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  Yeast Nation (the triumph of life) Reviews
Yeast Nation (the triumph of life)
American Theater Company

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Highly Recommended

"...When you’ve stopped laughing from this yeast infection, you can tap your toes and clap your hands to a wholly lovable score from Hollmann far superior in range, wit, style and melody to the tunes that make up “Urinetown.” Since it was penned by two of Broadway’s hottest recent names, “Yeast Nation” went through a slew of workshops and backers' auditions. But none of those previous incarnations featured this score. That was saved for Sweet Home Chicago, where both of these boys were young yeasts. And the score is the ace is this eukaryotic micro-organism’s hole."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times- Recommended

"...You can only begin to imagine the sort of pitch Chicago-bred musical theater maestros Mark Hollmann (composer-lyricist) and Greg Kotis (book writer-lyricist) made to theatrical backers when introducing their latest project, "Yeast Nation (The Triumph of Life)." Though it should be said from the start that the title really does tell you just about all you need to know about this show, which received its rollicking, "fully revised" Midwest premiere on Wednesday night, in an American Theater Company production set into high gear by one of those Chicago casts that just makes your eyes and ears pop with joy."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader- Somewhat Recommended

"...Maybe the show just needs a week on its feet to work out its stylistic unevenness. But this is Paparelli's second stab at Yeast Nation, after directing its premiere last year at Perseverance Theatre in Alaska. You'd think by now he'd know how to make the whole thing work."
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Justin Hayford

Windy City Times- Somewhat Recommended

"...despite the obvious overarching themes, there's no completely shaking Yeast factor of Yeast Nation. In the end, asking the audience empathize with life forms generally associated with infections and/or bread dough is a tough sell. As for us, we weren't buying it. Moreover, where Urinetown was smart and original, Yeast Nation is obvious and reductive. A rockish score blasting through muddy acoustics doesn't help. The sound design is loud rather than clear. Amplification does make for coherency: It only makes the garble of garbled words louder."
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Catey Sullivan

Talkin Broadway- Recommended

"...Director P.J. Paparelli and cast have staged this new piece very slickly and confidently. The assured singing and comic acting of the cast are a delight. Especially impressive is Foronda as the leader whose strength is belied by his befuddlement as he is confronted with new information about the world above the ocean's floor. Rosa and Ridarelli are deliciously villainous while Brezill and Keltz as the world's first lovers grow from an initial naiveté to a greater toughness and wisdom."
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John Olson

Copley News Service- Highly Recommended

"...The ATC has gathered together an uncommonly gifted cast, with major names on the Chicagoland theater scene like Joseph Anthony Foronda (Jan the Elder) and Barbara Robertson (Jan the Unnamed). The scene stealer is paunchy, balding Jan the Wise, a crafty backstabber performed to a comic turn by Phil Ridarelli. If “Yeast Nation” has a future elsewhere, Ridarelli needs to be part of the package."

Dan Zeff

Chicagoist- Recommended

"...the commitment and talent level from the entire cast kept us engaged and entertained. Andrew Keltz (Jan the Second), Melanie Brezill (Jan the Sweet), Sandie Rosa (Jan the Sly) and Joseph Anthony Foronda (Jan the Elder) have some big, impressive voices, and there are some great comedic turns, particularly from Foronda, Barbara Robertson (Jan the Unnamed) and Wendi Weber (Jan the Famished)."
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Julienne Bilker

Edge- Recommended

"...Kotis and Hollmann’s mostly sung-through rock store successfully drives the zany and emotive narrative. After an energetic opening number delivered by the awesome ensemble of 15, the score continues with some hits, along with a few repetitive misses. (After a while, all the numbers explaining how so-and-so will carry out their evil doings seem to blend together.) And some of the lyrics are quite mundane, eliciting unintended laughs. Robertson, who is a true stand-out as the witchy, blind narrator, gets the best number, featured in the show’s second act."
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Robert Bullen

Chicago Stage Review- Recommended

"...Sometimes a Chicago production redefines a play, makes it its own, sets an incomparable standard. ATC’s Yeast Nation (the triumph of life) is not groundbreaking but the delightful songs, preposterously funny story and dedicated cast make it a total hoot and Barbara Robertson’s performance alone is well worth the price of admission. It’s an entertaining yeast infection that will make you forget about the toothaches of life!"
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Venus Zarris

Time Out Chicago- Recommended

"...Kotis and Hollman are clearly working Urinetown territory here, including hyper-self-awareness, audience address and a depleting-resources theme. But Hollmann’s accomplished rock score and Kotis’s book, which deals in twisted Shakespearean themes between the metatheatrical jokes, are thoroughly enjoyable. True, sound issues make it tough to make out some of the intricate lyrics, and Paparelli’s aim to use every corner of ATC’s stage means some scenes are partially hidden. But the entire ensemble, outfitted in costume designer Paul Spadone’s translucent-green ponchos, is fantastically committed to the cause."
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Kris Vire

ChicagoCritic- Somewhat Recommended

"...For me the use of a pounding hypnotic rock score and the scream-singing was too much. I believe that lyrics and music should work together to enhance and further the story in a manner to be appreciated and understood. Rock music makes that difficult at best. I realize that I may be a minority since my basic dislike for contemporary rock music colors my take on yeast nation. So if your enjoy rock music–then you’ll like this production."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard- Recommended

"...Directed by PJ Paparelli on a wild and crazy set by Walt Spangler, and some wild lighting by Jesse Klug, this is a wild ride into how evolution might have happened. There is a lot of humor and a talented cast. Barbara Robertson, as always, shines in her performance as Jan, the unnamed. Melanie Brezill is a powerful Jan, the Sweet (Jan the Second's amour), and Phil Ridarelli is dynamite as Jan, the Wise. Although his character started off a bit slow, he grew into the role when he sang "Liar". Jan, the Sly (deftly handled by Sandie Rosa) is the sister to Jan the Second and next in line for the throne should something happen to her father and brother, which she attempts to make happen. She plots and plans with Jan the Wise, only to be thwarted in the end."

Al Bresloff

Chicago Theater Beat- Highly Recommended

"...Before I even had an idea of what was going on in the plot, I already felt I was watching the beginning of a spectacular new musical. The confusion is part of the fun. The costumes were a little hokey, but the quality of talent on stage combined with the unique incomparable writing by Greg Kotis and Mark Hollmann is a combination for success. Go see the birth of the next hit musical that you cannot believe someone could imagine to produce."

Timothy McGuire