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.”
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.
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).
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 Bolena, Maria Stuarda, and Roberto Devereux in a semi-staged performance of Donizetti “The Three Queens” Dec 1-7, 2019.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Certainly Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” and Macy’s State Street holiday windows are on many folks’ traditional “do” list. But there are also other good shows to see and fun places to go as December 2018 turns into January 2019.
“Into the Woods,” Stephen Sondheim’s “not happily ever after” take on traditional fairy tales, is at Music Theater Works at Cahn Auditorium on Sheridan Road in Evanston Dec. 22-31. Music Theater Works was formerly called Light Opera Works.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is about magic, love, and in this production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, is backed by a mash-up of rock, jazz, blues and doo-wop., Dec. 6, 2018 -Jan 27, 2019.
“La Ruta” world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Dec. 13-Jan. 27. At U.S.-owned factories in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, La Ruta is just a bus. But to the women who live, work and often disappear along the route, it’s much more.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass plays numbers from Holst to Tchaikovsky, 8 p.,. Dec. 19, at Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. and the CSO does Handel’s “Messiah” at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Symphony Center.
Ice skate free in Millennium Park if you bring your skates, skate rental is $13 weekdays and $15 Friday-Sunday and holidays. Skating rink is street level on Michigan Avenue below Cloud Gate (The Bean) between Washington and Madison Streets. Hours and more information at Millennium Park.
Take a “Holiday Lights, City Lights’ bus tour with the Chicago Architecture Center, 111 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago and then check out CAC’s diorama on the main floor and skyscraper exhibit upstairs.
Seen in London where treatments of royals and theatrical history fit the English bent for farce, Jessica Swale’s comedy, “Nell Gwyn,” was well-received.
It showcases a woman known for her wit who called herself a “Protestant whore.” More than that, Nell Gwyn’s story is a true “My Fair Lady” tale.
The Kings Company’s leading actor, Charles Hart, discovered her teasing his group’s members from an aisle where she was selling oranges. But instead of chiding Gwyn, he pulls her on stage.
Hart saw her potential to become an actress and tutored her in current accepted mannerisms. While performing, she caught the eye of Charles II and became his long-time mistress.
That said, Chicago audiences do appreciate a really good farce and well-presented historic tales but Swale’s play, now appearing at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in its North American Premiere, feels as if it isn’t sure what to emphasize and how to balance comedy with historical facts or how to play up the serious, indeed, ground-breaking, changes to women’s roles on stage and in society.
Dubbed “pretty, witty Nell” by Samuel Pepys, Gwyn embodied the Restoration Theater period that came when Charles II was restored to the throne after England’s Cromwell and Puritanical years. He promoted French and Italian-style theater and wanted actresses on stage instead of men taking female characters.
But given that Restoration comedy is supposed to be onstage, there seemed little point to turning Charles II’s Portuguese wife, Catherine, into a raving shrew. The Catholic queen was much maligned by Charles’ subjects.
However, a reason to see the play is to enjoy Olivier Award nominee Scarlett Strallen’s delightful performance as Nell Gwyn. She dances, sings and flirts her way into viewer’s hearts as she bewitches the king (Timothy Edward Kane) and Hart (John Tufts).
Chicago audiences will see local favorites such as Larry Yando (Goodman Theatre’s Scrooge) as Charles’ minister, Lord Arlington, and multi-Jeff Award-winning actor, Hollis Resnik, as Catherine and Ma Gwyn.
British Olivier Award-winning actor David Bedella is perfection as Edward Kynaston who had to give up playing female characters.
Kudos also to set and costume designer Jermaine Hill, augmented by CST wig and make-up designer Richard Jarvie.
DETAILS: “Nell Gwyn” is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier through Nov. 4, 2018. Running time: 2 hrs. 30 min. with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 595-5600 and visit Chicago Shakes.