Review: Diana Degarmo and Ace Young in Roller Rink Coming-of-Age Story Skates

Team wife and husband Christine Rea (book and lyrics) and Rick Briskin (music and lyrics) doubled as lead writers and producers for the world’s first musical skates. If it was an off-loop show in a small non-profit room, it would go very well, but it is going through a difficult period in downtown Chicago as a commercial production in the Studebaker historic of 1 000 places, only until June 26th. instead of all summer, as originally announced. The question is whether Rea and Briskin see a future for skatesand do they have what it takes to make it a stronger show?

The vision for skates is Rea, with a storyline that reflects some of her experiences as a teenager in the southern suburbs of Chicago, where Saturday at the local ice rink was a big night away from rents, and the ice rink hosted a large swath of teenage society . skates opened in 1994 with heroine Jacqueline Miller (Diana DeGarmo) as a rising rock singer-songwriter on a national tour. Within minutes, however, the show jumps back to 1977 Chicago where Jacqueline meets her 12-year-old self, Jackie (Emma Lord). The flashback – which dominates most of the show – reveals that Jacqueline’s forces and insecurity was largely formed by the adolescent culture of the Windy City Skates skating rink. To wrap up the 1994 story, Windy City Skates is about to reopen after being closed for a few years, and rock star Jacqueline has agreed to appear.

The greatest strength of skates is the pleasingly mainstream rock score, with nods to doo-wop, R&B, soul and punk. Many songs work rather well – like the love duo “i’m crushin ‘on you” and the penultimate rocker of Jacqueline “you say you’re sorry” – but several songs should be cut, including “The Ouija Song” in Act I. Oddly enough, one really good song is in the wrong place: “Someday,” a mellow late ’50s rocker sung to confuse Jackie by her mom and dad (Cory Goodrich and Jason Richards). Placed late in Act II, it slows down the action just when it needs to speed up, and it needs to come earlier in the show. Skillful orchestrations for two keyboards, bass, drums and guitar are by Briskin and Daniel A. Weiss, who also serves as musical director.

A scene from skates at the Studenbaker Theater in Chicago
(© Liz Lauren)

There are also issues with the book, like a completely unnecessary intermission. Act II begins precisely when Act I ends, so why bother? Cut intermission and two or three songs and “Skates” could last 100 minutes. Also, there’s a roller-skating character, Jack (an energetic Kelvin Roston Jr.), who has plenty of stage time and a few songs, but has no role in the story. Why is he there? Make it count or cut it. Ensuite, l’action physique majeure de la série est une intrigue secondaire dans laquelle le frère aîné de Jackie (Zach Sorrow) affronte l’adolescent intimidateur local et, inutilement, le trafiquant de drogue (Ace Young). Cela fait des observateurs passifs de Jackie et Jacqueline, ce qui n’est pas une bonne position pour les héros de l’émission. Enfin, la fin heureuse semble collée et non méritée – le véritable amour de Jacqueline en 1994 s’avère être un garçon qu’elle n’a pas vu depuis qu’elle avait 12 ans en 1977 – ce qui ne fait que souligner le développement of the missing character.

“Skates” boasts a diligent cast with great voices. The star goes to the real couple, Degarmo and Young, both well known to american idol and various theater credits. As good as they are, the most remarkable is Lord as a young Jackie. Except for these strangers, the 10 cast and most of the production crew are talented Chicago theater veterans, including director Brenda Didier and choreographer Christopher Chase Carter, whose pseudo-skating work is impressive. Elizabeth Flauto is credited with a “personalized craft work on skate boots”, which look like skates but are not, but allow dancers to slip and slide (with more control than they do would have on real skates).

skates had a difficult pregnancy. It came under fire from the pandemic just as it opened two years ago at the smaller Royal George Theatre, which then folded its tents. The landscape, already constructed, had to be adapted (by Chris Merriman) for the Studebaker (the program does not otherwise credit a picturesque designer). In addition to star salaries, the bigger loop venue meant a considerably higher weekly nut, which the show did not generate.

Of course, Rea and Briskin still have the vehicle itself with its solid score, and it could have a future life if they’re willing to make the necessary changes to keep skates rolling.

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