Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“HERO The Musical”

The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire is best known for its ability to take a major musical, no matter the age and rebuild it on their “in-the-round-venue so that their tremendous subscriber base can have a wonderful, entertaining experience. Of late, they have been the first theater of its type to get rights to Broadway shows ready to hit smaller theaters, but now have taken on a new challenge; creating their own show, from scratch. Over the years many subscribers have tired of  seeing new versions of the old standards that have made Marriott what it is, so they have decided that the time is right to open up new streams of entertainment for their audience- thus, the current production, “Hero The Musical” hit their stage in its premiere production. Written by Aaron Thielen (who is lead Artistic Director at Marriott and who at one time graced their stage as an actor himself) with music and lyrics by Chicago favorite Michael Mahler (an wonderful performer with musical talent- many may recall his marvelous “How Can You Run With A Shell On Your Back” written with Alan Schmuckler) that played at Marriott after playing to sold out audiences at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre many summers ago. Mahler is a brilliant musician with the ability to come up with clever lyrics to help a story convey its message.

Under the sterling direction of David H. Bell, who is more a choreographer than director, the only problem with this musical, which by the way is not a musical comedy, but in fact, a story with music, is that is best suited to be on a regular stage with a set that can be in one spot for the duration. There were times, in this tight little show that our view was blocked by either a part of the set itself or the characters having to face each other- on a regular stage, this would not have taken place and sight lines would have been far greater ( although we would lose some of the intimacy this story has). Thomas M Ryan’s set and rotating stage area is wonderful, but it is limited to the space available. Jesse Klug’s lighting, Sally Weiss’ properties, Robert E. Gilmartin’s sound and the costumes by Nancy Missimi and Erin Wuorenma, as usual are the top-notch production services we associate with Marriott Theatre, but in reality it is the story itself and the cast assembled that makes this show truly work!

The story is about a young man, a talented artist named Hero Batowski, who lives with his father in Milwaukee. Hero ( a solid performance by Erich Bergen) works for his father, Al Batowski ( deftly handled by Marriott favorite Don Forston) in his comic book store. Hero has been trying to get DC ( one of the biggest in the comic book industry) to hire him on as an artists, but to no avail. His cousin Kirk ( the hilarious Alex Goodrich, who just keeps getting better) takes him out on the town where he bumps into his high school sweetheart Jane ( Heidi Kettenring who is as adorable as ever and whose voice gets stronger as the years go on) as they resume their lost love of their youth. There are many little stories in this larger story, dealing with knowing all the facts,forgiveness, love, adoration, adjustment and finding oneself and their way in life.

The songs in this story with music are all fitting and apt and yet, we do not leave the theater humming anything at all. In fact, we leave the theater, after viewing this heartwarming story, one that takes us down, makes us laugh and makes us cry, with a good feeling about life and that the choices we make in life are exactly that choices, but ones that can be adjusted- yes life can experience changes and alterations. The story is one that takes a bit of time to evelove in full and the second act is much stronger than the first. I know that this show was “showcased” ( tried out in readings to various audiences) before heading to the big stage, and I am sure that Marriott will look at what people say about the final production before they decide to go even further with this show. I think it can be a show that will do well for many years, once they get a few things cleared up.

This cast is what makes the show as powerful as it it is.Besides Bergen,Kettenring,Forston andGoodrich, we have Dana Cameron ( she is adorable, funny and just perfect) as Susan, a schoolteacher, prim and proper who meets Kirk and breaks out of her shell to live the life she always dreamed of; young Jonah Rawitz as Kirk’s younger brother Nate. Rawitz is dynamite, adorable, funny and the kid you just want to hug and send to his room; and a small ensemble of solid performers including Michael Aaron Lindner  and Alex Goldklang as sort of the Lenny and Squiggy characters who hang out at the comic book shop instead of leading lives and Kelly Abell, Summer Naomi Smart and Jameson Cooper ( they take on many roles and help change set pieces to keep the show swiftly moving along)

The musicians are few, but with great sound, under the direction of Ryan T. Nelson and while the songs are not memorable, their are several wonderful lyrical songs-“There is Wonder All Around”, “That’s my Kryptonite” and “Time Flies By” all have some inner meaning that contribute to the beautiful, heartfilled story . “Hero”will continue at the beautiful Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through August 29th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.,Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 4:30 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.

Tickets range from $40-$48 with some performances having student and senior discounts of $5- dinner/theater packages are available for some performances at $55 plus handling ( a real baragin as Marriott food service is terrific) Free parking is always available and valet parking is available as well. To order your tickets for this wonderful experience, call Marriott Theater Box Office at 847-634-0200 or visit www.ticketmaster.com

Marriott Theatre is located in Lincolnshire at The Marriott Resort, 10 Marriott Drive ( just south of Route 22/Half day Rd and East of Route 21/Milwaukee Avenue) in Lincolnshire

For more info, visit Hero page at www.theatreinchicago.com

www.HeroMusical.com or www.MarriottTheatre.com


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