A performance collage of Shakespeare and song

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Len Cariou in Broadway and the Bard at Stage 773
Len Cariou in Broadway and the Bard at Stage 773

Len Cariou’s solo performance of “Broadway & The Bard, An Evening of Shakespeare and Song” is best described as a “performance collage” ripped from fragments of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” and bits of faded American musical librettos. They are pasted together to create a new work of art representing the autobiographical portrait of a noted actor’s life in the theater.

During roughly eighty minutes, the audience is treated to non-stop snippets from “Twelfth Night” “Henry V,” “Richard II,” “Othello,” “King Lear” and more, as well as melodic strains borrowed from Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Charles Strouse, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and others.

A worthy theatrical experience cannot stand on reference and nostalgia alone, and in this regard collaborators Len Cariou, Barry Kleinbort and Mark Janas have sidestepped that pitfall by doing an admirable job of creating a piece that may be enhanced by one’s own theatrical insight but does not require you to come equipped with an encyclopedic knowledge of the material included.Read More

An outstanding adventure awaits in ’20,000 Leagues’ at Lookingglass

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L to R, Walter Briggs, Kasey Foster and Lanise Antoine Shelley. (Photos by Liz Lauren)
L to R, Walter Briggs, Kasey Foster and Lanise Antoine Shelley. (Photos by Liz Lauren)

French author Jules Verne’s farsighted (1870) Nautilus submarine takes readers on a voyage below the oceans’ surface where Captain Nemo encounters sea creatures and destroys ships in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: A Tour of the Underwater World.” BTW twenty thousand depicts the journey’s length not ocean depth.

Disney productions saw wonderful, pictorial possibilities  so came out with a fine adventure film in 1954 that starred Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre.

Now Lookinglass Theatre, known for creatively depicting such stories enjoyed by youngsters and adults, alike, as “Alice” from Lewis Carroll’s stories, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” has brought the Verne adventure to life on stage with David Kersnar and Althos Low’s adaption and Kersnar’s direction in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas.” (Yes, the play say Seas).Read More

‘The Cher Show’ joins list of Broadway shows to first try out Chicago audiences

Stars of The Cher Show pose before rehearsal at the Oriental Theatre. (Jodie Jacobs photos)
Stars of The Cher Show pose before rehearsal at the Oriental Theatre. (Jodie Jacobs photos)

Stephanie J. Block (“Falsettos,” ” Wicked”), Teal Wicks (“Wicked,” “Finding Neverland”), and Micaela Diamond (NBC’s recent “Jesus Christ Superstar”) are all currently in Chicago.

So are Jarrod Spector (“Beautiful, “Jersey Boys”), Michael Berresse (“Kiss Me Kate;” “A Chorus Line”), Michael Campavno, (“Wicked”) Matthew Hydzik (“It Shoulda Been You,” “Side Show”) and Emily Skinner (“Prince of Broadway” “Side Show”).

They are in town for their new starring roles in “The Cher Show,” a new musical by producers Jeffrey Seller and Flody Suarez who want to try out the show on Chicago audiences before taking it to Broadway.

As Seller explained during a recent press conference, presenting a show in Chicago to work out kinks before its Broadway debut “is a repetitive and great tradition for the past 10 plus years.”

(Audiences may remember that “Pretty Woman” was just here for its pre-Broadway premiere and “Kinky Boots” was here in 2012 before going to Broadway in 2013)

The Cher Show producers Jeffrey Seller, R. and Flody Suarez talk about why they are in Chicago
The Cher Show producers Jeffrey Seller, R,. and Flody Suarez talk about why they are in Chicago

After introducing Suarez and commenting that he was recently in Chicago to talk about the Hamilton Exhibition (going up this fall), Seller, producer of the block-buster “Hamilton,” said he was hopeful that the “The Cher Show” will “move people, affect people and delight people.”

A “jukebox musical” with a book by “Jersey Boys” Tony, Grammy and Oliver Award winner Rick Elice, the creative staff is no less star-studded.

