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.
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.
With such top drawing festivals and names as Pitchfork, Windy City Smokeout and Jimmy Buffett (among several others) filling parks and fields all over Chicago this past weekend, you might think that a north suburban music outpost would not be jammed.
Yet Ravinia Festival in Highland Park packed them in for James Arthur, Fitz & The Tantrums and OneRepbulic, Saturday, and its Tchaikovsky Spectacular played by the CSO, Sunday.
“Every inch of space and lawn was filled,” said a One Republic fan describing the Saturday scene.
If understandable for the pop rock genre, it might have come as a surprise to classical music lovers that the same was true on Sunday as visitors kept filing in and looking for even a few inches to sit and picnic.
The luckier folks, or make that those in the know, staked out their space two hours ahead of Sunday’s early, 5 p.m. concert start.
Spread out with a yummy-looking picnic under the trees before the crowds descended were The Nelson family who came from Chesterton and West Lafayette, IN and from Evanston.
“We all came last year,” said Wendy Nelson, Evanston. The rest chimed in with “We enjoyed it so much wanted to do it again,” said Laura Nelson, West Lafayette; “You know, Purdue University,” husband Jeffrey said. They were there with parents Eileen and Roger Nelson, Chesterton. “I’m the patriarch,” said Roger.
By 4 p.m. the lawn was a sea of humanity. After the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, a sterling piano performance of Concerto No. 1 by Simon Trpceskiand and the Francesca da Rimini fantasy, came the 1812 Overture with real cannons in a roped off area.
When the smoke faded and the last note played, some people left to catch the Union Pacific North Line train but that didn’t make much of a dent in the crowd that still enjoyed getting together and picnicking on the lawn.
“Great concert,” said a guy from Glen Ellyn on his way to the parking lot.
Well, there are a lot more chances to come to Ravinia, this summer.
The CSO returns July 18 with Yefim Bronfman playing Brahm’s Piano Conderto No. 2. The orchestra which makes Ravinia its summer home, will be back for several more concerts including July 20-21 to play Beethoven and Sibelius programs.
BTW, Tony Bennett returns Aug. 4. Hootie & the Blowfish founder Darius Rucker is at Ravinia the next night, Aug. 5.
Santana, the famed guitarist of Latin, rock an jazz fusion, is there Aug. 11-12 and heartland rocker/rock and roll hall-of-famer John Mellencamp is coming for the first time to Ravinia Aug. 26-27.
Ravinia Festival is at 418 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park. For more schedule information, tickets, prices and parking, call (847) 266-5000 and visit Ravinia.
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.
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.
Taste of Chicago has been here and gone but there are lots more festivals to feed our culinary, cultural and musical cravings this summer. With a city as rich in ethnic neighborhoods and interest in music as Chicago you would expect an almost endless list. But here are a few of the festivals to enjoy before fall’s back-top-school and cooler temps change the social calendar.
July 14 Ravenswood neighborhood
Think revolution. The French celebrate their rising up not July 4 but July 14 when the populace took over the hated Bastille prison in 1790. In Chicago, Bastille Day, also called French National Day is celebrated in French restaurants but also on the grounds of the French School translated as Lycée Français. Located at 1929 W. Wilson, the festival includes the game, pétanque to watch and learn, children’s activities, music, a DJ, a waiters’ race with trays and a child appropriate film. Attendees bring their own food for a picnic. Wine and beer will be sold nearby because the public cannot bring alcoholic beverages on the school property. Hours are 5:30 to 10 p.m. For other information visit Bastille Day.
July 14-16, West of River North
The popular Windy City Smokeout is back with more beer, barbeque booths and bands. VIP tickets are sold out but individual tickets of $40 and $45 plus three-day $110 tickets are still available. The event is at 560 W. Grand Ave.nue a block west of the Chicago River. For more information visit Windy City Smokeout.
July 14-16, Near West neighborhood
Chicago’s famed Pitchfork Music Festival returns to Union Park at Randolph Street and Ogden Avenue. The festival’s reasonable prices and predilection for featuring good bands draws about 50,000 music lovers from across the world. For hours and tickets visit Pitchfork.
July 21-23, River North
Taste of River North spreads across Kingsbury and Erie with music stages and food booths the fourth weekend of July. Hours are Friday 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday, noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For other information visit Taste of River North.
July 22-23, Sheffield Neighborhood
Now in its 29th year, the Sheffield Music Festival and Garden Walk has become a much anticipated summer event. Entered at Sheffield and Webster,the community festival asks for a $10 donation. Hours are noon to 10 p.m.. For other information visit Sheffield.
