Holiday shows that are here and coming soon

 

Chicago’s gift bag of holiday shows has something for everyone from Scrooge’s dreams  and dreaming of a white Christmas to Santa’s naughty and nice lists and his overgrown Elf.

Cast of 'A Christmas Carol' at Goodman Theatre. Liz Lauren photo
Cast of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Goodman Theatre. Liz Lauren photo

Already Playing

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,’ a Ken Ludwig’s Emerald City Theatre production, is at the Broadway Playhouse now through Dec. 31. The show is a a fun take on Santa’s list which mysteriously disappears and how it is recovered in time for his gift deliveries.At just 45 minutes long, the show is perfect for elementary age youngsters. The Broadway Playhouse  is at Water Tower Place 175 E. Chestnut. For tickets and other information visit Broadway in Chicago Twas.

‘Scrooge And The Ghostly Spirits,’ is a new musical for the entire family based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Written by Douglas Post, it is at Citadel Theatre Nov. 17 through Dec. 23. Citadel is in a Lake Forest School property at 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest. For tickets and other information call (847) 735-8554 or visit Citadel Theatre.

‘A Christmas Carol,’ a beloved Goodman Theatre creative but traditional holiday retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic, goes from Nov. 18 through Dec. 31. Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St., For tickets call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre

(The non-ballet) ‘Nutcracker,’ a House Theatre production is at the Chopin Theatre. It does use dance and songs to tell the story. The show runs now through Dec. 30 at The Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division St. For tickets visit House Theatre.

Touring cast of 'White Christmas' Jeremy Daniel Photography
Touring cast of ‘White Christmas’
Jeremy Daniel Photography

 

Coming Thanksgiving week

‘White Christmas,’ Irving Berlin’s classic musical is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre Nov. 21 through Dec. 3. The Cadillac Palace is at 151 W. Randolph St. For tickets and other information visit Broadway In Chicago.

‘Q Brothers Christmas Carol,’ a very hip hop take on Dickens’ story is in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare  on Navy Pier,  Nov. 21- Dec. 31. For tickets visit ChicagoShakes.

‘Elf: The Musical,’ based on the 2003 Will Ferrell movie, is at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd, Aurora, Nov.  22, 2017 through Jan. 7, 2018. For tickets and other information call (630) 896-6666 or visit Paramount Aurora.

‘The Christmas Schooner,’ a moving, true-story musical that has become a Chicago tradition is at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Nov. 24 through Dec. 31. For tickets and other information call (773) 325-1700 and visit Mercury Theater.

Chicago Tap Theatre does 'Tidings of Tap' at North Shore Center for Performing Arts, Skokie
Chicago Tap Theatre does ‘Tidings of Tap’ at North Shore Center for Performing Arts, Skokie

 

On stage from the beginning of December

‘The Nutcracker,’ The Joffrey’s re-imagined production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon is at the Auditorium Theatre Dec 1-30. The Auditorium Theatre is in Roosevelt University at 50 E. Congress Parkway at Michigan Avenue. For tickets visit Joffrey.

 

Appearing later

‘Tidings of Tap’ presented by the Chicago Tap Theatre is at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts at 3 p.m. Dec. 10, only.  The venue is at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie. For tickets and other information visit Tap.

‘Peter Pan’ is a delightful Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) musical based on J.M. Barrie’s play. It will run at cahn auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston, Dec. 23, 2017 through Jan.1, 2018. For tickets call (847) 920-5360 or visit Music theater Works.

Enjoy the season!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

Baroque music soars with Quint artistry

 

Violinist Philippe Quint and the Lake Forest Symphony’s strings led by Vladimir Kulenovic dispelled any image that listeners might have had that Baroque music is sedate or boring.

Playing last weekend first Lake Forest Academy’s Cressey Center for the Performing Arts and then at the College of Lake County’s James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts, Quint introduced concert goers to Baroque works by playing Johan Adolph Hasse’s melodic “Sinfonia” with dramatic and joyous gusto. Although Hesse is arguably better known for operatic works, his “Sinfonia” interpreted by Quint showed that Baroque could be both exuberant and elegant.

