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  • Angela Allyn

Thrilling New Musical at Chicago Shakespeare

Chicago Shakespeare Theater, by way of its WorldStage series, has a delicious tradition of groundbreaking: bringing truly exceptional work from around the world that we would never see otherwise. The work is always top notch and it can be utterly transcendent. The new musical Islander is the kind of shimmering, genre defying performance work that completely absorbs and moves you. It is truly exceptional and you won't see anything like it soon.

Its partially a DJ concert, partly a fable, partly a Celtic acapella music performance up close and personal in the Upstairs Stage at Chicago Shakes. But it is 100 per cent spine tingling, as Lois Craig as Eilidh, a girl grown up on an Island off the coast of Scotland, and Julia Murray as Arran, a kind of mythical whale herder, sings us into a magical world atop a simple and beautiful fiberglass light up circle reminiscent of a hull.

As they sing, Finn Anderson's music will touch the deepest reaches of your heart and soul in the grandest tradition of Scottish ballad, smartly updated for a digital age.

The two golden voiced women create an entire village and the whales and a world in the confines of that ingenious set design by Emma Bailey. The circle is a beach, an ocean, a cliff, a pub. Lives are led, Granny will die, a baby will be born and mysteries will emerge from the mists. Conceived and originally directed by Amy Draper, this epic piece creates a small village marine radio station, a mom that works on the mainland, a storm at sea, a rescue by a whale that sings to them. You will fall into this place and you will believe it all. You leave your own busy life behind and enter the world of Kinnen, an island that the Scottish government wants to evacuate as climate change endangers it. There are deep ageless messages to live with the land and sea in this work, and modern warnings.

It is an exquisitely lovely 90 minutes you will not soon forget. World Stage productions are short runs so do not wait to get tickets: go to before it closes on December 17th. Chicago Shakespeare Theater is located on Navy PIer. If you miss this show you will have to head to Phoenix or Maryland like a rock band groupie to partake this foot stomping soul moving musical from across the pond. I tell you: Don’t miss it.

Photo by Steve Tanner

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