‘American in Paris’ shines with wonderful Gershwin music plus terrific set design and dancing

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Put together George Gershwin’s stirring music, Ira Gershwin’s delightful lyrics, Craig Lucas’ thoughtful book, Christopher Wheeldon’s  exceptional choreography and direction and Bob Crowley’ amazing set design.

Henri (Nick Spangler) and dancers perform a fantasy number at a Parisian club. Photos by Matthew
Henri (Nick Spangler) and dancers perform a fantasy number at a Parisian club. Photos by Matthew Murphy

Then people their work with the fine dancing talents of McGee Maddox of the National Ballet of Canada and Sara Esty, former Miami City Ballet soloist.

Add in the excellent acting and vocal talents of Nick Spangler from Book of Mormon and of Adam Hockberg and Emily Ferranti from “Wicked.

With all that creativity and talent put into one show you’ll have an evening to remember at ‘American in Paris,’ now at the Oriental Theatre through Aug. 19, 2017.

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Navy Pier celebrates with free birthday bash

Hey, any year still alive is a good time to celebrate a birthday. So with its new Polk Bros Park Performance Lawns now completed out front, the folks at Navy Pier decided to celebrate the 101st birthday of the pier’s existence with a free, all-day program July 15, 2017.

Navy Pier at twilight. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Navy Pier at twilight. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The birthday bash features programs on the Polk Bros Park’s lawns starting at 11 a.m. then culminating with Felicia Fields, E. Faye Butler and Victor Garcia paying tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Dizzy Gillespie on the lawns’ Lake Stage beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Originally called Municipal Pier to handle freight and passenger traffic plus public recreation, Navy Pier opened July 15, 1916. It was built by famed architect Charles Sumner Frost based on Daniel Burnham and Edward H. Bennet’s design plan

Since then it has undergone several reincarnations including a World War II naval training center, a University of Illinois Chicago campus, home to Chicago Fest and an exposition center before it was redesigned in 1995 for retail and cultural use and updated in 2014 under what has been termed “The centennial Vision” to include more gardens, play areas and fountains.

If at the pier during the day Saturday, go to the Polk Bros Park at 11 a.m. to see Native American drumming and dancing by Seven Springs and World Champion Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie. Return at 1 p.m. for an African drumming followed by Asian drumming and then a Lion Dance presented by the Chinese Fine Arts Society at 2 p.m.

Because the event is a birthday celebration Navy Pier is holding a Group Quinceañera Celebration that includes free group photos. Interested parites can participate by clicking register here . The photos will be at the Wave Wall staircase on the South Dock at 2 p.m. There will also be musical performances by the Mexican band, Sones de Mexico.

Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. For more information call (800)  595-PIER (7437) and visit Navy Pier.

 

Around Chicago: April 21 and more

Itzhak Perlman comes to Lyric for a matinee April 23, 2017. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco
Itzhak Perlman comes to Lyric for a matinee April 23, 2017. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

The good news is that Chicago is an arts mecca. The problem news is that Chicago is such an arts mecca that it is arguably impossible to catch all the terrific music, art, dance, theater and exhibits offered in the city and suburbs. Listed here is a sampling of really good events that might not have made it to your arts radar.

 

April 21, 2017

Rita Rudner

Comedienne extraordinaire Rita Rudner will be on stage at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 8 p.m. April 21. A regular act at The Venetian in Las Vegas, Rudner is also a screenwriter, best-selling author, actress and playwright.  For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 or visit North Shore Center. The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts is at 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie.

 

April 22-23, 2017

The Perfect American

Philip Glass has fictionalized Walt Disney’s final days as an opera. Composed of dreams and nightmares revolving around the fate of his kingdom and legacy, it includes recognizable people. The Chicago Opera Theater is performing the Chicago premiere of ‘The Perfect American’ at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. The Harris is in Millennium Park at 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago. For tickets and other information call (312) 334 -7777 or visit Harris.

 

April 23, 2017

Itzhak Perlman

The Lyric Opera of Chicago is bringing the famed violinist to the city for one performance. It is 3 p.m. Sunday at the Civic Opera House. Accompanied by pianist Rohan De Silva,  Perlman’s program includes Vivaldi’s Sonata in A Major for Violin and Continuo, Beethoven’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in F Major, Schumann’s Fantasiestuck, and Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in G Major. The Civic Opera House is at 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. For tickets and other information call (312) 827-5600 or visit Lyric.

Odysseo extends through May 7, 2017. Dan Harper photo
Odysseo extends through May 7, 2017. Dan Harper photo

 

Now through May 7, 2017

Odysseo by Cavalia

‘Odysseo,’ a wondrous equestrian production visiting Chicago from Canada, that also includes acrobatics and aerial performances, has been extend through May 7. Drivers who have gone by Soldier Field or the Museum Campus will have seen the huge white tent where ‘Odysseo’ takes place. But what they might not know unless they’ve attended a show is that it has a 17,500 square foot stage that includes a three-story-high hill and other natural elements. The staging makes attendees feel as if they have been transported to the land where these horses cavort instead of the other way around. Entry is through the parking gates on East 18th Drive. For tickets and other information call (866) 999-8111 or visit Cavalia.

