Hoodoo Love, Dead Man Walking — Playtime Chicago Theater Report

The SoundCloud files will go up later this week. Until then, you can hear the full Playtime Chicago Theater Report for November 10th, 2019 (including my Dead Man Walking report) at the WCGO web archive. Click here and scroll down to the November 10th episode, 2nd-hour recording. The report starts at about 3:48.

Lightly Edited Transcript of the 11.10.2019 Show

I’ve got three new and extended productions to share with you this week, plus reports on two shows. Let’s get started:

Hyde Park School of Dance will be performing The Nutcracker on December 13th, 14th, and 15th at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th Street, in Chicago. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors (65+), $10 for children ages 6-18 and for students with school ID, and free for children 5 and younger. Special $40 reserved tickets are available for audience members of all ages. Tickets and more information are available at 773-493-8498 or hydeparkdance.org/tickets.

The Hyde Park School of Dance was founded in 1993 as the Hyde Park School of Ballet, the school  is a 501(c)3 non-profit providing opportunities for students of all ages and abilities to study, perform, and create classical and contemporary dance at the highest levels of discipline and artistry within an inclusive community.

We’d like to extend congratulations to Windy City Playhouse: The company’s critically-acclaimed one-person show, Every Brilliant Thing at Windy City Playhouse South has been extended through December 15th. For tickets and more information, please visit www.WindyCityPlayhouse.com or call (773) 891-8985.

The Porchlight Music Theatre will be continuing a Chicago holiday tradition by presenting The Ruffians’ Burning Bluebeard at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street, December 13 – 27. Now in its eighth year,  this annual tradition for many is a fantastical tale inspired by Chicago’s 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire.

Previews are Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. Opening Night is Sunday, Dec. 15 and the show runs through Friday, Dec 27. Tickets are $45 and are on sale now at PorchlightMusicTheatre.org or by calling the Porchlight Music Theatre box office, 773.777.9884.

Show Reports

Dead Man Walking at Lyric Opera

The Lyric Opera’s production of Dead Man Walking opened last Saturday. The opera is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s book “Dead Man Walking,” about her work with death row inmates,  which was later made into an Oscar award-winning film starring Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. In 2000, Jake Heggie & Terrence McNally came together to interpret Dead Man Walking as an opera. 

This is the first time that Dead Man Walking has been performed at The Lyric and there is much about it that is very strong. The cast, particularly Ryan McKinny as death row inmate Joseph DeRocher and Susan Graham as his mother, is excellent. I would also note that the music particularly soars during the one-on-one conversations between characters.

I also appreciated that Dead Man Walking offers a decidedly non-secular view of Sister Helen Prejan’s work with inmates. While the film seemed to gloss over Sister Helen’s religious vocation, the opera makes it very clear that Sister Helen’s motivations and work are grounded in her understanding of Christian repentance and forgiveness. 

Dead Man Walking’s run ends on November 22nd. Tickets are available at LyricOpera.org. I definitely recommend going to see it.

Hoodoo Love at Raven Theatre

The second show I saw this past week is Raven Theatre’s Hoodoo Love, which tells the story of Toulou, an aspiring young blues singer living in depression-era Memphis. She develops a relationship with her neighbor, a rootworker called Candylady, who helps her cast a spell to win what she desires. Hoodoo Love tells the story of how these desires take root and grow, leading Toulou down a path that she did not expect.

Hoodoo Love is a hard play to classify: It has a touch of the thriller about it, along with some deeply good historical storytelling. I have to give high praise to the set designer and crew: In a small theater, special effects can be a challenge, but this team was up to the task. 

I strongly recommend Hoodoo Love: It runs through December 15th and tickets are $43 dollars, although discounts are available for students, seniors, veterans and current military, and teachers. Visit RavenTheatre.com for more information and to purchase tickets.

That’s all for this week. Tune in to Playtime every Sunday from 1-3 pm central time right here on WCGO 1590 AM and 95.9 FM in Chicagoland.