Check into the Grand Hotel

Leryn Turlington and Jonathan Schwart with cast of Grand Hotel. (Evan Hanover photos)
Leryn Turlington and Jonathan Schwart with cast of Grand Hotel. (Evan Hanover photos)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

This classic, Tony-Award-nominated musical comes to life in the hands of Kokandy Productions in Theater Wit. The moment you enter, the elegant set creates a warm ambience and violin and percussion sounds welcome you.

Up above and off stage, you hear the sounds of a crowd. Then, once the narrator, the good Colonel Doctor begins, the production takes off like a shot.

With book by Luther Davis, music and lyrics by Robert Wright, George Forrest and Maury Yeston, ‘Grand Hotel’s 1989 Broadway production earned 12 Tony Award nominations and won five.

Based on the 1928 play/novel “Menschen im Hotel” (People in a Hotel) and the 1932 MGM movie, the musical focuses on life and death, success and failure, love and murder all told through music and dance.

People come and go through the revolving door, with everything happening in the Grand Hotel’s lobby during one defining weekend. Read More

Marriott meshes veteran cast and outstanding dance numbers in ‘Oklahoma’

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Brandon Springman (Curly) and Jennie Sophia (Laurey) imagine riding on a surrey driven by snow-white horses in 'Oklahoma' at Marriott Theatre. (Photos by Liz Lauren)
Brandon Springman (Curly) and Jennie Sophia (Laurey) imagine riding on a surrey driven by snow-white horses in ‘Oklahoma’ at Marriott Theatre. (Photos by Liz Lauren)

Of course audiences going to Marriott Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ will hear and love Rogers and Hammerstein’s highly singable “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,” “Kansas City,” “I Can’t Say No,” “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “Oklahoma.”

Some folks were singing those popular, ingrained –in-American-culture songs as they left the theatre Wednesday night after the show’s official opening.

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‘South Pacific’ enchants the evening with romance and hi jinks

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Samatha Hill (Nellie), center, Rachel Osting, Erica Evans, Ashley Jane Lanyon, Kayla Boye, Allie Dandy Pizzo and Erica Stephan in 'South Pacific' at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)
Samantha Hill (Nellie), center, Rachel Osting, Erica Evans, Ashley Jane Lanyon, Kayla Boye, Allie Dandy Pizzo and Erica Stephan in ‘South Pacific’ at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)

Nearly 70 years after winning 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, ‘South Pacific’ mostly wears well at the Drury Lane Oakbrook revival.

The entire cast is stellar, the beloved Rogers and Hammerstein standards are well-tuned and racial conflict remains a relevant issue.

The action centers around a naval base in the South Pacific island amid World War II. During a lull in the fighting, the players engage in merrymaking and fall in love.

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Nature is perfect in imperfection according to Tchaikovsky but show about him is perfect

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Hershey Felder in his one-man show 'Our Great Tchaikovsky' at the upstairs Steppenwolf Theatre through May 13, 2018. Photos by Hershey Felder Presents.
Hershey Felder in his one-man show ‘Our Great Tchaikovsky’ at the upstairs Steppenwolf Theatre through May 13, 2018. Photos by Hershey Felder Presents.

Can people display numerous professions, some of which merge into one outstanding career, producing the most wonderful theatrical productions?

Not many. But there is one person who is currently in Chicago, pianist, actor, playwright, composer, producer and director Hershey Felder. He  is performing his fabulous play,‘Our Great Tchaikovsky’ upstairs in the Steppenwolf Theatre.

After creating highly regarded stage productions about Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven, Bernstein, Berlin and others, Felder is now garnering some of his best reviews for ‘Our Great Tchaikovsky.’

Beautifully directed by Trevor Hay, the play is a one-man performance in which Felder shares Tchaikovsky’s life through his own acting, writing, and musical talents.

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Global politics and power skewered in new farce

 

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Cast of Doppelganger at Steppenwolf. Photos by Michael Brosilow.
Cast of Doppelganger at Steppenwolf. Photos by Michael Brosilow.

You know when you see a stage set with multiple doors that the play will likely be a farce. Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s set of ‘Doppelgänger,’ a world premiere with the sub title of ‘an international farce,’ has all the elements needed to keep audiences  laughing, including 11 doors and another entrance.

Erlbach’s presentation of global political, economic and social issues of today works superbly well as a farce.

Clever lines come so quickly and author Matthew-Lee Erlbach’s obvious love of words so mesh in rhymes and tongue twisters that the first two hours speed by quickly.

No stereotype is spared from a hawkish general and a skinny, uptight  female British politician to an exiled African nation’s former brutal president, a bisexual Arab prince and a buxom, Brazilian money launderer.

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Where to celebrate Earth Day and Arbor Day

 

Think green and clean or flower power or planet health equals earth’s wealth.

Two April days, which isn’t much in the year’s calendar, are particularly set aside by people and organizations that care about planet Earth to keep it healthy and beautiful. Earth Day is April 22 and Arbor Day is April 29.

For Earth Day, enjoy gardens and community projects in the Andersonville neighborhood. Join with Lake County Forest Preserves naturalists for Bat Monitoring or a Woodpecker Walk. Take the Cardboard Challenge at Vernon Hills’ Hawthorn Mall. Or Party for the Planet at Brookfield Zoo.

The following weekend, head over to the Morton Arboretum for a Build-a-Tree workshop, Dress like a Tree or pick up a plant during a special sale.

These are a few of the activities to put on the April calendar.

