‘Nevermore’ musical delves into the life of Poe

 

HIGHLY RECOMMEND

If you are a fan of macabre humor you will love this insight into Poe offered by Black Button Eyes Productions’ talented ensemble.

Cast of 'Nevermore' at The Edge Theater. The show runs through Jan. 28, 2018. Photo by Cole Simon.
Cast of ‘Nevermore’ at The Edge Theater. The show runs through Jan. 28, 2018. Photo by Cole Simon.

A musical written by Jonathan Christenson (book, music and lyrics) investigates the life of one of America’s favorite poets and novelists, purported to be the father of the modern detective mystery as well as a talented spinner of tales of horror and suspense.

Act One covers separation and death in the young boy’s life as well as his proximity to mental illness which together with an active imagination combined to create horrific visions and fantasies.

Act Two continues to explore the impact of his youthful experiences on his life and his work culminating in a suggestion of mystery surrounding his abrupt and unexplained demise.

Though the material is dark it is skillfully balanced by a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek humor that keeps it entertaining and fun.

The production is brilliantly cast. Each of the seven performers Kevin Webb as Edgar Allan Poe with Megan DeLay, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Ryan Lanning, Matt McNabb, Maiko Terazawa and Jeremy Trager could not be more perfect for their respective roles.

There is no competition on stage or mugging for the spotlight. Director, Ed Rutherford seems to have a clear vision that is well executed including important lighting (Liz Cooper) and sound effects (Robert Hornbostel). The surprise treatment of Poe’s great love “Sissy” is charming.

Music Director Nick Sula with the aid of his three piece band including synthesizer does an outstanding job setting and maintaining the fast pace that keeps the action moving.

If you are familiar with the works of Poe you cannot help but anticipate what they will do with his famous poem the “The Raven” which does not disappoint.

If you are a fan of vocal harmony you will love this score. Though lacking a real breakout number, Christenson’s music is very sophisticated and has a modern but slightly nostalgic feel that lends itself perfectly to the historic storyline.

Every performer has a beautiful voice – so much so that I would be willing to watch this as a concert without the splendid costumes of Beth Laske-Miller and campy choreography of Derek Van Barham.

The venue is super comfy with great sightlines and sound system operated by Kirstin Johnson was well modulated making the rapid musical dialogue easy to hear and understand.

This is a short run so get tickets before it can be seen “nevermore.”

DETAILS: Nevermore:  The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, is at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago through Jan. 28, 2018. For tickets and other information visit Black Button Eyes Productions.

Reno Lovison

Guest reviewer Reno Lovison is a proud alum of the Egdar Alan Poe Elementary School (K-5) in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood.

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.

 

Museums and celebrations offer quality ways to spend MLK Day

Many Chicago museums have free admission for MLK Day.
Many Chicago museums have free admission for MLK Day.

Fortunately when schools close for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, several Chicago museums answer the what-to-do question with free or discounted admission for Illinois residents. In addition, the Black Ensemble Theater and the Chicago Children’s Theatre also have programs.

Here are some places to spend quality time Jan. 15, 2018.

 

Museums

On Chicago’s Museum Campus, Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr., (312) 922-7827,  The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., (312) 922-9410 and the Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake shore Dr., (312) 939-2438, all have free general admission to Illinois residents. (Not included: all access to special exhibits).

At the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ryan Learning Center (entrance at the Modern Wing, 159 East Monroe St. is doing “Say it Loud” program of  story telling, arts and discussions from 10 :30 a.m. to 3 p.m. No registration needed. However, admission to the museum is also free that day for all Illinois residents as part Free Winter Weekdays, January 8–February 15, 2018.

The Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S Lake Shore Dr., (773) 684-1414, also has free general admission on Jan. 15 and is celebrating Black Creativity Family Day with special programs and art.

Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark Street (312) 642-4600, has free programs all day with free general admission to Illinois residents on MLK Day.

 

Theater

Chicago Children’s Theatre, 100 S. Racine Ave. at Monroe, has a free Martin Luther King Birthday party from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Black Ensemble Theater at 4450 North Clark St., celebrates “And still we rise,”  from 6 to 9 p.m. with programs by the African American Arts Alliance. Tickets are $20 and includes a reception.

 

 

 

Great Chicago events brighten winter

Four Chicago doings, call them the ABCDs, are here to chase away January gloom.

