Around The Town: From banned books to pumpkin patches


(Photo courtesy of Kroll’s Farm)

With Labor Day passed, fall now here and students back in school, Around The Town was going to focus on fun fall events. But first, in case it slips by unremarked Banned Books Week is Oct. 2-7, 2023.

Actors at City Lit Theater will be doing excerpts from the top 10 challenged books at eight sites around the Chicago area beginning Sept. 27.

Held in conjunction with the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, the event is “Books on the Chopping Block” that takes place around the Chicago area through mid-November.

The program will include background on the books, reasons some people want them off the shelves and audience discussion.

The sites include the Edgewater Branch of the Chicago Public Library Oct. 3 and Belmont Branch Oct. 4, plus the DePaul University Library in Lincoln Park, the public libraries of Bellwood, Highland Park, and River Forest, the Vernon Area Library in Lincolnshire Public Library, and the Frankfort Public Library. A presentation is also taking place Nov. 14 at the Women of Temple Sholom Banned Books Event,  3450 N. DuSable Lake Shore Drive in Lakeview.

For all dates and locations visit City Lit Banned Books event BOOKS ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK | citylittheater

The 18-year-old event is now in its 16th consecutive year to let folks know about books some people want off the shelves.

Pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns. 

The bad news is that Didier’s has closed its retail operation near Lincolnshire. But the good news is there is a really great place to find pumpkins, Halloween items, cider donuts and see farm animals north in Lake County, IL. It is the child and adult-friendly Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm, Find it at 13236 W Town Line Rd, Waukegan, IL · (847) 662-5733

Carved pumpkins are Jack-O-Lanterns if you ask the folks at the Chicago Botanic Garden which is holding its “Night of 1000 Jack O Lanterns” that are artistically carved.

Or you can go to Highwood, a norther town, nearby that annually holds its Pumpkinfest . These orange, somewhat cut out gourds fill racks along the downtown.

The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival  i s Oct. 6-8, 2023. No tickets. Just come and enjoy live music and food booths.

Night of 1000 Jaci O Lanterns is Oct. 11-15 and Oct 18-22, 2023. Timed tickets needed. But there is food available for purchase and you get to walk the garden.

Jodie Jacobs








Around town puts Oktoberfest Chicago and Jack o Lanterns on the calendar


Celebrate fall with an Oktoberfest the end of September. Then keep the fun going by following a glowing path of hand-carved pumpkins in October.

Polka and celebrate Bavarian food and culture with Oktoberfest Chicago, Friday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 24 on the grounds of St. Alphonsus church in West Lakeview. There will also be Craft Beer Tasting nights of September 22 & 23 in the church.

Hours are Friday from 5–10 p.m., Saturday from 12 noon –10 p.m. and Sunday from 12 noon –7 p.m. St. Alphonsus Catholic Church is located at 1429 W. Wellington Ave in Chicago. For more information visitchicago’s tourism site at 21st Annual Oktoberfest Chicago | 09/22/2023 | Choose Chicago


Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns

(Photo courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden)

Imagine strolling a path after dark where pumpkins glare, smile and stare back at you. It’s Night of 1,000 Jack O Lanterns” at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Actually, it’s quite family friendly and artistic.

“…Visitors walk through the Garden after dark guided by the glow of pumpkins,” said Jodi Zombolo of Visitor Events & Programs. “It’s a great opportunity to spend an evening outdoors with friends and family while being entertained along the way.”

The event sold out last year so get tickets now. Tickets for members/nonmembers are Adult: $19/$21, children (age 3 – 12): $13/$15 and free to age 2 and younger. Parking is free for members and $15 for nonmembers/

Night of 1,000 Jack o’ Lanterns is Oct. 11-15 and Oct. 18-22 from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. For more information visit Night of Jack O Lanterns or visit \

Jodie Jacobs



Chrisite defines what is a mousetrap


Cast O Mousetrap at Citadel Theater. (North Shore Photography Club photo)
Cast O Mousetrap at Citadel Theater. (North Shore Photography Club photo)



If you have seen “The Mousetrap,” Agatha Christie’s 1952 murder mystery that is still alive on stage in London, don’t give away the “who done-it” part.

