, the prisoners, who outline the space in mime, use taps to communicate.
*Spoiler Alert – When the single-winged angel, snubbed by the other angels, protests, the Henchpeople rip off her remaining wing.  Sneaking around, she steals the keys and frees the prisoners.  Eventually Altego shoots his cheesy ray gun, killing her.
I think I missed most of the eighties, while I was busy raising kids and going to grad school, so I know little to nothing about David Bowie’s music.  I think titles like “Life on Mars”, “Starman”, “Space Oddity”, ”Man Who Sold the World”, “5:15 The Angels Have Gone”, “Ziggy Stardust” and “Hallo Spaceboy” fit a space tap opera perfectly.
Last year, when I saw Chicago Tap Theatre’s “Time Steps”, I didn’t know anything about the company or what they did.  When I saw “Time Steps, I loved this beautiful, amazingly creative tap opera, so I made sure that the company stayed on my radar. Earlier this year, I was wowed by “Liaison”, an international exploration of tap dance, in which Chicago Tap Company performed with Tap Olé (Barcelona, Spain) and Tapage (Toulouse, France).  “Liaison” will be performed in Toulouse and Barcelona later this year.
This is not the tap you’ll see/hear in a Broadway musical like “42nd Street”.  Note that this ensemble wears a different kind of tap shoe, oxford style rather than Mary Jane.  They look and sound a lot like the shoes the dancers in “Riverdance” wear, but they don’t have the reinforced toes.
Chicago Tap Theatre’s “Changes” runs through July 16th at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago. 
Running time is 90 minutes, no intermission. 
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30
                                 Sundays at 3:00 pm. 
Tickets range from $23-$37.  Valet parking is available.  FYI (773) 327-5252, www.stage773.com, (773) 655-1175 or  www.chicagotaptheatre.com/time-steps.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Changes”
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