An honest country musical

 

(left to right) Kelly Combs, Lena Dudley and Charlie Irving in New American Folk Theatre's world premiere of My Life is a Country Song.. Photo by Joseph Ramski Photography.
(left to right) Kelly Combs, Lena Dudley and Charlie Irving in New American Folk Theatre’s world premiere of My Life is a Country Song.. Photo by Joseph Ramski Photography.

3.5 stars

Country music has been described as three chords and the truth. The world premiere of Anthony Whitaker’s “My Life is a Country Song” presented by New American Folk Theatre has taken that adage to heart and crafted a well told musical tale of love, friendship, and personal triumph.

Donna (Kelly Combs), a receptionist at the Lincoln Ford dealership, has divorced her abusive husband, Gary (Kirk Jackson), and rented an old mill house from Shirley (Judy Lee Steele) who is a photographer for the local paper.

After explaining that she has never before had keys of her own which weren’t also shared with her parents or husband, Donna sings the poignant ballad “My Front Door.”

Soon thereafter ex-husband Gary tries to suggest that he has changed, worming his way back with “A New Coat of Paint.”

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Three sip and savor and shop events

 

Sip and Shop (Photo courtesy of Morton Arboretum)
Sip and Shop (Photo courtesy of Morton Arboretum)

When the weather turns frightful (even though Halloween is over)   it’s time to look forward to something delightful. First up are some wine, culinary and shopping events coming in the next two weeks.

Holiday Sip and Shop

In Chicago’s western suburbs, seasonal bites, spirits and shopping the Morton Arboretum way with botanical designer showcased “tablescapes” and browsing the store, welcome the coming holiday season.  The event is Nov. 8 from 5 to 9 p.m. and includes a Patricia Locke Trunk Show and mixology demonstrations. Tickets are members $45.00, nonmembers $50.00.

The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 IL Highway 53, Lisle, IL 630-446-0537.

 

Antiques + Modernism Show

In the northern suburbs, an annual show benefiting the Winnetka Community Housegoes the whole weekend of Nov. 8-10, 2019. But a fun preview party known for its buffet stations and open bar is Nov. 7 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.. This is when collectors and people in the know go for the first peek at exceptional jewelry, furniture and art. Tickets are $150 but $30 of the ticket price will be donated back to the North Shore Art League.

The Winnetka Community House is at 620 Lincoln Ave. Winnetka, IL , 847-446-2870 or 847-446-0537.

 

Chill LuxeHome

Downtown Chicago, Chill, an international wine and culinary event co sponsored by Luxehome and Wine Spectator Magazine, features terrific food from Chicago chefs and excellent wines from around the world. It’s held Downtown Chicago at theMART, Nov. 14 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.. Tickets are $145. Funds raised go to different charities.

the MART is at 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Around town goes to wine tasting and kids architecture events plus the Jewish Theater Festival

A Chicago Architecture Biennial event for youngsters is at Navy Pier Nov. 2, 2019. (Jodie Jacobs photo)
A Chicago Architecture Biennial event for youngsters is at Navy Pier Nov. 2, 2019. (Jodie Jacobs photo)

 

There are interesting experiences available this weekend so pull out the calendar.

Chicago Architecture Biennial for youngsters

Bring the kids to Navy Pier this Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019  for a free, hands-on, design-it and build-it activities from noon to 4 p.m. Co-sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation with the City of Chicago and Navy Pier, the Architectural Biennial event is geared to ages 5 through 12. Look for it in the Cultural Corner across from Ben & Jerry’s at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago

 

Wine seminars like the one pictured here help educate the palate. (J Jacobs photo)
Wine seminars like the one pictured here help educate the palate. (J Jacobs photo)

 

Professional/Amateur Wine Tasting Contest

Learn about your wine palate knowledge, Nov. 3, beginning at 1 p.m. at Geja’s Cafe, 340 W. Armitage, Chicago. The tasting begins with eight unmarked carafes of wine. Professionals and amateurs are challenged to identify the grape, place of origin and vintage of each wine. To enter the competition, contestants pay a $30 fee and must be 21 years of age or older. To RSVP, call Geja’s Café at (773) 281-9101.

“The world of wine is incredibly diverse,” says Geja’s owner Jeff Lawler. “That is why this contest is such a challenge. It takes a wise nose and an equally sensitive palate to identify the characteristics of each individual wine.”

 

The Ben Hecht Show starring playwright/actor James Sherman will be part of the Jewish theatre Festival. (Photo courtesy of TGeatron)
The Ben Hecht Show starring playwright/actor James Sherman will be part of the Jewish Theatre Festival. (Photo courtesy of Teatron)

TEATRON: Chicago’s Jewish Theatre Festival at Victory Gardens

Held Nov 3 through Nov.10, 2019, primarily at Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, the event is the first-ever festival in Chicago that is dedicated to Jewish Theatre.  It overlaps the annual Alliance for Jewish Theatre Conference, hosted by ShPIeL at Victory Gardens Theater and The Theatre School at DePaul University, Nov. 3-5, 2019.

The Jewish Theatre Festival at Victory Gardens includes staged readings, solo performances, storytelling, cabaret, and comedy at Victory Gardens and features “The Ben Hecht Show” with playwright/actor James Sherman, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. For conference information visit All Jewish Theatre

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Dinner and a show from a theater reviewer

Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)
Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

Theater critics tend to return to the same places before covering a show. They are not usually the upscale places gone to for a special occasion or the newest eatery with a gourmet menu or “in” vibe.  They have good food and are convenient to the venues.

Here are my recommendations based on experience for two downtown theaters ( I use theater spelled er) and two places in the northern suburbs. More areas later.

Downtown-Loop

When going to the Goodman Theatre  170 N Dearborn St. or James M  Nederlander Theatre, a Broadway in Chicago venue at  24 W. Randolph St., I reserve a table in the bar at Petterinos (312-422-0150, 150 N. Dearborn St.) at the corner of Dearborn and Randolph Streets.

The bartenders here are terrific. They serve their patrons quickly when they know they have a show. And I like the fried calamari when looking for something light and the amazing chicken pot pie when cold weather calls for a dish to warm the insides.

The restaurant is literally next door to Goodman and just a few steps across Dearborn to the Nederlander (former Oriental). I take public transportation but Petterinos has a valet service for customers who want to park there and see a show.

Downtown – Mag Mile

There are lots of places to dine on and near the Magnificent Mile. But when reviewing a show at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N Michigan Ave. in the historic Water Tower Water Works  on the east side of the Water Tower campus or at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., I reserve a table at Mity-Nice Grill on the Mezzanine Level of Water Tower Place (835 N. Michigan Ave., 312.335.4745).

I like their veggie burger and their salads and that they bring tiny Yorkshire pudding bites to start the meal.

North Suburbs – Lincolnshire

I look forward to dining at the Three Embers Restaurant in the Marriott Resort, 10 Marriott Dr., when reviewing a show at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

Executive Chef Pierre Daval and Chef de Cuisine Jesus (Chuy) Medina are currently showcasing their Harvest Dinner. At Three Embers, diners get honey butter for their rolls that is a taste treat made with honey from Daval’s beehives on the property. I also love the Honey BBQ Brisket with smoked grits. But I’m thinking of trying the Sea Scallops dish with butternut squash and a maple glace when I go for the next show because squash and maple are too seasonal to pass up.

North Suburbs – Skokie

Across the road from Northlight Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, is a small strip mall that contains the popular Bonefish Grill at 9310 Skokie Blvd. Yes, you need a reservation and tell the waitperson you are going to a show.

I like the restaurant’s bread and dipping oil, its Caesar Salad and any shrimp dish with a variety of sauces.

Feel free to leave your own recommendations.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

 

‘You Are Happy’ will leave you smiling

Michelle Mary Schaefer and Brendan Connell in You are Happy. (Photo by Matthew Freer)
Michelle Mary Schaefer and Brendan Connell in You are Happy. (Photo by Matthew Freer)

4 stars

If you agree that in an opera or ballet the storyline is incidental to the performance you will understand my reaction to “You Are Happy,” an interesting, innovative and thoroughly enjoyable production co-directed by Aaron Sawyer and Mary Kate Ashe at the Red Theater. It leaves you wanting more –  but in a good way.

For the record, Bridget who ironically claims to find happiness in her own company and solitude, wants her suicidal brother, Jeremy, to find happiness with a true love.

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Fanfare For the Man in the Mirror

A Man of No Importance

Cast of “A Man of No Importance.” (Photo by Heather Mall)
Cast of “A Man of No Importance.” (Photo by Heather Mall)

4 stars

Mild-mannered, middle-aged Alfie Byrne works as a ticket agent on a Dublin bus. It’s 1964, back when acceptance and equal rights were something only dreamed about by members of the gay community. But Alfie harbors a secret love for Robbie Fay, the handsome, young bus driver with whom he works side-by-side every day.