 With a reasonable run time of 2 hours, 20 minutes that includes a 15-minute intermission, the first act ends the play with you likely wondering, who is the next murder victim.

Directed by Scott Westerman who brilliantly presented Citadel’s award-winning “The Chrisians,” he has staged “Moustrap similar to a farce with characters moving in and out of doorways then appearing elsewhere.

 As to the cast, they are mostly projected as somewhat overblown stereotypical characters that fit the “farce” slant.

So ask yourself who are these people, really? All the audience knows is that they are guests in the newly opened Monkswell Manor operated by newlyweds Mollie Ralston (Mary Margaret McCormack) and husband Giles (Jack Sharkey).

Next on the scene is a young, overly hyper lad named for architect Christopher Wren played by Jesus Barajas.

He is followed by Kristie Berger as the old maidish, times-have-changed Mrs. Boyle and William Ryder as  the pleasant Major Metcalf.

Into the mix is Amy Stricker as Miss Casewell will drops hints that she had a difficult childhood.

The seemingly strangest character is Mr. Paravicini portrayed by Reginald Hemphill as an uninvited guest. He seems inordinately pleased with the guests’ makeup.

Last on stage is Detective Sergeant Trotter. Played by Sean Erik Wesslund, he first appears in the Inn’s big window on skis because the house is cut off by a persistent snowstorm.

Speaking of snow, the video created by cinematographer Ian Merritt adds drama to the show as does a strange mirror and other special effects.

So, don’t misread Westerman’s farcical handling of “Mousetrap.” Christie and Westerman are “dead” serious about the plot.

It supposedly was inspired by a real case about gravely mistreated children. It may lead some viewers to consider a case now in the news and the Illinois legal system.

 Originally called “Three Blind Mice,” the nursery rhyme’s song is played in the background and thus raising the questions who are the mice and is the inn acting as a mousetrap?

DETAILS:  Mousetrap is Sept. 15-Oct. 15 at Citadel Theatre Company, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, IL. For tickets and information call (847) 735-8554, x1, or visit Citadel Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

For the Love of Dance


(Maddy Shilts, Whitney Wolf, Ben Isabel, Ben Paynic,  Luis Del Valle, Elizabeth Bushell, Madelynn Oztas) 


Directed by Wayne Mell, this Madkap Production of “A Chorus Line” at the Skokie Theatre, is on pointe. It taps into the essence of love and dedication to the art of dance.

“A Chorus Line” is an anthology of songs and monologues bringing to light the collective motivations and inspirations that keep people involved in a mentally and physically demanding occupation.

Through the individual stories and seemingly endless rehearsals we are reminded of the hard work and athleticism required to make moving to music look artful and effortless. All of that requires intense dedication while offering only rare substantial successes.

Onerous choreographer Zach played by Sean M.G. Caron, cajoles a select group of hopeful chorus applicants into revealing some of their deepest secrets while continually drilling them on numerous dance routines. He is barking orders all the time to lift their chin, raise their arms and smile less while looking like they’re having fun.

From those who survive the ordeal only a handful will be selected.

In the song “What I Did For Love,” (music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban) beautifully sung by Diana (Marcela Ossa Gomez), she says of the grueling work and unmet promises “We did what we had to do – – Won’t forget, can’t regret — What I did for love.” In this context it’s the love of the craft, the love of dance.

It may be a useful reminder that when first staged in in 1975, frank conversations about sexuality in general and homosexuality specifically were unusual and a bit shocking for theater goers. In “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love” the ensemble shares stories of puberty, adolescence and sexual awakening.

But in “Dance 10: Looks 3” (a reference to her performance score) dancer Val (Lili Javorka) lightens the mood in a song more commonly referred to as “Tits and Ass” where she reveals that surgically enhancing those assets improved her career.

It cannot be overlooked that the intense, nearly nonstop two-hour score by Hamlisch is a workout for the production pianist, in this case, the extremely capable musical director Jeremy Ramey who must also be credited with the precision of the ensemble vocal numbers and that the musical subtleties and multi-voice harmonies within the songs were preserved and celebrated.

