Wednesday December 13th 2017

“Upright Grand”

grand logoHighly Recommended ***** There are a great number of theater-lovers who are unaware of a special little treasure on the North Shore! The Company is Citadel Theatre, and their venue is in Lake Forest at what is called the West Campus ( I am pretty sure this building was, or perhaps still is, part of Lake Forest High School). The actual theater is laid out more like a lecture hall, with spaced out seating that makes it easy to see the “lecturer”, but often can become a difficult situation for a director of a play. Scott Weinstein knows this facility and while it may have been a struggle, his direction in their latest play, “Upright Grand”, a play with music, written by local playwright Laura Schellhardt, is masterful.

The play is 90 minutes of a story about a father and his daughter. The father, Pops ( a superb performance by Mark Ulrich) plays the piano in a bar, for tips. He is a would-be composer, who spends his days at the piano, endlessly playing old favorites and re-living his past. What he might have been! The daughter, Kiddo ( superbly played by Charlotte Mae Ellison) who we watch grow from a 12- year- old to an adult is a concert hall pianist, who is taught by the best and becomes rich and famous (perhaps all that Pops had wanted for his life). There is one more character in the play, in actuality, several played by Matt Edmonds, who is also the actual piano player. He is always onstage and off to the side, as he plays for the two characters. He does take on a few small, but important roles as well making the pieces of Schellhardt’s wonderful story stay on track.DSC_0250-1024x683

This play portrays the emotional ties that are the love between a father and his daughter. Being a father, with a daughter, I understand this part of the story. The story is filled with music. In fact, many of the tunes being played will be quite familiar  “Smile”, “Moon River”- from pop tunes, thru classical music and quite a bit of “Carousel” (this is the music they played when father and daughter were upset with each other). Edmonds is absolutely amazing at the keyboard and both actors are great at “acting out the playing of the piano”, on both the Grand or the Upright. This is another part of the story. Pops owned an upright, which he cherished, as did Kiddo. It was a symbol of who they were and what their lives were. Spoiler Alert! In the 3rd scene, the upright leaves the stage. What and why is another part of the solid story being told about this magical relationship. By the way, there is a mother, but only to speak of and learn from.

What we get from this brilliant work of art is that the sentimentality of our pasts, which is what Pops truly was all about as he spoke to us as the bar piano-ma, is deep within us all. We all have stories that we recall, some very important to grand1our being, others not real, but repeatable, just the same. An Homage to our past!  Kiddo has a great line about a young man who wants to date her- he will bring her” colored lights and a corsage, but she is seeking Carnegie Hall!”

The technical aspects of the show were also brilliant. Adam Veness’ set allowed us to change locations in a matter of seconds and Kyle Techentin’s lighting along with sound by Karli Blalock allowed great visuals and ability to hear every important word between these characters. The props, handled by Jamie Karas and the costumes by Alexa Weinzieri completed Weinstein putting this masterpoice on the small and intimate stage at Citadel- sheer perfection!

I guess the only negative I can find to this production is the limited number of performances. It is only on thru the 26th ( not enough time for the audiences of Chicago )

with performances as follows:

DSC_0432-1-1024x683Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  8 p.m.

Sundays  3 p.m.

Tickets range from $35- $38 and are available by calling 847-735-8554 or online at www.CitadelTheatre.org. Seniors and students will get discounts and there is plenty of free parking at the theater located at 300 S. Waukegan Road (route 43) in Lake Forest, just south of Route 60.

To see what others are saying, visit http://www,theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Upright Grand”

Maybe they will extend this production or find a way to bring it back. It is a MUST SEE!!

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