‘Mamma Mia’ moves to a vibrant disco beat

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

It doesn’t matter if you have seen’ Mamma Mia’ before. As an audience member sitting next to me at the Marriott Theatre said, “I saw it on Broadway. This is better.”

Cassie Slater (Rosie) Danni Smith (Donna) and Meghan Murphy (Tanya) in 'Mamma Mia!' at Marriott Theatre. Photo by Justin Barbin
Cassie Slater (Rosie) Danni Smith (Donna) and Meghan Murphy (Tanya) in ‘Mamma Mia!’ at Marriott Theatre. Photo by Justin Barbin

A jukebox musical based on the songs of ABBA, the Marriott production has it all: terrific solos, great dance numbers, fine staging and a perfect combo of light and sound that brings back the 1970s disco era. A Swedish group, ABBA was performing, basically from 1972 to 1982. Read More

Oh what a Chicago night

 

It was Feb., 4, 2017, not December, 1963. But the people who attended the ‘Chicago Voices Concert’ at the Lyric’s Civic Opera House will arguably remember the night.

The Handsome Family, John Pine and Shemekia Copeland were among the performers at the Chicago Voices Concert. Photo by Cory Weaver
The Handsome Family, John Pine and Shemekia Copeland were among the performers at the Chicago Voices Concert. Photo by Cory Weaver

One famed musician after another performed on stage. Their common denominator was a Chicago tie.

Put together by Renée Fleming to showcase sounds of Chicago, the opera star pointed out that music brings people together. “Amongst the fear and heartbreak we do what we do best,” Fleming said.

Read More

Hot music for cold nights

 

The Green Mill features Chicago and touring jazz artists. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
The Green Mill features Chicago and touring jazz artists. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

The Green Mill is always a good choice for hot jazz on a cold winter night. But who would have thought to add the Civic Opera House to the mix?

 

The Green Mill

The Bruce Barth Trio Tour is landing at the Green Mill, Feb. 3-4, 2017. Barth on the piano, Dave Baron on the bass and Montez Coleman on drums will be heating the Green Mill Jazz Club from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday. Green Mill is at 4802 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago, IL 60640 (773-878-5552. Cover is $15.

 

Civic Opera House

You know “Hamilton” pulls together hip hop, jazz, blues and pop. But you can thank opera star Renée  Fleming for showing Chicago that indeed, the city spawns great jazz, blues, pop, rock, gospel, folk, hip hop and classical music. To hear all that in one place snag a ticket to Chicago Voices. Saturday. On stage will be Kurt Elling, Shemekia Copeland, Jessie Mueller, Lupe Fiasco, Renée Fleming Michelle Williams, The Handsome Family, Matthew Polenzani, and John Prine. Fleming has been working with the Lyric’s outreach arm to encourage more Chicagoans to express themselves in music.  Click Chicago Voices to find out more.

For ticket information visit Lyric Opera/Concert or  call (312) 827­-5600. The Civic Opera House is at 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606.

 

Opening night crowd appreciates Bellini’s challenging bel canto ‘Norma’

 

RECOMMENDED

A love triangle, betrayal, an ominous war, a necessary death – all centered on a strong woman, is perfect opera fare.

Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma) and Elizabeth DeShong (Adalgisa) in Norma at the Lyric Opera of chicago
Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma) and Elizabeth DeShong (Adalgisa) in ‘Norma’ at the Lyric Opera of Chicago

The brilliant 19th century composer Vincenzo Bellini found such a plot in “Norma, ou L’infanticide” a play by Alexandre Soumet.

Don’t worry, in the opera Norma threatens her betraying lover with infanticide but doesn’t kill their children. What Bellini did was to turn the story into what has become the iconic bel canto opera.

Now, the Lyric Opera of Chicago which has only done “Norma” three previous times beginning with Maria Callas in 1954, is doing a new-to-Chicago, co-production starring opera’s current Norma favorite, Sondra Radvanovsky.

