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

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

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School rocks when guitarist substitute takes charge

 

RECOMMENDED

Take playwright Mike White’s solution to how to turn an uptight middle-school class at a snooty private school into a group of fun-loving youngsters then add Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rousing music, Glenn Slater’s lyrics and book by Julian Fellowes and you have ‘School of Rock, the musical.’

Rob Colletti and cast in 'School of Rock the musical' at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Matthew Murphy photo
Rob Colletti and cast in ‘School of Rock the musical’ at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Matthew Murphy photo

Begun life as a high grossing musical comedy film by Paramount in 2003, the story morphed into a Broadway musical in 2015. Although not among the top musicals of all time, the show is a delightful reminder that there is more to school and life than gold-star rewards and meeting other people’s expectations.

Now on tour, the show is rocking the aisles of the Cadillac Palace Theatre with laughter and high-energy rhythm.

The catalyst for change is guitarist Dewey Finn, a debt-ridden, rock-star wannabe. Finn takes a call for a classroom substitute meant for his friend, Ned, as a way to make some money. The first impression is that he is totally wrong for the school, its parents and kids but…

As he works with the students on his strength which is the history, playing and love of rock music, they change.

There is also the first impression of the musical itself as it starts out with a “but” and even a “so what” as Finn is kicked out of “No Vacancy,” the band that he started. His problem is that the band is on its way to entering an important Battle of the Bands competition.

By intermission, audiences know that Finn is redeemed as his talented class is accepted into the band competition.

Directed by Laurence Connor, the touring company appears perfectly cast with Broadway actor Rob Colletti playing Dewey Finn, touring veteran Lexie Dorsett Sharp as school-head Rosalie Mullins, Broadway actor Matt Bittner as friend Ned Schneebly and Broadway’s ‘School of Rock’s’ Emily Borromeo as Patty Di Marco, Ned’s bossy, live-in girlfriend.

However, it wouldn’t work if not for the show’s very talented youngsters. They beautifully portray kids whose parents don’t listen to them or consider what they want and need. And yes, the kids really do play the instruments they use in the show.

DETAILS: ‘School of Rock, the musical’ is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago, through Nov. 19, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (800) 775-2000 or visit Broadway In Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

Festivals and shows plus happenings around town

 

So that in the coming weeks you don’t have to say “oops, I forgot” or “oh, I wish I had known,” here are some fun and interesting choices of what to do now through Nov. 5, 2017.

1000 jack-o'-lanterns light up Chicago Botanic Garden paths.
1000 jack-o’-lanterns light up Chicago Botanic Garden paths.

 

Short Story Theatre

Short story theatres are trending now in the Chicago area. (See StorySlam). Highwood, a tiny city between Highland Park and Lake Forest known for its restaurants, also hosts short story telling.

Its next time is Oct. 26 when the theme is Survival. Stories are likely to be about lost wives, geese, road trips or angels.

So come to Miramar Bistro at 301 Waukegan Ave. east of the North Line train tracks at 7:30 p.m. Or come earlier and eat there first. Just tell them when making a reservation that you are staying for the Short Story Theatre. Show tickets are $10 at the door, cash or check. Phone 847-433-1078.

 

Boo at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Hand-carved pumpkins line the paths Oct. 26-29 for Night of 10000 Jack-O-Lanterns. Tickets are date and time specific so get yours before you go to avoid disappointment. Times are from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, east of Edens Expressway. For tickets and other information call (847) 835-5440 or visit CBGHalloween.

 

Broadway in Chicago

At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, ‘Les Miserables, Cameron Mackintosh’s new production that is garnering rave reviews, closes Oct. 29. For tickets visit BroadwayinChicago.

Then, School of Rock’ an exuberant show with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Broadway Rock.

Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center and couriers in )Lyric Opera production of Verdi's Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center and couriers in Lyric Opera production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

 

Verdi and Wagner

If you enjoy opera at its best know that Lyric Opera of Chicago has  openings, closings and reviews similar to many downtown shows. Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ that also received rave reviews, has only three performances left: Oct. 26, Oct. 30 and Nov. 3. Wagner’s next Ring cycle opera, ‘Die Walküre,’ opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.

