Taste of Chicago mixes old and new

The City of Chicago is stirring some more exotic, well, at least, international and trendy, flavors into Taste of Chicago but is not neglecting comfort food or desserts or forgetting long-time faves.

Taste of Chicago has pop ups, food trucks, and five-day vendors. City of Chicago photo
Taste of Chicago has pop ups, food trucks, and five-day vendors. City of Chicago photo

Settling in along Columbus Drive (closed for the event) in Grant Park will be 67 vendors that include these 17 new-to-Taste places: American Glory, Aztec Dave’s Food truck, Ben’s Bar Be Cue, Bob Bar Truck, Brightwok Kitchen, Broken English, Cheesie’s Pub and Grub, Doom Street Eats, El Patron, Hakka Bakka Indian Kati Rolls, Just Salad, Lawrence’s Fish & Shrimp, the Little Beet table, Seoul Taco, The Cajun Connoisseur, Ukai Japanese Restaurant and Warm Belly Bakery.

Just hearing the names of these “fooderies” is mouth-watering enough to put stars on the calendar for July 5-9, 2017. But Taste aficionados can still count on getting their ribs at Robsinson’s, a slice of pizza at Lou Malnati’s and dessert fix at Eli’s Cheescake’s booths.

Yes, the event has been billed as the world’s largest free food festival but that just means no gate charge shape shifting into a crumb-snatching pigeon.  Food and beverages are gotten by handing over the number of tickets required for each item the  booths. Since a strip of 14 tickets cost $10, visitors would do well to purchase more than one strip.

However, checking out some of Chicago’s wonderful culinary choices is just part of Taste. There are good bands, excellent celebrity chef dinners, wine and beer gardens, dance and art events and cooking demonstrations.

Tickets starting at $19 can be purchased now for concerts at the park’s Petrillo Music Shell by Alessia Cara, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, The O’Jays, Café Tacvba and Passion Pit.  There will also be local bands playing on the Bud Light Stage.

A different celebrity chef will do a three-course, sit-down dinner in an air conditioned tent each night. Tickets are $45 and must be purchased in advance.

For more Celebrity Chef dinner information and tickets and concert tickets visit Taste of Chicago.

Taste of Chicago, July 5-9, 2017, is in Grant Park on Columbus Drive from Monroe to Balbo.  Hours are 11am–9pm Wednesday through Friday and 10am–9pm on Saturday and Sunday.

 

 

A Jurassic World has come to The Field

The Field Museum is known as a good place to visit dinosaurs. All photos by Jodie Jacobs
The Field Museum is known as a good place to visit dinosaurs. All photos by Jodie Jacobs

Say T-Rex around the Chicago area and chances are the response will be Sue at the Field Museum.

However, beginning May 26 Field visitors can get almost within a ferocious T Rex’s drooling distance one floor down from where Sue resides.

The Tyrannosaurus rex is caged in a large tent outside the museum’s east, ground level entrance where its neighbors (never mind different time periods) include a Velociraptor, Brachiosraurus, Stegosaurus and other dinos and even a lab where dinosaur eggs are cultivated and embryonic dinosaurs are incubated.

Dinosaurs from Jurassic World are at The Field Museum
Dinosaurs from Jurassic World are at The Field Museum

They are cavorting in “Jurassic World: The Exhibition,” a traveling production put together by Universal Brand Development and Imagine Exhibitions and co-produced by MagicSpace and IES. The Field is the third stop on a tour that began in Melbourne, Australia followed by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA.

Designed by The Creature Technology Company, the animatronics dinosaurs’ roars paired with sudden neck swivels and gazes frightened a couple of tots during the preview May 24 but most children there were fascinated.

“Cool,” “great” and “liked it, were just some of the comments overheard walking through the exhibit. But an area where budding paleontologists spent more time was a lab mock-up that had fossils, specimen props and a map of “hot” fossil digs.

Where the fossile action is now.
Where the fossile action is now.

The map shows digs in United States and all over the world. BTW, Sue was discovered by paleontologist Sue Hendrickson in western South Dakota in 1990.

