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Review: Illinois Theatre Center’s ‘Showtune!’ a perfect musical

Khaki Pixley (from left) Frank Roberts Jeny Wasilewski Joe Lehman CarBuinis Steve Greist star llinois Theatre Center's producti'Showtune!'

Khaki Pixley (from left), Frank Roberts, Jeny Wasilewski, Joe Lehman, Caron Buinis and Steve Greist star in llinois Theatre Center's production of "Showtune!"

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‘SHOWTUNE!’

◆ Through April 29 with performances at 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays

◆ Illinois Theatre Center,
371 Artists Walk, Park Forest

◆ Tickets, $22 on Fridays and
Saturdays, $20 at all other times

◆ (708) 481-3510; ilthctr.org

◆ This revue is based on the songs of Jerry Herman.

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Updated: May 28, 2012 8:03AM



Etel Billig, Illinois Theatre Center’s cofounder and artistic director, who recently died, would have wanted the show to go on.

Indeed, under Frank Roberts’ splendid direction and choreography, and Jonathan Billig’s musical direction, “Showtune!” goes on as the kind of memorial Mrs. Billig would have loved.

She would have found the show to be a fitting tribute to her life in theater.

Not only is “Showtune!” a wonderful way in which to remember Mrs. Billig, but it’s also an ebullient way to celebrate the life and times of another theatrical great, that of composer and lyricist Jerry Herman.

Although Herman’s shows have been big hits, many people don’t always connect his name to spectacular musicals that include “Hello, Dolly!” (1964), “Mame” (1966), “Mack & Mabel” (1974) and “La Cage aux Folles” (1983).

“Showtune!” was conceived by Paul Gilger with piano and vocal arrangements by James Followell.

The show was inspired by Herman’s memoir of the same title, and features a cornucopia of the composer’s popular musical numbers.

Here we have a talented six-person ensemble (Joe Lehman, Caron Buinis, Khaki Pixley, Frank Roberts, Jeny Wasilewski and Steve Greist) who sing and dance through a series of Herman’s memorable tunes.

While there are many numbers in which the songbirds come together to sing upbeat classics such as “The Best of Times” (from “La Cage aux Folles”), each performer gets his turn under the spotlight.

Greist croons a moving version of the lush, romantic “My Best Girl” (from “Mame”), and Buinis adds a poignant and bittersweet “Time Heals Everything” (from “Mack & Mabel”).

Golden-voiced Wasilewski is a hoot as she sings the comedic “Gooch’s Song” (“Mame”) as the pregnant Agnes Gooch.

Versatile Lehman leads the way in a tap-dance routine of “Tap Your Troubles Away” (“Mack & Mabel”), in which he is joined by the rest of the cast tapping in perfect unison.

Pixley and Roberts do a very funny turn in the satirical “Bosom Buddies” (made famous by Bea Arthur and Angela Lansbury in “Mame”).

In addition, Roberts shines in “(A Little More) Mascara” and belts out “I Am What I Am,” showstoppers from “La Cage aux Folles.”

“Showtune!” is as perfect a musical as ITC has ever mounted.

Maybe that’s because of Herman’s delicious music, or maybe it’s because the performers were playing their hearts out for the late Etel Billig.

Betty Mohr is a local freelance writer.



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