It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a better staging of this ‘70s review.
And it’s nearby, at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at the No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park.
Three young, fabulous and unmic-ed musical talents, Teddy Boone, Stephanie Herman and Hillary Patingre, work through the coming-of-age, romantic material like veterans.
And while their solo work is exemplary (Pantingre’s “Autumn” deserves special note), the trio particularly shines in the ensemble numbers.
Indeed, the star of this performance is musical director Eugene Dizon. In his stopover between 14 years as Porchlight’s musical director and his new venture at the Mercury Theatre, Dizon’s deft guidance produces a sweet, professional, acoustic blend only possible in intimate settings like the 50-seat No Exit Cafe.
Even more astonishing, this blend is retained with one actor singing less than six feet away while the other two are on opposite sides of the room. Such an accomplishment is indicative of vocal maturity and fabulous vocal direction, never better heard than in “For the Bells,” with the ladies providing backup for Boone’s melodic lead.
It’s all set against Adam Veness’ ‘70s setting, including lava lamps, shag rugs and funky clocks. These surround a bed big enough for three, allowing for director Fred Anzevino’s vision of swinging ‘70s relationship dissection. Maggie Portman’s choreography is appropriately understated in a three-person production.
The sole indictment of this show is unrelated to the current run. It lies in the book. If “Seinfeld” was a show centered on relationships, but famously about nothing, its success derived from strong character development and timeless real-life comedy.
“Starting Here, Starting Now” purports to be a coming-of-age musical based on relationships. But its characters are never truly developed, its situations are dated and the bulk of its musical numbers are, unfortunately, unmemorable.
All of this commentary is punctuated by the show’s second act, where the two ensemble numbers, “Travel” and “One Step,” are oases in the desert of solos that even these talented cast members will be happy to put away when the show closes November 6.
That said, for $25-$30 per ticket (another $20 makes it dinner theater), theatergoers will be hard pressed to find a better musical theater value than this exquisitely performed fall blend.
Note: Return patrons of Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre will notice new improvements to the No Exit Café. The storefront theater is sporting new tables, chairs and paint job.
“Starting Here, Starting Now” runs 2 hours, including a 20-minute intermission, at Rogers Park’s Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at the No Exit Café, 6970 N. Glenwood Avenue, through November 6. Tickets may be purchased at 1-800-595-4849 or online at Theo-U.com.