Though there were a few obvious “ringers” the vocal capabilities of the cast exceeded their dancing “chops.” But that does not detract from their earnest effort led by choreographer Susan Pritzker.

The production is a substantial aerobic workout that requires continual attention to complicated footwork and challenging movements, all while singing, talking or being otherwise engaged with what is happening on stage

The onstage leadership of dance captain Ben Paynic, echoed by his character of Larry, was amusing and quietly assuring. In a sense he represented the ideal that all of the rehearsal was supposed to finally achieve.

Set design by Scott Richardson could not be more minimal, consisting of a few mylar sheets as mirrors on the back wall flanking an opening that exposed the backstage area and pianist.

I get that this was supposed to be a rehearsal area and admittedly the Skokie Theatre stage is already a bit small for a show with a large dance ensemble. But when there were only one or two people in a scene, they seemed lost in space.

For instance, in the scene between Zach and Paul (Luis Del Valle) a simple chair might have grounded them and given them a reference point.  Likewise, the lighting was virtually nonexistent, being fully up most of the time. This made me as an audience member feel like I was watching a rehearsal and not in a good way

Again, in the previously mentioned scene or during Cassie’s (Sarah Sapperstein) solo dance, some isolating lighting might add to the intimacy of these moments.

Sadly, the costumes by Patti Halajian were overall a miss for me, in this show, where there is so much fun and interesting off-the-rack potential.

The biggest faux pas was the finale which aside from being generally ill-fitting was way too much bling for this small space. What’s important in the finale is that the chorus line be uniform and synchronized. Save the glitter for a larger venue.

Each individual cast member did an outstanding job on their spotlight performances. A standout for me was Emma Drazkowski as Maggie while my wife thought Whitney Marie Wolf as Judy “was the real deal.” I also thought Del Valle’s scene was very moving.

Aside from a few minor gaffs as mentioned this show was great fun and very enjoyable. The full house is a further indication that Madkap provides an important function in Skokie, offering competent entertaining live theater experiences to the Northshore communities in a convenient, comfortable, modern venue.

DETAILS: “A Chorus Line” is at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave, Skokie, IL through October 8, 2023. Running time is 2 hours with no intermission. For tickets and information visit or call (847)677-7761.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

Photo by MadKap Productions


Around Town


Unlikely as it seems, many of the foods Chicagoans love to snack on will be ready to taste in Chicago’s Grant Park this week. It’s Taste of Chicago part 4. We had Taste in Humboldt Park in June, Pullman in July and Marquette in August.  So now it’s Grant Park’s downtown Chicago’s turn Sept. 8-10. And it’s free admission. 

Also happening is Lakeview East’s Festival of the Arts. Featuring more than 120 artists, live music and local restaurants, it runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 9-10. Music continues to 10 p.m.

Art on the Mart finishes this season this weekend and starts a new season the following weekend. So, stroll the Riverwalk near Wells Street if downtown Chicago to see what’s projecting on the Mart’s giant canvas.

Jodie Jacobs


Everything is coming up roses for Gypsy


3 Stars

Lauren Maria Medina as Louise (Photos by Liz Lauren).

A musical fable comes to life at the Marriott’s fine production of GYPSY. Its all-star cast showcases the tale of the ultimate stage mother, Rose, who fights for her daughters’ successes while really wanting her own moment in the spotlight.

 Opening on Broadway in 1959, Arthur Laurents’ GYPSY was nominated for eight Tony awards and has been a beloved classic for generations.

 Taking her daughters across the country in search of that next big gig in the waning days of vaudeville, Rose continually dreams of seeing daughter June’s name in lights. A three-times divorced mamma, nothing will get in Rose’s way, not even a new suitor by the name of Herb, who is kind and loyal.

 Make no mistake, this is a woman’s show, empowering and emotionally problematic.

 When June tires of the act and runs off to get married, Rose channels her interest in her other daughter, Louise, to make her a star.

