All stories by Jack Helbig on BroadwayStars

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Remembering John Michalski by Jack Helbig

John Michalski, onetime Chicago improv teacher and performer, never found great fame. But he embodied the art form at its purest. John Michalski died May 24. In …

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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Del Marie: locked down, but not out by Jack Helbig

The rapper-dancer-performance poet rolls with the pandemic punches. 2020 started off so well. January and February were great months for 27-year-old rapper, danc…

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

iO past, present, and nonfuture by Jack Helbig

Remembering the comedy theater’s humble beginnings and reflecting on its dramatic end How did you find out about iO closing?…

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Upright Citizens Brigade shutters its New York venues by Jack Helbig

A critic reflects on UCB's early history in Chicago. Last week the folks at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) sent out a letter announcing they were permanently…

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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Middletown skims the surface by Jack Helbig

A starry cast can't inject a lot of life into Dan Clancy's middlebrow story. Dan Clancy's four-person play about two couples living a middling life in a middle-c…

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Secret of My Success needs a sharper book by Jack Helbig

The 1987 Michael J. Fox film gets a toothless musical treatment. This musical version of the 1987 Michael J. Fox vehicle, receiving its world premiere at the Par…

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Shear Madness is retro, but not rewarding by Jack Helbig

Mercury Theater Chicago's revival of this murder mystery party game can't overcome the dated material. Adapted by Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan from the origin…

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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

An American in Paris works best when it faces the music by Jack Helbig

It's Gershwin for the win in Drury Lane's production. You don't have to know the classic 1951 movie musical to be disappointed by this 2015 stage version, but it…

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Alabaster brings two women together in the aftermath of loss by Jack Helbig

Audrey Cefaly's story of a photographer and an agoraphobe goes far beyond Madison County. Audrey Cefaly's new play, receiving its world premiere at 16th Street T…

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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Route 66 can't kick into high gear by Jack Helbig

Roger Bean's jukebox musical has pleasant songs, but no point to its journey. There is no story in Roger Bean's jukebox musical, nor are there any characters, on…

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How a Boy Falls stumbles at Northlight by Jack Helbig

Steven Dietz's family drama doesn't give us enough reasons to care. Steven Dietz's family drama lacks high stakes. Nothing is as it seems to be in How a Boy Fall…

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Grease revs up the revival engines at Marriott by Jack Helbig

Scott Weinstein's staging is far more knock-out than knockoff. It is hard not to have low expectations for yet another revival of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's 1…

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Gina DeLuca walks the live lit line between funny and tragic by Jack Helbig

Her new monthly showcase at Duke of Perth creates a community for newbies and vets alike. Gina DeLuca is a 32-year-old Chicago-based writer and live lit performe…

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Rose Valley Theatre Group debuts with Sunday Evening by Jack Helbig

Bulgarian playwright Zachary Karabashliev's ddrama shows promise, but falters. Bulgarian playwright Zachary Karabashliev's 2008 play, about two entwined dysfunct…

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Nestor Gomez and 80 Minutes Around the World land at Fillet of Solo by Jack Helbig

The Guatemalan immigrant shares his own perspectives on failure and finding his voice. Nestor Gomez, "creator, producer, curator, and host" of the immigrant-focu…

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

America's Best Outcast Toy is heartfelt and funny by Jack Helbig

Some familiar cast-offs get a chance to show off their reality-competition chops in this new musical. America's Best Outcast Toy, by Larry Todd Cousineau (book a…

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A Xmas Cuento Remix suffers from last-minute cast shuffling by Jack Helbig

Maya Malan-Gonzalez's contemporary Latinx take on A Christmas Carol shows promise despite production difficulties. In retelling Charles Dickens's perennial holid…

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The Land of Forgotten Toys has forgettable songs, but a charming story by Jack Helbig

A young girl must save Christmas in this new family musical. This original Christmas show (story by Larry Little, music by Dylan MarcAurele, book and lyrics by J…

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Oliver! earns its exclamation point at Marriott by Jack Helbig

The Dickensian melodrama-turned-musical features an outstanding ensemble. Lionel Bart's musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's 1839 novel Oliver Twist first pre…

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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

My Life is a Country Song has too many flat narrative notes by Jack Helbig

New American Folk Theatre's world premiere needs stronger characters and a more compelling story to match the music. The story Anthony Whitaker tells in his 90-m…

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe: A Love Story finds the broken heart in the horror by Jack Helbig

Oak Park Festival Theatre's production promenades through the Cheney Mansion. Staged in various rooms throughout Oak Park's Cheney Mansion, David Rice's clever a…

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Jimmy Carrane is back after 18 years with World's Greatest Dad(?) by Jack Helbig

He never got the big breaks, but the 1990s improv and solo stalwart has figured some things out. Jimmy Carrane first made a name for himself 28 years ago when he…

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I'm Not a Comedian . . . I'm Lenny Bruce captures the complexities of a comic genius by Jack Helbig

Ronnie Marmo's one-man show isn't hilarious, but it's arrestingly honest. In the painfully honest spirit of Lenny Bruce, let's begin with a couple of blunt obser…

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Blonde Poison has a fascinating history, but it lacks dramatic tension by Jack Helbig

A real-life Jewish "catcher" for the Gestapo never takes compelling shape in this Agency Theater Collective production. Nicknamed "blond poison" by the Nazis (he…

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A small pond makes a great home for Big Fish by Jack Helbig

It flopped on the Great White Way, but BoHo Theatre's production finds the heart in this musical about tall tales and father-son relationships. Based on Daniel W…

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Color Purple fills Drury Lane's stage with triple threats by Jack Helbig

Lili-Anne Brown's staging of the musical based on Alice Walker's classic novel brings down the house. There is no doubt the 2005 musical adaptation of Alice Walk…

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Opposites unite in The Best of Enemies by Jack Helbig

Mark St. Germain's play outlines an unlikely friendship between a Black civil rights activist and a onetime member of the KKK. Some plays seem tailor-made for sm…

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Five Presidents walk into a funeral . . . by Jack Helbig

In Rick Cleveland's play, the five men who followed Richard Nixon as POTUS open up about the job at his memorial. American Blues Theater's Chicago premiere of en…

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Hannah Ii-Epstein revisits Hawaii's drug trade in Pakalolo Sweet by Jack Helbig

The playwright's second play in a trilogy comes from a place of personal experience and pain. Hannah Ii-Epstein hunches over when she talks, her voice soft and v…

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Something Rotten! goes down easy by Jack Helbig

Two brothers try to steal from the Bard in Marriott's entertaining take on the Broadway musical comedy. Set in 1595 during the glorious reign of Elizabeth I, thi…

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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Trump in Space offers toothless satire for troubled times by Jack Helbig

Laugh Out Loud's LA import can't find the funny. Few things age as quickly as topical satire, especially in an age of unrestrained Twitter bursts and 24-hour new…

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All that Chat

Sep 14, 2021: Chicago - Ambassador Theatre
Oct 17, 2021: Dana H. - Lyceum Theatre
Mar 28, 2022: Plaza Suite - Hudson Theatre
Apr 07, 2022: The Minutes - Studio 54
Apr 28, 2022: Macbeth - Lyceum Theatre