Grammy award-winning violinist Phillipe Quint. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco, from Lake Forest Symphony
Grammy award-winning violinist Phillipe Quint. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco, from Lake Forest Symphony

To educate the audience on the difference between a shorter, differently constructed bow used for Baroque music and the sound that emanates when a violinist uses the classical longer bow, Kulenovic had concert master Netanel Draiblate  play the next piece, Arcagelo Corelli’s “La Folia” on one side of the podium and Quint do his bowing on the other side.

The piece used was the 1729 Francisco Geminiani edition which was perfect for the demonstration since there are solos for two violins and also the viola and cello.

The Baroque education continued with Tomaso Antonio Vitali’s “Chaconne in G minor with the recommendation to listen for the organ. But what really drew the audience’s attention was Quint’s passionate interpretation.

Of course no Baroque program is complete without something by Johann Sebastian Bach. In this case it was his “Air in D Major” from his Orchestral Suite #3 which reminded the audience how perfectly the harpsichord fitted the piece’s melodic musings.

Quint continued his remarkable showmanship in the second half with Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” from Op. 8. Really for concertos for violin and strings, they are tone poems whose sounds evoke birds in spring, other animals and breezes in summer, harvest celebrations and hunting in autumn and running, stamping feet and chattering teeth in howling storms in winter.

But along with the descriptive parts already in Vivaldi’s music, Quint used the concertos to add several embellishments. Some seemed planned ahead while others appeared to be impromptu.

The concert turned out to be a delightful survey of baroque music, a powerful introduction to the high quality of the Lake Forest Symphony under Kulenovic and an unforgettable demonstration of Quint’s artistry. This reviewer will be looking for more programs featuring Philippe Quint.

For Lake Forest Symphony information call (847) 295-2135 and visit LFSymphony.

Jodie Jacobs

 

A look at Chicago Composer Regina Harris Baiocchi

Regina Harris Baiocchi
Regina Harris Baiocchi

It seems virtually every day there are fabulous artistic programs being offered all around Chicago, many of which no one ever hears about. These gallery exhibits, theatrical productions and musical performances are often presented by individuals of exceptional quality and sadly only have one presentation.

On Nov. 10, 2017 a concert of the music composed by Chicago native Regina Harris Baiocchi was one of those exceptional events at Sherwood Community Music School / Columbia College on South Michigan Avenue.

Baiocchi’s music has been performed by the Chicago and Detroit Symphony Orchestras and in concerts around the world. Her refined and sophisticated compositions are inspired by various musical genres and are often informed by the experiences of African Americans, women and poets.

A poet herself, her music is very lyrical but she likes to play with percussion and the dynamics of sound.

In the opening piece, “Miles per Hour” the lone trumpet of Edgar Campos is heard only offstage for a full minute or two before he slowly emerges from the wings.  Providing a sense of musical motion heard at first in the distance then moving toward you.

The impressionistic “Deborah” is inspired by a painting by Lillian Brulc has the most talented and versatile Dr. Jimmy Finnie, percussion chair at Indian State University, moving adroitly between marimba, vibes and drums accompanied by Beverly Simms, piano.

“Ask Him” is a page from the composer’s jazz book it has a sultry quality fully enhanced by the vocals of Dee Alexander with Dr. Thomas Wade Jefferson (North Park University & Sherwood Conservatory) on piano, accented by the saxophone of Edwin Daugherty.

Baiocchi returns to her “classical” sensibilities in a modern solo cello (Jill Kaeding)  performance “Miriam’s Muse” accompanied by Michael Keefe, piano.

“Farafina” described as a vocal jazz suite work in progress is translated as “Land of the Black Skin,” features an un-ornamented vocal by Cherresa Lawson giving it a haunting call and response quality, accompanied by Jimmy Finnie on marimba and David Bugher on vibraphone with an African style rhythm.

Flutist Nathalie Joachim performed “Praise Dance” unaccompanied and reminiscent of a shepherd on a hillside revisits the composers’ penchant to explore the way brass and wind instruments interact with the atmosphere and seemingly hang in the air.