 The musical features Broadway star Lucia Spina as Rose whose loud, brassy, and booming voice perfectly captures the pushy stage mother. She belts out every song, reminiscent of Ethel Merman who played Rose on Broadway.

 Lucky for the audience, a warm welcome back to the Marriott stage is given to the Jefferson award-winning Nathaniel Stampley as suitor Herbie who is charming and authentic. But having seen Stampley in other Marriot roles like “Man of La Mancha” and “Ragtime,” his amazing talent seems somewhat wasted.    

Nathaniel Stampley (Herbie) and Lucia Spina (Rose )

 The audience watches as Lauren Maria Medina who plays Louise is transformed from a mousy little girl into a confident, successful burlesque superstar, the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee. Her voice is powerful and strong.

 With music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show boasts a memorable score including: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “Some People,” and “Together Wherever We Go.”

 Kudos to J’Kobe Wallace who plays Tulsa and an ensemble member for his outstanding dancing that took the house down.

 The Marriott production will likely feel different from other GYPSYs  because director Amanda Dehnert working with choreographer Stephanie Klemons and music director Jeff Award Winner Ryan T. Nelson emphasized its emotional toll and darker side. 

On a different note: Fans of Nathaniel Stampley will be happy to know he takes the stage in an intimate evening of solo songs and stories for one night only, October 15 at 7:30 p.m. In Songs & Stories: Nathaniel Stampley in Concert, Mr. Stampley traces his career from Milwaukee to Chicago, Broadway, London and beyond.

DETAILS: GYPSY is at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL through October 23, 2023. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information, visit or call the Marriott Theatre Box Office: (847) 634-0200.

Myra Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


Port Clinton and Deer Path art fairs to browse and shop


Port Clinton art fair exhibitor. (Jodie Jacobs photo)
Port Clinton art fair exhibitor. (Jodie Jacobs photo)

End summer with two excellent art shows that are worth a drive to the northern suburbs the next two weekends.

Mark Aug. 26-27 on the calendar for the 2023 Port Clinton Art Festival – Amdur Productions.  Annually attracting collectors and art show lovers for 40 years and ranked among the best shows in the country, it runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., downtown Highland Park, IL

What to expect: 240 artists showcasing paintings, sculpture, glass, fabric, metal, wood art, jewelry, ceramics and photography. In addition, there are art demo stations, a Kid Zone that includes spin art, drawing and sand sculpture. Of course, there are food booths and live music.

 Labor Day Weekend is the smaller, about 120 exhibitors but really good, juried Deer Path Art League’s 68th Art Fair on the Square. Located in the historic downtown of Lake Forest, it runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept 3-4.  For more information visit About the Show | Deer Path Art League.

Jodie Jacobs

Air and Water show features Army Thunderbirds

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

 Photo curtesy or City of Chicago

Spread out the blanket, bring a chair or find a good viewing spot at Nay Pier, the US Air Force’s Thunderbirds are performing this weekend over North Avenue Beach. The Chicago Air and Water Show  Chicago Air and Water Show is officially Aug. 19 and 20, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  in 2023. But people in the know like to go down there on Friday when they practice because the crowd, which has numbered over one million, is smaller.

What to expect: Incredible maneuvers by the Thunderbirds’ F-16 Fighting Falcon, other military planes including the US Army’s Golden Knights, such popular private air-show pilots as Susan Dacy in “Big Red.

How you know: It’s all narrated by Herb Hunter who has been the “Voice of the Air and Water Show” for more than three decades.

Where to watch: North Avenue Beach, Navy Pier,

 Mercury CruisesWendella BoatsShoreline Sightseeing CompanySeadog CruisesChicago’s First Lady, the 360 CHICAGO observation deck and The Signature Lounge at the 95th or at its bar, next floor up.

Jodie Jacobs

Jeff Equity nominations announced


Goodman Theatre tops Jeff Equity nominations (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)
Goodman Theatre tops Jeff Equity nominations (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

Jeff Awards for equity productions have been announced for the 2022-2023 theater season. Equity nominations cover 35 companies. Theater goers know there are more production companies in the very theater-rich Chicago area so for the non-equity productions’ nominations announced in March.visit Jeff Nonequity. .

