Check into the Grand Hotel

Leryn Turlington and Jonathan Schwart with cast of Grand Hotel. (Evan Hanover photos)
Leryn Turlington and Jonathan Schwart with cast of Grand Hotel. (Evan Hanover photos)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

This classic, Tony-Award-nominated musical comes to life in the hands of Kokandy Productions in Theater Wit. The moment you enter, the elegant set creates a warm ambience and violin and percussion sounds welcome you.

Up above and off stage, you hear the sounds of a crowd. Then, once the narrator, the good Colonel Doctor begins, the production takes off like a shot.

With book by Luther Davis, music and lyrics by Robert Wright, George Forrest and Maury Yeston, ‘Grand Hotel’s 1989 Broadway production earned 12 Tony Award nominations and won five.

Based on the 1928 play/novel “Menschen im Hotel” (People in a Hotel) and the 1932 MGM movie, the musical focuses on life and death, success and failure, love and murder all told through music and dance.

People come and go through the revolving door, with everything happening in the Grand Hotel’s lobby during one defining weekend. Read More

‘South Pacific’ enchants the evening with romance and hi jinks

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Samatha Hill (Nellie), center, Rachel Osting, Erica Evans, Ashley Jane Lanyon, Kayla Boye, Allie Dandy Pizzo and Erica Stephan in 'South Pacific' at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)
Samantha Hill (Nellie), center, Rachel Osting, Erica Evans, Ashley Jane Lanyon, Kayla Boye, Allie Dandy Pizzo and Erica Stephan in ‘South Pacific’ at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)

Nearly 70 years after winning 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, ‘South Pacific’ mostly wears well at the Drury Lane Oakbrook revival.

The entire cast is stellar, the beloved Rogers and Hammerstein standards are well-tuned and racial conflict remains a relevant issue.

The action centers around a naval base in the South Pacific island amid World War II. During a lull in the fighting, the players engage in merrymaking and fall in love.

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Nature is perfect in imperfection according to Tchaikovsky but show about him is perfect

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Hershey Felder in his one-man show 'Our Great Tchaikovsky' at the upstairs Steppenwolf Theatre through May 13, 2018. Photos by Hershey Felder Presents.
Hershey Felder in his one-man show ‘Our Great Tchaikovsky’ at the upstairs Steppenwolf Theatre through May 13, 2018. Photos by Hershey Felder Presents.

Can people display numerous professions, some of which merge into one outstanding career, producing the most wonderful theatrical productions?

Not many. But there is one person who is currently in Chicago, pianist, actor, playwright, composer, producer and director Hershey Felder. He  is performing his fabulous play,‘Our Great Tchaikovsky’ upstairs in the Steppenwolf Theatre.

After creating highly regarded stage productions about Gershwin, Chopin, Beethoven, Bernstein, Berlin and others, Felder is now garnering some of his best reviews for ‘Our Great Tchaikovsky.’

Beautifully directed by Trevor Hay, the play is a one-man performance in which Felder shares Tchaikovsky’s life through his own acting, writing, and musical talents.

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Penguins take limelight at Brookfield Zoo

 

Penguin colony at Brookfield Zoo wear colored ID bands. Chicago Zoological Society photos
Penguin colony at Brookfield Zoo wear colored ID bands. Chicago Zoological Society photos

Listen up Penguin lovers. April 21 is World Penguin Day so Brookfield Zoo is celebrating with special events from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Stop by the Living Coast area where the Humboldt penguins reside. The first 1,000 children to participate in the activities get a World Penguin Day ID wristband similar in color to those the penguins wear. Youngsters can find the matching penguin color on the ID guide at the Living coast’s Rocky Shores habitat.

The penguins will be fed at 10:30 a.m. and again at 3:30 p.m. These are good times to hear about the penguins because there will also be “Zoo Chats” about Brookfield’s penguin colony. Other good times to hang out at their habitat are noon and 1:30 when the staff does enrichment with the penguins and answer visitors’ questions.

To see some penguins paint, be at these “artists’” habitat for their watercolor activity from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. To win one of three paintings made that day, visitors, age 13 or older, can enter a drawing held between 9 a.m. April 11 through 5 p.m. April 25 at CZS.org/PenguinDay. Winners will be announced on the zoo’s Facebook page and website April 26.

A fun activity, is to try walking like a penguin parent who has to balance an egg on the feet to protect it.. Replica eggs will be available and penguin artifacts from volunteers at an information station.

