Wednesday, October 31, 2012

An 'Elektra'-fying Night at the Opera

Opera Review

by Richard Strauss
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Run Ended

I don’t know enough about opera to write an intelligent review of Elektra, the one-act thriller by Richard Strauss that served as the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2012-2013 season opener.

But that’s fine, as I saw the closing performance, so while I found it to be excellent, if not quite life-changing, you won’t be able to see it—at least in the Lyric’s prodigious production, directed by Sir David McVicar—for likely another decade or closer to two (the Lyric last staged Elektra in 1992-1993).

So I won’t go into too much depth here, which is somewhat fitting as Elektra—though certainly quite substantive—would make a good starter opera, given its highly-charged, easily comprehensible storyline (about Elektra wanting to carry out vengeance for the death of her father at the hands of her mother and mom’s new lover), the powerhouse score by Strauss and 100-minute length. 

The Lyric’s mammoth stage set resembling an Eastern European palace in disrepair was certainly striking and even to an opera novice (despite my now having seen more than 40 operas), Christine Goerke’s singing was demonstrably sumptuous in the title role.  The costumes were typically splendid and while I wouldn’t really call the whole affair Tarantinoesque, as McVicar implies in an interview in the program, themes of angst, violence and revenge run through the entire performance like a locomotive.

While I very much enjoyed it, despite wishing it had started on time at 7:30pm so I didn’t have to run to catch my 9:30 Metra train, I can’t deny that it still felt like opera. By which I mean that I appreciated and admired Elektra more than I ever really “felt” it. Though I’ve intently tried to acclimate to opera—even subscribing to the Lyric for a few seasons and now typically getting to 1-2 productions per year—unlike my love for rock ’n roll and musical theater, I’ve never been able to emotionally embrace opera. Though I don't dislike anything I'm hearing or seeing, my fondness is a step detached.

So no matter how intense and provocative this production of Elektra was—sung in German with a Hugo von Hofmannsthal to accompany Strauss’ dynamic score—I don’t believe that seeing it will serve as a watershed moment in elevating my enchantment with the operatic art form.

Perhaps it would have for you, and I’d fully recommend it to opera aficionados and newbies alike, but you’ll have to try a different work or a production sometime in the future.

Elektra was electric, but in regards to this run, the fat lady has sung.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Though It Has Its Moments, 'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson' Is Well Short of Historic -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Music & lyrics by Michael Friedman
Book by Alex Timbers
Directed by Scott Ferguson
Bailiwick Chicago Theater production
at the National Pastime Theater
Thru November 10

A hard-edged rock musical about the 7th U.S. President might not sound like the greatest idea for a Broadway show.

And in some ways, perhaps it wasn't, as Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson opened and closed on Broadway in 2010 after just 94 performances.

But BBAJ garnered generally favorable reviews in New York, and while other recent shows--Spring Awakening, In the Heights, American Idiot--had previously ventured beyond Broadway's comfort zone, especially in the soundscape of their scores, sometimes strange ideas can turn out to be among the very best ones.

But not in this case. At least per the Chicago premiere production by the Bailiwick Theater.

I don’t know if it was the fault of the source material—I generally liked the Original Cast Recording I listened to on Spotify—or this particular rendition—the Tribune’s Chris Jones didn’t care much for it, though the Sun-Times’ Hedy Weiss and other critics did—but for me the one-act show wound up barely being worth its namesake-adorned $20 bill. (Through a $12.50 HotTix ticket and another 50% in fees, I paid 25 cents less than a Jackson.)

Photo Credit on all: Michael Brosilow
Despite its stylistic similarity to Spring Awakening, I give Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson points for originality. But while the 13 punchy tunes sound good compiled on an album, in performance—spread over 100 minutes—only a few of the 2-minute compositions really stood out and the combination of history and high camp came off more like a good college try rather than a truly first-rate Broadway musical.

Staged by Bailiwick at the National Pasttime Theatre, within an old Masonic Hall in Uptown, BBAJ provides a biographical sketch of "Old Hickory," from birth through death.

In a nutshell, it sums up Andrew Jackson as Tennessee-bred frontiersman turned successful general—primarily in the Battle of New Orleans—who leveraged man-of-the-people populism to become President, but whose legacy most prominently includes having largely decimated and/or displaced the American Indians. As such, he is referenced onstage as "the American Hitler."

I did not see this show during its abbreviated Broadway run, so I have no point of reference, but while Matt Holzfeind—who looks like Jim Carrey mixed with Perry Farrell—provided a solid focal point in his characterization of Jackson, he was a bit shy of completely compelling.

And while the rest of the young cast, as well as the on-stage band, was energetic, enjoyably campy and generally in tune, no one stood out as particularly fantastic.

There was some nice cheekiness in a few of the songs written by Michael Friedman—”Populism, Yea Yea!,” “The Corrupt Bargain,” “Rock Star”—and a solid History 101 overview of Jackson, including his interaction with ill-fated wife Rachel and Indian tribal chief Black Fox.

But whereas the first time I saw Spring Awakening—on Broadway, mind you—I was blown away by its originality, its score and its execution, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson felt like something a bit different in a similar vein, but wasn't nearly as revolutionary.

Though I'm nominally glad I elected to see it, I can't say it truly earned my vote.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

With the Wondrous Mike Nussbaum, 'Freud's Last Session' Proves Worthy of Analysis -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Freud's Last Session
by Mark St. Germain
directed by Tyler Marchant
Mercury Theater, Chicago
Thru November 11

Mike Nussbaum is a Chicago treasure, even if his renown extends well beyond.

Now 88, Nussbaum has acted and directed in Chicago theaters for more than 50 years. I first saw him in a movie, 1987's House of Games by David Mamet, but over the past decade I have had the pleasure of seeing him work on stage several times.

And it truly is a pleasure. Nussbaum is far more than a beloved relic; he remains an outstanding actor, and an impressively active one at that.

Back in May of this year, I went to a play called After the Revolution at the Next Theatre in Evanston with the expectation that Nussbaum would be in it, only to learn that he had transferred to Freud's Last Session. While I was a bit disappointed then, Nussbaum's role in After the Revolution had been a relatively minor one. And 5-1/2 months later, Mike is still starring as Sigmund Freud in an 80-minute, 2-person play with 8 scheduled performances a week.