“Hold Out for Joy” is from the opera “Gbeldahoven: No One’s Child” by Regina Harris Baiocchi based on the lives of Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes.  A soulful melody performed by Cherresa Lawson with vibraphone accompaniment (David Bugher).

Natalie Joachim (flute) returns with “Three Brevities” composed by Regina’s mentor Dr. Hale Smith providing some insight into her own musical inspiration.

“Nilisikia Sauti Kubwa” is a holiday choral music based on Swahili poetry arranged for tenor (Kameron Locke), trumpet (Edgar Campos), crotales (Jimmy Finnie) and piano (Michael Keefe). Once again with a beautiful lyrical melody Ms. Baiocchi allows the lone trumpet to sound like a voice in the distance as the tenor vocal rises slowly above the instrumental in this piece translated as “I Heard a Voice.”

The concerts concluded with two contemporary jazz songs, the cool “Lovers & Friends” and the upbeat “Dream Weaver” with Dee Alexander (vocal), Edwin Daugherty (saxophone) and Thomas Jefferson (piano).

Regina Harris Baiocchi is a thoughtful, versatile, and accomplished composer. Selected works can be heard at a concert of “6 Degrees Composers” 2:30 PM on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017 at Roosevelt University, Ganz Hall, 430 South Michigan Ave., Chicago.  Admission is Free.

Learn more at Baiocchi

Reno Lovison

(Guest reviewer Reno Lovison produced the video of the concert that will be seen in Chicago on CANTV in January 2018.)

 

 

 

Belle of Amherst Rings True

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If what you remember of Emily Dickinson from high school literature is that she was a spinster recluse who wrote free verse poetry about death you will be happy to know that at the Court Theatre you will be spending time with a much different Dickinson. This one  imagined herself to be “The Belle of Amherst.”

Kate Fry is the Belle of Amherst at Court Theatre. Court Theatre photo
Kate Fry is the Belle of Amherst at Court Theatre. Court Theatre photo

Maybe you asked, how could anyone who in adulthood never traveled more than a few miles from home, avoided her neighbors and had few if any friends, be an interesting subject for a one actor play.

But, sharing insights into her writing process, familial relations, lost loves and admirers, Kate Fry portrays a much spunkier, wittier version of the poetess than most of us imagined.

Fry grabs our attention the moment she makes her entrance and keeps the audience captivated for the remainder of the two-act play.

Captivated – now there is a word I believe Emily Dickinson “could take her hat off to.” She speaks of her love of words, how they look, how they sound and what they mean.

We learn that Dickinson did not have a love of life as we traditionally think of it. Rather she had a love of living. She says that just having life is the greatest thing imaginable.

When her poems are rejected for publication she says that like a bird she does not sing for others, she sings because she must sing.  Likewise she lives because she must live and revels in the simple acts of living.

The action takes place on a visually stunning set designed by Arnel Sanciano – a kind of floating box within a box presented on an angle and a bit off center like the title subject.

The inner box is mostly monochrome with the only bright colors coming from glimpses of nature outside her windows and the numerous plants brought inside.

Sanciano’s set is perfectly complimented by the luminous effects of Lighting Designer Mike Durst who paints the monotone interior with wonderful shades of lavender and thoughtful shadows that augment the various moods of the many stories being told.

Since this is a play about words and a person who built her life around choosing just the right one, it is imperative that the dialogue can be heard distinctly and Sound Designers Andre Pluess and Christopher LaPorte do not disappoint us.

It may be a function of the excellent third row center seat I had but every word was clear as a bell (no pun intended) and did not have that artificial electronic sound.

My one minor criticism was the use of some background music that was periodically intended to enhance the mood. I found it more of a distraction particularly in one scene where it sounded like someone’s annoying cell phone melody.

Samantha Jones’ dresses for Fry were beautifully crafted, detailed and suited to the period.

A one performer play is indeed largely about the actor, who in this case was perfection but the overall production is all about the director.

In such a play the director is more important than ever because it is through him, in this case, Sean Graney that the performer gets all of her feedback.

It is up to the actor and the other crafts people to provide options and have the talent to execute ideas that emerge, but the director is truly the holder of the vision. He is the one who will decide what we all will see, and I like what I saw.

So in the end this is a true collaboration of stage craft. There is only one actor so the set, sound, and costumes are essential to help paint a fuller picture. Everything must be perfect and it really was.

DETAILS: ‘The Belle of Amherst’ by William Luce’ is at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. on the University of Chicago campus through Dec. 3, 2017. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (773) 753-4472 or visit Court Theatre.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

 

Give us back the earth . . .

 

RECOMMENDED

Many themes in the arts have universal relevance. ‘The Consul,’ currently in production by the Chicago Opera Theater, is a great example.

People from villages, cities, and countries all over the world can identify with this modern opera composed by Gian Carlo Menotti.  Based on immigrants and political refugees, the opera takes place in an anonymous totalitarian country.

Audrey Babcock (Secretary), Justin Ryan (John Sorel) and Patricia Racette (Magda Sorel) in 'The Consul', a Chicago Opera theater production. Liz Lauren photo
Audrey Babcock (Secretary), Justin Ryan (John Sorel) and Patricia Racette (Magda Sorel) in ‘The Consul’, a Chicago Opera theater production. Liz Lauren photo

‘The Consul’ debuted in 1950 and went on to win the New York Drama Critic Circle’s award as the Best Musical Play. Menotti also garnered a Pulitzer Prize. ‘The Consul’ was described by The New York Times as “an opera of eloquence . . . written from the heart.”  Andreas Mitisek, the director, reflected on his own experiences as an immigrant which drew him to this opera.

Award-winning Metropolitan Opera Soprano Patricia Racette plays Magda Sorel, the wife of  John, played by Justin Ryan, a dissident who escapes from the police, hurries home and explains to his wife that she must apply for a visa in order to leave the country. John tells Magda to take their frail infant and his mother to the consulate and while they are awaiting their visas, he will hide at the border’s edge and join them once they’ve safely crossed over.

At the consul’s office, Magda fills out the paperwork and submits her application to the clerk and then joins the large group of refugees.   The secretary gains everyone’s attention and announces that she cannot guarantee that anyone will receive their visas.

While Magda’s child’s health is failing, she is approached by the police who want information about John, but she refuses to answer any of their questions.

The brilliant voices and beautiful music conducted by Kristof van Grysperre are what increases the emotional depth of this exceptional story. After both her child and mother-in-law pass away, Magda cannot bear to imagine any additional losses, as she descends into a morose state of depression.

‘The Consul’ remains relevant today, as Magda sings “Give us back the earth and make us free.”  Unfortunately, our world’s refugees do not have the libretto, arias, scenic design and beauty that this opera provides its audience.

In addition to Patricia Racette and Justin Ryan, the rest of the marvelous performers are Audrey Babcock, Victoria Livengood, Cedric Berry, Kyle Knapp, Vince Wallace, Kimberly E. Jones, Kira Dills-DeSurra, Zacharias Niedzwiecki, and Lani Stait.

DETAILS: ‘The Consul’is at the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave. through Nov. 12, 2017. For tickets and more information, call (312) 704-8414 or visit Chicago Opera Theater.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

Around Town: Holiday Happenings

Pumpkins still adorn some front doorsteps and Halloween candies still sit on some shelves but with Thanksgiving coming early this year (Nov. 23) and stores looking for a cheerful buying season, holiday decorations and events are already going up and beckoning.

If you have been downtown Chicago recently near Daley Plaza you likely noticed that the Christkindlmarket is already going up for its Nov. 17 opening and that Macy’s has already decorated its State Street and some Randolph Street windows.  Its 45 foot high Great Tree is up in the Walnut Room  sparkling with 2,000 ornaments and 6,600 lights.

Macy's State Stree windows are about Magic, pictured here, Love, Giving and other holiday themes. Photo by Carole Kuhrt Brewer.
Macy’s State Stree windows are about Magic, pictured here, Love, Giving and other holiday themes. Photo by Carole Kuhrt Brewer.

So yes, it’s somewhat early to plan on where to go for some holiday cheer of the non-alcholoic, event type. But if you don’t want to miss a fun activity, a repeat of a delightful family tradition or something that might start a new tradition, take a look at what’s coming up, print this and circle those events worth putting on your calendar.

