What Others Are Saying

Starting Here, Starting Now

Hedy Weiss – Chicago Sun Times
Stephanie Herman, Hillary Patingre and Teddy Boone are the three formidable performers in the intimate but high-powered and vocally impressive revival of this show at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, where director Fred Anzevino and choreographer Maggie Portman work their magic. Each actor gets a chance to explore the quest for connection and happiness in different ways, with a 1970s aura in the air thanks to lava lamps, a wink at smoking joints, a still new sense of sexual freedom and the even newer phenomenon of “personal ads” all part of the mix.
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Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein

Hedy Weiss – Chicago Sun Times
(Austin Cook) The lanky, sweet-faced 24-year-old’s superb playing on a sleek white baby grand and his ingenious and often surprising arrangements of the show’s more than three dozen songs mark him as a big talent to watch. (He also can sing.)
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NewCityStage.com – Recommended
Did I mention that the guy (Austin Cook) has a resemblance to Harry Connick Jr., though plays and sings so much better? It will be interesting to see how long this extraordinary talent stays in Chicago, for this guy could go anywhere he wants to, doing anything imaginable including arranging, performing, singing, coaching, any or all of the above, and across musical boundaries (his training is classical).
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Chris Jones – Chicago Tribune –  3 1/2 stars
“Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein,” is a classic example of what (Fred) Anzevino can achieve with young-but-trained vocal talent, a few hundred square feet of raw space, a handsome piano player (and fine music director) named Austin Cook, and the American songbook.
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Joe Stead, Chicago Stage Style
Thanks to Director, and one of Chicago’s greatest, Fred Anzavino has his hands on another masterpiece.  “Some Enchanted Evening” is an elegant musical review that all audience members will enjoy.  These talented artists will have you on the edge of your seat right until the grand finale.
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Sandra Schwartz / Edward Stein, Splash Magazines
…not only are you entertained by songs sung beautifully, tragically and in a comedic manner, but you get an opportunity to talk to the performers as they wait on tables during the intermission. The arrangements are fresh and the transitions are original. The pianist and singers open with a medley of songs that anticipates what is coming and close with a medley that leaves the audience wanting more…
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Hedy Weiss,  Chicago Sun-Times
But along with her bravura cast, Didier — a woman of enormous imagination and drive — has unlocked the musical’s secrets. And she has done so in a space so intimate that the actor-cats’ whiskers literally brush your hand….
Note to Lloyd Webber: Hop on your private jet to Chicago and take a peek.
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Matt McNabb, who plays Old Deuteronomy and T. S. Elliott in Cats, was interviewed in the No Exit Café by National Louis University where he received a BFA in 2001. Click here to view

Talk Theatre in Chicago, podcast
30-minute interview with Brenda Didier, Cats director and choreographer.
Listen here…

