Four different holiday themed shows


Joffrey Ballet does The Nutcracker (Joffrey ballet photo)
Joffrey Ballet does The Nutcracker (Joffrey ballet photo)

Two shows, Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” and Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” top many holiday lists. Whether they are a family tradition or now on the calendar’s bucket list to do this year, they are such good productions that they deserve the annual visit.

“A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens’ ghostly tale of the redemption of a miser named Scrooge, is at the Goodman Theatre Nov. 19-Dec. 31. Famed Chicago actor Larry Yando is back for his 15th year in the starring role. For tickets and more information visit Goodman TheatreGoodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago.

“The Nutcracker,” The Joffrey Ballet’s wonderous story of Marie and the Nutcracker Prince’s adventures choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music. Formerly at the Auditorium Theatre, it is on stage at the Civic Opera House, Dec. 3-27, 2022. The Civic Opera House, home of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is at 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Joffrey Ballet The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker | Joffrey Ballet.

Cast of Steadfast Tin soldier at Lookingglass Theatre (Photo by Liz Loren)
Cast of Steadfast Tin soldier at Lookingglass Theatre (Photo by Liz Loren)

Two unusual shows to see this season are the “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago and Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol” at Writers Theatre, Glencoe.

Both productions use puppetry, are artistic and creative. Only Manual Cinema’s contains a parental advisory but it could apply to both shows. MC’s advisory reads “brief moments of profanity and themes of grief and losing a loved one. Children under six are not permitted. 

“The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is a Hans Christian Andersen tale told with the flare of ensemble member/director Mary Zimmerman. Adults would appreciate her creativity and the high quality of the production. However, the story and ending could be frightening to a young child as the Tin Soldier perseveres through a myriad of trials that ends with him and his ballerina love getting incinerated together.  “The Steadfast Tin soldier” is at Lookingglass theatre now through Jan. 8, 2023. Lookingglass Theatre Company

Lookingglass Theatre is at the historic Waterworks at 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Lookingglass.  

 Manual Cinema takes a different path to the telling of Dickens ghost story in “Christmas Carol” at Writers Theatre. Using puppets, cinematography, modern themes and music, the story starts when Aunt Trudy is asked to put her diseased husband’s Christmas cheer on a family Zoom call. The action changes as the puppets move into Ebeneezer and Dickens storytelling. Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol” runs Nov. 29-Dec. 24, 2022.

Writers Theatre is at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. For tickets and more information visit Writers Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago



 Around town finds three Thanksgiving weekend fun doings


Art Institute of Chicago Wreathing of the Lions. (Photo by AIC)
Art Institute of Chicago Wreathing of the Lions. (Photo by AIC)

Mark the calendar or add to the mobile phone places to go the day after Thanksgiving. One event is only Friday. The others start that day but go for a few weeks to just over a month.

 Wreathing of the Lions

Be at the Art Institute of Chicago at 9 a.m. Nov. 25, 2022 to celebrate when the museum’s two famed lions are adorned with their holiday wreaths. The event is at the 111 S. Michigan Ave. entrance 

 Millennium Park Sing Along

Join groups and visitors at Cloud Gate (The Bean) on Fridays from Nov. 25 through Dec. 16, 2022 to celebrate holiday and other songs from 6 to 7 p.m. supported by the Millennium Park and Pritzker Foundations.

 Group dates include the Oakdale Christian Academy Choir on Nov. 25, Chicago High School for the Arts Chorale Ensemble,   Dec. 2, Windy City Gay Chorus and Treble Quire, Dec. 9  and BYNC Music Project, Dec. 16. For more information visit DCASE. Millennium Park is on the east side of Michigan Avenue between Monroe and Randolph Streets.

Light Up the Lake at Navy Pier

An indoor lights festival that includes a winter wonderland forest, Santa, animated lights display and skating rink, Light Up the Lake runs Nov. 25, 2022 through Jan. 7, 2023. Tickets are $15. For tickets and more information visit   Light up the Lake. Navy Pier is at 600 E. Grand Ave.

