Plan details expansion and changes at Brookfield Zoo


Brookfield Zoo Chicago just released details of a transformational Next Century Plan that will reshape more than 100 acres (nearly half of the Zoo’s existing property) in innovative and inspiring ways for wildlife and guests.

Slightly edited to meet publication word-count, the plan blends historic structures with new animal zones. The Zoo will have immersive habitats that provide for the best in animal care while creating rich experiences for guests that engage audiences and connect to conservation.

Also in the plan is a more interesting and welcoming North Gate entrance and experience.

New North Gate

What to expect:  a 15-year campus plan in four phases, with further improvements projected over 30 years. This vision balances new, immersive experiences with the preservation of historical structures and includes nearly all existing Zoo areas.

It also calls for significant westward expansion and development of current Zoo property, blending new mixed-species environments inspired by 14 global eco-regions into the existing rich forest canopy.

With an investment expected to reach $500 million from public and private funding, the plan aims to not only to transform the physical campus but also solidify the Zoo’s role as a leader in global wildlife conservation.

According to Brookfield Zoo officials and partners, the plan should make a substantial economic impact on local communities, surrounding counties, and the state, as well as bolster the Zoo as a global destination.

The first phase of the Next Century Plan has already begun. It includes completed projects, such as the $10 million renovation of the Zoo’s Seven Seas dolphin habitat, reimagining of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Fountain, new animal habitats within the Hamill Family Nature Plaza, and opening of the Philip W. K. Sweet Jr. Animal Care and Conservation Center with state-of-the-art new office and collaborative spaces for animal and conservation teams.

(South African Forest area in New Gateway to Africa at Brookfield Zoo)

Well underway culminating the end of Phase 1 is– Tropical Forests, a $66 million project that creates four new outdoor habitats meticulously crafted to emulate the natural homes of gorillas, orangutans, and monkeys, set to open in 2025. The Tropical Forests project also incorporates a new Gorilla Conservation Center and the Zoo’s King Conservation Leadership Academy that provides educational opportunities for teens.


 Four Key Zones 

The Next Century Plan provides an exciting and innovative new direction for Brookfield Zoo Chicago while weaving together elements of the Zoo’s past. Nearly half of the Zoo’s sweeping 235 acres in the Forest Preserves of Cook County will be re-imagined, expanding wildlife habitats, and transcending conventional zoo design for a fully immersive experience organized into four key zones:

  1. Historical Core: Preserving Brookfield Zoo Chicago’s historic features, including the iconic North and South Gates, the hand-carved Carousel, and the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Fountain, this area will serve as a bridge between the Zoo’s rich history and its innovative future.
  2. Immersive Ecoregions: To the west, 14 regions will transform the Zoo into a dynamic, landscape-based experience inviting guests through portals to various parts of the world. Native animal species will anchor each deeply immersive ecoregion with environments that mimic their natural habitats, fostering an appreciation for wildlife and their ecosystems. These regions will transport guests, allowing them to experience and connect eye-to-eye with wildlife they otherwise may never have the opportunity to see. These natural habitats will provide enriched animal care and spacious, mixed-species groupings that ensure the animals’ optimal well-being.

Key project examples include:

 Gateway to Africa: Leading Phase 2 of the plan, Gateway to Africa will be a 35-acre haven where guests can witness firsthand the splendor of Africa’s wildlife and natural landscapes. A multi-species habitat with 12.5 acres for elephants, alongside rhinos, lions, giraffes, and other iconic species, the transformation will provide a new innovation in animal shifting capabilities for flexibility between the various habitats, linking together four distinct ecoregions: South African Forests, African Savannah, East African Forests, and Central African Forests. This flexibility will be possible thanks to the creation of the new Savannah Passage, a half-mile-long, multi-species transfer corridor that allows for rotational habitat expansion and variety. The Savannah Passage links multiple habitats across the northwest quadrant of the Zoo, facilitating a changing landscape for the animals and guests to experience.

(Pachyderm Building in Gateway to Africa)

 Also in Gateway to Africa – Pachyderm Building: The renovation of the beloved Pachyderm Building – one of the Zoo’s original structures – will reverse the current animal-guest relationship by replacing indoor animal space with exciting guest programs during the day, and private catering event space in the evening, offering expansive views to the flexible, mixed-species Savannah habitat north of the building. New animal facilities will be developed elsewhere that provide spacious indoor habitats and the best in modern zoological care.

