Maybe you think the Tribune tower is a landmark rather than an example of innovative architecture and wonder what it could have been.
Or, maybe you would like to take a free ride out of state for a day to see innovative Frank Lloyd Wright.
Both maybes become actualities curing the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB).
Chicago, known throughout the world as an architecture destination, becomes even more so every two years when it holds its architecture exhibition.
As good as the first CAB experience was in 2015, the second foray is even more impressive. Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, host of the 2017 Architecture Biennial, has pulled together some surprising exhibits, excellent programs and interesting tours.
They are free, open to the public and are at the Chicago Cultural Center and some off-site locations.
At the Cultural Center they revolve around the theme of “Make New History.” Thus there is the ‘Vertical City’ of 16 foot-high towers that could have housed Chicago Tribune executives and staffers instead of the Gothic landmark that won a 1922 competition.
Also at the Cultural Center is a display by Chicago fave Jeanne Gang and her Gang Studio and works by architectural and design firms from 20 countries that present possible redesigns of structures that already exist around the globe.
In addition, architectural elements have been added to the Cultural Center’s corridors. Visitors will find them in some very unlikely places on the main floor and second floor.
CAB also features Chicago Architecture Foundation and other organizations’ programs worth putting on the calendar.
Among off-site venues is SC Johnson & Son’s extraordinary Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Racine, WI, available by free shuttle from the Cultural Center.
BTW, the exhibits at the Cultural Center are so good visitors ought to plan enough time to enjoy and contemplate or return for a second view.
DETAILS: The Chicago Architecture Biennial is at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., Chicago, now through Jan. 7, 2018. For more information visit CAB. Also see Programs and Tours.
An extraordinary pairing of the Joffrey Ballet with the exceptional voice of tenor Dimitry Korchak opened Lyric Opera’s 2017-2018 season Saturday, Sept. 23.
The opera is the August 1774 Paris version of Chrisoph Willibald Gluck’s ‘Orphée et Eurydice’ with a libretto by Pierre-Louis Moline. However, the production is all John Neumeier.
Longtime director and chief choreographer of the Hamburg Ballet, Neurmeier did the choreography, set, lighting and costume design and directed the production.
In his contemporary production, Orphée is a choreographer rehearsing a ballet based on Arnold Bocklin’s painting, “The Isle of the Dead.” His wife, Eurydice, is his star but when she arrives late they argue and she storms off.
After an impressive auto crash that pushes through the scenery, Eurydice is shown thrown from the car and dead on the ground.
Orphée’s assistant is a jean-clad Amour, with a sprite-like Peter Pan quality. Armour tells him to go to Hades and bring back Eurydice.
Mirrored moving panels create an interesting background in the rehearsal studio. That is, except when they reflect the lights from the opera house’s tiers.
Grey and white cutaway panels provide spaces that allow a small stage focus on Orphées bedroom and a moving path for him and Eurydice to wander from Elysium back to life on earth.
Even with its modern take, audiences delighted to get both world-class ballet with the exquisite voices of Korchak as Orphée, Andriana Chuchman as Eurydice and Lauren Snouffer as Amour, will love the entire experience.
Guests who normally come just for the opera, might find some of the ballet sequences and meanderings to be a bit lengthy. Gluck added ballet sequences to this version including the “Dance of the Furies” and the “Dance of the Blessed Spirits.” The final dance sequence of Orphée’s ballet is also very long.
Even though the Joffrey dancers perfectly execute what was choreographed, viewers might wonder at some of the mechanical-toy style of some of the movements in the “Dance of the Furies” and at the mix of traditional and contemporary ballet.
The story, frequently told in opera, theater and literature, goes back to Greek mythology when Orpheus, son of Apollo, falls in love and marries the beautiful Eurydice. But when she dies (by a snake bite in the story and a car accident in the Lyric opera) Orpheus is told by Apollo in the myth but by Amour (think Cupid or Eros) in the Lyric opera to go to Hades and try to bring her back.
