More than 2,000 miles along the way ...

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Doug Deuchler


Open Door Theater has a fun musical revue playing right now called Route 66. It's a nostalgic, pop-tune-infused crowd-pleaser that is just the thing if you're in need of escapism from the rigors of winter or the latest news cycle. The show is the creation of jukebox musical auteur Roger Bean. Frequent flyers at Open Door may remember Bean's popular The Marvelous Wonderettes a few years back.

This current fast-paced, two-act production takes us on a trip along Route 66 via some great old tunes presented by a hard-working, engaging cast. Perhaps this show, featuring four truckers, does not always feature two women in the cast in most productions, but here it's a good choice.

Route 66, nimbly directed by Mary Pat Sieck, features more than 90 minutes of fun and music. Isabella Andrews, Quinn Corrigan, Katie Iler and Tyler Sonkin are the energetic performers playing four singing truckers who take us along on their road trip by way of roughly 34 old tunes from the '50s and '60s. Of course, it's important to note that with lyrics penned 60 or so years ago, some of the viewpoints in a couple of the songs now seem inappropriate in their attitudes toward women.

Regardless, they sing, they dance, they work the house comedically in a high-octane show. If you should bring kids along, they may never have heard mid-century hits like "I Get Around," "Dead Man's Curve," or "Little Old Lady from Pasadena," but I'll bet they'll enjoy them. These folks really sell their songs.

There is no plot or even lines of dialogue to hold the show together beyond the basic concept of a musical road trip. The numbers, range across a variety of styles, from Willie Nelson to the Beach Boys, and just keep on coming. And for every enduring classic like "King of the Road" and "On the Road Again," there is an equal number of obscurities, like "Gallop to Gallup" and "Truck Stop Cutie." 

Several songs, unfamiliar to me, were hauntingly beautiful. Andrews, who has an especially lovely voice, sang an emotional solo, "Oklahoma Hills," by Leon and Woody Guthrie. 

Sonkin does especially well as a lonesome trucker on a long route, serenading the "Girl on the Billboard." The words, however, are pretty questionable by today's standards.

At the top of the stage, centered, is an illuminated panel in the style of an old car radio. Between the numbers, vintage commercials, deejays, and 1950s and '60s advertising jingles fill the gaps. Some of this is funny, some of it grows monotonous.

This production works especially well in the intimate environs of Open Door Theater. Josh Prisching did the scenic and lighting design. There is a gas pump on one side of the stage. The back wall is covered with signs for various Route 66 locations. The busy cast makes frequent use of the aisles for entrances and exits.

The choreography by Naja Yatkin is playful and fun. I especially enjoyed the occasional homage to the rigorous dance fads of the '60s, like The Swim, The Jerk, The Twist, and others. Lier and Shannon Hochmann designed the costumes and props. Mostly the cast wears plaid shirts and jeans. But there is a lot of cap-switching, and Corrigan is hilarious in his giant 10-gallon hat, riding his hobby horse, in "Long Tall Texan."

The concept of a trip across America's most fabled highway is not as tight as found in the usual jukebox musical. The songs do not build on established characters. But the show is an awful lot of fun. If you need to go out and relax, forget the winter and the current news cycle, this may be your perfect show.

"Route 66" is playing at Open Door Theater, 902 S. Ridgeland, Oak Park, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays 3 p.m., through March 8. $27; $25, senior; $15, students. Tickets/more:, 708-386-5510. 

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad

Latest Comments