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  Once in a Lifetime at Strawdog Theatre

Once in a Lifetime

Strawdog Theatre
1802 W. Berenice Chicago

From the legendary 1930s writing duo George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart (The Man Who Came to Dinner, You Can't Take It With You) comes the hilarious backstage comedy Once in a Lifetime. As silent films evolve into "talkies" in the 1920s, a trio of vaudevillians sets out to con the Hollywood elite by posing as vocal coaches, vowing to give movie stars beautiful voices to match their glamorous mugs. Damon Kiely, the acclaimed director of American Blues Theater's Hank Williams: Lost Highway, helms this epic satire of greed run amok at Chicago's Strawdog Theatre.

Thru - Jun 11, 2016

Thursdays: 8:00pm
Fridays: 8:00pm
Saturdays: 8:00pm
Sundays: 4:00pm

Price: $28

Show Type: Comedy

Box Office: 773-528-9696

Running Time: 2hrs, 10mins

Nearby Restaurants

  Once in a Lifetime Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...Damon Kiely's sparkling and sardonic staging gets it all done with 12 actors, who zip around those troublesome columns on their way to lightning-fast quick changes. It helps that Kiely has surgically removed some of the now-obscure references to stars of the Jazz Age. It also helps that he's cast the play impeccably with an all-star lineup of Strawdog regulars. Finally, by interpolating contemporary songs like Katy Perry's "California Gurls" and Beyonce's "Single Ladies," delivered with 1920s-novelty-song flair complete with ukuleles and kazoos, Kiely's production makes the point that while the medium changes, the California Gold Rush for Hollywood fame and fortune remains the same."
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Kerry Reid

Chicago Reader - Somewhat Recommended

"...But the slew of Hollywood types-know-nothing producers, know-less starlets, embittered writers, self-important critics-who overpopulate the remaining three acts are played mostly to frenetic excess. It's ridiculous, energetic, and at times effective, but it's rarely true. The group performances of contemporary pop songs (Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus) during excessively long scene changes add little beyond extra running time."
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Justin Hayford

BroadwayWorld - Recommended

"...Overall, ONCE IN A LIFETIME makes for an affable evening at the theater that's always charming, occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, and steeped in nostalgia for an era gone by."

Rachel Weinberg

Time Out Chicago - Recommended

"...Kiely's choice to cover scene transitions with cast members performing period-style arrangements of modern pop confections like "Party in the USA" and "Uptown Funk," while entertaining, never quite reveals its true purpose-until, perhaps, the final number. For audiences who've followed this scrappy and winsome company up that steep flight of stairs for any length of time, the curtain-call rendition of "Wrecking Ball" might be as cathartic as it is for the cast."
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Kris Vire

Stage and Cinema - Recommended

"...As with the better known Singin' in the Rain, Once in a Lifetime (a perfect title for this tribute to youth and stupidity) offers a breathlessly zany, contrivedly madcap take on an opportunistic bonanza: In 1929 the "industry" is in flux and the American dream offers a limited chance to come true. Sweetly staged by Damon Kiely, this is Strawdog Theatre Company's final production in its Lakeview venue of 28 years. Returning the troupe to their roots, their revival appropriately captures the fresh fun of starting anew as thirteen actors play 40 cinematic stereotypes."
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Lawrence Bommer

Splash Magazine - Highly Recommended

"...And what's a good spoof without some class A drag, which Anderson Lawfer gives us as a big-bosomed baritone with speech impediment silent film actress, before he too switches into what seems like dozens of small parts. You will likely never forget Nicole Bloomsmith as Miss Leighton, hopefully remembering her performance as the secretary gatekeeper when you are in real world combat with her type character and need to summon a smile. And then there is Jamie Vann as the movie mogul they all try to please and get paid by, quickly switching into a good-natured railroad engineer, etc."

Amy Munice

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...Kaufman and Hart took a lot of shots at the movie industry, most of which remain just as valid today. (Late in the play, the response in the screening room to the first cut of a film George produced is like something from a Mr. Plinkett review.) But they also went after theatre nearly as much, depicting hordes of dim-witted actors, the “instructors” who prey on them, and one long-and-somewhat-deservedly-suffering wreck of a playwright"
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Jacob Davis

Chicago Stage Standard - Highly Recommended

"...Once in a Lifetime is a fitting tribute to Strawdog's tenure at the North Broadway Street walkup, a show that should not be possible in the space and with the resources available. Not every moment works-a few casting choices seem tongue-in-cheek or forced, and there are a few times when the tightrope walk between past and present becomes too precarious and the show bobbles a bit. However, these are minor quibbles with an ebullient celebration of the possible."

Kerstin Broockmann

Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...Strawdog Theatre Company will be closing its doors on N. Broadway (at Sheridan) very soon. They will remain a company and will continue to do what they have been doing since 1988- bring quality theater to Chicago audiences. From what we were told, they will have what is called an “itinerant home” in Rogers Park, so when the wrecking ball hits the location at 3829 N. Broadway, the venue will be gone, but the shows will continue. They are closing with the Kaufman and Hart classic, “Once in a Lifetime”, a story that takes us to the past and what happens when three vaudeville performers leave New York for the ” rush “of California as the TALKIES start a new trend in film."
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Alan Bresloff

NewCity Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...While there are funnier, smarter and more scathing portrayals of the Hollywood meat machine, "Once in a Lifetime" strikes the right notes for Strawdog's semi-swan song. The play's built-in "ditties" have been updated for the era and are enjoyably incongruous. They include innocuous interludes like "I Love It" and "Uptown Funk" as well as songs that reach, with occasional clumsiness, for symbolism with a capital "S.""
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Kevin Greene

Chicago Theatre Review - Highly Recommended

"...There can’t have been a better dramatic choice for the finale of Strawdog Theatre Company’s 28th season. This production highlights their talented company, as well as their unique storytelling gift, particularly showcasing so many individual actors portraying multiple roles in one play. This final production also marks the end of an era. The show ends with the company singing a 1920’s rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball,” as the cast takes sledgehammers to the facility (this theatre is one of several venues soon to be demolished on this block). It’s a funny and bittersweet moment, at the same time. Audiences who’ve come to love Strawdog’s marvelous work are hoping to find this same kind of creativity and theatrical genius transported this Fall to their new Rogers Park home, as the company begins a new chapter of exceptional theatre. Once Upon a Time, indeed."
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Colin Douglas

The Fourth Walsh - Highly Recommended

"...ONCE IN A LIFETIME is the perfect last 3829 show. It’s about rolling with the showbiz punches. And it showcases the resilience of this theatre company. Even though the finale hilariously gives the real estate developer the finger, I got a little misty. Undoubtedly, Strawdog is leaving the building laughing! See for yourself this classy stage exit."
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Katy Walsh

Chicago Theater Beat - Highly Recommended

"...Of course, the spirit of Strawdog will live on wherever this ensemble lands, so an overly elegiac tone need not be invoked. That said, as a finale for their home, Strawdog does what all great performers do-they leave us laughing."

Clint May

  Once in a Lifetime Photo Gallery

   This show has been Jeff Recommended*

*The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed outstanding by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee.

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