Review "The Emperor's New Clothes": Family Musical is a Runway Hit!

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents

emperor program.jpg

At Navy Pier, 800 East Grand
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale
Book by David Holstein
Music and lyrics by Alan Schmuckler
Directed by Rachel Rockwell
Thru August 29th
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Promo Code “MOM” for $5 discount on each ticket when purchased online or call the Box Office

at 312-595-5600.

Fine Print: Subject to Availability. Cannot be used in combination with any other offer or on previously purchased tickets.


Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

A clothes obsession rips a teenager and parent apart.  The wrinkle?  It’s the dad’s fashion addiction. Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents the world premiere of THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES, a new family musical.  The emperor is a compulsive shop-aholic.  His expensive habit is keeping the villagers in rags.  He delays his daughter’s college departure to focus on his wardrobe overhaul.  Meanwhile, a struggling seamstress and her son agree to swindle the Emperor by convincing him that nothing is something special.  The invisible outfit threatens to expose the fake side of everyone.  Modeled after Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story, Chicago Shakespeare Theater goes fashion forward with modern details and comedy cut-up.  This makeover gives THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES sheer pizzazz!


‘Nobody looks as good as me!’ With a healthy sense of self, Don Forston (Emperor) has a majestic presence.  His booming voice brings king-size hilarity.  His amusing duet with Anne Gunn (Mama) “I’m always right” is very kid vogue as the parents realize they are in the wrong.  Later in the show, Forston and Megan Long (Sam) reprise theme songs for a tender, mist-inducing father-daughter moment.   Long is wonderful as the contemporary princess with moxie and individuality.  ‘If that’s what’s it like to be them, I’d rather be me.’  Outside the castle, there is more family chemistry with Gunn and Alex Goodrich (Kimberly).  Gunn and Goodrich are a delightful mother-son duo.  Goodrich is animated as the technology pushing designer.  Gunn is the loving, but dismissive, old school seamstress.  Jonathan Weir (Lord Vince) manipulates as the understated bad guy.  He sings “Linin’ my ducks in a row” with a combination of power, evil, and humor.  Individually and collectively, the chorus (Mark David Kaplan, George Andrew Wolff, Jarrod Zimmerman) keep the audience in stitches as the high energy, high jinx, high-larius trifecta.  Under the direction and choreography of Rachel Rockwell, this talented cast fits perfectly in THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES



Commissioned by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, David Holstein and Alan Schmuckler use the classic fable as their pattern but weave in current and relatable family themes into the dialogue and songs.  Their imagined story is showcased on a whimsical, kid appealing set (scenic designer Kevin Depinet) of vibrant pink, purple and lime green.  In a show about clothes, costume designer Debbie Baer has a broad range of attire from ostentatious finery to recycled… literally… outfits.  Take a hint from the show’s invisibility disclaimer: ‘if you don’t see it, you’re not doing your job!’    THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES is sure to be a runway hit!  
Multi-tasking throughout the show by completing the kid’s activities in the program, Alexia, 10, describes the play with “interesting, funny, exciting.”

Production photographs courtesy of Michael Brosilow.

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