Tragedy presented with a different emphasis at CST

‘Romeo and Juliet’

Brittany Bellizeare and Edgar Miguel Sanchez in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet." (Liz Lauren photo)
Brittany Bellizeare and Edgar Miguel Sanchez in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” (Liz Lauren photo)

2 ½ stars

We already have “West Side Story,” a tragic love tale of feuding groups based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Beautifully and emotionally interpreted with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, it’s parallel to current gang wars was not lost on a tearful audience at Lyric Opera’s closing 2019 production.

That Chicago Shakespeare Theater Artistic Director Barbara Gaines would like to remind CST audiences that the problems Shakespeare dramatized and Bernstein put to music still exist, is laudable. However, given the set design, cast and costumes of the Gaines production, there probably should be a different title.

Gaines has set the action in Verona a year in the future, which is fine. But the set of fence and basketball court looks like West Side Story. The Capulet’s home looks like a farm house in Iowa complete with a porch swing. And Juliet’s father (James Newcomb) is snoring on an outdoor recliner during the “balcony” scene that turns the famed love scene into a comedy.

Tybalt (Sam Pearson, at center) threatens Benvolio (Cage Sebastian Pierre, with arms raised) as a brawl between the Capulets and the Montagues in Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Tybalt (Sam Pearson, at center) threatens Benvolio (Cage Sebastian Pierre, with arms raised) as a brawl between the Capulets and the Montagues in Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

In attempting to emphasize the needless acrimony and brutal murders in “Romeo and Juliet,” the production has minimized the young teenaged love of its romantic leads, Romeo (Edgar Miguel Sanchez) and Juliet (Brittany Bellizeare). However the fight direction by Rick Sordelet is excellent.

Shakespeare’s famed lines are there but they are sometimes hard to catch and seem out of place in a production that is more parody than tragedy.

“Romeo and Juliet” is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Courtyard Theater on Navy Pier through Dec. 22, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 595-5600 or visit Chicago Shakes.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

Overcoming a speech impediment to prove worthiness

The King’s Speech

Myrtle (Elizabeth Ledo) and Lionel Logue (James Frain), Left, and Elizabeth (Rebecca Night) and Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) in Chicago Shakespeare’s The King’s Speech. (Photo by Liz Lauren.)
Myrtle (Elizabeth Ledo) and Lionel Logue (James Frain), Left, and Elizabeth (Rebecca Night) and Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton) in Chicago Shakespeare’s The King’s Speech. (Photo by Liz Lauren.)

4 stars

Although “The King’s Speech” playwright David Seidler’s script about how King George VI overcame his stutter while ascending to the British throne was a 2010 Oscar-winning movie, it started life as a play after Seidler researched the process in the 1970’s.

Seidler had learned that the man who would be king, known as Bertie to family and close friends, worked with Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, a man who had come with his wife to London with hopes of finding an acting job.

The information revealed in the script came from Lionel’s son, Valentine Logue. But Queen Elizabeth, the King’sGeorge’s wife, didn’t want the play produced until after she died.

Work on the script began again in 2005, a few years after the Queen Mother died in 2002. However, it became the highly acclaimed Academy-Award winner Best Picture of the Year and also Best Director, Best Actor and won Seidler the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

Two years later the playwright turned his movie script back into a play that  premiered in Surry, England in 2012, toured the UK and had it’s London premier in the West End.Read More

Following the Yellow Brick Road

 

The Scarecrow (Marya Grandy), The Tin Man (Joseph Anthony Byrd), Dorothy (Leryn Turlington), and The Cowardly Lion (Jose Antonio Garcia) join together in an adventure down the Yellow Brick Road. (Photo by Liz Lauren)
The Scarecrow (Marya Grandy), The Tin Man (Joseph Anthony Byrd), Dorothy (Leryn Turlington), and The Cowardly Lion (Jose Antonio Garcia) join together in an adventure down the Yellow Brick Road. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

 

4 stars

Since “The Wizard of Oz,” first delighted children and grownups back in 1939, L. Frank Baum’s glorious fantasy, has been a continual favorite whether on film, in print or live on stage, as it is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

This road story, directed with spirit by Brian Hill and imaginatively choreographed by Kenny Ingram, is about how friends help, comfort and support each other. It also shows how experiencing new places can delight and educate, but ultimately reminds the traveler that, in the end, there’s no place like home.

