MAYNE STAGE CHICAGO: A NEW CHICAGO VENUE...WORTH CHECKING OUT.

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THE NEW FACE OF ROGERS PARK.
The Old Morse Theater in Rogers Park has undergone a very expensive facelift and a name change.  The newly created Mayne Stage, which opened July 4 to a sellout crowd with Ann Hampton Callaway performing, is an inviting space both inside and outside.  It's location at 1328 Morse Avenue in Chicago's Roger Park neighborhood is convenient for both suburbanites, especially those on the North Shore, and city residents.  Plus it is easily accessible by public transportation via the Morse Avenue Red Line EL stop which is just down the block from the theater.  Drivers can take advantage of $5.00 valet parking or easy to find on-the-street parking that is metered until 9:00p.m.

BEFORE OR AFTER DINING ON SITE.
Although I have heard otherwise, we thoroughly enjoyed our reasonably priced dinner at the adjoining Act One Cafe.  Our waiter, Tom, couldn't have been more proficient or attuned to our schedule.  I ordered the Friday evening special appetizer, Lobster Mac and Cheese with saffron-parmesan mornay, scallions and herbed brioche crumb topping for $8.00 and actually found some decent-sized pieces of lobster in the mix. The serving size could easily be split by two as an appetizer or enjoyed by someone with a smaller appetite as a main course with or without a salad, soup and dessert.  My friend ordered a hamburger with fries for $12.00.  Our generously poured drinks with premium brand liquors were $9.00 each.  We enjoyed a house red wine--a real bargain at $7.00 by the glass. 

THE MAIN EVENT.
Since there was a heavy downpour outside, it was nice to be able to walk inside from our table

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in the restaurant to the theater.  The intimate 299-seat space inside the Mayne Stage features  club-style seating on three levels.  At the center of the space, there are cozy tables and chairs, all with a good view of the stage.  That area is surrounded by a mezzanine area that is slightly higher with tables and banquet  seating that runs along three sides of the space.  The upper balcony level offers additional seating.

The stated mission for Mayne Stage is to feature "emerging and established Chicago and national touring artists presenting a variety of musical styles including jazz, pop, rock and classical as well as theatrical, variety and comedy performances."  Since the venue is in its infancy, time will tell what acts bring in their targeted audiences.   The Friday night show that we attended featured cabaret duo Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael with music from the 60's in "That 60's Show."  The pair, named by "Cabaret Scenes Magazine" as one of the "Top Ten Cabaret Acts," catered to an older crowd who seemed pleased with their performance and probably did their homework on what to expect before attending the show.

We, on the other hand, did not do our homework and were expecting a livelier version of the '60's.  We were also surprised that the show, without intermission, was over in a little less than an hour--not even enough time to get halfway through my glass of wine.  The website, says "it's generally safe to assume a show will be over roughly 2-2.5 hours after the posted start time."  Not this one.

NEXT TIME.
Even with some negatives, I definitely would go back.  Next time, I'll make sure the act is something that I want to see.  Currently shows are scheduled for Friday and Saturday evenings only.  Here are some of the upcoming offerings:

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Rocky LaPorte.

An Evening of Comedy with Rocky Laporte and Jim McHugh.
Chicago native, award-winning comedian Rocky Laporte performs at Mayne Stage Saturday, July 31 at 8 p.m. Rocky received the "Best Male Club Comedian of the Year" award at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival. You might also recognize Rocky from 30,000 ft. in the air as his "Just for Laughs" has been shown on Air Canada flights. Rocky has opened for a number of comedians including Louis Anderson, Garry Shandling, Drew Carey and Tim Allen, just to name a few.  
Rocky is joined by another Chicago native, Jim McHugh, who's been dishing out comedy for more than 25 years in the Windy City. McHugh makes appearances at various national comedy clubs and has also been seen on Comedy Central, HBO, MTV, ESPN2 and the Oprah Winfrey Show.  Tickets for Rocky Laporte and Jim McHugh are $15 at www.maynestage.com or (773) 381-4554.
 
The Stephanie Rogers Band and Blues and more with Nicholas Barron Band.
Enjoy a night of live entertainment. Friday, August 6 at 8 p.m., listen to The Stephanie Rogers Band with Nicholas Barron Band performing at Mayne Stage. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets range $15-$20.  The Stephanie Rogers Band is a high-energy group who make party music fun again. They play a variety of music for people of all ages.  Nicholas Barron is an American artist. He's a songwriter, guitarist, singer and painter. The band plays blues with a combination acoustic guitar playing with bass and solo performances.

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