If the fun Jurassic exhibition whets appetites for more dinosaur info visitors should go up one level to see Sue by the north entrance of the Great Hall, then to the upper level to walk through four billion years of life on Earth in Evolving Planet. It includes outstanding recreations of dinosaurs.

“One of our goals as a museum is to provide visitors with the best dinosaur experience in the world,” said Field Museum President Richard Lariviere. “Our fossil collections are one of the greatest things about the Field Museum and the Jurassic Wold dinosaurs are an incredible way to spark our imaginations about them,” said Lariviere.

If interested in the next movie in the Jurassic World franchise, it currently is scheduled to be released June 2018 and star Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.

“Jurassic World: The Exhibition”, is at The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, May 26, 2017 through Jan. 7, 2018. For exhibit tickets information call (312)665-7959. For general admission information call (312) 922-9410. Visit Jurassic or The Field.

 

It is all relative

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Mike Nussbaum (Albert Einstein) and Katherine Keberlein (Margaret Harding) in 'Relativitiy' at Northlight Theatre. Michael Brosilow photo
Mike Nussbaum (Albert Einstein) and Katherine Keberlein (Margaret Harding) in ‘Relativitiy’ at Northlight Theatre.
Michael Brosilow photo

Theater-goers lucky enough to have seen Mark St. Germain’s ‘Freud’s Last Session’ at Mercury Theater when Mike Nussbaum took on the role of Freud (as of June 3, 2012) will have an idea of how Albert Einstein is portrayed in the world premiere of ‘Relativity’ at Northlight Theatre.

Once again, Nussbaum, now 93, is brilliant and St. Germain’s intelligent writing presents interesting insights into a world-renown, intellectual figure.

The story line revolves around a daughter born to him in 1902 by first wife Mileva Marić before the two were married. The world knew about his two sons born later, but not about daughter Lieserl until correspondence came to light in 1987.

What was known then was that Lieserl had contracted scarlet fever but no mention was made later about her. Although conceived in Switzerland where her parents were at the Zurich Polytechnic, Lieserl wasn’t brought back there to by her mother following the birth and Marić’s convalescence with her parents in Serbia.

St. Germain builds his new play on the premise that Lieserl survives.

Einstein is working at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study where his cantankerous housekeeper/secretary Helen Dukas, delightfully played by Chicago theater veteran Ann Whitney, protects him from interruptions by curiosity seekers and reporters.

Dukas successfully stops Margaret Harding, well depicted by Katherine Keberlein. The forty-something Harding who says she is a reporter from a Jewish publication finally waylays Einstein outside. Noting that it is cold he asks her in.

What follows are personal questions because Harding says her article will be different.

Using known quotes by Einstein, St. Germain has him field and rebuff Harding’s piercing questions about family, personal relations and views on mankind with statements about the importance of solving the mysteries of the universe.

Similar to ‘Freud’s Last Session’ where two protagonists, Freud and allegorist C. S. Lewis, argue their points of view, ‘Relativity’s  arguments, though more personal, are between Harding and the originator of the famous E=MC2 formula. Theories, including those in quantum physics are mentioned, but Harding’s arguments keep returning to the definition of a “great” person.

Directed by BJ Jones, the play is a fascinating, fictionalized, 80-minute look at Albert Einstein.
Details: Relativitiy’ is at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, through June 18, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 and visit Northlight.

 

Around Town: This weekend and coming days

There’s something for all ages and interests in and around Chicago. Just dress for the weather. After all this is Chicago.

 

'Where Did We Sit on the Bus' at Victory Gardens with and by Brian Quajada. Joel Maisonet photo
‘Where Did We Sit on the Bus’ at Victory Gardens with and by Brian Quajada. Joel Maisonet photo

 Theater

There is just a short time left to catch the awarding- winning actors, playwrights and shows is Victory Gardens’ Up Close & Personal series. Begun April 27 and running through June 4, 2017, the series features three plays.