The myth has Orpheus making his way past the Furies and the three-headed Cerberus (three dancers) through his beautiful playing of lyre. He does so in this opera version with his sorrowful singing.
The obstacle is he can only take Eurydice back with him if he doesn’t look at her or explain that as she follows him out. Eurydice doesn’t understand so cries and bitterly complains until he finally can’t resist so looks back and she dies. Orpheus leaves alone.
At the Lyric Korchak beautifully sings “Che farò senza Euridice?”/”J’ai perdu mon Eurydice” (“What shall I do without Euridice?”/”I have lost my Euridice”). Earlier, before going to Hades, he expressed his love in the magnificent aria “Chiamo il mio ben”/”Objet de mon amour.”
In one version Amour feels sorry for him and returns Eurydice to life. In the Neumeier production, she is returned as a ghostly spirit in his heart and in the ballet he created.
During the ballet Victoria Jaiani and partner Temur Suluashvili, are “doubles” of Eurydice and Orphée.
Through it all are the wonderful voices of the Lyric Opera Chorus who are in the pit with maestro Harry Bicket and the fine orchestra.
DETAILS: “Orphee et Eurydice” by Chrisoph Willibald Gluck’s, is at the Lyhric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., through Oct. 15, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.
A Drag Queen walks into a bar. That may sound like the beginning of a joke. But when Drag Queen, Miss Tracy Mills, played with verve and empathy by Sean Blake, struts into his cousin’s bar in Panama City, FL, he changes the life of Casey, an impoverished Elvis impersonator.
The story, a play written by Matthew Lopez now at Northlight Theatre, is ‘The Legend of Georgia McBride,’ a fun, revelatory, entertaining show on how a person can adapt to a new persona and enjoy it.
Casey, interpreted brilliantly by Nate Santana, loves performing as Elvis but his act doesn’t pay the rent and wife Jo (Lesle Ann Sheppard) has announced she is pregnant.
While changing for his Elvis act, Casey is surprised when Tracy walks in ready to go on stage. Bar owner Eddie, played with bumbling charm by Keith Kupferer, hasn’t yet told Casey that he’s being replaced because his Elvis act isn’t drawing well.
In a star-is-born style success story, the other half of Tracy’s act, Rexy, delightfully acted by Jeff Kurysz with a mix of Italian and French accents and words, falls down drunk so can’t go on.
Casey not only doesn’t want to put on a dress, he also doesn’t believe he can perform in drag. When told that filling in for Rexy is the only way he will perform in this bar and that he might even take home some cash, he lets Tracy dress him and add his make-up and a wig.
The transformation doesn’t happen overnight but becomes easier and better with each performance until Casey realizes he enjoys performing on stage as the bar’s newest Drag star.
Rachel Laritz’s costumes help make the show believable and fun to watch. Choreographed by Chris Carter, the bar acts of Casey as Georgia McBride and that of Tracy make the time go so quickly it’s a surprise when the play ends.
The kicker is that even though he is bringing home more than enough money now to pay the bills and really enjoys what he is doing, Casey has trouble telling Jo about his job. He is afraid to say he is performing in a Drag show.
Maybe he needed something such as Northlight’s program which exlains several terms used by Drag performers.
For Drag Queen, it says “someone who performs femininity theatrically. In many cases this term refers to a man who dresses up as a woman for entertainment purposes.”
Directed by Lauren Shouse, the play provides nice behind-the-scenes insight into Drag dressing and performing.
DETAILS: ‘The Legend of Georgia McBride’ is at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, through Oct. 22, 2017. Running time: 1 hour, 45 min. with no intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 and visit Northlight.
The title of ‘Five Guys Named Moe,’ a musical now at Court Theatre, is based on the names of five performers, Big Moe (Lorenzo Rush, Jr.), Little Moe (Darrin Ford), Eat Moe (James Earl Jones II), Four Eyed-Moe (Kelvin Rosten, Jr.) and No Moe (Eric A. Lewis).
