Porchlight Revisits the 80s
As part of their “Revisits” series, Porchlight opened a concert reading of a little-known Terrance McNally musical, The Rink, this Tuesday. The goal of the Revisits productions is to present musical theatre buffs with a slice of Broadway history, and introduce audiences to musicals which have by and large fallen out of the repertoire. The show opens with a half-hour slideshow presentation by artistic director Michael Weber, who engagingly captures the zeitgeist of Broadway in the mid 1980s and the two iconic stars at the center of The Rink: Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera. After leaving the audience with some thoughts on the musical’s relative lack of popularity (Minnelli’s casting as a grungy hippy, rather than the sequined starlet that audiences wanted to see), the musical is performed by a strong cast which, even with script in hand, manage to convincingly resurrect the mega-musical on Stage 773’s intimate Thrust stage.
Terrence McNally's First Broadway Musical
In the musical, an estranged daughter returns to find her mother selling the family business: an aging roller rink now slated for demolition. As Terrence McNally’s first musical, it does not have quite the dramatic weight of his later hits like Kiss of the Spiderwoman or Ragtime; add to this the fact that McNally came onto the project after the lyrics and music were already written, and you have a sense of the daunting task facing the writer in stepping into such a high-profile production mid-stream. Nonetheless, the show presents us with two powerful women, each very different but bonded by blood and by personal struggles playing out against the cultural upheavals of their times. The music captures this passion and turmoil—the duets between the leading ladies (“Don’t Ah Ma Me” and “The Apple Doesn’t Fall”) are particularly memorable, as is the show-stopping number “Colored Lights,” powerfully delivered by Porchlight veteran Christine Mild. Hollis Resnik plays the mother, Anna, in her Porchlight debut, and brings a gravity to the production which helps ground some of the more light-hearted moments. The title song in Act 2, performed by the all-male wrecking crew, was the real show-stopper in this production, however, and had the audience guffawing and hooting in delight. Though I will not give away the surprise, I will say that it pushes the boundaries of what seems possible for a script-in-hand performance.
On the whole, any diehard musical theatre buff will leave The Rink feeling like they have experienced an important moment in the history of the American musical. The combination of historical insight and ear-worm-worthy songs makes for an enjoyable and enlightening evening of theatre.
Photos by Porchlight Music Theatre
Oct. 4 - 6, 7:15pm
Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont
About the Author:
Derek Barton is a Chicago-based performance artist, educator, and director of both film and stage productions. A graduate of Northwestern's Performance Studies doctoral program, his
work explores issues of sustainability, social justice, and artistic
intervention in public space.