With Freud's Last Session's stalwart run at the Mercury Theater--though a good bit shorter than the show's 2-year Off-Broadway stint--slated to end on November 11, I made a point of seeing it and am glad that even at a Saturday matinee, I didn't get an understudy for Nussbaum, nor for Coburn Goss as C.S. Lewis.

Mark St. Germain's play imagines a meeting between Freud and Lewis at the doctor's London office in 1939, as Freud is ravaged by oral cancer (he would take his own life on Sept. 23 of that year). Lewis was a noted professor at the time and close friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, though had yet to write the books for which he is most famous: The Chronicles of Narnia -- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Screwtape Letters. So it's possible that such a meeting could really have taken place--and such has even been speculated--but with no proof that it did, St. Germain's script is largely conjecture.

It concerns itself primarily with questions of religion, not as one may expect, psychoanalysis nor literature. Freud was an avowed atheist, a view formerly shared by Lewis, who had become an ardent champion of Christianity eight years prior to the imagined "session" with Freud, when C.S. would've been 41 to Sigmund's 83.

The play, which notably takes place after Hitler had invaded Poland--with Freud already having emigrated from Vienna to London--effectively mixes impassioned (but never contemptuous) debate with a good amount of humor.

It is certainly possible that viewers who are considerably more learned than I about Freud and Lewis--I've never read anything written by either, except that within my Psychology 101 textbook--as well as more interested in questions of theology, will find more to acutely enjoy on a biographical, historical and/or spiritual level.

For while I certainly appreciated many of the questions the play asked among it's two esteemed characters, I can't say that the themes and specifics of Freud's Last Session are likely to much stick with me.

The work itself is worthwhile, and certainly could be with other actors--as proven by the New York run and reviews--but for me, the primary reason to see this play in Chicago at this time is Mike Nussbaum.

Though he does an excellent job of losing himself in Freud and is nicely complemented by Goss as a bookish yet resolute Lewis, those of us who have come to appreciate Nussbaum won't have a hard time recognizing his distinctive mannerisms, even in embodying someone so famous.

Without over analyzing it, I don't quite consider Freud's Last Session in itself a "must see," although it's certainly solid, even stellar. But anyone who admires the longstanding artistry of the legendary Nussbaum really should make a point of catching this show in its last few weeks at the Mercury.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Before I post a Chicago Travel Guide, some thoughts on the state of Chicago tourism

Concept and design by Seth Arkin © 2012. Do not reproduce without permission.
Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel expressed his desire to boost Chicago’s popularity as a tourist destination, particularly among foreign travelers.

Emanuel’s hopes to elevate Chicago from the 10th most visited U.S. city among international tourists to #5 by the year 2020—when he also hopes to reach 50 million overall tourism visits (from  40 million now)—prompted the merging of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau with the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture. This was meant to reallocate $1.3 in administrative costs in order to better market the city.

Mind you, I have not seen that any city money was newly allocated to building additional city attractions or improving the ones we have. And Chicago’s annual tourism budget of $17.8 (per this story published on February 1, 2012) is relatively low compared to many other major cities.

So while I believe in the power of effective marketing—although the rebranding of the city’s tourism website from to is all I’ve really noted to date—and am an ardent champion of all Chicago has to offer residents and visitors, I suspect the kind of influx Emanuel imagines may be tough to achieve.

Supposedly, hosting the NATO summit was going to raise the city’s international identity, but does anyone really think it did? And between the way locals were inconvenienced and protestors were hassled, I can’t imagine Chicago appealed to the uninitiated European, Asian, African, etc. as, “Wow, that looks like a place I really want to go.”

While I love Chicago and would recommend it to anyone, I am not surprised that it ranks behind New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Orlando, Washington, Honolulu and Boston as a destination for international tourists. I’m actually a bit surprised that we outrank Philadelphia. Given the wealth of their historical attractions and fantastic museums, Philly must be doing an even more mediocre job of marketing itself than Chicago has.

In a separate post, I will soon publish a Chicago Travel Guide highlighting several of the city’s top attractions—as I have in travel pieces on London, Washington, San Francisco and Detroit—but in preparing it, I couldn’t help but be struck by some of the Windy City’s tourism challenges, the types of attractions we lack (and perhaps should add) and how I might view the city as a first-time visitor or prospective one, especially in comparison to other major cities to which I’ve been.

As someone who has visited many major cities around the world and also pretends to know a little something about marketing, three observations come to mind in considering Chicago as occasional travelers in Belgium, Japan or Brazil, etc., might:
1) While Chicago offers a whole lot for any visitor to do, whether here for 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months, our appeal lies more so in the depth and quality of what we have—in the realms of museums, theater, culture, dining, sports, architecture, public spaces, etc.—than in easily advertised distinctiveness. Yes, we have an awesome art museum, cool parks, lots of great architecture and some of the best theater anywhere, but it’s hard for anyone to think about traveling thousands of miles, for considerable cost, to see things rather similar to what they can find a lot closer to home.
On that note…
2) Chicago lacks a truly compelling, singularly iconic image on the level of the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. I’m guessing the Sears (i.e. Willis) Tower might be Chicago’s most instantly identifiable landmark and still often used as visual shorthand when our city is referenced. But I don’t think it has the caché it once did, especially with newer, cooler and/or taller buildings in places like Dubai, China, Kuala Lumpur, Taiwan and London. And while some might suggest The Bean (i.e. the Cloud Gate statue in Millennium Park), the Water Tower, Picasso statue or Marina City, I’m not sure any would mean much to someone in Vienna, let’s say. Nor would Wrigley Field.
Designed by The Postcard Museum;
posted on
Our best postcard images are of the skyline in full (I like to shoot it from near the Shedd Aquarium) or of Buckingham Fountain in front of the Sears Tower and a few buildings along South Michigan Avenue. These evoke the city’s beauty, but I don’t know if the pull is as strong as, say, even a photo of the Hollywood sign.