Unable to share his buried emotions with anyone else, Alfie secretly communes with the spirit of Oscar Wilde, his literary idol and imaginary confidante.

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‘Invisible’ reminds us of the power of bigotry and hate

 

L to R: Megan Kaminsky, Morgan Laurel Cohen, Barbara Roeder Harris, Richard Cotovsky. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
L to R: Megan Kaminsky, Morgan Laurel Cohen, Barbara Roeder Harris, Richard Cotovsky. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

4 stars

The year is 1925 in the deep South and the KKK is expanding its reach to include the women folk who will spread their doctrine of racism against African Americans, Jews, immigrants and Catholics in Mounds, Mississippi.

Making its world premiere at Her Story Theatre, “Invisible” is an imaginary tale of one woman who can’t rationalize her involvement in the Women’s Ku Klux Klan movement with her own moral compass and sense of decency.

Mabel Carson’s friends have convinced her that this is the path to take to make America great with the slogan, “America for Americans.”  Yet when a reporter from the Chicago Tribune arrives on the scene, Mabel begins to question their ideals, methodology and the nature of true friendship.

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Open a book and oneself to a new adventure

 

David Payne as C.S. Lewis at Broadway Playhouse. (Production photos from Aneesa Muhammad (MKI)
David Payne as C.S. Lewis at Broadway Playhouse. (Production photos from Aneesa Muhammad (MKI)

 

4 stars

In the 1960s, C.S. Lewis was a well-known British author whose collected works made him one of the most famous literary writers of the 20th century. Lewis died over 50 years ago.

David Payne, another Brit was an actor and playwright who hoped he would get a minor role in a previous play about C.S. Lewis. Instead, Payne got the lead role of C.S. Lewis, launching a terrific acting career.

When many audience members saw David Payne playing that lead role, they felt that they had discovered the real C.S. Lewis!

David Payne had read quite a lot of C.S. Lewis’s writing—even Lewis’s personal diary. And Payne was always asked many questions about Lewis. One day, Payne decided it would be fun if he could be Lewis himself and could answer these questions. That’s why Payne wrote, directed, and stars in “An Evening with C.S. Lewis,” a wonderful play which is now being shown at Chicago’s Broadway Playhouse.

In Act I, Payne plays the author sitting in Lewis’s living room and hosting a group of American writers in his home near Oxford. Lewis recalls the many events that affect his life and his large number of close friends, including J.R.R. Tolkien, an English author and poet.

In Act II, Payne playing Lewis says he eventually believes in Christianity. He also tells how he just met a divorced woman by the name of Joy who decides to come from the United States and live in London.

It reminds her so much of New York City where she had lived with her previous husband and family. Although Lewis describes London as “noise and chaos.”

He marries Joy who eventually lives with him in his house. Lewis goes on to say how their relationship turned his life upside down.

DETAILS: “An Evening with C.S. Lewis” is at the Broadway Playhouse at 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, through Nov. 3, 2019.  Running time: 90 minutes, with one intermission. For tickets and other information, call (800) 775-2000, or visit BroadwayInChicago.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Costumes and candy and corn mazes, oh my!

 

Pumpkins galore can be found at fun fall festivals right now. (J Jacobs photo)
Pumpkins galore can be found at fun fall festivals right now. (J Jacobs photo)

Around Town looks at four fun fall festivals that that families can take advantage of right now.

Boo! at the Zoo

There is only one weekend left, Oct. 26-27, to go to Brookfield Zoo’s annual Halloween festival in 2019.  Running Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. it features pumpkin carving demonstrations, hay rides, trick-or-treat stations (kids should bring their own bags), animal Zoo Chats, a “Crazed Maize” corn maze, a Pumpkin Smasher and a Creepy (sorta) Carousel. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the cCstume Parade that starts at 1 p.m. by the Discovery Center and ghoulishly move to music at a 1:30 p.m. Costume Dance Pary.

General zoo admission is $21.95 for adults and $15.95 for children 3-11 and seniors 65 and over. Children 2 and under are free. Parking is $14. (Additional fees apply to some Boo! at the Zoo activities.) For further information, visit CZS.org/Boo or call (708) 688-8000.

Youngsters like to dress up for Boo at the Zoo presented by Ferrara, (Photo credit Chicago Zoological Society)
Youngsters like to dress up for Boo at the Zoo presented by Ferrara, (Photo credit Chicago Zoological Society)

 

Didier Farms Pumpkinfest

After going once to Didier Farms for its maze, hayride, pumpkin carving tools and food, it is likely to be penned in (not penciled) from that year on even when youngsters reach high school age. Located on Aptakisic Road west of Milwaukee Avenue in Lincolnshire, Didier Farms, a family-owned business since 1912, supplies some grocery stores plus has its own farm market. But when October comes, the place becomes pumpkin central for families loading wagons with over-grown gourds (squash if you are going to eat it instead of turning it into a jack-o-lantern) and youngsters eager to wander the maze or take a hayride. Pumpkinfest goes now through Oct. 31.

Didier Farms is at 16678 W. Aptakisic Rd., Lincolnshire, IL 60069. Phone (847) 634-3291.

It is hard to leave Didier Farms without a fun trinket, pumpkin, donut or a hayride. (J Jacobs photo
It is hard to leave Didier Farms without a fun trinket, pumpkin, donut or a hayride. (J Jacobs photo)

 

Tom’s Farm Market Fall Festival

Now thru oct. 30

There is so much going on at Tom’s Farm Market Fall Festival that families should plan to spend a couple of hours there. “There” is a ride out northwest of Chicago to Huntley, IL. Don’t leave before picking up one of the market’s excellent pies or some donuts to take in the car for the trip back home. But first take a free wagon ride to the pumpkin patch to pick your pumpkin. Then, visit the six-acre corn maze. Youngsters will like the Pumpkin express Barrel Ride, the Pedal Tractor Track or maybe the Climbing Spider Web. There is also PlayLand,  and the Giant Pumpkin Jumper plus face painting and a petting zoo.

Going on now through Oct. 30, hours Monday through Friday are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with admission of $7 children, $5 adults and age 2 and younger  and weekend hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays with adults and children at $10 each. Visitors can make and take a scarecrow home for $22. Tom’s Farm Market is at 10214 Algonquin Rd., Huntley, IL, (847) 669-3421.

Funny characters live at Tom's Farm Market during Fall Festival time. (J Jacobs photo)
Funny characters live at Tom’s Farm Market during Fall Festival time. (J Jacobs photo)

 

Richardson Adventure Farm

Every fall Richardson Farm develops a giant-sized maze to wander that fits with current events or characters. For 2019 the maze honors the moon landing. There are different tracks to take through the maze so times can range from a quick 10 to 20 minutes or the longer 60 to 90 minutes. But leave time for the giant slide, wagon or train ride, the animatronic Chicken Show, a ride on the vintage carousel and a climb up a 50 foot observation tower or watch the pig races and try the paintball shooting gallery. If you don’t have a pumpkin yet, pick your own. They cost 45 cents a pound.

The Richardson Adventure Farm is open  now through Nov. 3, 2019 on Thursday through Sundays. Hours are: Thursday 3-10 p.m.;, Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 10 p.m. Admission can range from $14 to $19 depending on age, day of the week (Lower rates are on Wednesdays) and activity. RichardsonFarm is at 909 English Prairie Rd near Spring Grove, IL Visit RichardsonAdventureFarm or call (815) 675-9729.

How high the corn is at the Richardson Adventure Farm can be seen in adult inches. (J Jacobs photo)
How high the corn is at the Richardson Adventure Farm can be seen in adult inches. (J Jacobs photo)

Jodie Jacobs

 

Another Trip to the Bright Side of Life

Monty Python’s Spamalot

Monty Python's Spamalot at Mercury Theater. (Photos by Bret Beiner)
Monty Python’s Spamalot at Mercury Theater. (Photos by Bret Beiner)

 

4 stars

At some point in this hilarious musical, the plot simply goes out the window and unbridled hilarity and bawdy humor takes over the Mercury Theater stage.

Eric Idle’s brilliant adaptation of his  popular film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” which features an infectious score by both Idle and John DuPrez, won the coveted Tony Award for Best Musical in 2005.

The show first hit the boards in its Chicago Pre-Broadway preview. It went on to become a Big Apple and West End hit, as well as everywhere around the world.

The musical is an uproarious, irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend with nonstop nods to many classic comedy bits from the television show, “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

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