Company can’t quite pull off stage ‘Miracle’

Doris Walker is not a happy woman when we meet her in “Miracle on 34th Street.” Abandoned by her husband, she juggles her career as an events coordinator at Macy’s while raising a precocious daughter, who is growing up to be just like her. Doris has no time for a social life or, apparently, shopping. She is frazzled, tired and–even sadder for a Macy’s employee–badly dressed. But who’s got the time to take advantage of an employee discount when you’ve got “a holiday to run,” as Doris points out.

‘Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes’ (2001)

The dancer is fetching in her slinky bra and harem pants. She has a splash of bright pink lipstick on her puckered lips and she pirouettes prettily for the audience. Unfortunately for the men in the audience, this isn’t one of the leggy, yet wholesome Rockettes kicking up her heels in this number. Rather, it’s a dancer dressed as a ballerina bear in the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes” currently running at the Rosemont Theatre.

Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Previous productions of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” didn’t seem as fun or entertaining as the current incarnation, now in an open run at the Royal George Theatre. Granted, this staging of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is much scaled down from the 1993 production starring Donny Osmond at the Chicago Theatre. But this version–the first non-touring commercial production to be granted rights for use of updated material–has a good time interpreting Lloyd Webber’s kitsch.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (2000)

Two bicyclists, a chair and a tightrope. No, that’s not the name of a new ABC sitcom, but the components of the most thrilling act at this year’s Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, which opened Wednesday night at Allstate Arena. Madrid’s Quiros High Wire troupe easily stole the show–not a simple feat considering the competition, which included dancing horses, impeccably trained elephants and the freakishly talented acrobat who, suspended from the ceiling by just her hair, juggled flaming batons.

`Disney on Ice Presents Toy Story’ at the Allstate Arena

“Toy Story” begins in a young boy’s bedroom. When the household isn’t looking, the toys come to life. Their feelings mirror that of human beings. They get jealous, flirt and long for home. All the favorites from the movie version are here, though Woody the cowboy is more loose limbed and fey than his big-screen counterpart. His rival, Buzz Lightyear, doesn’t realize that he’s a toy and believes that he actually is a space ranger. Had he looked in the mirror, the big-chinned toy would’ve realized that he really was Jay Leno’s doppelganger.

“Scarlet Pimpernel”

Fop by day, dashing hero by night, Sir Percy is the central character in “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” a swashbuckling musical comedy set during the French Revolution. That’s right. Swashbuckling. Musical. Comedy. Of the three elements, the comedy works best in this play, where the generic music does little to set the tone. The production–which opened Wednesday night at the Shubert Theatre–comes courtesy of Frank Wildhorn, whose other weird musicals include “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Civil War.” His musicals have a strong pop edge that don’t fit the period pieces he’s trying to create.

“Chicago”

You’d think that “Chicago”–which promises to tell the story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery–would be a bit of a downer. But throw in a Tony Award winning score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, some sexy choreography by Ann Reinking and a couple of celebs well-known to sitcom fans, and you have a musical in which the overall flashiness cloaks the underlying darkness of the play’s theme: That you’re only as important as your last 15 minutes of fame.

“Disney On Ice”

Move over, Cher. Minnie Mouse is in town, and she’s sporting a Bob Mackie gown that you’d die for. The beloved Disney character was just one of dozens Wednesday to glide into the Allstate Arena for the opening night of “Disney on Ice.” Classy ice shows usually are an oxymoron. But this production was a splendid affair, with gorgeous costumes, striking sets and a cast of skaters who did a formidable job of re-creating some of Disney’s best-known animated characters. Sure, there were some aborted jumps and falls that wouldn’t happen at competitive-level ice shows. But then again, those athletes don’t have to perform wearing rubber masks and cumbersome costumes.

“Blue’s Clues Live!”

Think of “Blue’s Clues Live!” as the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” for the preschool set. But instead of getting dressed up like transvestites and throwing things at the screen, the tiny tots at the Rosemont Theatre on Friday night clutched their stuffed animals and shouted out answers to puzzles as the performers acted out a charming stage adaptation of the popular Nickelodeon children’s show.

January 6, 2000

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“Fame–The Musical”

“You must be in touch with your emotions if you expect to touch others,” a teacher says early on in “Fame–the Musical.” Too bad the writers of the play didn’t follow this advice. The play, which opened Tuesday night at the Chicago Theatre, wasn’t much of an improvement from the production that rolled into town last year. Full of cliches and stereotypes, the musical lacked memorable, well, music.

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