I know the financing evaporated, especially after the financial crisis, but I would have liked to have seen Santiago Calatrava’s Spire skyscraper get built. We could use a new touchstone image, such as shown below. 

3) Chicago hasn’t done a good job at leveraging the things—i.e. people—that are identified worldwide with the city, in terms of turning them into reasons for masses to visit. President Obama, Oprah, Michael Jordan and yes, Al Capone—and to a more cultured crowd, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway—still hold considerable worldwide appeal, or at least awareness. Other than the Wright sites in Oak Park, how are any of them celebrated within attractions tourists can visit? Yes, I’ve been to the Chicago History Museum and it has some merits, but not in much in terms of pop cultural panache.

In a somewhat related vein, perhaps Chicago should hire former Mayor Daley--if he's interested--as a roaming ambassador for the city. Whatever one may think of the job Daley did (and I generally liked it, albeit as a non-resident), he is, I believe, fairly well recognized, even around the world. 
Separately, it’s probably a good thing I don’t have substantial money, because I’d probably lose it trying to develop some new sights for visitors (and locals) to see. Here's are my thoughts on some...

Museums/Attractions I believe Chicago should add to its landscape:
• Chicago Sports MuseumThe National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame on Taylor Street has some nice displays about athletes of Italian descent, but how about a museum showcasing Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Dick Butkus, Bobby Hull, etc., etc. and the teams we love. There is a small Chicago Sports Museum at Harry Caray's on Navy Pier, and something like this was rumored to be in the works for the “Triangle building” near Wrigley, but I think something more major is in order.
Charlie Chaplin at his old Chicago haunt
• Pop Culture Chicago – Why not celebrate Chicago’s prominence in the worlds of television, advertising, radio, film (including Chaplin), theater, music, improv/comedy, publishing and more. It’d be a bit of a stretch, but you could probably loop Capone into this one as well. I know there’s a newly relaunched Museum of Broadcast Communications and Blues Heaven in the old Chess Records studio (which really deserves to be expanded in scope), but done right, something along these lines could be much more expansive and a destination with real international pull.
• Chicago Architecture Museum – Yes, Chicago is an architectural museum in itself, with tours by the Chicago Architecture Foundation and others being among our top tourist attractions. But a full-fledged museum dedicated to Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe and the art of the skyscraper would seem rather appropriate as well.
• My Fair City – Perhaps this would better fit within the Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry or Chicago History Museum, but one day I hope someone figures out how to enable me to take a virtual tour of the “White City”—from Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893—as well as The Century of Progress, the less celebrated World’s Fair Chicago hosted in 1933.
With a lack of these types of (admittedly a bit kitschy) Chicago buzz-centric museums, I can see where Chicago lacks tailor-made international tourism marketing pizazz.

And while I truly believe Chicago is a great city in which to live (or at least live near) and can be a pretty fantastic one to visit—particularly if one is willing to venture out to Oak Park or Hyde Park, take in some theater and explore the myriad ethnic neighborhoods—I can see where it has some shortcomings as a tourist city.

So rather than letting all this serve as a lengthy, and perhaps dissuasive, preamble to a listing of the attractions I would most recommend to any Chicago visitor (or resident), I’ll let these observations and suggestions stand on their own and will post my Chicago Travel Guide separately in the coming days.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My 100 Favorite Stage Musicals of All-Time

When I was a kid, my father frequently played Broadway musical recordings around the house. I was even taken to some touring musicals while just in grammar school, such as The Wiz, A Chorus Line and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (really).

This must have engendered some sort of affinity for the Broadway art form, although rock 'n roll would be my sole music of choice for many years.

As I got older, I did elect to go to an occasional musical of my own volition, but had seen less than 10 as an adult before the year 2000.

Since then, I have become quite a Broadway aficionado and have seen more than 350 performances of at least 200 different musicals.

This list certainly isn't based on any exact science. It is meant to rank my fondness for each musical in terms of the source material, not any specific productions, but particularly spectacular renditions will have undoubtedly influenced my affinity for certain shows.

The ranking is merely of stage musicals--thus Singin' in the Rain, which was only done as a stage work long after the great 1952 movie isn't as high as the film itself would be--although a few shows, such as Grease, are now typically staged with the inclusion of songs written for the movie version.

I've only included musicals I've actually seen on stage, at least once, and there may be some slighting of musicals I last saw long ago. Although I've seen most major musicals, there are a few I haven't, so some omissions may be due to ineligibility, rather than distaste. (I toyed with listing some also rans, but elected not to bother.)

With that said, these are My 100 Favorite Stage Musicals of All-time, which could probably change somewhat on any given day, but seems about right. For now. (To whatever extent the distinction makes sense, "my favorite" does not always correspond to what I think is "the best." For example, I actually think #2, 3, 4, 5 and others are better musicals than #1, but it's my clear favorite.)

1.    The Producers
2.    Les Misérables
3.    West Side Story
4.    The Music Man
5.    My Fair Lady
6.    Sunday in the Park with George
7.    Fiddler on the Roof
8.    Rent
9.    Cabaret
10.  Avenue Q

11.    Hairspray
12.    Evita
13.    The Sound of Music
14.    Wicked
15.    The Lion King
16.    Sweeney Todd
17.    Spring Awakening
18.    Billy Elliot
19.    The Visit
20.    A Little Night Music   

21.    A Chorus Line
22.    Man of La Mancha
23.    Mamma Mia
24.    Jersey Boys
25.    Follies
26.    Fiorello
27.    Gypsy
28.    The Book of Mormon
29.    South Pacific
30.    Ragtime

31.    Guys and Dolls
32.    In the Heights
33.    Hello Dolly
34.    Carousel
35.    Company
36.    Camelot
37.    Oklahoma
38.    The Who’s Tommy
39.    Show Boat
40.    Mary Poppins

41.    Brigadoon
42.    Sunset Blvd.
43.    Chicago
44.    Parade
45.    The King and I
46.    City of Angels
47.    Pacific Overtures
48.    Miss Saigon
49.    The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
50.    Bat Boy