“A Little Bit Not Normal,” written and performed by Arlene Malinowski, can be seen at 7:30 p.m. May 20 and 21. “Where Did We Sit on the Bus,” written and performed by Brian Quajada, is at 3 p.m. today, May, 20, and June 2 and at 7:30 p.m. May 24, 26, 28, 31 and June 4. “St Jude,” written and performed by Luis Alfaro is at 3 p.m. May 38 and June 4 and at 7:30 p.m. May 25, 27, June 1, 2, and 3.

The shows are in Victory Gardens’ Richard Christiansen Theater at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue.  For tickets and other information call (773) 871-3000 and visit Victory Gardens.

 

Stories

Chicago-area storytellers share experiences in “Israel: Many Voices from and of the Land 3:30-r:30 p.m. May 21 at the DoubleTree by Hilton. Doubletree is at 9599 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie. Local theater and TV actor singer (Steppenwolf, Drury Lane, CSI: NY) Dan Tatar is the emcee. Tickets of $5 advance and $10 at the door (if available) include complimentary Middle Eastern hors d’oeuvres before and after the program. For advance tickets and other information visit Spertus and call (312) 322-1773.

 

Be greeted by a robot at the Museum of Science and Industry. J.B. Spector and MSI photo
Be greeted by a robot at the Museum of Science and Industry. J.B. Spector and MSI photo

Robots

Interact with more than 40 robots at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Robot Revolution now through Feb. 4, 2018. Organized by the museum in 2015, the popular exhibit is back to have fun with Chicago area youngsters and adults following a highly touted tour. However there are also new robots such as Cube Solver that can do the Rubik’s Cube. But be sure to visit with RoboThespian, a humanoid robot that greets guests at the entrance and talk to Omron LD Mobile robot who roams the exhibit. Watch Soccer ‘bots play an autonomous competitive game and challenge Baxter, an industrial robot, to a game of tic-tac-toe. Visitors can also build their own robots with Cubelets.

The Museum of Science and Industry is at 5700 S. Lake Shore Dr. For admission and other information call  (773) 684-1414 or visit MSI

 

Beer

Chicago Craft Beer Week started May 18 but goes through May 25, 2017 and it’s not only inside the city limits. Beer events are also in Itasca, Antioch Lindenhurst, Plainfield, Lisle and Oak Park. They are also happening in Aurora, Evanston, Buffalo Grove, Darien, Romeoville, Glen Ellyn, Mokena and Schaumburg. To find an event near you on the date you want visit Chibeerweek and click on the date.

 

Chicago Riverwalk

OK, it’s raining Saturday, May 20, 2017 when the city celebrates its new fun area along the Chicago River next to Wacker Drive and Michigan Avenue. But you can also check it out any day. The May 20 events go from 9 a.m. through 9 p.m. Visit Riverwalk for event schedule and suggestions.

 

Chicago Cultural Center art exhibits worth a stop

 

The Chicago Cultural Center is an art destination in its own right if only for the gorgeous tile work at its Washington Street entrance and staircase or for its two spectacular glass domes.

Gorgeous tiles line the staircase and walls of the Chicago Cultural Center at the Washington Street entrance.
Gorgeous tiles line the staircase and walls of the Chicago Cultural Center at the Washington Street entrance.

But there are always interesting art exhibits in its galleries on the first and fourth floor and sometimes on the second floor so when downtown Chicago make the Cultural Center a must-see stop.

Go up to the fourth floor’s Sidney R Yates Gallery now through June 25, 2017 to be amazed at how doors can look when painted by an artist.

Done by Eugene Eda for Malcom X College in 1971, 32 spectacular doors stand tall representing the Black Art Movement of that period. Imagine doors as artistic as these gracing the stairwells of a college.

Malcom X College now on exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center
Eda Doors that were at Malcom X College now on exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center

If interested to learn more about the doors and the artist stop in on June 14 at 12:15 for curator Daniel Schulman’s Gallery Talk.

While there, go next gallery over to the Exhibit Hall to see “Candida Alvarez: Here.”

