Review and Thoughts: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! (Quest Theatre Ensemble)

Have you ever experienced the feeling of love in relation to (but not limited to): first dates, sex, marriage, parenthood, divorce, or death? If so, great. 1997’s Off-Broadway hit I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! tackles all of these things. Not interesting enough for you? Let me tell you a little bit about how Chicago’s Quest Theatre Ensemble brings it to life.

Firstly, the most notable thing about Quest Theatre Ensemble is that all of their productions are free. Seriously, no tricks. All. Productions. Are. Completely free. Although, at the end of the show, they do ask for give-what-you-can donations. Of course, you by no means are required to this. Because I thoroughly enjoyed the show, I donated $20. I’d recommend giving at least a small dollar amount out of courtesy, but in the end, it’s up to you. No one will force you to pay anything. For theatre lovers, this is incredibly brilliant. We’ve all heard it before: theatre is “elitist” or “for rich people”. This reputation mainly stems from the fact that theatre hasn’t been a traditionally accessible medium. We can all go to a movie theatre and see a film, go to the library and check out a book, but… where do you go for theatre? Quest Theatre Ensemble is aiming to be that place. In the words of a company member after the show, “Once you put a price on a ticket, you’re excluding a lot of people”. And he’s right. No one should be excluded from theatre, even due to price.

For a free show, the quality of Quest’s I Love You is far beyond what you might expect. Now, there are no crazy lighting effects or any local stars with top billing, but that’s the beauty of this production. With a young, twenty-something cast of four, a few chairs and two tables, the vignettes of many different characters in the midst of a struggling relationship are told. Not necessarily all romantic relationships, mind you. A husband only feels at peace and in control in his car, a new dad comes to terms with loving his son, a recently divorced woman learns to love herself again, etc. There’s a situation for everyone. Quest Theatre Ensemble’s version of the show chooses to change some lines and lyrics to fit the location and time period. The mention of fidget spinners, Tinder, Mariano’s, the movie “Frozen”, to name a few examples. This gave the show an added layer of personality, like it was meant just for me in this small little theatre in the basement of a tiny building in Andersonville.

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The environment was a huge factor in my enjoyment of this production, honestly. Think about it. It’s much easier to get sucked into an intimate, sometimes comedic, portrayal of how we view love throughout life in an intimate space rather than a large, 2,000 seat theater where you’re stuck in row J. The theatre for I Love You consisted of about 50 seats (seating is open), and I was lucky enough to snag a front row seat. A connection with the story and music is much more tangible when you can clearly see the emotion and mannerisms of the cast up close.

If you’re looking for a great way to spend two hours. I could not recommend Quest Theatre Ensemble’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Not Change! enough. Mainly because the shows that instill a great sense of magic in you don’t seem all that magical on the outside until you give them a chance.


Quest Theatre Ensemble’s I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change! runs now until October 29th. Visit questensemble.org for more information.

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PT is back!

Hi everyone! It’s been a while…

To keep a long story short, my intended hiatus lasted longer than expected as a I had severe medical emergency that ended up throwing off my whole summer. But I’m now healthy and ready to get back into this blog!

So to celebrate the return of Project Theatricality and to thank you all for sticking with this blog, a new review is coming out this Tuesday, October 3rd! It’s one I’m sure you’ll all like.

Unfortunately, I can’t promise weekly posts, as I am a senior high school and juggling college planning and time to engage in the theatre community is tricky. But I will promise to post whenever I can! Hope you all can understand where I’m at right now.

I’m hoping to get the Twitter going again, so make sure you’re following! As for the subject of Tuesday’s post, here’s one of my favorite tracks from it…

See you Tuesday!

 

Spotlight On: Movie Musicals

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The 89th annual Academy Awards are this weekend, and with La La Land – an original musical – being one of the nominated films gaining a whole lot of traction, I figured we should take a look back at movie musicals of the recent past and how they came to be. Some of these films have also been accepted into the Oscar nominated club, and some haven’t. Opinions on these movie musicals vary, from being beloved by people of all ages to being the center of extreme dislike by those who are sticklers for a faithful adaptation. But the truth is, a movie can’t fit the entire two hour or so plot of a musical into its allotted time frame. Film audiences are completely different than theatre audiences in terms of want they want out of their respective medium and the gratification they get from watching it. While we’re on that subject, let me say now that this is a theatre blog, not a film blog. I don’t claim to be incredibly knowledgeable on the craft of film. So let’s dive into some contemporary movie musicals and how they are adapted from their source material.