*Southwest Australian Provinces: Guests will be instantly transported to the landscapes of Southwest Australia, venturing into scrublands with towering termite mounds and the mysterious call of tawny frogmouths, while vibrant rose-breasted cockatoos flit through the canopy. An elevated walkway will offer panoramic views of iconic species such as kangaroos and emus, and intimate encounters with koalas nestled in eucalyptus trees. Exiting through a forest portal, guests will reach the newly renovated historical Australia House, home to Tasmanian devils, wombats, and echidna in lush indoor and outdoor environments. This indoor sanctuary will showcase the rich tapestry of Australian wildlife, from tiny insects to elusive reptiles.

  • Pacific Coasts of the Americas: Sights and sounds of the Peruvian coast come to life in this immersive experience. Guests are greeted by the rhythmic sounds of crashing waves and the salty scent of the ocean breeze, transporting them to the rugged shores of South America. The centerpiece, Sea Lion Cove, features a sprawling habitat where guests can observe sea lions in their natural element through rocky shores and underwater viewing windows, offering a glimpse into their dynamic social behaviors. Adjacent to the sea lion habitat, a training and education area allows care staff to share stories of conservation efforts and to demonstrate the Zoo’s excellence in animal care. The new Humboldt Penguin habitat, inspired by Peru’s Punta San Juan Marine Protected Area, showcases the playful antics of Humboldt penguins alongside free-flying terns and gulls, highlighting the region’s rich biodiversity. Interactive storytelling and environmental education sessions provide guests with a deeper understanding of the importance of protecting these endangered species and the impact of climate change on their habitats.

(New Himalayan and Central Asian Steppe)

  • Himalayan and Central Asian Steppe: Tucked into the western reaches of the Zoo, this region – a part of Phases 3 and 4 that represents projects starting in 2034 and beyond – will highlight the rugged landscape that is home to snow leopards and takin. Taking advantage of natural old-growth forest on the Zoo’s property, from under a viewing trellis, guests will be able to search among the rocky outcrops to find camouflaged cats exploring their habitats. A nearly invisible barrier between the habitats will create visual continuity with the new takin habitat beyond, where these rock-climbing mammals will delight guests with their graceful movements.


  • Our Rivers to the Gulf: Also in this third phase, dolphins will have a new, indoor/outdoor shallow-lagoon simulating their home range at Sarasota Bay, Florida, where Brookfield Zoo Chicago leads the world’s longest- running dolphin conservation research program. A sweeping boardwalk will immerse guests in a mangrove forest where connections between the Illinois River and conservation efforts in the Gulf of Mexico are made.
  • (New Rivers to the Gulf)
  1. Wildlife Discovery: This zone will feature expanded attractions, recreational activities and interactive experiences to engage guests of all ages with the wonders of wildlife. New habitats at the Zoo’s former Bear Grottos will feature animals, including sloth bears, sun bears, wolverines, and red pandas. Designed to create a central, communal space to attract more new and diverse audiences to the Zoo, a spacious new amphitheater situated away from animal habitats will host programs from educational presentations to musical performances, such as the Zoo’s successful Roaring Nights concert series that supports the organization’s conservation programs around the globe. Additionally, a permanent butterfly house will provide year-round opportunities for visitors to learn about the lifecycle and migration of the important pollinators.


4. Conservation Campus: Located at the Zoo’s south end, this area will be a hub for scientists, educators and conservationists, featuring cutting-edge facilities and collaborative spaces. Bringing what are typically behind-the-scenes spaces forward to the public, an indoor viewing gallery will showcase live conservation research and interactive exhibits, fostering a deeper understanding of global conservation efforts. Additionally, the expansion of the veterinary hospital and enhanced education spaces at the Mary Ann MacLean Conservation Leadership Center will provide engaging learning experiences and highlight the Zoo’s commitment to wildlife care and conservation education. The campus will provide an opportunity to further showcase the Zoo’s several programs and partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County and work with local wildlife species such as turtles, otters, cranes, and more.

 “Our Next Century Plan reflects our core commitment as a zoo to save species and ecosystems. We inspire conservation leadership. We touch lives. We save animals,” said Dr. Michael Adkesson, President and CEO. “The plan boldly envisions the redevelopment and expansion of the Zoo’s physical campus to bolster our excellence in animal care and wellness, but our impact will also extend beyond our gates to reach local communities and global partners to provide a connection for people to develop empathy for wildlife and nature that drives positive action.”

 For more information, visit



Double the pleasure at Northlight


Matthew McGloin and Adam LaSalle as dueling musicians in “2 Pianos 4 Hands” at Northlight Theatre (Photo by Liz Lauren).

Highly Recommended

It’s a play. It’s a concert. It’s a little bit of both. Recently extended until August 11, 2024, “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is a satisfying romp through the lives of two ambitious musicians who long for stardom in a highly competitive industry. 

Actors/musicians Adam LaSalle as Ted and Mathew McGloin as Richard, play a range of characters in this humorous, entertaining and poignant show. What they have in common is their quest for excellence on the keys.

The characters tell stories of pushy parents, maniacal teachers, and challenging professionals who bar their entry for further training.

In one scene, they’re both music students competing with each other for the top prize. In another, they act as piano teachers, complete with Italian and French accents.

In another scene, they play parents on both sides of the spectrum. One encourages his son to practice 30 minutes a day. The other criticizes his son for the amount of time he spends practicing at the risk of a normal childhood.

As someone who took piano lessons for many years, the play took me back to the long days of practicing scales and arpeggios, with hands cupped in the right position. And, banging on the piano when I couldn’t get it right, just like they did.

“2 Pianos 4 Hands” includes a treasure trove of classical music from Bach, Beethoven and Mozart as well as popular hits by Billy Joel, Elton John and John Lennon.

Luckily for the audience, their mastery of the piano is over-the-top and we get treated to an outstanding performance.

Written by Richard Greenblatt and Ted Dykstra, the show was directed by veteran actor/director Rob Lindley who says, “Sometimes you must adjust your dreams, never giving up on them. Be the best you can be today and keep working to be better.”

The play was originally produced in 1994 with the authors performing in their respective roles for more than 30 years. “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is simply timeless.

Details: “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is at the Northlight Theatre in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. For tickets and information, visit Northlight Theatre | 2 Pianos 4 Hands or call the box office at (847) 673-6300.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre In Chicago.



Do not expect the movie or book in ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ – The Musical

Mary Ernster, Christopher Kelley, Sean Donovan, Andre Malcolm, J. Harrison Ghee, DeMarius R. Copes, Jarvis B. Manning Jr. and Wes Olivier in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" at the Goodman Theatre. (Liz Lauren)

Mary Ernster, Christopher Kelley, Sean Donovan, Andre Malcolm, J. Harrison Ghee, DeMarius R. Copes, Jarvis B. Manning Jr. and Wes Olivier in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” at the Goodman Theatre. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Highly Recommended

It would be a crime to miss this.

Without a doubt “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” is the best musical I have seen in years. You will be hearing a lot about this for some time as word spreads of this world premier production currently at the Goodman Theater.

The action begins, revealing a spectacular Spanish moss draped dimly lit atmospheric set design by Christopher Oram worthy of a grand opera.

We come to learn in the opening number “Bonaventure” that we are in an aged cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. Voodoo practitioner, Minerva (Brianna Buckley) wails a ghostly incantation as various figures move silently among the monuments.

As the lights become full, the tone shifts. It is daylight and Jim Williams (Tom Hewitt) continues the song explaining where we are and introducing us to some of the quaint customs of Savannah society including the reverence for the past and importance of social drinking.

Over the course of the play, we learn that Jim Williams is a gay antiques dealer and nouveau riche restorer of homes. His pride and joy is the restoration of Mercer House, a stately but at one point quite neglected derelict mansion built by the great-grandfather of famed composer Johnny Mercer.

The Mercer connection is interesting because “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” is based on a true story. In fact, it is a “true crime story” that interweaves high society with a number of alternative lifestyle individuals and others considered outside the elite social strata including a gay man and his “white trash” lover, a drag queen and an African American debutante.

The 1980s era high society Savannah ladies led by Emma Dawes (Sierra Boggess), fond of mentioning her invitation to the White House, intersect with the rest through Williams and a mutual love of restoring old Savannah homes.

This is not a whodunnit. We come to learn soon enough who did it. Rather this is a story of restoration. Not only the restoration of houses but also the quest to restore one’s life and indeed, one’s soul.

The parallel story is that of “The Lady Chablis” (J. Harrison Ghee), a popular drag queen who treats the audience to a very enjoyable and frank performance at “The Shed” where she is the headliner.

Lady Chablis loses her job after a particularly bawdy performance, setting her on a quest to restore what she perceives to be her deserved station in life.

The story is not too complicated. It’s there to move the action, and this show is all about the action presented as a series of vignette performances that are more like Burlesque scenes, any one of which would wow a Las Vegas nightclub in the 80’s.  

Keep in mind that this is a period piece that takes place in a very particular place at a very specific time. Some might argue that the portrayal of LGBTQ characters are somewhat two dimensional, even stereotypical, which is how they generally were portrayed at the time. But at least in the 1980s they were beginning to be seen and their stories could begin to be presented to a mainstream public.