What would a show about Cher be without Emmy Award winning costume designer Bob Mackie? He is not only on the team but his role in Cher’s life is played by by Tony nominee  Michael Berresse.

Also on the team are Tony Award winner set designer Christine Jones (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “American Idiot”), sound designer Nevin Steinberg (“Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen”)  Tony Award lighting designer Kevin Adams (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) video designer Darrel Maloney (“On Your Feet”), and set designer Brett J. Banakis.

Block, Wicks and Diamond are playing Cher, an iconic pop star, rock star, Grammy Oscar, Golden Glove and Emmy winner with so many facets that each actress takes on a different part of her life.

As to the rest of the stars, Spector is Sonny Bono,  Campavno is Rob Camilletti, Hydzik is Gregg Allman and Skinner is Georgia Holt.

Of course the musical will feature such hits as “I Got You Babe,” “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Believe” and “If I Could Turn Back Time.”

“The Cher Show” will be at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago, June 12 through July 15. 2018.  It moves to Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre for previews Nov. 1 and officially opens there Dec. 3, 2018. For other information visit BroadwayInChicago.

 

Longtime art fair still worth a look

 

Rogers Naylor at his painting used as this year's fair poster (Photosby Reno Lovison)
Rogers Naylor at his painting used as this year’s fair poster (Photosby Reno Lovison)

Guest essay by Reno Lovison

I first attended the 57th Street Art Fair when I was a young teen going to high school in the area.

Back then I remember a lot of hippie types selling pottery and turquoise jewelry. I still have a pen and ink drawing I bought that year. It’s hard to imagine that in 1970 the fair was already in its 33rd year.

Well here it is 48 years later and I have missed very few. My wife and I traditionally see this first major outdoor art fair of the season as our summer kick-off for all that Chicago has to offer.

Weather is often a factor the first week of June and you can plan on rain, wind and sometimes cold. This year Mother Nature played along, providing pleasant temperatures in the mid-seventies with rain only late in the evening on Saturday having very little effect.Read More

‘Girl Found’ looks back and forward from heartbreak and abuse to hope and love

 

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L to R front, Clara Byczkowski and Tricia Rogers, Standing, Katherine Swan in Girl found at Idle Muse theatre. (Photo by Steven Townshend)
L to R front, Clara Byczkowski and Tricia Rogers, Standing, Katherine Swan, in Girl Found at Idle Muse Theatre. (Photo by Steven Townshend)

Idle Muse Theatre Company presents the world premier of “Girl Found” which was written by Barbara Lhota and inspired by true events.

The play begins with a very happy ending. An eleven-year old girl disappears from her Detroit home and six years later a 17 year-old called Sophie (Clara Byczkowski) turns up at a homeless shelter in Canada.

Except for her name, she cannot recall much about her past. The lost girl is now found, her family is notified, and they are so relieved. Her Aunt Ellie (Katherine Swan) travels to Canada to pick up Sophie and bring her back home.

“Girl Found” brings up all kinds of questions as the family tries to adjust their past with the present.

While attempting to rectify everything, the play leads the audience into a complex world of drugs, human trafficking and child abuse. Ellie is Sophie’s legal guardian because her sister, Sophie’s mother, Eva (Tricia Rogers), is a former drug addict who finds it difficult to tell the truth.

Noah (James Mercer) is Ellie’s ex-fiancé and Sophie’s father figure who left town after Sophie vanished

Sophie’s return brings Ellie and Noah back together, yet their problems don’t evaporate because trying to attain a compatible domestic life is difficult with the myriad past troubles that are revealed.

As the audience tries to fit the pieces together of Sophie and her family’s missing years, the play is set on a stage that is simultaneously split into various locations with different characters: Sophie’s home and her childhood friend (Whitney Dottery); the Canadian shelter and its social worker (Sara Robinson); an FBI office; and a psychologist, Dr. Cole (Kathrynne Wolf), whose therapeutic sessions with Sophie try to produce explanations of what went on in the past, while uncovering traumas.

Directed by Alison Dornheggen, Idle Muse’s “Girl Found” features a high-quality ensemble of actors.

DETAILS: ‘Girl Found’ is at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway St., Chicago, through June 10, 2018. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (773) 340-9438 or visit IdleMuse.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago

 

 

Metzler play spotlights new mom struggles

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At Northlight Theatre Darci Nalepa, l, and Laura Lapidus chat about how life changes when a baby enters their lives. (Michael Brosilow photos)
At Northlight Theatre, Darci Nalepa, l, and Laura Lapidus chat about how life changes when a baby enters their lives. (Michael Brosilow photos)

Maybe audiences watching the deeply felt new mother issues playing out at Northlight Theatre’s “Cry It Out” remember when, about a decade ago, such child-parent  support concerns as maternity/paternity leave and day-care availability were in the news. Companies even were rated as best to work for regarding those benefits.

Those worries are potently brought to life again in playwright  Molly Smith Metzler’s “Cry It Out.”

Author of the highly successful  “Elemeno Pea” that premiered in 2011 at the Actors Theatre of Louisville as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays, Metzler’s “Cry It Out” was commissioned by the Actors Theatre and then premiered there last year.

BTW, cry it out is a phrase some people use for letting a baby bawl until worn out instead of picking the child up, walking with it or taking other soothing actions. But Metzler’s play goes far deeper than baby-rearing techniques.Read More

‘A Little Night Music’ is a little light fun

 

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Ensemble of BoHo Theatre's A Little Night Music
Ensemble of BoHo Theatre’s A Little Night Music

Widower Fredrik Egerman (Peter Robel) seeks to regain his youth by wedding eighteen year old Anne (Rachel Guth). However, his home from seminary, son Henrik (Jordan Dell Harris), falls in love with her even while learning “the ways of the world” from housemaid Petra (Teressa LaGamba).

Meanwhile, as a result of Anne’s sexual inexperience, Fredrik seeks solace in the arms of his more mature former lover and stage phenomenon, Desiree Armfeldt (Kelli Harrington).

Their dalliance is complicated by her relationship with Count Carl-Magnus Malcom (Christopher Davis) and his wife Countess Charlotte Malcom (Stephanie Stockstill).

Mme. Armfeldt (Marguerite Mariama) and her granddaughter Fredrika (Isabelle Roberts) are observers who offer the perspective of experience and youth to this sordid but humorous tale of infidelity, romance and search for love in all the wrong places.

An ensemble of minor players (Nicole Besa, Rachel Klippel, Emily Goldberg, Lazaro Estrada and Ross Matsuda) fill in various roles and act as a kind of Greek Chorus adding commentary and moving the plot along.Read More

Director and choreographer Rachel Rockwell dies but lives on in theater memories

 

Rachel Rockewell at a Goodman Theatre rehearsal for Brigadoon. (Liz Lauren photo)
Rachel Rockewell at a Goodman Theatre rehearsal for Brigadoon. (Liz Lauren photo)

When Chicago audiences enjoy a musical at Marriott Theatre, Drury Lane, Goodman or Paramount they may leave thinking that the theater knows how to produce a great show. But how often do audiences look at the program to see who directed or choreographed it?

This week, the “who” was brought to our attention with the obit of Ms. Rachel Rockwell, an extraordinary choreographer and director who died of ovarian cancer at age 49, May 28, 2018.

With Ms. Rockwell at the helm, shows seen several times before, such as “Mamma Mia!” and “Brigadoon”  appeared refreshed, renewed, and with more nuance under her direction when she did them respectively at Marriott Lincolnshire and Goodman Theatre.

“Rachel is a true Chicago theatre success story. The theatre community is heart-broken today for one of its own,” said Marriott Theatre Executive Producer Terry James in a statement. “Rachel traversed a highly successful theatrical path throughout Chicagoland’s major theatres and beyond,” said James.

He pointed out Ms. Rockwell’s close ties to the Marriott. “Lucky for us, Rachel called Marriott one of her homes for almost 25 years. Starting out as accomplished dancer and actress, then choreographer, director of our children’s shows and as director/choreographer of some of Marriott’s most successful productions from “Nunsense”to “42nd Street,” “A Chorus Line to “October Sky.”

 Mamma Mia! is directed by Rachel Rockwell. A multi Jeff award winner in the categories of Best Musical, Choreography and Director, Rockwell has a finely-tuned dancer’s instinct for how to pull together music and movement. (Photo by Justin Barbin)
Mamma Mia! is directed by Rachel Rockwell. A multi Jeff award winner in the categories of Best Musical, Choreography and Director, Rockwell has a finely-tuned dancer’s instinct for how to pull together music and movement. (Photo by Justin Barbin)

James was aware of Ms. Rockwell’s cancer battle. “While directing last season’s “Mamma Mia!” Rachel was taking chemo treatments on her days off and never missed a day. Old school!” he said. “The possibilities were just blossoming. She possessed all the qualities needed other than the time to realize what was definitely ahead for her.”

He felt deeply about Ms. Rockwell’s death and contributions. “Personally, this is a heartfelt loss of a decades old friendship. A loss of one of the greats of Chicago theatre,”  said James.

“Our love and prayers go out to Rachel’s family, especially mother Gloria, husband Garth and son Jake,” he said.

Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls also weighed in on the death of Rachel Rockwell.

“The world has lost a great artist who brought love and joy, and a blazingly original vision to every work she touched,” said Falls in a statement for Chicago Theater and Arts.

Cast of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon at Goodman Theatre (2014).  (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Cast of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon at Goodman Theatre (2014). (Photo by Liz Lauren)

“Rachel Rockwell made it look so effortless. She directed the great musicals of the American canon—including “Brigadoon,” which was among the most successful productions in Goodman history—and one can only imagine what remarkable work she would have created in the decades to come,” said Falls.

He added, “My deepest condolences to her beloved family, and the many friends and colleagues who adored her.”

Ms Rockwell also did shows for Chicago Shakespeare, Paramount in Aurora and several productions for Oakbrook’s Drury Lane Theatre.

Born Natalie Rachel Heyde in Columbia, Missouri, then moving to Indiana, she graduated from Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts, then obtained a BFA in Theater Performance from the University of Evansville.

Ms. Rockwell started out as dancer then added acting roles. She was in the Broadway and National Tour productions of “Mamma Mia!”

She reportedly changed her last name to Rockwell when urged by her father, Gary Heyde, to find a name that worked well with her stage career.

Ms. Rockwell is survived by husband Garth Helm, son Jake, her father, mother Glory Kissel Heyde and brother Jeremy Spencer. A memorial service is planned for July 9, 2018 at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Two Chicago Artists Celebrate Illinois Bicentennial

Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke, have partnered to present a joint exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Renaissance Gallery in celebration of Illinois’ 2018 two hundredth anniversary.

Wolrks by Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke are on exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Reno Lovison photo)
Wolrks by Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke are on exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center. (Reno Lovison photos)

Located just inside the Randolph Street entrance, the space promotes programs created by or of interest to Chicago area seniors.

Holubow primarily focuses on buildings and likes to explore the contrast of urban elements together with natural elements while Oehmke specializes in portraits and people and leans towards Native American subjects.

In this joint exhibit they display their paintings side by side in a very thoughtful progression that compliments each other’s work.

An exhibition of multiple works from two artists working in tandem is much like a musical duet. Each part is distinctly different but they are both telling the same story. The placement of the work is where you begin to see the harmony.

It is difficult to express a vision of Illinois without including Frank Lloyd Wright. In this exhibit Oehmke’s portrait of the famed architect is displayed alongside Hulubow’s montage of his buildings.

Sandra talks about Wright
Sandra talks about Wright

Likewise, a portrait of trumpet legend Louis Armstrong is next to a jazzy vibrant urban cityscape.

Both women have strong, colorful, graphic styles that express a willingness to experiment and innovate. You can see that each painting is a new adventure, yet you can also see their individual point-of-view.