51.    Side Show
52.    Million Dollar Quartet
53.    Legally Blonde
54.    Beauty and the Beast
55.    La Cage Aux Folles
56.    Anything Goes
57.    Next to Normal
58.    Kinky Boots
59.    Cats
60.    Adding Machine

61.    A Christmas Story
62.    Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark
63.    42nd Street
64.    Oliver
65.    Working
66.    The Rink
67.    Funny Girl
68.    Damn Yankees
69.    Annie
70.    Little Shop of Horrors

71.    Singin’ in the Rain
72.    Tick, Tick…Boom
73.    Thoroughly Modern Millie
74.    The Drowsy Chaperone
75.    Passion
76.    Man of No Importance
77.    Crazy for You
78.    Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
79.    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
80.    A Most Happy Fella

81.    Caroline, or Change
82.    Dreamgirls
83.    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
84.    Grease
85.    Kiss Me Kate
86.    1776
87.    Bounce
88.    Urinetown
89.    Bye Bye Birdie
90.    Curtains

91.    Into the Woods
92.    Spamalot
93.    Daddy Long Legs
94.    Mame
95.    Merrily We Roll Along
96.    Dangerous Beauty
97.    Phantom of the Opera
98.    Movin’ Out
99.    Seussical
100.  Wonderful Town

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Smashing Pumpkins Reward the Faithful, After Testing Their Patience -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

The Smashing Pumpkins
w/ opening act Anberlin
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
October 19, 2012

Although I think Billy Corgan's penchant for petulantly confounding--and even alienating--fans has substantially contributed to the diminished popularity of the Smashing Pumpkins, I can't help but to somewhat feel his pain.

While the Pumpkins are now in their 7th incarnation (8 including Zwan), with Corgan the only original member, on the heels of a strongly-reviewed new album, Oceania--even if I don't quite love it--their first hometown arena show in many a year should've been quite a triumph.

But at the same arena the Pumpkins sold out three times at the height of their fame in 1996--albeit after the tragedy that began to derail it--only a quarter of the seats were sold, plus a general admission main floor.

Due to the stage being set close to center ice and no tickets being sold for the 200 level, I believe the show was officially termed a sellout. In this age, being a band that sells 4,000 tickets is no tragedy--and isn't far from what other '90s alt rock heroes like Soundgarden and Weezer drew to their most recent Chicago area shows.

Yet on my way into the Allstate Arena, I noticed--and imagine Billy may have as well--that this week Justin Bieber is playing two shows there, both of which have long been completely sold out.

Say what you want about Corgan--and believe me, I have--but the guy has written some of the greatest songs of the past 20 years, and based on my scant familiarity with the musical prowess (or lack thereof) of Bieber, I feel it fair to suggest that Billy has more talent in his pinkie than young Justin has in his entire being. While I haven't heard Corgan directly diss Bieber, he does seem to whine about his influential band's growing irrelevance in the face of musical mediocrity.

This is a somewhat justified gripe, even if Billy can come off untoward in making it.

The only rebuttal I'd have is that I imagine Bieber is more forthright in giving his fans what they want in a concert setting. Hence, my first sentence of this post.

While at Friday night's show, Corgan was gracious is his on-stage banter, rather than openly antagonistic as at shows in the past, and the crowd was wildly enthusiastic (and presumably largely comprised of rather avid Pumpkinheads), Billy once again made the show a good bit more challenging than it needed to be.

As I referenced earlier, Oceania enjoyed some good critical press upon its June release. As my review of it indicated, I think it is worthwhile but not fantastic, and a step below the best of the Pumpkins exalted past.

But I didn't need to hear it played live in full, for the concert's first 70 minutes.

I am certainly not advocating a full greatest hits set, although when--after Oceania and a cover of Bowie's "Space Oddity"--the Pumpkins launched into, among others, "Disarm," "Tonight Tonight," "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," "Zero," "Cherub Rock" and "Mayonnaise," all sounded glorious. (See Friday's full setlist on

But I'm not sure why Billy--who I can't accuse of taking the easy way out--couldn't just build a setlist around, say, six Oceania songs, a selection of classics and some old album tracks (such as one he did play, "X.Y.U." from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness).

To his credit, over the course of 2-1/2 hours on Friday, Corgan avoided the long, angry vocal harangues (he did banter for a 10 minute stretch, but good naturedly) and over-indulgent extended feedback frenzies of old. The band--now filled out by second guitarist Jeff Schroeder, Nicole Fiorentino on bass (the latest in a string of pretty female bassists that Billy somehow digs up) and Mike Byrne on drums--sounded solid, even stellar, though Byrne isn't quite on par with former drummer Jimmy Chamberlain.

In fact, nothing that was played, even from the entirety of Oceania, sounded bad in itself. The live versions of several Oceania tracks (mainly from the disc's first half) made a good case for the new album being a bit stronger than I previously thought. And the great old songs sounded great.

It's just that the way the show was structured could have been considerably more satisfying.

Even the visual display featuring a huge orb onto which videos were projected (devised by Sean Evans, who has worked with Roger Waters) was impressive, but really not all that necessary.

I realize the contradiction of questioning why an artist who has impressively avoided conventionality can't put on a more conventional rock concert.

And the truth is, I've now seen Billy Corgan on stage 24 times (with seven different incarnations of the Smashing Pumpkins, plus Zwan and on his own) and I can't deny that at this point tracking the melodrama is part of the appeal.

But I just don't know why he goes to such an extent to make people scratch their heads.

I consider the Smashing Pumpkins the 5th best alternative rock band of the past 25 years, and among my 15 favorite rock artists of all time. Although I feel that at this point, Billy might be better off writing film scores and/or composing musicals--both of which he should be great at--while indulging his love of wrestling (he runs Resistance Pro Wrestling), tea (he owns Madame Zuzu's tea house in Highland Park) and poetry, I'll forever love the great Pumpkins music of old--and some of relatively new--enough to pay attention to whatever he does next.

Despite it all, I remain a fan of Corgan and the Pumpkins of whatever makeup, and ultimately found Friday's concert thrilling enough to be well worth seeing (once he got around to playing some self-described "classics").

