NUNN'S THEATER HABIT
Skates slides into the Studebaker Theater
Tue. June 7, 2022 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
Skates A New Musical slides inside the Studebaker Theater, 410 South Michigan Avenue, now through August 28, 2022. From the start, this project has faced challenges since its rollout. In the midst of rehearsals a pandemic struck and the venue where it was scheduled to debut closed down. The cast went home and then returned to a name change with a new location.
Finally, the show premiered on June 5 inside the historic Fine Arts Building. Many had high hopes on opening night to see what the company came up with two impressive American Idol contestants Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young at the helm of the project.
Our skating adventure begins with a rock star named Jacqueline Miller played by DeGarmo who is in the middle of her successful music career. She visits her childhood roller rink called Windy City Skates for a reopening gala in 1994. The ghosts of her past catch up to her as she travels back in time to meet her 12-year-old self and solve her present-day problems.
From the start, the plot skates on thin ice as the setup is slow and doesn't pick up speed until the Miller character is transported back to the '70s. The original tunes steal from timely melodies such as The Trammps' hit "Disco Inferno" and many others in sliding roller rink segments.
The creators of Skates rob every musical they possibly can and audiences will witness bits of Grease and Xanadu among others. Boasting about it doesn't make it a good idea and it leaves this spectacle with no identity of its own. The humor seems to never land and the nostalgic references are quickly derailed by unfamiliarity for young audience members.
The cast is very talented but can't keep the material moving. Scenes with singing parents need to be cut and are unnecessary with the over two-hour inflated running time. Local Chicagoans Jason Richards, who was recently seen in the successful La Cage aux Folles, and Adam Fane, brought the house down in Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, are both wasted here. It's a shame that their latest vehicle crashed and burned because they continue to stand out in their individual roles.
The climax at the end should be about Miller triumphing over her bullies from back in the day and having a special moment vocally to blow her loser boyfriend away. Instead, Skates has spent too much time reminiscing and not enough building towards a better future. There's no excuse for all these potholes in Skates as this endeavor has had plenty of time to be developed before this disappointing opening night. DeGarmo and the entire cast deserve real rollerskates, not fake ones, plus some better material to work with from the creative team. Maybe they will have better luck with a Rollerblades musical instead one day in the future.
Tickets for Skates A New Musical can be found at SkatesTheMusical.com.