Curated by Terry Myers, the exhibit is the first institutional showing of this Chicago artist. The broad patches of color in some of her works reflect the Puerto Rican influence of her parents’ roots. Her work is also narrative. Alvarez’s work is up through Aug. 6, 2017.

Down on the first floor, walk along the western corridor to view “The Pride and Perils of Chicago’s Public Art.”  Up through July 30, 2017, large photos and accompanying descriptions depict old statues and contemporary mural in different neighborhoods. Chicago has designated 2017 the Year of Public Art.

Details: The Chicago Cultural Center

Candida Alvarez "Buena Vista" at Chicago Cultural Center.
Candida Alvarez “Buena Vista” at Chicago Cultural Center.

The building stretches from Randolph Street to Washington Street along the west side of Michigan Avenue.

Elevators on the Randolph side go up to the Fourth Floor galleries. The staircase on the Washington side  goes up to the Tiffany Glass Dome. For more information visit City of Chicago exhibits.

Photos by Jodie Jacobs

 

Writers Museum opens

Heads up readers, writers and writer wannabes.

Lobby of American Writers Museum in Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Lobby of American Writers Museum in Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

There is a suite of rooms where you can go to soak up inspiration, visit authors, try an interactive literary game and learn where authors’ homes are across the country. The place also has a charming children’s lit space.

This amazing suite is the American Writers Museum opening to the public May 16. Spread across the second floor of a vintage building at 180 N. Michigan Ave., it is easy to wander at approximately 11,000 square feet.

But oh, what is packed into this tiny museum gem is amazing.

Imagine a wall that is, in a way, a bookshelf where the front of lit boxes can be slid sideways for info about a novelist, non-fiction author, poet or song writer.

Fill in the blanks a a game console at the American Writers Museum. Jodie Jacob s photo
Fill in the blanks a a game console at the American Writers Museum. Jodie Jacob s photo

Look for the room with a game console where one or two players can  guess what words should fill in the blanks of a famed piece of literature.

Then go to the Readers Hall, an open space where talks are given but also where visitors can vote for their favorite books and authors.

Another fun space has the Featured Works Table where you tap a symbol on a ribbon and it will move over to you to tell you about its genre, author or work.

Or walk along a 60-foot wall that gives examples of literary works beginning back with Native American lore.

Wall of literary history at American Writers.Jodie Jacobs photo
Wall of literary history at American Writers.Jodie Jacobs photo

Create your own literary work in the Story of the Day room. Do it the old-fashioned way with pencil and paper or typewriter, or you can use digital media. Post it on the wall, take it home or add it online to the museum’s “story of the day.”

Want to get into a groove to write? There is “Anatomy of a Masterwork,” a wall that includes such author work habits as have a cigarette, get a drink, etc. But you can touch screens that make sense to you.

Do stop at the Children’s Literature Gallery.  It is likely to remind you of books read or books you read to your children. The artwork is gorgeous. There is a place to read or come back for an author story-time.

Children's books and pictures might encourage young readers to write their own stories. Jodie Jacobs photo
Children’s books and pictures might encourage young readers to write their own stories. Jodie Jacobs photo

Before leaving, look at the map that shows what authors live near you.

The museum is small but absorbing the information in its exhibits and doing the interactive stations could take half a day.

BTW, you might even bump into a writer while there.

On a recent visit to check out the museum, award-winning author Francine Pappadis Friedman who had been wandering through the rooms, took time to chat.

“I’m so impressed by the AWM’s beautiful layout with so many interesting and fun interactive exhibits,” Friedman said.

“The tables were turned: as a writer and former English and journalism teacher, I was the one who learned so much  about many authors—some of whom were “new” to me—just by visiting the museum.

Of the spaces that spoke to her, one particular one stood out.

“One of my favorite sections was The Writer’s Room, a rotating gallery that will highlight the lives and works of American authors.  The current author that is highlighted is Jack Kerouac, with his phenomenal manuscript’s scroll on display, “ she said.

Friedman believes the AWM will be a destination. “I’ve already mentioned it to many of my friends, and we’re getting our calendars out and making plans to visit it.”

