July 21, 2023
Your PopCulteer is in the midst of an interesting week. Sunday morning I got back from a fun, if tornado-heavy, trip to Chicago. Then I learned of some breaking news coming out of San Diego that I’ll have to tell you about next week when I can get all the details. I also had a dilated eye exam that has me working in short spurts because my eyes recover very slowly due to Myasthenia Gravis, and looking at a computer monitor is like staring into a high-powered spotlight.
That should clear up in time for me to cover the opening of The Peanuts exhibit in Wheeling Saturday. Then Sunday I’ll be conducting a new interview with David Synn for next week’s RFC, and a week from today The PopCulteer will be filled with a photo essay of a place we visited in Chicago.
But today I’m going to offer up quick takes on a couple of shows we saw in the Windier than usual City, and then bring you notes and the playlist for Friday’s new episode of MIRRORBALL on The AIR.
A week ago last Wednesday Mel and I took in a matinee performance of Another Marriage at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. This production starred Judy Greer and Ian Barford and is the writing debut of Steppenwolf ensemble member Kate Arrington, who coincidentally was in the cast of the play, The Qualms in 2014.
That’s a coincidence because Mel and I got married on the set of The Qualms, but that’s another marriage that doesn’t really have anything else to do with Another Marriage.
To quote the program, “Another Marriage is an intimate and beautifully rendered portrait of an ever-evolving relationship that may never be quite finished.”
It’s a great play and an impressive writing debut for Arrington. She mixes elements of romantic comedy with drama and a healthy dose of snark and reality. And the play’s structure is novel and engrossing, beginning near the end of a decades-long relationship, and then flashing back to the beginning and the high and low points of two people’s lives together.
This is Steppenwolf, so the performances are all world-class. With a great script, Greer and Barford bring their characters to life in a realistic and appealing way.
Another Marriage is directed by Terry Kinney, a co-founder of Steppenwolf whose resume is longer than this post is supposed to be. While Greer and Barford shine as the two central characters, they were well supported by Nicole Scimeca as their daughter, and Caroline Neff in multiple roles.
This was our first play in the new space that Steppenwolf opened during the pandemic, and it’s an amazing venue, with seating in the round and very impressive stagecraft, with sinking platforms in the stage and entrances that can be made from four sides of the hall.
Another Marriage has had it’s run extended to July 30, though Barford will be replaced by another fine actor, Tim Hopper, after July 23. If you’re in Chicago, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL
I raved about The SpongeBob Musical back when Mel and I saw it on Broadway five years ago, and we were both curious to see how Kokandy Productions would translate such a big show to such an intimate performance space in the basement of the Chopin Theater.
We saw their take on Sweeney Todd last December, and were astounded at how they managed to fit the show into such a tiny space with no loss of quality. They did this with an amazingly talented cast and crew, and terrific direction.
I’m happy to say that they managed to do this with The SpongeBob Musical, too. Without a lavish budget, they managed to capture all the charm of the show and compress it into a small performance area with no problem.
In fact, they even managed to stick in a few more references to the SpongeBob Squarepants cartoon than the original show did. Major kudos have to go to the director, JD Caudill, and to the various art and sound designers: Jonathan Berg-Einhorn, Jakob Abderhalden, G “Max” Maxin IV, Patrick McGuire, Steve Labedz, Ele Matelan, Michael J. Patrick, Keith Ryan, Sydney Genco and Lolly Extract.
However, the biggest key to the success of this production is the cast. Frankie Leo Bennett is simply perfect as “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Isabel García offers up a creative new take on “Patrick Star.” Sarah Patin as “Sandy Cheeks” captures the spirit of the cartoon character. Quinn Rigg really stands out as “Squidward Q. Tentacles” and you don’t even miss the two extra legs. Parker Guidry treats the audience to a wild version of “Sheldon J. Plankton” that combines the diabolical copepod with a dash of Dr. Frank N Furter.
I could go on and single out every cast member and every ensemble member, but it’s killing my eyes to type this, so I will simply say that everyone in this production is talented enough to have stepped into the roles on Broadway.
That’s an enthusiastic “thumbs up,” in case you couldn’t tell.
The SpongeBob Musical is running at The Chopin Theater until September 3, and it’s a great storefront space (and right across the street from the Division stop on The Blue Line). If you’re in Chicago and want to see a great performance of one of the most fun musicals of the last century get thee to The Chopin.
Jimmy “Bo” Horne On MIRRORBALL
Friday at 2 PM on The AIR, Mel Larch devotes the full hour of MIRRORBALL to the music of Disco legend, Jimmy “Bo” Horne. The AIR is PopCult‘s sister radio station. You can hear these shows on The AIR website, or just click on the embedded player found elsewhere on this page.
Despite only having one top ten hit on the pop charts during Disco’s heyday, Horne dominated the danceclub charts and his music has been used in movies and TV shows for the last four decades. Even today his work is being sampled by dozens of hip hop artists and turns up in video games.
Born in West Palm Beach, Horne went into event planning and artist management following his Disco career, and is still putting on great shows all over Florida. Mel brings you an assortment of Disco classics that you may not even realize that you’ve been listening to, since they’ve been sampled so many times.
Check out the playlist…
Jimmy “Bo” Horne
“You Get Me Hot”
“Gimme Some (part one)
“Is It In”
“Ask The Birds And The Bees”
“Music To Make Love To”
“Rocket In The Pocket”
“Let Me Be Your Lover”
“Don’t Worry About It”
“Let’s Do It”
“You’re So Good To Me”
“It’s Your Sweet Love”
“Goin’ Home For Love”
“I Wanna Go Home With You”
“I Get Lifted”
“Dance Across The Floor”
You can hear MIRRORBALL every Friday at 2 PM, with replays throughout the following week Monday at 9 AM and Tuesday at 1 PM and a mini-marathon Saturday nights at 9 PM
At 3 PM we bring you an encore of a classic episode of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat that’s a mixtape of New Wave hits from the year 1981. You can find the playlist and background info HERE, once you scroll past one of my rants.
Sydney’s Big Electric Cat is produced at Haversham Recording Institute in London, and can be heard every Friday at 3 PM, with replays Saturday afternoon, Monday at 7 AM, Tuesday at 8 PM, Wednesday at Noon and Thursday at 10 AM, exclusively on The AIR. Two classic episodes can also be heard every Sunday, starting at 10 AM.
And that is this week’s PopCulteer. Check back every day for fresh content.