Jodie Jacobs

Imagine what can happen in a Cooney Farce

(Top l-r) Aimee Kleiman, Debra Rodkin, Declan Poll bottom David Whitlock and Tim Walsh) Photo by North Shore Camera Club


Instead of going the Dickens or Christmas Story route, Citadel Theatre is doing “It Runs in the Family,” a classic British farce by comedic playwright Ray Cooney of “Run For Your Wife” and “Funny Money” fame. 

Its setting is a London hospital right before Christmas where presents for children are hidden like a body beneath a covered gurney and references to a Christmas Panto (a nutty pantomime) give it the requisite holiday note.

But anyone familiar with farces know that what really is important is a fast-paced rhythm of entrances and exits, revelations, mistaken (or not) identities and flow of ribald, fat fanny and rear-end gags.

The Citadel cast is excellent but on the Sunday I went, the first half of the first act felt slow and the audience didn’t pick up the gags until later.

Timing and pace is everything in a farce. It finally picked up speed and the characters threw their lines out with gusto during the second half of the first act which the audience appreciated with loud snickers, guffaws and applause. 

All the action takes place in the doctors’ common room where Dr.  David Mortimore is trying to prepare for his important, possibly career-making, speech to a conference of neurologists- when.

The not-so-morally-good doctor, played by Tim Walsh, had lots of reasons to be overly anxious. Walsh is believable as Mortimore if this were a regular play and not a farce. It’s actually OK to overplay anxiety.  

Former nurse Jane Tate (Aimee Kleiman who also played her role as if it were a regular play) confronts Dr. Mortimore with the reason she had to quit 18 years and 9 months ago. Their illegitimate son, Leslie, is downstairs with a policeman because he drove drunk but wants to meet his father.

Mortimore’s wife, Rosemary Mortimore, portrayed by the consummate actress Ellen Phelps, shows up, is not supposed to know about the nurse or Leslie but sympathizes with all the tall tales her husband tells to cover up everything that is going on.

Matron, a terrific foil for all the goings on is perfectly played by Debra Rodkin as she is in and out with the gurney, holds a needle to subdue Leslie who has made his way upstairs to the doctors’ room, and she is yelling outside the window that she can’t hold on any longer while stopping Leslie from falling, entering or leaving.

Dr. Hubert Bonney, a good friend of Dr. Mortimore, well-portrayed by David Whitlock is also an excellent foil for the shenanigans and agrees to temporarily pretend he is Leslie’s father.

Leslie, the misbegotten reason for the action, is done by Declan Poll as a punk-rocker-style teenager who elicits sympathy because he just wants to meet his Dad.

Pompous Sir Willoughby Drake who wants to go over Dr. Mortimore’s speech, is well-handled by Ed Kufferft and elicits a fine chuckle when he sees Leslie bending in front of Mortimore.

Dr. Mike Connolly whom we meet early on when he tries on a tutu and other costume items for the Panto is delightfully portrayed by Philip J. Macaluso.

Police Sergeant. Don’t most farces need a policeman? Chris Bruzzini takes on that role but he could be played as more befuddled or with more personality than shown.

Scenic designer Eric Luchen makes full use of the small Citadel stage with two hospital-like doors, two regular doors and a window that is just right for some hilarious scenes.

Costume designer Elizabeth Monti had us believing we were in a hospital and Leslie was a nutty punk rocker.

Directed by Pat Murphy, the show is a nice change from the tear inducing Christmas dramas trying to make a statement this time of year.

DETAILS: “It Runs in the Family” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 South Waukegan Rd, Lake Forest, IL., through Dec. 18, 2022. For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre. Citadel Theatre or call (847) 735-8554.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

The Art Center features three dimensional artists


Norman Teague at The Art Center of Highland Park opening reception (J Jacobs photo)
Norman Teague at The Art Center of Highland Park opening reception (J Jacobs photo)

Visitors to The Art Center of Highland Park are treated to three different aspects of three-dimensional art in “Objects Oriented,” TAC’s latest exhibition.

