TheoUbique, Chicago’s Cabaret Theatre- difficult to pronounce, but a very special company, is swerving (somewhat) from it’s usual menu of presenting full scale musicals and cabaret concerts on a smaller stage in an intimate store-front theater, is presenting Terrance McNally’s stage biography of opera star, Mari Callas. While it is about music and has some music, it is far from what we have grown to expect at this wonderful spot in Rogers Park. On this stage, we have seen “large” musical productions such as “Cats”,”Evita”,Chess” and many others as well as Cabaret programs. Why, then did they select a play with music to start the 2013/2014 season? It will be obvious to you when you bear witness to the performance by Kelli Harrington, who takes on the true persona of Ms Callas and truly makes this her show. I am certain that during his time working with Ms Harrington, Director Fred Anzevino came to the obvious conclusion- he had at last found THE actress who could bring this one woman ( almost) to his stage and wow Chicago audiences. He did! She is! And the beneficiaries of this match are those who buy the ticket to get the chance to see a performance that will, in my opinion, garner another Jeff nomination ( and possibly another award) for Ms Harrington. She is divine!
The story is inspired by Ms Callas conducting some “Master Classes” at The Juliard School, and we the audience, take on the persoan of the students who are seeking to learn more about her secrets of success. During the two hours, we also get to watch her tear apart young singers who desire only to become singers- the other memebrs of the cast, Tony, the tenor ( Kevin R, Siembor), Sophie, (Rachel Klippel) a soprano and Sharon ( Ashlee Hardgrave ) another soprano are all wonderful singers bringing the music of Verdi,Puccini and Bellini to life, but this is a play about Callas and her life- her triumphs, her failures, her love affair with Aristolte Onasis and her rise to fame from poverty.
Directed with sheer precision by Fred Anzevino with just the right touch on a set designed by Adam L. Veness, who seems to know how to use this very small spot to its best advantage for viewing, this is an enchanting production. The techinical aspects are as sharp as the onstage work with lighting (Brian Hoehne),props(Paige Keedy, who also serves as stage manager and who from time to time appears IN the story) and costumes by Bill Morey.The musical direction and pianist is Jeremy Ramey who handles the piano with great dexterity and hits the mark in playing the role of the pianist as well.
This is an evening that you will hold dear to your heart. If you are a regular attendee of TheoUbique, you will see that they can handle a play with music as easily as they handle a musical play an dif you have never attended a production at this marvelous little store-front on Glenwood ( just North of Morse), it is time you do and what a wonderful initiation this will be. Watching Ms Harrington work her magic is a treat! You will fall in love with her performance!
One of the beautiful parts of the TheoUbique experience is that you are in a small space where you feel as if you are a part of the show. Drinks are available as is the full dining experience- yes, you sit at tables and can dine or drink and the servers are the cast members.