“Woman of the Year” revisited

Highly Recommended ***** 

I love the concept that Porchlight  Musical Theatre has developed. They call it Porchlight Revisits- and they bring back the musicals that have not been done (or even seen) in the area for years. I know that Artistic Director Michael Weber loves doing these shows as much as audiences seem to love experiencing them. These are limited run (VERY LIMITED) productions that appear on the same stage that their main show is on. For example, they are currently doing “Billy Elliott”, so the set is from that show. There is no actual set for their “revisit” productions. Just a few pieces of furniture, some light costuming and props. The shows are all about the talent and the play itself.

The evening begins at 7:15 when Weber comes onstage with his laptop and projected on the screen behind him are pictures from the original play on Broadway and other items as he tells us the story of how the musical was born. In this case, “Woman of the Year” was taken from a film of the same name starring Hepburn and Tracey (as we are told, the start of their love affair). Hepburn’s character,  Tess Harding ,is a newspaper writer and in the film, Tracey, a sportswriter. The musical version has her role changed to a morning TV personality and the Tracey role, a cartoonist.

Weber has a great way of finding just the right people to play the leads in these min-productions. In the role of the cartoonist, Sam Craig, the always reliable Brandon Dahlquist and as the “Woman of the Year”, the sensational Meghan Murphy. I would love to see one of the theater companies of Chicago opt to bring this wonderful story to their stage for a complete run- not three nights, but with these talented people, three months. Anyone game? In fact, the ensemble is terrific and shock of shocks, even though they call this a reading production ( meaning the actors have their scripts in hand), this troupe was perfect with very little reference to the paper in their hand (when they had it in their hands).

I need to mention every one of them:Mel Bee, Chuckie Benson, Sean Blake, John “Wes” Hughes, Cisco Lopez, Kimberly Lawson ( who is a stitch as Jan/Jane in her duet with Tess “The Grass Is Always Greener”), Rachel Osting, Robert Quintanilla, Jonathan Schwart, Derek Self and Cameron Turner. Most of the ensemble members played at least three characters and despite very little in the way of costumes and props, we could see the difference. That is strength in acting. The dance numbers were cute (choreography by Florence Walker-Harris) and David Fiorello is the Musical Director. Weber directed this sharp and stylish production of a play  with a book by Peter Stone and music and lyrics by John Kander & Fred Ebb (names we all know from their huge successes).

Songs from this show are memorable: “Woman of the Year” (Murphy starts the show off with a bang and goes up, up, up from there),  the adorable “When You’re Right, You’re Right”, “The Two Of Us”, “I Told You So”, “I Wrote The Book”, “Sometimes A Day Goes By”, the hysterical “The Grass Is Always Greener” and the finale, “We’re Going To Work It Out”. These songs are written to get the story going and propel the plot ( a real love story), but a few have had lives of their own  “Greener” and “Woman of the Year”, for sure).

You only have a few days to see the show. Wednesday and Thursday, the 15th and 16th. 7:15 sharp start (about 30 minutes of “backstage talk” by Weber) followed by a 10 minute break and then two acts with another break of 10 minutes between act one and act two. Total time 2 hours-forty-five minutes, but a sparkling time was had by all.

The new home for the Porchlight Theatre is The Ruth Page Center For The Arts located at  1016 N. Dearborn (just south of Division and a few blocks north of Chicago Avenue), easy to get to by public transportation. The tickets are $35 and can be ordered by calling 773-777-9884 or http://www.PorchlightMusicTheatre.org

Keep your eye on the coming events for this company as they have two more planned for this year-  “They’re Playing Our Song” and “Do Re Me”