July 29-30, Wicker Park Neighborhood
Wicker Park Fest is all about neighborhood fun with music, food, crafts and children’s activities. For other information visit Wicker Park.
Aug 4-6, Jefferson Park neighborhood
Jeff Fest features is a music festival in the northwest Jefferson Park area of Chicago around 4822 N. Long Ave. For the band lineup and more information visit Jeff Fest.
Aug. 12-13, Boystown
The street-filling North Halsted Market Days returns to Lakeview with food, music and crafts centered at 3400 N. Halsted St. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For other information visit North Halsted.
Aug. 18-20, Taylor Street
Go to Festa Italiana to enjoy the culture. There will be traditional food, music, folk dances and games and, of course, meatballs. The festival is on Taylor Street from Ashland Avenue to Racine Street. Hours are Friday, 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday, noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday noon to 10 p.m. For other information visit Starevents.
Aug. 19-20, North Avenue Beach
The Chicago Air and Water Show, a wonderful, free event that draws folks to North Avenue B each and anywhere along the near north shoreline, features the U.S. Navy Blue angels this year along with the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and other heart-stopping aerobatics. For more information visit City of Chicago.
Aug. 31-Sept 3, Downtown Chicago
The Chicago Jazz Festival ends the summer in Millenium Park and at the Chicago Cultural Center. Headliners include Jon Faddis, the Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio, Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom and Rebirth Brass Band. For line-up locations and times visit Chicago Jazz.
From bike riding to strawberry munching and concerts in a garden to music on a lawn, summer fun is tempting us to find our outdoor muse during or after work.
Bike to work
First, don’t be surprised if you see more groups of bikers around Chicago, this week. The annual Bike commuter Challenger is upon us asking people to ride a bike to work instead of a train or car. To participate in its fun events and “pit stops” go to Bikedown to register.
TGI M/T after work music
Then, for a different way to enjoy a balmy early evening, check out music with a Latin or Swing beat at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Different nights and different weeks feature different musical sounds and bands. For example, Mondays at 5:30 p.m. there are carillon bells and Tuesday, the music shifts over to the Esplanade for bluegrass or big band sounds.
Visit Chicago Botanic Garden Evenings for more information. The concerts are free but unless you are a member there is a parking fee per car. The Chicago Botanic Garden is east of Edens Expressway at 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe.
After-work stress-relieving music
Or get a lawn ticket (best price is ahead of time, not at the gate) to hear perfect after-work music at Ravinia Festival in Highland park.
The Julliard String Quartet is June 20. It’s in the Martin Theatre but usually those programs are broadcast on the lawn.
In the Pavilion are Gypsy Kings June 23, Common June 24, Michael McDonald and Boz Scraggs June 27 and Diana Krall June 28.
Just when you think you have seen as many fine interpretations of how Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic ‘King and I’ musical ought to be done, along comes director Bartlett Sher’s beautiful and insightful Lincoln Center production.
Not only are all the voices in the outstanding category (and how often can you say that), Sher’s direction has brought forth all the characters’ strong motivations.
The songs everyone has come to know and love such as “I Whistle a Happy Tune and Hello Young Lovers” are beautifully sung by Laura Michelle Kelly as governess Anna Leonowens.
“We Kiss in the Shadow” and “I have Dreamed” take on an added coating of sadness and desire when exquisitely sung Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao as doomed lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha.
But you also have Jose Llana who really makes you understand the crossroads where he’s at between Siam’s traditional views and the “westernization” of his court he thinks will keep his country from colonization. He not merely sings, but acts “A Puzzlement.”
Based on the real Anna Leonowens’ memoirs as told by Margaret Landon in the 1944 novel, “Anna and the King of Siam,” the musical depicts how two strong characters, the independent governess Leonowens, and the King, known as Mongkut who sees women as servants, move from strongly-held beliefs to mutual respect, admiration and caring.
Then there is Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang (First Wife) singing “Something Wonderful.” The song does more than describe her feelings towards her husband, the King.
Almedilla’s exceptional expression of the words seemed to speak to many of the wives in the audience.
As to the youngsters in the show, “The March of Siamese Children” is charming and lighthearted but Graham Montgomery does a particularly fine job as Anna’s son, Louis, and Marcus Shane presented just the right amount of royal demeanor as Crown Prince Chulalongkorn when he stepped into a role opening night usually played by Anthony Chan.
Choreographer Christopher Gattelli’s “The Small House of Uncle Thomas,” a ballet meant to entertain visiting English dignitaries but actually is a message from Tuptim that slavery is wrong, is well put across by dancers Lamae Caparas as Eliza, Amaya Braganza as Uncle Thomas, Yuki Ozeki as Topsy, Rommel Pierre O’Choa as Simon Legree, Michiko Takemasa as Little Eva and Nobutaka Mochimaru as the Angel/George.