Opened Nov. 18 and up through Dec. 30, 2022, the show features the designs and furniture of Norman Teague, the collages, designer kites, metal and ceramic sculptures of Michael Thompson and the unusual vessels of Zachary Weber.

TAC’s exhibition is a chance to see the works of the three artists at the same time. They’re all graduates of the Art Institute of Chicago and have reviews and gallery shows.

Teague is also an educator and an enabler of emerging artists. He was the lead craftsman and co-founder of the Design Apprenticeship Program at the University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator and is an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois Chicago’s School of Industrial Design.

Walk into the Center Gallery to view Teague’s “Objects for Change” exhibit.

Thompson likes to see the possibilities in objects other folk may discard or use differently. He cobbles them together as ceramics and interwoven designs.

Take a left turn into the Cindi Elkins Gallery to see his “Re-Oriented” exhibit.

Vessels and ceramics in TAC IObjects exhibit( J Jacobs photo)
Vessels and ceramics in TAC IObjects exhibit
( J Jacobs photo)

Zachary Weber is facinated by vessels and how they may be used. He says you may call them pottery). See his works “UnContained” in the Meryl Levenstein Gallery.

The Art Center of Highland Park is at 1957 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park, IL


Jodie Jacobs


Holiday Festivals Around Town

Chicago Botanic Garden celebrates the season with Lightscape. (J Jacobs photo)
Chicago Botanic Garden celebrates the season with Lightscape. (J Jacobs photo)


Around town Holiday festivals

Plan now because it seems everything from tree lightings and light festivals are starting early this year.

Remember when we used to think the holiday season began with Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade early on “Turkey Day?” Then the Mag Mile pre-empted that with Mickey and Minnie Mouse turning on Michigan Avenue’s lights north of the Chicago River, accompanied by Santa. Meanwhile, Macy’s was following Marshal Field’s tradition of a Great Tree, lunch in the Walnut Room and wonderful holiday windows.

Chicago area’s two big zoos soon added to the holiday places-to-visit calendar with lights and animation. More recently gardens and nature walks such as the Morton Arboretum and Chicago Botanic Garden, got into the holiday spirit with color, lights and movement. Germany said, why not, so entered Chicago’s holiday season with the Christkindle Market.

 Macy’s liked Marshal Field’s tradition so continue the Great Tree, lunch in the Walnut Room and wonderful, story-telling holiday windows.

Keeping track of what is around, when and where in the Chicago area can be challenging even when suburban and neighborhood residents mark their calendars with local tree lightings and events.  So here is a short guide to the main holiday happenings.

Macy's holiday windows in Chicago (Photo courtesy of Macy's)
Macy’s holiday windows in Chicago (Photo courtesy of Macy’s)

 Already started early November

Macy’s came out with their Great Tree Lighting, Santa visits, Walnut Room availability and windows theme the first week of November.

What to know: The Great Tree is 45 feet tall and is decorated on a toy-shop theme and is up through Jan. 8 2023. Santa Claus photo ops and wish whispers have to be reserved in advance. Santa is in his toy workshop on the Fifth Floor and reservations to visit him go through Dec. 24, 2022. The windows are already decorated and good for photos through Jan. 1, 2022.  For reservations and more information  visit Macy’s Holiday Celebrations: Visit Santa & More – 2022 (

 Macy’s is at 111 N State St., Chicago.

Second week in November

The switch went on and the last installation was done when Lightscape opened to Friends and Family at the Chicago Botanic Garden Nov. 9. Opened to the public (advance tickets needed) Nov. 11, Lightscape casts a fantasy vision over paths, trees, ponds and plantings with lights and music. It continues through Jan. 8, 2023. For tickets and more information visit Chicago Botanic/Lightscape

Christkindl Market downtown Chicago. (Photo by J Jacobs)
Christkindl Market downtown Chicago. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Third week and weekend in November

This is a very busy time for holiday events ranging from the city’s tree lighting and a European holiday market to zoo lights and lit paths at an arboretum.

