Tag Archive: Broadway in Chicago


Ben Platt

The Book of Mormon may refer to the sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement in some circles but in Broadway’s case it’s a hit Tony Award winning musical. From the twisted minds of the creators of South Park and Avenue Q, this production not only took home Best Musical from the Tonys but also won a Grammy that year.

The story revolves around two Mormon missionaries sent to a village in Uganda to convert locals. Things go awry when the village people are more concerned about war, famine and AIDS than being converted.

Ben Platt plays Elder Cunningham, one of the missionaries sent to Uganda with a love for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings that he mixes with religion. Platt recently made his cinematic debut in Pitch Perfect and has nationally toured with the musical Caroline, or Change.

We talked to him right before he arrived for the huge Chicago opening.

Jerry Nunn: Hello, Ben. What is your acting history?

Ben Platt: I’m from LA. My whole family grew up there. My dad was in business. Everyone sang and performed growing up. I was singing as young as three and four years old doing show tunes in school. I then grew into working at the few venues that they have there for theater in LA. As I got older I started venturing into New York more often doing readings and workshops. I did a tour of Caroline, or Change. I took time off to do the movie Pitch Perfect and now doing Book of Mormon.
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Jon Riddleberger

War Horse is galloping into town this holiday season. If you haven’t heard, it’s a successful international play based on the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo. The story revolves around a horse named Joey that lives with a family before fighting in World War One. The show became a hit thanks to the Handspring Puppet Company who brought the horse to life winning several awards in the process. The production itself won five Tony Awards and will close on Broadway in January. Lucky for us the tour arrives in Chicago on its first national tour.

Jon Riddleberger heads up the puppet cast playing Joey and Topthorn. He’s a New Jersey native who studied acting at NYU’s Tisch Experimental Theatre Wing.

We talked to the man behind the horse right before the show opened.

Jerry Nunn: Hi, Jon. Where in the world are you?

Jon Riddleberger: I’m in Des Moines, Iowa.

JN: How is the tour going there?
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Melanie Marshall

Melanie Marshall has crossed the pond to perform as Fela Kuti’s mother Funmilayo in the touring production of Fela! Audiences now can witness the presence and operatic notes that Melanie brings to the role. We learned all about her background after attending this eye popping stellar show based on the Nigerian innovator’s incredible life.

Jerry Nunn: Good morning, Melanie. So you are British?

Melanie Marshall: I am British born!

JN: Did you study theatre there?

MM: No, I studied classical singing at the Royal College of Music. I stumbled into musical theatre almost by accident. Well, not by accident but I was asked to audition for my first show Carmen Jones, which is a black version of Carmen. I understudied the role of Cindy Lou. I got to sing in that and quite liked it. Afterwards I did the Glyndebourne’s version of Porgy and Bess.

JN: Did you see the newest version yet?
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Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys the musical is right at home in Chicago these days. Based upon the life of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, the story follows the group on their rise to fame.

The show has toured 38 cities and won Tony as well as Grammy Awards.

Without further ado let’s introduce the four Jersey Boys in this cast.

Preston Truman Boyd plays Bob Gaudio who toured with Young Frankenstein and has appeared in Broadway hits such as Singin’ in the Rain and Oklahoma!

Joseph Leo Bwarie has toured 40 cities playing Frankie Valli and even performing on the Tony Awards.

John Gardiner who plays Tommy DeVito has also starred in the Lion King and All My Children on TV.

Michael Lomenda returns to Jersey Boys as Nick Massi after playing the role in Toronto. His favorite past shows have been Hairspray and Miss Saigon.

Nunn on the Run went to the Bank of America Theatre to fist pump with the four of them.

Jerry Nunn: Hey, guys. Is any one here actually from Jersey?

All: No.
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Idiot vs. South

Two shows are currently running for Broadway in Chicago’s theatre series this week.
In 2010 American Idiot won two Tonys featuring the music of rock group Green Day. The story follows three friends searching for meaning in a post 9-11 world.
South Pacific is a new production of past Pulitzer Prize-winning show of the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic.
This was also a Tony Award winner back in 2008 for Best Revival.
The story is set in Wold War II with a romance between two couples.
Some consider it to be the best musical ever written but was banned in parts of the South because of controversy.
Both shows feature war in their own ways and both could learn a lot from each other.
American Idiot has no intermission and runs for 90 minutes. The energy keeps it moving nonstop.
South Pacific runs almost three hours with an intermission and drags in places.
Make sure you fill up before heading to these shows with Encore being next door to South Pacific at the Cadillac featuring a drink menu based on the show.
Run over to Rockit on Hubbard before American Idiot where both casts were spotted partying together on opening night.
Both shows are located on Randolph living peacefully for a week.
As far as gay content both feature men in underwear and South Pacific has full naked boy butts and drag.
American Idiot needs a plot boost and South Pacific needs some plot cutting.
Maybe they should make American Pacific or Idiot South instead!
Idiot finishes on Feb 19 while Pacific goes until Feb 26.
Visit http://broadwayinchicago.com for details on tickets.

Two Broadway in Chicago shows flew into town this week. I originally planned to pick the best one and trash the other one. The problem is there are good and bad sides to both projects. Critics have been kind and tough on them both as well.This is the perfect time to get out of our snow covered homes and take in performances that are not to be missed from Broadway.
In the Heights is a Latino musical set in the barrio of Washington Heights. Launching in 2008 where it was nominated for 13 Tony Awards the bright and energetic take on dreams is a little long but full of heart.
In contrast Come Fly Away is only 90 minutes with no intermission. It has been cut down from the original New York version to play better in Vegas.
Come Fly Away follows a loose plot with a variety of characters set to Frank Sinatra music with choreography by Twyla Tharp.
The show originally had a singer in New York but she was cut to focus more on Ol’ Blue Eyes. There is a live a band and the dancers lose their shirts and one even his pants so what else do you want in an audience full of blue hairs?
In the Heights uses non union actors this time around for their tour.  The set is smaller than New York and some of the cast is a little rough around the edges but overall the modern choreography wins out. I love the spray cans being used in a dance sequence.
A new friend Celina Polanco has a motherly dramatic speech that makes the audience take notice. I just wished the salon could have been run by a Latina drag queen. “Tell me something I don’t know” okay?
Fly Away really has some strong numbers to go with those extensions. Another new friend to the show Julius Rubio lifted those ladies like they were light in the Sinatra loafers.
Eye candy and light antics were what Twyla was obviously going for.
If you go to either one or both they have their moments with very stylized choreography. Want more of a story? Hit the Heights. Want a classy crooner? Don’t delay to Fly Away.
In the Heights is over quick to run to the Oriental Theatre before January 15. Come Fly Away swings into the next town after January 22.
Visit http://broadwayinchicago.com for tickets and details.

Dane Agostinis

Dane Agostinis brings a new Beast to town for Broadway in Chicago’s leg of the National Beauty and the Beast tour. He brings a musical background to add to the play from Carousel to Oklahoma! Nunn on the Run sat down at the table for lunch and to be his guest.

Jerry Nunn: Hello, Dane. So you are one of the new cast members to the show?

Dane Agostinis: Yes, Emily Behny, who plays Belle and Logan Denninghoff, who plays Gaston, all came in at the same time. We rehearsed in New York for a week then went to LA. Our opening was insane because Tom Cruise and the family were there. They came backstage and were very complimentary. Tom said something that I will never forget. He had never seen the movie or the show. He said, “You will always be the Beast in my mind.”

JN: Wow!

DA: A lot of people have not seen the show but to hear him say that was so cool. We did the last three performances in LA.

JN: And now you are touring around. Is this your first time in Chicago?
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