The set design by Michael Yeargan was a creative mix of an Asian style wall backdrop, pillars and Buddha that places more emphasis on the action than ornamentation. That said, the set immediately captures attention when the curtains open with a a life-size boat coming onto the stage carrying Anna and Louis Leonowens.
Catherine Zuber’s costumes perfectly place the show into Leonowen’s period and location.
‘The King and I’ is at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago, now through July 2, 2017. For tickets and more information call (800) 775-2000 or visit Broadway in Chicago.
The sounds of the Blues will be wailing on State Street and in Millennium Park. On Clark Street magicians astound in Uptown. And the Chicago theatre community understands when a one-man show has to cancel.
Muddy Waters Mural
Stop by the west side of State Street between Randolph and Washington Streets noon Thursday, June 8, 2017 to hear about Muddy Waters and hear some fine blues.
The event dedicates the nine-story mural of blues legend Muddy Waters across the way at 17 N. State St. He brought the Delta blues to Chicago where he turned it into his own Urban Blues sound that has influenced generations of musicians.
Along with some folks from the Department of Cultural Affairs and mural artist Eduardo Kobra, Muddy Waters’ daughter, Mercy Morganfield, will be there plus the Muddy Waters legacy Band of Mud and Big Bill Morganfield.
Also on hand will be Chicago Blues Festival headliners Billy Branch and Che “Rhymefet” Smith. (See Blues Festival here).
A pop-up shop will sell limited poster editions and other merchandise to benefit the Muddy Waters Foundation.
Chicago Blues Festival
Considered the largest free blues festival anywhere, the Chicago Blues Festival will take over Millennium Park with five stages 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., June 9-11, 2017. The venue is a change from Grant Park where the festival began in 1984.
On June 9 the festival stars Billy Branch & The Son of Blues with special guests Lurrie Bell, Freddie Dixon, J.W.S. Williams, Carlos Johnson, Carl Weathersby, Bill McFarland and Chicago Fire Horns plus Mae Koen & The Lights.
Headliners June 10 are William Bell, Theo Huff and the New Agenda Band and Nellie Tiger Travis. The festival closes June 11 with Gary Clark Jr., Rhiannon Giddens and Ronnie Baker Brooks.
The Chicago Blues Festival attracts about half a million music lovers. For more information visit chicagobluesfestival.
Chicago Magic Lounge
Old timers might recall Frank Everhart’s Magic Bar at the Ivanhoe or remember when Chicago had other magic show venues. But the fascination that magic holds is still alive. The Chicago Magic Lounge has stepped in to fill the void.
Open now with shows every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday night, the place is Uptown Underground at 4707 N. Broadway, Chicago. Go Wednesday for the Mind Reading Show or Thursday or Saturday for close up magic and stage performances.
Admission is age 21 plus however age 16 will be admitted with guardian. For more information call (773-867-1946 and visit Chicago Magic Lounge.
Goodman Theatre plans to reschedule ‘Pamplona’ by Jim McGrath, according to a recently released statement. A one-man show about Ernest Hemingway’s final years, ‘Pamplona’ was starring long-time stage and screen actor Stacy Keach. However, after a successful week of previews, the opening night performance stopped more than half-way through when Keach became ill.
Goodman spokespeople said medical testing showed that Keach had suffered a mild heart attack and that doctors expected him to fully recover after rehabilitation and rest.
Artistic Director Robert Falls said in the statement: “On behalf of Stacy Keach, his family and the Goodman, we would like to extend our gratitude for all of the generous support and concern shown to Stacy this past week. I remain awed by Stacy’s courage and strength after experiencing such a disturbing event; his spirits are high and he is resting and recovering comfortably. Jim, Stacy and I look forward to continuing our collaboration on ‘Pamplona.’’
People who already have tickets have a choice of a full refund or tickets to Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Ah Wilderness’ which runs June 17 through July 23, 2017. They will be contacted by ticket representatives and can call (312) 443-3800.
If you heard that Goodman Theatre’s opening night for the world premiere of “Pamplona,” a play by Jim McGrath that features Stacy Keach as Ernest Hemingway, stopped early, then don’t worry. The Goodman put out the following notice:
“Goodman Theatre had to unexpectedly halt this evening’s performance of Pamplona by Jim McGrath. The show’s star, Stacy Keach, had not been feeling well earlier in the day, but made the decision to go on with the performance. When it became clear midway through that Mr. Keach was struggling, Director Robert Falls took the stage and announced that the performance would conclude. Performances are expected to resume as scheduled.”