Part of the fun of viewing an exhibition is the chance to glimpse into an artist’s thought process while experiencing multiple pieces.

One gallery observer mentioned she thought every person that Julia paints looks a little like the artist, herself. I am not sure if that is entirely true but it is often said that all writing is biographical. All artists, no matter the medium, interject a bit of themselves into their finished product.

This exhibit has been approximately a two year journey since the idea first sprang to life with the aid of gallery director Crystal Warren, Regional Director for the City of Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.

The Sandra Holubow / Julia Oehmke Illinois Bicentennial Art Exhibit runs through July 5, 2018 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 East Randolph.

Reno Lovison (www.renoweb.net)

(Lovison, a videographer,  has produced a documentary series that began with a half hour video portrait of each of Sandra Holubow and Julia Oehmke in their respective studios as they prepared the works for the exhibition. The videos can be seen on Youtube and have been aired on Chicago CANTV channel 19/21 during the past few months. The three part series will culminate in a third episode documenting the May 24th official opening of the exhibit.)

 

 

Take in an art fair in Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs

 

Art fairs, such as at the Chicago Botanic Garden, are a chance to enjoy the weather, see a different place and pick up an art piece for home. Photo by Jodie Jacobs
Art fairs, such as at the Chicago Botanic Garden, are a chance to enjoy the weather, see a different place and pick up an art piece for home. Photo by Jodie Jacobs

Art fairs are a great excuse for forays to Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs. Fortunately, there are plenty to match destination and date. These are some of the area’s better, larger art festivals.

Memorial Day Weekend, May 26 & 27

Two annual festivals come up this weekend in the western suburbs: the Barrington Art Festival and the St. Charles fine Art Show.

Go to downtown Barrington from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see about 130 artists along  Cook & Station Streets. For more information visit Amdur Productions.

Or go downtown St. Charles Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see about 100 artists on Riverside Avenue from Main Street (Hwy 64) to Illinois Avenue. For more information visit Downtown St. Charles.

JUNE

June 2-3

The famed 57th Street Art Fair returns to Hyde Park for its 71st fair Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. There will be more than 250exhibitors near William H. ray Elementary School at 5631 S. Kimbark St. For more information visit 57 Street Fair.

June 9-10

There are three good art fair choices the second weekend of June. The Hinsdale Fine Arts Festival and two Near North mega fairs: Wells Street Art Festival and Old town Art Fair. Both have admission charges.

See about 130 artists in Hinsdale’s Burlington Park, 30 E. chicago Ave., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. For More information visit Hinsdale chamber.

Or go downtown St. Charles Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to see about 100 artists

Visit more than 225 exhibitors at the Wells Street Art Festival between North Avenue and Division Street, Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information see Wells Street Art.

To stroll by an additionalt 250 exhibitors stay in the area and go over to the Old Town Triangle in the 1800 block of Orleans Street from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit Old Town Fair. June 16-17

A couple of large art festivals return each year on the third weekend of June, one in Evanston and the other in Chicago’s Grant Park.

Evanston hosts Custer’s Last Stand an arts with an “s” festival in the Main Street Shopping area sponsored by the Evanston Festival Theatre. Visit with about 375 exhibitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days.  For more information visit Custer Fair.

At the Gold Coast Art Fair, held the past few years in Grant Park’s Butler Field, see about 300 artists from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. For more information visit Amdur Productions.

June 23-24

For Head for the northern suburbs for art festivals in Highland Park and Evanston the fourth weekend of June.

The Art center (TAC) holds its annual Fetival of Fine Arts along sheridan Road east of the Metra traks downtown Highland Park 10 a.n. to 5 p.m. both days. This is a relatively small fair but it has high quality artists.For more information visit Amdur Productions.

The Evanston Chamber Artisan Summerfest features 225 exhibitors at Sherman Avenue and Church Street, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information visit Evanston Festivals.

June 29 – July 1

An art festival based on a garden theme takes place in Glencoe the last weekend of June.

About 100 artists show at the Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival in the Esplande area from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. both days. For more information visit Amdur Productions.

Enjoy!

Jodie