Check into this five-star Grand Hotel | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Check into this five-star Grand Hotel 

Like the original production, Kokandy Productions' revival weaves serviceable material into a compelling story.

click to enlarge grandhotel-5.jpg

Evan Hanover

Based on Vicki Baum's 1929 novel and its 1932 Hollywood film adaptation, this 1989 musical focuses on a group of people staying at a swank Berlin hotel in 1928. Among them are a handsome young German baron in debt to a gangster; an aging Russian ballerina on yet another farewell tour; the dancer's devoted secretary, secretly in love with her employer; a young typist who dreams of Hollywood stardom; a businessman on the brink of bankruptcy; a mortally ill Jewish accountant who has cashed in his life's savings in order to spend his final days in luxurious living; and a cynical doctor, a morphine-addicted veteran of World War I. As these characters cross paths, they discover unexpected romance and experience deadly danger.

The show's script and score are credited to playwright Luther Davis and songwriters Robert Wright and George Forrest, with additional material by Maury Yeston. But the real strength of Grand Hotel lies in the way its original director-choreographer, Tommy Tune, along with original musical supervisor Wally Harper, edited merely serviceable material into a fluid, compelling theatrical narrative. This strength is evident in Kokandy Productions' intimate revival, directed by John D. Glover with imaginative choreography by Brenda Didier. The ensemble singing and dancing is excellent, and musical director Aaron Benham's onstage instrumental trio (piano, violin, percussion) brings authority to a score that evokes the 1920s with operetta waltzes, dance-hall foxtrots, ballroom tangos, and a touch of "le jazz hot."   v

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