The events tend to fall into those that open Nov. 17 and the ones that start the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 24.

 

Beginning Nov. 17

City of Chicago’s Tree Lighting

Head to Millennium Park before 6 p.m.  to ooh and aah when the lights switch on the 62 foot Norway sprice donated by Darlene Dorfler, Grayslake. The Oakdale Christian Academy Choir will be singing and cast members from Goodman Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ will perform.  Santa and Mrs. Claus are also expected to visit. Admission is free. The tree will be up through Jan. 6, 2018.

Christkindlmarket Chicago 

City of Chicago Tree lighting is Nov. 17, 2017. City of Chicago photo.
City of Chicago Tree lighting is Nov. 17, 2017. City of Chicago photo.

The Chicago Christkindlmarket opens weekdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and stays open Friday-Saturday until 9 p.m. Location: Washington Street between Clark and Dearborn Streets. Admission free. For other information call (312) 494-2175.

Morton Arboretum Illumination

See trees from a different perspective when the Morton Arboretum has lights moving on them to music. In addition there is an Illu-medallion that can now be purchased to reflect the interactive light display.  Tickets are date and time specific.  Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Il Hwy 53, Lisle. For more information call (630) 968-0074.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival 

Trees glow and lights move to music at the Morton Arboretum's Illumination festival. Morton Arboretum photo
Trees glow and lights move to music at the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination festival. Morton Arboretum photo

The festival opens Friday with activities and food from 4 to 8 p.m. in Lights Festival Lane (Pioneer Court) at 401 N. Michigan Avenue. The Michigan Avenue tree-lighting parade, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank and led by Mickey and Minnie Mouse, happens on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. after a day of activities starting at 11 a.m. at Pioneer Court and at Michigan Avenue shops. The parade begins at Oak Street and goes south to Wacker Drive ending with Fireworks at 6:55 p.m. .

Christmas Around the World at Museum of Science and Industry

Begun in 1942 with one tree, the exhibit now has a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree plus more than 50 trees and displays. They are decorated by volunteers to represent many different cultures. MSI is at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive.

 

Beginning Nov. 24

Christkindlmarket and more

The European holiday market is now opening in other Chicago area attractions. On Nov. 24 it opens in Naperville at the Naper Settlement, 523 S Webster St, and at the Park at Wrigley, 3637 N. Clark St.

Christkindlemarket at Daley Plaza. Jodie Jacobs photo
Christkindlemarket at Daley Plaza. Jodie Jacobs photo

If going to Wrigley, bring skates ($5 age 13 and older, free 12 and under) or rent them there because along with the Christkindlmarket the Park has an ice skating rink. If going there Nov. 28, take in the Tree-Lighting Ceremony when a Colorado Spruce tree from will sparkle with 2,700 bulbs. Instead of worrying about parking take the CTA Red Line or Clark bus 22 or Addison 152.

Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland

The garden welcomes winter with a wonderland of lights outside and miniature trains speeding around Chicago landmarks plus decorated halls and greenhouses inside. Entry is ticketed and datge and time specific. The garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd, just east of Edens Expessway, Glencoe. (847) 835-5440

Wreathing of the Lions 

Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland. Jodie Jacobs photo
Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland. Jodie Jacobs photo

Art Institute of Chicago’s annually welcomes the holidays with a wreathing of its famous lion statues at 10 a.m., then continues the day with hot chocolate, music and drop in art activities through 3 p.m. While there, stop downstairs at the Thorne Miniature rooms because they are fun to see and some even get a holiday decoration. The museum is at 111 S. Michigan Ave.

Chicago Park District holiday flower shows

Both the Garfield Conservatory Holiday Show of Fire and Ice and the Lincoln Park Conservatory Holiday Flower Show open Nov. 24. For details visit Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Conservatory.

 

 

‘42nd Street’ — A glorious tap dancing feat

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If you’re looking for a festive family outing this holiday season, ‘42nd Street’ delivers the goods along with lots of glitz. Now playing at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, the much-beloved musical is charged with perky tunes and high-energy dancing. Tap dancing, that is.

