Three Valentine’s Day ideas

 

Go as a couple or go as friends but just do something appealing. Either way works if you want to share good food or a really nice experience. Our three suggestions combine food with a fun evening.

 

Celebrate Valentine's Day at Lincolnshire Marriott resort's Three Embers and Marriott Theatre's Million Dollar Quartet. Photo courtesy of Lincolnshire Marriott Resort)
Celebrate Valentine’s Day at Lincolnshire Marriott resort’s Three Embers and Marriott Theatre’s Million Dollar Quartet. Photo courtesy of Lincolnshire Marriott Resort)

 

Dinner and a Show

Three Embers, Lincolnshire Marriott’s upscale restaurant  has a Valentine’s Day Dinner Special but you can also order off the regular menu. However, go early to include “Million Dollar Quartet,” the show currently getting rave reviews in the resort’s theatre.  It’s more than just a show. It’s a terrific concert.

For tickets visit Box Office. For more iknformation call 847-634-0100 or visit Lincolnshire Marriott Resort. Lincolnshire Marriott Resort is at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire.

 

A dessert at the Chocolate Sanctuary. (Photo courtesy of Chocolate Sanctuary)
A dessert at the Chocolate Sanctuary. (Photo courtesy of Chocolate Sanctuary)

Dinner, Chocolate and Band

Expect chocolate to be part of the meal at The Chocolate Sanctuary in Gurnee. You can have chocolate bread, chocolate butter and a chocolate dessert if you’d like, but also get a box of zodiac chocolates from the boutique up front.  The restaurant has a special menu for Valentine’s Day but you can also order from the menu. If you want you can go early for dinner and stay for the entertainment, “Eaglemania.” Ask about a dinner and show package price or when it’s best to go just for dinner.

Call (224) 944.0808 or visit The Chocolate Sanctuary. Also visit Chocolate Sanctuary Boutique. The Chocolate Sanctuary is at 5101 Washington St., Gurnee.

 

Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. (Photo courtesy of Navy Pier)
Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier. (Photo courtesy of Navy Pier)

Navy Pier Centennial Wheel and Dinner

Navy Pier has free Centennial wheel rides Feb. 14 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. but pre-registration is needed. Don’t worry about the cold, you can cuddle but the gondolas are also heated. There will also be a drawing that combines dinner, dessert and gift basket. Free rides are limited  so register  as soon as possible. After the free tickets are gone there will be paid ticket rides on a first come, first serve basis.For information on reserved VIP gondolas call (312) 595-5021. (Note: The wheel temporarily closes when weather gets really bad)

To enter the dinner for two and other Valentine Day gift drawing, complete this form.  After the Pier has preselected three finalists, he grand prize winning couple will be chosen by public votes via poll on Navy Pier’s Facebook page.  Runner-ups will also receive a small package to be redeemed at a later date.

Several other Navy Pier retailers and restaurants will offer discounts. For more information visit   Navy Pier Valentines Day .

For more wheel information call (312) 595-PIER (7437) and visit Navy Pier.

312-595-PIER (7437) or following Navy Pier on Twitter (@NavyPier). For more information, visit Navy Pier.

Jodie Jacobs

 

A million dollar evening’s worth

Nat Zegree, Shaun Whitley, Rustin Cole Sailors and Christopher J. Essex around the piano as in their characters' pose in the famed Million dollar Quartet photo
Nat Zegree, Shaun Whitley, Rustin Cole Sailors and Christopher J. Essex around the piano as in their characters’ pose in the famed Million dollar Quartet photo

4 stars

Going to Marriott Theatre for “Million Dollar Quartet” is like going to an amazing concert.

Some of the story-line is there on how and why future pianist extraordinaire Jerry Lee Lewis, the already famous Elvis Presley, the growingly popular Johnny Cash and the originator of “Blue Suede Shoes,” singer Carl Perkins, had all stopped by Sam Phillips’ Sun Records Memphis recording studio and service on the same December day in 1956.

But the reason to go to the show is to hear and see those four personalities come alive  during an extraordinary 90 plus minutes jamming of “I Walk the Line,” “That’s All Right (Mama),” Who Do You Love,” “Great Balls of Fire”  and their other hits.

The event, the only time these four future legendary entertainers were at the same place at the same moments, was captured by Phillips in a photo that would become famous. I saw it in the museum that is the Sun Records building in Memphis. The building is definitely worth a visit.

Phillips who became known as the “Father of Rock and Roll,” had recognized a future in syncing what was considered at the time to be “Negro” sounds and rhythms with other beats.

What the Marriott show doesn’t go into is the part radio personality Marion Keisker, a collaborator at Phillips’ Memphis Recording Service, played in bringing Elvis on board.

Originally conceived and directed by Floyd Mutrux with book by Colin Escott and Mutrux, the show is basically a jukebox musical. Premiered in Florida in 2006, it was produced in Chicago in 2008 first at Goodman Theatre and then moved to the Apollo Theater where it ran until fall 2014.

However, it does include short, spotlit, freeze points where Phillips interacts with each performer he developed while the other entertainers are in stop-action shadows.

It has Elvis accompanied by girlfriend Dyanne, portrayed with pizzazz by Laura Savage. She does a great “Fever” torch song during the jam session. As an aside, some stories about the event say he was accompanied by girlfriend Marilyn Evans.

From L. Laura Savage, Nat Zegree, Rustin Cole Sailors and Christopher J. Essex in Million Dollar Quartet at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire. (Photos by Liz Lauren)
From L. Laura Savage, Nat Zegree, Rustin Cole Sailors and Christopher J. Essex in Million Dollar Quartet at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire. (Photos by Liz Lauren)

What does matter is that the whole Marriott cast is terrific. Christopher J. Essex who has played the role elsewhere, really sounds like Johnny Cash. Rustin Cole Sailors who has been in several musicals on the West Coast does a fine Elvis impression. Shaun Whitley who reprises his Carl Perkins role during part of the Apollo Theater run has the perfect voice and plays a mean guitar.

But the person who usually makes this musical fun and exciting for me is the pianist portraying Jerry Lee Lewis. After more than 300 performances as Jerry Lee, as the famed entertainer is often called, Nat Zegree can not only play the piano with one hand, backwards, upside-down and certainly not sitting, but he can also do it blind-folded and does so during the encore.

Longtime actor David Folsom who has performed in shows from California to New York is a believable Sam Philips. Other important characters, although they are off to the side, are Zach Lentino reprising his role in the Apollo production as Jay Perkins, brother of Carl Perkins, on bass, and Kieran McCabe as drummer W.S. “Fluke” Holland which he has also played in other “Million Dollar” productions.

I also liked the use of the usually darkened, glassed-in room where Marriott Theatre’s  musicians usually perform turned into Sun Records’ recording room.

Indeed, the entire staging was handled well. It felt as if we were all there at Sun Records.

So kudos to director James Moye, music director Ryan T. Nelson, set designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec, sound designer  Robert E. Gilmartin and lighting designer Jesse Klug.

On the nit-picking side of what is otherwise a great show, I found the constant lighting up of cigarettes to be a distraction even though smoking was very popular mid last century. I also thought there were too many dead spots mixed in with Zegree’s rant about devil music. The other characters looked as though they were supposed to say something but didn’t and those time lapses were too long.

But the Marriott production is good enough to see more than once and share with friends.

DETAILS:  “Million Dollar Quartet” is at Marriott Theatre, Ten Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL through March 16, 2019. Running time: approximately 100 min. no intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

Elvis is back

Heartbreak Hotel playing now at Broadway PLayhouse at Water Tower Place (Photos by Brett Beiner)
Heartbreak Hotel playing now at Broadway PLayhouse at Water Tower Place (Photos by Brett Beiner)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Chicago audiences may remember how in “Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical about an historic moment in recording history, Elvis Presley was unhappy with his agent and RCA Victor. He wanted to be back in the understanding arms of Sun Records’ Sam Phillips.

We don’t see everything that led up to that notable time, an unexpected jam session of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins in December 1956, but we do learn about some of the problems he faced in “Heartbreak Hotel,” the prequel to that million dollar jukebox musical.

No question it’s hard to recapture the magic of seeing amazingly talented pianists play Jerry Lee and wonderful vocalists echo “I Walk the Line,” ”Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

But written and directed by Floyd Mutrux who co-wrote “Million Dollar Quartet” with Colin Escott and had co-directed the show in Chicago with Eric Schaeffer, his “Heartbreak Hotel” has enough talent on stage and background videos as scenery to keep audiences enthralled.Read More

A million dollar group jams at Paramount

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Nicholas Harazin plays “the father of rock and roll,” Sam Phillips, seen here under the classic image of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash shot at Phillips’s Sun Records Studio on December 4, 1956, in Paramount Theatre’s Broadway Series opener 'Million Dollar Quartet.' Liz Lauren photo
Nicholas Harazin plays “the father of rock and roll,” Sam Phillips,  under the classic image of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash shot at Phillips’s Sun Studio on December 4, 1956. Liz Lauren photo

Go to Paramount Theatre’s ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ if you love Johnny Cash. Go if you appreciate really good boogie piano. Or go if you are interested in the Sam Phillip’s Sun Studio’s handling of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.

It’s nice to have the show back in the Chicago area, if even for its short, little over a month, duration.

The story, captured in a photo and on tape at Sun Records Studio, Memphis, tells of the only time that four of Sam Phillip’s top stars jammed together.

They happened to stop by his recording studio when Carl Perkins was supposed to be taping. Some were going to tell Phillips that they were not renewing their contract but Lewis was looking for a long contract at Sun.

The important incident was turned into a “jukebox” show of great mid-last century songs by Floyd Mutrux who wrote the book with Colin Escott and directed the original productions.

Started in Daytona Beach in 2006 before going to Seattle in 2007, the show was developed further at the Goodman Theatre in fall 2008.

It transferred to the Apollo Theatre where it ran until recently, closing early in 2016. But the original cast went on to NYC where ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ ran on Broadway from mid 2010 to mid 2011 while still playing the Apollo. It brought Levi Kreis a Tony Award as Jerry Lee Lewis.

The phrase “blown away” is often used but that was how I felt when seeing Kreis. Paramount guests will feel the same way when watching Gavin Rohrer as Lewis. Rohrer is incredible. He has already portrayed Lewis in two other shows including the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma.

Nor will long time fans of Johnny Cash feel cheated when they see Bill Scott Sheets in the role. An operatic baritone who has all played such musical theatre rolls as Don Quixote, Sheets nails Cash’s sound and microphone approach.

Chicago set designer Kevin Depinet has recreated Sam Phillips’s original Sun Records studio in Memphis - where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins played together their first and only time. Liz Lauren photo
Chicago set designer Kevin Depinet has recreated Sam Phillips’s original Sun Records studio in Memphis – where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins played together their first and only time. Liz Lauren photo

While some rockabilly aficionados might know that “Blue Suede Shoes” was written by Perkins who epitomized the genre, the fact that his hit song was closely identified with Elvis Presley is important to the show.

That frustration comes across with Broadway actor Adam Wesley Brown, a veteran of Chicago theatre and film, taking on the role of Perkins with the characteristic knee raise and emphasis.

It’s easy to see that Kavan Hashemian who has appeared in other ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ productions as Elvis, really enjoys the role. He has the moves down pat and can probably sing the songs in his sleep because he has been performing them since age three.

The surprise of the Paramount show which is all about male performers, is the wonderful turn as Elvis’ girlfriend, Dyanne, by Courtney Mack. Her “Fever” in Act I and “I Hear You Knockin” in Act II, brings the house down. Of course, Paramount regulars likely remember her from “Mamma Mia”

Paramount Theatre’s 2017-18 Broadway Series opener Million Dollar Quartet stars (from left) Gavin Rohrer as Jerry Lee Lewis, Adam Wesley Brown as Carl Perkins, Kavan Hashemian as Elvis Presley, Bill Scott Sheets as Johnny Cash, Courtney Mack as Dyanne and Nicholas Harazin as Sam Phillips. Liz Lauren photo
Paramount Theatre’s 2017-18 Broadway Series opener Million Dollar Quartet stars (from left) Gavin Rohrer as Jerry Lee Lewis, Adam Wesley Brown as Carl Perkins, Kavan Hashemian as Elvis Presley, Bill Scott Sheets as Johnny Cash, Courtney Mack as Dyanne and Nicholas Harazin as Sam Phillips. Liz Lauren photo

Another unexpected musical treat comes when Zach Lentino as Perkins’ brother Jay shows off his skills as an upright bassist. BTW Lentino was in ‘Million Dollar Quartet at the Apollo.

Drummer Scott Simon who plays in several Chicago productions is Fluke, a member of Perkins’ group. He’s excellent but not really noticed until near the end.

Perhaps the most unappreciated role in the show is that of Sam Phillips. Played by Nicholas Harzain, a film actor who is also in several regional shows, Phillips comes across as a hard-working, small-town, talent developer.

A note about Kevin Depinet’s set design: folks who have been to Memphis and walked through what is now, basically a museum, know Depinet has totally captured Sun Studio.

Directed by Jim Corti with music direction by Kory Danielson, ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ has a “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

DETAILS: ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ is at Paramount Theatre, 23 Galena Blvd., Aurora, now through Oct. 29, 2017. Running time is two hours. For tickets and other information visit Paramount or call (630) 896- 6666.