‘Rock of Ages’ strobes into Chicago

L-to-R-Anthony Nuccio (Drew) and Katie LaMark (*Sherrie) in Rock of Ages. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)
L-to-R-Anthony Nuccio (Drew) and Katie LaMark (*Sherrie) in Rock of Ages. (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

3 Stars

How you feel about “Rock of Ages,” a classic rock “Jukebox musical” now in Chicago, depends on whether you saw the original show ten years ago and liked it or if you don’t mind and even appreciate that this version is a parody of itself.

At the Nederlander Ttheatre (formerly Oriental) through Aril 28 2019, the current show is taking its 10th anniversary tour through the U.S. with more flashing concert rock-band lights and amps than when it came out in 2009.

Directed by Martha Banta, everything is highly exaggerated which makes this version funnier but it also gallops through several of the songs and turns up the volume so that you may catch the beat rather than the words even though the show includes such standards  as “Waiting For a Girl Like You,” and “Here we Go Again.”

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‘Magic Penthouse’ a Date Night Fantasy

Magic Penthouse as a date night experience. (Photo by Reno Lovison)
Magic Penthouse as a date night experience. (Photo by Reno Lovison)

For those of you interested in surveys and statistics three out of the five top traveler-ranked places of interest in Chicago are magic shows.

By the way, the blockbuster theater experience, “Hamilton,” is ranked number two with “Jazz Showcase” and “Lyric Opera” at six and seven respectively followed by Chicago Symphony and The Shakespeare Theater.

So based on travellers willing to take the time to leave a review and rank their performance experiences at Trip Advisor, “Magic Penthouse” falls in as number five in the top ten.

If you are a fan of prestidigitation, magic impresario and Munich native, Sin Ordu and his troupe of tricksters and spellbinders will keep you thoroughly engaged and entertained for roughly two and a half hours.

This is a unique total post-dinner evening package that includes entertainment, ample adult beverages, and a smattering of appetizers for one fixe prix.

Doors open at 8 p.m.  The festivities begin with a mix and mingle cocktail reception featuring an open bar and plenty of sparkling wine pre-poured and ready to go.

The atmosphere was upbeat with an air of eager anticipation from the guests.  Interestingly, there was plenty of interaction between guests as we managed to enjoy short conversations with three or four other couples including the very tall and mysterious “Mr. Johnson,” also a pleasant conversation with one Stetson-hat/ostrich-leather-boot adorned “dude” from the Northshore named Nick.

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‘A Chorus Line’ is the back story

Company of 'A Chorus Line (Richard Strimer as Zach) center) at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Michael Courier photo)
Company of ‘A Chorus Line (Richard Strimer as Zach) center) at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Michael Courier photo)

4 stars

Not sure how many times I’ve seen ‘A Chorus Line,” but director Brenda Didier and choreographer Chris Carter’s version now at Porchlight Music Theatre, is not a copy.

It goes back to director Michael Bennett’s concept to present the story behind who are the dancers/singers in a musical’s chorus line.

He was interested in why do they want to be in a chorus line, when did they decide they wanted to dance as a career, what happens if they are accepted or not when they audition and finally, what will they do after they no longer can dance. In January 1974, he now famously asked a group of dancers to talk about themselves and if he could record it. Their responses make up the show.Read More

Cut loose with ‘Footloose’

Aiden Wharton as Ren McCormack (center). (Liz Lauren photo)
Cast of ‘Footloose’ at Marriott Theatre. led by Aiden Wharton as Ren McCormack (center). (Liz Lauren photo)

3 stars

If you bring the family (middle-school age and up) to see “Footloose” at Marriott Theatre, you will likely have interesting talking points after the show. This is a high energy musical that is perfect for adolescent audiences tired of rules, curfews and their town or suburb.

Based on the 1984 movie starring Kevin Bacon, the story’s roots are the ideology and actions of a small, rural town in Oklahoma that had banned dancing for almost a century.

In the musical, originally written for the film by Dean Pitchford, with music by Tom Snow, Jim Steinman, Kenny Loggins and Pitchford, (additional music by Sammy Hagar and Eric Carmen and others) Chicago teenager Ren McCormack moves to Bomont, Utah with his mom, Ethel, after their dad leaves home.Read More

It is ‘Lottery Day’ in the Rightlynd ward

 

James Vincent Meredith (Avery) and J. Nicole Brooks (Mallory) in Lottery Day at Goodman Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)
James Vincent Meredith (Avery) and J. Nicole Brooks (Mallory) in Lottery Day at Goodman Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)

3 stars

Rightlynd is Holter’s fictional ward in Chicago. When guests enter Owen’s lobby they see a colorful board map of the neighborhood with places and names that have been mentioned in the saga’s plays that precede “Lottery Day.” Maybe a copy of that map ought to be in the playbill.

If you think of playwright Ike Holter’s “Lottery Day,” the seventh play in his Rightlynd saga, from an opera format view point, you may not mind that you don’t hear what the characters are saying when they all talk at the same time. Maybe, just consider it a duet or blending of emotions and voices.

According to Holter’s comments in Goodman Theatre’s On Stage Q&A the cadence and very fast dialogue beats in his series are deliberate.

I understand that. But when watching “Lottery Day,” now in its world premiere at Goodman’s Owen Theatre, I felt I needed to actually hear what they were saying to help me define each character’s place in the story, their concerns and background.

Not having seen any of the plays that preceded “Lottery Day” in the saga, I felt I had come upon preparations for a party and then the party, itself, quite accidentally without knowing any of the participants, their back story or why they interacted the way they did.Read More

Around Town: Pop-up art, Earth Day and good web sites

Expect the unexpected when it comes to what’s happening in and around Chicago. Here are three items that add fun to spring.

Back to the Future II shoes on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art .Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions)
Back to the Future II shoes on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art .Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

Urban Art Pop-Up Trunk Show

Try to stop by the Museum of Contemporary Art’s store by April 11, 2019. Up on the second level of the store are about 100 unusual, expensive, street and art culture items on display that can be bid on through Heritage Auctions.

The items include a pair of “ Back to the Future II” shoes designed by Nike that have an  auto-lacing system activated by the wearer’s weight on the sole. They were worn by Michael J. Fox as Marty Mcfly. There are also Jeff Koons’ “Balloon Animal Series, “Sunflowers by Ron English and items by Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst and other artists.

The MCA, located at 220 E. Chicago Ave., is closed Monday, open otherwise at 10 am.  Fri and tues until 9 othewise until 6. For more information call 312-397-4000 and visit MCA Chicago/Urban Art.

 

 

Planting is one of the activities in Brookfield Zoo's Party for the Planet Day April 14. (Photo courtesy of Brookfield Zoo)
Planting is one of the activities in Brookfield Zoo’s Party for the Planet Day April 14. (Photo courtesy of Brookfield Zoo)

Earth Day Party.

Brookfield Zoo is celebrating our planet April 14 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with crafts, Zoo Chats, planting activities and recycle drop-off containers. Tree planting is at 11 a.m. and then pansies are planted near the Hamill family Play Zoo until 12:30. An Eco Expo of 20 organizations including the Lincoln Park Zoo Shedd Auarium and Indiana dunes National Park, will be stationed on the North Mall. The Party for the Planet is presented by Nicor Gas’ “energySmart” program.

Some of the other activities are meeting zoo animal ambassadors near the Carousel from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., a chat about bears in the Great Bear Wilderness at 11 a.m. and learning about the black rhino in the Pachyderm Building at 2:30 p.m.

As to recycling, the zoo will take electronics, textiles, and household hazardous waste items.on April 13 until 3 p.m. then electronics, textiles and paper (for shredding) April 14, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free parking in the North Lot, 8400 31st Street (First Avenue and 31st Street), Brookfield, is offered to visitors with one or more approved items to recycle on either day.

There will be a drop box for electronic items such as cell phones, cell phone accessories, pagers, hand-held electronic games, e-readers, laptops, iPods, iPads, tablets, and MP3 players (sent to Eco-Cell for recycling). For approved items visit CZS.org/PartyPlanet . Items have to be brought unboxed with no excess packaging.

Zoo admission is $21 95 adults, $15.95for  ages 3-11 and seniors age 65 and older. Partyh for th Planet activities included in admission except for those inside the Hamil Familyh Play zoo. Parking is $14.00. For additional information call (708) 688-8000 and visit CZS.org/PartyPlanet.

 

Gehary Pavillion has programs in Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)
Gehary Pavillion has programs in Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)

Three Chicago Websites to know

Millenium Park Calendar – copy, paste and keep checking this website for birding, plant events, music festivals and more.

Chicago City Markets – The city markets are opening outdoors with fresh produce, baked goods, gifts and demos so check this website for dates and activities .

Chicago Riverwalk – find out where the sculptures are, what is happening with the Mart video art, when and where vendors are opening and other activities along the Chicago River at this website.

 

Jodie Jacobs

 

Around Town in April: Kids and Adult events

April is filled with things to do and places to go. Some events cater to families, others to adults. Here are a few events to put on the calendar. And yes, go even if it’s in the children category unless specifically stated for ages 5-12.