Living on a colorless Kansas farm with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry (played by Emily Rohm and Jared D.M. Grant), lovely Leryn Turlington winningly steps into the ruby slippers as Dorothy Gale.

After being threatened by grouchy Almira Gulch, portrayed by Chicago stage veteran Hollis Resnik, Dorothy runs away with her little dog Toto (played perfectly by Derby, the dog), meets clairvoyant Professor Marvel and is swept away to the Land of Oz by a powerful cyclone.

Earnest and charming, with a smile that lights up the stage, Turlington puts her own touching stamp on the soulful ballad “Over the Rainbow.”

On her travels through Oz, Dorothy meets Emily Rohm, transformed into a  glittering, pink Glinda, the Good Witch. Dorothy also makes friends with the local Munchkins played by Karla Boye, Timothy P. Foszcz, Jarod D.M. Grant, Haley Gustafson, Aalon Smith, Lauren Smith, Anthony Sullivan Jr. and Kaleb Van Rijswijck who advise her to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.”

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What is coming to theaters downtown and on the Mag Mile

 

Chicago Theater and Arts has been looking at what area theater production companies have in store for the 2019-2020 season. The lineup is impressive.

Because Chicagoland has approximately 250 companies the coming season is divided into a series that starts downtown, then winds around  Chicago’s neighborhoods and suburbs.

The series started off with Broadway in Chicago’s coming shows and now moves to other downtown theater venues including a couple on and near North Michigan Avenue.

Shows often sell out as soon as they open so best plan is to print the series, circle what you want and pick up tickets in advance.

 

Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. (CST photo)
Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. (CST photo)

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Located on the city’s popular Navy Pier, CST is currently doing “Six” a fun, pop-concert-style musical about Henry VIII’s wives that has been so popular it’s been extended through Aug. 4. Also there is the family musical “The Wizard of Oz” which opens July 6 and continues through Aug. 25, 2019.

Coming this fall are “The King’s Speech” Sept 12-Oct. 20 , “A Man of Good Hope,”  Oct. 4-13 and “Romeo and Juliet” Oct. 31-Dec. 22, 201. After the new year “Emma” is Jan 28 -March 15, 2020 followed by the Royal Shakespeare Company with a production TBA, April 1-30. The season closes with “As You Like It” April 30-June 21

Chicago Shakespeare Theater is at 800 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier. For tickets and more information visit Chicago Shakes or call (312) 595-5600.

 

 

Goodman Theatre on Dearborn at Randolph (Goodman photo)
Goodman Theatre on Dearborn at Randolph (Goodman photo)

Goodman Theatre

The theatre is  on Dearborn Street at Randolph Street near downtown attractions such as Millennium Park and the city’s  Piccasso. Shows are on stage in the Albert Theatre and smaller Owen Theatre.

Currently, Goodman is doing “The Music Man” helmed by famed director Mary Zimmerman, June 29-Aug. 11, 2019 (Albert).  Then “Hanna H. is Sept. 6-Oct. 6 (Owen) and “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” Sept. 14- Oct. 20 (Albert). “A Christmas Carol,” a family holiday favorite, continues for its 42nd annual production Nov. 16 – Dec. 29, 2019 (Albert).

Into the new 2020 year “Roe” is Jan. 18-Feb 20, (Albert). “Graveyard Shift” Feb. 7-Mar. 8 (Owen) and “Molly Sweeney” is  Mar. 7-April 12  (Albert) followed by “School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play  Mar. 27-April 26 (Owen). “American Mariachi” is April 25-May 31 (Albert). Then “The Outsiders” completes the season June 19-Aug. 2 (Albert).

Goodman Theatre is at at 170 N. Dearborn Street. For tickets and other information visit Goodman Theatre  or call (312) 443-3800.

 

 

Lookingglass Theatre is in the Historic Water Works (J Jacobs photo)
Lookingglass Theatre is in the Historic Water Works (J Jacobs photo)

Lookingglass Theatre

Located in Chicago Water Works, Lookingglass is currently doing “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” through Aug. 4 then “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” Nov. 1, 2019-Jan. 26, 2020.