The 2022-2023 Equity Jeff nominees are for excellence in 32 categories for productions appearing from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023, They were chosen from 88 Jeff Recommended productions. The winners of the Equity Jeff Awards which is now recognizing its The 55th anniversary, is Oct.  2, 2023, at Drury Lane, Oakbrook, IL.

So many really good productions, the choices are tough.

Goodman Theatre leads the Equity group with 32 nominations in nine productions including two co-produced. Paramount Theatre came in next with 18 nominations followed by Mercury Theater Chicago with 15 and Marriott Theatre, Drury Lane Productions and Teatro Vista tied at 13.

For the complete list with categories visit the Equity and News and Events sections at


The Washington Senators in Marriott theatre's Damn Yankees
The Washington Senators in Marriott Theatre’s Damn Yankees (Photo by Liz Lauren)

To better understand the awards nominations, it is important to note that there is a Play and a Musical category and that productions are divided into size such as Midsize and Large.

See the play and musical categories (ensembles’ plays and musicals is another category)

Production – Play
“Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express” – Drury Lane Productions
“The Cherry Orchard” – Goodman Theatre
“A Christmas Carol” – Goodman Theatre
“Clyde’s” – Goodman Theatre in association with Center Theatre Group
“The Comedy of Errors” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“Dear Jack, Dear Louise” – Northlight Theatre
“Swing State” – Goodman Theatre
“Toni Stone” – Goodman Theatre

Production – Play – Midsize

“And Neither Have I Wings to Fly” – First Folio Theatre
“Clue” – Mercury Theater Chicago
“The Dream King” – Teatro Vista
“Fences” – American Blues Theater
“Is God Is” – A Red Orchid Theatre
“Motherhouse” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
“The October Storm” – Raven Theatre
“Right to Be Forgotten” – Raven Theatre

Production – Musical – Large
“Cabaret” – Porchlight Music Theatre
“A Chorus Line” – Drury Lane Productions
“Damn Yankees” – Marriott Theatre
“Fun Home” – Paramount Theatre
“The Gospel at Colonus” – Court Theatre
“Hello, Dolly!” – Marriott Theatre
“Into the Woods” – Paramount Theatre
“The Notebook” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“Once” – Writers Theatre
“The Sound of Music” – Paramount Theatre
“The Who’s Tommy” – Goodman Theatre

Production – Musical – Midsize
“Big River” – Mercury Theater Chicago
“London Road” – Shattered Globe Theatre
“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” – Mercury Theater Chicago

For the complete lists visit 2023 EQUITY JEFF AWARD NOMINEES.

Jodie Jacobs

Music Theater Works produces a fun time out



(Photo courtesy of Music Theater Works)

Highly recommended

The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts’ Center Theatre is the perfect space for Music Theater Works’ The Producers.

Unlike the company’s “Camelot” which was crammed into the small theater, it has the space for Producers director Walter Stearns,’ choreographer Darryl K. Clark’s’ and scenic designer Jonathan Berg-Einhorn’s interpretations of Mel Brooks Tony Award winning musical comedy. They need the space for their terrific dancers and talented cast.

With the excellent singer-actor Thomas M. Shea in the lead as Max Bialystock and David Geinosky as the nerdy accountant-turned producer sidekick, the show rollicks from a scheme to make millions with aBroadway flop to their unintentional, probably disastrous, success as a hit. Kelsey MacDonald as their Swedish bomb/secretary/receptionist Ulla, is a bonus.

The show, which would likely not appeal to conservative theater goers, is what anyone who attends should expect from Mel Brooks who rejoices in off-color dialogue, surprising topis and action. So blame him and co-book writer Thomas Meehan. The funny, rousing, music and lyrics are also by Brooks.

The Producers is a fun break in the theater season.

DETAILS: The Producers is at The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts” Center Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL through Aug. 20, 2023. Running time:2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit or call Music Theater Works Box Office: (847) 673-6300.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago