Massive Leonard Bernstein ‘Mass’ comes to Ravinia

Ravinia Festival (Jodie Jacobs photo)
Ravinia Festival (Jodie Jacobs photo)

Several orchestral works by Leonard Bernstein, the composer popularly known in musical theater circles for “West Side Story” can be heard at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park as part of a world-wide celebration of the 100 birthday of this musical genius (Aug. 25-1918-Oct. 14, 1990).

On the Ravinia schedule is “Mass,”commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy for the 1971 opening of the Kennedy Center. The work will now be making its CSO and Ravinia debut with a star-studded cast, July 28, 2018.

When the Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrated Bernstein’s birthday with his one-act opera, “Trouble in Tahiti” plus other vocal works, March 10 this year, Lyric Dramaturg Roger Pines said during a phone interview, “I think it will be revelatory.”

The same will undoubtedly be true of “Mass.”

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For summer fun do Taste of Chicago or Windy City Smokeout and Pitchfork or Lollapalooza

 

In Chicago, food and music just go together. Ergo, no surprise that two big food festivals also feature bands and two mega music festivals include food vendors. Even a free summer jazz series is steps away from a slew of food counters and restaurants.

 

Taste of Chicago shows off some of Chicago's best eats. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)
Taste of Chicago shows off some of Chicago’s best eats. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)

Taste of Chicago

Diet after Labor Day. Head over to Grant Park July 11-15, 2018, to taste more than 70 restaurant favorites that have made Chicago  a foodie town. The festival is free but tasting is by tickets. They are sold in strips of 14 for $10 (expect a $3 charge for Taste amenities). Also available are 1-6 tickets for smaller “Taste of Portions” from each food vendor. Look for pop-up restaurants, food trucks and five-day regular booths. New this year is the Taste Oasis tent, a cool AC place in the park’s Butler Field to hang out and taste. Taste Oasis is $50 for the day you choose.

Get a discount by visiting a participating restaurant before Taste begins.. See Taste of Chicago discount info. For hours, map and guides to all the Taste-Of activities visit City of Chicago/Taste update.

 

Windy City Smokeout

Great a great mix of country music and food at the Windy City Smokeout,  July 13-15, 2018. The event stretches between Grand Avenue and the Chicago River. What to expect: barbeque flavors and styles from all over including Nashville and Chicago plus such folks as Renee Blair and Brett Young. For tickets, hours and other info go to Windy City Smokeout.

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‘Waitress’ makes a tasty Chicago pie

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L to R, Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the national tour of Waitress The Musical now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago (Photos by Joan Marcus)
L to R, Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the national tour of Waitress The Musical now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago (Photos by Joan Marcus).

It would have been a terrific add-on when “Waitress” opened at the Cadillac Palace Theatre July 3 to have had some of Jenna’s recipes along with the pocket pies now traditionally sold during the shows national tour.

Because when waitress/cum/pie expert Jennna  (Desi Oakly) encounters an obstacle or interesting situation she tailors a pie to match with ingredients ranging from luscious dark chocolate and exotic spices to strange vegetables and items likely not found in a grocery store.

At small-town Joe’s Diner where she bakes and waits tables, there are plenty of pie-inspiring people and situations from what to enter in a pie contest and what to make for her ob-gyn appointments with Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkhart) to what will de-stress her when dealing with her abusive husband Earl (Nick Bailey).

The Diner’s trio of waitresses, Jenna, gospel-singer-style Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) and shy, nervous Dawn (Lenne Klingaman)  carry the show with their personalities, the unexpected ways they each tie up with a lover and the songs and ways they support each other. Read More

“Support Group For Men” makes a good onetime sitcom

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A yoga style exercise helps the guys in Support Group For Men at Goodman Theatre. )Photo by Liz Lauren)
A yoga style exercise helps the guys in Support Group For Men at Goodman Theatre. )Photo by Liz Lauren)

Whether you like “Support Group for Men,” a new play by Ellen Fairey, author of the highly successful “Graceland” and “Girl 20,”may depend on how you feel about comical TV sitcoms that are funny because they reveal underlying insecurities. No stranger to television, Fairey was a writer/producer on “Nurse Jackie and is executive co-producer of “The Sinner.”

