Theater Reviews: The Texas Chainsaw Musical & The Flaming Dames in Hell’s Belles

By Heather Wixson

Chicago-area horror fans, listen up!  I have had the distinct pleasure of seeing two great Halloween-themed shows from the folks at the New Millennium Theatre Company.

First up is The Texas Chainsaw Musical.  And everything you need to really know about it is in the title- the musical is based on Tobe Hooper’s 1974 masterpiece but offers up audiences a different and humorous look at the movie and its characters through the power of song.

The production opens up with the gang driving along in their van singing about the fact that it’s “Hot Out Here in Texas” when (true to the movie), their travel plans go awry and the teenagers end up on the run from Leatherface and his crazy family.

Highlights for me included seeing Leatherface talk/sing through all his insecurities during the song “These Things Just Happen” as well as the rest of Leatherface’s family getting in on the singing action (as well as playing live instruments- Grandpa on drums is just brilliant!) during the Tool-influenced “Dinnertime” number.

The play itself runs under an hour and really moves along at a swift pace.  There’s probably only about 2 minutes of the play with dialogue between Sally and Franklin that I felt could have been tightened. For those who aren’t afraid to get dirty, there are even blood seats available.

Overall, I was extremely impressed at this inventive production and look forward to other offerings from the NMTC.

The Texas Chainsaw Musical stars Amanda Hartley (Sally), Adam Rosowicz (Franklin), Philip Seidman (Jerry), Adam Mack (Kirk), Jacqui Jackson (Pam) and Guy Schingoethe (Leatherface).

The Texas Chainsaw Musical runs every Friday and Saturday night at the National Pastime Theater, 4139 N. Broadway in Chicago. Advance tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.nmtchicago.orgor reserved by calling 312-458-9083.   The blood seats available on a first come-first serve basis.

The second show I caught was The Flaming Dames in Hell’s Belles which is put on by Chicago’s premier burlesque troupe, The Flaming Dames (also part of the NMTC).  I had caught several of their performances through the Flashback Weekend Horror Convention over the last couple of years and had always enjoyed them but had never gotten to see a complete production, just individual songs performed.  To see an entire production was a treat.

Hell’s Belles is TFD’s Halloween-themed burlesque show which features the emcee’s of Succubus and Incubus, who both have great chemistry together and with the audience and fulfill their purpose of keeping the show moving between dance numbers and keeping the audience entertained.  The show itself features the girls performing to songs by Rob Zombie, Portishead, Type O Negative, and Dead Can Dance (to name just a few).

I know a lot of people might immediately dismiss the show as strictly T&A (okay, well guys probably won’t care either way) but what I can tell you is from a female perspective is that I noticed how intricate and challenging the dance numbers and various other performances actually were. I also was able to see that for the Dames, it’s not enough to just get up there and shake and shimmy their goods, that these ladies really worked hard and obviously all had a great chemistry together on stage and worked hard to put on an entertaining show for audience members of both genders.

The Flaming Dames in Hell’s Belles runs Friday nights at 10:30 pm through November 7th at The Spot at 4437 N. Broadway in Chicago.  Advance tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the website listed above or reserved by calling 312-458-9083.  Limited tickets are available at the door. I highly recommend getting there early because space is limited and you definitely want good seats to enjoy the show.