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.

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‘Gloria’ views tragedy through the satirical lens of publishing

RECOMMENDED

REVIEW

‘Gloria,’ a dark satire now at Goodman Theatre, is a perfect example of don’t judge a play by its first half hour.

'Ryan Spahn (Dean), Jennifer Kim (Kendra) and Catherine Combs (Ani) in "Gloria' at the Goodman Theatre.
Ryan Spahn (Dean), Jennifer Kim (Kendra) and Catherine Combs (Ani) in ‘Gloria’ at the Goodman Theatre.

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins first lulls audiences into “so-what” mode with the irritating whining of editorial assistants at a New York magazine.

But then, the first act ends with a jolt that has audiences coming back after intermission wondering what will happen next. Read More

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 

 

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.

 

Theater Week is back with good ticket prices

UPCOMING

Theater Alert! If you’ve heard of a Chicago area theater but haven’t gotten over there or if there is a show you want to see but you thought tickets were beyond budget, check out the places listed on Chicago Theatre Week, right now.

Steppenwolf is among the theatre companies participating in Chicago Theatre Week. Kyle Flubacker photo
Steppenwolf is among the companies participating in Chicago Theatre Week. Kyle Flubacker photo

Tickets to more than 100 area theater productions are on sale beginning 10 a. m. CT Jan. 10, for shows you can see during Theatre Week, Feb. 9 through Feb. 19, 2017.

Tickets are priced at $30 and less. Many are at $15. Shows range from Goodman Theatre and Lyric Opera to The Second City and Steppenwolf.

Click on Chicago Theatre Week then scroll down to see the full list of production company options. But do it now to see what you want to attend. Tickets go on sale starting at 10 a.m. People in the know quickly snap up tickets.

“Theatre Week invites Chicago audiences and visitors to experience the wide range of offerings,” said League of Chicago Theatre Executive Director Deb Clapp

“We are so thrilled to be able to share the amazing work and we equally love hearing from participants that they visited a favorite theatre or discovered a great new one,” Clapp said..

He added, “This is a week that reminds us all that Chicago is known locally, nationally, and internationally for its theatre scene, and especially this season for generating new work, showcasing fresh talent and spotlighting its rich Chicago tradition.”

 

Five art venues worth braving Chicago temps

UPCOMING

Installation view, decor for 'Views on Stage, 2004 in "Dance Works II: Merce Cunningham/Ernesto Neto, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2012, Photo by Gene Pittman
Installation view, decor for ‘Views on Stage, 2004 in “Dance Works II: Merce Cunningham  – Ernesto Neto, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2012. Photo by Gene Pittman

It’s a given that Chicago winters are defined by how much snow has to be shoveled and how many layers are needed to protect against the cold. But, hey, Chicagoans know the city doesn’t shut down. So, Instead of hibernating the question is – what’s happening in and around the city to see and do early in 2017?

First was a look at some theater offerings premiering in Chicago. Now, let’s take a look at what is happening on the art scene.

Two of the exhibit sites, Intuit and Chicago Artists Coalition, may introduce you to art spaces you didn’t know or hadn’t visited.

The next two exhibits are in well-visited art museums but are quite unusual. The last venue hosts art exhibits throughout the year but the place is often under the radar.

 

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Midwest and World premieres in early 2017

UPCOMING SHOWS

When those New Year resolutions include taking advantage of the Chicago area’s superb theater scene, consider getting tickets to a show that is a World or Chicago Premiere.

Theatre Wit gives a clever behind-the-curtain glimpse of a play rehearsal. Theatre Wit Photo
Theatre Wit gives a clever behind-the-curtain glimpse of a play rehearsal. Theatre Wit Photo

The productions listed here are at six venues that typically do at least one new production a year and often host productions by other theater companies.

Thus they can have more than one show scheduled each month. So, while checking out the suggestions here also look at the venue’s season.

Theater seasons don’t usually coincide with a calendar year. The premieres mentioned here open by the end of March 2017.

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Year in Review: Chicago Theatre

Top 2016 shows Year in Review

With about 250 theatre companies in the Chicago area, it’s pretty much a given that their audiences are fairly sophisticated when it comes to show choices. In addition, some folks love musicals, others gravitate toward meaningful reflections of life. So, feel free to add your top choice or choices in comments after reading those of Chicago Theater and Arts. The picks here are not in order of preference.

From left: Nic Fantl (Beauregard), Nancy Hays (Mame), Alexander Wu (Ito), Alicia Berneche (Agnes Gooch) and Zachary Scott Fewkes (Patrick). Phot Mona Luan
From left: Nic Fantl (Beauregard), Nancy Hays (Mame), Alexander Wu (Ito), Alicia Berneche (Agnes Gooch) and Zachary Scott Fewkes (Patrick). Photo Mona Luan

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