Mummies are among a hands-on event at the Oriental Institute Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Oriental Institute)
Mummies are among a hands-on event at the Oriental Institute Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Oriental Institute)

FOR CHILDREN

Mummies and more

Learn about mummies and ancient “earth day” style practices at two free Oriental Institute Museum April events for ages 5 through 12.

First, “Secret of the Mummies” is April 6 from 1 to 3 p.m. To register visit Evenbrite Secret of the Mummies Tickets.

Second,  is “Ancient Earth Day” April 27, also from 1 to 3 p.m. To register visit Evenbrite Earth Day tickets.

The Oriental Institute Museum is at 1155 E. 58th Street, Chicago, IL For more information than what is found above in  “Mummies” and “Earth Day” call the Oriental Institute’s Public Education Office at 773-702-9507.

 

Making seed necklaces are among the Science Festival activities at the Chicago Botanic Garden. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden)
Making seed necklaces are among the Science Festival activities at the Chicago Botanic Garden. (Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden)

Science Festival

Chicago Botanic Garden is holding a hands-on science fair with seeds, flower pollination and other activities on April 13-14, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some activities such as making your own seed necklace and how to see it sprout are free. There is a parking fee for nonmembers. For details visit Chicago Botanic Garden Science Festival.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe just east of Edens Expressway.

 

Dress as a tree during Morton Arboretum's Arbor Day celebration to get in free. (Photo courtesy of Morton Arboretum)
Dress as a tree during Morton Arboretum’s Arbor Day celebration to get in free. (Photo courtesy of Morton Arboretum)

Trolls Plus

Huge trolls have populated the Morton Arboretum and will still be around to check them out if visiting during the Arboretum’s daily Arbor Day activities in april and special Arbor Day events April 26-27. Anyone dressed as a tree on April 26 will be admitted free.

For admission and hours visit Visit-Explore. The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 IL Hwy 53, Lisle.

 

FOR ADULTS

 

 

Lyric Concert

Lyric Opera of chicago celebrates its Ryan Opera Center with the Rising Stars in Concert April 7 at 2 p.m. Sopranos Whitney Morrison, Emily Pogorelc and Ann Toomey will be singing arias, duets and other pieces with Mezzo-soprano Kayleigh Decker, contralto Lauren Decker, tenors Eric Ferring Josh Lovell and Mario Rojas along with baritones Christopher Kenney and Ricardo Jose Rivera plus bass-baritones Alan Higgs and David Weigel. Pianist is Madeline Slettedahl.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago is at 20 N. Wacker Drive. For tickets visit Lyric Opera concert/tickets or call 312-827-5600.

 

One of a Kind Show has items for the home and gifts. (Photo courtesy of One of a Kind Show)
One of a Kind Show has items for the home and gifts. (Photo courtesy of One of a Kind Show)

Gift Show

The One of a Kind Show, open to the public (as opposed to the trade) takes place at the Merchandise Mart in early winter in time for the holidays and mid-spring in time for Mother’s Day.  This Spring it happens Ap;ril 26, through April 28. Handmade items range from paper, ceramics, paintings and photography to jewelry, sculpture, fiber Art, meta, glass and wood.  Plus there are gourmet treats for sale.

The Merchandise Mart is at 222 Merchandise Mart plaza between the Chicago River and Kinzie and between Wells and Orleans. For tickets visit One of a kind/spring/tickets.

 

Farmers Market

Green City Market opens in Lincoln Park May 4. A popular farmers market that features chef demos, fresh produce and many local products, operates Saturday and Wednesday through Oct. 26, 2019 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Green City Market in Lincoln Park is at 1817N Clark St. For more information, visit Green City Market.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

 

Oh what a night!

Jersey Boys at the Auditorium Theatre
Jersey Boys at the Auditorium Theatre

4 stars

Opening in New York in 2005 and winning the Tony and Grammy Awards for Best Musical in 2006, “Jersey Boys” has now been seen by more than 25 million people.  And I’ll bet that some have seen it more than once—like I have.

The book, “Jersey Boys,” was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Amusing dialogue is interspersed with the tremendous songs that keep the audience laughing.

Directed by Des McAnuff, “Jersey Boys” is the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons—four guys from New Jersey who weren’t known at all until they started singing outdoors on a corner. And once they did, their songs became more than popular and played on radios every day and night.

The songs by The Four Seasons in “Jersey Boys” not only bring back so many memories, but have younger audience members swinging and swaying in their seats.

