We zoomed off to Chicago for the weekend (just a 6 hour drive from Strathroy) to see two shows. When I made the arrangements, I didn’t see any connection between the two. Gypsy is a long-time favourite musical of mine. It has a compelling story with wonderful songs. The lyrics, early Stephen Sondheim work, are brilliant.
In a nutshell, Gypsy is the story of Rose, the ultimate stage mother, who wants fame so much, that she pushes her daughter into being a stripper.
I wasn’t at all familiar with Russian Transport. It’s the story of an immigrant family from Russia, whose mother is so manipulative and wrapped up in chasing the almighty dollar that she’ll let her family be torn apart just for the money.
As it turns out the stories are very similar: Overbearing mothers who wish that they had it all, and so they push their reluctant kids. Greed is the motivating factor – greed for fame, greed for money, the so-called American dream.
In my mind, the American dream is the charming bungalow with a picket fence. Neither mother got anything close to that…Rose lives her life out of a suitcase going across the country, stopping at Vaudeville houses. The Russian mother has a home filled with a mish-mash of rejected furniture attached to the husband’s limo/car service business. Hardly glamorous.
Both shows are brilliantly presented, both are exhausting. I feel fortunate to see such great actors in well-directed productions.
So what else did we do in Chicago? We ate in a Chicago Chop House and had the best veal ever. We walked around the fairly clean downtown (I think they must truck the dirty old snow away) and strolled through some the beautiful high-end stores on the Magnificent Mile. We walked along the Navy Pier which is amazing with its giant Ferris wheel, shops, restaurants, and pubs. We had dinner at Riva’s, a wonderful seafood restaurant right on the pier, where they cater to the theatre crowd making sure we were well taken care of before show time. It’s also quite astounding to find the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, right there on the pier, surrounded by Lake Michigan, which in March is still covered in ice.