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The Emperor's New Clothes

June 30

August 29, 2010

in CST's Courtyard Theater

music and lyrics by Alan Schmuckler
book by David Holstein
directed by Rachel Rockwell

Critical Acclaim


    "The Emperor's New Clothes is far and away the most successful of Chicago Shakespeare Theater's annual summer projects to draw in the thousands of families who visit Navy Pier. You'd be crazy to take your family or guests to Navy Pier this summer without seeing this show (especially since you get a 40 percent discount off the flat-rate parking, thus bringing the already affordable ticket price down even further). Trust me, it's the best thing there. And the show skews slightly older than you might be thinking. Given all the kid-power tech in the show and the irreverence of the style, 'tweens sick of Miley Cyrus will have a great time.

And if you appreciate new musicals of quality, no kid is required to attend.

Young Alan Schmuckler will, mark my words, be a major Broadway composer. With the Great White Way littered with songwriters who keep trying and failing to set an audience's toes tapping, Schmuckler's particular talents could, to put it mildly, profitably fill a need. And if seeing for yourself is preferable to marking my words, you need only trot over to Navy Pier, where you will be treated to a veritable cascade of musical numbers that manage to be fresh, catchy and complex.”


“New spin keeps The Emperor's New Clothes popping.

In their newly imagined 75-minute family musical, now at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, composer-lyricist Alan Schmuckler (who did such a beguiling job with How Can You Run With a Shell on Your Back?) and writer David Holstein have devised a wonderfully zesty hybrid of Andersen's fairy tale.

Sophisticated enough for any adult, the show also contains just enough goofy vaudeville to entertain 10-year-olds.

Director-choreographer Rachel Rockwell keeps things popping, and gets huge laughs from some cast-enhancing dummy peasants. Shawn Stengel's music direction is ideal. And Kevin Kepinet has created a fanciful laser-cut kingdom set, with whimsical lighting by Jesse Klug and fashion-forward (and -backward) costumes by Debbie Baer for a musical whose moral might be: Concentrate on your conscience, not your closet. ”

“The entire cast's musical talent and comedic timing make for a great show. As the Emperor, Don Forston is completely believable, especially as a slightly bumbling fairy-tale ruler. Likewise, Megan Long and Alex Goodrich bring such youthful energy to their roles that kids in the audience forget these are adults. On the other end of the spectrum, Jonathan Weir exudes hysterical evil vibes as the conniving Lord Vince. Well-timed physical comedy, bright costumes and fun melodies engage young children, while the snarky lyrics and subtext will keep adults laughing.

My sons also loved collecting autographs after the show. After every family matinee, several actors graciously appear in costume to sign programs and pose for pictures. My 8- and 9-year-olds scrambled for signatures, while my 5-year-old hid behind my legs, eyeing mean Lord Vincent warily, a great compliment to his performance even after the curtain call.”

“This update of Hans Christian Andersen, smartly directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell, sports a book by David Holstein that holds comic appeal for kids and adults alike; rising composer Alan Schmuckler provides a clever, winning score. The eight-member cast is uniformly terrific. Megan Long is an appealing ingénue with a clear, lovely voice, while Alex Goodrich brings his usual comic charm as the tailor's bumbling son.”

“An excellent example of how fresh and new a fairy tale classic can feel with the right talent, staging and creativity. Both the sets and the costumes are equally exceptional. And when you add in a top-talent cast and fun, silly songs, this children's production keeps audience members of every age smiling. ”

“The Emperor Rocks a Jazzy New Groove

This show was absolutely fun. I offer kudos to Rachel Rockwell, making her directorial debut at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, for her dynamic blocking in thrust, lively choreography and pacing. She moved quickly from one scene to the next.

If you are looking for something creatively stimulating to do with the kids this summer, check out The Emperor's New Clothes. It will be far better than any crass Hollywood movie out today.”

“A very smart musical, full of enough wit and current references to keep the adults entertained and enough bright lights and action to keep children glued to their seats. This charming theater piece is blessed with a perfect cast.”

“Catchy tunes, eye-popping costumes, a magnificent fairyland set, a roly-poly jovial emperor with a pleasantly booming voice in the person of Don Forston—they're all part of The Emperor's New Clothes. the show fills a gap that theater rarely fills, appealing to teens and pre-teens with over a dozen jaunty songs and lyrics straight out of 21st-century jargon. Adults will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek references to the angst issues of our time. Oh what fun everyone will have in this fast-paced, delightfully updated version of this classic tale with music and lyrics created by Alan Schmuckler, the talented guy who co-wrote the 2007 hit Shakespeare family show How Can You Run With a Shell on Your Back?


The Emperor's New Clothes is sure to be a runway hit!

Showcased on a whimsical, kid appealing set of vibrant pink, purple and lime green, Chicago Shakespeare Theater goes fashion forward. This makeover gives The Emperor's New Clothes sheer pizzazz!

With a healthy sense of self, Don Forston (Emperor) has a majestic presence. His booming voice brings king-size hilarity. Megan Long (Sam) is wonderful as the contemporary princess with moxie and individuality. Anne Gunn (Mama) and Alex Goodrich (Kimberly) are a delightful mother-son duo. Goodrich is animated as the technology pushing designer. Gunn is the loving, but dismissive, old school seamstress. Jonathan Weir (Lord Vince) manipulates as the understated bad guy. He sings with a combination of power, evil, and humor. Individually and collectively, the chorus (Mark David Kaplan, George Andrew Wolff, Jarrod Zimmerman) keep the audience in stitches as the high energy, high jinx, high-larius trifecta. ”


“This show modernizes the classic Hans Christian Andersen fable, adding the spark and flare it needs to be a hit! All of the elements of this wonderfully silly play make it enjoyable for adults and children alike. It will have your foot tapping the entire time. The fashion is obviously fun to watch as well. Costume designer Debbie Baer created a spectrum of shiny chic to recycled must have's! ”


“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.

The songs, composed by Alan Schmuckler, are energetic and help the younger children in particular to engage with the storyline. The sets are colorful, the pace is quick and lively, and the actors had no difficulty keeping the children entertained.

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 three Royal Secretaries (played by Mark David Kaplan, George Andrew Wolff, and Jarrod Zimmerman) take full advantage of [the play's humorous moments]. Their comedic timing is right on target, and their facial expressions and body language provide plenty of laughs for both adults and children.”

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