Go downtown for Chicago’s tree lighting Nov. 18 in Millenium Park. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. with a pre-program at 5 p.m. The action is near Cloud Gate on the Grainger Stage. Visitors should enter at the South Promenade on Monroe Street east of Michigan Avenue. Don’t expect the lighting to happen until 6:30 but stay because fireworks follow the ceremony. For more information visit City of Chicago :: City of Chicago Christmas Tree 

The German village-style Christkindl Market opens Nov. 18 a few blocks west of Millennium Park on Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. A fun place to find gifts or take a yummy break from work or shopping, the Market is up through Dec. 24. For Chicago information visit Christkindlmarket | Holiday Market 2022 | Chicago

This German market is also happening in Wrigleyville at 3635 N. Clark Street at Gallager Way so visit German Christmas in Wrigleyville | Christkindlmarket and in Aurora in River Edge Park, 360 N. Broadway so visit  German Christmas in Aurora | Christkindlmarket.


Lincoln P:ark Zoolights(Photo by Jodie Jacobs)
Lincoln Park Zoolights (Photo by Jodie Jacobs)

Lincoln Park Zoo spreads out just west of Lake Michigan between downtown Chicago and Wrigleyville so visitors sometimes try to couple its Zoolights with another holiday goodie.  Presented by Com Ed with Invesco QQQ,, Zoolights is an impressive display at the city’s free zoo and costs only $5 a ticket for this holiday event. Zoo lights is Nov. 19, 2022 through Jan. 1, 2023. For hours, dates and more information visit ZooLights.

Also opening Jan 19 is the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. Running through Jan. y7, 2023, Illumination transforms a mile long path among trees, meadow and gardens into a fairytale land of light, sound and color. The event combines old favorites such as the Enchanted Forest and Treeimagination, with new installations such as Late Nite Electric Illumination, tall, mirrored towers and a finale in the new Grand Garden. For more information visit Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum | The Morton Arboretum

Wait, as the commercials say: There’s more.

Last but not at all least this week is the Magnificent (Mag) Mile Lights Festival’s parade and day of activities starting at 11 a.m. at 401 N. Michigan Ave. Sponsored by Wintrust, the parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Mickey and Minnie Mouse (from the Walt Disney World Resort) lead the parade as they magically turn on one million lights along North Michigan Avenue.

What to expect: floats, helium balloons, marching bands, musical performances, Santa Claus ending with fireworks at the Chicago River. The event will also stream on Nov. 20 on ABC. For more information visit MagMileLights.


A giant helium baloon floats over State Street during a Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. (J Jacobs photo)

A giant helium balloon floats over State Street during a Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. (J Jacobs photo)

Fourth week and weekend in November

Chicago’s Thanksgiving Parade brings the sounds of cymbals, blares of trumpets and the sight of giant helium balloons and beautiful floats to State Street, that main street, Nov. 24.

The parade goes from Ida B Wells Drive at the south end to Randolph on the north. Figure that bands and entertainment from some of Chicago’s theaters could start as early as 8 a.m. and go to 11 a.m. For more information visit Chicago Thanksgiving Parade.

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo starts Nov. 25 and continues on specific dates through Dec. 31 from 3 to 9 p.m. Presented by ComEd and Meijer, the zoo is a blaze with two miles of lights and colors moving to synchronized music. A new feature is a 600-foot “Tunnel of Lights” by Xfinity.

For parking, entrance and other information visit

Have fun

Jodie Jacobs




Goodman Festival peeks at new works

Goodman Theatre ((Photo courtesy of Goodman)
Goodman Theatre ((Photo courtesy of Goodman)

You don’t have to be a professional in the theater industry to feel like one.

Goodman theatre is holding its 18th annual New Stages Festival showcasing new works Dec. 1-18, 2022. The Festival is free and audience input is welcome because the works, ranging from full productions to readings, are in different readiness stages so have yet to be premiered.

