Kokandy Productions Presents GRAND HOTEL Review- Standout Music and Staging

“…All the world’s a stage..” – and so is the lobby of the GRAND HOTEL.

But these players don’t just strut their brief moments on the stage—they tango, Charleston, angrily bang pots to signal the class tensions in Weimer Germany, fall in love, feign love, try to stuff their anxieties below view—and most of all sing.

First and foremost, GRAND HOTEL compels you to come take it in with its captivating score (Music & Lyrics by Robert Wright & George Forrest).   You may walk away not quite able to hum a tune you heard, but you will likely be mesmerized by the originality of what is re-playing in your ears.

Kokandy Productions Picks a Musical with Intriguing Score

Mainly through song, a series of vignettes are told that capture the Weimer Era zeitgeist of economic anxieties. The narrator of sorts is a drug-crazed doctor who has made his home in this lobby (Jerry Miller). His foil of sorts- a dying man with a hunger for life (Jonathan Schwart) – happens to have worked for a crooked businessman who is waiting for a radiogram about a big deal he needs to keep his business afloat (Jeremy Trager). Add to that an aging ballerina (Michelle Jasso), a would-be Hollywood starlet (Leryn Turlinaton), a criminal strong man popping in and out to collect overdue debts (Pavi Proczko) and other colorful characters – this book (by Luther Davis) seems to want to go wide, but not deep, in giving us a humankind panorama.

The strong vocal performances that Kokandy has assembled do this intriguing music justice. The ensemble is strong—whether they are singing the GRAND HOTEL theme song that bookends the play, marching across as angry dishwashers offended by the profiligate spending of their no-betters who are hotel guests, or giving one or another musical segue scene change.

Soloists also shine--Baritone Erik Dohner as a Baron fallen on hard times, Parker Guidry as a bellhop too poor to take a day off while his son is born, and Jonathan Schwart as a dying man hoping to find the joy he missed in life in his last days—all give especially strong vocal performances.

Great thought has obviously been given to the staging of this production (Director John D. Glover, Music Direction Aaron Benham, Choreography Brenda Didier) and the end-result is riveting. Every inch on the stage seems to have been examined for how it can add or subtract from the dramatic moment at hand. The staging often struck this writer as a moving Bruegel painting, and also with one especially memorable shift to a Black Painting of Goya pose to convey the deformity of moral compromise.

This is the kind of superlative staging that makes live performance stir you in a way that canned entertainment cannot.

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Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.

 

When:

Thru May 27

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays 8:00 PM
Sundays 3:00 PM

Added Saturday Matinees at 3:00 PM on May 19 and May 26

Where:

Theater Wit
1229 Belmont
Chicago

 

 

Tickets:

$40 ($35 for Seniors and Students)

Visit the Kokandy Productions website or call 773 875 8150

Photos: Evan Hanover

CAST:

Michelle Jasso as Elizaveta Grushinskaya, Jonathan Schwart as Otto Kringelein, Leryn Turlington as Flaemmchen, Jeremy Trager as Herman Preysing, Erik Dohner as Baron Felix von Gaigern, Jerry M. Miller as Colonel-Doctor Otternschlag and Liz Norton as Raffaela with Nick ArceroParker GuidryDaniel HurstJennifer LedesmaJenny McPhersonHanah Rose NardoneDarren PatinShea PenderJeff PierpointPavi ProczkoMaurice RandleRachel Whyte and Travis Austin Wright.

PRODUCTION TEAM:

Jeffrey D. Kmiec (scenic design), John Nasca (costume design), Alexander Ridgers (lighting design), Michael Patrick (sound design), Johnny Buranosky (props design, asst. director), Eva Breneman (dialect coach), Rachel Flesher (violence and intimacy choreography), Keith Ryan (hair and wig design), Brian Estep (asst. costume design), Cam Turner (asst. choreographer), Lindsay Brown (production manager), Lina Benich (stage manager) and Zach Barr (asst. stage manager).

 

Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago

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