Les Misérables (2012)

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This beloved musical originating from the West End was already adapted from Victor Hugo’s classic novel of the same name, so the 2012 film adaptation had quite a lot to live up to. Despite the story’s sprawling history, this adaptation, featuring acclaimed actors like Hugh Jackman (Jean ValJean) and Anne Hathaway (Fantine), went over well relatively well with fans and critics alike. The film contains almost every song from the stage production, save for some lyric changes and shorted songs here and there. Director Tom Hooper was commended for his decision to let the cast sing live on set, instead of lip syncing and recording over the take later. This allowed for more emotional and real moments that the audience could connect to. And these efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the Academy, either. The film was nominated for eight Oscar awards in 2013 and ended up taking home four. Musical or not, this goes to show the true testament of Les Misérables‘s cathartic take on hope and the human spirit.

Rent (2005)

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First premiering Off Broadway in 1996, Rent was a musical that changed the game. It is credited for making the pop/rock style musical popular, a sub genre that is certainly no shortage of in musical theatre today. It was provocative enough for people to pay attention to it and its subject matter that dealt with LGBT characters, drugs abuse, and AIDS/HIV. The 2005 film adaptation was able to satiate its legions of fans by bring back almost the entire original Broadway cast to play their same roles. Despite quite a few songs being cut or shortened – such as “Goodbye Love” and “Halloween” – long time “Rentheads” still keep coming back to this one.

The Last Five Years (2015)

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Based on his personal life, Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years chronicles five years of the relationship of a young couple: Cathy (played by Anna Kendrick in the film), an aspiring actress, and Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), an aspiring writer. In the musical, Cathy’s songs start from the end of her and Jamie’s relationship, and Jamie’s songs are vice versa, allowing for a brief moment in the middle where the two’s respective paths truly cross. This interesting way of storytelling was kept intact for the 2015 film adapation, and it definitely adds another layer of depth to the interactions Cathy and Jamie have. With gorgeous shots and costumes, I’d say this movie musical adaptation is worth a watch.


What are your thoughts on movie musicals? Was there anything I missed? Let me know if I should do a part two on movie musicals in the comments!

Review and Thoughts: War Paint (Pre Broadway Engagement)

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The highly anticipated new musical War Paint, starring Tony award winners Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, is set to begin Broadway previews in March. But patrons of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre got to see it first, beginning in June 2016 in a limited pre-Broadway engagement. I was lucky enough to be one of those who were able to see the show a bit later in its run at the Goodman, so let’s take a look at what you can expect from the Broadway production based on the first run of the show.

War Paint is a musical rooted in history. It tells the tale of the intense rivalry between two pioneers in the cosmetology business – Helena Rubinstein (Patti Lupone) and Elizabeth Arden (Christine Ebersole). Spanning over 50 years, the rivalry between the two women is showcased through a myriad of songs – composed by Scott Frankel – mainly to show off the immense talents of its two leading players. The style of music is definitely what I’d call traditional musical theatre, with many ballads right off the bat. I personally enjoyed the more upbeat numbers, such as “Fire And Ice”, “War Paint”, and “Step On Out”. LuPone and Ebersole are one hundred percent worth the price of admission to this show. In fact, these two theatre icons are what give the show its heart and depth in terms of acting level. Without them, this show would certainly not be creating the buzz that it is this season.

However, the two stars aren’t the only reason for high praise. The set of the show, primarily designed by David Korins (Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen) is stunning. Akin to shows like Next to Normal, the set and lighting change with the character who is being featured in the scene. A great example of how Korins interprets this direction comes throughout the entire show, as Helena and Elizabeth share the stage together each of them have their own “side”, where all the action of their respective lives is contained.

With direction from Michael Greif (Next to Normal, Dear Evan Hansen, If/Then), the design, score, and story fall perfectly into place to create a wonderfully charming masterpiece of theatre. While the plot may not be for everyone, the real life women who are the basis for it are incredibly fascinating to research. If anything, I hope War Paint will bring awareness to how influential women in business can be to impressionable audience members looking to be inspired. Encompassing true theatrical magic and talent in every capacity, War Paint is a long time theatre fan’s dream.


War Paint begins previews at the Nederlander Theatre on March 7th. For more information visit warpaintmusical.com.

The Best Musical Couples

It’s that day of the year… Valentine’s Day. Most people either love it or hate it. Personally, I’m a bit indifferent to the whole thing. The discounted chocolate the day after is the best part. But for many, it’s a celebration of love for their significant other and others they care about. And on Broadway, there’s no shortage of couples, romantic or platonic. The “love song” has been staple of musicals since the beginning. In celebration of the holiday, today I’ll be showcasing just a few of my favorite couples from musicals, hailing just from Broadway for now. Perhaps I’ll make a part two to this post sometime in the future! Also, this list is purely subjective and these are just my personal opinions, so please feel free to share your favorites in the comments!

