(Chris Jones’s article appeared in The Chicago Tribune, 12/21.)
Lists are fun. More importantly, they represent a chance to celebrate excellence. Hence my annual look at the 10 best performances in homegrown Chicago theater in 2017. (Sorry, Nick Cartell in the touring “Les Miserables,” you were superb.) I make due acknowledgment both of all the great work omitted and the utter absurdity of any such ranking.
Still. The formidable 2017 work that appears below was something to experience. We hope you also had the pleasure.
Bri Sudia, “Sweeney Todd” at the Paramount Theatre: Playing Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” is highly intimidating. Musically and comedically demanding, Mrs. L is fiendishly difficult to get your teeth into. Plus look at the comparisons you invite: Angela Lansbury, Helena Bonham Carter, Patti LuPone. But despite her abiding youth, Sudia’s killer take on the famous Stephen Sondheim bakeshop proprietress truly was world-class. Neither too coarse nor too mealy, here was work drier than an oven, cleaner in technique than that of a Royal Marine, and as thoroughly tasty as a shepherd’s pie peppered with actual shepherd.
Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel, “Lela & Co.” at Steep Theatre: This Argentina-born Chicago actress had to carry “Lela & Co.” pretty much on her back. This was a formidable feat not just for the size and scope of the title role but for the toll that it takes on a performer to so deeply and truthfully inhabit a woman whose experience is of objectification, agony and abuse. All that said, Lela remains an inveterate and optimistic storyteller, and that was captured by Gonzalez-Cadel, who offered up herself in service of the emancipatory power of telling your own story.