Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? 

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Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? Drury Lane Theatre Evergreen Park. When people say they're from New Jersey, the automatic response is "Which exit?" When you're from Chicago's south side the question is "Which parish?" So John R. Powers's musical about surviving Catholic education is a fitting choice for Evergreen Park. The classic stuff is all there: nuns with rulers, hairy palms, confessional misunderstandings, and the omni-present permanent record!

By now these jokes have been told so often that they're worn-out. But the love story is timeless, as Eddie Ryan (Curt Dale Clark) and Becky Bakowski (Roberta Duchak) go from a second-grade crush through adolescent confusion to adult affection. No production can reach its potential, however, if the performances rely on mugging and shtick. Even in a musical, even when the actors are playing children, they must connect to humanity.

It's frustrating to watch these established, talented actors, who know better. Those playing adults (Thomas Joyce, Paula Scrofano, Iris Lieberman) clearly get it--they play all the humor of the stereotype without collapsing into caricature. And the kids achieve some honest moments, usually during introspective songs like "How Far Is Too Far" and "Friends, the Best of." But they miss most of their characters' gullibility and awkwardness--the bittersweet humor of growing up, to which everyone in the audience can connect.

--Kim Wilson

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