It may not seem as long as 32 years ago for Chicago to hold its Gospel Music Festival but considering that Chicago takes credit for gospel music it probably feels as if the genre has been around forever, at least in city area churches.
So, this weekend, June 2 and 3, 2017, the city is holding its 32 Chicago Gospel Music Festival. The concerts are on Friday. They are free and are taking place outdoors in Millennium Park and indoors (it may rain on and off those days) in the Chicago Cultural Center. Gospel music combined with workouts and wellness activities are on Saturday.
Here is the schedule but acts and times may change
June 2, 2017
Randolph Square area on the first floor of the Cultural Center
– Noon is Iliani Morales, 12:40 p.m. is Selah St. Sabina Youth Choir
– 1:10 p.m. is R&R featuring Russ and Roe and 1:40 p.m. is Neicy Robertson and Friends
– 2:10 p.m. is “Chicago’s Next” with 2ndNature Band, Isaiah Freeman, Jazmin Jones and Denton Arnell Harris and 3:20 p.m. is Arthur Sutton & The Gift of Praise
Millennium Park in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion
– 5:30 p.m. is Glenn Johnson & The Voices of Innerpeace and 6 p.m. is University of Illinois Black Chorus conducted by Ollie Watts Davis
– 6:40 p.m. is Malcolm Williams & Great Faith and 7:20 p.m. is Celebration of Gospel Music Quartets with Evelyn Turrentine-Agee and The Warriors, God’s Posse, The Gospel Crusaders and The Stars of Heaven
– 8:30 p.m. is Jonathan McReynolds with special guests Anthony Brown and Travis Greene
June 3, 2017
Millennium Park’s Great Lawn
– 7 a.m. is Gospel Music Yoga with instructor Marta Bailey and 8 a.m. is Gospel Music Cardio Workout with instructor LaTonya Ellis
– 9 a.m. is Pilates with an East Bank Club instructor and 10 a.m. is Zumba® also with an East Bank Club instructor
In the North Promenade Tent at Millennium Park
– 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. is Health & Wellness Oasis with screenings offered by Oak Street Health and Be The Match
– Also from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. are children’s activities in the Kids Activity Zone that include face painting, a balloon artist, Plaster of Paradise and the Imagination Playground
The City of Chicago is stirring some more exotic, well, at least, international and trendy, flavors into Taste of Chicago but is not neglecting comfort food or desserts or forgetting long-time faves.
Settling in along Columbus Drive (closed for the event) in Grant Park will be 67 vendors that include these 17 new-to-Taste places: American Glory, Aztec Dave’s Food truck, Ben’s Bar Be Cue, Bob Bar Truck, Brightwok Kitchen, Broken English, Cheesie’s Pub and Grub, Doom Street Eats, El Patron, Hakka Bakka Indian Kati Rolls, Just Salad, Lawrence’s Fish & Shrimp, the Little Beet table, Seoul Taco, The Cajun Connoisseur, Ukai Japanese Restaurant and Warm Belly Bakery.
Just hearing the names of these “fooderies” is mouth-watering enough to put stars on the calendar for July 5-9, 2017. But Taste aficionados can still count on getting their ribs at Robsinson’s, a slice of pizza at Lou Malnati’s and dessert fix at Eli’s Cheescake’s booths.
Yes, the event has been billed as the world’s largest free food festival but that just means no gate charge shape shifting into a crumb-snatching pigeon. Food and beverages are gotten by handing over the number of tickets required for each item the booths. Since a strip of 14 tickets cost $10, visitors would do well to purchase more than one strip.
However, checking out some of Chicago’s wonderful culinary choices is just part of Taste. There are good bands, excellent celebrity chef dinners, wine and beer gardens, dance and art events and cooking demonstrations.
Tickets starting at $19 can be purchased now for concerts at the park’s Petrillo Music Shell by Alessia Cara, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, The O’Jays, Café Tacvba and Passion Pit. There will also be local bands playing on the Bud Light Stage.
A different celebrity chef will do a three-course, sit-down dinner in an air conditioned tent each night. Tickets are $45 and must be purchased in advance.
For more Celebrity Chef dinner information and tickets and concert tickets visit Taste of Chicago.
Taste of Chicago, July 5-9, 2017, is in Grant Park on Columbus Drive from Monroe to Balbo. Hours are 11am–9pm Wednesday through Friday and 10am–9pm on Saturday and Sunday.
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.
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.
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.
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,’ 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.
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.