Winifred Godfrey 'Flowers' show is at Beverly Art Center
Winifred Godfrey ‘Flowers’ show is at Beverly Art Center

A is for an amazing art show of the works of homegrown, internationally known artist, Winifred Godfrey. Running from Jan. 14 through Feb. 25, 2018 at the Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Chicago, the show brightens the indoor landscape with her famed flowers. The opening reception is Jan. 14 from 2 to 4 p.m.. For more information call (773) 445-3838 and visit Beverly Art Center Events.

Chicago Boat Show is on now with lots of fun activities
Chicago Boat Show is on now with lots of fun activities

B stands for boat show. The annual Chicago Boat, RV and Sail Show is back in town. Held now through Jan. 14, 2018 at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, the show becomes a fun family day. There’s hands-on activities ranging from fishing and paddle sports to lessons, seminars and virtual reality experiences. For tickets and more information visit  Chicago Boat Show.

SketchFest is iStage 773's various spaces including the Pro. Stage 773 photo.
SketchFest is in Stage 773’s various spaces including the Pro. Stage 773 photo.

C banishes the doldrums with comedy. The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival returns to the city Jan. 11 through 21, 2018 at  Stage 773. The venue is a theater complex at 1225 W. Belmont Ave. What to expect: 130 shows by returning troupes and new artists. Among the highlights is “ The Future is Female: A discussion with women about the climate of Chicago comedy”, Jan. 20, 3 p.m. in the Thrust theater with panelists from The Second City, Susan Messing of Annoyance Theater and WGN Radio’s Patti Vasquez. For schedule, tickets and other information call (773) 327- 5252 and visit Chicago Sketch Fest. www.chicagosketchfest.com.

Writers Theatre in Glencoe Jodie Jacobs photo
Writers Theatre in Glencoe
Jodie Jacobs photo

D is for that important word “discount” because $10 and $15 or less tickets are now available for Chicago Theatre Week. The annual week when Chicago area production companies have tickets for their shows at special prices is Feb. 8 through Feb. 18, 2018. But tickets for shows that week went on sale Jan. 9 and they go quickly. To snag the show you want visit Chicago Theatre Week.  To see a list of all shows visit League of Chicago Theatres at Chicago Plays. https://chicagoplays.com

Enjoy!

Jodie Jacobs

Top Chicago area shows of 2017

 

Theatergoers in the Chicago area are blessed with more good shows then can be seen given normal time schedules of work and play. And given that people’s interests are as varied as the offerings from the area’s approximately 250 companies, one person’s idea of paradise may be someone’s purgatory.

So it’s OK to write in the comment space your favorite show of 2017 whether our reviewers included it here in our Chicago Theater and Arts’ list or not.

The shows listed here are by no means the only great productions mounted in 2017 by Chicago’s talented theater community. The list could easily extend to the top 10 or 20 shows. It was hard for reviewers to pick just one but several factors were taken into consideration. Now, let’s hear your choice.

JJ

 

Ragtime – The Griffin Theatre Company, Chicago

Last summer’s production of ‘Ragtime’ by Griffin Theatre provided audiences with a new take on the Tony Award-winning musical. This spectacular production featured new orchestrations of the play, performed with two pianos, a wind instrument and 20 actors. Created by director Scott Weinstein and music director Matt Deitchman, this All-American musical brought new perspectives on racism, immigration, social justice and other issues in a changing America, and literally, brought the house down!

Mira Temkin

'Silent Sky' at First Folio was a powerful play
‘Silent Sky’ at First Folio was a powerful play

 

Silent Sky – First Folio Theatre, Oak Brook

‘Silent Sky’ by Lauren Gunderson is a touching, true story of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, a historic but unsung astronomer at Harvard University’s observatory in the early 1900s who was never allowed to use a telescope. Leavitt was a “hidden figure” before the female African American human computers whose work made the early NASA space launches possible. In this production, both the cast and the faux sky sparkled brilliantly at First Folio Theatre on the Mayslake Peabody Estate. (The property is in a forest preserve in Oak Brook).

Pam McKuen

Sean Fortunato and Jacob Kaiser in 'Billy Elliott. Photo by Michael Courier
Sean Fortunato and Jacob Kaiser in ‘Billy Elliott. Photo by Michael Courier

 

Billy Elliot – Porchlight Theatre, Chicago

I love the story and music of ‘Billy Elliot’ and Porchlight really did
justice to it on a very intimate stage.

Reno Lovison

 

Fun Home –  Victory Gardens, Chicago

While I sat on the edge of my seat at the Victory Gardens Theater watching ‘Fun Home,’ I experienced a plethora of emotional family issues—from parent/child relationships and sibling interactions to growing up, coming out, and leaving one’s family on several levels.  That’s what set the stage for Fun Home, a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s  2006 personal, graphic novel of the same name. It was presented on a sparse stage that easily allowed the audience to focus on the family’s characters. And the show’s music, especially its finale “Flying Away,” brought the audience to its feet.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

Cast of 'Fun Home' at Victory Garden Theater. (Liz Lauren photo)
Cast of ‘Fun Home’ at Victory Garden Theater. (Liz Lauren photo)

 

The Book of Will –  Northlight Theatre, Skokie

In ‘The Book of Will,’ playwright Lauren Gunderson shows how an appreciation of William Shakespeare’s works by his players, friends and families likely led to the publication of the Bard’s works in the 1623 First Folio. Scholars and playgoers understand the importance of the First Folio but its significance is truly felt in the show’s last scene when brilliant staging brings it all together.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Classic ‘Peter Pan’ delights a whole new generation

RECOMMENDED

Every child who hears the words from the song, “I won’t grow up” can relate to Peter Pan who runs away from home so he doesn’t have to grow up.

Originally produced on Broadway in 1954, ‘Peter Pan’ has been a traditional favorite in its many incarnations on TV and the live stage throughout the years.

Peter Pan flies high at Music Theater Works in Evanston. Rich Foreman Phaotos
Peter Pan flies high at Music Theater Works in Evanston.
Rich Foreman Photos

Bring your children as well as your inner child to the Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) to see this wonderful production of ‘Peter Pan,’ now through Jan. 1, 2018.

This family classic includes the songs “I Gotta Crow,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” “I’m Flying” and “Neverland” accompanied by a full orchestra.

‘Peter Pan’ is directed by Music Theater Works artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller, conducted by music director Roger L. Bingaman and choreographed by Clayton Cross.

The sets are purely magical and depict the wonderful imagination of Adam Veness (scenic) and Robert S. Kuhn (costumes).

Aubrey Adams as Peter can sing, dance and keep up with the Lost Boys. She brings high energy and excitement to the role.

The remarkable Larry Adams shines in his role as irrepressible Mr. Darling/Captain Hook, especially as Captain Hook who lives in fear for the time-ticking crocodile.

Captain Hook and Peter Pan
Captain Hook and Peter Pan

Stand outs include Elizabeth Stenholt (Wendy Darling/Jane) with her beautiful, sweet voice, Anna Marie Abbate (Tiger Lily) and Cary Lovett (Smee).

The children in the audience were completely mesmerized by Peter and the Darling children as they flew through the air. I heard one child say, “Are they really flying?”

The antics of the Lion, Kangaroo, Ostrich and of course, Nana the dog, brought gales of laughter from the children.

Bring your family and share the ‘Peter Pan’ you loved as a child with your own youngsters.

‘Peter Pan’ is Music Theater Works’ final production of 2017. The 2018 season will begin with ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ (June 9-17), ‘Anything Goes’  (Aug. 18-26), the concert performance ‘Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine ‘starring Angela Ingersoll (Oct. 5-14) and ‘Into the Woods’  (Dec. 22-31).

DETAILS: ‘Peter Pan’ is a Music Theater Works production at Cahn Auditorium,  600 Emerson St., Evanston.  For tickets or for more information, call  (847) 920-5360 or visit Music Theater Works.  Running time is 2 hours 30 minutes with two intermissions.

Mira Temkin

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

 

 

Sammy’s back at the Black Ensemble Theatre

Dwight Neal as Sammy Davis Jr Photo by Alan Davis
Dwight Neal as
Sammy Davis Jr
Photo by Alan Davis

Highly Recommended

Considered the world’s greatest entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr could do it all…sing, dance and act. Through both dramatic interpretation and high-energy tap dancing, the Black Ensemble Theatre brings this star to life in ‘Sammy: A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.’ now through January 21. In this dynamic musical revue, the entire cast pays homage to the legendary talent as well as his commitment to fighting bigotry and racism.

Written and directed by Daryl D. Brooks, the show tells the story of Sammy Davis Jr. who started out dancing with his parents at age 2 in vaudeville, through his success in Las Vegas to his achievements on Broadway, films, television and record albums. The outstanding on-stage hoofing was choreographed by Rueben Echoles, who also appears in the show. Featuring Michael Adkins, Kenny Davis, Dwight Neal, Nathan Cooper, Mark Yacullo, Trequon Tate, and Brian Boler, the cast sings and dances their way through Sammy’s greatest hits. Not to be undone are the talented ladies who belt it out and narrate the story as well: Rhonda Preston, Emily Hawkins, Kylah Williams and Linnea Norwood. Songs like “Birth of the Blues,” “Candy Man,” “Mr. Bojangles” and “I Gotta Be Me” brought back so many memories, infused with a contemporary beat. The performers were accompanied by a live 7-piece orchestra, perched above the stage with musical direction by Robert Reddrick. The show is produced by Black Ensemble Theatre Founder and CEO, Jackie Taylor.

Kenny Davis and Michael Adkins salute Sammy Davis Jr Photo by Alan Davis
Kenny Davis & Michael Adkins salute Sammy Davis Jr
Photo by Alan Davis

The audience enjoyed seeing the Rat Pack on stage once again, mesmerized by the music of Ole Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra (Cooper) and the King of Cool, Dean Martin (Yacullo) who played their roles with suave sophistication. And they were saddened by Davis’ personal setbacks. Interspersed throughout the play were stories of Jim Crow laws, where Davis could perform at the Las Vegas hotel, but couldn’t stay there.  The show is a wonderful tribute to an amazing artist and humanitarian.

Details: Sammy – A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr is playing at the Black Ensemble Theatre, 4450 N. Clark Street in Chicago through January 21, 2018. For tickets, and other information, call 773-769-4451 or visit blackensemble.org. Running time: Approximately 2 hours with intermission.

Look for the 2018 season to kick off with ‘Hail, Hail Chuck – A Tribute to Chuck Berry’ running February 17 – April 1, 2018.

Mira Temkin

 

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.com

Turandot is a Grand Opera

Photos courtesy of Lyric website
Photos courtesy of Lyric

RECOMMENDED

For shear spectacle “Turandot” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago is worth seeing.

Chinese Princess, Turandot, has proffered a challenge to all eligible Princes, that he who can successfully answer three riddles asked by her shall win her love. Unsuccessful suitors will forfeit their life by beheading at sunrise.

The bigger question is whether Turandot is actually interested in love or is she more interested in exacting revenge on all men for the death of her ancestor Princess Lo-u-Ling?

Enter Prince Calaf, a stranger who is immediately smitten by Turandot. He cannot resist the challenge in spite of the pleading of the Ping, Pang and Pong whose duty it is to prepare all matters related to either the execution or the wedding.

Weary of the many deaths, the trio attempts to lure Calaf with the promise of hundreds of other beautiful women but to no avail. Neither can Calaf be dissuaded by his father’s faithful slave woman Liu whose love for him is pure and deep, based on the fact that he smiled at her.

Photo courtesy of Lyric website
Photo courtesy of Lyric website

With an impressive, if somewhat cliché, set by production designer Allen Charles Klein and lighting by Chris Maravich, once the curtain is up and the chorus begins to sing the audience is immediately drawn to the performance.

The large lighted glass sphere center stage adds to the exotic illusion of the intersection of heaven and earth as well as the theme of hot and cold. The use of wood, moonlight and lantern-light combined with the muted tones of the costumes contributes to a feeling of a mythological ancient Chinese experience with an overarching sense of foreboding.

Soprano Amber Wagner who appears in the title role has a powerful voice that soars above the entire company providing the character of Turandot with a commanding vocal presence the role requires.

Unfortunately, she has difficulty projecting the complex dichotomy required to be a convincing alluring “ice princess.”  This was compounded by her costume being the only one, including the headdress, that seemed inappropriate and did not contribute to the realization of the essence of her character.

Stefano La Colla as Calaf in his Lyric debut is charming though he never really commands the stage. In Act One he was lost in the crowd and at times he seemed unsure where he should be. In spite of that, the much anticipated “Nessun Dorma” in Act Three does not disappoint.

Also appearing in her Lyric debut is soprano Maria Agresta as Liu who offers what is perhaps the most dramatic performance. This is due in large part to the sympathetic nature of the role itself but also to her sensitive portrayal and beautiful voice.

Ping, Pang, and Pong played by Zachary Nelson, Rodell Rosel, and Keith Jameson are veterans of the Lyric who provide wonderful energy and comic relief.

The Lyric chorus and orchestra are outstanding as always. At times the stage is crowded with more than 75 singers including the addition of more than 20 members of the Chicago Children’s Chorus who contribute another level of texture to the vocal tapestry.