The season continues with “Her Honor Jane Byrne” Feb 26-April 12, 2020. Then the ever popular, landmark production, “Lookingglass Alice,” returns May 13-Aug. 16, 2020.

Lookkingglass Theatre is at 821 N. Michigan Ave. For tickets and more information visit Lookingglass Theatre and call (312) 337-0665.

 

 

 

Lyric Opera House on North Wacker Drive (J Jphoto)
Lyric Opera House on North Wacker Drive (J Jphoto)

Lyric Opera of Chicago

The Lyric Opera House. a historic building on north Wacker Drive at Madison Street, will resound with the sounds of Rossini and Verdi, Wagner and (Jake) HeggieL as the 2019-2020 season mixes the popular with the provocative.

Opening the season is Rossini’s popular “The Barber of Seville” Sept. 28-Oct. 27 followed by Verdi’s “Luisa Miller”Oct. 12-31. Then  Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s unusual “Dead Man Walking” opera is Nov. 2-11.  The series returns to the classics with Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” Nov. 14-Dec. 8 but offers a gorgeous vocal treat with Sondra Radvanovsky singing the finales of Anna BolenaMaria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux in a semi-staged performance of Donizetti  “The Three Queens” Dec 1-7, 2019.

The second half opens 2020 with an all-time favorite, Puccini’s  “Madam Butterfly” Feb. 6-Mar. 8. Then Tchaikovsky’s eerie “The Queen of Spades” is Feb. 15-Mar. 1 . Wagner”s Götterdämmerung” closes the Lyrics Ring cycle  April 4 & 11, 2020.

However, the lyric ends each season with a Broadway musical. In 2019 it was “West Side Story. ” For 2020 it will be “42nd Street” May 29 – June 21, 2020.

The Lyric Opera House is at 20 N.  Wacker Dr. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Opera/Contact or call (312) 332-2244.

 

 

Porchlight is in the Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts. (J Jacobs and Ruth Page Center photo)
Porchlight is in the Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts. (J Jacobs and Ruth Page Center photo)

Porchlight

Now located in the Ruth Page Center, Porchlight will open the 2019-20 season with “Sings: 25 years of Porchlight,” a benefit concert Aug. 5 that celebrates its past 25 years on Chicago’s musical theater scene.

A leading lady of Chgo theater, Hollis Resnik, makes her Porchlight debut in  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard” Oct. 11- Nov. 24. However, there will also be a quick revisit to Irving Berlin’s “Cal Me Madam,” Nov. 20-21. Next is  the Ruffians’ “Burning Bluebeard” Dec 13-27.

The year 2020 opens with Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies” Jan 24- Mar. 6. The season with the Chicago premiere of Disney’s “Freaky Friday” April 10-May 24.

Porchlight Music Theatre moved last year to the Ruth Page Center For the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Pkwy.

 

Jodie Jacobs

 

Chicago shakes “Six” wives

 

Cast of 'Six" at Chicago Shakespeare. (Liz Lauren photo)
Cast of ‘Six” at Chicago Shakespeare. (Liz Lauren photo)

3 Stars

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents the North American premiere of the energetic pop-concert musical “Six” by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss featuring the story of the six wives of England’s 16th Century monarch Henry VIII.

The fate of the queens are apparently remembered by English school children using the rhyme “divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived” which becomes the leitmotif of the opening number as the women introduce themselves to the audience.

A series of nine musical numbers centered around a common theme with virtually no dialog, this production is more of a pop-concert than what you think of as traditional musical theater.

Presented as a kind of musical competition, each of the “Six” wives takes turns telling her life story, including her relationship with the notorious Henry.

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Maurice Jones extraordinary as Hamlet

Maurice Jones as Hamlet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Liz Lauren photo)
Maurice Jones as Hamlet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Liz Lauren photo)

3 ½ stars

Audiences hardly need to be reminded that William Shakespeare had a phrase, soliloquy or advice for almost every conceivable motivation, experience or outlook.