I just wish Billy didn't have to make things so difficult. As such, what could have been an absolutely phenomenal concert throughout was only partially Smashing.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"I Love Lucy" Live on Stage is Likable if Not Quite a 'Ball' -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

"I Love Lucy" Live on Stage
Broadway Playhouse, Chicago
Thru November 11

Unlike millions of people a bit older than me—but not just—I have never loved Lucy.

This is much less a matter of distaste than non-subjective disinterest. More ‘just because I never bothered’ than due to any active avoidance, throughout my 44 years I have only seen a handful of episodes of I Love Lucy or any subsequent Lucille Ball sitcoms, and none recently enough to have any recollection of what happened on them.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have regard for Lucy's tremendous comedic talents or the cultural importance of her vastly successful shows. It’s just that as opposed to many others who have seen “I Love Lucy” Live on stage—as I did Thursday night at Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse—I didn’t have a highly acute point of comparison.

Plus, logic would suggest that Sirena Irwin, who plays Lucy Ricardo, has to be pretty darn talented to be cast in the role but unlikely to be a precise replica of Ball, one of the most gifted and beloved comedians and actresses of all time.

So as a pair of I Love Lucy episodes were re-created before my eyes, I didn’t waste much effort trying to discern how closely Irwin and Bill Mendieta (as Ricky Ricardo) matched the real Lucy and Desi. 

All that mattered was whether I was being sufficiently entertained.

And I would say I was, although from a financial value standpoint, it helped that I Love Lucy was included in my Broadway in Chicago subscription series. For me, it wouldn’t have been worth the $67-$82 regular tickets seem to be running.

While I can see the appeal of this show—which enacts two actual teleplays as if the episodes were being shot within the Desliu Productions studios—for avid fans of I Love Lucy and/or for groups of friends looking to share a fun night out, as live theater it’s a solid step below several of the other great choices at this busy time in Chicago (Sunday in the Park with George, Kinky Boots, 33 Variations, Sweet Bird of Youth, Good People, just to name a few).

After a studio emcee played by Ed Kross welcomes the audience in affably cheesy 50’s fashion and introduces Irwin and Mendieta as Lucy and Ricky—without ever mentioning the names Lucille Ball or Desi Arnaz; must be some kind of legal thing—the ersatz Ricardos are joined by Fred and Ethel Mertz (Curtis Pettyjohn, Joanna Daniels) in a live rendition of “The Benefit.”

This is an episode in which Ricky is asked by Ethel to sing at a charity benefit show and Lucy loops herself in despite being a terrible singer. What happens on-stage is fun—with all the characterizations seeming fine for someone with a scant point of reference—but I doubt it would make anyone who remembers the original episode forget it.

The second episode that was performed—”Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined”—was also rather enjoyable, as it featured a live band accompanying Ricky singing his signature “Babalu.”

While the episode re-creations were certainly the centerpiece of “I Love Lucy” Live on Stage—which is staged and directed by Rick Sparks—what actually made the whole thing a bit more intriguingly anthropological were the enactments of classic commercials that accompanied the shows (from Brylcream, Alka-Seltzer, Chevrolet, etc.), as well as a medley of popular songs from the age performed between the two episodes.

Not only was it fun for me to see the involvement of actors I’ve long seen on local stages—George Keating and Richard Strimer among them—but it was interesting to be reminded anew what commercials used to be like. And as I said to my friend Paolo during the song medley, which was pleasantly performed but showcased rather saccharine, sanitized melodies, “This is why Elvis blew people’s minds.”

As much as the production serving as a likable but not life-changing tribute to one of America’s greatest entertainers and works of entertainment, “I Love Lucy” Live on Stage was an enjoyable glimpse into an age gone by, for both better and worse.

IMHO, there are several better live entertainment options in Chicago right now than this fun but slight piece of nostalgia, but if you think you want to see it, I wouldn’t tell you not to tune-in. And given that the Broadway Playhouse was packed on a Thursday night, many weeks into the run, it seems there are a whole lot of people who still love Lucy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

With Pointedly-Rendered 'Sunday in the Park with George,' Chicago Shakespeare Theater Paints a Masterpiece -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Sunday in the Park with George
a musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
directed by Gary Griffin
Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Thru November 11

There are few musicals I’ve ever attended with greater anticipation of absolute delight than Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s current production of Stephen Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize winner from 1984, Sunday in the Park with George.

It isn’t just that Sunday… is one of my all-time favorite musicals and the one I like best from Sondheim, my favorite composer (excepting West Side Story, for which he wrote the lyrics, but not the music).

And it’s not simply that the show is a (fictional) dramatization of the creation of my all-time favorite painting—the Art Institute’s miraculous “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”—by one of my very favorite artists, Georges Seurat. Or that Sondheim and book writer James Lapine use Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece to explore the creative process—long a topic of fascination for me—on a more universal level (with “Finishing the Hat” being the greatest song ever written about artistic creation and the sacrifices that accompany it).

While I have seen productions of Sunday in the Park with George on five previous occasions—including on Broadway, as a concert rendition at Ravinia with musical luminaries Patti Lupone, Michael Cerveris and Audra MacDonald and in 2002 in Chicago Shakespeare’s Studio Theatre under the direction of Gary Griffin, who also helms this version and has become a nationally-renowned director—my expectations for this one were stoked well before seeing reviews labeling it “perfect” and “flawless.”

Photo Credit: Liz Lauren
As far as I’m concerned, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater could be renamed the Chicago Sondheim Theater, for I have never seen a play by the Bard there, but all of CST’s Griffin-directed musicals by the maestro: Pacific Overtures, Sunday…, A Little Night Music, Passion, Follies—which was fantastic last fall and just won a slew of Jeff Awards honoring the best of Chicago theater—and now Sunday again.

All of the previous Shakespeare/Sondheim productions were terrific, even better than their Broadway counterparts, which is why I was willing to spend considerably more than I typically do to see a show, and why I was so eagerly excited.

But unlike many occasions when extensive anticipation, acclaim and hype are met with a certain degree of letdown, if not outright disappointment, CST’s rendition of Sunday in the Park with George is every bit as good as I could have hoped and better than I’ve ever seen.

