You Took Away My Flag re-opened on Friday night, April 2 at the Theater Building Chicago 1225 W. Belmont Avenue. Revamped from last years performances with the addition of several new songs and new lead singers, this rock opera is that real treat in the Chicago theater scene that mostly focuses on drama. With over 50 songs penned by IIT Professor Henry Perritt jr who also produces, the performance is filled with music which soars on several occasions with sparkling duets and choral harmonies. You Took Away My Flag succeeds at combining entertainment with political commentary. The casting is strong with the voices of Jordan Phelps as Arian, Patrick Cannon as Driton and Brian Birch as American Reporter being particularly outstanding. This is the Chicago debut for Phelps and he can look forward to many more roles based on this strong performance. His rendition of "Deadly Prank" is one of the highlights of the rock opera. The staging is effective including an outstanding scene where the Kosovar guerrillas shoot it out with the Serbian forces. Scenes seamlessly range from intimate cafe settings to offices to camps in the mountains. Politics in Kosovo and the Balkans in general is perhaps not something that most of us in America know much about, but this story shows that wholehearted commitment to the cause is what it takes to succeed. For Kosovo, the will of the younger generation to stop compromising with the Serbians led to guerrilla fighting and Serbian massacres and ultimately the involvement of the United Nations and the United States in forcing out Serbia and establishing a new country. The rock operas title refers to the refusal of the international community to recognize the traditional Albanian flag as that of Kosovo and to substitute one that was invented overnight. What the Kosovars got in return was independence. As with any performance, one can point to things that did not always come off just right -- occasional issues with lyrics being hard to hear spring to mind, but these are overshadowed by the many things that worked very well. With the wide range of music, there are songs that will appeal to some and not to others. However, as I left the theater at the end of the performance I was inspired by the sacrifice the young men and women of Kosovo made, was warmed by an evening of interesting music, and committed to remembering that Albanians pronounce the name of their country Ko-SOH-vo and Serbians pronounce it KOH-soh-vo. Find the opportunity to attend a performance during the run through May 23rd. You wont regret it.
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