After I took a Crown Point reader call earlier this week asking when my review of "To Master the Art" would run, I decided the time was right to serve up my thoughts.
Actress Karen Janes Woditsch stars as kitchen icon Julia Child for this new run, hosted by Broadway In Chicago and playing the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E Chestnut, for a limited engagement through Oct. 20.
The Chicago Commercial Collective is producing the new run of this work by William Brown and Doug Frew from TimeLine Theatre, which had its world premiere in Chicago in 2010.
I attended the critics' press opening for this show a couple weeks ago on Sept. 17. But since it's a longer run, and I've written a few interview preview stories on this production, I decided I wanted some time to linger over my thoughts and views, much like lingering over a seven-course meal with assorted wines.
Directed by Brown, six of the 10 cast members have returned from the TimeLine production including Woditsch as Child and Craig Spidle returning as her husband Paul Child. Other returning cast members include Jeannie Affelder, Ian Paul Custer, TimeLine Associate Artist Terry Hamilton and TimeLine Company Member Juliet Hart, joined for this run by Sam Ashdown, TimeLine Company Member Janet Ulrich Brooks, Heidi Kettenring and Brian Plocharczyck.
There's no denying this is an entertaining staging and telling of Child's early career and path that led her to becoming the PBS personality loved by so many (including me!).
However, this production has many subplots involved for what unfolds. Julia was a larger-than-life identity and she alone is a feast of potential for a devoted two and a half hours to her character, inside and out.
"To Master the Art" does a fine job of delving into her marriage and bond with hubby Paul, but I was less hungry for another sister plot with a character Rose, who is a friend of the couple who faces finger pointing for Communist causes. There weren't as many "morsels" to learn about Julia from this story as I had hoped for. But Woditsch and Spidle are satisfying in their portrayals. The frosting on this cake comes from Hamilton nicely handling dual roles as Julia's father and also as her stern cooking instructor. Brooks is equally stellar as Julia's zealous New York book editor.
I can guarantee, see this show, and you'll never again scramble eggs the same. Tickets are $25-$75 with a select number of premium seats also available for many performances. Tickets are available for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Otherwise, tickets are available at the box office (800) 775-2000 or BroadwayInChicago.com.