by Donna Robertson
July 11, 2010
If you want to take your child to a play that both of you will enjoy, look no farther than Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's muscial version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes.
Although the play is based on a children's story, it is entertaining for both adults and children, so don't worry that you'll be making a sacrifice in order to keep the kids happy.
If you recall from your childhood reading of this story, the emperor was a pretty superficial fellow, caring for little more than his clothes. This play makes the emperor a more sympathetic figure. Rather than his obsession with clothes being a reflection of his oversized ego, it stems from his late wife being his clothes designer, and his obsession helps him remain connected to her.
This storyline also adds a teenage daughter, and the misunderstandings between father and daughter not only allow for a more complete profile of the emperor, but also provide some new twists to the story.
Don Forston, as the Emperor, plays the part with a touch of befuddled innocence, which makes the character likeable in spite of his shortcomings and adds credence to the lesson at the story's end.
The Emperor's three Royal Secretaries (played by Mark David Kaplan, George Andrew Wolff, and Jarrod Zimmerman) are provided with many of the play's humorous moments, and they take full advantage of it. Their comedic timing is right on target, and their facial expressions and body language provide plenty of laughs for both adults and children.
Another entertaining character is Kimberly (played by Alex Goodrich), one of the tailors who makes the emperor's invisible clothes. Although he doesn't have as many opportunities as the Royal Secretaries to display his comedic talents, he makes good use of what he is given.
Jonathan Weir, as Lord Vince, gives a convincing performance as the "bad guy" and also sings one of the more memorable musical performances in this play.
The songs, composed by Alan Schmuckler, are energetic and help the younger children in particular to engage with the storyline.
A few of the jokes and references are better understood by adults than younger children, but it didn't seem to affect the enjoyment of the children. The sets are colorful, the pace is quick and lively, and the actors had no difficulty keeping the children entertained.
There is a nice twist to the story's original ending. In fact, there are enough new twists to this old story to make it fresh no matter how many times you've heard it.
The Emperor's New Clothes, directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell, runs for 75 minutes with no intermission. The play continues through August 29 with the following show times:
Wednesdays 11am only
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 11am and 2pm
Sundays 2pm only
Before or after seeing the play, visit the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's website to read the original story that inspired this musical version, download a 14 minute audio-book recording of the story, and enjoy some activities related to the play.
Tickets are $23 for adults and $18 for children (for groups of ten or more, the tickets are $18 and $12). To buy your tickets online, click here. You can also call the box office at 312-595-5600.
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is located on Navy Pier. For directions and parking information, click here.
You get a 40% reduction in Navy Pier parking by having your parking ticket validated at CST's box office, so you'll only have to pay $14 instead of the usual $22. You are guaranteed a parking spot, so if you see signs indicating that the parking lots are full, just tell security you're there "for Shakespeare."