Fairey’s play artificially brings together four ethnically and culturally diverse guys who encourage each other to reveal their problems and thoughts during their weekly Thursday night get together. Some of them are finding it hard to keep up with or adjust to all the changing movements and attitudes.

The facilitators are a fraternity-like ritual with supposedly American Indian tribal overtones and a bat they call a stick covered with supposedly native-American decorations.

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Three Fourth festival celebration ideas

Capitol Fourth on PBS (Shot from cameras throughout the DC area compliments of Capitol Fourth)
Capitol Fourth on PBS (Shot from cameras throughout the DC area compliments of Capitol Fourth)

How do you like to celebrate Independence Day? If in the Chicago area and looking for really spectacular fireworks, you are likely to find none better than the Aon Summer Fireworks’ July Fourth show at Navy Pier. You can make it an all-day Pier experience or go out on a boat to watch.

If you like the idea of saluting US troops, love entertainment and enjoy a good fireworks show but don’t want to deal with crowds or transportation concerns, there is a really good, gather-round-the-TV option.

 

Navy Pier

The fireworks are spectacular and Navy Pier is a fun destination with good skyline views, its famous  Centennial Wheel, games, shops, restaurants and entertainment in the Miller Lite Beer Garden.

The Pier does fill to capacity on the Fourth so go early. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the Fourth. Gates actually close when the pier is filled. but guests with advance tickets for shows or restaurants will be allowed on. See the Capacity and Transportation categories at Navy Pier.

Take advantage of public transportation  or the Pier’s free trolley service.  Offsite parking is cheaper than the Pier’s garages. In addition check the holiday’s Code of Conduct on the same site. For instance, no pets are allowed except service dogs because of the crowds.

Mercury Cruises will be doing a 3D fireworks event for July Fourth. (Leading Lady photo by Mercury Cruises)
Mercury Cruises will be doing a 3D fireworks event for July Fourth. (Leading Lady photo by Mercury Cruises)

Mercury Cruises

Watch the fireworks with 3D glasses aboard a Mercury Cruises boat. Mercury is hosting a 2. 5 hour lakefront, skyline tour that includes Chicago’s spectacular fireworks show off Navy Pier. Guests will be given 3D glasses to enhance the fireworks experience.

The cost, $64 adults and $49 children under age 15,  includes the cruise, treats and glasses. The cruise leaves at 8 p.m. to tour the lakefront. Fireworks are at 9:30. For tickets and dock location and information visit Mercury Cruises.

Capitol Fourth

Watch the country’s annual Capitol Fourth celebration that is broadcast live from the West Lawn. On PBS from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET, the celebration  honors the men and women in uniform and their families with a star-studded concert, then presents Washingtin D.C.’s fireworks.

Four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano Renee Fleming will be singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel,” John Williams be on video on the 40th anniversary of “Superman” and there will be a tribute to the Beach Boys.

Also featured are music legend Jimmy Buffett with the “Escape to Margaritaville cast, three-time Grammy Award-winning  Pentatonix, pop siner/songwriter Andy Grammer, legendary actress/singer/dancer Chita Rivera, Motown stars The Temptations and multi-platinum country music star Luke Combs.

In addition,  the amazing lineup also includes, Gospel singer CeCe Winans, Grammy-winning violinist Joshua Bell, The Voice season finalist Kyla Jade and the National Symphony Orchestra led by pops conductor Jack Everly.

The celebrations is funded by grants fromn The Boeing Company, the National Park Service, the Department of the army and by the  Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.