Zoo admission includes Penguin Day activities and is $21.95 adults and $15.95 children aged 3 to 11 and seniors 65 and over. Children 2 and under are admitted free. Parking is $14. Brookfield Zoo is at 8400 31st Street, Brookfield. For more information about World Penguin Day at Brookfield Zoo, visit CZS.org/Events or call (708) 688-8000.

Jodie

 

Iceland in Chicago

 

Taste of Iceland has taken over Chicago for a four-day festival of Icelandic cuisine, art and culture.

Among the events was an architecture talk and vodka tasting at Marshall’s Landing in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. The Mart overlooks a splendid view of the riverfront with examples of Chicago’s own stunning architecture just outside the window.

Museum Managing Director Halla Helgadottir. Photo by Reno Lovison
Iceland Design Centre Museum Managing Director Halla Helgadottir. Photo by Reno Lovison

There, we visited a presentation by Halla Helgadottir, Managing Director of the Iceland Design Centre Museum in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Centre has the distinction of being the most visited museum “per capita” of any museum in the world, the joke being that with Iceland’s small population it is estimated that more than 10% of the nation has visited the museum.

Helgadottir shared photos of several of Iceland’s architectural points of interest including the Harpa Concert Hall whose exterior looks as though it has been chiseled out of a giant sold piece of crystal clear ice.

Harpa Concert Hall, an example of Iceland architecture. Iceland Design Centre photo
Harpa Concert Hall, an example of Iceland architecture. Design Centre photo. Iceland.

Conversely, there was a photo of a farm house that was built largely underground and was reminiscent of the dugouts built by prairie pioneers in Kansas and other parts of the Midwest during the great westward expansion in the U.S.

Like the prairie pioneers, the Icelanders have precious little wood so alternative building options are required.

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Warm our blustery April weather with glorious music

When February weather sticks around for early April then warm up with good music. Go to the Lyric to hear some of the Ryan Opera Center members who sang this season. Or let Rogers and Hammerstein’s lyrical Broadway hits bring back memories. Or turn to Haydn and Beethoven to forget that Mother Nature’s Ap[ril Fool’s day joke has continued through the weekend.

Rising Stars in Concert

Singers with the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center Ensemble perform works by Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Puccini and other masters, April 7, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. The program is backed by a pianist and members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Edwin Outwater. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Opera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago is at 20 N. Wacker Drive.

The Sound of Their Music: 75 Years of Rogers and Hammerstein on Stage

Hosted by Daryl Nitz and Laura Freeman with music direction by Andrew Blendermann, the program is at the Skokie Theatre April 7 and April 8 at 7:30 p.m. It features artists Ken Baker, Cynthia Clarey, Sophie Grimm, and Tom Olickal performing songs from eight shows. Tickets are $35. For tickets and other information visit Skokie Theatre.   Skokie Theatre is at 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie.

MASTERWORKS 4: Haydn and Beethoven

The Lake Forest Symphony with Conductor Vladimir Kulenovic are doing Haydn’s Symphony No. 4, Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 featuring Cellist Jay Campbell and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 April 7 at 8 p.m. and April 8 at 2 p.m. The Saturday concert is at the Cressey center for the Arts at Lake forest Academy. 1500 West Kennedy Road
Lake Forest. Sunday’s concert is at the James Lumber Center of the college of Lake County19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake. For tickets and other information visit Lake Forest Symphony.

 

An everlasting taste

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Courtney Wolfson (Joan Smith), Libby Servais (Connie Olsen), Marissa Rosen (Dottie O'Farrell) and Linedy Genao (Agnes Crookshank) in A Taste of Things to Come at the Broadway Playhouse. Photos by Brett Beiner
Courtney Wolfson (Joan Smith), Libby Servais (Connie Olsen), Marissa Rosen (Dottie O’Farrell) and Linedy Genao (Agnes Crookshank) in A Taste of Things to Come at the Broadway Playhouse. Photos by Brett Beiner

The musical, ‘A Taste of Things to Come,’ written by Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin,  starts out in 1957 with four women living in Winnetka who meet once a week to prepare for an upcoming Betty Crocker cooking contest that they hope to win.

Sharing recipes is how their gatherings begin.  While they chop, mix, and measure ingredients, they also  read current articles in popular magazines, many of which lead their conversations down a non-culinary path of female frustrations, shared worries, and  confidential secrets.

Joan Smith (played by Cortney Wolfson) is the weekly hostess to her three friends: Connie Olsen (Libby Servais), Agnes Crookshank (Linedy Genao) and Dottie O’Farrell (Marissa Rosen).

Joan changed her last name to Smith so that her neighbors won’t care about her real religion. Connie is pregnant and worries that her baby might not be born with her husband’s looks—especially when she reveals to her three friends that she had an affair.