With sublime songs, compelling (if somewhat complex) themes, outstanding singing, impressive musicianship and inventive visuals, this production is about as artistically resplendent as theater gets.

Photo Credit: Liz Lauren
Of course, my opinion is abetted by my affinity for Seurat, his painting, Sondheim and questions of creative inspiration and sacrifice.

I know every lyric that was sung and have an appreciation for the way Sondheim masterfully mimics Seurat’s pointillist painting style in his score. Over time, I have even come to better appreciate the considerably lesser second act, which seems like something of an afterthought following the outright glorious first act.

And I still wish cheaper tickets could be had, although the Courtyard Theater was virtually full on a Tuesday night, so I can’t really blame CST for not offering discounts. (In the audience I noticed a few creative-types from other local theaters and I nearly bumped into Dennis De Young on the way to my seat.)

Shockingly, Sunday in the Park with George opens on a Sunday in a park with George(s) Seurat—wonderfully played and exquisitely sung by Broadway vet Jason Danieley—sketching his aptly named muse, model and girlfriend, Dot (a beguiling Carmen Cusack). At the very beginning, it sounded like Cusack was imbuing Dot with a southern accent for some strange reason, but this was a trivial quirk that didn’t persist nor detract.

Each song in Act I expands on George’s relationship with his art and Dot—with his priorities being in that order—while also weaving in the other characters who will be included (per Sondheim and Lapine’s imagination) in the finished painting.

With shrewd lyrical insight on what an artist—particularly a groundbreaking one like Seurat, and of course, he himself—faces both internally and externally, Sondheim introduces us to another, more traditional (and disdainful) artist, as well as various others (servants, soldiers, a boatman, even a couple of dogs) gathered on the La Grande Jatte for eternity. The act closing “Sunday” harmoniously arranges all the subjects in their spots on Seurat’s grand canvas, and is simply one of the most brilliant songs ever composed.

The 90-minute first act could really be a show unto itself, but Griffin and Danieley do a nice job of making Act 2—set 100 years after the first and revolving around Seurat’s great-grandson, also named George—seem not as clumsy as it sometimes does. And the second act songs themselves are still fantastic, including “It’s Hot Up Here,” “Putting It Together,” “Children and Art” and a reprise of “Sunday.”

All in all, it was a magnificent rendition of one of the best musicals ever written.

Tickets are hard to come by and thus not cheap; I haven’t seen any discounts offered on HotTix or Goldstar (though perhaps in the extension week from Nov. 6-11, things might loosen a bit). But if you want to treat yourself, make a 'point' of catching Chicago Shakespeare’s production of Sunday in the Park with George.

Like the painting itself, it’s nothing short of a masterpiece.

Monday, October 15, 2012

'A Wanted Man' Gets You In Its Grasp -- Book Review

Book Review

A Wanted Man
a Jack Reacher novel
by Lee Child

A Wanted Man isn’t a great book.

It’s certainly quite far from being fine literature and I can’t really say that the story is truly compelling.

I wouldn’t even call it a first-class thriller, even in the not always exalted realm of page turners. There was a twist midway through that I thought was rather suspect, and the outcome isn’t particularly surprising (especially for anyone who’s read any of Lee Child’s novels revolving around Jack Reacher).

But it is a great read.

Before having my crack at a reserve copy from the Skokie Public Library, I was surprised at how many scathing user reviews I was seeing on Amazon, with several 1-star slams coming from readers claiming to have been longtime fans of the Reacher series.

If such reviews came from legitimately dismayed Reacher Creatures, I don’t understand what they were expecting nor why they were so grievously disappointed. Having read all 16 of Lee Child’s previous thrillers featuring Jack Reacher, an ex-military policeman turned nomadic superhero-of-sorts, sure, some are a bit better than others. And though I’d be hard pressed to recall any specifics of the previous books, all devoured well within a week, I don’t think I’d put A Wanted Man in the very upper echelon.

But at the very least, it accomplished what Child’s past works—like those by my other favorite thriller writer of recent years, Harlan Coben—have: it made me want to read it at any moment I had time to spare.

One night, rather than go out to a play I was thinking of seeing, I opted to stay in and read A Wanted Man. Likewise on other evenings, instead of watching a DVD that was due back to the library the next day or paying close attention to a baseball playoff game, I chose to read the book because I acutely wanted to find out what would happen next and how it would end.

I can’t say I learned a whole lot, although through Reacher, Child always includes some interesting societal insights, trivial tidbits and an occasional mindbender (such as how you can easily speak for a full minute while knowingly not saying a word that includes the letter “a”).

And though I could provide a minor synopsis of the plot, it doesn’t really matter except to say that A Wanted Man finds Reacher hitchhiking through the Plains states and getting entwined in some nefarious doings for which he has to come to the rescue.

 As I mentioned above, Child employs a twist about halfway through that seemingly comes out of nowhere, but it doesn’t really derail things so much as to simplify them.

At this point, all of Child’s books go straight to #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and A Wanted Man is no exception. But the series is primed to get even more exposure when the first film adaptation, titled Jack Reacher and starring Tom Cruise in the title role (despite Reacher being 6’5" on paper), is released near Christmas.

The movie is based on 2005’s One Shot; that’s a really good one (as my friend Dave recently confirmed) and it’s not as if the Reacher series needs to be read in order. So while, IMHO, there’s no reason to avoid A Wanted Man if you’re a fan of the Jack Reacher series, if you can’t get it at your library and/or prefer waiting for the paperback, start with One Shot, or Killing Floor (the first book to be released) or The Affair (the book preceding A Wanted Man, now in paperback and set earlier than any previous Reacher story).

But if you are a Reacher devotee, puzzled perhaps by the plethora of poor reviews on Amazon, I say ignore them. It may not be a masterpiece, it may not be a great book, but in library parlance, A Wanted Man is well-worth checking out.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

'Black Watch' Deploys Impressive Regimentation, But Isn't Quite a 'Must-See' -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Black Watch
Presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theatre
at the Broadway Armory, Chicago
Thru October 21, 2012

I will never really know what war is like.

