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Performance Mon Oct 05 2015

Charming and Entertaining, the Plucky Rosenthal Show Shines at Uptown Underground

Plucky Rosenthal, the self-proclaimed "Jewish Star of Stage...and Stage," is presenting a limited run of The Plucky Rosenthal Show (a one-woman show inspired by vaudeville and variety performance of the '40s and '50s) at the Uptown Underground, Chicago's newest venue for burlesque, vaudeville and cabaret variety performances. The limited run is a 45-minute adventure through myriad vintage influences, including wacky bits, physical comedy and the best of modern Borscht Belt amusements. Plucky, whose stage demeanor is alternately utterly charming and then almost demonically over-the-top, handles each bit of original material with her characteristic charisma and panache.

Plucky Rosenthal, illustration by Noah GinexSome favorite bits included her original songs (sung and played on ukulele) in homage to the moustache and the daytime moon, a pantomimed life partnership with an imaginary suitor, a darling "foot dance" between a platform shoe and a jazz oxford (has to be seen to be understood) and a cover of the Groucho Marx classic "Lydia the Tattooed Lady." Plucky is endlessly inventive and deft in recycling all of her vintage themes while imbuing them with a specific sensibility of contemporary performance art that makes the old new and the stale fresh. The audience doesn't roll their eyes at the antiquated jokes, like so many retreads of vintage vaudeville and the hosting styles of some burlesque emcees, but instead delights in the twisting of these tropes into material that feels new and inspired.

Less successful was the puppet show in the television set and the final number, where members of the audience (plants?) were pulled onstage to enact a strange mating ritual leading to a sort of wedding. The puppet show wasn't working for me because the sightlines weren't addressed in what was a nearly exclusive frontal presentation. With the audience spread out across the space, it would have been nice to see the set piece moved back a bit. And the last bit felt a little scattered with the addition of other cast members--it would have been just as good to end the show with another song or physical comedy bit. But these were small complaints for an evening that was a nearly seamless presentation.

A shout-out must also be given to storyteller Sarah Shockey, whose enchanting (and comically mortifying) stories about her childhood with accompanying line drawings opened the show, making the audience comfortable and able to inhabit the sweet spot of Plucky's work. Sarah made an excellent addition to the show.

Overall, the show was a great success. It wove together everything that audiences have come to expect from Plucky and created a cohesive whole that's well worth spending the money and time to see. Go check it out soon! It has a limited run until October 13.

The Plucky Rosenthal Show runs at Uptown Underground at 4707 N. Broadway on Tuesdays through October 13. Tickets are $15-$20 and are available online.

Illustration by Noah Ginex

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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