“There are two ways of presenting them,” said New Works Director Jonathan L. Green who curated the 2022 selection.

“Some have gone through developmental work and others are readings,” Green said during a recent phone interview.

“Readings are in their early development where you listen to the dialogue and storytelling. Developmental works are plays that are further along and need to be on their feet,“ he said and explained. “Sometimes it’s a matter of sequences of scenes and transitions. It’s a chance to see it in 3D.” 

Alec Silver in a New Stages developmental waork in 2021 (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Alec Silver in a New Stages developmental waork in 2021 (Photo by Liz Lauren)

“It’s easy to imagine how exciting it is to see how it works in front of a Goodman audience,” said Green. “It’s a nice feeling to see your work in front of a packed house”

His criteria when choosing works for the Festival are “a good balance,” that means “a great mix of stories, topics and structure” and also a mix of “emerging and longtime” writers.

He finds them in a variety of ways. “We look for a balance works by  those who are local, out of town and nationally known. Some plays  and playwrights have been drawn to our attention.”

About a third of the works from past festivals have made it on to the Goodman’s season schedules.

“We’ve had people who say they have seen the play at a Festival and now, two years later, see it as part of the Goodman season and see how it has changed.”

His assessment of this year’s Festival? “I think this year’s batch is well-balanced and there is a wonderful array of stories.”

What can Festival goers expect? The Developmental plays run 90 minutes to two hours. Readings range from 75 minutes to three hours. Audiences are generally made up of subscribers and others who have heard of the Festival with the third week primarily consisting of theater industry professionals.

Two staged developmental productions: “This Happened Once at the Romance Depot off the I-87 in Westchester” by Gina Femia, directed by Kimberly Senior and “Rust” by Nancy García Loza, directed by Laura Alcalá Baker.

Four script-in-hand staged readings: “White Monkey by Charlie Oh, directed by Eric Ting, “Fever Dreams” (of Animals on the Verge of Extinction) by Jeffrey Lieber directed by Susan V. Booth (Goodman Theatre Artistic Director), “Modern Women” by Omer Abbas Salem, directed by Lavina Jadhwani, and “What Will Happen to All That Beauty?” by Donja R. Love, directed by Malika Oyetimein. 

Tickets are needed but are free and can be found at New Stages 2022 | Goodman Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

A delightful Christmas Story works well on Marriott stage


Leg lamp award dance sequence featguring Lorenzo R ush Jr at the Old Man (Photo courtesy of Mariott theatre)
Leg lamp award dance sequence featuring Lorenzo Rush Jr at the Old Man (Photo courtesy of Mariott theatre)

3 Stars Recommended

In a city filled with theater companies producing traditional holiday fare, Marriott Theatre has chosen a show usually seen as a film replayed on TV but seldom performed live.

First, what it’s not. “A Christmas Story Is not a moralistic Dickens’ style redemption piece that appeals to the whole family or a Jane Austen type upstairs, downstairs manners piece with sophisticated appeal.

Marriott Theatre’s “A Christmas Story: the Musical,” is a comedy that captures some of the frustrations and coping mechanisms of the middle-class, Midwestern Parker family, and particularly, those of its nine-year-old boy named Ralphie. Middle school aged kids and their parents would appreciate Ralphie’s and the Old Man’s challenges.

Based on a 1983 movie by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark and Shepherd’s collection of vignettes published in 1966 as “In God we trust: All others pay cash,” the musical version has a book by Joseph Robinette with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

The songs, such as “The Genius on Cleveland Street” and “When You’re a Wimp,” are insightful instead of memorable and hummable. 

Playing during the holiday season through Jan. 1, 2023, the show introduces another generation to Shepherd’s famed, sexy “Leg Lamp” that sits in the Parker family’s front window in Homan, IN.

Actually, filmed in Cleveland, OH in an old yellow house that has since been turned into a museum, the “Lamp” is still there and can be seen despite having supposedly been broken and buried during the play.

Won by “the Old Man,” the Parker family dad who means well, works hard, battles neighbors’ dogs and is not as smart as his wife, he is excited to receive the lamp as a “Major Award” for a contest he entered and won. To the Old Man, the lamp award redeems his self-worth.

The Parker family, in A Christmas story the Musical at Marriott Theatre (Photo courtesy of Marriott)
The Parker family, in A Christmas story the Musical at Marriott Theatre (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

More importantly, Marriott has introduced another generation to nine-year-old Ralphie who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Made by the Daisy company, it is named for a heroic comic strip cowboy.

Ralphie fantasizes how he can stop the terrorizing by bullies Scut Farkus and Grover Dill of him, friends, Flick (of tongue stuck on icy pole fame) and Schwartz and classmates if he had a bb gun that looks like a Winchester rifle.

Set about the early 1940s, warnings by his mom, teacher and the Santa at Higbee’s Department Store that you’ll “shoot your eye out,” would have been a sufficient talking point.

However, given today’s anti-gun legislation and school shootings attributed to bullying, families seeing the show may either object to a bb gun that looks like a rifle or want to take the discussion several steps further. 

Directed perfectly by Scott Weinstein as both entertaining and perceptive of family and school dynamics, “A Christmas Story: the Musical” has several funny incidents, excellent character portrayals, terrific dance sequences and wonderful vocals.

Kavon Newman who has appeared on TV and New York’s Radio City stage, is amazing as Ralphie

 Local theater veteran Sara Reinecke is the can-do mother the Parker family needs and has a terrific voice. Her role is well matched with that of the Old Man, delightfully portrayed by another local veteran, Lorenzo Ruch, Jr.

Levi Merlo who has a string of TV credits, is adorable as Ralphie’s young brother, Randy. He will likely be remembered by audiences as the kid who couldn’t move his arms or get up because of his ballooning-style snowsuit.

The fun, over-the-top character of teacher Miss Shields was deftly handled by local veteran Jenna Coker-Jones.

Narrator Kevin McKillip as Jean Shepherd (Marriott photo)
Narrator Kevin McKillip as Jean Shepherd (Marriott photo)

A “Christmas Story” is narrated by Kevin McKillip who as Jean Shepherd, reminisces as he somewhat relates to each scene and experience as a much older, adult Ralphie.

After seeing a very strong Marriott production of “Sound of Music” with a terrific cast of child actors, I was not surprised by the high quality of the “Kids” ensemble that appeared in several sequences.

Which brings us to Tiffany Krause’s choreography. Marriott typically has superb dance numbers. But they are usually performed by the main characters backed by a dance ensemble. In “a Christmas Story,” it’s the talented Kids and Ralphie who primarily take center stage.

That is except for Rush, Jr’s exuberant dance celebration of “A Major Award” and talented song and dance actor Jackson Evans delights audiences in the second act as the Higbee’s department stores’ disgruntled  Santa Clause in “Up on Santa’s Lap.”

A shout out has to go to costume designer Izumi Inaba for setting the period and mood.

Details: “A Christmas Story: the Musical,” is at Marriott Theatre at 10 Marriott Dr. Lincolnshire, off Milwaukee Avenue just south of Rt. 22, through Jan. 1, 2023. For tickets and more information visit or call (847)- 634-0200.

Note: A Christmas Story Christmas begins streaming Nov. 17 on HBO Max with Peter Billingsley reprising his Ralphie, who is now an adult, a struggling writer and the head of the Parker household.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

A light and movement adventure

star tunnel at Lightscape (J Jacobs photo)
star tunnel at Lightscape (J Jacobs photo)

Fire, color, shapes, snowflake and kaleidoscope patterns, water features, movement, and yes, past years’ popular gold-lit Cathedral, all make Lightscape at the Chicago Botanic Garden, a fun and fanciful, winter night out.  

The color-filled light spectacle starts with a large, welcoming, holiday wreath near the east end of the Botanic Garden’s ticket booths. That is the first clue that the 2022 Lightscape follows a different path with some installation changes and additions to previous years.

