Sunday, June 17, 2012

Next Stop: a new Chicago musical

6/18/2012 I just came back from opening night. Wow! Tonight's opening was Brilliant! The cast pulled this off so well, that I think they even surprised their director Erica Weiss! Man did I feel the energy, the vibe of each writer, and Chicago.

This is an awesome original and first ever presented musical. With the performance I saw tonight, this musical is going places. YOU HAVE GOT TO GO SEE THIS! After watching this opening night, I really, and I mean Really, need to thank the cast and production for allowing me to humbly photograph the rehearsal.

Oh, and if you look to the right column of this blog, under "Friends of Wes . . .", you will see that I have a link to "Diana and the Dishes". I have had that for some time now, and I am Very proudly saying check this girl out!!!!!!!

For "Review: Next Stop (Route 66 Theatre Company)" by Laurence Bommer of the Chicago Theater Beat, click here.  I have to give credit to the professional reviewers . . . they know what they are doing!

As always, I recommend you go see the performance first, before continuing with this blog. Each of us needs to take away our own personal meaning. What I write in my blog is my experience. This is no substitute for your own. After you go see this musical, Next Stop, you can come back to this blog and reminisce how you felt during the performance, and smile.  For any new readers of my blog, you can click on the photo to enlarge it, and click on the enlarged photo to index through.

Megabus Station - Next Stop: Chicago, Stop 1: Fullerton, Stop 2: Logan Square, Stop 3: Clark & Lake, Stop 4: Loyola, Stop 5: Chicago & State.  What does all this have in common?  People's lives coming to and in Chicago. Six stories are being told using the bus and CTA L-stations to connect the story for us, giving us some continuity for these six scenes, yet individuality as well.

We are all different, and Chicago is a melting pot of different, which this musical touches on. Making a connection for us, of the people who come to and live in Chicago. For me, these six stories are not just common, but also what we forget, or choose to look the other way. These stories to me seam real, everyday events. After this musical you may choose to look around, take notice, to see yourself somewhere in this musical.

Before I get too far, let me introduce this great cast . . .

Adrian Aguilar

Zach Kenney

Harmony France

Geoff Rice

Emjoy Gavino

Blair Robertson

And some photos of the musical . . .

Megabus Station - Next Stop: Chicago, Watch and Wave by Ike Holter

This act was with Harmony and Zach.  I loved Harmony as a waitress, then as the friend from back in school.  Here she is, waitressing, while Zach has chosen to leave and go to Chicago.  Zach gives us a very compelling emotion to want Harmony to leave with him.

Chicagoans on the train . . .

Stop 1:  Fullerton, Blue Eyes by Alice Austen

This act made me tear at the end, and the most powerful moment was with all the cast positioned on stage, and just the right place, making the right gestures, singing at the right time, to support Geoff Rice in his story. One advantage of being the photographer at rehearsal is that I can move around. In general I hear what the audience sees and hears, however I can also be selective in order to catch that energy in that one moment of time.

One thing I noticed in this musical. You do stay focused on the acting in front of you. However, look around once and a while, and take a look at the obscure, like the Chicagoans still on the train . . .

And this train was used to bring the cast in to support scenes . . .

I found myself in front of Adrian. To see his posture, and hear his voice stand out for that one moment of photography, was very powerful to me. I became caught in his mood because it just played out to me. As I walked in front of the stage I could hear each individual part. Each just as powerful. I do think if you sit and watch each of the cast, you will feel their individual emotions towards the story being told by Geoff.

And we re-focus on the train, where all these emotions and memories ride, and to help us transition between acts . . .

Stop 2: Logan Square, The Boy In The Thrift Store Sweater by Brett Neveu

This story was with Blair Robertson and Adrian Aguilar. This did remind me of one of my relationships. I think each of us can connect with one of these stories. This one was mine.

I enjoyed how the directing involved Diana Lawrence on the piano. This made it special, and at the same time made you wonder if that intentional or by accident. It made the musical "human", more interactive for me.

I liked how Blair described who she admired, while Adrian stood there and basically played out what she was thinking. This scene of two people, and the story of one.

Blair's giddiness was infectious . . .

And when she sang about the person she was in love with, it helped frame the distance between these two people, which you could really tell she so wanted to be closer.

All of a sudden she became all crunched up with joy, spinning on the floor from all the excitement that was in her. This is one you have to see in person . . . my photography does not capture all that I felt . . .

And Chicagoans still on the train with stories to tell . . .

Not to give everything away, however lets just say Blair is trying to get Adrian to change his style, by taking off that sweater. Adrian denies all of this being a style, however in the end it is not worth a breakup, if you care.  Like me, he goes the extra mile . . .

