The Music Critic, which played for one night in Chicago, on October 26, at the glorious Chicago Theatre, was part concert part play. It was created by Aleksey Igudesman, an incredible Russian-born violinist, who also performs in a comedy duo, Igudesman & Joo with the show’s pianist Hyung-ki Joo. The show is an evening (1.5 hours to be precise) of short classical pieces, performed with passion and tenacity by a quintet of professional orchestral performers.
They shared the stage with Malkovich, who notably started his career ages ago, in 1976 at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. Since then, he has starred in countless films over the course of his almost 5-decade long career such as The Killing Fields, Death of a Salesman, Dangerous Liaisons, In the Line of Fire, Being John Malkovich, Con Air, Burn After Reading, and many, many others. Don’t forget about his supporting role in a sleeper early aughts film, Changeling. It’s worth watching and a hauntingly true story of crime cover ups in 20’s LA, but I digress.
This time, he swapped the screen for the stage, back to his live theatre roots, and conveyed the attitude of a vitriolic, curmudgeon music critic, and the audience lapped it up.
The stage is almost bare, and we are left with Mr. Malkovich, Joo, Igudesman, and a small group of musicians as they expertly play, and downright bash some of the best music of all time. Not one ultra famous classical composer is safe, proverbially, not even Mozart. Brahms gets a verbal beating as well. “Listen to the words of some of his contemporaries,” Malkovich says. “This is from the wonderful composer Tchaikovsky’s diary,” he continues. “‘I played over the music of that scoundrel Brahms — what a giftless bastard!'” These nonstop critiques were so sharp, so ruthless, the audience couldn’t help but audibly laugh every time a quip was made at a deceased composer’s expense.
On another note, it must be mentioned that while live theatre has returned for over a year or so since the height of the pandemic, it truly was a huge relief to be back in a theatre. Seeing people dressed up again, excited to be out on a work night, and witnessing not only live, gorgeous music, but simultaneously witnessing a living theatrical legend was nothing short of remarkable.
The intensely harsh criticisms for each piece of music was, in the real world, undoubtedly uncalled for, so the audience was in on the joke from the moment it started. During the last segment of the show, when the musicians finally had the opportunity to critique-back, and read negative critiques of Malkovich’s previous performances, the show came full circle. They got their sweet revenge. Their reactions to Malkovich and his responses to them were charged and charismatic, and while it was all in good fun, I could not help but imagine what hysterics the rehearsals were like. I would have paid to be a fly on the wall in that process. The only complaint so to speak is that the show was an hour and a half, and seemed to go by in minutes-I hope for a day that the Music Critic comes back to Chicago for more than one night, and has two parts! I would gladly stand in line for an overpriced glass of wine during intermission.
Photos: Courtesy of “Music Critic”