Details: American Writers Museum, opening May 16, 2017, is at 180 N. Michigan Ave., Second Floor, Chicago, IL 60601. For admission, hours and other information call (312) 374-8790  and visit American Writers Museum

 

 

Old-fashioned romance makes a nice break from serious messages

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

With so many reality, edgy plays pricking the conscience of today’s highly  news-aware theater-goers, an old-fashioned, enchanting boy-girl attraction can become a refreshing change.

Georg Nowack (Alex Goodrich), Ladislav Sipos (James Earl Jones II) and Mr. Maraczek (Terry Hamilton) in "She Loves Me" at Marriott Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren
Georg Nowack (Alex Goodrich), Ladislav Sipos (James Earl Jones II) and Mr. Maraczek (Terry Hamilton) in “She Loves Me” at Marriott Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren

Luckily, Marriott Lead Artistic director Aaron Thielen recognized the need by bringing composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick’s and writer Joe Masteroff’s delightful 1963 musical,  ‘She Loves Me,’ to this Lincolnshire theatre.

The plot: two people fall in love with each other through letters and later find out that their correspondents are people they know and don’t think they like.

That story line has been too good not to repeat in different forms over the years. Think “The Shop Around the Corner,” “In the Good Old Summertime” and more recently, “You’ve Got Mail.” Read More

Who can be trusted when there are ‘Objects in the Mirror?’

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If you paint over a color you lived with for years would you be able to forget the original, familiar shade? What about your identity? If you identify your name with your family, could you comfortably give it up and adopt a different name and identity?

Luopu Workolo (Lily Mojekwu) makes son Shedrick Kennedy Yakpai (Daniel Kyri) promise to do whatever necessary to survive as he leaves Liberia for a safe country. Photo by Liz Lauren
Luopu Workolo (Lily Mojekwu) makes son Shedrick Kennedy Yakpai (Daniel Kyri) promise to do whatever necessary to survive as he leaves Liberia for a safe country. Photo by Liz Lauren

In ‘Objects in the Mirror’ now at Goodman Theatre, Shedrick Kennedy Yarkpai,  a young  man who escaped to Australia from war-torn Liberia with his uncle John Workolo’s family, had to leave his mother,  Luopu Workolo, and adopt his dead cousin Zaza’s name so that his uncle could use his name for another family member who also needed papers.

The name change haunts Shedrick throughout the play.

Read More

Glorious voices do justice to Lerner and Loewe music and lyrics

 

RECOMMENDED

The wonderfully lyrical songs and the delightfully fun numbers in Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s ‘My Fair Lady’ plus the gorgeous voice of Lisa O’Hare as Eliza Doolittle and Anthony Powell’s costumes are reasons enough to see the Lyric’s show.

Eliza Doolittle (Lisa O'Hare) and Mrs. Higgins (Helen Carey) and cast at Ascot. Todd Rosenberg Photography
Eliza Doolittle (Lisa O’Hare) and Mrs. Higgins (Helen Carey) and cast at Ascot. Todd Rosenberg Photography

Bryce Pinkham who played  Monty Navarro on Broadway in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” was a treat to hear as he sang “On the Street Where You Live” as Freddy Eynsford Hill. So was the ensemble, many of whom either hailed from the Lyric Opera Chorus or past Lyric operas.

Powell’s period costumes made exceptional fashion statements that defined the characters.

The voices, music, lyrics and the story based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” make up for some of the production’s deficiencies.

Richard E. Grant as Henry Higgins appears unaccountably childish, particularly when he waves his arms about in his mother’s home and when back at his office.

In addition, the acts don’t flow well. There is a what-are-we-supposed–to-do-now moment when Eliza visits her father after she has become a lady, and the excellent dancers in Alfred Doolittle’s drunken pre-marriage morning scene move in a way more appropriate for a Parisian Apache street then one in London.

