‘White Christmas’ sings and dances into your heart

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

First a caveat, This critic loved Paramount’s 1954 movie and the musical’s theme’s of romance and military camaraderie and caring, so the show, now touring with a stellar cast of Broadway and tour veteran actors, singers and dancers, seems to this writer to be a perfect holiday ornament.

'White Christmas' at Cadillac Palace has a great "Snow" scene. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
‘White Christmas’ at Cadillac Palace has a great “Snow” scene. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Based on the book by David Ives and Paul Blake, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, the musical has some fun songs such as “Snow” sung on a train ride from New York up to Vermont, some dated but fun pieces such as “What Can You Do With a General,” sung about the post-army job market, and some famous ones that still are popular when the holidays roll around such as, “Happy Holidays,”  “I’ve got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” and of course, “White Christmas.”

The story pairs Bob Wallace(Sean Montgomery) and Phil Davis (Jeremy Benton) , two very successful male entertainers who served in the same unit in WWII, with Betty Kerry Conte) and Judy (Kelly Sheenan) Haynes who have a sister act.

They’re all headed to a holiday gig at a Vermont ski resort where there is supposed to be snow. The gig turns out to be an effort to keep the resort, an inn owned by General Henry Waverly (Conrad John Schuck), from going bankrupt.

"Blue Skies" is a fun, Fosse-style dance number in White Christmas. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
“Blue Skies” is a fun, Fosse-style dance number in White Christmas. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

How they pull it off and the general’s reaction still brings tears to my eyes.

Along the way you meet inn receptionist Martha Watson Kaen Ziemba) a former Martha Rayestyle entertainer who also is too nosy for anyone’s good.

Plus there is inn employee Ezekiel who is also the train’s snoring man (Cliff Bemis who has a great voice and originated the Broadway role), Gen. Waverly’s granddaughter Susan (delightfully played in the opening by Makayla Joy Connolly) Stage Manager Mike Nulty (Aaron Galligan-Stierle who is also the Ed Sullivan and Regency Room announcer), and Davis and Wallace promoter Ralph Sheldrake (Gil Brady who always has a “million dollar proposition”).

The musical is also a showcase for exceptional dance numbers including to “Ble Skies”. Kudos to Director/ Choreographer Randy Skinner. In addition, Anna Louizos’ creative scenic design really helps tell the story.

Cast of "White Christmas" at Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Cast of “White Christmas” at Cadillac Palace Theatre.

DETAILS: ‘White Christmas’ is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre , 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago, through Dec. 3, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes. For tickets and other information call (800) 775-2000 and  visit  Broadway in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

‘Minutes’ shines scary spotlight on small town politics

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Audiences are likely to be lulled into a state of boring normalcy during the first part of actor/playwright Tracy Letts’ new play, ‘The Minutes.’

Premiering now at Steppenwolf Theatre through Dec. 31, 2017,’The Minutes’ is a dark comedy which turns out to be a scary, unfunny, toe-dip into the troubled waters of small-town USA. The scene is a city council meeting in Big Cherry (you pick a state).

Cast of 'The Minutes' at Steppenwolf. Michael Brosilow photo
Cast of ‘The Minutes’ at Steppenwolf. Michael Brosilow photo

As a former reporter who has covered meetings at the city, county and school board level, I can attest that David Zinn’s set design is right on as far as the seats, desks and ceiling are concerned. (The mural is an added patriotic touch).

However, you know something is wrong when the meeting is announced as closed, even though no legal reason is given such as personnel or law suit. Even if those items are only briefly mentioned during the closed session, they still should have been offered at the start of the meeting as an excuse for going into a closed session.

Apparently there was no public to complain but maybe the public in this town knows that all council meetings are held in closed session.

But then as each council member  states an item of business, from Francis Guinan as the doddering Mr. Oldfield to Danny McCarthy as Mr. Hanratty who has drawn up plans to redo the town’s fountain with a ramp for disabled visitors, the meeting appears to be routine. At least in the beginning.

One of the worms that rots the fabric of life in Big Cherry is that its founding is based on a battle that happened almost just the opposite of what is celebrated in town every year, as researched by Mr. Carp, one of the council members.

The other problem is that Carp, well portrayed by Ian Barford, also uncovered a city official’s criminal action regarding the disposal of stolen bikes.

But in this small town that does not want rotten apples to upset its rosy apple cart, politics and threats make the worms disappear.

The play’s title refers to the uncovering of the worms when  Cliff Chamberlain as new council member, Mr. Peel, wants to hear the minutes from the meeting he missed when he was at his mother’s funeral. Those minutes reflect Carp’s complaints and concerns. Peel is told by Mayor Superba, the forcefully restrained William Petersen, that the minutes have not been prepared for distribution.

All is revealed when the Ms Johnson, an honest clerk nicely interpreted by Brittany Burch, says they have been prepared.   The other council members who always go along with the Mayor are Mr. Breeing (Kevin Anderson), Mr. Blake (James Vincent Meredith)  Mrs. Matz (Sally Murphy), Ms Innwa (Penny Slusher) and Mr. Assalone (Jeff Still).

Directed by Anna D. Shapiro, to use the may’or’ name, is superb. The problem I have with the play is that its ending feels a bit off given the town’s attitude toward its heritage. Though the ending, (no spoiler alert here) delves into what may be the true nature of a group when divested of its respectable trappings, it would have been more understandable if the group circled in the dark with candles or adopted another ritual.

DETAILS: ‘The Minutes’ is at Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N Halsted St, through Dec. 31, 2017. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information call 312-335-1650 or visit Steppenwolf.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

Unique gifts that work double time

 

A penguin with a purpose. A Wright that is right. Those are just some of the special gifts that can be found in Chicago museums.

Instead of fighting crowds on Black Friday, use the day off to visit a favorite museum and its gift shop. Museum stores are not only filled with fun and artistic gifts, they also funnel that money you spend back into programs and other costs.

Plus, holiday shopping when you can also watch penguins play or visit a favorite art period adds to the fun of finding a present that matches a person’s interest.

However, if you don’t make it down to Chicago, browse the museum stores’ web sites. They are easy to maneuver because most are broken into different categories so don’t worry if the first link you find merely says store. Watch for scrolling options and look for such links as jewelry, toys and home decor.

On Chicago’s Museum Campus

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd, in the middle of the Museum campus at 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., is a favorite destination when youngsters and adults have a day off. However, you can also look in the shop on line to find everything from toddler shark hoodies to soft, plus animals that have wallett friendly prices. Visit Shedd Shop and call (312) 939-2438 if you have some questions.

A plush baby penguin is just one of the delightful items found on line in the Shedd Aquarium store. Shedd photo
A plush baby penguin is just one of the delightful items found on line in the Shedd Aquarium store. Shedd photo

Adler Planetarium 

Past the Shedd, all the way out to the eastern point of the museum campus is the Adler Planetarium,  at 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive.

The shop is perfect for the budding astronomer or astronaut wannabe. Think telescope, NASA hoodie or night sky projection.

The products are high quality and come in all prices. Check out Adler Shop and call (312) 922-7827 with questions.

Field Museum

First museum on the campus, the Field at 1400 S. Lake shore Dr., has a huge store worth a visit anytime you are on the museum campus. However, the store’s website is also huge. Note that different shop areas scroll across the Field store site. Click on one that particularly catches your attention or merelyh look for such categories as home  décor and toys. Among the sites is one for Ancient Mediterranean objects.  For other information call (312) 922-9410.

Art Museums

Art Institute of Chicago

Both sections of theArt Institute of Chicago, the traditional building at 111 S. Michigan Ave. and the Modern Wing at 159 E. Monroe St. have wonderful gift shops near their entrances so visitors can shop without paying admission. But if there, it is hard to resist visiting a favorite gallery.

If shopping  on line look for different categories such as apparel, stationary, books (even coloring books for famous paintins or architectural items, glass objects or a particular artist at AICShop.  There is even a site for all Frank Lloyd Wright items.  For other information call (312) 443-3600.

Frank Lloyd Wright decorative items, tgies and clock can be found on the Art Institute of Chicago's store website. Art Institute of chicago photo
Frank Lloyd Wright decorative items, tgies and clock can be found on the Art Institute of Chicago’s store website. Art Institute of chicago photo

Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Visit the MCA, as it is popularly known, to see its latest exhibition of important contemporary works upstairs on the Fourth Floor but also to dine in its new restaurant on the ground floor. The museum is at 220 E. Chicago Ave.

But if saving that visit for a day after the holidays, go on line to the MCA Store to vfnd such fun objects as desktop and hanging mobiles or fun, objects by artist Murakami.

For more information call (312) 289-2660.

 

Other Museums

Chicago History Museum

If trying to match a present to a history buff or someone interested in Chicago, a great place to find a book or related gift is at the Chicago History Museum Shop. The building, situated in Lincoln Park at 1601 N. Clark St., is  also an easy bus ride from downtown Chicago.

Museum of Science and Industry

Visit MSI to see its Robots, Lego or Mirror Maze exhibit or for its fairy castle or coal mine. You will find related items and gifts for you young scientiist in the museum gift shop. The museum is at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive near the Hyde Park/ University of Chicago neighborhoods.

But you can also shop on line for toys, books and other gift items. The store has a gift guide.

Happy shopping and have a joyous holiday.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Brilliant play conclusion confirms value of printed words

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The paradox of William Shakespeare is that his works reflect the motives of people at all levels of society from kings to working classes and peons and from husbands and wives to scoundrels and mistresses, but  even though his works were popular with all classes during his lifetime and his plays contain an amazing amount of dead-on observations still quoted now, those plays tend to attract an intellectual audience today rather than the general audience of his time.

Black, Altay, Linington, Ortlieb and Carter in 'The Book of Will' at Northlight Theatre. Liz Lauren photo
Black, Altay, Linington, Ortlieb and Carter in ‘The Book of Will’ at Northlight Theatre. Liz Lauren photo

But Shakespeare’s company members, usually referred to as the Kings’ Men, their title when King James I became their patron in 1603, really appreciated the value of the words they were saying.

In ‘The Book of Will,’ now at Northlight Theatre, playwright Lauren Gunderson shows how that appreciation likely led to the publication of the Bard’s works in the 1623 First Folio.

The play introduces audiences to the company’s players, their relatives and their friends as they struggle to get the original comedies, tragedies and histories into a quality book. These people wanted to preserve the words as originally written for them rather than the bastardized versions some people were promoting at the time.

The time? This was the early 1600s. Paper was costly and at a premium. Other issues were how to gather all the original works and obtain the rights to them.

Nevertheless the plays did come out in one tome. What Gunderson has done after considerable research is re-create how that First Folio came into existence. The characters in her play are real though some poetic license and assumptions are made.

Audiences will meet actor John Heminges (Jim Ortlieb) who became the company’s manager, his wife, Rebecca (Rengin Altay), their daughter, Alice (Dana Black) and actor Henry Condell (Gregory Linington) who became co-owner of the Globe Theatre and then the Blackfriar’s playhouse and his wife, Elizabeth (McKinley Carter.

Audiences will also see playwright and English Poet Laureate Ben Jonson (William Dick), Richard Burbage (Austin Tichenor and the Jaggards, William (Tichenor) and son Isaac (Luigi Sottile) who published the First Folio, Ralph Crane (Thomas J. Cox) who produced transcripts of the King’s Men’s plays and Ed Knight (LSottile) who was a King’s Men promoter.

In addition, Altay is also Anne Hathaway, Black is also Susannah Shakespeare, Carter is also Shakespeare’s mistress and poet Emilia Bassano Lanier. The characters of Boy Hamlet, Marcus and Bernardo are portrayed by Sam Hubbard.

Excellent program notes in the program help identify the players and other people involved in The Folio.

The cast, directed by Jessica Thebus, is superb. However, several Shakespearean characters and situations are mentioned so quickly and in a supposedly appropriate accent that not all references are easily caught.

Indeed, if going to see ‘Book of Will’ it wouldn’t hurt to go back and re-read some of those plays analyzed in high school or pick up a book of quotes from the library to see all of the Bard’s phrases that have become common usage.

Fine scenic design by Richard and Jacqueline Penrod and costumes by Janice Pytel perfectly  set the time period of London, 1619 to 1623.

As great as the First Folio achievement was, its importance is truly not felt until the last scene. You have to go Northlight to feel it and see how brilliant staging brings it all together.

DETAILS: ‘The Book of Will’ is at Northlight Theatre in the North Shore Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, through Dec. 17, 2017. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 and visit Northlight.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

 

 

See holiday lights festivals at the zoos and by trolley

 

Holiday Lights Tour

You know that Chicago celebrates the holidays with sparkling lights but if you don’t want to have to walk or drive all over to see them then check out the Holiday Lights Tour that takes folks to them on a double-decker trolley.

The tour starts its rounds from the John Hancock Plaza Tree at 875 N. Michigan Ave. It continues for 2 hours, 30 minutes with a stop at nearby Sprinkles Cupcakes, then over to the Christkindlmarket followed by a stop at Lincoln Park for ZooLights before ending back at the Hancock Center.

Lincoln Park ZooLights. Todd Rosenberg Photo
Lincoln Park ZooLights. Todd Rosenberg Photo
© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

The Holiday Lights Tour goes from Nov. 24 through Dec. 23. For tickets, tour dates and hours visit Chicago Trolley.

 

ZooLights Festival

ZoolLights at Lincoln Park is more than a walk on the wild side. Along with checking out the animals to glowing, color-changing light there is a Light Maze labyrinth ($3) to walk through and rides on the Endangered Species Carousel and a Lionel Train Adventure. ZooLights entry is free but on Family Nights of Dec. 11, 18 and Jan. 1, the rides are also free.

ZooLights is Nov. 24-26 and Dec. 1-3  and then every night from Dec. 8 through Jan. 7 except Dec. 24-25. Hours are from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Lincoln Park Zoo is at 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago. For ticket and other information call (312) 742-2000 and visit Lincoln Park Zoo/events.

 

Holiday Magic 

The Talking Tree at Brookfield Zoo's Holiday Magic draws young and old visitors. Brookfield Zoo photo
The Talking Tree at Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic draws young and old visitors. Brookfield Zoo photo

 

Brookfield Zoo glows with more than a million LED lights during Holiday Magic, weekends Dec. 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17 and during the week Dec. 26-31. Don’t miss the events 41-foot high talking Tree, other trees that seem to dance to music and large light-shaped animals. Lights go on at 4 p.m.

Brookfield Zoo’s main parking lot is at First Avenue and 31st Street, Brookfield, IL. For more date, hours and specific holiday events call (708) 688-8000 and visit Holiday Magic.

 

Witty Wilde endears at Writers Theatre

 

RECOMMENDED

Even though the set and costumes set the Victorian period and the mannerisms of Oscar Wilde’s witty take down of English high society was time appropriate, so many of his comments continue to hit the mark on social climbing and pseudo intellectualism today that ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is still a joy to watch.

Cast of 'The Importance of Being Earnest' at Writers Theatre. Michael Brosilow photo
Cast of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ at Writers Theatre.
Michael Brosilow photo

Indeed, the Writers Theatre production, on stage through Dec. 23, 2017, takes the author’s subtitle: “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People” quite seriously so that the audience “gets it” when the male leads, John Worthing (Alex Goodrich) and Algernon Moncrieff (Steve Haggard) behave in an absurd, languid manner while stating rather profound observations.

The only problem is that the observations come too quickly or are sometimes slurred so that not all Wilde’s bon mots are caught.

The two female leads, the women the men fall in love with, Gwendolen Fairfax (Jennifer Latimore) and Cecily Cardew (Rebecca Hurd), banter beautifully with each other and their beaux.

The leads’ farcial actions bounce off each male’s butler, the sarcastic Lane and drunken Merriman (both brilliantly played as foils for the show’s asides by Ross Lehman).

Other catalysts in separating the couples and bringing them back together are Lady Bracknell (Shannon Cochran) as Gwendolen’s formidable mother, Miss Prism, (Anita Chandwaney) as Cecily’s governess and a wannabe novelist, and Reverend Canon Chasuble (Aaron Todd Douglas).

The action takes place aided by Colette Pollard’s charming sets that are nicely void of Victorian excess and Mara Blumenfeld’s delightful, somewhat “My Fair Lady” style costume designs.

Directed by Michael Halberstam as a seriously funny look at Victorian and therefore, society’s sometimes artificial values, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is a delightful addition to a holiday season filled with Dickens’ views of Victorian England.

DETAILS: ‘The Importance of Being Earnest” is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, through Dec. 23, 2017. Running Time: two hours, 20 minutes with two intermissions. For tickets and other information call (847) 242-6000 or Writerstheatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

Holiday shows that are here and coming soon

 

Chicago’s gift bag of holiday shows has something for everyone from Scrooge’s dreams  and dreaming of a white Christmas to Santa’s naughty and nice lists and his overgrown Elf.

Cast of 'A Christmas Carol' at Goodman Theatre. Liz Lauren photo
Cast of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Goodman Theatre. Liz Lauren photo

Already Playing

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,’ a Ken Ludwig’s Emerald City Theatre production, is at the Broadway Playhouse now through Dec. 31. The show is a a fun take on Santa’s list which mysteriously disappears and how it is recovered in time for his gift deliveries.At just 45 minutes long, the show is perfect for elementary age youngsters. The Broadway Playhouse  is at Water Tower Place 175 E. Chestnut. For tickets and other information visit Broadway in Chicago Twas.

‘Scrooge And The Ghostly Spirits,’ is a new musical for the entire family based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Written by Douglas Post, it is at Citadel Theatre Nov. 17 through Dec. 23. Citadel is in a Lake Forest School property at 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest. For tickets and other information call (847) 735-8554 or visit Citadel Theatre.

‘A Christmas Carol,’ a beloved Goodman Theatre creative but traditional holiday retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic, goes from Nov. 18 through Dec. 31. Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St., For tickets call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre

(The non-ballet) ‘Nutcracker,’ a House Theatre production is at the Chopin Theatre. It does use dance and songs to tell the story. The show runs now through Dec. 30 at The Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division St. For tickets visit House Theatre.

Touring cast of 'White Christmas' Jeremy Daniel Photography
Touring cast of ‘White Christmas’
Jeremy Daniel Photography

 

Coming Thanksgiving week

‘White Christmas,’ Irving Berlin’s classic musical is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre Nov. 21 through Dec. 3. The Cadillac Palace is at 151 W. Randolph St. For tickets and other information visit Broadway In Chicago.

‘Q Brothers Christmas Carol,’ a very hip hop take on Dickens’ story is in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare  on Navy Pier,  Nov. 21- Dec. 31. For tickets visit ChicagoShakes.

‘Elf: The Musical,’ based on the 2003 Will Ferrell movie, is at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd, Aurora, Nov.  22, 2017 through Jan. 7, 2018. For tickets and other information call (630) 896-6666 or visit Paramount Aurora.

‘The Christmas Schooner,’ a moving, true-story musical that has become a Chicago tradition is at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Nov. 24 through Dec. 31. For tickets and other information call (773) 325-1700 and visit Mercury Theater.

Chicago Tap Theatre does 'Tidings of Tap' at North Shore Center for Performing Arts, Skokie
Chicago Tap Theatre does ‘Tidings of Tap’ at North Shore Center for Performing Arts, Skokie

 

On stage from the beginning of December

‘The Nutcracker,’ The Joffrey’s re-imagined production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon is at the Auditorium Theatre Dec 1-30. The Auditorium Theatre is in Roosevelt University at 50 E. Congress Parkway at Michigan Avenue. For tickets visit Joffrey.

 

Appearing later

‘Tidings of Tap’ presented by the Chicago Tap Theatre is at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts at 3 p.m. Dec. 10, only.  The venue is at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie. For tickets and other information visit Tap.

‘Peter Pan’ is a delightful Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) musical based on J.M. Barrie’s play. It will run at cahn auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston, Dec. 23, 2017 through Jan.1, 2018. For tickets call (847) 920-5360 or visit Music theater Works.

Enjoy the season!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

Baroque music soars with Quint artistry

 

Violinist Philippe Quint and the Lake Forest Symphony’s strings led by Vladimir Kulenovic dispelled any image that listeners might have had that Baroque music is sedate or boring.

Playing last weekend first Lake Forest Academy’s Cressey Center for the Performing Arts and then at the College of Lake County’s James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts, Quint introduced concert goers to Baroque works by playing Johan Adolph Hasse’s melodic “Sinfonia” with dramatic and joyous gusto. Although Hesse is arguably better known for operatic works, his “Sinfonia” interpreted by Quint showed that Baroque could be both exuberant and elegant.

Grammy award-winning violinist Phillipe Quint. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco, from Lake Forest Symphony
Grammy award-winning violinist Phillipe Quint. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco, from Lake Forest Symphony

To educate the audience on the difference between a shorter, differently constructed bow used for Baroque music and the sound that emanates when a violinist uses the classical longer bow, Kulenovic had concert master Netanel Draiblate  play the next piece, Arcagelo Corelli’s “La Folia” on one side of the podium and Quint do his bowing on the other side.

The piece used was the 1729 Francisco Geminiani edition which was perfect for the demonstration since there are solos for two violins and also the viola and cello.

The Baroque education continued with Tomaso Antonio Vitali’s “Chaconne in G minor with the recommendation to listen for the organ. But what really drew the audience’s attention was Quint’s passionate interpretation.

Of course no Baroque program is complete without something by Johann Sebastian Bach. In this case it was his “Air in D Major” from his Orchestral Suite #3 which reminded the audience how perfectly the harpsichord fitted the piece’s melodic musings.

Quint continued his remarkable showmanship in the second half with Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” from Op. 8. Really for concertos for violin and strings, they are tone poems whose sounds evoke birds in spring, other animals and breezes in summer, harvest celebrations and hunting in autumn and running, stamping feet and chattering teeth in howling storms in winter.

But along with the descriptive parts already in Vivaldi’s music, Quint used the concertos to add several embellishments. Some seemed planned ahead while others appeared to be impromptu.

The concert turned out to be a delightful survey of baroque music, a powerful introduction to the high quality of the Lake Forest Symphony under Kulenovic and an unforgettable demonstration of Quint’s artistry. This reviewer will be looking for more programs featuring Philippe Quint.

For Lake Forest Symphony information call (847) 295-2135 and visit LFSymphony.

Jodie Jacobs

 

Around Town: Holiday Happenings

Pumpkins still adorn some front doorsteps and Halloween candies still sit on some shelves but with Thanksgiving coming early this year (Nov. 23) and stores looking for a cheerful buying season, holiday decorations and events are already going up and beckoning.

If you have been downtown Chicago recently near Daley Plaza you likely noticed that the Christkindlmarket is already going up for its Nov. 17 opening and that Macy’s has already decorated its State Street and some Randolph Street windows.  Its 45 foot high Great Tree is up in the Walnut Room  sparkling with 2,000 ornaments and 6,600 lights.

Macy's State Stree windows are about Magic, pictured here, Love, Giving and other holiday themes. Photo by Carole Kuhrt Brewer.
Macy’s State Stree windows are about Magic, pictured here, Love, Giving and other holiday themes. Photo by Carole Kuhrt Brewer.

So yes, it’s somewhat early to plan on where to go for some holiday cheer of the non-alcholoic, event type. But if you don’t want to miss a fun activity, a repeat of a delightful family tradition or something that might start a new tradition, take a look at what’s coming up, print this and circle those events worth putting on your calendar.

The events tend to fall into those that open Nov. 17 and the ones that start the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 24.

 

Beginning Nov. 17

City of Chicago’s Tree Lighting

Head to Millennium Park before 6 p.m.  to ooh and aah when the lights switch on the 62 foot Norway sprice donated by Darlene Dorfler, Grayslake. The Oakdale Christian Academy Choir will be singing and cast members from Goodman Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ will perform.  Santa and Mrs. Claus are also expected to visit. Admission is free. The tree will be up through Jan. 6, 2018.

Christkindlmarket Chicago 

City of Chicago Tree lighting is Nov. 17, 2017. City of Chicago photo.
City of Chicago Tree lighting is Nov. 17, 2017. City of Chicago photo.

The Chicago Christkindlmarket opens weekdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and stays open Friday-Saturday until 9 p.m. Location: Washington Street between Clark and Dearborn Streets. Admission free. For other information call (312) 494-2175.

Morton Arboretum Illumination

See trees from a different perspective when the Morton Arboretum has lights moving on them to music. In addition there is an Illu-medallion that can now be purchased to reflect the interactive light display.  Tickets are date and time specific.  Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Il Hwy 53, Lisle. For more information call (630) 968-0074.

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival 

Trees glow and lights move to music at the Morton Arboretum's Illumination festival. Morton Arboretum photo
Trees glow and lights move to music at the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination festival. Morton Arboretum photo

The festival opens Friday with activities and food from 4 to 8 p.m. in Lights Festival Lane (Pioneer Court) at 401 N. Michigan Avenue. The Michigan Avenue tree-lighting parade, sponsored by BMO Harris Bank and led by Mickey and Minnie Mouse, happens on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. after a day of activities starting at 11 a.m. at Pioneer Court and at Michigan Avenue shops. The parade begins at Oak Street and goes south to Wacker Drive ending with Fireworks at 6:55 p.m. .

Christmas Around the World at Museum of Science and Industry

Begun in 1942 with one tree, the exhibit now has a four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree plus more than 50 trees and displays. They are decorated by volunteers to represent many different cultures. MSI is at 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive.

