To north suburban theater-goers tempted to pass on Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre’s unknown summer offering, “HERO the Musical,” a word of advice.
This world premiere by Marriott’s artistic director Aaron Thielen and Michael Mahler is an understated gem of a show. The simple story of a talented-while-tormented young Milwaukee illustrator, Hero Batowski, is well-written, exquisitely scored and terrifically sung and acted.
For the Marriott majority who typically take in the entire season, “HERO” is perfectly placed between Gilbert and Sullivan’s standard, “The Pirates of Penzance,” and fall’s Tony-decorated, “Dreamgirls.” Without need to escape to a pirate-infested island or to R&B clubs of the 1960s, “HERO” instead offers its audiences the opportunity for introspection.
It works for the same reasons “Seinfeld” did. These are people everyone knows experiencing life’s triumphs and tragedies while calling out their little idiosyncrasies. What’s more, the “HERO” cast sings better.
There are many accolades to share among this talented cast, orchestra and crew. Above all is Alex Goodrich’s performance as Hero’s cousin and wing man, Kirk. Perfect comedic timing in both acting and singing (“A Vampire’s Kiss Lasts Forever”) make him a favorite for an October 16 Jefferson Award for actor in a supporting role. He could well be up against his cast mate, Don Forston, who is terrific as Hero’s dad, Al.
But if Goodrich and Forston serve as this ensemble’s Kramer and George Costanza, only the seeming normalcy of Jerry and Elaine within the main story line allows them to shine. To wit, Erich Bergen and Heidi Kettenring move the audience with stunningly professional portrayals of Hero and girlfriend Jane Foster, who painfully lurch through their late 20s toward a better tomorrow.
The glances exchanged by the two during “Vampire’s Kiss…” is the stuff of an actor’s master class. They are further showcased through Mahler’s lovely ballads, “The Start of Something Good,” “That’s My Kryptonite” and “There is Wonder All Around.”
To be certain, Dara Cameron deserves mention with the rest of the primary cast for her hysterical portrayal of spinster-to-wild-woman Susan Schmitty, the perfect complement to Goodrich’s Kirk.
At its core, “HERO” is a show about how people allow themselves to take risks. Interestingly, staging the show is a risk in itself for Marriott. A just-over-half-filled first Sunday evening illustrates how big a risk, though the well-deserved standing ovation gives hope for the run through August 19.
“Though it’s certainly unusual for a commercial theatre to risk a new work, our subscribers have always embraced them over our 35 year history,” says Marriott’s executive producer, Terry James. It’s this history he’s counting on.
So theater-goers, there’s a new show in town deserving your embrace.
Take a risk.
Check it out.
Be a hero.
Performances for “HERO the Musical” at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, are Wednesdays at 1 pm and 8 pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4:30 pm and 8 pm and Sundays at 1 pm and 5 pm. Ticket prices range from $40 to $48, plus tax and handling fees. Senior and Student discounts and dinner-theater packages are available for some shows. Tickets may be purchased by phone or in person at the Marriott Theatre Box Office or online at Ticketmaster.com. Group tickets are available by calling the group sales department at 847-634-7030. Parking is free. More information is available here or by calling 847-634-0200.