Henry and Natalie (Next to Normal)

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Adam Chanler-Berat (left) as “Henry” and Jennifer Damiano as “Natalie”.

This couple from the 2009 three time Tony winning musical by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey has become somewhat well recognizable over the years. With their three duets -“Hey #1“, “Hey #2“, and “Hey #3/Perfect For You (Reprise)” – ranging from casual to emotional, Henry and Natalie’s high school relationship, although turbulent at times, is a bit of relief departure from the rest of Next to Normal’s heavy subject matter. In the aforementioned “Hey #3/Perfect For You (Reprise)”, Henry and Natalie reconcile after some fighting to vow that they’ll always be there for each other, no matter what happens. Although couples prefer to dress in pink on V-Day, these two are just fine with blue.

Alison and Joan (Fun Home)

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Karen Eilbacher (left) as “Joan” and Abby Corrigan as “Medium Alison”.

Surprisingly, there isn’t a huge amount of lesbian couples in musicals. As I mentioned in my Fun Home review, it’s incredibly refreshing to see any sort of diversity in musicals. This relationship is crucial to Alison in terms of her coming to terms with herself and her family life. Joan is encouraging and rational towards Alison’s more frazzled and anxious persona. As with any relationship, communication is key, and these two certainly take that advice to heart throughout Fun Home. If you’re looking for some relationship goals, you should definitely change your major to Alison and Joan.

Evan and Zoe (Dear Evan Hansen)

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Laura Dreyfuss (left) as “Zoe” and Ben Platt as “Evan”.

These two are one of the newest couples to grace the Broadway stage. Their gorgeous duet “Only Us” is a great set up to what their relationship will be throughout the rest of the show: open, caring, and supportive. On top of this, their chemistry in general feels very natural, and that’s because it is. The actors who play Evan and Zoe – Ben Platt and Laura Dreyfuss, respectively – are good friends in real life and active supporters of their show relationship, affectionately hashtagging it as #evanandzoeforever. These two complete each other, and this Valentine’s Day I bet they’ll be watching the whole world disappear together.


Who are some of your favorite musical couples? Share them with me in the comments!

Spotlight On: Fansens

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Earlier this week, I reviewed the highly anticipated Dear Evan Hansen cast album. In that post, I briefly mentioned that Dear Evan Hansen has a decently sized and devoted fanbase. They’re called “Fansens”, and I’m definitely a member. So for today’s post, let’s dive into who Fansens are and why they love Dear Evan Hansen.

Fansens are an incredibly unique and fascinating fan group to interact with and be apart of. Hailing from every walk of life imaginable, Fansens come in varying degrees of obsession – some have just discovered the show, while others have seen it in every iteration multiple times. Some make fanart, have tattoos of lyrics from the show that have meaning to them, and some make memes on Twitter. Due to the show’s high school protagonists, many Fansens are also teenagers and young adults. Fansens of this age are the ones who can truly relate to what goes on in Dear Evan Hansen, and even more so thanks to the accessibility of Dear Evan Hansen through all its social media platforms. But it’s not just the official Dear Evan Hansen social media that has people talking. A slew of Tumblr fan accounts, a Facebook group, and a newly created subreddit are just a fraction of the groups of fans who are taking to the internet to share their love of the musical.

I spoke with my friend from Utah, Abram Berry, about what makes Dear Evan Hansen so appealing to teenagers: “I love Dear Evan Hansen because it paints mental illness in a realistic way,” Berry explained. “It’s not treated as a joke, but instead as a real struggle in these characters’ lives”.

Despite the majority of the fanbase being young people, that’s not stopping adults from loving the show too. The mother characters of “Heidi” (played by Rachel Bay Jones) and “Cynthia” (played by Jennifer Laura Thompson) in the show, affectionately referred to as the “Moms of Dear Evan Hansen” by their actresses have deeply resonated with parents who take their kids to see the show. In fact, the show’s subject matter has inspired some parents to forge a deeper connection with their children after seeing the show.

Since the cast album was just released last week, I assume that the Fansens will only grow from here on out. With all the buzz Dear Evan Hansen has been created just two months into its Broadway run, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the Fansen community sometime soon. As for Abram’s reasoning to become a Fansen, he had one last thing to add: “Ben Platt is a frickin’ adorable puppy”.


Dear Evan Hansen is currently playing on Broadway. For more information visit dearevanhansen.com.

 

 

Review and Thoughts: Dear Evan Hansen Cast Album

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It’s finally here. The show everyone’s talking about this season, Dear Evan Hansen, just released their cast album this past Friday and I’m here to give my thoughts. I’ve got to be honest, I’m pretty biased towards this show – when the cast album was announced I pre-ordered it immediately. I first came across Dear Evan Hansen last spring when it was running Off Broadway at Second Stage Theatre through a few people on social media. The plot holds incredible similarities to something I experienced my freshman year of high school, and the use of social media and Ben Platt in the title role really drew me in. Despite my excitement, I’m going to try my best to take a neutral stance for this review. So, does the cast recording of Dear Evan Hansen truly live up to the hype of the show itself? Let’s find out.

