Chicago has been lucky in the last decade to be the place where producers try out Broadway potential: we got the North American premiere of Six, and just now we are getting the first look at the Skates, a nostalgia-laden Chicago-based rock musical that's a female empowerment tale. And this show has legs!
Jacqueline Miller is a South Side born and bred Rocker on the rise in 1994 who is returning to her roots to play the grand reopening of the roller rink she came of age in. Played by the multi-talented Diana DeGarmo, she is a powerhouse who is getting shortchanged by many of the men in her life, from her AWOL manager to her MIA boyfriend and sax player (American Idol’s Ace Young). Jacqueline’s return to her hometown rink Windy City Skates gives her a chance to revisit her 1977 self played by the self-assured Emma Lord. Her big brother Brad (played with loyalty by Zach Sorrow) always looks out for her, whether defending her from bullies to being her roadie. No spoilers here: but the plot takes no unexpected turns in this feel good finding your roots and connecting with your power and talent story. As the tagline says: When the past holds the key to your future.
Brenda Didier’s direction keeps the show moving so there is never a dull moment. Lindsay McWilliams' costumes are a vintage dream: from the Jordache jeans to the ingenious platforms that allow the actors to skate across the stage. No one is credited with set and prop design but whoever amassed the vintage details is brilliant: from the brick-like phones to the watermelon lip smackers to the 8 ball. This show is a fun romp filled with delightful visuals giving an uplifting message: be true to yourself.
This not to be missed musical is showing off the newly remodeled Studebaker Theater, now a lovely updated state-of-the-art venue right on Michigan Avenue. As Skates creator Christine Rea noted in her opening night speech, this 100-year-plus venue is the perfect place to be nostalgic about personal and performance history.
The initial run of Skates is until August 28th 2022 at the Studebaker Theater 410 S Michigan Avenue in Chicago’s Loop. For tickets go to www.fineartsbuilding.com/events/skates or call 312-753-3210, and for show information go to www.SkatesTheMusical.com .