Out of Town
The Best Friggin’ Songs of The Second City: Sing Out – Comedy Set to a Beat
Often referred to as the crown jewel of sketch comedy, The Second City is unveiling its latest, The Best Friggin’ Songs of The Second City: Sing Out! on their Up Comedy Club stage. Over the last six decades, The Second City has cultivated a proven rich comedic history, including being the professional birthplace of icons Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. The sextet of young comedians here make working original songs into their sketch comedy a much easier fit than one might imagine. For those who are not a fan of traditional musical theater, don’t worry, songs are not shoehorned in here to advance the book. The lyrics in this brand new show often provide the heartiest giggles. I just wish there had been more. After a two-year pandemic break, everyone is desperate to laugh, myself included. I was hoping there would be more consistent and substantive material to earn those much needed chuckles.
The comedy club atmosphere in this historic Piper’s Alley Building in Old Town does allow a little distancing between booths, but the moment audience members checked in the night I attended, masks were gone. This audience members “skin to the wind” attitude was unsettling, but I was determined it would not spoil my night. Co-Directors Carisa Barreca and Carly Heffernan brought a frenzied energy to the song centric-sketch-comedy-musical-improv. Like the more conventional shows, the audience made the difference. Shouting out recommendations to the cast, they mined all the laughter they could from suggested skits about a lesbian couple breaking up in a neighborhood Starbucks or a suggestive three-way with members of a Windy City sports team.
Tina Arfaee, most fun as an over the top Gay alien shooting rainbow lasers and as a frustrated housewife whose husband was consistently underperforming in the bedroom. Spoiler alert, this foreplay gag runs throughout the piece, ending with a boy-band inspired bang that earned the loudest applause of the night. In her Second City debut, Teagan Earley brought a lovely voice and earnestness to her performances, especially in a skit about best friends and roommates saying their final goodbyes. Sadly though, she was often drowned out by her castmates. The performers here consistently work without microphones and she would have benefitted greatly from a stage mother shouting “Sing Out, Louise” from the wings.
The strongest singer of the group, Breanna Ghostone, mined laughs, applause and pathos, particularly in a skit where she was professing the legitimate woes of being black in a white world. To counter this, Cat McDonnell balanced Ghostone’s real world issues with her own self-indulgent woes of a “Karen”, slightly inconvenienced by her condo board association and the (gasp) frozen yogurt store discontinuing her favorite peach flavor. The nerve. When SNL casting directors next come to town, McDonnell and Ghostone should be at the top of their list of talent to audition. Rounding out the cast, Preston Parker, an audience favorite the night I attended and Uri, a strong singer whose dramatic blue eyeshadow could be seen from space.
Written by “The Casts of Second City” Sing Out would have benefitted from more bravado. Surprisingly, they almost completely sidestepped politics, normally the bread and butter of these sketch and improv shows. Chicago’s current Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, had only one critical shoutout in the show’s finale. Its not a Second City show without a parody of the gun violence plaguing the Windy City. Here, one by one, the cast was quickly and unceremoniously laid to waste with simulated shots from toy guns, the skit ending with an unironic shooter (Arfaee) maiming themselves with a clumsy shot in their own foot.
When the stage went black between skits, the audience was entertained with nostalgic video clips culled from the last sixty years of musical acts who previously graced their stages. The familiar faces as welcomed as the table service of food & drinks available to all. Don’t forget to generously tip your servers. The full bar and kitchen are back and open for all who attend.
The Best Friggin’ Songs of The Second City: Sing Out! is now playing at the Up Comedy Club through May 8, 2022
Florence Welch, Martyna Majok, Rachel Chavkin and More On New Musical Gatsby Coming To A.R.T
Florence Welch Photo by De Wilde
Producers Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, Jordan Roth, and American Repertory Theater(A.R.T.) at Harvard University announced today that Gatsby, a brand-new musical stage adaptation of the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, will make its highly anticipated World Premiere at A.R.T. in 2024, and will be directed by Tony Award® winner Rachel Chavkin and choreographed by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh.
Gatsby will feature music by Florence Welch, the Grammy Award-nominated international rock star of Florence + the Machine and Thomas Bartlett, the Oscar and Grammy Award nominee, with lyrics by Ms. Welch, and a book by Pulitzer Prize® winner Martyna Majok.
Gatsby will be produced at American Repertory Theater by special arrangement with Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, and Jordan Roth, in association with Robert Fox. Hannah Giannoulis serves as co-producer.
American Repertory Theater (Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director; Kelvin Dinkins, Jr., Executive Director) at Harvard University produces groundbreaking work to catalyze dialogue and transformation. Tony Award-winning and nominated productions include Jagged Little Pill; Waitress; Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; All the Way; The Glass Menagerie; Pippin; Once; and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Its revival of 1776, a co-production with Roundabout Theatre Company, is currently touring nationally. Learn more at AmericanRepertoryTheater.org.
Additional Gatsby news will be announced soon.
Reading For Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee New Musical Other World
Other World, a new musical with an original score and story by Tony Award Nominee Hunter Bell (book), Obie Award winner Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics), and singer-songwriter and author Ann McNamee(music and lyrics) will present invite-only staged readings on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17 at Open Jar Studios in New York City. With direction by Jenn Rapp (The Illusionists Director/Choreographer) and choreography by Karla Puno Garcia (Tick, Tick … BOOM! film, Kennedy Center Honors), Other World is being developed in creative consultation with the five-time Academy Award winning WĒTĀ Workshop (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies).
One moment Sri and Lorraine are in a garage on Earth. The next, they’re unexpectedly transported into Sri’s favorite video game, Other World. Now trapped in the game and in a race against the clock, this unlikely pair must work together, discover their inner strengths, and connect with gifted gamers and astonishing avatars in order to survive and find a way home. With art direction provided by Academy Award–winning Wētā Workshop (The Lord of the Rings, Avatar), this heartfelt, humorous musical explores the connections we make on- and off-line, while celebrating the families and friendships we need to thrive in any world. Join us for this spectacular, original, otherwordly adventure. Your journey begins…now!
The cast features Micah Beauvais (Sri), Bella Coppola (Lorraine), Ryan Andes (Roman/Antagon), Madeleine Doherty (Myra), Kaden Kearney (Tris), Brandi Porter (Temula), Mikaela Secada (Jamie), with Sojouner Brown, Elena Camp, Sommer Carbuccia, Laura Dadap, Seth Rettberg, Sherisse Springer, Blake Stadnik, Levin Valayil, and Jason Williams.
The creative team for the developmental presentation also features music direction by Amanda Morton (KPOP), casting by Paul Hardt Casting (Once Upon A One More Time), video design by Khristian Bork (Coco live at the Hollywood Bowl, Danny Elfman – Coachella), sound design by Hidenori Nakajo (Octet), and general management by Alchemy Production Group (The Music Man, Come From Away). The Executive Producer is Lauren Tucker/Alchemy Production Group.
For more information about the show, visit https://otherworldmusical.com/
Hunter Bell (Book) earned an OBIE Award, a Drama League nomination, a GLAAD Media nomination, and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical, all for the original Broadway musical [title of show]. Other credits include the books for Silence! The Musical (Lucille Lortel Nomination, Outstanding Musical), Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Bellobration! (Ringling Bros. Circus), Villains Tonight! (Disney Cruise Lines), Found (Atlantic Theater, Drama Desk Nomination, Outstanding Book of a Musical), and Julie Andrews’ The Great American Mousical (Goodspeed). He is a co-creator of the web series “the [title of show] show” and has developed television with ABC Studios/ABC Television. Hunter is a proud graduate and distinguished alumnus of Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts, a member of the Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild, a MacDowell Fellow, and currently serves on the board of the Educational Theatre Association and Educational Theatre Foundation, national arts advocacy organizations representing theatre teachers and students.
Jeff Bowen (Music and Lyrics) wrote the music and lyrics for and starred in the Broadway musical [title of show] (OBIE Award) and Now. Here. This. Additionally, he has written music and lyrics for Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Villains Tonight! (Walt Disney Company), and the theme songs for the web series “the [title of show] show” and “Squad ’85.” His songs can be heard on the original cast albums of [title of show], Now. Here. This., as well as Broadway Bares Openingsand Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project. He is a proud member of ASCAP, AEA, Writers Guild, Dramatists Guild, and the National Audubon Society. He serves as a faculty member of the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center.
Ann McNamee(Music and Lyrics) received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in Music Theory from Yale University, leading to a twenty-year career in teaching, choral conducting, and music research at Swarthmore College. After retiring as Professor Emerita, Ann composed for, sang, played keys, and toured with the Flying Other Brothers and Moonalice, both bands led by her husband Roger McNamee. She composed the majority of the songs on the Moonalice album that was part of T Bone Burnett’s nomination for Producer of the Year at the 2009 Grammy Awards. For the Lilith Fair tour in 2010, she fronted the band Ann Atomic. Another highlight was opening up for U2 at the Oakland Coliseum in November 2011. She retired from touring in 2012 in order to collaborate on musical theater projects full-time. Ann’s outside interests include co-founding the Haight Street Art Center, a community center/poster music/print shop to celebrate rock poster art in the Bay Area.
Out of Town
The Avett Brothers Musical Swept Away Sails Into Arena Stage This Fall
Swept Away, the new musical written by Tony Award winner John Logan (book) and “America’s biggest roots band” (Rolling Stone), The Avett Brothers (music and lyrics), was announced today as part of the 2023/24 season at Arena Stage, Washington, DC (Molly Smith, Artistic Director; Edgar Dobie, Executive Producer). Performances will begin November 25 and will continue through December 30. Tony Award winner Michael Mayer will direct the production as he had last year in the musical’s sold-out world premiere at Berkeley Rep. The Arena Stage engagement will feature an updated score with additional, never-before-heard songs. Swept Away is produced by Special Arrangement with Matthew Masten, Sean Hudock, and Madison Wells Live.
Swept Away is set in 1888, off the coast of New Bedford, MA. When a violent storm sinks their whaling ship, the four surviving souls — a young man in search of adventure, his older brother who has sworn to protect him, a captain at the end of a long career at sea, and a worldly first mate who has fallen from grace — each face a reckoning: How far will I go to stay alive? And can I live with the consequences?
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacting the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its eighth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000. arenastage.org
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