Walking in from the chilly lobby of the Cadillac Palace Theatre and getting my first glimpse of the stage on opening night made me immediately think that they were woefully behind getting the stage ready for the performance.
Strewn with an odd piece of corrugated metal, a shipping container, bits of lumber, a fifty gallon petroleum drum, some milk crates and what appeared to be a downed telephone pole all being adjusted and repositioned by people in a colorful array of mismatched clothing, I soon to realize that we were entering into a world created by set designer Dane Laffrey and costume designer Clint Ramos. They were depicting the everyday life of a small, remote village on an island in the French Antilles.
Restaurants and neighborhoods are celebrating Chinese Lunar Year of the Rat for 15 days. Lunar New Year’s Eve is Jan. 24 and the first day is Jan. 25, 2020. Here are some celebrations that may not have made your radar.
Asian-based Peninsula Chicago Hotel celebration
Go to the Peninsula Chicago, Jan. 25 at 3 p.m. for a colorful lion dance, complete with noises to scare away evil spirits. Then follow the dance inside to the lobby where you see lanterns, red flowers and tangerine trees. The outside of the hotel will be illuminated in red for the season. Peninsula Chicago is at 108 E. Superior St. at North Michigan Avenue.
South-East Asia Center celebration
Make a reservation for a family-style lunch Feb. 1, 11:30 a.m. at Eurama Restaurant. Hosted by the South-East Asia Center in Uptown the event includes cross-cultural entertainment. Cost is $25. Eurama is at 4936 N Broadway. For reservations and more information visit seasiacenter.
Chinese American Museum celebration
Reserve attendance ahead for the annual Chinese American Museum of Chicago Lunar Celebration Feb. 9 from 2 to 6 p.m. There will be music, food, arts, crafts and the Chinese Lion Dance. Cost ahead is $10-$15. Same day walk-in is not guaranteed but will cost an extra $5. The museum is at 238 W. 23rd St. For more tickets and more information visit Eventbrite or Chicago Cultural Alliance event.
Director Scott Weinstein has chosen a cast that works together beautifully in Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s hit musical, “Grease,” a two-hour snapshot of late 1950’s Chicago-area (William Howard Taft High School) teenagers dealing with peer pressure, physical attraction and values.
Named after youth who called themselves greasers, the musical looks in on the lives of two groups at fictional Rydell High School, the Burger Palace Boys who sport leather jackets and their girl friends, the Pink Ladies. Nerds, cheerleaders and teachers also put in appearances.
Lanterns, dragons, colorful dances, art and instrumental music – there are Chinese New Year events in the next couple of weeks that will enrich our appreciation of Chinese culture.
But do you know your zodiac animal? If you go to any of the Chinese New Year programs in Chicago, you will likely hear that 2020 is the Year of the Rat. Because different elements also take turns, you might hear that it is the metal rat. A good, easy place to find out your animal sign and more about the Chinese Zodiac is the astronomy site of Time and Date.
Now you’re ready to check out the following events to see which fits into your calendar. They are free, open to the public and in Chicago unless otherwise noted.
Chinese Fine Arts Society Chinese New Year Kickoff
On Jan 24 at noon go to the Chicago Cultural Center during the lunch hour to see lion dances, martial arts, traditional Chinese dance and hear China’s Zhejiang Shaoju Opera Theatre. The location is the Preston Bradley Hall on the third floor of the Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. For more information visit ChicagoCulturalCenter/events.
Often called MLK Day, the third Monday of January has been officially observed to honor the civil rights leader in all 50 states since 2000. It is an American federal holiday so schools, banks, and some business are closed.
The day has become a chance to honor Martin Luther King Jr with service projects, free museum visits and special programs. Here are some of the events and places to spend quality time on MLK Day this year, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.
Performance of “The MLK Project: The Fight for Civil Rights”
Glencoe-based Writers Theatre holds annual performances of “the MLK Project.” Written by Yolanda Androzzo, directed by Sophiyaa Nayarand featuring Adhana Reid, “The Fight for Civil Rights” production will be held Jan. 20, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N Clark Street in Chicago. The event is free and includes a post-show community discussion. Attendees also have free museum admission for the whole day. Folr more information visit Writers Theatre/Education.
The Writers Theatre production is a tour that goes to schools and community centers then closes at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place, Chicago, 7 p.m. Feb. 28, 2020. The performance is free and can be reserved in advance by calling (773) 947-0600.
