By Barry Reszel
As ChicagolandMusicalTheatre.com approaches its third anniversary this spring, we continue to work toward greater inclusivity in defining the genre of “musical theatre.”
The good folks at Lyric Opera of Chicago remind us, fairly, that opera might just be considered the original musical theatre. So, too, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and all professional dance concerts combine the three elements of music, acting and dance.
So in recent months we’ve added performances by these companies while looking toward adding others. And we now publicize and review plays with music, too.
To increase offerings to our readers by including as many professional companies possible, ChicagolandMusicalTheatre invites credentialed writers with passion for musical theatre and/or opera and/or dance to consider joining our writing team. We look to richly represent all people, all backgrounds and all perspectives, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. If interested, send an email with your resume and writing samples to [email protected].
All this said, in our ongoing transition to covering productions featuring, at least, double threats, we hit a communication snag this week.
Last weekend, Chicago Children’s Theatre opened Magic City, a play with music, its first production in the company’s new home in Chicago’s West Loop: Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, at 100 S. Racine Avenue, the former 12th District Chicago Police Station.
Somehow, I didn’t communicate well the kindness of CCT’s publicist, who went out of his way to make sure we knew this is a play with music, not typical song-and-dance musical theatre. Our reviewer thought my communication meant we weren’t covering the show, though I informed the publicist that we were.
The casual observer might think it’s no big deal. But it is to us.
There’s an implied contract between publicists of professional entertainment, who work for the shows’ producers, and the media members privileged enough to cover these productions. In exchange for advance information and invitations with complimentary tickets, we promise to write about the production and share what we write with our readers. It’s an agreement and a relationship, neither of which we take for granted, and this is a public apology to Chicago Children’s Theatre and its terrific publicist Jay Kelly for my miscommunication.
In the absence of an original review from one of our terrific writers, I’d like to share a bit about Magic City and the great work of Chicago Children’s Theatre.
The play with music, was created by Chicago’s internationally acclaimed shadow puppet theater Manual Cinema, its first all-ages show, loosely adapted from Edith Nesbit’s 1910 novel The Magic City. The production uses overhead projectors, paper shadow puppets, live actors in silhouette, miniature toy theater and live musical accompaniment to create an innovative theatrical experience that updates Nesbit’s novel for a contemporary retelling.
Audiences will meet 9-year-old Philomena, whose great love is building miniature structures out of books, toys and other found objects from around her house. One day, her older sister announces that she is engaged to marry, and the two go to live at the mansion of her sister’s fiancé. Left alone in her vast new home, forced to make friends with her annoying stepbrother, Philomena secludes herself in the attic where she builds the biggest miniature city she’s ever made. Later that night, Philomena wakes up to discover that her city has come alive. As she steps through the city gates, her adventure begins.
Ultimately, Manual Cinema’s newest production explores a timely theme: the hard work and love it takes to rebuild when the unexpected throws everything into uncertainty. By the end of every show, Manual Cinema will have erected and illuminated a beautiful miniature city, live, onstage – a hopeful, communal setting that the audience will be invited to explore after every performance.
“After a decade of staging awe-inducing productions and educational programs at museums, theaters and other venues throughout the city and suburbs, Chicago Children’s Theatre is beginning a new chapter,” said Jacqueline Russell, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Children’s Theatre.”The Station gives us new freedom to work with exciting, internationally recognized companies like Manual Cinema, who are producing inventive, intimate new works like Magic City which will resonate with audiences of any age.”
Chicago Children’s Theatre, the city’s largest professional company devoted to children and families, is the lead commissioner of Magic City. Weekend performances continue through Feb. 19: Friday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Saturday at 6 p.m.; and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. There is an added 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Feb. 18. Weekday morning matinees are at 10 a.m., Tuesday through Thursday, through Feb. 15.
Magic City is an all-ages, family friendly show. Tickets are $25. Run time is 60 minutes. For tickets and information, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call
Email [email protected] or call (773) 227-0180 x 15 for discounted group rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups.
And read more about the plethora of Chicago Children’s Theatre offerings along with details about the company’s new home here.