Enjoy, celebrate and be safe.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Taking on a roommate can be life changing

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Sandra Marquez (Sharon) l, and Ora Jones (Robyn) in The Roommate st Steppenwolf (Photos by Michael Brosilow)
Sandra Marquez (Sharon) l, and Ora Jones (Robyn) in The Roommate st Steppenwolf (Photos by Michael Brosilow)

What can happen when a lonely, middle-aged woman takes in a roommate for companionship and to share expenses?

In playwright Jen Silverman’s “The Roommate,” now at Steppenwolf Theatre, the answers are surprising and problematic.

Adeptly directed by Phylicia Rashad to achieve the highest impact possible during the 90 minute show, “The Roommate” transforms Sharon, an uptight, judgmental, highly moral, 50-something, empty-nester into an amoral woman willing to try anything.

The setting, perfectly depicted by scenic designer John Lacovelli, is Sharon’s kitchen in her large, old Iowa City home.

The catalyst for change is Robyn, another 50-something empty-nester from the Bronx, who, in photography terms, turns out to be the negative of Sharon.

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Delightful Cher musical almost ready for Broadway

 

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Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. block and Micaela Diamond in The Cher Show at Broadway inCchicago's Oriental theatre. (Photo by Joan Marchus)
Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. block and Micaela Diamond in The Cher Show at Broadway inCchicago’s Oriental theatre. (Photo by Joan Marchus)

Cher, born Cherilyn Sarkisian on May 20, 1946 to Georgia Holt and John Sarkisian, also carries the names La Piere (step dad) Bono (husband) Allman (husband). Theater audiences will understand that those names are important in her life when they see “The Cher Show,” a new musical now at the Oriental Theatre.

Sarkisian left after she was born but his genes gave Cher her distinctive coloring and facial features. Her mom was fair skinned and blond.

Sonny Bono gave Cher stage presence and love when she was a teenager, several of her songs,  son Chaz Bono and pushed her into television. Gregg Allman gave her companionship and unconditional love and son Elijah blue.

However, what audiences learn as “The Cher Show” plays out in its pre-Broadway tryout, is that mom was always there for her, that Bono, while married to Cher, totally took charge of her career, made a lot of money from it and left her with nothing. They also learn that she had a rocky marriage to Allman, a famed singer, song-writer, musician.

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‘Flesh’ exhibit at Art Institute of Chicago explores Ivan Albright

Ivan Albright. Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943/44. Gift of Ivan Albright. © The Art Institute of Chicago.
Ivan Albright. Picture of Dorian Gray, 1943/44. Gift of Ivan Albright. © The Art Institute of Chicago.

No one looked at the aging process of the human body quite like Chicago artist Ivan Albright (1897–1983). His obsession with the body’s physical decay earned him the well-deserved title, “master of the macabre.”

The Art Institute of Chicago has curated more than 30 Albright in a retrospective called “Flesh,” now showing through August 5, 2018.

Based on Albright’s 1928 “Flesh,” the exhibit covers many of his paintings. They demonstrated every wrinkle, boil and fold of human skin, equally depicting unflattering portraits of men and women.

Albright’s process was painstaking and labored, often taking him many years to complete a work. Some paintings he just gave up on to pursue other projects.

“That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door),” considered his most important work, is a prime example of a painting that took him ten years. But it leaves us with an acknowledgement of life’s brevity and the road often not taken.

Former Indiana University faculty member, Jerry Findley, PhD, said, “This work focuses on moments that humanity finds hard to address –  about regrets and the human experience.”

Albright’s portrayal of the body’s decay led him to his most important commission – painting The Picture of Dorian Gray for the 1945 film of Oscar Wilde’s haunting novel. This hideous, well-detailed portrait captures the essence of Wilde’s “Gray” as he descends into madness.

“The works they selected were excellent choices of Albright’s depiction of flesh of the human body… the vulnerability of time that overtakes all of humanity,” said Findley.

In exploring “the way of all flesh” throughout his career, Albright purposefully pushes the envelope of decency to shock his viewers.

“Flesh” is at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, through Aug. 5, 2018.  For more admission and other information, call (312) 443-3600 and visit AIC/IvanAlbright.

Mira Temkin

 

 

Go to an art fair to visit Chicago area destinations and towns

 

Bloomington, IN Artist Kwang Cha Brown who exhibits throughout the US will be at several Chicago area shows this summer. (Jodie Jacobs photo)
Bloomington, IN Artist Kwang Cha Brown who exhibits throughout the US will be at several Chicago area shows this summer. (Jodie Jacobs photos)

Sometimes it’s nice to know that an artist whose work you admired at one art fair will also be showing at others during the summer so you get another chance to pick up a piece you liked.

Such is true if attending the Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival. When paintings, sculptures and other art fill the garden’s Esplande area June 30-July 1, visitors can view works by some of the same fine artists who exhibited downtown Highland Park in The Art Center’s Festival of Fine Arts June 23-24, including that of Kwang Cha Brown and Roy and Vivian Rodriguez. The art festival runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.

The Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, is a great summer destination.

Recommendations for the rest of July

The works of Roy and Vivian Rodriguez can be seen at several Chicago area art festivals.
The works of Roy and Vivian Rodriguez can be seen at several Chicago area art festivals.

 

July 6-8: Millennium Art Festival

If downtown Chicago this weekend, check out the art festival on Michigan Avenue at Lake Street. Hours: Firday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday6 10 a.m.-5 p.m.. For more information visit Amdur Productions.

July 14-15 Southport Art Festival

Visit the Southport neighb orhood to stroll the art booths on Southport Avenue from Waveland Avenue to Grace Street. Hours: Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.. For more information visit Star Events.

July 28-29: Geneva Fine Arts Fair and Glencoe Festival of Art

Travel west of chicago to Geneva, a charming, historic town of good restaurants and boutiques to see art downtown centered at Third Street. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. both days. For more information visit EmEvents.

Or go north to the lake shore suburb of Glencoe where the booths will also line the downtown centered at Vernon and Park Streets. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. both days. For more information visit Amdur Productions.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple Elegance of ‘Pink Orchids’ at Chicago’s Pride Center

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Originally presented as “The HIV Monologues” by Dragonflies Theatre, London in 2017, this production renamed “Pink Orchids” at The Buena, Pride Arts Center  is five soliloquies presented by  four different actors intertwined to tell one connected story.

Barney (Nick Dorado) is producing a semi-autobiographical play about his lover who died of aids.

Alex wins the coveted role, assuring Barney that he is sympathetic to the challenges by claiming his support for his own HIV-positive lover, Nick (Don Baiocchi).

In reality, at that moment, Nick is merely a passing acquaintance who Alex tried to ditch once he found out about Nick’s positive status.

Irene (Kathleen Puls Andrade) is a nurse who cared for Barney’s lover. She gives witness to the story of his humanity, humor, and pathos while in the process of losing his struggle with the dreaded disease.

The performance is a bit like a storytelling “slam” a la the “Moth,” where individuals tell well-crafted, entertaining but often heart rending personal tales.

Each vignette was skillfully written by Patrick Cash and directed by Brennan T. Jones.  Both the writer and director were obviously cognizant of the need to keep this subject matter from becoming too dark.

While humorous at times, it is not a joke. Rather, it is a sincere portrayal of a serious fact of life for a considerable number of individuals who contend daily with an inescapable reality.

Each character is a distinctive personality type and each actor makes a point of connecting personally with the audience in this very intimate space.

The simple set by Evan Frank cleverly consists of a series of hanging shelves with a variety of mementos alluded to during the various sketches including a couple of bags of crisps, a plate of mini-cupcakes, a few photos and a number of potted pink orchids.

Produced by Pride Films and Plays, this well-performed presentation is part of the Pride Arts Center Summer Pride Fest.

DETAILS: “Pink Orchids” is at The Buena at Pride Arts Center  4147 N. Broadway, Chicago, through July 7. Running time: about 80 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information call (866) 811-4111 or (773) 857-0222 or visit Pride Films and Plays.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago