Around Town finds art events and Jane Eyre this week

2018 Arts in the Dark lit up State Street with costumed performers. (Arts in the Dark photo)

There is so much going on in and around Chicago that it is easy to miss something good.

Here are just a few of the fun things to do this week.

See “Jane Eyre,” The Joffrey Ballet’s production. It opens Oct. 16 at the Auditorium Theatre (at Roosevelt University) 50 E. Ida b wells drive (Former Congress parkway). For tickets and other information visit Joffrey.

Find art for you house while The Art Center holds its annual Recycled Art Sale. Works have been donated by private individuals and corporations so TAC can raise funds for its classes and exhibitions. The art work is offered at a fraction of its market cost. General Admission Benefit tickets for Oct. 18 are $85. The rest of the weekend is $5. But check TheArtCenter for more information. TAC is at 1957 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park.

Go downtown Oct. 19 to State Street for Arts in the Dark Halloween Parade. It runs from 6 to 8 p.m. starting at Lake Street on the north and continues south to Van Buren Street. It’s theme honors “Year of Chicago Theatre” so the parade features several theater companies and other groups such as The Joffrey Ballet. Visit Arts in the Dark.

Visit Intuit, the Outsider Art Museum Friday night from 6 to 9 p.m. because museum officials understand it is hard to fit in a visit during the day. The museum is at 756 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.  For all extended hours see IntuitArt.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

‘Sunset Boulevard’ starts Porchlight season with Hollywood flair

 

 (L to R) Hollis Resnik as Norma Desmond and Billy Rude as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard at Porchlight Music Theatre .(Photo by Michael Courier )
(L to R) Hollis Resnik as Norma Desmond and Billy Rude as Joe Gillis in
Sunset Boulevard at Porchlight Music Theatre .(Photo by Michael Courier )

3 1/2 stars

Popular Chicago stage veteran Hollis Resnik has joined such leading ladies as Glenn Close and Patti LuPone to inhabit the delusional figure of Norma Desmond in the musical version of “Sunset Boulevard.”

Resnik does so with such believability and panache as to make viewers wonder if she is able to shed the role when leaving Porchlight Music Theatre each night.

A 1993 Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, the stage show is based on a 1950 Billy Wilder film noir about a one-time silent screen star desperate for a comeback.

Her unwitting victim is Joe Gillis (Billy Rude), a struggling Hollywood movie writer who needs the script rewrite job Desmond offers so he can pay off his car loan.

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Verdi romantic revenge opera at Lyric

 

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

4 stars

Love, lust, and quest for power lead to despair and death in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Luisa Miller,” directed by Francesca Zambello at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The seemingly outlandish story based on the play “Kabale und Liebe” (Intrigue and Love) by Friedrich von Schiller, none-the-less may resonate with modern audiences familiar with such television programs as “American Greed” and “Dateline” that often have devious plots designed and perpetrated by individuals to preserve financial power or exert influence over those they purport to love.

In this case, Rudolfo (Joseph Calleja), the son of Count Walter (Christian Van Horn) falls in love with the peasant girl, Luisa Miller, (Krassimira Stoyanova). However, Count Walter’s aide-de-camp, Wurm, (Soloman Howard) also has designs on the local beauty resulting in love triangle number one.

Luisa’s father (Quinn Kelsey) feels there is something odd about Rudolfo who has been hanging around the village under the pseudo name Carlo.

Meanwhile, knowing that the Count was planning to wed his son to the local Duchess Federica (Alisa Kolosova) who has just inherited a fortune after her father’s death, tattletale Wurm tells Count Walter how Rudolfo has fallen in love with a common village girl.

The alliance between Rudolfo and Federica would increase the power and influence of the family, and secure his son’s future, resulting in love triangle number two.

The Count orders his son to marry Federica while Wurm imprisons Luisa’s fathe. Then coerces her into signing a declaration stating that she never loved Rudolfo but instead loves Wurm in order to gain her father’s release and save him from death.

In her despair, she begins to write a letter to Rudolfo suggesting that he meet her at midnight when the two will die together rather than submit to the unhappy fate that has been thrust upon them.

Finding the letter, Luisa’s father,  persuades her that in the morning the two of them will simply leave town together because the death of his daughter, and seemingly only offspring, would cause him too much anguish.

During the night while her father is asleep, Rudolfo comes to Luisa whom he tricks into drinking poison. He has taken it as well out of revenge for her recanting her love. Thus is the murder suicide that actually fulfills Luisa’s original plan for them.

The couple reconciles and Rudolfo manages to curse his father and mortally shoot Wurm before the poison takes its full effect.

There is little to say about the spectacular quality of the entire ensemble except to add that Stoyanova as Luisa delivers at every opportunity.

Perhaps part of the popularity of Verdi operas is that they are very accessible to the general public because the music is not overly complex. Though this opera does not have any of the popular famous arias such as “La donna e mobile” or “Celesta Aida,” it follows musical lines that are familiar to the ear.

If you are a lover of mid-century American musicals, I think you will find the structure of Verdi’s operas to have a familiar form.

Reflective of opera’s romantic period which introduces more theatricality into the productions, we can enjoy how the composer uses what have become traditional musical dynamics to convey the emotions of the characters in their over-the-top dramatic situations.

For the singers in this production, it is something of an athletic event as they have very little rest and are seemingly on stage all of the time. They are often performing complex imbroglios that at times seem akin to a wrestling match or singing competition.

It has been said that Verdi hoped to break out of the imposed traditional operatic format that for instance dictated that the production begin with a chorus number.

Interestingly, it was my impression that the opening of “Luisa Miller,” though entertaining and important in terms of setting the context and introducing the characters, has an obligatory quality that seems out of place when compared to the more intimate aspects of the rest of the production.

Perhaps, like the audiences in Verdi’s day, we might feel cheated if we did not have an opportunity to hear, in this case, the exceptional Lyric Chorus. They do appear again but actually each time it seems a bit out-of-step with the story.

Of course part of the reason to visit Lyric Opera Chicago is the opportunity to experience their fine orchestra conducted by Enrique Mazzola and led by Music Director Sir Andrew Davis. It is possible that the overture alone is worth the price of admission.

The scenery, painting, construction design and costumes used in this production are the property of the San Francisco Opera.

The primary scenic element, a large painting suspended from a crane in front of a curved panoramic modular background has an overall post-modern quality even though it is in a muted-toned, 19th century pastoral landscape style.

A standout for the costume department was a dramatic profusion of red riding apparel for the equestrian scene as well as the variation on a theme of green uniforms provided to the gentlemen of Count Walter’s court.

Details: “Luisa Miller” is at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago through Oct.31, 2019. Running time is about 2 hours 45 minutes with one intermission. For tickets or other information call  (312) 827-5600 or visit  lyricopera.org/Luisa .

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

Zoo animals take over Marriott stage in a musical Madagascar adventure

A zebra, giraffe, hippo and lion escape from a NYC zoo in Madagascar A Musical Adventure at Marriott Theatre. (Photos courtesy of Marriott theatre)
A zebra, giraffe, hippo and lion escape from a NYC zoo in Madagascar A Musical Adventure at Marriott Theatre. (Photos courtesy of Marriott Theatre)

3 stars

if you were an animal in a zoo, what would you would wish for as you blew out candles on your birthday cake?

Marty the zebra, charmingly portrayed by Ron King, wanted to leave New York’s Central Park Zoo to return to the wild. But he wasn’t the only one. A handful of like-minded penguins also pined for their icy climes.

And so, Marty, accompanied by his friends who don’t want him to go alone, Alex the lion, Gloria the hippo and Melman, a hypochondriac  giraffe, head out of Manhattan to find paradise in the  Marriott’ Children’s Theatre production of  “Madagascar – A Musical Adventure.”

Penguins and a lion escape a zoo in Madagascar A Musical Adventure at Marriott Theatre
Penguins and a lion escape a zoo in Madagascar A Musical Adventure at Marriott Theatre

The penguins also seem to end up there.

Based on DreamWorks’ animated film, Marriott’s stage version zips along in an easy-for- youngsters, sit-through hour filled with zany, fantasy fun.

The show’s sub-theme, that friends stick together, is enhanced by George Noriega and Joel Somellian’s score for the stage musical.

Liam Quealy as Alex, king of the zoo, is terrific as he hungers for steak but his roar also comes in handy as he scares away dangerous creatures where they land on Lemur King Julien’s side of Madagascar.

Directed by Johanna McKenzie Miller, the Marriott show features Jesus Perez’ wonderfully creative costumes and Sarah E. Ross’ terrific puppets.

The lemur king and his subjects live in Madagascar.

However, I wish the actors moving the penguins would remember they need to fade more into their puppets instead of the penguins fading into the actors. After all, kids love penguins.

Also, if ordering tickets, try not to sit where I did in the low number area of Section 2 because many of the characters will have their backs to you.

DETAILS: “Madagascar – A Musical Adventure” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, through Dec. 19, 2019. Running time: one hour. For tickets and other information visit Marriott Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

It takes an Ibsen to describe societal ills

 

Greg Matthew Anderson and Cher Álvarez in "A Doll's House" at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Greg Matthew Anderson and Cher Álvarez in “A Doll’s House” at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

‘A Doll’s House’

3 stars

Arguably, a play that has been cut down to some of its basic tenets and character features works for some audiences and with some scripts. However, the 95-minute, one-act Sandra Delgado-Michael Halberstam adaption of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House (also called “A Doll House”) now at Writers Theatre, left me yearning for the original, three-act play.

To me, what makes the adaption worth seeing is its superb acting and directing.

The show nicely fits into scenic designer Arnel Sancianco’s charming Victorian parlor in WT’s intimate Gillian Theatre. It brings the action so close to the audience that no characters’ telling facial expressions, nods and shoulder shrugs are missed.

Well helmed by Lavina Jadhwani, the characters’ body language is as important as what they are saying and not saying. Both those points are essential in this version because of the missing character development that is found in Ibsen’s original play.

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Around Town goes to two places for fall color and fun pumpkins

 

Fall at the Morton Arboretum. (Photo courtesy of MortonArb)
Fall at the Morton Arboretum. (Photo courtesy of MortonArb)

Of course visitors to the Morton Arboretum in Lisle and the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe would expect to see trees changing their summer colors to seasonal autumn rose, gold and bronze.

However, both popular Chicago area destinations also annually welcome fall with ales, pumpkins and more.

 

Glass pumpkins at the Morton Arboretum. (Photo courtesy of MortonArb)
Glass pumpkins at the Morton Arboretum. (Photo courtesy of MortonArb)

Morton Arboretum

Go this weekend to find hand-blown glass pumpkins. Art fair goers have been collecting these delicate pieces for the past few years but the Glass Pumpkin Patch that is going on now through Oct. 13, features about six thousand choices.

Or go Oct. 19 for the Cider and Ale Festival and toast the season.

On the spookier side, do the Troll Hunt which is still going on. These giant-sized,  artistically crafted, wooden creatures can be found through June 2020 but are a fitting addition to a season filled with other-world spirits. Sculpted by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, the trolls are supposed to protect the environment.

For more Morton Arboretum information visit Mortonarb/explore.

 

Walk among fun, interesting, spooky Jack-o-Lanterns at the Chicago Botanic Garden. (Photo courtesy of ChicagoBotanic)
Walk among fun, interesting, spooky Jack-o-Lanterns at the Chicago Botanic Garden. (Photo courtesy of ChicagoBotanic)

Chicago Botanic Garden

Go tonight, Oct. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. to hoist a beer to welcome fall.

Put a fun costume on your dog and you can also dress-up to if you go Oct. 13 for a Spooky Pooch Parade from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. This is the only time dogs (except support dogs) are allowed in the

Or go one evening when 1,000 spooky Jack-o-Lanterns light garden paths and patches from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. select nights from Oct. 16 to 27.

For more Chicago Botanic Garden information see Chicagobotanic/visit.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

A memorable mid-century musicale

Cast of Lerner and Loewe. (Photo by Brett Beiner)
Cast of Lerner and Loewe. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

3 stars

Music Theater Works presents the clever lyrics and memorable mid-century melodies of Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe in “Lerner and Loewe’s Greatest Hits” at Evanston’s Nichols Concert Hall.

Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller with musical director Linda Madonia the show is an enjoyable trip down memory lane. It starts in the Highlands of Scotland, goes over the bumpy trails of the American West then travels through the streets of London, the salons of Paris and ends up in the woods and palaces of historic old England.

This cabaret style performance begins with the ensemble of Samantha Behen, Alicia Berneche, Billy Dawson and Martin L. Woods harmonizing to the theme from the far off sleepy village of “Brigadoon” which rising from the Scottish mist, awakens once every one hundred years.

Songs include “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean” featuring tenor Dawson, “Almost Like Being in Love” and “Heather on the Hill.”

Part one continues before a fifteen minute intermission with selections from the Western themed “Paint Your Wagon” with Woods’ powerful baritone rendition of “They Call the Wind Maria” and an ensemble version of “Wand’rin’ Star.”

The production continues in Part Two with perhaps Lerner and Loewe’s most successful musical, “My Fair Lady,” in which virtually every song was a hit.

The audience enjoyed hearing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” and the insomniac favorite “I Could Have Danced All Night” belted out by the soprano, Berneche.

The story of  “Gigi” deals with love and romance in a most Parisian way and includes a nod to mature romance in songs like “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” and  “I Remember it Well,” charmingly performed by Berneche and Woods.

He opens the final segment with Lancelot’s self-aggrandizing “C’est Moi” from “Camelot” that tells the story of a brief and shining moment from the legendary court of Arthur.

Behan as the ingénue gets a few slightly bawdy moments in “Lusty Month of May” before the emotional “Camelot” Finale Ultimo which I am certain brought the majority of this audience back to memories of a hopeful time in 1960 when the show premiered.

The singers are accompanied by Madonia (piano), Nina Saito (violin), Joseph Krzysiak (bass), and Joey Zymonas (drums).

Music Theater Works will end the 2019 season with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat opening Dec. 21, 2019.”

The company’s Founder/General Manager Bridget McDonough and Artistic Director Hogenmiller are retiring on New Year’s Eve this year. Hogenmiller has personally told me he intends to travel and relax.

Incoming Producing Artistic Director Kyle A. Dougan assumes management of MTW on Jan. 1, 2020 when the new season will include “Mamma Mia!,” “Ragtime” and “Billy Elliot.”

DETAILS: “Lerner and Loewe’s Greatest Hits” is at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL through Oct. 13, 2019. Running time: about 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and information call (847) 920-5360 or visit musictheaterworks.

Reno Lovison

Related: Top Leadership at Music Theater Works talk about the company they helmed and their retirement

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Seville barber starts Lyric season with a good chuckle

 

Adam Plachetka, Marianne Crebassa and Lawrence Brownlee in the Barber of Seville at the Lyric Opera House. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Adam Plachetka, Marianne Crebassa and Lawrence Brownlee in the Barber of Seville at the Lyric Opera House. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

3 ½ stars

What a joy to see and hear an opera that pokes fun at opera but does so using top tier voices and leads who know how to act.

And so Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its 2019-20 season with Gioachino Rossini’s  “The Barber of Seville,” a wildly popular opera buffa.

After first debuting as “Almaviva, o sia L’inutile precauzione” in 1816 in Rome, the opera took on the title of The Barber of Seville, or the Useless Precaution” with an Italian libretto by Cesare Sterbini that is based on the 1975 comedy in French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais’ trilogy.

Presented as a Rob Ashford production with a revival under the direction of Tara Faircloth, the scenes move from one delightful, chuckle moment to the next beginning with when Figaro has trouble getting rid of musicians asked to help Count Almaviva serenade the beautiful Rosina to when Almaviva and Rosina try to touch fingers in the balcony scene.

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An argument for women playing Shakespearean male leads

 

John Tufts (Edmond Rostand) and Terri McMahon (Sarah Bernhardt) in Bernhardt/Hamlet at Goodman theatre. (Liz Loren photo)
John Tufts (Edmond Rostand) and Terri McMahon (Sarah Bernhardt) in Bernhardt/Hamlet at Goodman Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)

3 stars

In “Bernhardt/Hamlet” now playing at Goodman Theatre, prolific playwright, screenwriter and novelist, Theresa Rebeck has pulled back the curtain on a real happening,  populated by real people. She colors it with witty, fictionalized dialogue in the first act.

Rebeck’s heroine, the incomparable French actress, Sarah Bernhardt, born Henriette-Rosine Bernard in 1844, had played Dumas’ “La Dame Aux Camelias,” which is repeatedly mentioned in the play as no longer a suitable role for an aging actress.

And she was in “L’Aiglon,” written by her lover, Edmond Rostand, a main character in “Bernhardt/Hamlet” played by John Tufts.

Just as important, is that Bernhard really did play male parts including Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which she preferred to Ophelia and Gertrude, and she did have to argue about those choices with the critics. But, after all, she was Bernhardt. By the way, her “L’Aiglon” role was as the Duc.

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‘Something Rotten’ turns Shakespeare Bottoms up

 

High-kicking, high-energy cast of Something Rotten at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)
High-kicking, high-energy cast of Something Rotten at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)

3 stars

It’s silly, It’s clever. It’s creative. It’s laugh-out-loud absurd

It’s “Something Rotten,” the 2015 Tony nominated musical with witty lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick and unusual book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell that is now making its regional debut at Marriott Theatre.

In 1595 England, show manager/ director Nick Bottom and his brother, playwright/poet Nigel, aren’t worried that something is rotten in Denmark. As their acting troupe fails to put on a successful show, they worry about financing, finding an original play idea and their inability to compete with William Shakespeare.

To set the character of the era, the opening number has the Minstrel (Jonathan Butler Duplessis) gloriously sing out, “Welcome to the Renaissance,” joined by a large company of dancers and singers. The era is also well set by Theresa Ham’s costumes

Something Rotten” moves from one fun musical number “God, I Hate Shakespeare” sung by the brothers and their troupe, to another – “Will Power” sung rock-concert style by Shakespeare and his ensemble of fans.Read More