Marguerite Gardens pops up at Foursided at the 2017 Andersonville Flower and Garden Show. Photo courtesy of Anderson Chamber of Commerce.
Marguerite Gardens pops up at Foursided at the 2017 Andersonville Flower and Garden Show. Photo courtesy of Anderson Chamber of Commerce.

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Iceland in Chicago

 

Taste of Iceland has taken over Chicago for a four-day festival of Icelandic cuisine, art and culture.

Among the events was an architecture talk and vodka tasting at Marshall’s Landing in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. The Mart overlooks a splendid view of the riverfront with examples of Chicago’s own stunning architecture just outside the window.

Museum Managing Director Halla Helgadottir. Photo by Reno Lovison
Iceland Design Centre Museum Managing Director Halla Helgadottir. Photo by Reno Lovison

There, we visited a presentation by Halla Helgadottir, Managing Director of the Iceland Design Centre Museum in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Centre has the distinction of being the most visited museum “per capita” of any museum in the world, the joke being that with Iceland’s small population it is estimated that more than 10% of the nation has visited the museum.

Helgadottir shared photos of several of Iceland’s architectural points of interest including the Harpa Concert Hall whose exterior looks as though it has been chiseled out of a giant sold piece of crystal clear ice.

Harpa Concert Hall, an example of Iceland architecture. Iceland Design Centre photo
Harpa Concert Hall, an example of Iceland architecture. Design Centre photo. Iceland.

Conversely, there was a photo of a farm house that was built largely underground and was reminiscent of the dugouts built by prairie pioneers in Kansas and other parts of the Midwest during the great westward expansion in the U.S.

Like the prairie pioneers, the Icelanders have precious little wood so alternative building options are required.

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Warm our blustery April weather with glorious music

When February weather sticks around for early April then warm up with good music. Go to the Lyric to hear some of the Ryan Opera Center members who sang this season. Or let Rogers and Hammerstein’s lyrical Broadway hits bring back memories. Or turn to Haydn and Beethoven to forget that Mother Nature’s Ap[ril Fool’s day joke has continued through the weekend.

Rising Stars in Concert

Singers with the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center Ensemble perform works by Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Puccini and other masters, April 7, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. The program is backed by a pianist and members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Edwin Outwater. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Opera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago is at 20 N. Wacker Drive.

The Sound of Their Music: 75 Years of Rogers and Hammerstein on Stage

Hosted by Daryl Nitz and Laura Freeman with music direction by Andrew Blendermann, the program is at the Skokie Theatre April 7 and April 8 at 7:30 p.m. It features artists Ken Baker, Cynthia Clarey, Sophie Grimm, and Tom Olickal performing songs from eight shows. Tickets are $35. For tickets and other information visit Skokie Theatre.   Skokie Theatre is at 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie.

MASTERWORKS 4: Haydn and Beethoven

The Lake Forest Symphony with Conductor Vladimir Kulenovic are doing Haydn’s Symphony No. 4, Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 featuring Cellist Jay Campbell and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 April 7 at 8 p.m. and April 8 at 2 p.m. The Saturday concert is at the Cressey center for the Arts at Lake forest Academy. 1500 West Kennedy Road
Lake Forest. Sunday’s concert is at the James Lumber Center of the college of Lake County19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake. For tickets and other information visit Lake Forest Symphony.

 

Race and sex can be serious and entertaining among smart people

 

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Julian Parker (Jackson Moore, MD), Kayla Carter (Valerie Johnston, Deanna Myers (Ginny Wang) and Erik Hellman (Brian White) in 'Smart People' at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Julian Parker (Jackson Moore, MD), Kayla Carter (Valerie Johnston), Deanna Myers (Ginny Wang) and Erik Hellman (Brian White) in ‘Smart People’ at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

Do you sometimes assume that someone with the name of Goldstein is Jewish or that someone who is Asian has to be aggressive to be successful?

In ‘Smart People,’ now playing at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, playwright Lydia R. Diamond has four people, a black man, black woman, white man and an Asian woman, interact in Cambridge, MA. Both issue raised here did occur.

All are ‘smart people’ but they each encounter stereotypical problems with others and with each other when play and pursue their careers. The time is between 2007 and 2009 with the Barack Obama campaign and win in the background.

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Another hit show debuts in Chicago

Terrific songs, cast and staging should take ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ all the way to Broadway

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If you loved the 1990 romantic comedy movie starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, directed and choreographed by Garry Marshall, you won’t be disappointed in the show turned into a musical. Pretty Woman: the Musical opened its world premiere at Broadway in Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, March 28, complete with red carpet, flashing lights and New York and LA industry VIPS.

But it was the magic on stage wrought by Samantha Barks as Vivian, a Hollywood Blvd. upwardly-mobile-dreaming prostitute who knows cars, Steve Kazee as Edward, a heartless take-over mogul, Orfeh as Vivian’s friend Kit and Eric Anderson as Mr. Thompson the friendly hotel manager of  the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel (also plays Happy Man, a Hollywood Blvd. denizen) that captured the audience’s attention and got a well-deserved standing ovation.

Samantha Barks (Vivian) and Steve Kazee (Edward) and Company in Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018
Samantha Barks (Vivian) and Steve Kazee (Edward) and Company in Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018

Directed by Jerry Mitchell, the musical moves seamlessly through memorable film scenes from bathtub singing to Rodeo Drive shopping.

Blessed with a book by Garry Marshall and the movie’s screenwriter, J. F. Lawton, it closely follows the film, aping similar although not always the same lines.Read More