Lizard Music | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Lizard Music 

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L.Frank Baum's Oz was inspired by the shining towers of Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The city by the lake also inspired a funkier fantasy in Daniel Pinkwater's 1976 novel Lizard Music--about a suburban kid from white-bread McDonaldsville who travels to gritty Hogboro in search of a band of musical lizards he thinks can save the world from "pod people" (starting with his sister). After hearing the singing saurians on late-night TV, geeky 12-year-old Victor journeys to their floating island home in Lake Mishigoo, guided by a mysterious mentor called the Chicken Man. The novel was adapted in 1992 by playwright Christina Calvit and songwriter Douglas Wood for Lifeline Theatre, where it's been revived this season under director Meryl Friedman. Technically slicker than the '92 original, the family show's main attraction continues to be the lizards and their oddball a cappella, new-wave-funk vocals--a sort of cross between Le Mystere de Voix Bulgares and 80s rockers Lene Lovich and Wazmo Nariz. Youngsters probably won't get the plethora of 70s references (eight-tracks, Charlie's Angels, Walter Cronkite), and even their parents may not remember the real-life Chicken Man--a black street entertainer who delighted Windy Cityzens in the 50s and 60s with his dancing fowl (here represented by a puppet). But almost everyone will enjoy the clever costumes and wacky comedy of the animal characters and the eerie sweetness of the tale's climax, as Victor's fantastic friends introduce him to the magic power of memory as an antidote to boredom and loneliness. Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood, 773-761-4477. December 27 through 31: Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 3:30 and 8 PM; Monday-Tuesday, 3:30 PM; Wednesday, 3:30 and 8 PM. Then January 2 through 4: Friday-Saturday, 3:30 and 8 PM; Sunday, 3:30 PM. $16.50; $8.50 for children. --Albert Williams

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Suzanne Plunkett.

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