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
Inventive and infectious, Didier’s Chicago-style “Cats” features make-up and costumes (from Izuma Inaba and Matt Guthier) that go far, far beyond the usual, and that combine with frequently excellent singing from a young cast to make this intimate, family-friendly show much more rewarding than the plethora of crummy tours that used to sing for their supper in Chicago.
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Paige Listerud, ChicagoTheatreBlog.com
Theo Ubique has put another feather in its cap (or should I say “cat on its lap”?).  Hooray for them and lucky for us to get this furry, magical and whimsical dream against the darkening winter ahead.
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Chicago Reader
“…Brenda Didier’s staging sheds the bombast for a, well, domesticated approach to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-loved, much-mocked musical furball. That has its pitfalls, but if the postage-stamp stage reveals that not all 13 cast members are equal to their choral duties, its intimacy also, for instance, keeps Sydney Charles’s stark rendition of “Memory” from being the calculated tearjerker it normally is. Those who love Cats are likely to find this production transcendent; the Cats haters may consider it tolerable.”
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Joe Stead, Chicago Style
It certainly is as up-close-and-personal a view of “Cats” as you’ll see, at least until somebody decides to mount a production in a sandbox.  And that, dear children, is what I believe to be the show’s secret to a 9-life hit.  It is theatre as child’s play, squarely aimed at the child within us.  Unleash yours in this knockout production!
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Chicago Tribune
“…But really, it’s the women who make an impact with their singing and dancing chops. (They also inhabit the distinct personalities of each cat with more authority.) Maggie Portman has more spunk than any show rightly deserves, and she jumps right out as the performer having the most fun here, both as the precocious cat burgler Rumpleteazer and later as one-half of the slinky “Macavity” number. Rebecca Pink (as Jennyanydots, and adorable as hell) and Hillary Patingre (as Jellylorum) also make strong impressions.”
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Chicago Theater Blog
“…Theo Ubique has put another feather in its cap (or should I say “cat on its lap”?). Hooray for them and lucky for us to get this furry, magical and whimsical dream against the darkening winter ahead.”
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Success imminent! Didier brings a new heart and soul to this show by starting it off , not in the junk yard we are used to, but instead in a study of sorts where T.S. Eliot opens a chest and brings out a stack of poems that he hands over to a young girl ( based on the stories, probably his God-daughter). As she begins her journey through these poems, we, the audience , begin our journey into the lives of Eliot’s “Cats” as interpreted by Didier. An experience that I will relish with great pleasure and even though I have seen numerous productions over the years, none more intimate and warm as this one.
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“…Staged in a 60-seat space, not much larger than a litter box, this production is a textbook example of the mantra, “Less is more.” While Broadway producer Cameron Mackintosh set the feline festival in a giant junk yard featuring massive scenery and oversized props, director/choreographer Brenda Didier has chosen an attic full of boxes and a large trunk. And the usual cast of 30 or more actors has been reduced to 13 playing 20 different roles. Unbelievably it all works beautifully.”
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Andrea Kramar, Chicago-Splash Magazine
Brenda Didier’s Cats, with musical direction by Ethan Deppe, was terrific, and the intimacy of the show made it all the more exciting. In her solo directorial debut, Didier brings T.S. Eliot’s poems to life with captivating story-telling, on-the-mark Bob Fosse choreography, and music and songs that resonate for all those theater-lovers who are familiar with the standard Cats soundtrack.
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“…I can’t rave enough about Theo Ubique and Brenda Didier’s amazingly heartfelt,  richly emotionally and quite empathetic production of Cats. It boasts flawless music, deft dancing and it creates an evocative atmosphere that beckons us into the cats lair. We share the wizardry, wonders and warmth of Cats.  Get to No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park to experience an astonishing theatrical event!”
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The Lady’s Not For Burning

Joe Stead, Steadstylechicago.com
Handsome Layne Manzer handles Thomas’ coruscating lines with aplomb. . .  Looking as majestic as her situation is not, Jenny Lamb’s dignified Jennet breathes all the mystery of this magnificent and scientific visionary.  The delicious supporting roles are well represented . . .
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But that same quality makes Fry’s comedy an ideal match for Theo Ubique’s cabaret intimacy. Practically in our laps, cast members don’t have to be dialectically dexterous to the OBE degree to keep us compelled—though Anzevino’s cast is certainly quite skilled and roundly possessed of sharp comic timing. Layne Manzer imbues the soldier with a charming, world-weary swagger, while Jenny Lamb strikes the right note of frustrated reason as the “witch”; Drew Longo’s nicely underplayed turn as an addlepated chaplain stands out among the terrific supporting cast.
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This spoken “operetta” , as Fry called it, is an unusual little show, but under the careful eye of Anzevino  who has assembled a quality cast, is a lot of fun ad a great diversion from some of the everyday things life brings us. Yet, it has a message or two contained in this fun 2 1/2 hours at  The No Exit Cafe on Glenwood. It speaks to  the human condition in wanting something that you can’t have, questioning what is life? What is death? What is class? Is it what you have or who you are? In watching this sterling production … I realized that the very being of The No Exit Cafe and Theoubique is that they can give us the quality of a large  theater in a small space at an affordable price and are unique in what they do.
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Dan Zeff
(S)uccessful is Jenny Lamb as Jennet, a young woman who loves life as much as Mendip claims to despise it. The most accomplished acting comes from several supporting roles. Jeff Predmore is a hoot as the blustering mayor. Susan Fay displays a superb high comic style as the mother of the two brothers. If this theater ever decides to revive “The Importance of Being Earnest,” they have their Lady Bracknell in place. I also liked Andrew Pond as the droll justice, Drew Longo as the bemused chaplain, Adam Kander as the mayor’s clerk, David Weiss and especially Eric Martin as the feuding brothers, and Sonja Field as Alizon.

Sweet and Hot: The Songs of Harold Arlen

Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
“This revue is so superb on every level that you may find yourself standing in a line that extends down to the Gold Coast.”
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Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
“When the singing is this strong, and when the performers are this willing to stick their hearts on the line, you feel like you’re engulfed by waves of exciting sound. It’s acoustic sound too, which makes it all the more thrilling.”
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Kris Vire, TimeOut Chicago
“Decked out in ’40s-ish style by costume designer Bill Morey, the young sextet hits precise harmonies in group numbers (musical director Steve Carson’s vocal arrangements are top-notch).”
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Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune.
A Bow to the Neighborhoods. . .and Rogers Park.  
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Alan Bresloff, review for Sweet and Hot: The Songs of Harold Arlen
“After they won all the Musical awards for last season, I wondered how they could come back with something that would be on the same level. Guess what? They have done it again.”  
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Lawrence Bommer, steadstylechicago.com
“The setting for this two-hour triumph is a cabaret within a cabaret, where five drinkers and a bartender (all unmiked for the natural sound we deserve) converse through songs written between 1931 and 1954.”
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Tom Williams, chicagocritic.com and MyTheatreClub.com
“You’ll not find a finer cast of cabaret singers anywhere . . . sing their hearts out as they are in full command of Arlen’s tunes. It is so refreshing to see the 20-30 somethings enjoying hearing and singing the terrific tunes from the late 30’s through the 50’s.”
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Pat and Herb Simms, Chicago-Splash
“If you’re looking for a mellow, melodic evening of delicious music (and dinner served by the cast), don’t miss Sweet and Hot: the Songs of Harold Arlen.”
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The Beverly Review: Chicago Alive
“It may seem the world is out of control these days, but you wouldn’t know it at the No Exit Café in Rogers Park, where Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre is dishing up some fabulous old-time cabaret-style entertainment.”
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Chicago Tribune:

The Profiles Theatre production of Tracy Letts’ “Killer Joe” and the Theo Ubique Theatre Company revival of “Chess” are the two big winners of the 2010 Non-Equity Jeff Awards. The honors for “Chess” continue the Jeff committee’s affection for Theo Ubique’s brand of storefront musical. Maggie Portman, winner in the actress in a principal role/musical category, has won that category two years in a row.
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Chicago Sun-Times:

“Chess,” the 1986 musical with lyrics by Tim Rice and music by ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, is the latest success story for Theo Ubique, the oddly named little storefront cabaret company in Rogers Park where actors wait tables before coming onstage.
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The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee couldn’t agree on which plays were the best of the season, but they were in total agreement about which musical was most outstanding. Theo Ubique ’s production of Chess garnered seven awards at the Non-Equity Jeff Awards Monday night…
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Time Out Chicago:
Theo Ubique’s powerful, intimate revival puts the music and characters first, and a stellar cast keeps the story as riveting as the songs.
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Chicago Blogger:

While this was not my first production at Theo Ubique, it will also NOT be my last. Even though I did not love the book, the show was still of the highest level I have come to expect from Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre.
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The same quality, talent and energy from last season’s production of Evita by Theo Ubique are being brought to Chess. All three directors worked together on Evita and walked away with Jeff Awards for Production/Muscial, Direction, Choreography and Musical Direction. Portman also won a Jeff Award for Principal Actress/Musical.
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5 Stars in TimeOut -Chicago / Ali Weiss:
“As Florence, the chess ‘second’ caught in a love triangle between the Russian and American grand masters, Portman wins us over with fierce, heartfelt belting (especially on ‘Nobody’s Side’). Trager is vocally brilliant and achingly vulnerable as the Soviet player Anatoly, and Crouse is spot-on as Freddie, the insecure maverick American.
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TalkinBroadway.com / John Olsen:
This 11-person cast is consistently strong (and in the intimacy of the No Exit, you can judge the contributions of each). In the leads are some of the best voices currently working in Chicago musical theater, Equity or not….
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