Recommended *** I had a difficult time putting a rating to tonight’s opening of another TV series transformed to a play, live. This one is “Cheers, Live on Stage” and is on the same stage where “I Love Lucy” was brought to Chicago, The Broadway Playhouse, which has the right intimacy, great sound and very comfy seating. It also has a vibrant lobby bar. Not where everyone knows your name, but where you can get a well poured drink and bring it into the theater. This may be the best way to see this show, with a drink in your hand.If you are a true fan of the TV show, you will find yourself drawn into the set (Michael Carnahan has reproduced what we saw every week for ten plus years). You almost feel as if you have gone back in time!
Director Matt Lenz and his staff have put together a talented group of actors who had the challenge of recreating icons of our history- TV-wise. They have done a solid job in casting Barry Pearl as the Coach. “Coach” was Sam’s old coach when he was a baseball player, before he owned the bar. I guess for those of you who are unfamiliar with the show (shame on you. Re-runs can be found all over the networks and via streaming), I will let you know that Sam is a powerful ex-pitcher, a ladies man who has a new date every night and he is also a recovering alcoholic (yes, who owns a bar) and his ex-coach is a bartender. They have a waitress, Carla (Sarah Sirota is a clone of Rhea Perlman in looks, voice and demeanor) who is a stitch, and are in need of one more.
Enter Diane Chambers , who was sort of on her way to getting married when her fiancée decided to take his ex-wife on the honeymoon they had planned. Sam (by the way, Grayson Powell does a nice job and doesn’t appear to be imitating every move and gesture that Ted Danson had in the role, so bravo!) feels sorry for her , and a bit attracted, so he hires her and the rest of the story is what we watch over two hours and 15 minutes with an intermission. Jillian Louis does a superb imitation of Shelly Long’s character, and I guess, as was in the “Lucy” production, the producers feel that the audience will not accept anything other than the characters they are used to and adored. That being the case, and with my talk with the producer (Randall A. Buck) and his charming wife , Angela,who sat next to me, they succeeded in bringing the TV show (at least 8 episodes) to life on the stage.
Cliff Clavin, the know-it-postal service worker is well- played by Buzz Roddy and Cheers fixture Norm (who even the audience greeted every time he entered the stage) played to perfection by Paul Vogt (who eveidently has watched hundreds of episodes and George Wendt re-runs). The ensemble who play all the other small parts and change costumes with their characters, are divine: Jed Peterson, Andrew Sellon, Richard B. Watson, Laura Woyasz, Erin Mosher, Justin R.G. Holcomb, Ryan G. Dunkin, Jeff Applegate and Jen Burleigh-Bentz. A bar without drinkers could never be as funny as this one is.
This is certainly not a show for everyone, and in fact, if you did not like or appreciate the TV show, you will certainly not enjoy this experience. If the show was one of your favorites that you “had” to watch, while it was on, not on VHS or BETA (remember those? if so, you are getting old), then you should get a kick out of watching these adaptations of episodes from your past. These actors bring back the memories, and the laughs are still powerful for making it an enjoyable experience. Let’s face it, this was a top rated TV show for a long time and is ranked among the top 50 greatest according to TV Guide (is that still published?)
“Cheers Live on Stage” will continue at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place located at 175 East Chestnut (just East of Michigan Avenue) thru October 23rd with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are priced from $35-$72 (not out of line) and can be purchased at any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, by calling the Broadway in Chicago Ticketline at 1-800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster outlets or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com
There is parking in Water Tower Place and if you bring your ticket to the theater, you can get a discount pass that will save you quite a bit. With the discount $13.00, which for Michigan Avenue is the biggest bargain in Chicago.
There are plenty of dining spots in Water Tower Place as well- the food court on the second floor is ideal- everyone can eat what they desire and still sit together.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Cheers, Live on Stage”.