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  Amazing Grace at CIBC Theatre

Amazing Grace

CIBC Theatre
18 W. Monroe Chicago

AMAZING GRACE is a world premiere musical based on the awe-inspiring true story behind the world's most beloved song. A captivating tale of romance, rebellion and redemption, this radiant production follows one man whose incredible journey ignited a historic wave of change. Don't miss the Amazing Grace musical in Chicago.

Thru - Nov 2, 2014

Price: $33-$100

Show Type: Musical

Running Time: 2hrs, 30mins; one intermission

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  Amazing Grace Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Somewhat Recommended

"..."Amazing Grace" wants us to see the life story of John Newton, who is remembered mostly for his hymns but whose early life was anything but Christian, as a redemptive, traditional love story between two young, white, earnest, affluent people (Newton and his abolitionist-leaning sweetheart, Mary Catlett), set against an 18th-century backdrop of slavery and abolitionism. But that just can't fly in 2014. The institution of slavery just cannot play dramaturgical second fiddle — especially when we keep seeing the male half of the couple surrounded by African bodies in chains. No way."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Recommended

"...But here is the wonder of it all: The musical comes with a back story almost as intriguing (and true) as the one it spins about the creation of the hymn whose title it bears. For the show’s score — and it is a uniformly solid, always fervent and often soaring piece of work full of well-crafted lyrics and character-driven melodies — happens to be the first professional effort of a complete unknown. His name is Christopher Smith, and he is a self-taught musician who has spent most of his life working as a small town police officer and outreach and education director in Pennsylvania."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...this "pre-Broadway" Equity production packed with fine songs, stirring adventure, and amazing stage effects—not to mention an ensemble's worth of terrific performances—is absolutely riveting. From the moment charismatic Josh Young enters as Newton, we want to know the story of this gifted young man, who told no lie when he called himself a wretch."
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Jack Helbig

Gapers Block - Recommended

"...This was the first Broadway-bound musical for Smith, a self-taught composer. I could not be more impressed by the romantic songs and virtuosic performances that he seemed to effortlessly create. I felt dread in my stomach and a lump in my throat as the realities of slavery were expressed. I had tears in my eyes as Thomas was cast away to Barbados, with John letting evil overcome him. I clapped and found joy when Mary gave a triumphant speech to the Prince at a celebrated event, urging him to reconsider the practice of slavery and abolish it once and for all. During "Amazing Grace," the song not only represents a beautiful melody, but one that illuminates a brilliant story of freedom, redemption, and humanity. I hope that this song breathes life on Broadway, as the underlying message is one that will resonate with any human that sets foot in the theater."
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Sarah Brooks

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...The piece is the brainchild of composer-lyricist Christopher Smith, a self-taught newcomer to musical theater. His score is competent, if not too memorable, and director Gabriel Barre's production is visually rather impressive, with massive Eugene Lee sets and lush costume designs by Toni-Leslie James. What Smith, Barre and book co-writer Arthur Giron need to work on is their story's emotional arc."
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Kris Vire

ShowBizChicago - Highly Recommended

"...The original score (aside from the title song) by Christopher Smith is melancholy and befitting the tale. No toe tapping tunes that you will be singing on the way home, but a somber reflection of the script’s story….the horror of human slavery. Although it’s been told many times before, it is still a powerful and emotionally charged issue almost 300 years later."
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William Pierson

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...This world premiere production of Amazing Grace at Bank of America Theatre is an impressive show that hits all the right notes. It’s dramatic and funny, beautifully designed and creatively staged, with an excellent cast and memorable music."
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Barnaby Hughes

Splash Magazine - Somewhat Recommended

"...Amazing Grace has some very worrisome problems right now that will require some major reconstruction of this entire script. For starters, the show’s unimaginative, predictable, and unoriginal score is stuffed full with lackluster sound-a-like power ballads. Secondly, many of the show’s underwhelming characters are so plastic that they could very well be on display in a wax museum. But by far the most troubling problem here is this show’s vexatious narrative which focuses on a young handsome white affluent slave owner who never really gets achieves true redemption."
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Justin LeClaire

ChicagoCritic - Somewhat Recommended

"...Amazing Grace needs to be re-thought giving evidence as to Newton’s journey toward redemption with more about his later years and less about his early life. The Treasure Island style adventure needs to be squelched. As it now plays, there are some impressive moments and wonderful staging with terrific performances by Josh Young and Chuck Cooper but slavery and the thought of the slaves are not given enough stage time. We need to see more of how and why Newton’s epiphany occurred to believe it."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Somewhat Recommended

"...The whole production is pleasing. Mr. Smith’s music is catchy, though his lyrics are understandably cliché (and music director’s Joseph Church’s “Amazing Grace” arrangement is hair-raising.) Gabriel Barre directs Amazing Grace with such discipline that the show feels economical and lean. Helping him achieve that goal are Toni-Leslie James’s beautiful, understated costumes, and Eugene Lee and Edward Pierce’s richly textured, simple set design. Christopher Gattelli lends a hand with his dynamic choreography, which appears infrequently (it is a show about a hymn, after all), but sticks with you a while after the curtain falls."

Kyle Whalen

Around The Town Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...It is always a theatrical “high” in town when a show opens here prior to making the trip to New York and Broadway. Over the years, Chicago has turned out to be a good place to get the new plays in front of audiences. After all, we are the best theater city in America (if not, the world)!. The latest entry into the “test it in Chicago” market is “Amazing Grace”, a musical based on the awe-inspiring story behind the song that is probably one of the most beloved by the Christian world, “Amazing Grace”. It is a history lesson of sorts dealing with slavery, love, rebellion and redemption."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theatre Review - Recommended

"...It’s this song, which seems to come out of nowhere, that poses the problem. The musical promises to showcase how John Newton became inspired to write the famous hymn. It’s almost as if a scene has been left out. The musical depicts an array of harrowing, dramatic events that no one can deny would be considered life-changing. What’s missing, however, is that particular spark, that crucial moment when the audience sees Newton finding his spiritual foundation and becoming inspired to write “Amazing Grace.” This universally-loved hymn, which the audience has been waiting to hear seems, at this stage, to be tacked onto the end of the musical, almost as an afterthought. With so many sweet sounds and moving performances emanating from this production, the promise of the entire story behind the hymn is missing."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews - Highly Recommended

"...It look me a while to warm to “Amazing Grace” beyond my early admiration for its splendid physical and aural designs and Young’s exceptional singing. But once the dramatic incidents started to pile up, the narrative became compulsive watching. The story, punctuated by the operatic score, is history writ large. Its affinity with the hymn “Amazing Grace” is inconsequential but no matter. The real John Newton may not recognize the biographical story we see on the Bank of America stage, but the show has spirit, spectacle, ambition, professionalism, and Josh Young. I like its chances in the Big Apple."

Dan Zeff

The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...Well, the show is about the song “Amazing Grace.” So, there is an expectation and anticipation. And when it’s delivered in the epilogue after witnessing the tumultuous life of John Newton, it’s an inspirational powerhouse. (Bring tissues, it’s a tearjerker.) It’s reprised during the curtain call and the standing ovation is only paused so the audience can sing along. AMAZING GRACE is a family classic in the making. The musical is on its way to becoming as beloved as the song itself."
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Katy Walsh

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