No matter how many times I’ve seen war discussed and depicted in every imaginable form of media—including some rather acute recent films such as The Hurt Locker, Lebanon, Restrepo, Body of War and Hell and Back Again—I’ll never be able to truly identify with the tension, terror, torment, tragedy, tedium and tactics a soldier encounters, likely on any given day.

Although I am sure that there have been previous plays about war—including both the battlefield and the repercussions—nothing readily comes to mind as being quite like Black Watch. If nothing else, it is the first theatrical production I’ve ever seen in an armory, or at least a building that used to be one.

Aptly, the show—a touring production by the National Theatre of Scotland presented for the second straight year by Chicago Shakespeare Theatre—has as its venue the Broadway Armory. For both theatrical nomenclature and topical relevancy, where better to put on a play about war?

Written by Gregory Burke and directed by John Tiffany, the play—though it’s not quite a traditionally-structured one—revolves around a group of mostly young soldiers from Scotland who are in the legendary Black Watch regiment of the British Army.

Black Watch troops were deployed to Iraq in 2004, for a somewhat vague mission supporting U.S. operations, and the script explores what the Scottish soldiers face during and after combat, including the lack of a clearly defined enemy or any acute sense of purpose since their own country was never attacked or threatened.

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan
Especially given the gravity of its subject matter, Black Watch is certainly a piece of entertainment of substantive quality, originality and importance. I valued seeing it—oddly, I never heard of it when it played Chicago in 2011—and wouldn’t dissuade anyone so inclined from doing likewise.

That said, and with respect to the scads of critical acclaim Black Watch has garnered since it debuted in 2006—the Tribune’s Chris Jones just gave this rendition 4 stars (out of 4), as he did last year—I didn’t quite love it. And other than to those who are particularly fascinated by the subject matter, I don’t think that I would emphatically recommend it.

To begin with, although it is a compelling work staged in a unique matter, it isn’t a perfectly executed piece of theater. Less than a day after seeing Black Watch—which I watched rather intently—I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the characters or how each of the soldiers stood out from one another. And though I got (or so I think) that during post-war scenes that take place in a pub, a journalist/filmmaker/playwright(?) was interviewing the surviving soldiers, even this was a bit hazy.

While I respect that this is a Scottish play, properly employing Scottish actors—and all appeared to be rather adept—given their heavy brogue, there were numerous lines I couldn’t understand (and almost all were a struggle). And if you discount that about 25% of the dialogue consisted of some variation of the f-word and/or the c-word, that left an even smaller amount of the 2-hour show cogently comprehensible, let alone truly captivating.

No question, there were a number of moving, empathetic moments and towards the end things got fairly riveting, but though Black Watch explores uncommon territory for a stage work—and provides a fine overview of the titular regiment—as a glimpse into the realities of war, the show didn’t really provide insights with as much acuity (or even less) than Hurt Locker, Saving Private Ryan, Platoon or even M*A*S*H.

While the confusion, conflicting emotions and anguish of the soldiers was adequately portrayed, in sum and to a lesser extent individually, in large part Burke’s script illustrated that young men stuck in the desert for months on end spend a lot of time talking about sex.

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan
So along with the severity of the overall themes, there were also a fair amount of laughs to be had and Black Watch was never less than watchable. It even featured moments of impressive choreography and singing from the cast (though not enough to be considered a musical).

Tickets for Black Watch seem to be readily available through HotTix and if you’re looking for heavy insights in a historic venue, the show is definitely worth your time and money.

But whereas other reviewers tend to imply this is a show not to be missed, given the plethora of other appealing options in Chicago theaters right now—Kinky Boots33 Variations, Sweet Bird of Youth, Sunday in the Park with George, Good People, Metamorphosis, Moment and more—I tend to think it can.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

With Crazy Horse at Full Gallop, Still the Neil Young of Old -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Neil Young and Crazy Horse
with opening act Los Lobos
United Center, Chicago
October 11, 2012

About 15 years ago, toward the end of the Chicago Bulls’ 6-championship run, I wrote an ad promoting a personal appearance at a local Chevy dealer by Bulls center Bill Wennington (now their radio color man). It said:

“Come meet one of the greatest (Canadian-born) players in NBA history.”

Although Bill certainly had a solid career, and was a contributor to the Bulls’ last 3 titles, in the NBA he was far from a superstar. So my parenthetical, though visually scaled back to add a bit of facetious humor, was absolutely essential to making the sentence otherwise true.

Such would not be the case in this sentence:

Neil Young is one of the greatest (Canadian-born) rock musicians of all-time.

In fact, not only is the statement true without the “Canadian-born” modifier, but with it, “one of” becomes unnecessary and “musicians” becomes singular.

On Thursday night at Chicago’s United Center, Neil Young—who was born in Toronto in 1945, moved to Los Angeles in 1966 to co-found Buffalo Springfield, has long lived in Northern California, came on stage to a recorded (not by him) version of “Star Spangled Banner” and performed a new tune proclaiming his pride at being “Born In Ontario”—aptly demonstrated why he is a national treasure in two countries.

Following a terrific hourlong opening set by Los Lobos, then a fun interlude in which white-coated “mad scientists” uncovered the oversized amps depicted on 1979’s Rust Never Sleeps album cover and a respectful rendition of the anthem, Young plugged in his Old Black guitar and with his longtime (but not constant band) Crazy Horse, he filled the UC with glorious, feedback-drenched brilliance.

The next time Jack White wants to walk offstage after just 55 minutes, he should be forced to sit atop a megawatt amp and watch as four guys well into their 60s rip him a new sphincter with 2 non-stop hours of raging vehemence.

Young, guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina played just 13 songs—many lasting over 10 minutes—but made every one count, from Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” to late ‘70s classics like “Powderfinger” and “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black),” as well as five brand new songs that all sounded superb.