Hopefully you have worn good walking shoes or boots. Temperatures have dipped into late November-December mode and the Lightscape path feels longer than its approximate mile and a quarter because its first half is mostly uphill.

A garden of fire at CBG Lightscape ( J Jacobs photo)
A garden of fire at CBG Lightscape ( J Jacobs photo)

What to expect

Smart-phone cameras ready, look for a garden of fire set in Oriental style fixtures in the Rose Garden.

As you continue along the path, snap floating leaves in the lagoon near the Japanese bridges and colorful hula-style rings overhead.

Stop for a snack at an outdoor shack while checking out a color-changing mist.

Look up for Kaleidoscope at Regenstein Center (J Jacobs photo)
Look up for Kaleidoscope at Regenstein Center (J Jacobs photo)

As the commercials say, Wait, there’s more. After lots of turns, curves water-markers and color-lit trees, you arrive at the Kaleidoscope overhang of the Regenstein’s Center. There you can cross a terrace of beautifully colored globes and end up at Nichols Hall, the indoor food area.

Back out after a calorie break, follow the “continue” path where you pass colorful flowers, walk through a tunnel of stars.

 You’ll see the golden Cathedral ahead and snap companions walking through it. But next clue things have changed is you learn you are not at the end. Guides with flashlights urge you on because there’s more to see ahead.

Lights sticks glow on path to the great ball of light that you enter to exit. (J Jacobs photo)
Lights sticks glow on path to the great ball of light that you enter to exit. (J Jacobs photo)

Pass the changing lights growing in a pasture between the Regenstein Center and the Pond. Follow more flashlights and paths until you’re confronted by dramatic music and a huge ball of lights. You look around and realize you have to enter it to exit.

Now, you are at the lily pond area where stairs and a ramp lead down to a path to the Visitors Center and parking lot.

Tip: Check your Smart Phone because after all those photos it probably needs recharging.  

Details: Lightscape goes from Nov. 11, 2022 through Jan. 8, 2023, after 4 p.m. Lightscape entry and parking are timed tickets. Members $30, non $32. Children of members $14, non $16. Under age 2 free. Lightscape parking free to members, $10 nonmembers. 

For more info visit Lightscape

Jodie Jacobs

Xanadu is a relaxing trip to nowhere.


Xanadu an audio play by Theater in the Dark
Xanadu an audio play by Theater in the

Somewhat Recommended

2 Stars

Skillfully presented, this streaming audio play “A murder in the court of Xanadu” presented by A Theater in the Dark is a jumble of characters and events that in the end I simply did not care about.

I truthfully cannot give you a synopsis of this play. I enjoyed listening to it but ultimately do not understand anyone’s motivation for doing whatever they did and am not sure why it was interesting or important.

It was kind of like listening to a Chinese opera. I do not speak Chinese but I might walk away understanding that someone was rich, someone was a conniving trusted advisor, someone got killed, and in the end, someone got something of value that maybe was surprising and undeserved. But I could not catch the details. In the meantime, it was oddly enjoyable to listen to because the vocal tones and rhythm of the presentation with its evocative incidental music was pleasing.

The place of Xanadu is known to most of us a symbol of utopian excess perhaps best remembered from the Samuel Coleridge poem of the same name. In fact, as a result of a recent Jeopardy question on the popular TV game show, I was able to immediately recall the opening words “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,” though I have no recollection of ever reading the entire poem.

We might also be familiar with “Xanadu” as the name of the mansion in the well know movie “Citizen Kane.” In this case I can tell you that Kane was a Khan-like business ruler with a strong desire for beauty and excessive wealth. I know this because I learned as much through the storyline. The story of Citizen Kane challenges us to try to understand the motivation behind the main character’s actions.

In “A murder in the court of Xanadu” we are basically told, though a narrator, who the characters are rather than have them reveal themselves to us. There is no discernible mystery to unravel and no reason to be interested in the fates of a number of greedy self-centered individuals who do not seem to have derived their wealth or status through any particular talent or ability of their own.

