Bah humbug turns around!

4 stars

“A Christmas Carol” was written 175 years ago by Charles Dickens—and its popularity has never wavered since, as it appears on stages all over the country. For the past forty years, Goodman Theatre has presented “A Christmas Carol” until going downtown Chicago to see it has become a tradition for many families.

Directed  for several years by Henry Wishcamper, the play tells a basic story of the redemption of the leading character, Ebenezer Scrooge by giving him a glimpse at his past, present and what the future might hold if he doesn’t change..

Played by Larry Yando, Scrooge is the embodiment of what the name has come to represent since written by Dickens. He hates Christmas and only begrudgingly allows his underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit (Thomas J. Cox) to take off Christmas Day. He refuses to donate to good causes with comments about where the poor should go.

Scrooge’s selfish business partner, Jacob Marley who died years earlier returns as a ghost (Kareem Bandealy). Clanging chains wrought by miserly deeds, Marley warns Scrooge he will be visited by three spirits and that Scrooge must listen or be cursed and carry even heavier chains.

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‘The Safe House’ at City Lit is a safe bet

 

 marssie Mencotti, L. and Kat Evans in City Lit's The Safe House. (Photo by Steve Graue)
marssie Mencotti, L. and Kat Evans in City Lit’s The Safe House. (Photo by Steve Graue)

3.5 Stars

This world premiere slice of life drama is sure to strike close to home.

For many, the place they have lived and raised a family is more than an assembly of bricks and wood, it is a repository of memories and the physical manifestation of a life’s work. When it comes time to consider leaving it behind there are more considerations than a change of address.

“The Safe House,” commissioned by City Lit and based on a true story by Chicago playwright Kristine Thatcher, is expertly supervised by Producer/Artistic Director Terry McCabe.

You get a feeling you know where the cookie jar is in designer Ray Toler’s cozy retro kitchen/dining room stage setting It brings us right into the domain of “Grandma” Hannah (marssie Mencotti) who must confront the realities of her changing condition and abilities.Read More

‘Arcadia’ is close to ideal

Chris Smith, Megan DeLay, Chris Woolsey (Photos by Tim McGrath, TCMcG Photography)
Chris Smith, Megan DeLay, Chris Woolsey (Photos by Tim McGrath, TCMcG Photography)

3.5 Stars

“Arcadia” begins with thirteen year-old Thomasina Coverly (Meghann Tabor)asking her tutor Septimus Hodge (Chris Woolsey) the meaning of the term “carnal embrace.” Hodge replies essentially that the word carnal is derived from the Latin “carne” meaning meat and it is therefore referring to an embrace with a “side of beef” or “leg of mutton.”

From this opening dialog playwright Tom Stoppard is creating an atmosphere of inquiry and humor. He is sending a message that though this may be challenging at times, we are going to have fun with it.

The action takes place around a table in an historic and aristocratic English manor house in which there are two intersecting story lines set roughly two hundred years apart.

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‘Joseph:’ A Citadel show of biblical proportions

Joseph (Jacob Barton) shows off his “coat of many colors” to his jealous brothers. (Photo by North Shore Camera Club)
Joseph (Jacob Barton) shows off his “coat of many colors” to his jealous brothers. (Photo by North Shore Camera Club)

3.5 stars

First performed on Broadway in 1982, this interpretation of the Old Testament’s story of Joseph and his brothers through contemporary eyes is a fun, high-energy show featuring a delightful chorus of local children.

Based on Joseph’s “coat of many colors” from the Book of Genesis, the story shows what can happen when a parent plays favorites.

From the get-go, the show begins with two narrators instead of the traditional one and takes off like a rocket from the very first musical number, “Any Dream Will Do.”

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‘Miss Saigon’s’ heat is on!

Anthony Festa (Chris) and Emily Bautista (Kim) in Miss Saigon at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. (Matthew Murphy photo)
Anthony Festa (Chris) and Emily Bautista (Kim) in Miss Saigon at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. (Matthew Murphy photos)

4 stars

After its 25th anniversary revival on Broadway in 2017, “Miss Saigon” is reappearing this year on a national tour.  Directed by Laurence Connor, the music is by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr.

Loosely based on Puccini’s opera, “Madame Butterfly,”  “Miss Saigon” follows the final days of the Vietnam War.

The first lead character that opens the show is The Engineer played by Red Concepcion. The Engineer runs Dreamland, a steamy bar and brothel in Saigon that’s packed with beautiful Vietnamese women whom he has lined up for American soldiers.

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Love’s Labour’s Lost – A timeless tale

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

L-R: Amber Cartwright, Katherine Duffy, Rachael Soglin, Raina Lynn (Photos by Brian McConkey Photography
L-R: Amber Cartwright, Katherine Duffy, Rachael Soglin, Raina Lynn
(Photos by Brian McConkey Photography

This delightful Invictus Theatre experience proves once again that little has changed since Shakespeare penned this early comedy about the powerful drive of the passions of youth.

The young Ferdinand King of Navarre (Chad Bay) challenges his three besties  Berowne (Charles Askenaizer), Longaville (Taylor Glowac) and Dumain (Sam Cheeseman) to forsake romance and other distractions of the flesh such as eating for the purpose of devoting themselves fully to their studies for three years.

The pact does not last long due to the hunger of youth and the arrival of a young French Princess (Raina Lynn) and her posse of eligible young maids in waiting Rosaline (Rachael Soglin), Katherine (Amber Cartwright) and Maria (Katherine Duffy). Conveniently there is the requisite number of each sex for the two respective royal crews to square off.

The young men have soon forsaken their fasting and studies and have instead turned their hand to verses of love, while the ladies delight in disguising themselves and otherwise confounding their suitors for sport.

As with most of The Bard’s theatricals there are a few side trips not the least of which is a Spanish Lord Don Armado (Martin Diaz-Valdes) and doltish slave Costard (Johnny Kalita) pursuing the same country wench Jaquenetta (Daniela Martinez); and the play-within- a-play featuring the self-important teacher Holofernes (Alisha Fabbi) and his sycophant the curate Nathaniel (Jack Morsovillo).Read More

Stories of Chicago in Music

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Baiocchi performance (Reno Lovison photo)
Baiocchi performance (Reno Lovison photo)

Created as part of the Bach+Beethoven Experience, “Chicago Stories: Book 2” challenges local composers to write a musical suite that utilizes baroque instruments to tell a story about Chicago.

One of the hallmarks of Bach+Beethoven Experience is to create a casual relaxed atmosphere to enjoy music of vintage instruments. There is nothing stuffy about this experience and I venture to say it can be enjoyed by virtually anyone regardless of musical tastes or preferred musical genre.

The premiere performance was presented Sept. 29, 2018 in the Sky Room at the Loyola Park Field House in Rogers Park overlooking Lake Michigan.

The first suite, “Stories of the Bloomingdale Trail” by Ronnie Kuller, was created to evoke memories of the trail’s past as part of an industrial corridor and rail line that contrasted with the present sounds of the walkers, runners, and bicyclists who enjoy the narrow elevated green space. The trail cuts a nearly three-mile path parallel to North Avenue from Ashland on the east to roughly Central Park on the west.Read More

‘A Shayna Maidel’ packs powerful punch for Holocaust Remembrance

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Lusia (Emily Berman) left, and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the Holocaust. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)
Lusia (Emily Berman) left, and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the Holocaust. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)

 

What is family? Can it be created or reborn? “A Shayna Maidel” answers these  thoughtful questions in a most profound way. Written in 1984 by Barbara Lebow and now performed as a revival by TimeLine Theatre, the play confronts the horrors and aftermath of the Holocaust.

Two sisters and their father, reunited after years of separation, are now forced to examine their roles, responsibilities and guilt.

Daughter Rose and father Mordechai Weiss were fortunate to escape from Poland before the war. Not so lucky were daughter Lusia, who had scarlet fever and their mother who were left behind. Read More

Good Chicago area art fairs fill the August and September calendar

You never know what you will see or find at a summer art fair. (Port Clinton-Jodie Jacobs photo)

Check out some suburban shopping areas and Chicago neighborhoods while the weather is still  warm and breezy. The reward may be a painting perfect for the hall, a sculpture just right for the yard or mantle, a silk print scarf or tie to wear to a concert or a piece of jewelry to hold onto until gift giving during the holidays.

Here are some art fairs that are a good excuse to get outdoors.

August

 4-5 Glenview

Art at the Glen features 185 artists in the Glen Tower Center. Hours: 10 am – 5 pm. For more info see Amdur Productions.

11-12  Lincolnshire

About 120 artists participate in the annual Lincolnshire Art Festival held on the Village Green in north suburban Lincolnshire. Hours are 10 am – 5 pm.  For more info see Amdur Productions.

 25-26 Oak Park

On the western edge of Chicago look for more than 130 exhibitors at  the annual Oak Park Avenue-Lake Arts & Crafts Show in Scoville Park at Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street. Hours: Saturday 11 am – 7 pm , Sunday 9 am – 5 pm. For more info see American Society of Artists.

25-26 Highland Park

The Port Clinton Art Festival, among the Midwest’s best art fairs, sprawls across First and Second Streets and the Port Clinton Plaza on Central Avenue as it showcases about 265 artists from across the globe. For more info see Amdur Productions.

25-26 Chicago

About 200 artists exhibit their works at the annual Bucktown Arts Fest held in Senior Citizens Memorial Park, 2300 N. Oakley Ave at 2300 W. Lyndale St. Hours: 11 am – 7 pm. For more info see Bucktownh Arts Fest. Read More

The Blues Man is the real deal

RECOMMENDED

 

Rick Stone is the Blues Man at Black EnsembleTheater.
Rick Stone is the Blues Man at Black EnsembleTheater.

“Rick Stone The Blues Man” at the Black Ensemble Theater is a nightclub style jukebox musical written and directed by Jackie Taylor that stars Rick Stone himself and a cadre of six seasoned blues singers backed up by an awesome house band.

The songs are classic blues led by the very talented BET musical director Robert Reddrick on drums who is joined by “young” Adam Sherrod (Keyboards), Gary Baker (Guitar) and Mark Miller (Bass).  Lamont D. Harris (Harmonica) is considered part of the vocal ensemble but holds his own adding his “blues harp” accompaniment to many of the tunes.

This production works hard to make you feel like you just happened to stroll into a vintage blues club. The cast wanders in, casually greeting individuals along the way. Ushers greet everyone by saying, “Welcome to Rick’s.” The stage has a small bar and few tables and chairs which incidentally are available to audience members as V.I.P. seating.Read More