Eliza appears dressed for the ball with Henry Higgins (Richard E. Grant) at his desk and Colonel Pickering (Nicholas Le Prevost) standing. Todd Rosenberg Photography
Eliza appears dressed for the ball with Henry Higgins (Richard E. Grant) at his desk and Colonel Pickering (Nicholas Le Prevost) standing. Todd Rosenberg Photography

Set Designer Tim Hatley’s Ascot scene, shown first in silhouette, perfectly emulated the stiff, no emotion can be shown, restraint expected of the British upper class and O’Hare was grandly shocking in her close encounter with the race and Mrs. Higgins friends.

However, that same stiffness seemed to pervade the production except for Hill’s song and when Eliza encounters him outside Henry Higgens home.

The music, conducted by Broadway veteran David Chase, reminded audiences why “My Fair Lady” continues to be a draw more than 60 years after it debuted.

Directed by Olivier Fredj, the Lyric’s show is the Robert Carsen production for Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet starring a new cast.

Details: ‘My Fair Lady’ is at the Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, April 28 through May 21, 2017. For tickets and other information call (312) 827-5600 or visit My Fair Lady.

 

Old is new again in refreshed ‘Chicago’

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

It was a very appreciative audience, some dressed as flappers, who packed the house opening night of “Chicago” at Drury Lane Oak Brook.

Alena Watters (Velman Kelly) and ensemble in 'Chicago' at Drury Lane Theatre, photo by Brett Beiner
Alena Watters (Velman Kelly) and ensemble in ‘Chicago’ at Drury Lane Theatre, photo by Brett Beiner

The Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb script with music by John Kander is iconic due in no small part to its signature song “All that Jazz.”

This new production is fresh and energetic with a set worthy of a full-fledged Broadway production. The costumes (or lack thereof) were tastefully sensuous with no hint of vulgarity.  Every performance was spot on and the choreography of Jane Lanier was an entertaining mix of classic Fosse with a hint of Busby Berkeley.

It’s hard to explain how a story line that follows the escapades of a number of imprisoned female murderers plotting their strategies to elude prosecution can be so amusing. However this dark subject matter manages to find humor in the abject cynicism of the characters and the media’s interest in salacious subject matter.

The two co-equal leading ladies Alena Watters (as Velma Kelly) and Kelly Fethous (as Roxie Hart) are smitten with the idea of parlaying their infamy as murderesses into bankable fame on the vaudeville stage upon their seemingly inevitable acquittals.

Velma and Roxie’s certainty of release is based on the flawless record of their attorney one Billy Flynn skillfully played by Guy Lockhard.

Cast of 'Chicago' at Drury Lane Theatre, photo by Brett Beiner
Cast of ‘Chicago’ at Drury Lane Theatre, photo by Brett Beiner

These three characters drive the story aided by Matron Mama Morton (E. Faye Butler) and Roxie’s pathetic husband Amos Hart (Justin Brill) who interject a good deal of humor, notably Amos’ song “Mr. Cellophane” and a charming duet, “Class” by Velma and Mama Morton.

The character of Mary Sunshine (J. London) is also delightful as is her solo “A Little Bit of Good” dynamically sung in an operatic style.

The action takes place in the 1920’s, so suitably, the play’s style harkens back to productions from that era.

It is more of a musical revue based around a loose storyline, rather than a more traditional play that utilizes songs to further the plot – – which is the formula of modern American Musicals of the post WWII era

In this way the production is closer in style to George Cohan than Rodgers and Hammerstein while the overall mood is reminiscent of ‘ Cabaret’ and ‘A Three Penny Opera.’

‘Chicago’ is a fun evening, suggested as appropriate for children 13 and older.

Details: ‘Chicago’  is at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL now through June 18, 2017.  For tickets and other information call (630) 530-0111 and visit Drury Lane.

By Reno Lovison

(Guest reviewer Reno Lovison produces business videos. His interest in theater began very young. He studied with the Jack & Jill Players Children Theater and earned his Equity Card appearing in several professional Chicago productions at the Goodman Theatre, Mill Run, Melody Top and Ivanhoe. Reno does content writing, blogging and business articles and has authored two non-fiction books. See business video at Renoweb.)