Read More

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 

 

Found entertainment

 

If looking for something a bit different to warm the spirit on a chilly winter night, check out the Salon Series at Amy Morton’s Found Kitchen and Social House in Evanston.

Nicholas Barron appears Wednesdays at Found's Salon Series, Evanston
Nicholas Barron appears Wednesdays at Found’s Salon Series, Evanston

Veteran singer/songwriter Nicholas Barron who opened for Buddy Guy, James Taylor and  Al Green, starts a regular Wednesday night gig Jan. 18, 2017 in Found’s intimate Salon Privé space. Cover charge is $10.

Or go the next night, Jan. 19, for the venue’s Quarterly Burlesque Review, an hour-long show (8 to 9 p.m.) staring Eva la Feva, Ray Ray Sunshine and Lady Jack. Cover is $20. Reserved seating is offered with a dinner reservation.

If the salon idea sounds retro it’s because Found is an eclectic place that fits Gertrude Stein’s 1920’s bohemian Paris.

It also fits its Chicago Avenue location in Evanston. This writer recalls while a student at Northwestern University many year ago, stopping in such places where a variety of intellectuals hung out.

Found Kitchen and Social House is at 1631 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL. Visit Found or call (847) 868-8945.

 

Unique concert salutes the musical culture of Chicago

UPCOMING

You won’t have to ask what opera star Renée Fleming, Broadway star Jessie Mueller, folk singer/writer John Prine, R&B/gospel artist Michelle Williams, New Queen of Blues Shemekia Copeland, tenor Matthew Polenzani and The Handsome Family husband-wife duo have in common.

Chicago Voices concert features several stars and music genres.
Chicago Voices concert features several stars and music genres.

Merely, snag a ticket to their concert, Feb. 4, 2017 at the Civic Opera House, to see them perform.

You will experience a blend of styles and hear the program is a tribute to Chicago’s musical influence.

Mixing genres might sound unusual but think  ‘Hamilton,’ a blockbuster musical that uses several styles (it’s not just rap or hip hop).

Led by Music Director Doug Peck, a five-time Jeff Award recipient, the eclectic program  features and mixes  musical styles.

Fleming, a creative consultant for the Lyric Opera, has been working with Lyric Unlimited, an outreach branch, to encourage Chicago residents to tell their stories through a variety of musical and rhythmic genres.

The legendary opera singer and Lyric Unlimited call the program Chicago Voices. Click on it to find out more.

“When violence in Chicago and a divided America are the headlines, Chicago Voices offers an example of unity, ” said Fleming. “On Feb. 4, we raise our voices to honor the musical heritage and rich diversity of the city we love,” she said.

For ticket information visit Lyric Opera/Concert or by call (312) 827­-5600. The Civic Opera House is at 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606.

 

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.

Read More

Creative staging combine with fine acting and musicianship to tell dark folktale

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

As  PigPen Theatre Co.’s ‘The Hunter and The Bear’ plays out at Writers Theatre you think you are watching a ghost story take shape. That is until the end when it becomes a dark folk story.

Cast of 'The Hunter and The Bear' at Writers theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Cast of ‘The Hunter and The Bear’ at Writers theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilowuntil the end when it becomes a dark, moralistic folktale.

Read More

The magic is in the music and singing at Lyric’s ‘The Magic Flute’

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

There are two ways to consider Lyric’s ‘Magic Flute’ production. On one hand it will likely appeal to youngsters though they will have to sit for three hours and 20 minutes (intermission comes about an hour and 15 minutes into the opera).

Kathryn Lewek as Queen of the Night and Andrew Staples as Prince Tamino in the Lyric Opera of chicago's 'The Magic Flute.' Lyric photo
Kathryn Lewek as Queen of the Night and Andrew Staples as Prince Tamino in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s ‘The Magic Flute.’ Todd Rosenberg photo

Read More