Theatre scene shines in western suburbs

 

It’s not too early to check out shows that are coming in 2017-18.

Drury Lane,Oakbrook Terrace, will have theater-goers rockin', tappin' and cheerin' this coming season. Photo courtesy of Drury Lane Theatre.
Drury Lane,Oakbrook Terrace, will have theater-goers rockin’, tappin’ and cheerin’ this coming season. Photo courtesy of Drury Lane Theatre.

Because Metropolitan Chicago is rich in theatre and entertainment choices, what is happening and where next season is divided into areas. Click northern suburbs season options for that section. City sections will be next.

First, take a look at some of the go-to possibilities west of Chicago. They are exciting enough to attract people from other areas in and around the city.

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At Driehaus: Toulouse Lautrec and Tiffany

A visit to the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, a magnificent late 1900’s mansion on East Erie Street, is a double treat.

 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec "Jane Avril" 1893, color lithograph. John Faier Photo
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec “Jane Avril” 1893, color lithograph. John Faier Photo (c) Driehaus Museum

In 2016, the museum hosted an exhibit of Downton Abbey’s fabulous costumes. The mansion’s elaborate rooms which hold several items from Driehaus ‘ vast collection of decorative arts, perfectly fit the exhibit titled “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times.”

This year, the museum is featuring art of a different kind in “L’Affichomani: The Passion for French Posters.”

Spread across two upstairs floors of the museum, the exhibit comes from Driehaus’ own large collection of turn-of-the-last-century posters.

Dating from the Belle Époque of about 1875 to 1910, they show off the wonderful lines and colors favored by their artists: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alphonse Mucha, Jules Chéret, Eugene Grasset and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen.

Alphonse Mucha " Sarah Bernhardt as "La dame aux Camelias," 1896, color lithograph. John Faier photo.
Alphonse Mucha ” Sarah Bernhardt as “La dame aux Camelias,” 1896, color lithograph. John Faier photo

Of course as posters, they do more than serve as advertisements for particular artists. They advertise entertainers, products and events of the time. In doing so they turned the streets of Paris in art galleries while bringing together art and commerce.

So go for the exhibit, but stay to see the mansion. The Driehause collection includes Tiffany glass.

“L’Affichomani: The Passion for French Poster” Is at the Driehaus Museum, 40 E. Erie St., Chicago, through Jan. 7, 2018. For admission and hours call  (312) 482-8933 and visit Driehaus.

 

 

Great shows make up an exciting season north of Chicago

 

Chicago theatres and entertainment venues have a terrific line-up of shows for the 2017-18 season. Now is a good time to plan what to see with season tickets or dropping hints for birthday or holiday presents.

Genesee Theatre north of Chicago in Waukegan features name entertainers. Photo courtesy of Genesee Theatre
Genesee Theatre north of Chicago in Waukegan features name entertainers. Photo courtesy of Genesee Theatre

Don’t just consider plays. There’s also one-and two-nighters of top entertainers at a couple of venues. With so many places to go for a night out the Chicago theatre scene has to be broken into different areas. Not everything to see is downtown or Near North. So, try some of the theatres and other venues north of the city.

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‘American in Paris’ shines with wonderful Gershwin music plus terrific set design and dancing

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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.

Henri (Nick Spangler) and dancers perform a fantasy number at a Parisian club. Photos by Matthew
Henri (Nick Spangler) and dancers perform a fantasy number at a Parisian club. Photos by Matthew Murphy

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.

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Around Town: Find Lollapalooza tickets and a great pub or listen to writer secrets

 

Lolla ticket raffle

Just found out there are a few free Lollapalooza tickets waiting to be won. The Boundary at 1932 W. Division St. and the Old Town Pour House at 1419 N. Wells St. have a raffle going for impossible-to-get tickets to Lolla-land.

The deal is that patrons at either bar who purchase a Red Bull anytime from July 28 through July 30 will be entered into a raffle for a pair of tickets to Lollapalooza, Aug. 5-6, 2017. For more information visit the Boundary  and Old Town Pour House.

 

Hey Hey!

Brickhouse Tavern's upstairs deck overlooks The Park at Wrigely. Jodie Jacobs Photo
Brickhouse Tavern’s upstairs deck overlooks The Park at Wrigely. Jodie Jacobs Photo

 

Picture yourself sitting on a deck above The Park at Wrigley, a cold glass of Goose Island Green Line in one hand and a tasty buttermilk fried chicken sandwich in the other. I did that this week after a Cubs game at the just opened Brickhouse Tavern.

I loved the old baseball personality photos and Jack Brickhouse memorabilia around the upstairs bar. I’m also in love with the “Tuna Poke.” It was a great starter of diced raw tuna, mango, watermelon and other stuff.

The Brickhouse Tavern is at 3647 N. Clark St. But you can forget the address. Merely look for it at the north end of The Park. For more info visit Brickhouse Tavern.

 

Writers tell their secrets

If at all interested in penning a book and selling it go over to the American Writers Museum on Michigan Avenue near Lake Street from 6:30 to 8 p.m., July 27, 2017 to hear five writers who know from experience what it takes to succeed.

Sue Baugh will talk about “Five fiction techniques for compelling non-fiction.” Cyndee Schaffer will give “Five pointers you need to know about memoir writing”

Barbara Barnett will discuss “Five reasons you need an editor.” Reno Lovison offers, “Five important tips related to book marketing.” Cynthia Clamitt will cover “Five rules of nonfiction writing.”

You might also be inspired by the exhibits in the museum. Enjoy! The American Writers Museum is on the second floor of 180 N. Michigan Ave.

 

Old boy meets girl story still resonates as a witty musical

RECOMMENDED

Tony Award nominated ‘They’re Playing Our Song,’ now a Brown Paper Box production at Rivendell Theater, is a boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, have problems, split and get back-together-again story with a celebrity twist.

Dan Gold (Vernon) and Carmen Risi (Sonia) and company in "They're Playing Our Song." A Brown Paper Box Co. photo
Dan Gold (Vernon) and Carmen Risi (Sonia) and company in “They’re Playing Our Song.”
A Brown Paper Box Co. photo

With book by Neil Simon,  music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager, the show is a witty, entertaining musical with such easy listening songs as “If He Really Knew Me,” “When You’re in My Arms,” “I Still Believe in Love,” and “They’re Playing Our Song.”

What oldsters may remember from when the show opened on Broadway in 1979 with Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz, is that it is somewhat autobiographical about Hamlisch and Sager’s 1970’s relationship.

The show is about New York Grammy and Oscar award-winning pop music composer Vernon Gersch connecting with lyricist Sonia Walsk because he is looking for a collaborator.

They start off with problems because Sonia is bubbly but has trouble keeping appointments anywhere near on time and is very busy trying to break up with a long-time boyfriend, and Vernon is sarcastic, uptight and somewhat aloof.

They start to bond when on a “non date” proposed by Sonia they dance and hear the band play songs they wrote.

Problems Sonia has with ex boyfriend Leon eventually comes between them when she appears very late for a recording session and Vernon says he can’t take it any longer.

That they still have feelings for each other becomes evident when they reconnect in LA.

On the cute side, Sonia wears dresses used in shows given her by a stage friend. On the witty side, they are both neurotic so Simon has Vernon saying “She’s a flake, I’m a flake. Two flakes make a snowstorm.”

She is in awe of his composing talent but he is in awe of her bubbly personality. He remarks that if a power outage causes a blackout in New York the only light seen would be coming from her.

Sonia is perfectly portrayed by Carmen Risi who has acted in Oil Lamp and Citadel productions in the Chicago area and in Four Seasons productions in Madison, WI.

Dan Gold who is often in Mercury, Apollo, Porchlight and Light Opera Works  productions, is very believable as Vernon.

The two leads are totally convincing in their angst and attraction to each other.

My problem watching the show was with the Greek chorus of three females who are supposed to be in Sonia’s head and the three mails from Vernon’s head.

Even though they were talented singers and dancers, I found them distracting and sometimes annoying.

However, the leads are good enough and the show witty enough to make it a delightful evening out. To learn more about Carole Bayer Sager, see her 2016 book, “They’re Playing Our song: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster).

“They’re Playing Our Song” will be at Rivendell Theater, a small store front space at 5779 N. Ridge Ave., Chicago, now through Aug. 20, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Brown Paper Box.

 

 

Cirque du Soleil turns its magical talents into a Mexican dream

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Luzia – a combination of two Spanish words for light, “luz,” and rain, “lluvia,” is the backdrop for a unique performance that unites traditional Cirque du Soleil elements with scenes and characters from Mexico.

In “Luzia – A Waking Dream of Mexico,” acrobatic performances, beautiful costumes and music will not disappoint, even if they are somewhat expected in a Cirque du Soleil production.

Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico, is under the Big top next to the United Center now through sept. 3, 2017. Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.
Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico is under the Big top next to the United Center now through Sept. 3, 2017. Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.

The show opens with a traveler parachuting on to the stage. He will guide the audience on a magical and comedic journey through time and space.

After landing, he turns a large key and the show slowly begins to unveil the beauty of Mexico with a woman (Shelli Epstein) playing the role of the Monarch butterfly.

Although the beginning may start off slowly, hoop-diving acrobats dressed in hummingbird costumes bring it back to life in the second scene as they go through their routines on moving treadmills. With each leap, the acrobats perform a series of moves with increasing difficulty and grace.

As the show progresses from one scene to the next, the performers display their unique talents – balancing on one hand, flying from a trapeze and using aerial straps to move in ways you don’t expect.

However, it was the water and light show that generated some of the loudest applause. There is an impressive, controlled wall of rain with gorgeous pictures projected on it.

Everyone expects to be amazed, perplexed and amused by a Cirque du Soleil show. It’s a rarity to be made mildly queasy, but intentionally or not they pull it off with the most memorable and discomfiting positions of male contortionist Aleksei Goloborodko.

Throughout the show, the traveler, Eric Fool Koller, ensures the youngest members of the audience will leave with big smiles on their faces as he takes turns playing the narrator and the more traditional, bumbling circus clown.

Skillfully directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, I highly recommend the show for both returning Cirque du Soleil fans and anyone who has never experienced the beauty and athletic abilities of this type of performance.

Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia, A Waking Dream of Mexico” will be playing at the United Center (Parking Lot K) now through Sept. 3, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Cirque du Soleil Luzia.

– Sheri Jacobs

 

Kiss and Hamilton and Shakespeare, really?

OK, so a famous rock and roll group, a mega-hit musical and a play that has inspired musicals and operas may or may not appeal to different audiences. But they all are Chicago performance news.

 

Romeo and Juliet reenact their love story in Chicago parks

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is back in Chicago parks this summer with free ;performances. Chicago Shakespeare photo
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is back in Chicago parks this summer with free ;performances. Chicago Shakespeare photo productions

 

The internationally renowned Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is returning for a sixth year to put on a free show in Chicago’s city parks. This year, the production is a 75 minute version of “Romeo and Juliet,” William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy of two young lovers from feuding families.

Starting off at the just completed Polk Bros Park at the entrance to Navy Pier, performances will be at 7 p.m. July 26-28.. From there it will move to 17 Chicago neighborhoods through Aug. 27, 2017.

Shakespeare in the Parks has been the basis for 1,300 free Chicago ark District’s “Night Out in the Parks” summer events.

The free Shakespeare shows is possible through a partnership of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the City of Chicago, Chicago Park District, Boeing and BMO Harris Bank.

For a list of parks and dates visit Chicagoshakes.

 

Hamilton cast news

Hamilton Company at Private Bank Theatre Photo by Joan Marcus
Hamilton Company at Private Bank Theatre Photo by Joan Marcus

“Memphis Tony nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Montego Glover will be taking the part of Angelica Schuyler in the Chicago company of “Hamilton” in early September, according to producer Jeffrey Seller.  In addition, Broadway cast member Gregory Treco is moving to the Chicago company to play Aaron Burr Sept. 8.

“Hamilton,” the mujlti-Tony Award winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is at The PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St., Chicago.  A touring company will open in LA at at the Pantages Theatre Aug. 8, 2017.

Historian Ron Chernow’s “Alexander Hamilton” a biography about the West Indies immigrant who instrumental in the Revolutionary War and became the first US Secretary of the Treasury.

For information visit Hamilton.

 

KISS is coming

Aurora’s RiverEdge Park hosts 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of fame Kiss for a spectacular “Shout it Out Loud” concert. 8 p.m. Aug. 20, 2017.

General admission is $70. A VIP Meet and Greet packageof perks is $1,250 and a less expensive VIP package is $325 (fees extra).

RiverEdge Park is at 360 N. Broadway, Aurora. For tickets and other information call (630) 896-6666 and visit RiverEdgeAurora.

 

 

An art exhibit worth a gasp or two

Each time you walk into another room up on the fourth floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago you’ll hear a gasp or a wow. The responses are to the wall-filling, psychedelic art of Takashi Murakami.

Visitors were taking photos of Takashi Murakami's works throughout the exhibit at the MCA. This room held "Tan Tan Bo Puking - aka Gero Tanm 2002, courtesy of Galerie Perrotin and its companion piece. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Visitors were taking photos of Takashi Murakami’s works throughout the exhibit at the MCA. This room held “Tan Tan Bo Puking – aka Gero Tanm 2002, courtesy of Galerie Perrotin, and its companion piece. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

A Japanese artist who has studied the traditional methods of his country but favors anime (Japanese animated film) and manga (Japanese comics), Murakami mixes folklore, politics, Asian culture and contemporary pop art in highly-patterned or deeply contrasting paintings and with fanciful or foreboding sculptures.

Titled “Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” the MCA exhibit is a retrospective that begins with early, fine-art works using traditional Japanese Nihonga materials on paintings of turtles. However, look closer at their themes and you understand that Murakami is concerned about industrial pollution and nuclear power..

As you walk through the exhibit and see different themes and materials that Murakami favored during the past three decades, you will understand that the title refers to regeneration. If an octopus eats off a damaged part a new one will grow.

Some motifs are scary or critical commentary. Others are cheerful and playful. But no matter the subject matter, Murakami’s works are eye-catching and show great attention to detail.

To accomplish his more complex and very detailed works, Murakami has a studio of artist assistants. Indeed, one room shows what a work looks like when drawn but not completely painted in. It looks like a page from the currently popular patterned coloring books enjoyed by youngsters and adults.

It’s also okay to see commercial value in what Murakami does. He worked with pop star Kanye West on an album cover and with Louis Vuitton on a fashion product.

But as you walk through the rooms, remember that Murakami has done and continues to do is what other artists do. Their works express inner emotions and also are responses to surrounding cultures and what is happening in the world.

Murakami has merely been responding in hi definition and amplification.

”Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg,” organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and curated by Michael Darling, is at the museum now through Sept. 24, 2017.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is at 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago. For admission, hours and other information call (312) 280-2660 and visit MCA.

 

A sweet Shakespearean romantic comedy under the stars

RECOMMENDED

One of summer’s finest pursuits is viewing a William Shakespeare play while reposing under the stars and sipping a smooth wine.

First Folio Theatre affords that experience with a first-rate production of the Bard of Avon’s “As You Like It” on the grounds of the historic Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.

Leslie Ann Sheppard (Rosalind), Courtney Abbott (Touchstone) and Vahishta Vafadari (Celia) is 'As You Like It' at First Folio. Maia Rosenfeld Photography
Leslie Ann Sheppard (Rosalind), Courtney Abbott (Touchstone) and Vahishta Vafadari (Celia) is ‘As You Like It’ at First Folio. Maia Rosenfeld Photography

The gently rolling hillside forms a natural amphitheater for the two-story wooden stage and for audiences to spread their blankets and pop their picnic baskets.

Directed by Skyler Schrempp, this delightful tale meanders among a tangle of storylines and a large cast. The plot weaves family feuds, banishments, mistaken identities, forgiveness and love triangles.

Most everyone finds themselves exiled in the lush Forest of Arden. That is, until truths are revealed and couples happily pair up in marriage like they typically do in Shakespearean rom-coms.

The highly polished cast numbers nearly two dozen, many of them First Folio returnees and almost all with previous Shakespearean credits on their resumes.

Leslie Ann Sheppard shows great flexibility in her dual-gendered role as Rosalind. At the onset, she is a favored and stylish family member of the royal court. After she is banished, she heads to the forest and adopts a male persona for safety reasons.

She is accompanied by her cousin and best friend Celia, played adroitly by Vahishta Vafadari who takes on the guise of a peasant. The young women venture a convoluted path to find their loves.

Courtney Abbott is charming and comedic as the mohawk-crowned, androgynous jester Touchstone.

Tempering the frolic is Kevin McKillip as Jacque, a melancholic lord. With great gravitas he delivers one of Shakespeare’s most well-known soliloquies, the one that begins with “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

Costume designer Mieka van der Ploeg advances the setting as ambiguously modern-day, yet-far-away with attire that borrows from vintage, punk and club-kid cultures.

Throw in a couple of fascinators, a pair of black-and-white wingtips, and a few dirndl skirts, and you get the feeling you’re somewhere else.

A summer evening at First Folio Theatre is as idyllic as the Forest of Arden. Arrive early to enjoy the natural landscape. The staff sets out citronella candles, but bring mosquito repellent.

DETAILS: “As You Like It” is at First Folio Theatre, Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 W. 31st St., Oak Brook, through Aug. 20. For tickets and other information, call 630-986-8067 or visit First Folio.

— Pamela Dittmer McKuen