Review Roundup: OCTOBER SKY at The Marriott Theatre

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The Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, presents the World Premiere of the new musical OCTOBER SKY, running through October 11. Written by Aaron Thielen, with music and lyrics by Michael Mahler, OCTOBER SKY is directed by Jeff Award-winner Rachel Rockwell. Music Direction is by Ryan T. Nelson. Presented in association withUniversal Stage Productions (Billy Elliott, Wicked, Bring It On), and from the writing team that brought audiences HERO (Jeff Award, Best New Work, 2012), OCTOBER SKY is based on the beloved Universal Pictures film October Sky and the bestselling novel Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam, Jr. The show opened on August 26.

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Hedy Weiss, Sun Times: It is the different forms of encouragement supplied by two women whose own dreams never fully materialized that keep Homer going: His mother, Elsie (Susan Moniz), and Miss Riley (Johanna McKenzie Miller), his English teacher, and a secret poet. Moniz and Miller are exceptional singers, but it is their acting that steals the thunder.... There are fine supporting performances by Derek Hasenstab as the mine's charming Polish welder, Ike Bykovski, and by Terry Hamilton as a union activist.

Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Many of those melodic and resonant songs - scored by the hugely talented Mahler with a touch of folk rock and a soupcon of the bluegrass flavor of the mountains - are quite lovely. And many successful musicals thrive on determined dreamers pursuing a mission that will let them break out of a conflict-ridden, narrow-minded community run by the embittered and the scared. Nothing wrong with that.

Journal Sentinal: Where the flight plan of "October Sky" needs the most work if it's to land in New York - and with the blessing and support of Universal Studios, that's the goal - is in its portrait of Homer's father (David Hess) and, by extension, the relationship between him and Homer.

Lawrence Bommer, Stage and Cinema: Offering much to many (and, in the process, too little of each), Marriott Theatre's creation functions as a coming-of-age story, domestic drama, Eisenhower Era time capsule, origins tale for the space race, and one boy's almost patriotic declaration of independence. It's 1957 and science nerd Homer Hickam Jr. (Nate Lewellyn), mired in Big Creek High School, is eager to escape. His tough-loving dad John (David Hess), a controlling mine manager, suffers from silicosis and the inability to sympathize with his son's wish not to dig coal for the rest of a shortened life.

Steven Oxman, Variety: Excellent Broadway pro David Hess plays Homer's disapproving father, John, the local mine superintendent who's caught in the middle of brewing labor disputes, and clear in his desire for Homer to work the mines as a sort of generational legacy. And Susan Moniz, as Homer's mother, Elsie, provides the balanced, highly moral center of both the family and the show, encouraging her son's dreams while guiding him to take practical steps towards them with the song "Solid Ground: "I know what it's like to be a dreamer/And nobody understands you,/And they never even try./But a dream is just a dream/Until you snatch it from the mist/And you can hold it in your fist/And see it fly ... "

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