Cast of 42nd Street at Drury Lane Theatre. Photo by Brett Beiner
Cast of 42nd Street at Drury Lane Theatre. Photo by Brett Beiner

It’s a dreams-come-true story of a sweet, aspiring young chorus girl named Peggy Sawyer. She fumbles her first big audition and ultimately lands the starring role in a new Broadway production called “Pretty Lady.” Woven throughout are show-stopping song-and-dance numbers and subplots of love triangles and financial woes. All are wrapped up neatly by the end of the show.

Directed by Michael Heitzman, the Drury Lane production features a stellar cast of actors, singers and dancers. Kimberly Immanuel plays Peggy with both innocence and strength.

Suzzanne Douglas as the aging prima donna Dorothy Brock and Donica Lynn as songwriter Maggie Jones are powerhouse solo artists but in different ways. Douglas sings with crystal clarity while Lynn gets sultry and soulful. Gene Weygandt, who plays “Pretty Lady” director Julian Marsh, has a voice that is honest and heroic.

Special mention goes to the ensemble of tap dancers, whose work appears effortless and truly joyful, and to choreographer Jared Grimes who managed to incorporate dress racks and stock pots into dance numbers. The showiest, at the end of Act One, takes “We’re In The Money” literally.

The set design by Collette Pollard is more spartan than that of other Drury Lane productions, but it works. Most of the action takes place in a weary rehearsal hall, and the scenery is the dancers themselves.

Also on the creative team are costume designer Emilio Sosa and lighting designer Mike Baldassari. The ’42nd Street Orchestra’ is conducted by Chris Sargent, who also plays keyboard.

The original 1980 Broadway production won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was produced by David Merrick and directed and choreographed by an ailing Gower Champion, who passed away only hours before opening night. The musical, however, lives on.

DETAILS: ’42nd Street’ is at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, through Jan. 7. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information, call (630) 530-0111 or visit Drury Lane Theatre.

Pamela Dittmer McKuen

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

 

 

 

Wonderful is an understatement

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

‘This Wonderful Life,’ and adaptation of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,”  could have many other adjectives added to its title, such as “fabulous, extraordinary, unique and marvelous” to name just a few.

James Leaming in This Wonderful Life. Photo by Michael Brosilow
James Leaming in This Wonderful Life. Photo by Michael Brosilow

Playing at the American Blues Theater, it’s a one-man show  written by Steve Murray, directed by Carmen Roman and starring James Leaming.

After doing the production across the country for the past ten years, Leaming has now brought the play to Chicago, garnering numerous awards along the way.

If familiar with the movie, you know the story encompasses several characters. Learning successfully portrays them all in eighty uninterrupted minutes.

He begins the play in a story-telling style as George Bailey, Mr. Potter, Clarence the angel, Uncle Billy, Mary Bailey and many more.

While the play is both touching and hilariously entertaining, he keeps it simple for the audience to follow with their imaginations.

In addition, the sparse but effective props and beautiful photos displayed as scenery contribute to one’s memories of the famous film.

Leaming accurately describes the play as a love story, especially when Clarence the angel shows George how different the small town of Bedford Falls would be if George had never been born.

He quotes Clarence who says “Each man’s life touches so many others” and “No man is a failure to his friends.”

When Leaming asked the audience members how many had seen the iconic film before the play began, 99% raised their hands. The movie has become a regular showing on television as the year-end holidays approach.

As with the film, the play, ‘This Wonderful Life,’ is a must-see production!

Leaming brings quite an impressive dramatic background to the production. He trained at American Conservatory Theater and Second City, and he has appeared at Steppenwolf, Northlight, Victory Gardens, Goodman, Drury Lane, Peninsula Players, and other venues. He also has many credits in films and television, and is a founding Ensemble member of the American Blues Theater.

DETAILS: ‘This Wonderful Life’ is at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago through Nov. 26, 2017. Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and more information, call (773) 654-3103 or visit American Blues Theater.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

Gods and mortals suffer in Die Walkure at Lyric Opera

Recommended

The movement towards the impending doom of the gods that began with the stealing of a ring in ‘Das Rheingold,’ creeps forward in ‘Die Walküre,’ the second opera of Wagner’s famed four-part Ring cycle.

Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Lyric Opera's Die Walkure. Photos b Cory Weaver.
Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Lyric Opera’s Die Walkure. Photos by Cory Weaver.

For those attendees at Lyric’s ‘Walküre’ production who are not familiar with the story, a guilt-ridden Wotan, king of the gods, brings people up to date.

Sung by the fine base-baritone, Eric Owens, Wotan admits to succumbing to the greed, lust and love that trapped him in decisions he detests now, such as allowing his bastard mortal son, Siegmund (Brandon Jovanovich) to die in battle as demanded by his wife, Fricka, ((Tanja Ariane Baumgartner).

How audiences feel about the second part of the story as it unfolds, depends on how they relate to its characters.

If they care that Fricka, goddess of marriage vows, feels dishonored by husband Wotan’s actions and those of Siegmund who rescued his twin sister, Sieglinde (Elisabet Strid) from a forced marriage to Hunding (Ain Anger), they may feel she is justified in her demands.

Christine Goerke, Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Die Walkure.
Christine Goerke, Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Die Walkure.

If they love warrior-maiden Brünnhilde, Wotan’s favorite Valkyrie daughter endearingly played and beautifully sung by Christine Goerke, they will dislike Fricka and wish Wotan could stand up to his wife.

The set, designed by Robert Innes Hopkins (originally designed by the late Johan Engels) is excellently evocative of spring in Act I where Siegmund and Sieglinde fall in love and realize they are brother and sister. In Act II, its darkness equates with the power struggles between foes and the gods. Act III offers the overly bloody hero’s hall of the Valkyrie maidens.

Brünnhilde’s and other Valkyrie’s transportation are delightfully manipulated and a fun part of the opera.

However, the death minions carrying black wreaths move in a silly fashion that distracted from the serious scene when Brünnhilde at first tries to dissuade Siegmund  from fighting and begs that he come with her to Valhalla as a hero.

Eric Owens looks down at the Valkyrie maidens.
Eric Owens looks down at the Valkyrie maidens.

Sir Andrew Davis, conducting the Lyric Orchestra, did justice to Wagner’s heroic score.

Directed by David Pountney, this is a new production with interesting costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca reminiscent of early last century.

DETAILS: ‘Die Walküre’ is at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, through Nov. 30, 2017. Running time is about five hours that include two 30 minute intermissions.  For tickets and other information visit call (312) 827-5600 and visit Lyric.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

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Extra Extra: Publishing titans bested

 

RECOMMENDED

Catch your breath! First and foremost, ‘Newsies’ is known for its powerhouse, high energy dancing.

Cast of Newsies at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre. Liz Lauren photo
Cast of Newsies at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre. Liz Lauren photo

Based on the 1992 movie and inspired by the real-life Newsboy Strike of 1899, this Tony-award winning musical boasts a delightful score by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman, and book by four-time Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein.

It’s a David versus Goliath story  that shook the ivory towers of publishing titans William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer in New York City at the turn of the last century.

The story could just as well have come from the headlines of today’s newspapers about social injustice and workers striking for well-deserved benefits.

It’s the ultimate story of courage and believing in one’s self. ‘Newsies’ follows orphan Jack Kelly and his rag-tag band of young newsboys who dream of a better life than living on the streets.

Choreographer and Jeff Award nominee Alex Sanchez (Marriott Theatre: Evita, On the Town, Mary Poppins) brings his high-octane energy and brilliance as director of the heartwarming piece with Musical Direction by Jeff Award winner Ryan T. Nelson.

Patrick Rooney stars as Jack Kelly who’s got enough swagger and spit to win the heart of beautiful Eliza Palasz as Katherine Plumber.

Stand-outs include the wonderful Stephanie Pope as Medda Larkin, Nick Graffagna as Davey, the brains behind the union and Matthew Uzarraga as Crutchie. The ensemble earn well-deserved kudos for their passionate, powerful dance moves.

DETAILS: ‘Newsies’ is at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire  through Dec. 31, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.