Jimmy All the Hits | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Jimmy All the Hits

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JIMMY ALL THE HITS, Needles Theatre Company, at Stage Left Theatre. You've heard the story a thousand times before: a talented kid with a new sound is drawn into the music industry, then resists the efforts of his managers to make him more commercial. Whether our hero or the great devil capitalism triumphs depends on the play's genre: happy-ending melodrama or cautionary tale.

Playwrights Stephen Walsh (who also stars, playing a mean guitar) and Dan Nelson (who also directs) don't do a particularly good job of repackaging this ancient tale. The first act takes forever to unfold, as our hero--a sincere, charming Irish-immigrant guitarist--grabs the attention of the record-company suits. Walsh and Nelson belabor details that are givens in such stories: that the musician is worthy of a record contract, that record-company guys are assholes. Meanwhile the playwrights slight the elements that make stories worthwhile: character development and unusual plot twists. The second act is tighter and less predictable, though Jimmy's adventures in the studio and in TV-land will still be very familiar to anyone who's seen The Buddy Holly Story, The Doors, Spice World, or any of the other pop/rock music-idol bios Hollywood has been churning out ever since the invention of celluloid.

The acting in this Needles Theatre production ranges from flat and uninspired to OK. Walsh and Paul Hofmann as Jimmy's lackluster manager battle it out for the title of least interesting actor.

--Jack Helbig

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