I probably wasn’t the only one walking into the Broadway Playhouse expecting the poor actress playing Julia Child to be outgunned by the incomparable Meryl Streep, who had brought Child to life in film.
It wasn’t just the delicious boeuf bourguignon served by Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in the lobby getting us in the mood.
This is a tour de force performance by Karen Janes Woditsch as Julia Child all the way. We fall in love with her very quickly as she arrives in Paris speaking little French and feeling oversized and rough-edged.
It’s not only her adoring husband Paul Child played aptly by Craig Spidle who loves Julia. Just about everyone who comes under her spell of plain spoken passion for life succumbs to her charm. How could you not? Well, there are some snobs in Paris culinary schools, publishers who don’t get it and even her parochial father who remain unmoved by Child’s person. However, if you are in the audience that short list of those immune to Julia’s charm will certainly not include you.
Woditsch and the entire cast are helped enormously by a well-crafted script that tells her tale in a compelling way. For those of us who have treasured snail mail letters before the quick speak of texts and emails, it’s especially a delight to see Julia’s correspondents walk into her kitchen. We meet just enough characters to feel like an ex-pat in Paris in the years after World War II without getting confused by too much that is foreign. We also get a compact glimpse of the male-dominated publishing world that Julia eventually conquered. The smart set helps move the action from kitchen to cooking school to restaurant table quickly. You won’t be bored, but with all that talk of food you just might get hungry.
We are there when she arrives in Paris daunted by nearly everything.
We are there when she fails the simple test of making scrambled eggs.
We learn how to shop for the best ingredients.
We feel the love between Julia and Paul and know there is more below the surface of what can be seen.
We get how McCarthyism rearing its ugly head destroys lives and twisted what was best about America. We are scared and revolted.
We feel the pain of getting a 700-page manuscript and years of painstaking work rejected out of hand.
This is Julia’s journey and it is a delight to join her.
You can do so at Broadway Playhouse, Water Tower Place (175 East Chestnut) from now until October 20, 2013. There are numerous pre- and post-show events including Le Cordon Bleu Tuesday Tastings, among others.
For tickets and information visit Broadway in Chicago online or call Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775 – 2000.