 

April 25 through May 7, 2017

Joffrey Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet is doing ‘Global Visionaries,’ a tribute to several choreographers that includes the world  premiere of a piece by Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman and the Chicago premier of a ballet by Russian choreographer Yuri Possokhov. Also showcased is Dutch choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s ‘Mammatus. The program is at the  Auditorium Theatre 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago. For tickets and other information call (312) 341-2310 or visit Auditorium Theatre.

 

 

Around Town: Now and Coming

There is always so much going on in Chicago it is easy to miss something you will want to see or find that the tickets you wanted are gone. So check out the following events and opportunities.

Tchaikovsky opera 'Eugene Onegin' opens at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric photo
Tchaikovsky opera ‘Eugene Onegin’ opens at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lyric photo

Lyric Opera

If you love the music of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, you will love his beautiful, dramatic “Eugene Onegin” opera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago completes its 2016-2017 series with the musically lush opera starting Feb. 26 and going through Mar. 20, 2017.

Based on a Alexander Pushkin’s poetic novel about ill-fated romantic attractions, the Lyric production stars soprano Ana Maria Martinez as Tatiana Larina and baritone Mariusz Kwiecień as Eugene Onegin. The Lyric production is at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.

 

Rolling Stones

Tickets are available for the Chicago stop of “Exhibitionism,” the first major touring exhibit of Rolling Stones memorabilia. Opened first in London and currently in NYC, the show will take over Navy Pier’s Festival Hall April 15 –July 30, 2017. Time dated tickets range from StonesExhibitionism.com.  $25- $35 for adults to $20-$22 for juniors. Special tickets are $80 for two visits, any time, fast-track entry.m Group tickets are available from  Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave. Chicago.

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‘Common Time’ concept of famed dancer and choreographer separates and unites the arts

‘Merce Cunningham: Common Time,’ now at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, is an excellent example of how the arts can fall into neatly separated compartments and yet be integrated into an astonishingly workable whole.

Robert Rauschenberg, "Tentric Geography, decor and costumes for Travelogue 1977 at MCA exhibit of 'Merce Cunnngham: Common Time. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Robert Rauschenberg, “Tentric Geography” decor and costumes for Travelogue 1977 at MCA exhibit of ‘Merce Cunnngham: Common Time.’ Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Videos zoom in on Cunningham’s innovative choreography so that viewers understand that this famed dancer’s concentration on body movements revolutionized modern dance.

But although the title ‘Common Time’ may seem unusual for an exhibit that is a retrospective of a brilliant dancer and choreographer, it quite succinctly sums up how Cunningham pulled in art and music for his company’s performances.

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Around Town

There’s so much going on in Chicago it’s a challenge to figure out what to try and do and see. Or, to wonder the why and wherefore of the crowd outside Goodman Theatre Jan. 19, 2017. ‘Around Town’ is an occasional feature to help sort through at least some of the city’s events.

Goodman marquee

You might think the scenery hasn’t changed when you look north on Dearborn Street near Randolph Street. Butif there fter Jan. 19, 2017, you should see the lights of Goodman Theatre’s tall marquee during the day.

Goodman Theatre celebrated its new marquee in conjunction with Ghostlight Project. Goodman Theatre photo
Goodman Theatre celebrated its new marquee in conjunction with Ghostlight Project. Goodman Theatre photo

The old marquee, damaged in an electrical fire last spring, has been replaced with a similar version but with an important difference. You will see it lit 24/7. The lights are LED, color-changeable and each letter is programmable.

“Our marquee is the brightest, most visible symbol of Goodman Theatre’s 30+ year commitment to high quality productions, cultural and aesthetic diversity on and off our stages, and proactive engagement in our Chicago community—a commitment that has distinguished us, and redefined what a major cultural institution can be,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls.

The Jan. 19 illumination was a deliberate date choice to call attention to the The Ghostlight Project, a national American theater initiative of inclusiveness.

“As part of the Ghostlight Project, we will stand with our theater colleagues across the country at the same time and pledge to protect the values of equality, inclusion, justice—and empathy for everyone, regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity or sexual orientation,” Falls said.

Goodman Theatre is  at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL

 

At the MCA

Maybe you noticed that during the past few years the Museum of Contemporary Art has evolved into a multi-media venue that presents dance, music and theater programs, aside from its changing menu of art exhibits.

So, the addition of dance performances up on the fourth floor during the opening weekend of  ‘Merce Cunningham: Common Time,’ a multi-media exhibit, seems almost like a given.

Former Merce Cunningham Dance Company members will incorporate important pieces from the past 60 years into performances  called Events, Feb. 11 and 12., 1:30 to 2 p.m. and 4 to 4:30 p.m.

Staged and arranged by Andrea Weber, the Event showcases dancers Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott and Melissa Toogood. The accompanying musicians are Hanna Brock, Nicolas Collins, Kg Price, Katharine young and their arranger, Stephan Moore.

The Museum of Contemporary Art is at 220 E. Chicago Avenue

 

Black History Month

There will be free events across Chicago in February honoring Black History Month. Among them are stage related segments coordinated by the Goodman Theatre under the umbrella “Black Words Mater: Celebrating Black Voices on Stage and Beyond.”

Among the events are a reading of “Gee’s Bend” by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder at the DuSable Museum of African American History (740 E. 56th Place,) Feb. 7 at 2 p.m. and film screening August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson”  at AMC Dine-In Theatres at Block 37 (108 N. State St. (availability limited).

In addition, “Playwrights from past to present” is a lecture by Goodman Theatre Resident Director Chuck smith at the Harold Washington Library (400 S. State St) Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. and  a panel discussion on “Diversity in theater administration and Intern/apprentice networking” at Goodman Theatre’s Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement (107 N. Dearborn St.), Feb. 27 at 5:30 p.m.

For more information visit Goodman Black Words

 

Chicago arts venues celebrate Chinese New Year

UPCOMING

Arts venues from the Art Institute and Auditorium Theatre to the Chicago Cultural Center and Navy Pier are celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year from mid January to Mid February, 2017.

Griffin Court in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Griffin Court in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute has a full Chinese menu of activities the last Saturday of January. If you at the Art Institute of Chicago Jan. 28, follow the exotic sounds you hear.

They will pull you into Gallery 101 at 10:30 a.m. and noon for Chinese Guzheng performances and to the Griffin Court in the Modern Wing at 11:30 a.m. for a Lion Dance. Then, it’s back to Griffin Court at 1 and 2 p.m. for the China National Peking Opera.

In addition to the performances there is a Mandarin tour of the museum’s Asian collection at noon and calligraphy demonstrations in the Ryan Learning Center (near the Modern Wing entrance) from 1:30 through 4 p.m.

But even before Jan. 28, the Art Institute is celebrating with drop-in Chinese New Year fun for kids in the Ryan Center, Jan. 17 through Feb. 11.

Best entrance to use for the celebration and Ryan Center is the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing at 159 E. Monroe St., Chicago, IL 60603.  General admission fee and free to children age 13 and younger and free to Chicago teens 14-17. Visit AIC.

Chicago Cultural Center

If all you have is the lunch hour to celebrate, go over to the Chicago Cultural Center Jan. 30 for Chinese dances, martial arts and music in the very impressive Preston Bradley Hall. Jackie Chan’s Long Yun Fung Fu Troupe will be performing from noon to 1 p.m (free).

For more information visit DCAS  The Chicago Cultural Center is across from Millennium Park at 78 E. Washington St., Chicago, IL 60602.

Celebrate Chinese culture at Navy Pier. Photo complements of Chinese Fine Arts Society
Celebrate Chinese culture at Navy Pier. Photo complements of Chinese Fine Arts Society

Auditorium Theatre

To see the full Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe’s program get tickets to show at the Auditorium Theatre Feb. 4. Tickets start at $33. Show time is 7:30 p.m. The discount code is CFAS. The program blends dance and martial arts. The Auditorium Theatre is  at 50 E Congress Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60605. Visit Auditorium  and call (312) 341-2300.

Navy Pier

The following week, Navy Pier’s ‘Neighborhoods of the World’ series spotlights the Chinese culture on Feb 12, from noon to 4 p.m. Go up to the Crystal Gardens for arts performances and a Chinese marketplace. Navy Pier is at 600 E Grand Ave Chicago, IL 60611. Visit CFA 

 

This weekend on the entertainment scene

Chicago Tap Theatre presents "Tidings of Tap"
Chicago Tap Theatre presents “Tidings of Tap”

 

Sometimes we forget how vast the Chicago entertainment scene is. We know about some of the traditional holiday productions but there are many more venues that deserve to be added to the “I wonder what’s at the….” list.

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Holiday shows on and off the radar

If you’ve lived in the Chicago area more than a year or have visited it during the holidays in past years, some shows and events spring quickly to mind when talking about traditional doings. Others are less likely to make it to the calendar simply because they’re not necessarily headliners in a city rich in good theater, music, dance and art.

Nutcracker returns with World Fair setting at Auditorium Theatre. Joffrey Ballet photo
‘Nutcracker’ returns with World Fair setting at Auditorium Theatre. Joffrey Ballet photo

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