But when Broadway actor Maurice Jones, Chicago Shakespeare’s Hamlet, considers life’s unfairness and contemplates death in the famed “To be, or not to be, that is the question,” soliloquy, he is so natural in his musing that he could be any being who grieves for a murdered loved one instead of an actor playing one of the theater’s most famous roles.

And that is the strength of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines simple, but masterfully presented “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.”

Even when Polonius, Shakespeare’s overly verbose, elderly advisor to the Danish court, tells son Laertes “to thine own self be true, (and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man”) ” a contradiction to everyone’s actions, stage veteran Larry Yando nicely throws out the lines as if they were simply fatherly advice instead of among the Bard’s very famous quotes.

Polonius (Larry Yando, at center) reveals to King Claudius (Tim Decker) and Queen Gertrude (Karen Aldridge) the contents of Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Hamlet, (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Polonius (Larry Yando, at center) reveals to King Claudius (Tim Decker) and Queen Gertrude (Karen Aldridge) the contents of Hamlet’s letter to Ophelia in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Hamlet, (Photo by Liz Lauren)

The production really succeeds because Jones is so good at Hamlet, he’s fine in modern dress rather than period costume as he sincerely becomes a distressed son whose father is killed by a brother and whose mother then marries, possibly unknowingly, her husband’s murderer.

Scott Davis’ minimal scenic design and Robert Wierzel’s lighting focus the action where it should be, on the players, rather than offering the trappings of a castle in Denmark. Booming sound design by Lindsay Jones portends tragedy waiting.

A nice touch is having long-time beloved Chicago and New York theater actor Mike Nussbaum play a comic gravedigger along side Greg Vinkler who is also the king with the players who come to court to perform.

The rest of the cast is fine, although not at the same level of Jones’ delivery. It’s likely audiences will be talking about this Hamlet for quite awhile.

“Hamlet” is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier, Chicago, through June 9, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 595-5600) and visit Chicago Shakes.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

Suspenseful British theater

Ensemble in An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley, (Photo by Mark Douet)
Ensemble in An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley, (Photo by Mark Douet)

4 stars

JB Piestley’s classic “An Inspector Calls” has landed at Chicago Shakespeare Theater just shy of it 75th birthday. But its scenario is as interesting and suspenseful today as it was when first performed in 1945.

The time is an April night in 1912. The place is the home of the Birlings, a wealthy, British, class-conscious family. They are celebrating the engagement of daughter Shelia to Gerald Croft when Inspector Goole arrives to question their connection to a young girl who has committed suicide.

Picture melodramatic fog, lighting, staging and pauses in conversation for the greatest effect as Inspector Goole’s relentless questioning extracts honesty and confessions from the Birlings and Croft.Read More

Five things to do Presidents’ Day weekend

 

The Weyard Sisters (Caitlan Taylor, Caroline Chu, and Emma Ladji) in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Short Shakespeare! Macbeth. (Liz Loren photo)
The Weyard Sisters (Caitlan Taylor, Caroline Chu, and Emma Ladji) in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of Short Shakespeare! Macbeth. (Liz Loren photo)

Saturday

Shortened Shakespeare

See the 75 minute “Short Shakespeare! Macbeth” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Saturday at 11:00 a.m., Feb. 16. It will continue Saturdays through March 16, 2019. Chicago Shakespeare Theater is on Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. For tickets and more information visit ChicagoShakes/Macbeth.

 

Seussical: The Musical

Dr. Seuss’ creative genius is on stage at the  Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. The show continues through March 31, 2019. The theatre is at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Created by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (the Tony Award-winning team behind the acclaimed musicals Ragtime and Once on this Island), the production combines more than 14 Dr. Seuss stories. For tickets or more information call (847) 634-0200 or visit Marriott Theatre

 

Orchid in Chicago Botanic Garden Greenhouse. (photo by J Jacobs)
Orchid in Chicago Botanic Garden Greenhouse. (photo by J Jacobs)

Sunday

Orchids at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Warm up with the Chicago Botanic Garden’s annual Orchid Show, called “The Tropics” this year. The show is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For tickets and other information visit Chicago Botanic.

 

Monday 

Story Time

Chicago Botanic Garden holds Story Time for ages 2 to 5 on Mondays through March 25, 2019, including Presidents’ Day March18. Story Time goes from 10 to 11 a.m. in Lenhardt Library. Afterwards, get a bingo card to go find objecgts in the garden and greenhouses. No drop offs.A caregiver must be present.  The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, just east of the Edens Expressway. For more information visit Chicago Botanic or Story Time.

 

 

Hall leading to the Grainger Theater has fascinating space images. (J Jacobs photo taken of one of the hall's images)
Hall leading to the Grainger Theater has fascinating space images. (J Jacobs photo taken of one of the hall’s images)

Chicago Museum Campus

Go to the Chicago Museum Campus. All three of the museums on the Campus, the Adler Planetarium, Field Museum and Shedd Aquarium, have free general admission for Illinois residents on Feb. 18, 2019. (Free days’ general admission does not include special exhibits and shows.)

 

Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium is at the far east end of the Museum Campus at 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr. General admission is free to Illinois residents Feb. 18-21. For more information on what to see and admissions visit Adler Planetarium .

 

The Field Museum

At the Field, all of February is free to Illinois residents. There is a lot to see that does not require a special exhibit ticket. The Field is at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. at the west end of the campus. For more information visit Field Free.

 

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd is in the middle of the Museum Campus at 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr Free admission for Illinois residents is Feb. 18-22. For more information visit Shedd Free Days.

 

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

 

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ gets a contemporary vibe

 

Led in revels by the First Fairy (Adrienne Storrs) and Puck (Sam Kebede), the fairy ensemble gather to "Rock the Ground" in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' (Liz Lauren photo)
Led in revels by the First Fairy (Adrienne Storrs) and Puck (Sam Kebede), the fairy ensemble gather to “Rock the Ground” in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (Liz Lauren photo)

4 stars

Shakespeare Theater Chicago puts a slightly modern twist to an old favorite, one of “The Bard’s” most well-known and beloved plays, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

As is not unusual for Shakespeare this story is something of a three ring circus.

Oberon, King of the Fairies (Edward O’Blenis) directs his minion Puck (Sam Kebede) to put a spell on Titania, Queen of the Fairies (Alexandra Silber) to teach her a lesson.

The spell uses the essence of a special flower that will cause Titania to fall madly in love with the first being she sees whether it be man, beast or fairy. Oberon prefers the more beastly the better.

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Around town: Not gone yet

 

With everything you have to do, places to go, people to visit there might not have been time to fit in everything you hoped to see by Dec. 31. No worries. Some of the fun shows, exhibits and festivals will still be around in January, 2019.

Siobhan Stagg in Cendrillon at the Lyric Opera
Siobhan Stagg in Cendrillon at the Lyric Opera

Shows

Lyric Opera’s delightful “Cendrillon” (Cinderella ) runs through Jan. 20 and its exceptional “La boheme” continues at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, through Jan. 31. For tickets and more information  visit Lyric Opera.

Steadfast tin Soldier at Lookinggglass Theatre in the Chicago Water Works at 821 N. Michicagn Ave. runs through Jan. 13. For tickets and other information visit Lookingglass.

Women of Soul” at the Black Ensemble Theatre goes to Jan. 27. See tickets and more information at Black Ensemble Theater.

“ A Midsummer Night’s Dream“ at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, opens this weekend (Dec. 14 2018), and runs through Jan. 27. Tickets and more information at Chicago Shakes.

At Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted, “Familiar” continues through Jan. 13 and “”La Ruta” goes through Jan. 27.  Visit Steppenwolf.

 

Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Festivals

Illumination” at the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Il Hwy 53, Lisle, goes through New Year’s Day, Jan. 1.

Winter Wonderfest” continues at Navy Pier, Chicago, through Jan. 6. For tickets, parking and other information visit Navy Pier.

Wonderland Express” is at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe (just east of Edens Expressway) through Jan. 6. (This is a time and date ticketed show)  For tickets and other information visit . For parking check Chicago Botanic.

Zoo Lights” at Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St.,, Chicago, is open New Year’s Day and continues through Jan. 6.

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