The Adler Planetarium at the far eastern end of the Museum Campus at 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr., has one of its free General Admission days for Illinois residents on Jan. 20, 2020. It is also an Illinois Resident Discount Day which means that tickets to other exhibits and shows not included in General Admission can be obtained at discount prices. For more information call (312) 922-7827 or visit Adler Planetarium/special offers.
The Shedd Aquarium, located in the middle of the Museum Campus at 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr., has a similar arrangement for MLK Day. There is free general admission and discounts for special exhibit and shows for Illinois residents. For more information call (312) 939-2438 or visit Shedd Aquarium/discount and free days.
The Field Museum, sitting at the entrance to the Museum Campus at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., also has one of its free general admission days on Jan. 20, 2020. As part of the Illinois Resident Discount Days, passes to special exhibits are available at lower prices. For more information call (312) 922.9410 or visit Field Museum/free admission days.
Free Museum of Science and Industry admission.
MSI, south of downtown near Hyde Park neighborhood at 57oo s. Lake Shore Dr., has an Illinois Resident Free Day Jan. 20, 2020 so general admission is free plus special exhibits can be seen at discounted prices. For more information visit MSI tickets.
(See other free general admission and discount days at each museum link listed. The free days are for Illinois residents so valid ID is needed. Also check for other categories such as active military and education personnel.)
Martin Luther King Day of Service
Some communities have projects planned for MLK Day. North suburban Highland Park is holding its 11th annual Day of Service 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Jan. 20, 2020 at the Recreaction Center of Highland Park, 1207 Park Ave West, just east of IL Hwy 41. The projects will help area agencies. For more information visit Park District of Highland Park/MLK.
If you want to see Train, that multiple Grammy award band at Ravinia this summer, be ready to grab your tickets in the next couple of weeks.
The calendar says January but Ravinia Festival in Highland Park has already scheduled Train, a big summer draw, for Aug. 21-22. However, tickets to the sure-to-sell-out concert are going on sale to Ravinia donors at the Patron level and above beginning Jan. 17, 2020 and to the public Jan. 24. The place to go for tickets is Ravinia.org.
Featuring frontman Patrick Monahan, guitarist Luis Maldonado, bassist/singer Hector Maldonado, keyboardist/guitarist Jerry Becker, drummer Matt Musty, and backup singers Sakai Smith and Nikita Houston, Train has quickly sold out in the past.
Among their hit singles are “Calling All Angels,” “Get to Me,” “Ordinary” from Spider-Man 2, “Meet Virginia,” “Drops of Jupiter,” and “Hey, Soul Sister.”
The complete Ravinia season will be announced on March 12 but if you go to the Ravina site now look for winter concerts in Bennett Hall. “Coming to America: Songs of American Immigrants” will be in Bennett on Jan. 25.
Given that plays sometimes are made into movies and that movies sometimes move to the stage, it’s good to follow what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science thinks is worth an award come Oscar time.
The Academy announced its 92nd Oscars® nominations today (January 13), live from the David Geffen Theater in Los Angeles. Actor-producer John Cho and actress-producer-writer Issa Rae first announced nominees in eight categories followed by nominees in the remaining 16 categories.
Before looking at who and what has been nominated, it’s good to know the how.
Academy members from 17 branches vote to determine the nominees in their respective categories meaning that actors nominate actors, film editors nominate film editors, etc.
In the Animated Feature Film and International Feature Film categories, nominees are selected by a vote of multi-branch screening committees. All voting members are eligible to select the Best Picture nominees.
Active members of the Academy can vote for the winners in all 24 categories Jan.30, through Feb. 4 at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and via digital platforms that global live stream on Oscar.com, Oscars.org.
The Oscars, to be held Feb. 9, 2020, 8 p.m. ET at the Dolby ® Theatre in Hollywood, will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories.
Now for some of the nominations:
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Antonio Banderas in “Pain and Glory”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Once upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Adam Driver in “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker”
Jonathan Pryce in “The Two Popes”
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Tom Hanks in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Anthony Hopkins in “The Two Popes”
Al Pacino in “The Irishman”
Joe Pesci in “The Irishman”
Brad Pitt in “Once upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cynthia Erivo in “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson in “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan in “Little Women”
Charlize Theron in “Bombshell”
Renée Zellweger in “Judy”
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Kathy Bates in “Richard Jewell”
Laura Dern in “Marriage Story”
Scarlett Johansson in “Jojo Rabbit”
Florence Pugh in “Little Women”
Margot Robbie in “Bombshell”
Achievement in cinematography
“The Irishman” Rodrigo Prieto
“Joker” Lawrence Sher
“The Lighthouse” Jarin Blaschke
“1917” Roger Deakins
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Robert Richardson
Achievement in costume design
“The Irishman” Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson
“Jojo Rabbit” Mayes C. Rubeo
“Joker” Mark Bridges
“Little Women” Jacqueline Durran
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Arianne Phillips
Achievement in directing
“The Irishman” Martin Scorsese
“Joker” Todd Phillips
“1917” Sam Mendes
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” Quentin Tarantino
“Parasite” Bong Joon Ho
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
“Joker” Hildur Guðnadóttir
“Little Women” Alexandre Desplat
“Marriage Story” Randy Newman
“1917” Thomas Newman
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” John Williams
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” from “Toy Story 4”
Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman”
Music by Elton John; Lyric by Bernie Taupin
“I’m Standing With You” from “Breakthrough”
Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“Into The Unknown” from “Frozen II”
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“Stand Up” from “Harriet”
Music and Lyric by Joshuah Brian Campbell and Cynthia Erivo
Best motion picture of the year
“Ford v Ferrari” Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping and James Mangold, Producers
“The Irishman” Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers
“Jojo Rabbit” Carthew Neal and Taika Waititi, Producers
“Joker” Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers
“Little Women” Amy Pascal, Producer
“Marriage Story” Noah Baumbach and David Heyman, Producers
“1917” Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne-Ann Tenggren and Callum McDougall, Producers
“Once upon a Time…in Hollywood” David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh and Quentin Tarantino, Producers
“Parasite” Kwak Sin Ae and Bong Joon Ho, Producers
After his fighter pilot father is killed during WWII and his emotionally despondent mother is deemed incompetent, young Christopher (Leo Spiegel) is sent to live with his Aunt Lily (Kate Nawrocki), a lamp tender in a haunted lighthouse in Maine.
Since before the war, Aunt Lily has employed Yasuhiro (Karmann Bajuyo), a Japanese-American, as a kind of helper and all-around handyman. It becomes clear that over three years together the two have formed a bond that transcends their working relationship.
Foodies, listen up. First Bites Bash, the yummy event that annually kicks off Chicago Restaurant Week. will be at the Field Museum Jan. 23, the night before Restaurant Week begins.
The event is a chance to sample dishes that will be on more than 60 Chicago Restaurant Week menus. Plus there are always wine tastings from different countries and restaurants’ specialty cocktails.
Several ticket levels are already sold out so to snag a ticket go now to firstbitesbash.com
A portion of the proceeds from First Bites Bash will go to the James Beard Foundation’s Chicago EATS Week Scholarship Fund that provides financial assistance to a Chicagoland student seeking a culinary arts career.
Celebrity chef/director/owners this year are Thai and Danielle Dang of the award winning HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen and Cà Phê Dá in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
“First Bites Bash is an amazing opportunity for Chicagoans to meet many of the most celebrated chefs in the city and to preview a range of exciting flavors that will only be found during everyone’s favorite culinary moment of the year, Chicago Restaurant Week,” said Chef Dang. “We are also very passionate about the cause it supports, which bolsters opportunities for our next generation of culinary leaders.”
Co-organizing agency Choose Chicago’s President and CEO David Whitaker pointed out that First Bites Bash celebrates Chicago as a “culinary destination.”
“The breadth of both neighborhoods and cuisines represented at this event and throughout Restaurant Week provide an unparalleled opportunity to make memorable dining a part of an amazing Chicago experience,” said Whitaker.
Chicago Restaurant Week, showcasing more than 400 restaurants actually takes place for well over a week. Going from Jan. 24 through Feb. 9, it features restaurants across Chicago neighborhoods and culinary styles.
Operating with prix fixe menus, it’s a chance to dine at upper-end restaurants for $24 at brunch or lunch and $36 or $48 for dinner. Reservations can be made at eatitupchicago.com
Chicago Theater and Arts coverage of what to look forward to in 2020 that had started with Three fun festivals and shows, continues with what’s on stage.
First, there’s a chance to see some Chicago area productions at bargain prices thanks to Chicago Theatre Week, Feb. 13-23. But because the shows will be $30, $15 or less during this special week, tickets go fast.