Luck be a lady

 

Alanna Lovely and the company of "Guys and Dolls" at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner)

Alanna Lovely and the company of “Guys and Dolls” at Drury Lane Theatre. (Photo by Brett Beine

Recommended

Frank Loesser’s songs make Drury Lane’s production of “Guys and Dolls” work as a night out.

And hearing Erica Stephan sing in the role of missionary Sarah Brown is worth the price of admission. She is particularly right at home in her tipsy Havanna foray as she rings out “If I were a bell.”

That’s the good news.

But nice as the ensemble with Nicely Nicely Johnson (Nkrumah Gatling) is in “Sit down You’re Rocking the Boat” near the end, the production left me wishing it had moved along with more excitement and vigor.

The book, by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows based on some Damon Runyon stories, pulls up Guys and Dolls’ memorable, (or at least familiar sounding to oldsters) characters as Nathan Detroit played by Jackson Evans, Sky Masterson interpreted by Pepe Nufrio and burlesque performer Miss Adelaide, perfectly taken on by Alanna Lovely.

Just as the songs such as “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” that Sara and Sky sing will sound familiar along with “Take Back Your Mink” and “More I Cannot Wish You.”

 

Pepe Nufrio and Erica Stephan stand on stage in 'Guys and Dolls.'

Professional gambler Sky Masterson (Pepe Nufrio) woos Sarah Brown (Erica Stephan), the prim Save-A-Soul missionary in “Guys and Dolls” at Drury Lane Theatre. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

Director/choreographer Dan Knechtges’ revival leans more towards “camp” than the classic musical comedy seen in the show’s past film and stage versions.

But this show does revolve around “the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.”

Details: “Guys and Dolls” is at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL through June 9, 2024. Running time: 2 hours, 35 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and more information visit Drury Lane Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows around town visit Theatre in Chicago.

 

The Cicadas are coming

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(Lake County Forest Preserves Banner)

We keep hearing that “the cicadas are coming.” But how much do we know about these insects or what to expect during their 2024 appearance?

Well, we know from 17 years ago that they are very nosy and seem to be everywhere. Also, that they are about 5 inches long, harmless to humans, loved as food by birds and that some homes with young trees are wrapping those in netting so that the cicadas don’t climb them to lay their eggs in young branches.

Illustrations of cicada eggs on a tree branch.

(Lake County Forest Preserve photo of Samantha Gallagher drawing)

A great place to learn more is “Celebrating Cicadas,” a special Dunn Museum exhibition at the Lake County Forest Preserves (LCFP) headquarters, 1899 W Winchester Rd. Libertyville.

Opened April 27 and going to Aug. 4, 2024, it includes terrific pictures done by science artist Samantha Gallagher. Among the works is an interactive piece called “Cicada Parade” that visitors can manipulate to mimic cicada sound.

Also, the LCFP is holding a free CicadaFest on Sunday, June 9 from 12–4 pm at Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods. (Overflow parking at the Lutheran Church to the north of Ryerson has buses).

Because this cicada phenomenon only comes every 17 years, the cicadas are featured in “Horizons,” the LCFP Spring publication as “17 Years, 64 Degrees, 100 Decibels.” See Horizons | Lake County Forest Preserves (lcfpd.org).

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You get the 17 years bit but did you know the ground has to warm up to 64 degrees for the cicadas to tunnel up and that their sound reaches 100 decibels?

In addition, this 17-year cycle is also different because it includes two different broods, Brood XIII and Brood XIX, according to LCFP’s “Words of the Woods” POD Cast Host Brett Peto. Both broods will likely converge in Illinois near Springfield. The broods are part of the periodical (Magicicadas) cicadas. That’s periodical because there are also the annual cicadas that you probably have heard in treed areas in the summer. 

“The next time both broods will appear at the same time is 2245,” said Peto 

I really don’t bother with podcasts very often but Words of the Woods podcast, hosted by Peto is excellent. Listen on SpotifyApple Podcasts.

Peto will also be emcee of Cicada Fest June 9.

For more information visit Celebrating Cicadas | Lake County Forest Preserves (lcfpd.org)

Jodie Jacobs

 

LCFP Beer Garden opens

 

Now that the weather is encouraging outdoor dining consider going over to Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville. The LCFP has opened the Beer Garden at Independence Grove.

What to expect: picturesque view and craft brews on tap, in cans and as beer flights plus wine, hard cider, non-alcoholic beverages, packaged snacks and fire pits. 

There is a seasonal menu through Untappd, a geosocial networking service used through a mobile app that updates weekly. You can receive notifications and check out a calendar of upcoming events. 

“The beer garden has truly become a beloved spot,” said Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. “It offers families a unique recreational experience and a wonderful chance to enjoy time spent in nature as the weather turns warmer.” 

Beer Garden
Photo Credit: Lake County Forest Preserves

Seasonal Hours
Tentative hours pending staffing levels and weather: Beginning May 4: Friday–Sunday, 1–9 pm. Special hours: Monday, May 27, 1–9 pm., Beginning May 28: Tuesday–Thursday, 5–9 pm and Friday–Sunday, 1–9 pm.

New Brew Festival:  Brews & Views from 4–8 pm on Friday, May 31. There will be a $20 punch card to try 10 different brews, each served in a 3.5-ounce pour, as well as an appetizer. Local breweries include 9th Hour Brewing Co., Glunz Family WineryHarbor Brewing Co., Liquid Love Brewing Co.Mickey Finn’s BrewingPhase Three Brewing Co.Ravinia Brewing and Roaring Table Brewing. Non-alcoholic options and food will be available for purchase. All ages are welcome at the Beer Garden but tastings are for adults 21 and over. 

Independence Grove Parking: 
Parking is free for Lake County residents. Nonresidents are charged per car from spring–fall: $6 Monday–Thursday; $12 Friday–Sunday and holidays. After Labor Day, parking fees are collected on weekends only. 
For weather updates or to learn if the Beer Garden is open, view status map here.

Pets Not Permitted
With the exception of service animals, dogs, horses and other pets are not permitted at Independence Grove.

Host an Event
The Beer Garden can be reserved for special events such as birthday parties, reunions, picnics, corporate retreats and other celebrations. Available to rent late spring through late fall, the Beer Garden features semiprivate and full buy-out options, and casual lakeside seating. To reserve the space for an event, fill out an event inquiry form or call 847-968-3473. For catering arrangements, contact Relish Events at Independence Grove at 847-665-9221 or info@relisheventsig.com. 

Jodie Jacobs

Sideshow in Lincoln Square

 

Is it a restaurant or an entertainment venue? Sideshow Gelato in Lincoln Square is a funky quirky fun experience.

On the surface this is a gelato shop with a variety of offbeat flavors that include pickle, ginger and Cheetos as well as more familiar flavors like crème brule, vanilla and chocolate as well as number of dairy free vegan options.

More importantly though this is an experience where the staff are also sideshow performers ready to entertain patrons with impromptu magic tricks or fire eating acts. There are also regularly scheduled performances in their little 30 seat theater.

We attended on Saturday afternoon with two young boys ages 7 and 10 who were delighted and amazed by master of ceremonies Sanjula who explained the history of sideshows after which he dangled a bowling ball from his pierced ears then laid on a bed of nails while the largest man in the audience stood on his belly.

Also onstage was comic sword swallower Cassidy Rose, and the Italian accented slight-of-hand magician Andrea.

Roughly 30 minutes this is one of the more unusual family friendly performance opportunities in Chicago.

Sideshow has been open for about a year. Though I live very nearby I finally made it over to see it and it was everything I hoped it would be. Silly, funky and fun. Full of cornball humor and astounding feats that explore the very boundaries of human physical endurance and mind-boggling illusions.

Put your cellphones down and enjoy a live show. Step right up. Don’t delay. Perfect for young and old. The faint of heart should be sure to bring a strong companion to hold you tight as you witness the unbelievable, the uncanny, and the utterly absurd from sideshow performers who make you question their life choices and preferred career path.

Sideshow Gelato is located at 4819 N. Western Avenue (just north of Lincoln Square and a short walk from the Western Brownline CTA stop.) Open Thursday through Sunday check their website for performance times.  Visit sideshowgelato.com.

Reno Lovison

Nine to Five: A Retro Romp or Cautionary Reminder?

RECOMMEND

Three overworked, underpaid and unappreciated 1970’s era office secretaries seize the opportunity to kidnap and blackmail their domineering misogynist male boss in an effort to change the power dynamic and improve their working environment.

“9 to 5: The Musical” playing at the Metropolis Theater in downtown Arlington Heights is a kind of women’s lib version of “How to Succeed in Business.” The story is based on the popular 20th Century Fox (non-musical) picture starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.

Dolly Parton is responsible for the music and lyrics including the perennial favorite 9 to 5 theme song from the movie. None of the songs for this production stray far from her introspective country style.

In this version, Doralee (Janelle Sanabria) firmly has her roots in the over-the-top persona of Dolly Parton featuring big boobs and big hair with a large dose of southern charm. Sanabria has captured the essence of this Parton inspired pivotal character who has been accused of sleeping with the boss and as a result is alienated from her coworkers.

Violet (Melissa Crabtree) is tired of being overlooked for her much deserved promotion, while new hire Judy (Savannah Sinclair) a recently divorced woman with no work experience is just trying to find her way in this strange new environment.

The tyrannical and chauvinist boss, Mr. Hart (David Gordon- Johnson) takes every opportunity to demean and make sexual advances towards virtually every woman within his domain in an effort to maintain his authority and the male dominated power structure.

While his wife is away on a four week cruise the trio of women manage to hog tie and subdue Hart in his home. Signing his name to numerous memos, they manage to dispatch his trusted administrative assistant Roz (Dani Goldberg) on an extended journey of her own while they commence making much appreciated changes and improvements to staff morale and office productivity.

Goldberg gets to enjoy the spotlight while professing love for the boss in a humorous campy (and very tame) striptease number.

Musical Director Harper Caruso and orchestra, though out of sight, keep the tempo upbeat and energetic. This is a fast-paced romp full of vintage technology allusions and office space humor. Director Landree Fleming and the entire cast does a great job of keeping the story moving forward through several full company musical numbers featuring choreography of Jenna Schoppe assisted by Quinn Simmons which is executed admirably.

The scenic design of Eleanor Kahn is minimal but effective. The very high backwall makes the workers feel small and insignificant in relation to the big corporation they represent. The array of LED fluorescent style fixtures suspended overhead were appreciated and did not go unnoticed further contributing to the sense of place.

Keep in mind that the premise of this show was conceived more than 30 years ago when the idea of a somewhat violent workplace takeover by disgruntled employees, involving a gun, might be considered so outlandish as to be humorous. It was a grim dark humor fantasy. In this case it all works out fine for everyone with little or no harm done.

The point being made is that women are an integral part of the workplace, capable of higher order thinking and not simply flesh and blood machinery. It may be difficult for some younger people today to consider how prevalent this thinking was prior to the 1980s and that the glass ceiling for women was very real.

This show on some level seems archaic and simply a retrospective romp but it also serves as a cautionary tale, a reminder that chauvinist and misogynist thinking still prevails in some circles and there are those who would love to turn back the clock.

DETAILS: “9 to 5: The Musical” is at the Metropolis, 111 W Campbell St., Arlington Heights, IL 60005 through May 26, 2024. Runtime is about 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and information visit metropolisarts.com or call (847)577-2121.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

Evidence indicates ‘Judgement Day’ a hilarious success

 

Jason Alexander (left) is attorney Sammy Campo trying to get into heaven and Daniel Breaker, right, is the well-meaning Father Michaein, in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s “Judgment Day” by Rob Ulin. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Highly Recommended

Scurrilous self-serving scumbag attorney Sammy Campo (Jason Alexander) seeks redemption after an encounter with an angel (Candy Buckley) during a near-death experience, in “Judgment Day” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Hoping to earn enough points to offset his past indiscretions and avert the torments of Hell, Campo is aided by Father Michael (Daniel Breaker) an anguished, faith challenged, Catholic Priest.

While his skeptical secretary Della (Olivia D. Dawson) does her part to help find charity cases for him to represent, Campo himself attempts to make amends with his estranged wife (Maggie Bofill) and son (Ellis Myers).

Guided by the premise that he will be judged by his deeds rather than what he actually believes Campo and Father Michael begin to explore the essence of morality, what it means to be a good person, and the very fundamentals of faith.

This is what sets up the primary conflict in the story as both Campo and Father Michael, with guidance from local Monsignor (Michael Kostroff), struggle to accomplish their task to do good, but in a way that is not in conflict with their understanding of Catholic doctrine.

Playwright Rob Ulin has skillfully wrapped this rather weighty philosophical discussion inside a fast-paced scenario of virtually non-stop humor. The joke riddled dialogue belies Ulin’s more than 30-year career in the world of television sitcoms learning at the knee of legendary writer/producer Norman Lear.

Jason Alexander in spite of his impressive accomplishments is still best known for his role as the morally ambiguous George Castanza from TV’s “Seinfeld” which undoubtably informs this role. Campo on some level is everything George, who was always looking for an angle, hoped he would grow up to be.

Ulin’s potty mouth dialogue and off-color humor both implied and explicit tumble effortlessly from Alexander’s lips with a naturalness that is funny and acceptable in a way that actually endears you to a character that should be reviled.

Instead, we find ourselves rooting for the underdog and cheering on his success in spite of what are still some otherwise underhanded means to an end.

This world premiere comedy is a thought provoking but thoroughly entertaining production with several guaranteed laugh-out-loud moments from a very capable cast.

DETAILS: “Judgement Day” is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier through May 26, 2024. Run time is 2 hours including an intermission. For tickets and more information visit chicagoshakes.com.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Tony award nominations announced

 

When the 77th Tony Award Nominations were announced this week it turned out that Alicia Keys’ semi-autobiographical, jukebox musical, “Hell’s Kitchen,” for which she wrote the music and lyrics, and a play by David Adjimi about a rock band recording its album, took top honors with each receiving 13 nominations. 

The awards ceremony will take place at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, June 16, hosted by Oscar winner Ariana DeBose.

Here are the shows nominated for Best Musical, Best Play and also Best Leading Actor and Best Leading Actress in a play. 

Shows that qualified for a nomination opened between April 28, 2023 and April 25 of this year, 2024.  

Here are nominees for best new play and musical plus best actor and actress. For the full list visit Tony nominations.

Best New Play

“Jaja’s African Hair Braiding”

“Mary Jane”

“Mother Play”

“Prayer for the French Republic”

“Stereophonic”

 

Best New Musical

“Hell’s Kitchen”

“Illinoise”

“The Outsiders”

“Suffs”

“Water for Elephants”

 

 Best Leading Actor in a Play

William Jackson Harper, “Uncle Vanya”

Leslie Odom Jr., “Purlie Victorious”

Liev Schreiber, “Doubt”

Jeremy Strong, “An Enemy of the People”

Michael Stuhlbarg, “Patriots”

 

Best Leading Actress in a Play

Betsy Aidem, “Prayer for the French Republic”

Jessica Lange“Mother Play”

Rachel McAdams, “Mary Jane”

Sarah Paulson, “Appropriate”

Amy Ryan, “Doubt”

Jodie Jacobs

 

RhinoFest is back

 

(L to R) Holly Holsinger and Claudia Cromly in MARIE CURIE HORROR STORY as part of Rhinoceros Theater Festival 2024. (Photo by Bob Perkos)

 

If you used to look forward to seeing the shows of Rhinoceros Theater Festival, (RhinoFest) or if you just are interested in creative theater and performances, mark May 25-June 30, 2024, on the calendar.

Also, write in the tickets and more information date of May 6. Tickets are pay-what-you-can with a $20 suggested price.

Originally instigated by some of the Bucktown Arts Fest folk as a two-day add-on, it has grown over the years. RhinoFest has been adding more days and been held at more or different neighborhood sites. It also moved to different months.

This year, for its 35th festival, it will be held at six locations throughout the Chicago area from the end of May to end of June and feature more than 50 shows ranging from new plays and works in progress to concerts and revivals.

The 2024 festival will start with a Full Moon Vaudeville concert 7 p.m. on May 25 at Facility Theatre, (1138 N. California Ave) with an art/folk/cabaret act featuring The Crooked Mouth.

