they see and feel is of great importance to you, the reader. Adam has been attending plays with me since he was just a little boy and last night, for the World Premiere of “Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money”, he brought his friend David along. Both of these 9 year olds ( one just 9 , the other about to be 9) found this new R & B musical tale, as they put it “Amazing”. And I must chime in with them. A combination of solid music from Motown, to disco, to Rock to Rap and a little Jazz and Hip-Hop.
Based on the book by Christopher Paul Curtis, with music by Motown legend Lamont Dozier, David Ingber has transformed this wonderful story into a pure magical theatrical experience for young and old. The story is about a 10 year old boy, Steven( richly played by Jonathan Butler-Duplessis) who, along with his
“best friends” Richelle ( the adorable Ashley Elizabeth Honore) and Russell ( Travis Turner, who also handles a second role as Agent Three) are self proclaimed “private detectives” and are “On The Case” that they have been given my Steven’s adult friend, Mr. Chikee ( deftly handled by Soul singer Yaw Agyeman) . Mr. Chickee has received an envelope with money in it. The bill has 15 o’s and it is up to the “detectives” to find out if it is real. To assist in finding out what this is all about, Mr. Chikee’s dog ( a wild bit of puppetry handled by Sam Deutsch who makes Zoopy come alive and seem very real).
Along with his pals, Steven learns the importance of family, friends, imagination and determination mean. That is the true beauty of what Chicago Children’s Theatre brings to its stage, which is now permanent at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts located at 1016 N. Dearborn in Chicago. The show is 80 minutes of pure magic for the kids and the sight lines in this intimate space are perfect for little people as well as the big people that bring them. Hey, “big people”, you will have just as much fun as the kids!.
The set ( Courtney O’Neill did a great job of designing a multi use set) is a street scene in Michigan that can convert to many other locations, with solid lighting (Rebecca Jeffords), sound by the always reliable Ray Nardelli, costumes by Christine Pascual and props by Maragret Goddard-Knop. The production is smoothly directed by Derrick Sanders and choreography by Kevin Iega Jeff.
The other cast members are the lovely , and very talented Alexis J. Rogers, Bear Belinger, Brian Grey and the lovely Elena Flores. The musicians who are offstage are Ethan Deppe ( keyboards), Dave Saenger ( guitar), Michael Sinclair (Bass Guitar) and Andrew Abramowitz on the drums. These four musicans fill the theater with the fun songs without even drownung out the voices of teh performers. This music was written to be heard and it is. For thos eof you at a certain age, there is a reference to the “Great” James Brown that will have you laughing and when Bear Bellinger takes on his persona, you get a show that is worth the price of the ticket on its own- great job!
Watching Adam and David was as much a treat as watching the production itself. They were totally into the story and were excited about reading the book itself and others written by Mr. Curtiss. To me , that says a great deal and for Chicago Children’s Theatre, this is a true positive. For young people to be excited about reading, to be enthusiastic about live theater and to get the message of the show itself- that to me is sheer magic! Read below for the thoughts of Adam and David!
This jazz, blues, and comedy musical is great for all ages, especially kids. This musical teaches you about believing in yourself and working with others. With a weird family, remember never to say “I don’t know” or you have to do the weird shuffle. Join Steven, Richelle, Russel, and Zoopy the dog to solve the case of the 1000000000000000 dollar bill.“Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money” will continue through March 2nd with performances as follows:Through February 2nd- Tuesdays at 10 a.m.Wednesdays at 10 am and noonThursdays at 10 a.m.Fridays at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.Saturdays at 6 p.m.Sundays at 11 a.m.Through February 23rd, there are some changes:Wednesday 2nd show becomes 12:15Saturday adds a performance at 11 a.m.On the last week Saturday March 1st adds a 2 p.m. performance and on the final Sunday a 2 p.m. performance to end the run.Tickets are $25-$28 and can be purchased by calling the box office at 872-222-9555 or go online to www.chicagochildrenstheatre.org, where you can also see what else is coming in their new home at The Ruth Page Center For The Arts. parking is available on the street ( mostly metered) or if you want, you can park at eitherNewberry Plaza 1030 N. State Street or LAZ Parking at 1250 N. Dearborn, bring your ticket with you to the theater where they will sell you a discount validation reducing your cost to $12 for 4-6 hours allowing you some time to grab a bite in the area as well.To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at Mr. Chikee’s Funny Money” or look at Children’s Theater.