Theater Review: 2006: A look at what happened in theater

2006 was a year of great triumphs in theater, as well as some bitter disappointments. Although the demise of New American Theater came as a shock to all of us, it was not completely unexpected. Editor & Publisher Frank Schier’s sensitive evaluation of the situation gives us all something to seriously consider. My complete agreement emphasized our deep belief that the cultural life of our community is vital to continued growth of every aspect of our lives here.

One of my chores at the end of each year is to re-examine my reviews and to look forward to the coming season. The January and February calendar is quickly being filled. Chicago and Rockford give all of us an opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of fine productions.

In retrospect, there are several plays and musicals that are stand-outs. NAT’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream… the best of Shakespeare’s comedies enhanced by Martin McClendon’s spectacular set. Julian Swain and Carl Cole’s continuing collaboration that keeps the music of Jazz Greats a part of our lives.

Moliere’s The Miser performed at Rockford College—an interpretation of a 17th-century classic.

Returning to NAT to direct Brien Friel’s Stones in His Pocket, J.R. Sullivan shared his artistic skills and Irish heritage.

Hizzoner at Prop Thtr continues a run begun last spring. Chicago adores their Daley mayors.

Artists’ Ensemble’s Nickel and Dimed forced us to examine the service industry and those who suffer the consequences of “minimum wages.”

The rock opera Tommy became one of NAT’s outstanding productions of the year. Manley Pope was vital to its success.

Josh Burton’s New Court Theatre gave us our summer plays we know and appreciate. My favorite: Biloxi Blues.

Two of Chicago’s stand-outs were King Lear at the Goodman and, The Pirate Queen, a part of the Broadway in Chicago series.

Student productions that are memorable—The Diary of Adam and Eve at Mendelssohn, directed by Bill Beard. Note—now on Broadway, starring Kristin Chenoweth, it is receiving rave reviews.

As a part of my family Christmas, the production of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, at Central High School in Champaign was a shared experience. My great-niece, Katie Adams, was a part of the cast, and the young people did a creditable job of performing Stephen Sondheim’s difficult score. She and the others mingled with the audience, beautifully maintaining their characters. Enthusiasm is essential to those just beginning a theater career.

Pec Playhouse’s Uh-Oh—Here Comes Christmas! gave audiences a broad look at holiday traditions with plenty of laughs.

And last, but not least…NAT closed its doors in the middle of its most spectacular production. Oliver! left nothing to be desired in a musical. My apologies to Timm Anderson and the orchestra. As they were performing back stage and unseen by the audience, I truly believed it was a tape of the Broadway music. My sadness at the loss of this theater cannot be measured.

It has been more than 10 years since my first review was published in The Rock River Times. The opportunity to see hundreds of dramas, musicals and comedies has enriched my life. Thank you, Frank.

From the Jan. 3-9, 2007, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!