Agnes is a single woman who discovers that her background is more diverse than the suburb where she was raised. And Dottie, a mother of many children, is overweight and takes numerous pills—before and after eating everything in sight—to try to shed pounds.

When Joan introduces them to a different piece of writing, the Kinsey report, they interact in more engaging conversations regarding the sexual revolution.

In the first act, rock ’n roll is ever-present with wonderful voices and fabulous dancing by the four friends to the production’s live music provided by a talented all-female orchestra.

Joan states that “lots of things bubble up in the kitchen.”  That comment comes to life when racial, political, and other issues begin to surface as the women try to understand how to address them along with their personal needs.

The second act takes place ten years later in 1967, All but Dottie are hardly recognizable.

Marissa Rosen (Dottie O'Farrell), Cortney Wolfson (Joan Smith), Libby Servais (Connie Olsen) and Linedy Genao (Agnes Crookshank) in A Taste of Things to Come.
Marissa Rosen (Dottie O’Farrell), Cortney Wolfson (Joan Smith), Libby Servais (Connie Olsen) and Linedy Genao (Agnes Crookshank) in A Taste of Things to Come.

Joan, Connie, and Agnes are dressed like models and hippies and have taken on lives and professions of their own.  This causes Dottie to feel sad and separated from them.

But when she describes how her “profession” is a mother to all of her children no matter what their ages are along with being president of the school’s PTA, not only do her three friends support her, the audience breaks into wild applause.

A Taste of Things to Come, directed and choreographed by Lorin Latarro, is a fantastic musical comedy that pays tribute to generations of females who paved the way for the important lives that many women currently embrace, along with the adventuresome and creative journeys that other women are pursuing.

DETAILS: ‘A Taste of Things to Come is at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, through April 29, 2018. Running time: two hours with one intermission.  For tickets and other information, cal (800) 775-2000 or visit Broadway in Chicago.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

The rhythm is gonna get you ‘On Your Feet!’

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan plus the company of On Your Feet! Matthew Murphy photo
Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan plus the company of On Your Feet! Matthew Murphy photo

Gloria and Emilio Estefan are Cuban-American singer-songwriters and superstar entertainers who have inspired conga lines worldwide. But the 100 million-plus records sold and dozens of industry awards earned are only part of their story.

“On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical,” now playing for Broadway in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, is a high-spirited, glitzy production that weaves biographical events and global hits. It tracks the couple’s early struggles and discrimination, their rise to global success, the bus crash that nearly took it all away, and their incredible comeback.

If that all sounds familiar, there’s good reason. The musical originated in Chicago in 2015 with its pre-Broadway engagement.

On the national tour, playing the titular roles are Christie Prades as the adult Gloria and Mauricio Martinez as Emilio.

Prades, born in Miami of Cuban parents, has previously played multiple parts in the New York production. The real Gloria Estefan asked Prades to lead the tour. Martinez is a Mexican actor and recording artist making his Broadway debut.

The duo has palpable chemistry, and you find yourself rooting for them and the love connection that drives their music. Prades’ vocals are strong and steady throughout the show. Martinez seems to be more at home with a faster beat, but his rendition of “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” as Gloria recovers from surgery, flows straight from the heart and into the far reaches of the theater. He’s the comedian of the family, and Gloria loves him all the more for it.

Two more actors of note are Nancy Ticotin and Debra Cardona. Ticotin plays Gloria Fajardo, Gloria’s mother, whose own singing career was cut short by grown-up responsibilities and who disapproves of her daughter’s choices. Cardona plays Consuelo, Gloria’s supportive grandmother, who lands several well-placed comedic punches. Happily, both have opportunity to showcase their talents as soloists in this production.

The song-and-dance ensemble numbers, especially the finales, are hand-clapping good fun. At the end of Act I, the audience is engaged in a conga line down the aisles. The Act II finale is a medley of Estefan signatures.

The performers’ moves are amplified by the work of costume designer Emilio Sosa who sure knows how to make a razzle-dazzle party dress.

Based on an original book by Alexander Dinelaris, the musical is directed by Jerry Mitchell and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. The creative team also includes scenic designer David Rockwell and lighting designer Kenneth Posner.

Playing in the orchestra are several veterans of the Estefans’ Miami Sound Machine, including the production’s musical director Clay Ostwald.

DETAILS: “On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical” is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., through April 8. For tickets and other information, call (800) 775-2000 and visit Broadway In Chicago.

Pamela Dittmer McKuen

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

 

 

 

‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ is Delicious!

 

Cast of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner at Court Theatre. Michael Brosilow photos
Cast of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner at Court Theatre. Michael Brosilow photos

Twenty-three year old Joanna “Joey” Drayton (Bryce Gangel) returns home from an extended absence anxious to share the news with her parents that she has found the love of her life, and that the two are planning to marry.

The couple’s news will test everyone’s commitment to their own values, revealing their previously acknowledged and unacknowledged prejudices.

The year is 1967, the height of the civil rights era. The Draytons are best described as an affluent liberal white family. Joey’s new boyfriend, Dr. John Prentice (Michael Aaron Pogue), is black.

Dad, Matt Drayton (Tim Hopper) is the publisher of a progressive newspaper while mom, Christina (Mary Beth Fisher) is the owner of an upscale art gallery.

Joey has secretly decided to surprise everyone by inviting the Dr. Prentice’s mother and father (Jacqueline Williams and Dexter Zollicoffer) to a family dinner that includes her dad’s close friend, Monsignor Ryan (Dan Waller).

The meal will be prepared by the Drayton’s long-time African-American domestic helper, Matilda “Tillie” Binks (Sydney Charles). Both the Monsignor and Tillie are considered to be a part of the Drayton’s extended family.

However, Christina’s assistant, Hilary St. George (Rachel Sledd), catches wind of the relationship and immediately goes into action to avoid what she perceives to be a potential scandal that might be bad for business as well as the Draytons’ social standing

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” at the Court Theatre by Todd Kreidler is based on the screenplay by William Rose for the movie of the same title.

Joey Drayton (Bryce Gange) and Dr. John Prentice (Michael Aaron Pogue) in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner at Court Theatre.
Joey Drayton (Bryce Gangel) and Dr. John Prentice (Michael Aaron Pogue) in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner at Court Theatre.

The movie version featuring Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier, was a turning point in “race relations” in the late 1960s. Tracy’s final soliloquy is often excerpted as an example of racial tolerance as well as an example of fine acting.

In short these current actors have big shoes to fill, ultimately doing a really fine job of finding their own voice and putting their own interpretation on each of their roles.

This production is expertly directed by Marti Lyons who keeps the pace lively and helps the actors adeptly avoid the challenges related to performing this iconic material.

This is a perfect ensemble in which there is no need to draw attention to any one actor except to say that the roles of Tillie and Monsignor Ryan bring much appreciated, occasional comic relief which each of the respective performers do without distracting from the essence of the story-line.

Likewise Bryce Gangel as the ingénue character at the center of the storm perfectly presented bright eyed optimism and youthful exuberance tempered with an undeniable realism.

The monochromatic set by Scott Davis includes white cacti on the patio and unornamented, mid-century furnishings with avant-garde artwork prepared by scenic artists Scott Gerwitz and Julie Ruscitti.

The black and white palette  reminds us that we are literally dealing with a black and white issue that have shades of gray with only occasional hopeful bursts of color.

Costume Designer (Samantha Jones) whom I remember from The Court Theatre’s “Belle of Amherst,” really knows how to make exceptional clothing for her women that complements the production.

In this case the colorful artistic outfit for Hilary St. George who appears at the very beginning of the play immediately helps to set the time period and give us some insight into the flamboyant aspect of the character. Christina Drayton’s dinner outfit with shawl is the perfect at-home informal hostess attire, and Joey’s simple cocktail dress with gray tights is exquisitely tailored with a sixties vibe. Both used tone-on-tone fabrics that stay in the monochromatic color range without being simply black and white.

It was fun to be a part of this mixed age group audience for this particular play in the center of Hyde Park, long recognized as a liberal multi-racial and multi-cultural community. The laughs and gasps were more audible and more frequent then I have heard in a while and which I am certain was a result of many of the audience members understanding this material in a more intimate and first hand way, as either participants or witnesses to similar real life stories.

DETAILS: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is at the Court Theatre (on the campus of the University of Chicago) at 5535 S. Ellis, Chicago, through April 15, 2018. For tickets and other information call (773)753-4472 or visit CourtTheatre.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

 

 

Bruno Mars and Travis Scott are among the 2018 Lollapalooza headliners

 

Lolla 17 aerial photo By Charles Reagan Hackleman
Lolla 17 aerial photo By Charles Reagan Hackleman

Lollapalooza just announced  a strong lineup for 2018 that includes Bruno Mars, The Weekend, Jack White, Arctic Monkeys, Travis Scott, The National, Odesza, Logic and Vampire Weekend.

The mega (more than 170 performances) four-day summer pop fetival is Aug. 2 to 5 in Chicago’s Grant Park.

Visit Lollapalooza lineup for the complete list.

Related: Lollapalooza tickes are available