(l to r) Eric Chambliss, Jonny Wexler, Corey Greenan, Jonathan Cable and compnay of Jersey Boys at the Auditorium Theatre. (Photos by Joan Marcus)
(l to r) Eric Chambliss, Jonny Wexler, Corey Greenan, Jonathan Cable and compnay of Jersey Boys at the Auditorium Theatre. (Photos by Joan Marcus)

Songs such as “Walk Like a Man,” “Sherry,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Rag Doll,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” hook-up with the musical’s story of a gang leader with a money problem that involves the mob and the record industry, along with many things that relate to true friendships and loving relationships.

The original Four Seasons were Bob Gaudio, the musical composer played by Eric Chambliss, Frankie Valli, played by Jonny Wexler, Nick Massi, played by Jonathan Cable and Tommy DeVito, played by Cory Greenan. The lyricist and producer, Bob Crewe, is played by Wade Dooley.

“My Boyfriend’s Back” is sung by the Angels portrayed by Ashley Bruce, Chloe Tiso, and Jessica Wockenfuss, all of whom also play other female roles.

The rest of the fabulous cast is Tony L. Clements, Caitlin Leary, Jeremy Sartin, and Kit Treece. Many of the cast members move on stage as they play musical instruments.

A Broadway in Chicago presentation now at the Auditorium Theatre, it’s a show not to miss . . . “Let’s Hang On to What We’ve Got!”

DETAILS: “Jersey Boys” is at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells (Congress Pkwy. at Michigan Avenue), Chicago, through April 7, 2019. Running time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information, call Ticket Master at 1-800-775-2000, or visit BroadwayInChicago.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

What is needed to get parenting right

 

Nathan Burger (Bernard) and William Brown (Salter) in 'A Number' at Writers Theatre. (Photos by Michael Brosilow)
Nathan Burger (Bernard) and William Brown (Salter) in ‘A Number’ at Writers Theatre. (Photos by Michael Brosilow)

3 1/2 stars

During the course of “A Number” at Writers Theatre, Glencoe, a father admits he was an awful parent the first time around as his sons try to extract the full story of their existence.

It’s sort-of a two person play with stage veteran, actor/director  Nate Burger (Writers Theatre, Americanh Players Theatre, Timeline) as the father, Salter, and popular Chicago actor Nate Burger (Chicago Shakespeare, Timeline, Goodman) as Bernard, his sons, 1, 2 and 3.

The play is only 65 minutes long but its high intensity acting and twists made it feel as if I sat through two hours of a suspenseful drama.

Eerie music and lighting enhance Robin Witt’s spot-on direction of clipped responses from the father in contrast to the emotions of Salter’s original and cloned sons.

Nathan Burger and William Brown in 'A Number'
Nathan Burger and William Brown in ‘A Number’

Yes the show, written by Caryl Churchill back in 2002 when copying mammals’ DNA and genetic make-up  was in the news, is about cloning. It’s also about examining uniqueness, identity, upbringing, abandonment and truth.

Salter, who felt he was not a good father the first time around, wanted to try again from scratch. He had scientists clone his first son so he could be a better father the second time.

What happens on how the son and clones react will be a surprise therefore there will not be an alert here. You have to go to find out.

But a word of warning. Don’t believe most of what Salter says. The real story emerges from the mist of his twisted mind in bits and pieces.

DETAILS:”A Number” is in the Gillian Theatre of Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court Glencoe  through June 9, 2019. Running Time: 65 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information call  847) 242-6000 and visit Writers Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

 

‘Anastasia’

 

 Lila Coogan (Anya), Stephen Brower (Dmitry) (Photo courtesy of Broadway In chicago)
Lila Coogan (Anya), Stephen Brower (Dmitry) (Photo courtesy of Broadway In chicago)

3 stars

There is plenty to like about this Broadway in Chicago theatrical extravaganza. It is loosely based on the true story of a woman who claimed to be the surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia and whose family was assassinated along with him by the Bolsheviks following the Communist uprising in July 1917.

But don’t worry this version of “Anastasia” has little to do with reality. Inspired by the Twentieth Century Fox animated film (later acquired by Disney Corporation), it refers to the tragedy but is scrubbed clean of most of the ugly parts, leaving behind the tale of a young, beautiful and strong heroine striving to find her true identity while struggling to come to terms with her inner princess.

It was an enthusiastic and appreciative, mostly female audience that packed Chicago’s Nederlander Theater opening night. The book by Terrence McNally is expertly crafted to suit its intended audience of preadolescent girls who themselves are likely exploring their own future and place in the world.Read More