Puccini’s score riddled with Asian influences is not driven by melody but is rather a complex nuanced series of compositions more reminiscent of a symphony.  This really gives the orchestra an opportunity to shine because they are as important as the singers not simply accompanists.

The third act is dominated by “Nessun Dorma” which is perhaps the most melodious number. It is cleverly reprised for the finale leaving the production with a powerful musical finish and the audience with a tune we can all hum on the way out the door.

This “commercial” ending is a bit out of step and perhaps belies the fact that composer Giacomo Puccini died before he could finish the opera.

The story has a few moral and ethnocentric issues that may be considered to be in conflict with modern sensibilities. This can be a distraction for some but consider using it as an opportunity for thoughtful contemplation and discussion of social change while you simply enjoy the music and the shear spectacle of a grand tradition.

“Turandot” is at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, through January 27, 2018. Running time:  2 hours, 50 minutes with two intermissions.  For tickets and more information visit Lyric Opera at LYRICOPERA.ORG

Guest Reviewer: Reno Lovison

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.

‘Beautiful’ – a tapestry of Carole King’s music

Carole King (Sarah Bockel) at Carnegie Hall (Photo Credit - Matthew Murphy)
Carole King (Sarah Bockel) at Carnegie Hall
(Photo Credit – Matthew Murphy)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

It’s a love story, a tale about friendship and a jukebox musical that will have you singing right along. ‘Beautiful – The Carole King Musical’ ¬tells the inspiring story of singer-songwriter Carole King from her teenage passion for composing music to becoming an award-winning solo performer. Co-writing with partner and then husband, Gerry Goffin, this prolific team wrote some of the most popular songs of the 60s and 70s era – “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” “The Locomotion,” “One Fine Day” and so many others.

Most of their hits were performed by other artists, launching their success…like “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by the Monkees, “A Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin and “Up on the Roof” by the Drifters. Not until Carole finally had the strength to go solo with her 1971 hit album, “Tapestry,” was her own voice finally heard.

The music of friendly competitors and best friends, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, also made up part of the story with their own popular hits like “Walking in the Rain,” “We Gotta Get Out of this Place” and “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling.”

More than 400 of Carole’s compositions have been recorded by over 1,000 artists, earning six Grammy awards. Many audience members were surprised at the sheer number of songs she composed.
The book was written by Tony and Academy Award-nominee Douglas McGrath, directed by Marc Bruni with high-energy choreography by Josh Prince. Outstanding set design that moves with total precision was by Derek McLane.

Friends: Don Kirshner (James Clow), Gerry Goffin (Andrew Brewer), Carole King (Sarah Bockel), Barry Mann (Jacob Heimer) and Cynthia Weil (Sarah Goeke) Matthew Murphy photo
Friends: Don Kirshner (James Clow), Gerry Goffin (Andrew Brewer), Carole King (Sarah Bockel), Barry Mann (Jacob Heimer) and Cynthia Weil (Sarah Goeke)
Matthew Murphy photo

This National Tour of Beautiful featured the excellent Sarah Bockel as Carole, whose sheer energy and enthusiasm was absolutely infectious. Her beautiful voice and pure joy had the audience celebrating her triumphs and sharing her pain. Andrew Brewer as the troubled charmer, Gerry Goffin, carried the role with strong vocals and a confident swagger. Funny, poignant and heart-breaking, the show will have you leaving the theatre singing, truly a love song to Carole King.

Details: ‘Beautiful’ is playing at The Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph Street, Chicago through January 28. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission.

For tickets and other information, call Broadway in Chicago Ticket Line (800) 775-2000 or visit BroadwayinChicago.com.

Mira Temkin

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.com.

A deep promise of what’s to come . . .

RECOMMENDED

Dion Johnstone (Ira Aldridge) playing Othello (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Dion Johnstone (Ira Aldridge) playing Othello
(Photo by Liz Lauren)

‘Red Velvet’ transports audiences to the tumultuous world backstage in the mid-1800s of London’s Theatre Royal in Covent Garden.  Written by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Gary Griffin, the award-winning play reminds us of who is veiled into the history of Shakespearean performers.

‘Red Velvet’ tells the story of a black actor, Ira Aldridge, who leaves New York in 1822 as a teenager and heads to London because actors of color were not being hired to perform in Shakespearean plays in the United States.  Aldridge’s life on stage confronts the belief that Shakespeare is for everyone.

In 1833 at London’s Theatre Royal, Edmund Kean, a great Shakespearean actor, collapses on stage while performing the lead in Othello.  Edmund’s son, Charles, wants to take over his father’s role, but Edmund is replaced by the young black American actor, Ira Aldridge, who had portrayed Othello in the provinces with much success.

Aldridge’s performance in one of London’s most prestigious theaters was mesmerizing.  But the reviews by many of London’s theater critics were conflicting, revealing their racial prejudices as they pointed out Aldridge’s physical features and unusual accent that made it difficult for him to pronounce English impeccably.  Following Aldridge’s first two performances, the production was cancelled.  Unfortunately, other major theaters in London were closed to him, so Aldridge launched his first continental tour in 1852, becoming one of the most famous and celebrated actors of the nineteenth century in eastern Europe.

Dion Johnstone who portrays Aldridge in ‘Red Velvet’ said, “Ira Aldridge used his platform on the stage to convince European audiences that people of color had souls and intellects as wise and as deep as theirs.”  Aldridge became known across the continent for other great Shakespearean roles, including Shylock, Macbeth and King Lear.  As was customary at the time, he played what were held as traditionally white roles in “whiteface.”

‘Red Velvet’ makes audiences ponder about racial performances.  There are few black Hamlets, King Lears, and others.  Shakespeare’s plays are powerful, but actors of color can make them seem political.  In ‘Red Velvet,’ Aldridge deliberates at length that there is “something about velvet . . . a deep promise of what’s to come.”

Dion Johnstone (Ira Aldridge) as Othello and Chaon Cross (Ellen Tree) as Desdemona (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Dion Johnstone (Ira Aldridge) as Othello and Chaon Cross (Ellen Tree) as Desdemona.
(Photo by Liz Lauren)

In addition to Dion Johnstone’s outstanding performance as Ira Aldridge, Chaon Cross plays the famous stage actress Ellen Tree, who appears as Desdemona opposite Aldridge’s Othello.  The rest of the remarkable cast includes Greg Matthew AndersonMichael HaydenJürgen Hooper,  Tiffany Renee JohnsonRoderick PeeplesAnnie Purcell and Bri Sudia.

 

DETAILS:  ‘Red Velvet’ is at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, 800 E. Grand Avenue, Chicago, through January 21, 2018.  Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes.  For tickets and other information, call 312-595-5600 or visit www.chicagoshakes.com .

 

Francine Pappadis Friedman

 

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago

‘Illumination’ transforms Morton Arboretum into an enchanted forest

Photo credit: The Morton Arboretum
Photo credit: The Morton Arboretum

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Bundle up, and take a hike through a woodland of bedazzling lights and synchronized sound. The “Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum” spectacle is more brilliant than ever. Now in its fifth year, it is fast becoming a family tradition.

At this holiday light show in west suburban Lisle, the landscape is painted with a rainbow-hued palette of beaming, chasing, twinkling, flashing, cascading and rolling LED lights. Visitors traverse a one-mile paved trail after dark to encounter various sensory experiences created by a combo of modern-day technology and Mother Nature. The trail meanders around the arboretum’s Meadow Lake, up and down gentle hills and through lush forest.

“Illumination” not only lights up the trees, it entices visitors to engage with them. Along the trail are a dozen stops, some with interactive elements. Sing to the trees at Tinsel Harmony, for example, and you’ll alter the light patterns and colors scaling their trunks.

Drama unfolds at Symphony Woods, where lights appear to dance in time to musical selections from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At Crystal Promenade, the soft glow of crystal chandeliers radiate through a grove of fir trees. On Ornament Hill, tiny sparkling lights and 32 giant orbs intermingle with pulsating intensity and hue.

Firepits and concession tents selling snacks and hot beverages help ward off the winter chill.

Augmenting the light show are roaming carolers, dancers and musicians on select nights.

The exhibit was designed by Chicago-based John Featherstone, founder of Lightswitch lighting and design firm and a veteran lighting designer for museums, theaters and concerts. It was built in partnership with lighting and rigging production company Intelligent Lighting Creations in Arlington Heights.

Visitors should note that tickets are for a specific date and time, starting at 4:30 p.m. and every half hour thereafter through 8:30 p.m. The exhibit closes each night at 9:30 p.m.

DETAILS: “Illumination” is at Morton Arboretum, 4100 Illinois Rt. 53, Lisle, through Jan. 1, 2018. Closed Mondays (except for Jan. 1), Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For tickets and other information, call 630-725-2066 or visit www.mortonarb.org.

Pamela Dittmer McKuen

For more shows, visit TheaterinChicago.