The standout performance for me was Erin Lin as Marla who acts as a kind of narrator. Her voice was clear, expressive and well modulated with a kind of musical quality. I would be happy to listen to her read or recite virtually anything.

The theater’s website suggests that the character of Marla is inspired by Marco Polo who incidentally provided the earliest description of the Khan’s pleasure retreat. However, this relationship is totally lost to the uninformed listener, and one or two periodic allusions to Venice in my mind only added to the confusion. I feel strongly that a theatergoer should not have to bring any previous knowledge to the experience in order to understand the action.

Nessa Amherst as Marigold provided nearly all of the much needed auditory contrast, providing a kind of comic quality and strong characterization.

I felt that all of the male actors including Robinson J. Cyprian (Kane), Van Ferro (An Actor Who Plays Many Parts), and Gabriel Fries (Ahmad) understood what they were saying (even if I did not), delivering their lines with conviction. I would have enjoyed more vocal variety between the three of them and a little more resonance from Cyprian who I remember gave us more vocal depth in his performance of Ahab in the company’s performance of “Moby Dick.”

If there is any fault to be assigned it belongs to the author Cory Bradberry who has demonstrated through his previous works a real ability and commitment to this genre. That said, this is not a disaster but rather a miss. Perhaps with a bit more work and revision he can overcome whatever it is that is lacking.

Bradberry does partially cover his tracks through his exceptional direction. The performance does have an overall lyrical quality and pleasing tone that is enhanced through just enough foley work to provide some needed ambiance with a very enjoyable use of an original musical score by Paul Sottnik.

DETAILS: “A murder in the court of Xanadu” presented by A Theater in the Dark is available for streaming beginning November 3, 2022 at Runtime is about 90 minutes.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


Botanic Garden and Shedd plus Brookfield Zoo news


Art of Fiber at Chicago Botanic Garden. (J Jacobs photo)
Art of Fiber at Chicago Botanic Garden. (J Jacobs photo)

Not all colors are outdoors at the Chicago Botanic Garden. While CBG is getting ready outdoors for its soon to be sold out holiday Lightscape, the Fine Art of Fiber has taken over the inside of the Regenstein Center. 

Chicago Theater and Arts stopped for a sneak preview while it was setting up. Its impressive.

Extraordinary quilts, wall hangings and wearable fiber art such as shawls and jewelry, can be seen and items bought at the Art of Fiber show but it only goes Nov. 4-6, 2022. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more info visit Chicago Botanic Garden


Sea otters Suri (l) and Willow (r) have names now instead of numbers at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Shedd)
Sea otters Suri (l) and Willow (r) have names now instead of numbers at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Shedd)

Shedd Aquarium

Penguins aren’t the only cute, playful animals capturing attention at the Shedd.

Its two new otters now have names. The Shedd’s Animal Care Team has named Otter 926 as Suri for California’s Big Sur coast line between Carmel and San Simeon.

The other otter, known as 929 won the public vote name of Willow. For other otter news visit Shedd Aquarium and Sea Otter | Shedd Aquarium


Spree, a 20-year-old bottlenose dolphin, during a feeding session with Andy Ferris, a senior animal care specialist from Brookfield Zoo.(P:hoto courtesy of Brookfield Zoo)
Spree, a 20-year-old bottlenose dolphin, during a feeding session with Andy Ferris, a senior animal care specialist from Brookfield Zoo.(P:hoto courtesy of Brookfield Zoo)

Brookfield Zoo

Go to Brookfield Zoo operated by the Chicago Zoological Society in suburban Brookfield, IL for lots of animal sightings, but not for its seven bottlenose dolphins.

Beginning early November, the dolphins (along with their support staff) have taken up residence at the Minnesota Zoo for about seven months while Brookfield’s Seven Seas area is undergoing renovations.

Among the renovations is installation of a lift platform to allow quick adjustment to water depth, a new roof and a climate-controlled purifying system.

For more Brookfield Zoo info visit Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield.

Jodie Jacobs