The doo-wop quintet are apparitions who emerge from inside a vintage radio to help young boozy, bluesy Nomax (Stephen ‘Blu’ Allen) get out of his funk.
All five guys are energetic, funny, full of personality and have great singing voices.
They are backed up by an awesome, six-piece, jazz combo on stage: J.P Floyd (trombone), Sam Hankins (trumpet), Jarrard Harris (reeds), Ben Johnson (drums), Chuck Webb (bass), led by Abdul Hamid Royal (music director/pianist).
It reminded me of big-time nightclub performances seen “back in the day” at places like the Copacabana or Chicago’s Empire Room.
The story-line couldn’t be “moe thin,” but the show, written by Clarke Peters, is an opportunity to revisit and explore the music of saxophonist and songwriter Louis Jordan.
His new approach to jazz in the 1940’s helped pave the way to Rock & Roll with hits like “Caldonia” and the “Choo Choo Ch’boogie” piece that ran 35 weeks in 1946 as #1 on the “Race Records” chart.
If you are a fan of four piece harmony you’ll love the five piece harmony of these five guys.
“Beware Brother Beware” and “I Like ‘em Fat Like That” are songs that illustrate Jordan’s musical philosophy of “playing for the people.” He felt other jazz musicians of the day created music for themselves.
The five Moe’s leave it all on the stage moving quickly and seamlessly from one number to the next as perfectly choreographed by Christopher Carter. The numbers allow time for a few lame jokes and some amusing audience participation.
In the second act I started thinking, all this needs right now is for the Nicholas Brothers to appear.
Just as I thought that, No Moe busts out a terrific dance number complete with two splits and few back-flips.
Courtney O’Neill’s radio inspired set design is a wow. Costume design (Michael Alan Stein) was on point including the guys’ conked and pomade hairdos.
Directed by Ron OJ Parson with Associate Director Felicia P. Fields, ‘Five Guys Named Moe” couldn’t be any “moe” fun.
DETAILS: ‘Five Guys Named Moe’ is at the Court Theatre, 5535 South Ellis, Chicago (on the University of Chicago Campus, through Oct. 15, 2017. Running time: 2 hours with an intermission. For tickets and other information call (773) 753-4472 and visit Court Theatre.
Guest reviewer: Reno Lovison, RenoWeb.net, is a videographer with a theater and music background.
There is no question that Goodman Theatre has opened its 2017-18 season with a very special production of Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From The Bridge.’
How you feel about this production will depend on whether you are comfortable with an intense, minimalist concept as developed by Director Ivo Van Hove within a severe black box, or if you relate better to a story told on a stage with scenery and possibly video and other set accoutrements that establish time and place.
Set in an Italian American area near the Brooklyn Bridge in a 1950’s America that is not immigration-friendly (sound familiar?), the play is supposedly based on a true tragedy.
Its theme, a married man becoming so obsessed with a niece living with them that he will go to any lengths to ward off possible suitors, belongs in the Greek Tragedy genre.
Take away the wife’s illegal Italian family members who have come to live with them, and the story is still about a husband’s obsession.
Similar to a Greek play, the show opens with the sounds of a beautiful but foreboding chorus. However, it is not the chorus that explains the action but Alfieri, interpreted perfectly by Ezra Knight.
Alfieri is an attorney who notes that dissatisfaction and disagreements are supposed to be handled by a lawyer as a bridge that meets halfway between combatants.
When Eddie (Ian Bedford), a dock worker who tries to keep his niece, Catherine (Catherine Combs), first from taking a job, and then from going out with Rodolpho (Daniel Abeles), one of the two relatives who are staying with them, he learns from Alfieri that he can’t stop them from dating.
Eddie’s wife, Beatrice (Andrus Nichols) who can see what is happening tries to intervene but to no avail.
Eddie is told that the only action might be to report his wife’s cousins, Rodolpho and Marco (Brandon Espinoza) to immigration but he knows he will then become a pariah in the Italian community if he does so.
Low, ominous sounding background music plus the elimination of any intermission between the play’s two acts, heightens the feeling of doom.
DETAILS: “A View From The Bridge” is at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., now through Oct. 22, 2017. Running time : 2 hours. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-4800 and visit Goodman Theatre.
It is always a treat to see longtime Steppenwolf actors John Mahoney or Francis Guinan in a play. In ‘The Rembrandt,’ now in Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre, audiences get both outstanding actors.
Written by playwright/actor Jessica Dickey, the premise seems to be that art in a museum may affect viewers whether they are guards or visitors, not just differently, but also on a more sublime level.
Guinan as Henry, a museum guard whose duties include looking for any problem nicks, can imagine the paintings coming alive at night. He thinks their artists may even converse with each other.
Gabriel Ruiz as gun-carrying security guard Jonny, is Simon’s friend but he sees his job as protecting the paintings.
The two approaches clash when Henry is encouraged to touch the Rembrandt by both a new, rule-defying, apprentice/guard, Dodger, played by Ty Olwin, and by copyist Madeline, portrayed with humor by Karen Rodriguez.
That happens even though Madeline earlier discouraged such an idea when proposed by Dodger because fingers contain harmful substances.
After discussing elements of the painting the three of them do touch it. The next scene is in Rembrandt’s house. It’s as if touching the painting opened a portal to its historic past.
A note about historic accuracy: 17th century Dutch Master Rembrandt van Rijn did favor the black and muted colors except for his famed luminescent whitish tones as mentioned in the play. But unlike the reference to blue, he did use blue shades though primarily in his biblical and mythological subjects.
And yes, in spite of the nice commissions given to this master painter, he did over spend so ended up in debt as referred to in the play.
The portal idea continues when Olwin, now Rembrandt’s son, Titus, touches a bust of Homer that supposedly was in the painting and in Rembrandt’s home.
The next scene is a soliloquy by Mahoney as Homer expounding on the merits of poetry.
The final scene is at Henry’s home where he is disconsolate with grief and guilt as he sits at the sick bed of his longtime partner, Simon (Mahoney) who is dying with stage four cancer.
That scene clarifies the play’s underlying themes of grief, death and love.
Madeline had taken the art course that brought her to the museum because the grandmother who cared for her had become ill and recently died.
She felt love, grief and also guilt that she thought death was OK because her grandmother had deteriorated so much.
Henry who dearly loved Simon, experienced remorse for not being a more considerate partner when Simon was healthy.
In the Rembrandt home scene, Rodriguez who is now Rembrandt’s lover, Henny, demonstrates her love and Titus expresses love for his father while remonstrating against his spending excesses.
Well directed by Hallie Gordon with excellent set design by Regina Garcia and fine costume design by Jenny Mannis, the play raises interesting ideas to ponder about art and personal relationships.
‘The Rembrandt’ is at Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted, Chicago, through Nov. 5, 2017. Francis Guinan is Henry and Rembrandt through Oct. 22. The role will be then be taken on by Joe Dempsey through the last performance. For tickets and other information call (312) 335-1650 and visit Steppenwolf.
George Orwell’s famous novel, “1984,” is likely to haunt audiences in AstonRep Theatre Company’s interpretation of the story, now at The Raven Theatre.
The production is powerful and provocative as wonderfully convincing characters transport the audience to the frightening nation of Oceania.
Adapted by Robert Owens, Wilton E. Hall Jr. and William A. Miles Jr. and directed by Robert Tobin, the play mentions and defines Orwell’s phrases such as the famed “Big Brother is watching you.”
Then there is “Newspeak” as the official politically correct language of Oceania, “Crimethink” for thoughts that oppose the government of Big Brother, “Goodthink” that are thoughts approved by the Party and “Doublethink” for the power to simultaneously hold and accept contradictory beliefs in one’s mind.
On that subject of power, the Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language.
The leading character, Winston Smith, is played by Ray Kasper whose amazing talent covers a wide range of emotion. Winston is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London in the land of Oceania.
Everywhere Winston goes, the Party watches him through telescreens. And everywhere he looks, Winston sees the face of the Party’s seemingly supreme leader, Big Brother.
Frustrated by the rigid oppression of the Party which prohibits free thinking and all other expressions of individuality, Winston writes his criminal thoughts in his illegally purchased diary.
He interacts with a beautiful co-worker, Julia, skillfully played by Sarah Lo. Practical and optimistic, Julia becomes Winston’s lover.
The two of them move into a room above a store where they temporarily feel hidden from the watchful eyes of Big Brother. As Winston’s love for Julia progresses, his hatred for the Party grows more intense.
Winston becomes fixated on O’Brien, a mysterious upper class member of the Inner Party, powerfully portrayed by Amy Kasper. Winston believes O’Brien is a secret member of the Brotherhood, the legendary group that works to overthrow the Party.
He finally receives the message that he has been waiting for. O’Brien wants to see him.
Winston and Julia travel to O’Brien’s grand apartment where O’Brien is living a life of luxury. O’Brien sends Winston off with a copy of the manifesto of the Brotherhood which Winston excitedly reads to Julia in their room above the store.
Not to divulge the rest of the play to those unfamiliar with Orwell’s novel, Winston learns the bitter truth about many of the characters. The suffering he endures in the terrifying second act changes him forever.
The remainder of the very talented cast includes the following: Alexandra Bennett, Lauren Demerath, Lorraine Freund, Ian Harris, Rory Jobst, Tim Larson, Nora Lise Ulrey, and Sara Pavlak McGuire.
To quote director Robert Tobin: “. . . the power of ‘1984’ serves best not necessarily as commentary on current events but rather as a warning. Like a preventative medical screening, we need ‘1984’ as warning of what our world could become if we don’t take care of ourselves, our government, and each other.”
Details: ‘1984, an AstonRep Theatre Company production is at The Raven Theatre (West Stage), 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago, through Oct. 8, 2017. For tickets and other information call (773) 828-9129 and visit AstonRep.
It’s hard not to follow what has been happening to the people, politics and conflicts in Iraq and throughout the Mideast, but to get an artist’s take on the events see “Backstroke of the West” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The works are Chicago-based, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz’s take on the personal and historic objects destroyed during the conflicts and how they can be memorialized and interpreted through art.
Born of an American father and an Iraqi-Jewish mother, Rakowitz uses such ironic materials as newspapers to recreate looted items and Arabic food packaging to replicate the ancient Ishtar Gate. A section even illustrates how he served Iraqi dishes on Saddam Hussein’s china.
To further explain how Rakowitz seeks to bring people of different cultural and social backgrounds together he gives his projects such titles as “The invisible enemy should not exist” and “May the Arrogant Not Prevail.”
To accompany the exhibition, there is a pop-up food truck outside the MCA that will serve Iraqi dishes from family recipes.
Organized by MCA Manilow Senior Curator Omar Kholeif, Manilow, Director of Global Initiatives, the exhibit is the first major museum survey of Rakowitz’s work.
Opened Sept. 16, 2017, the show runs through March 4, 2018. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago is at 220 E Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.
For hours, admission and other information call (312) 280-2660 and visit MCA.
Go to Paramount Theatre’s ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ if you love Johnny Cash. Go if you appreciate really good boogie piano. Or go if you are interested in the Sam Phillip’s Sun Studio’s handling of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.
It’s nice to have the show back in the Chicago area, if even for its short, little over a month, duration.
The story, captured in a photo and on tape at Sun Records Studio, Memphis, tells of the only time that four of Sam Phillip’s top stars jammed together.
They happened to stop by his recording studio when Carl Perkins was supposed to be taping. Some were going to tell Phillips that they were not renewing their contract but Lewis was looking for a long contract at Sun.
The important incident was turned into a “jukebox” show of great mid-last century songs by Floyd Mutrux who wrote the book with Colin Escott and directed the original productions.
Started in Daytona Beach in 2006 before going to Seattle in 2007, the show was developed further at the Goodman Theatre in fall 2008.
It transferred to the Apollo Theatre where it ran until recently, closing early in 2016. But the original cast went on to NYC where ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ ran on Broadway from mid 2010 to mid 2011 while still playing the Apollo. It brought Levi Kreis a Tony Award as Jerry Lee Lewis.
The phrase “blown away” is often used but that was how I felt when seeing Kreis. Paramount guests will feel the same way when watching Gavin Rohrer as Lewis. Rohrer is incredible. He has already portrayed Lewis in two other shows including the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma.
Nor will long time fans of Johnny Cash feel cheated when they see Bill Scott Sheets in the role. An operatic baritone who has all played such musical theatre rolls as Don Quixote, Sheets nails Cash’s sound and microphone approach.
While some rockabilly aficionados might know that “Blue Suede Shoes” was written by Perkins who epitomized the genre, the fact that his hit song was closely identified with Elvis Presley is important to the show.
That frustration comes across with Broadway actor Adam Wesley Brown, a veteran of Chicago theatre and film, taking on the role of Perkins with the characteristic knee raise and emphasis.
It’s easy to see that Kavan Hashemian who has appeared in other ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ productions as Elvis, really enjoys the role. He has the moves down pat and can probably sing the songs in his sleep because he has been performing them since age three.
The surprise of the Paramount show which is all about male performers, is the wonderful turn as Elvis’ girlfriend, Dyanne, by Courtney Mack. Her “Fever” in Act I and “I Hear You Knockin” in Act II, brings the house down. Of course, Paramount regulars likely remember her from “Mamma Mia”
Another unexpected musical treat comes when Zach Lentino as Perkins’ brother Jay shows off his skills as an upright bassist. BTW Lentino was in ‘Million Dollar Quartet at the Apollo.
Drummer Scott Simon who plays in several Chicago productions is Fluke, a member of Perkins’ group. He’s excellent but not really noticed until near the end.
Perhaps the most unappreciated role in the show is that of Sam Phillips. Played by Nicholas Harzain, a film actor who is also in several regional shows, Phillips comes across as a hard-working, small-town, talent developer.
A note about Kevin Depinet’s set design: folks who have been to Memphis and walked through what is now, basically a museum, know Depinet has totally captured Sun Studio.
Directed by Jim Corti with music direction by Kory Danielson, ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ has a “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”
DETAILS: ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ is at Paramount Theatre, 23 Galena Blvd., Aurora, now through Oct. 29, 2017. Running time is two hours. For tickets and other information visit Paramount or call (630) 896- 6666.
Visitors going to the American Craft Exposition at the Chicago Botanic Garden this weekend, get a two for one experience.
ACE, as the show is popularly known, presents the highest quality crafts produced by artists from across the United States.
Many of the artists, such as wood master Michael D. Mode of New Haven VT., have been showing their work at ACE for several years.
Mode who Started with the exhibition in 1996 explained. “It’s a good show with a good venue and it’s wonderful to be seen in a high quality show. It’s one of the top shows in the country,” he said.
When through admiring beautifully turned wood sculptures, gorgeous porcelain objects, amazing watercolor-like embroidery and lots of attractive, wearable art, visitors can relax at the café, then set out to see what is blooming in the gardens and what trees and plants are changing color.
Unfortunately, the exhibition is only up Sept. 15 through 17, so the show needs to be slotted into busy weekend schedules. However, it is worth the trip and admission. And the show, arranged by the Auxiliary of Northshore University HealthSystem , benefits orthopedic regenerative medicine and pharmacogenomics research.
Tickets, whether used one day or for all three days, are one price with $13 for CBG members and $15 nonmembers. Children under age 12 enter free. The Botanic Garden is free but there is a parking charge for nonmembers.
The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, just east of the Edens Expressway.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For other tickets, parking and other information visit Chicago Botanic or call (847) 835-5440.