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Ben Platt as the titular character, “Evan Hansen”.

In Dear Evan Hansen, high school senior Evan Hansen (Ben Platt) gets unexpectedly wrapped up in a complicated lie surrounding the suicide of fellow student Connor Murphy (Mike Faist). As the lie spreads through social media, the socially anxious Evan begins to connect with Connor’s sister and his crush, Zoe (Laura Dreyfuss), and their parents, Larry (Michael Park) and Cynthia (Jennifer Laura Thompson). Eventually, tensions start to grow between Evan’s mother, Heidi (Rachel Bay Jones) and his friends, Jared (Will Roland) and Alana (Kristolyn Lloyd), causing Evan to wonder if he did the right thing for a chance to fit in.

One thing that is apparent the moment you hit play on the cast album, is that every cast member has a moment to shine. Interestingly, the first song of the album, “Anybody Have a Map?” features Heidi and Cynthia and their struggles in parenting in a digital age. The decision to feature the mothers of Dear Evan Hansen versus the titular character in the first song of the show really sets the tone for the rest of the musical and shows the listener that no character will be pushed to the side without getting at least some development.

The most notable performance on the album is Ben Platt (best known for his role as “Benji” in the Pitch Perfect films) in the title role. His breakout song in the musical is “Waving Through a Window“, in which Evan expresses his desire to fit in with his peers and be apart of something bigger. The aforementioned song has been quite popular with listeners even before the cast album release, thanks to its incredibly relatable lyrics (written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) and to the Dear Evan Hansen marketing team releasing it as a free download to those whole pre-ordered the cast album. Platt’s impressive tenor vocals that feature a strong belt also take center stage in “For Forever” and “Words Fail” – the latter of which many say is the most emotional song in album thanks to Platt’s talents. Rachel Bay Jones as Heidi has a few similar moments as well – “So Big / So Small” is a number so emotionally draining on Jones that after she comes off stage, one of the stage managers tells her a different joke after every live performance. Her, along with Kristolyn Lloyd as Alana and Will Roland as Jared also give a commendable performance in the intense Act 2 number “Good For You“, in which Evan’s lie is exposed and his friends and family become upset with his choices.

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Ben Platt as Evan, Will Roland as Jared (center), and Mike Faist as Connor in Dear Evan Hansen.

A more comedic song and arguably the most catchy out of the whole track list, is “Sincerely, Me“, which features Platt, Faist, and Roland’s characters trying to write backdated emails to back up Evan’s claim that him and Connor were in fact friends and wrote candid emails to each other. With a toe-tapping, bouncing piano melody, a catchy refrain that’s been stuck in my head all weekend, and lyrics that are just plain absurd when taken out of context such as “You’ll be obsessed with all my forest expertise!”, this song is my personal favorite.

But perhaps the true selling point of the Dear Evan Hansen cast album (at the time of writing this, it currently sits at the number one spot on the iTunes top albums chart), despite its stellar cast, is what its message provides listeners of all ages with – a sense of belonging.  This comes in the form of the show’s powerful Act 1 finale, “You Will Be Found“, where Evan attempts to convince those at a school assembly that there will always be someone there for them. The song’s building chorus comes to fruition with a simple refrain of the phrase “You are not alone.” that practically bursts with hope. The titular mantra of the song has become so popular among fans that the official Dear Evan Hansen social media have taken to using it as a marketing hashtag, which many fans use to share their personal stories, photos, covers, fanart, and more to show what the musical means to them. If you must listen to only one song from Dear Evan Hansen, I’m begging you – make it this one.

The message that “You Will Be Found” and Dear Evan Hansen itself tries to leave its listeners, I feel, is the beauty of Dear Evan Hansen‘s cast album release: everyone – no matter how old you are, where you come from, or the circumstances – can relate to feeling alone, feeling like a burden, feeling like nobody would notice if you just disappeared one day.  What’s difficult to grasp about that feeling – if you’ve ever felt it in any magnitude – is that you can’t really understand the immense weight of that feeling and how so many people are affected by it until you see it manifest in such a large way. Until you truly see it’s not just you. And seeing a entire real, tangible community of people who have once experienced similar struggles and come out the other side intact makes it true that, yes, you are not alone in what you feel. And yes – you will be found, no matter how broken you might be.


Dear Evan Hansen is currently playing on Broadway, and the cast album is available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube. For more information visit dearevanhansen.com.