Stop 3: Clark & Lake, Campaign by Aaron Carter

This act was a good change up. It is best to just show the photos, then describe.

Geoff is a politician in this act. Political life is rough. You never know what is around the corner. These three girls (Emjoy, Harmony, Blair, and later joined by Diana) were mean. There is no kindness in politics . . . that is the message I received. Harmony is not someone you would want to meet in the alley. Her character jumped at you as psycho, along with Emjoy's and Blair's, which made the scene by scaring the bejesus out of me.

Geoff is pissed off. Adrian comes in to calm him down, and also to set some facts straight with Geoff.

Needless to say, there is not much that would calm Geoff down . . .

And the angriness of politics still lurks in the shadows . . . Harmony is so darn mean looking I could kiss her ! Emjoy and Blair are not the cute ladies from the prior acts. They look more like Unjoy and Burst. Had another thought, Good Bad and the Ugly? I am not going to be the one to tell them who is which . . .

Then walks in Zach, the cause of all the political potential nightmare . . . that needs to be taken care of . . .

Geoff played his character strong. He was very convincing, at the right level when it needed to be.

Nothing like the old political guilt trip to make someone do what they would normally not do . . .

Then the streets of Chicago take over, remaining ever powerful . . .

Stop 4: Loyola, Someday by Alex Lubischer

Zach and Emjoy have to go out to an event together. Emjoy now knows some of Zach's past, and wants to keep her distance.  However, Zach fights to keep her in his life.

Stop 5: Chicago & State, Mouths of Babes by Caitlin Montanye Parrish

Emjoy and Blair are sitting after a wdding, thinking of life, and what meaning do you bring to it. I enjoyed the quirkiness, the funny face, and the uplifting happiness this act brought out.

A lot of dreaming going on . . . hopeful dreaming . . .

I wanted to get up and dance with them . . . and I think the opening night audience did as well . . .

At opening night, near the end when they lined up near the front of the stage clapping to there music, the audience could not help but to clap along with. This is how engaging the performance was. Not that they gave you cues to do so. You just wanted to. Or, was that the cue?

Now, this next photo is my Diana Lawrence photo (sorry Diana, I wanted to photograph more of you . . . the cast made me not do it . . . honest). This is how I picture her when she performs. Back straight, head tilted slightly back and to the side, and kicking it for the audience.

Bravo Diana . . .

I asked to photograph this musical because I had the pleasure of hearing Diana's music in person one evening. Her talent intrigued me. Coming to this musical, I was wondering if my prior experience with her music would lesson my experience at this musical. I know, a bad thing to say, however my first encounter of her was spectacular. You know what . . . I forgot all about that prior experience. All of the cast in this musical drew me in. I felt heart broken, I cried, Harmony scared me, and they all made me want to dance. And the music behind it all was what drove this. So now I have even a deeper respect for Diana Lawrence's talents.

Watching Erica Weiss, I see that she knows what she wants (and it was not the clothes Geoff wore to rehearsal), and at the same time steps back to look at it all, making decisions that focus on the vision. This musical is new. Never been done. A bold step in anyone's life. The transitioning and independent acts were great. The positioning and dress on stage was great. All from the directing of Erica. Bravo Erica!

There are people on the train.  Many lives, thoughts, needs, wants are on that train.  These six actors, along with the music of Diana and directing of Erica, do a very good job showing you the daily routine that we see, yet do not see.  I even saw myself sleeping on the train.  Yet each of these actors step out of the train to tell you a story.  A believable story that can occur at each of these stops.  They allow you to see into some of the lives of Chicagoans.  You may see yourself at any one of these stops . . . for sure . . .

This musical can be very big, if you let it.  Imagination is not necessary.  Just listen to the voice of the writers and watch the art of the actors.  A superb job by the them, and by Erica Weiss and Diana Lawrence putting this together.  And of course it would not be possible without the production staff . . .


Erica Weiss - Director
Diana Lawrence - Composer / Musical Director
Alex Huntsberger - A.D. / Producer
Matt Bonaccorso - Company Manager
Corinne Kabat - Stage Manager
Matthew Ozawa - Choreographer
Ralph Sledge - Sound Design
Alana Zalas - Business Manager
Stef Tovar - Artistic Director

Though you see Chicago in this musical, my experience allows me to see this in any large city.  This musical is only limited to Chicago by name and stop.  Not experience of real life.  It would be great if other cities picked this up and adopted it for them.  Time will tell.

For more information on Route 66 Theatre click here.

Click on this line and read my copyright.

No comments: