Sunday, July 28, 2013


It all started with "Big Lake, Big City," a sassy modern noir mystery for stage by Keith Huff (whose writing credits include "A Steady Rain" on Broadway, "House of Cards" for Netflix and television's "Mad Men.") My friend Pauline suggested we take a train to Chicago for a matinee performance at the Looking Glass Theater. A day trip. How could I resist?
        Then theater fan Pauline suggested maybe we could spend the night and catch two plays. The dark psychological thriller "Belleville" at Steppenwolf was added to the itinerary. Can't beat Steppenwolf. I'm willing to try anything they offer.
        Then Pauline got a good deal at a downtown hotel (the wonderful Wit), so the trip grew to two nights. Our Wednesday schedule was open. We thought we might walk over to Navy Pier for dinner and fireworks. Or catch something at the Shakespeare theater there. Or maybe a blues club.
         The Wit is just around the corner from The Goodman. Tickets for its latest extravaganza, a new musical version of "Jungle Book," weren't available online or at Hot Tix, but as Pauline keeps saying, you never know until you ask. So after checking into our hotel room, we stopped by The Goodman and happened upon half-price tickets in the middle of the mezzanine. I don't get better seats as a reviewer.
        In two days we racked up three wonderful shows. Broadway couldn't be better. "Jungle Book" is a snazzy, jazzy light-hearted musical, that's just a shade shy of four star perfection. It's headed to Boston next. I suspect a little fine-tuning of the  "story book" scene that opens and closes the show, may send it to Tony Award history.
        "Belleville" is wonderfully acted and engrossing, but it leaves too many questions about this poisonous romance. What's he doing now? Why does she say that? What IS this story about?
         "Big Lake, Big City" remains the shining star of the visit. Perfect casting, ambitious sets  (a Ferris wheel scene and "smokin'" bodies) and witty, laugh-out-loud comedy.
          "Belleville" and "Big Lake, Big City" continue through Aug. 25, "Jungle Book" closes Aug. 18. I recommend all three. Get 'em while it's hot!

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