Chicago Transit Authority Serves as Melodic Muse For Original Chicago Musical ‘Stuck’

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CHICAGO – If you don’t live in Chicago, you’ll have either never heard of the Chicago Transit Authority or you’ll think it stands for something aside from the mass-transit system that it is. If you are a Chicagoan, though, it’s inconceivable not to know about the CTA and certainly improbable to have never used it.

Stuck at the La Costa Theatre

After all, it’s the system that’s such a critical function that everyone loves to hate and can’t escape. Don’t we realize, too, that the very act of being disgruntled critics together itself yields the all-important result of, well, bringing us together?

All that contempt – the sights, sounds, smells, threatened doomsdays and political provocations galore – has served as a musical muse for La Costa Theatre company member Riley Thomas. With it, he has crafted an original musical from a company that in the past has only put up well-known musical works from other brilliant minds.

For Thomas, the evolution of the performance – which its PR scribes are comparing to the cult-favorite film “The Breakfast Club” but actually more feels like “Rent” in their bond over something collectively maddening – “has been an eternity and a blur all at the same time,” he says.

Just like actors willingly project themselves on stage to bear their hearts for the judgment of their patrons, Thomas will be remembered for willingly and admittedly putting himself behind the curtain and reaching within himself for something honest and novel.

And he nails it.

The cast of Stuck
The cast of “Stuck”.
Photo credit: La Costa Theatre

Armed with natural lyrics that flow like water in their portrayal of local concepts all Chicagoans know all too well, Thomas also directs what’s boasted as a “powerhouse of talent”. While there were moments where pitches were especially challenging based on the limits of one’s range, it’s indeed accurate to tag this group as a powerhouse and surprisingly without a weak link.

Peter Oyloe as the irate goth guy sticks in your head and it doesn’t surprise you to learn he has a Best Actor Jeff Citation, Terry Price in his Shakespearean homelessness has stage presence and beautiful bass while – dang, girl! – the petite Samara Smith tells it like it is with gargantuan attitude you can’t help but laugh at and fall in love with.

Recording artist Jeanne T. Arrigo bags the play’s tear-jerking number upon musical reflection of what’s said to be the greatest pain a mother can feel, Jennifer Knox convinces you she’s a moneyed student at DePaul University floating along life on a silver platter and Jesús Martinez Jr. eloquently reminds us so often the most important thing in the world is providing safe asylum for our children.

Together, these six foreigners – who’d never be caught dead outside their unsolicited situation of being stuck on a Chicago El train while it’s undergoing complications – bring to life the breakthrough that an initially awkward circumstance can uncover how alike we all really are.

While Thomas deems his musical manufacture the introduction of Billy Joel to musical theatre in a result he hopes will land on people’s iPods, “Stuck” is lauded for not just bellyaching another trite grievance on something that’s so simple to scorch and instead finding meaning and music within.

The cast of Stuck
The cast of “Stuck”.
Photo credit: La Costa Theatre

“Stuck” runs through March 16 at the La Costa Theatre at its new space at 3931 N. Elston in Chicago. 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 4 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets cost $20.

© 2008 Adam Fendelman, editor-in-chief Adam Fendelman


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Lauren's picture


I used to do musicals. Mainly in high school when I wanted to “be” but really was a singer. Musical theater is what really motivated me to pursue straight plays. Once that happed musicals were out the door. The feelings and emotions felt “true” in plays. Real moments became the goal. Musicals didn’t feel “real” or challenge me emotionally.

I too saw Stuck. Stuck moved me. Stuck reminded me how music, original music, can dig deep to ones emotional core and truly add to a story. Some things are just expressed better with song. With only six characters you are able to connect and understand the interaction between “all” of us. This local story really connects with Chicago but I have a feeling anyone could grow from this honest portrait of humanity being forced to understand each other. This musical not only left me wanting to be a better person, it left me inspired and hopeful for new musical theater. I hope this one goes far.

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