Recommended *** There are times when it is difficult to determine if a production is in reality a play or a cabaret revue. This is one of those times! Pride Films & Plays has just moved its latest production, “The Book of Merman” from Mary’s Attic in Andersonville to the newly remodeled Studio of The Apollo Theater on Lincoln Avenue. This is a unique little 85 minutes of comedy and music revolving around one of Broadway’s largest egos (and voices) and the very funny and comical “The Book of Mormon”, which is now back in the area. By the way, this is a World Premiere (perhaps it is now a World Premiere, once removed) conceived by its director David G. Zak with a book and music and lyrics by Leo Schwartz.
David also directs this charming little adventure of two young men, devoted to saving souls, who come across a star of the past, who supposedly is dead and find self-awareness and the ability to accept who they are and what choices have been made for them. The star is Ethel Merman (a remarkable performance and characterization by Libby Lane). While the two young men, Aaron (an adorable and loveable performance by Sam Button-Harrison) and Jacob (deftly handled by Dan Gold) have a mission for their Church, it seems that their course will be changed by the voice and tenacity of one of Broadway’s greatest stars.
This is a charming and very intimate story using some of the music that we associate with Ms Merman as well as spoofing much of “The Book Of Mormon”. This show may not be for everyone, but I will say that the crowd at The Apollo tonight (many of whom saw the show at Mary’s) were having a ball. The dazzling parody music and the talent of the three performers make this show work, exceeding my expectations. This is not a show you go to for a story line, but instead, a show that takes the edge off your day. Straight or Gay, you will find yourself laughing at the situational comedy and the two young men as they come to grips with who they really are.
Robert Ollis serves as the musical director and is onstage at the keyboard. There is some very special lighting (G.”max” Maxin IV) , who also did the simple but elegant set depicting a home in the town that stands out. Sarah Goldberg’s choreography is surprisingly sparkling for this small space and Raquel Adorno’s costumes are quite original. When you arrive at the theater, you will find a screen with some old video footage of Ms Merman. Watching these you can get an idea of the ups and downs in her career and see her with some of the greatest talents ever. She was a true Broadway star and everyone knew it. Come take a look at this production, which might become one of those oddities, the late night fun show- girls night out, or even boy’s night out. Yes, even a date night special. have a drink, sit back and relax. By the way, you might find yourself called on to sing- after all, everyone has a bit of Merman in them!
“The Book of Merman” is scheduled to continue at The Apollo Theater Studio, located at 2540 N. Lincoln Avenue with performances as follows:
Thursdays. Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Sundays at 3:30 p.m.
Seating is general admission at $30 ( students and seniors, only $25)
There are also premium tickets with reserved seating at $35
To purchase your tickets call 773-935-6100 or contact any Ticketmaster outlet or online at www.Ticketmaster.com
To learn more about this company, visit www.pridefilmsandplays.com
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Book Of Merman”