A New Musical’ celebrates its world premiere at the Studebaker Theater – Chicago Tribune

Christine Rea, who created “Skates: A New Musical” with her husband Rick Briskin, has been spinning her wheels for more than two years waiting for her dream to come true and for the audience to realize it too.

In March 2020, Rea was just a few performances away from the opening night of her musical career when the COVID-19 pandemic ended the run after the first preview performances at the Royal George Theater back when the show titled “Hit Her With The Roller Skates.”

Rea and Briskin never gave up, even when the musical’s original stage space, the Royal George Theater, was closed during the pandemic, forcing the duo to scramble for a new spotlight space.

Rea and Briskin were all the more delighted at the result on Sunday after years of anticipating a reimagined run at the renovated Studebaker Theater in the historic Fine Arts Building at 410 S Michigan Ave. waited in Chicago. Preview performances began on May 28th and the run is currently scheduled with ticket sales ending on August 28th.

I was on opening night and saw Christine’s mother, Dorothy, beaming and a native of Crown Point, sitting just a few rows in front of me during the two and a half hour performance. The plot features a story written and inspired by creator Christine’s youth on Chicago’s South Side after spending many hours riding with friends at the real (and still operating) Lynwood Roller Rink. Husband Briskin helped his wife with music and lyrics.

Despite the more than two-year hiatus, Rea managed to keep her “American Idol” cast leads Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, a real-life married couple, to lead this cast. The last time I saw DeGarmo and Young perform together was in March 2015 when they came together for a nationwide tour of Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.

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This musical follows a rock star named Jacqueline Miller, aptly played by DeGarmo, who finds herself at a crossroads in her burgeoning career in 1994 when she melds her personal life with an indifferent musician friend, played by the equally talented Young, who fulfills a double duty Flashbacks as runway bullies of young Jackie’s school years. Young Jackie, all 12 years old, is played by Emma Lord, who can belt out a tune on stage. Sharing scene by scene and musical numbers, the older and younger self-identities alternate between 1977 and 1994 as they sort through right and wrong life choices.

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Adia Bell is very believable as the bad girl in Jackie’s school years and Adam Fane is the object of her youthful affection and often a topic of conversation with Jackie’s sometimes fair-weather friend Meghan, played by the goofy Kelly Felthous. Cory Goodrich and Jason Richards co-star as Jackie’s parents, with Zach Sorrow as Jackie’s brave brother and Kelvin Roston Jr. in several roles, including the skating king at the local ice rink.

Billed as “Grease” meets “Hairspray” with a dash of “Xanadu,” the musical features some fun songs like “I’m Crushin’ On You,” “The Ouija Song,” and “Forward Motion.” Director Brenda Didier and choreographer Christopher Chase Carter, along with music director Daniel A. Weiss, have a wide variety of musical numbers and other things while grappling with such a wide range of characters and connected storylines, past and present.

Readers of this column will know that I love nostalgia, and this musical is full of retro references.

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However, I’ve wondered to myself how many of those references missed audiences, even those from the Baby Boomer set, with mentions of Suzy Chapstick, Jordache Jeans, G. Gordon Liddy, Casey Kasem, Mr. Microphone, Fonzie, and Pinky Tuscadero . Another bump in this show street is a big piling up of a song number on the rink that young Jackie worries she might miss the DJ playing Rick Dees hit “Disco Duck.” The cast, who don clever fake roller skates throughout for a very effective result, dance to an ensemble number to a song that resembles “Disco Duck” but isn’t the real song, which I suspect is due to a licensing error.

Skates: A New Musical takes audiences on a journey through time while sharing some key messages about believing in yourself and chasing dreams. And for anyone old enough to remember, remember there was a time when all roller skates needed a key to grasping the perfect fit for smooth sailing.

Tickets for Skates: A New Musical start at $46 at www.fineartsbuilding.com/events/skates or call 312-753-3210 or visit www.SkatesTheMusical.com.

Philip Potempa is a journalist, published author and director of marketing at Theater at the Center. He can be reached at [email protected].

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