Most of the new ones were from Psychedelic Pill, a new Neil Young and Crazy Horse collaboration that releases on October 30 (Neil omitted playing the title song, though it’s been in most recent setlists). If you merely look at the United Center setlist—on or—you may think “no “Heart of Gold?”, no “Rockin’ in the Free World?”” But the new songs—and the extended interplay they engendered among the clearly-enjoying-themselves Crazy Horse—were strong enough to not only complement “Cinnamon Girl,” “F*cking Up” and a sublime solo rendition of “The Needle and the Damage Done,” (video below) but even at times felt more compelling than the classics.

I’m not saying the new, 15 minute burner “Walk Like a Giant” is quite as good as “Down By the River,” but having heard the latter live in the past, the former felt equally fulfilling in a similar vein. On the solo acoustic “Twisted Road,” Young pays tribute to Bob Dylan and other influences, and after it, Neil took to a piano to debut a new song that seemingly isn’t even on Psychedelic Pill (the main refrain was “she’s a singer without a song she's living”; YouTube clip).

For the sole encore, I would have preferred “Like a Hurricane,” but Young played it at the gig before and in rotating show closers, went with “Tonight’s The Night.” This was more of a slow burn but got pretty fantastic by the end.

Obviously, Neil Young has written many more great songs than he could possibly play in 2 hours. Or even 5. But while I feel some artists are unnecessarily sparing with their greatest hits, much of Young’s appeal—beyond his wonderful lyrics, still pristine voice and tremendously influential guitar roar—comes in being iconoclastic. At an age where he could easily relaxing on his ranch and—with his legacy more than secure—largely just indulging his passion for model trains, he’s still writing and releasing high-quality music.

And instead of touring on a pure greatest hits act or another lucrative CSNY reunion, he’s playing far more emblematic shows like he did Thursday night, to a respectable—and appreciative—but well short of sold out audience.

So even if he opts not to play it, or selected other relics from his prodigious past, as long as Neil Young actually is still rockin’ in the free world—especially with his Crazy Horse compadres—that’s good enough for me.

Here's a clip of "The Needle and the Damage Done" that I shot. Particularly given that I was in the 3rd deck, I think Neil's voice on it sounds fantastic. 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Symphony of the Season: Photos of Fall Colors

I certainly don't purport to be Ansel Adams, not least because the nature photos I typically take are abuzz with color rather than in melancholic black and white.

I also spend a good bit more time photographing--or just traveling to see--cities and splendors created by man. But I certainly relish natural beauty and in the Chicagoland area, there are three times each year when I am likely to take hundreds of photos I've taken many times before.

In early June, I captured a kaleidoscopic display of freshly bloomed flowers, mainly roses, at the Chicago Botanic Garden, which I posted here.

And though it is a bit harder to plan for or access idyllic shooting locations, fresh snow on trees can make for exquisite pictures, perhaps a bit more in an Ansel Adams vein.

But I particularly love the explosion of color when autumn rolls around. For many years I lived close to the Morton Arboretum, and found that late October was a phenomenal time for catching a festival of colorful trees. I haven't made it out that way this year, but with the leaves already changing colors and even falling off trees, I made a point of strolling through the Ned Brown Preserve (also known as Busse Woods) along Golf Road near Schaumburg (it seems to be officially in Elk Grove Village).

With several trees already bare, or close to it, I may have been a tad late in my photographic foray, but here are a few of my best recent shots of fall foliage. (All photos copyright Seth Arkin 2012)

Sunday, October 07, 2012

I've Seen (All) 'Good People' ... So Satisfied? Yes, Particularly at a Great Value -- Chicago Theater Review

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow
Theater Review

Good People
by David Lindsay-Abaire
Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago
Thru November 11, 2012

Even though Good People is the first play by David Lindsay-Abaire that I've seen, I was already fairly well convinced that he is an excellent playwright.

For the film Rabbit Hole, which Lindsay-Abaire adapted from his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama of the same name, was one of my favorite films of 2010 (even though I didn't see it until January of the following year).

Good People, which likewise enjoyed a Tony-nominated Broadway run, further reiterates my regard for Lindsay-Abaire, even I didn't find its current Steppenwolf production quite as riveting, or as good, as Rabbit Hole (at least per the film version).

Based in hardscrabble South Boston--where Lindsay-Abaire grew up--with forays into the leafy Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill, Good People centers around a middle-aged woman named Margaret, richly embodied by Marian Mayberry.

As the play opens, Margaret is fired from her $9.20/hr. clerk job at a Dollar Store by--as the photo at top depicts--her much younger supervisor, Stevie, in the back alley. Though I think that most viewers would concur that the termination is merited and that Stevie is blameless, we nonetheless feel considerable empathy for 'Margey,' especially upon learning that she is a single mother caring for a severely retarded adult daughter (who we never see).

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow
Margaret is comforted by her wonderfully sassy best friend, Jean (a delightful Lusia Strus), who convinces her to seek out an old flame named Mike (Keith Kupferer), a fellow 'Southie' who is now a successful doctor living comfortably in Chestnut Hill with his wife, Kate (Alana Arenas).

Though I won't go into any more storyline details, there are enough plot points to keep the play engaging throughout, though it doesn't really kick into high gear until midway through Act 2.

Lindsay-Abaire gives us much to think about, as evidenced by a lively post-show discussion following Saturday's matinee, including issues concerning class, community, friendship, wealth, race, the choices & sacrifices we make and an abiding desire to be seen as "good people" that can simultaneously drive our actions while being at odds with them.

I was largely prompted to check out Good People by Chris Jones' 4-star (out of 4) review in the Tribune. I'm glad I did, particularly in taking advantage of Steppenwolf's generous Twenty at $20 same-day ticket discount program.

Photo Credit: Michael Brosilow
I wasn't quite as wowed as Jones seemingly was, but still found Good People to be worthwhile entertainment and a bit beyond. In my eyes, it's not quite a "must-see" at this jam-packed time of the theatrical year, but a comedy-infused drama that most who attend should find insightful and enjoyable.

All the more reason opting for readily-available discount tickets--through Steppenwolf, HotTix or Goldstar--could make a play about the things in life we value one that's especially good, people.

In case you're curious about my title for this post, "I've Seen All Good People" is a song by the British band Yes that has absolutely nothing to do with the play, but whose lyrics I couldn't help but reference.