 

Beginning Nov. 24

Christkindlmarket and more

The European holiday market is now opening in other Chicago area attractions. On Nov. 24 it opens in Naperville at the Naper Settlement, 523 S Webster St, and at the Park at Wrigley, 3637 N. Clark St.

Christkindlemarket at Daley Plaza. Jodie Jacobs photo
Christkindlemarket at Daley Plaza. Jodie Jacobs photo

If going to Wrigley, bring skates ($5 age 13 and older, free 12 and under) or rent them there because along with the Christkindlmarket the Park has an ice skating rink. If going there Nov. 28, take in the Tree-Lighting Ceremony when a Colorado Spruce tree from will sparkle with 2,700 bulbs. Instead of worrying about parking take the CTA Red Line or Clark bus 22 or Addison 152.

Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland

The garden welcomes winter with a wonderland of lights outside and miniature trains speeding around Chicago landmarks plus decorated halls and greenhouses inside. Entry is ticketed and datge and time specific. The garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd, just east of Edens Expessway, Glencoe. (847) 835-5440

Wreathing of the Lions 

Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland. Jodie Jacobs photo
Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland. Jodie Jacobs photo

Art Institute of Chicago’s annually welcomes the holidays with a wreathing of its famous lion statues at 10 a.m., then continues the day with hot chocolate, music and drop in art activities through 3 p.m. While there, stop downstairs at the Thorne Miniature rooms because they are fun to see and some even get a holiday decoration. The museum is at 111 S. Michigan Ave.

Chicago Park District holiday flower shows

Both the Garfield Conservatory Holiday Show of Fire and Ice and the Lincoln Park Conservatory Holiday Flower Show open Nov. 24. For details visit Garfield Park Conservatory and Lincoln Park Conservatory.

 

 

Gods and mortals suffer in Die Walkure at Lyric Opera

Recommended

The movement towards the impending doom of the gods that began with the stealing of a ring in ‘Das Rheingold,’ creeps forward in ‘Die Walküre,’ the second opera of Wagner’s famed four-part Ring cycle.

Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Lyric Opera's Die Walkure. Photos b Cory Weaver.
Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Lyric Opera’s Die Walkure. Photos by Cory Weaver.

For those attendees at Lyric’s ‘Walküre’ production who are not familiar with the story, a guilt-ridden Wotan, king of the gods, brings people up to date.

Sung by the fine base-baritone, Eric Owens, Wotan admits to succumbing to the greed, lust and love that trapped him in decisions he detests now, such as allowing his bastard mortal son, Siegmund (Brandon Jovanovich) to die in battle as demanded by his wife, Fricka, ((Tanja Ariane Baumgartner).

How audiences feel about the second part of the story as it unfolds, depends on how they relate to its characters.

If they care that Fricka, goddess of marriage vows, feels dishonored by husband Wotan’s actions and those of Siegmund who rescued his twin sister, Sieglinde (Elisabet Strid) from a forced marriage to Hunding (Ain Anger), they may feel she is justified in her demands.

Christine Goerke, Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Die Walkure.
Christine Goerke, Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Die Walkure.

If they love warrior-maiden Brünnhilde, Wotan’s favorite Valkyrie daughter endearingly played and beautifully sung by Christine Goerke, they will dislike Fricka and wish Wotan could stand up to his wife.

The set, designed by Robert Innes Hopkins (originally designed by the late Johan Engels) is excellently evocative of spring in Act I where Siegmund and Sieglinde fall in love and realize they are brother and sister. In Act II, its darkness equates with the power struggles between foes and the gods. Act III offers the overly bloody hero’s hall of the Valkyrie maidens.

Brünnhilde’s and other Valkyrie’s transportation are delightfully manipulated and a fun part of the opera.

However, the death minions carrying black wreaths move in a silly fashion that distracted from the serious scene when Brünnhilde at first tries to dissuade Siegmund  from fighting and begs that he come with her to Valhalla as a hero.

Eric Owens looks down at the Valkyrie maidens.
Eric Owens looks down at the Valkyrie maidens.

Sir Andrew Davis, conducting the Lyric Orchestra, did justice to Wagner’s heroic score.

Directed by David Pountney, this is a new production with interesting costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca reminiscent of early last century.

DETAILS: ‘Die Walküre’ is at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, through Nov. 30, 2017. Running time is about five hours that include two 30 minute intermissions.  For tickets and other information visit call (312) 827-5600 and visit Lyric.

Jodie Jacobs

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