Locations: Facility Theatre, 1138 N. California Ave. in Humboldt Park, Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave. in River West, Labyrinth Arts Club, 3658 N. Pulaski Ave. in Irving Park; Perceptions Theater, 1825 East 79th St. in the South Shore neighborhood; Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N. Ravenswood Ave. in the Ravenswood neighborhood and Women and Children First Bookstore 5233 N. Clark St. in the Andersonville neighborhood.

For more information visit RhinoFest.com

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

Oh Baby

 

Pam (Katie Engler), Arlene (Julie Bayer) and Lizzie (Madison Jaffe-Richter)  (Photo by North Shore Camera Club)

 Highly Recommended

Combine perfect casting with the keen insight of director Scott Shallenbarger and you have the superb production of “Baby,” now on stage at Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest.

A high-energy musical that appeared on Broadway in 1983-84, “Baby” explores how three different-aged couples, one in college, one in their thirties, and one who are older with kids in college, react to news that their two-member family might become three.

Lizzie (Madison Jaffe-Richter) and Danny (Ben Ballmer) live together in a basement apartment on a college campus. Instead of suffering from the flu, Lizzie finds out she is pregnant.

Pam (Katie Engler) and Nick (Mark Yacullo) are desperate to have a baby. After missing her period she’s hopeful until she learns the pregnancy diagnosis is a mistake.

 Arlene (Julie Bayer) and Alan (Joe Lehman) are in their 40s and are ready to downsize from their large, older home when Arlene learns during a check-up she is pregnant.

With music by David Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. and a book by Sybille Pearson who developed the story with Susan Yankowitz, the show and songs reflect what the couples want from life.

The whole cast is excellent but kudos particularly go to Ballmer who totally fits his college-age musician role and to Engler who appears so physically fit that if she does get pregnant would undoubtedly give the sports ball baby present she received to her kid, a boy or girl.

Best of all, “Baby” likely will get at least a few members of the audience thinking about love and what they want from life.

DETAILS: “Baby” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 s. Waukegan Rd., Lake forest, IL, now through May 19,2024. Run time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and information visit Citadel Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

The Music Man delivers on his promise

Harold Hill (KJ Hippensteel) and Marian (Alexandra Silber)

Highly Recommended 

You may think you know Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man.”

But it doesn’t matter how often you have seen this “feel-good” family show. Each time you go, you are likely to take away something different, something more than recognizing its popular, fun “Seventy-Six Trombones.”

 It might be a song that you didn’t know was from the show such as “Till there was You” or “Goodnight My Someone” or “Lida Rose.” 

For this reviewer, it was the “book ban” political philosophy mentioned by Marian Paroo, the River City librarian, beautifully portrayed by Alexandra Silber.

Harold Hill (Left center) Looks up and admires Marian (center) who talks and sings about books while a library patron (far left) watches.

 It shouldn’t have been a surprise given that an important theme is how the town changes once Professor Harold Hill arrives.

Played by the highly talented KJ Hippensteel as the fast talking, glib salesman, we watch Hill evolve while the town he had planned to scam, changes as he falls in love with its librarian.

The leads, KJ Hippensteel and Alexandra Silber are excellent but so is the entire cast. 

Kudos particularly go to Kai Edgar who is terrific as the young Winthrop Paroo, Marian’s little brother who suffers from a lisp and is painfully shy until Hill reaches him with a musical instrument. And to Janet Ulrich Brooks who returns to Marriott as Marian’s mother after doing “Beautiful – the Carole King Musical” and “The Cherry Orchard at Goodman Theatre.

Most of all, audiences will be treated to the outstanding choreography of director/choreographer Katie Spelman. Yes, the accompanying cast may have partially been chosen by their dance ability, but all their movements across the stage and interactions with others are innovatively thought out to express the town and characters personalities.   

So, sit back and enjoy or clap in time to “Seventy-Six Trombones” as “The Music Man” enhances your evening.

Details: “The Music Man” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Mariott Drive, Lincolnshire, now through June 2, 2024. Run time: 2 hrs., 40 minutes with one intermission. For more information and tickets visit Marriott Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

 For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago