Tuesday, March 27, 2018

4 Women, A Fun Show: Musically Chronicling a Quartet of Female Friends, 'A Taste of Things to Come' Proves Appetizing -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

A Taste of Things to Come
a recent musical
Broadway Playhouse, Chicago
Thru April 29

Due to theater subscriptions and press invitations, I see a pretty wide swath of shows, including some that I may not naturally select to see.

I believe this to be valuable, as art is one of the best ways for us to learn about people and perspectives we may not otherwise.

And I've rarely found theater to be parochial. Quality, whether in terms of plot, narrative, writing, music, acting, singing, dancing, set design, costumes, etc., typically transcends specific subject matter to provide fairly universal appeal.

Good is good. (And great is great.)

Heck, a hip-hop musical about America's first treasury secretary is one of the most amazing shows ever created.

Loving musicals as much as I do, happy for new ones I've yet to see and enjoying an earlier cast recording on Spotify, I was excited to check out A Taste of Things to Come at the Broadway Playhouse as part of my Broadway in Chicago series.

Even though it is a decidedly female affair.

Photo credit: Brett Beiner
Between the four-member cast, four-piece band, composer/lyricist/book tandem and the director/choreographer, there isn't a man to be found, save for technical team members listed in the program.

Which isn't a bad thing.

I, and probably most men, could stand to learn quite a bit more about women, and this show about friendship, change, growth and empowerment in the 1950s and '60s is enjoyably engaging.

Having run Off-Broadway, briefly, in 2016, A Taste of Things to Come isn't a world premiere, but it's arrived in Chicago without seemingly being on tour, and given that it chronicles four women living in Winnetka, it feels like it belongs here.

On a set by Steven C. Kemp representing the home of Joan Smith (a charming Cortney Wolfson), initially in 1957, the Wednesday Winnetka Women's Cooking Club has gathered, ostensibly to concoct an entry for a Betty Crocker cooking contest.

Joan's three best friends--pregnant Connie (Libby Servais), single & sassy Agnes (Linedy Genao) and cheeky Dottie (Marissa Rosen)--initially stick to the planned activity, singing and dancing to a fun tune called "Cookin'," with fine choreography by the director, Lorin Latarro.

But it soon becomes clear that cooking is just the catalyst for evenings of female friendship, chatter, concern, commiseration and more.

With the music, lyrics and book by Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin, Act I brings tunes about advise ("Dear Abby"), gossip ("Didja Hear") and Agnes' ode to wanting something more than a quiet suburban life ("Outta  Here").

There are references to the popular lifestyle books written by Joe Bonomo, but without me needing to reveal too much, things take a bit of a turn when Sidney Poitier is mentioned, and particularly as the women discover the Kinsey Report on Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, by Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

Act II jumps us ahead 10 years to 1967, as the women once again gather in Winnetka, in some regards quite different than they had been, but falling into familiar patterns.

While Dottie has a nice solo lament about being "Just a Mom," most of the songs are group numbers, eventually regarding womanhood and empowerment.

All of which makes for an enjoyable show, just never quite an outstanding one.

And without me having any sort of problem with this, A Taste of Things to Come is clearly a show aimed at women, particularly those old enough to remember how things "used to be."

This is shrewd in the truth that older women make up the largest percentage of theatergoers.

So while anyone should find this show somewhat appetizing, it might well be truly savored--primarily--by those with different tastes, recollections and body parts than me. 

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