 

Sip and Stroll Festival

Visit more than restaurants and other businesses in Lincoln Square for the semi-annual Ravenswood Wine Stroll. Nov. 2 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are for one of five different routes: three in Lincoln Square and two in Ravenswood. For tickets and route information see Lincoln Square Wine Stroll.

 

Really old and last century modern

Winnetka Community House’s famed Antiques + Modernism show  runs Nov. 3-5 with an evening, first peek party Nov. 2. Because it’s a 60-year-old nationally known event, dealers bring their fine antiques and excellent mid-last-century modernism jewelry and furniture. For ticket and other information visit Winnetka Show.

SOFA shows off really fine pieces for the home and office. Jodie Jacobs photo
SOFA shows off really fine pieces for the home and office.
Jodie Jacobs photo

 

Where high-end art and superior design mix

Known as SOFA for bringing together Sculpture Objects Fine Art plus Design, the annual Chicago event is back at Navy Pier Nov. 2-5. Go upstairs to the Festival Hall to see what the international galleries say are trending now in the art world. For tickets and other information visit SOFA.

Jodie Jacobs

Lookingglass beautifully translates difficult Dickens tale

RECOMMENDED

Take the just-the-facts “ma’am” of Utilitarianism, compare it to the artistic joy of the circus, throw in dispiriting working conditions typical of mid 1800’s to early 1900’s mill towns, then people it with some victims and some typically villainous and greedy Dickensian characters and you have Charles Dickens’ 1854 story, ‘Hard Times for These Times.’

Cast of 'Hard Times' at Lookingglass Theatre. Liz Lauren photos
Cast of ‘Hard Times’ at Lookingglass Theatre. Liz Lauren photos

What makes what would be a difficult-to-enjoy retelling of a sad story worth going to is the beautiful staging, exceptional acting and delightful Actors Gymnasium  acrobatics in a production recently opened at Lookingglass Theatre.

Originally adapted and directed by Heidi Stillman in 2001, the production returns to Lookingglass with gorgeous, dream-like circus sequences in the background. They emphasize the longing of its two main female characters: Louisa, the daughter of a utilitarian-style school superintendent, Mr. Gradgrind, and Sissy, who performed in a traveling circus until her father, a clown, left her so she could become educated.

Louisa is perfectly played as a dutiful, unhappy daughter by Cordelia Dewdney. Actress-Aerialist Audrey Anderson is just right as her friend, Sissy, former performer but now a student at the school and a member of the Gradgrind household.

Troy West is the odious mill owner, Mr. Bounderby who wants to marry Louisa even though he is 50 when she finishes her education at age 20. J.J. Philips is Tom, Louisa’s manipulative brother.

A secondary plot pits Stephen (David Catlin ) against the prevailing system. He’s a mill worker desperate to divorce his alcoholic wife but too poor to do so. He’s in love with the sweet-spirited Rachel (Louise Lamson).

Lauren Dewdney (Louisa) l, and Audrey Anderson (Sissy) in the foreground with Louise Lamson and Raymond Fox in the background.
Cordelia Dewdney (Louisa) l, and Audrey Anderson (Sissy) in the foreground with Louise Lamson and Raymond Fox in the background.

The entire cast is terrific with many of the actors playing more than one role.

Raymond Fox , excellent as Mr. Gradgrind, also plays Slackbridge. Catlin doubles as  circus owner Sleary. Nathan Hosner portrays Mr. Harthouse, a wealthy idler who is interested in Louisa, and also does Mr. M’Choakumchild and Kidderminster.

A special note has to be made of Amy J. Carle’s awesome performance as Mrs. Sparsit, Mr. Bounderby’s housekeeper and probable mistress.

Marilyn Dobbs Frank is so good as Mrs. Pegler, a lady who occasionally appears that you will likely guess who she really is.

Even though the mill conditions of “Hard Times” and prospects for women have changed, his character types are still present. So as with many Shakespearean plays, “Hard Times,”can be re-set in the present time.

DETAILS: ‘Hard Times – For These Times’ is  at  Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan, through Jan. 14, 2018. Running time 2 hours, 40 minutes, one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Lookingglass.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.