Perhaps in the New Millennium we are more enlightened, but for some, indeed many, perhaps not.

The audience’s sympathy for Williams and appreciation for the talent and struggle of Chablis means we are breaking through and seeing these individuals as real people not simply cardboard cutouts.

Jason Robert Brown’s music and lyrics are phenomenal and inspired, harkening back to the Great American Songbook and jazz stylings of the twentieth century.

One lyric describing Savannah says something like “If your idea of an auntie leans toward antebellum . . .” is vintage tin pan alley. Perhaps inspired by Mercer and others there are notes of Sondheim as well.

But this work is not derivative. It is fresh and unique. Each number is expertly performed by arguably one of the most impressive performance companies to grace a Chicago stage in recent memory. From Ghee and Hewitt at the top through to every swing dancer, each performer is top-notch. When this show moves to Broadway which it undoubtably will, it should run for years.

When Buckley as Minerva begins her incantation, we know this is going to be interesting but when Hewitt begins his part of “Bonaventure” with his amazing voice we know we are in for something special.

 Likewise with Ghee as Chablis.  When she does her number “The Shed Shack” buckle up because we’re going on an unexpected ride. “Let There Be Light” in the first act is a show stopper and “Butterflies” was a touching and fitting finale.

Boggess as Dawes offers much of the comic relief but her impressive soprano gives her songs added dimension that takes them beyond novelty numbers.

“Lift Her Up” led by Bobby Hutchins with dance performance by ingénue Lavella Cole and company is likely to become a staple at every cotillion, bat mitzvah, sweet sixteen, graduation and some weddings.

Congratulations to The Goodman for assembling such a high caliber cast of performers and production team from the set design (including a spectacular chandelier), lighting, music, costumes (Toni-Leslie James) to the outstanding choreography of Tanya Biri-Torres aided by incredible swing dancers who were able to execute their moves – all brought together in a seemingly effortless fashion by Director Rob Ashford with Musical Direction by Thomas Murray.

Opening night was one to remember. John Berendt, the author of the best-selling book, was on hand for the curtain call and to see this new musical version written by Taylor Mac come to life. The excitement of the evening spilled out into the street as people chattered about what a great time this was.

This show runs nearly 3 hours including a 15-minute intermission. Likely they will find a few more cuts and trims as they see what works and what doesn’t but I would hate to be the one making those decisions. Every number is a gem.

Details: “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” is at The Goodman Theatre, 70 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60601, extended through August 11, 2024. Running time: about 2 hours, 45 minutes with one 15 minute intermission. For tickets and information visit or call the box office at (312) 443-3800 (12noon – 5pm daily).

By Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre In Chicago


Food prep and relationships stir the pot in ‘Hot Wing King’


Joseph Anthony Byrd (from left), Jabari Khaliq, Breon Arzell, Thee Ricky Harris and Jos N. Banks star in "The Hot Wing King" at Writers Theatre.

(From left) Joseph Anthony Byrd, Jabari Khaliq, Breon Arzell, Thee Ricky Harris and Jos N. Banks in “The Hot Wing King” at Writers Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow) in ‘The Hot Wing King’ at Writers Theatre


Winner of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Writers Theatre audiences learn there’s a lot more to “The Hot Wing King” than food prep for the Annual Hot Wing Festival taking place the next day in Memphis.

As Cordell (Breon Arzell) prepares his marinade and chicken wings with boyfriend Dwayne (Jos N. Banks) and friends the backstory of their relationship and their family problems boil over when Dwayne’s nephew, 16-year-old Everett (Jabari Khaliq), knocks at their door. 

Written by Katori Hall and directed by Lili-Anne Brown, the story slowly unfolds with dropped remarks until the audience fully realizes all the problems facing the characters just as the production breaks for intermission.

The nice, upscale house on stage is owned by Dwayne who is manager of an upscale Memphis hotel and likes to manage people’s lives.  Cordell, moved from St. Louis to Tennessee when the two fell in love. Everett is the son of Dwayne’s sister who tragically died a couple of years ago. Dwayne feels responsible for her death.

The acting is excellent, but I think the audience would appreciate the problems the partners faced if they understood more of the back story earlier instead of just clues from remarks. 

The good news is that it all works out.

Details: “The Hot Wings King” is at Writers Theatre ,325 Tudor Court, Glencoe through July 21, 2024. Run time: about 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Writers Theatre or call (847) 242-6000.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

‘Beehive’ brings a dizzying decade to Marriott Theatre


Cast of Beehive (1).jpg

“Beehive: The 60s Musical” ( Photo by Liz Lauren)

Five Stars

With all the great music venues in Chicago who would have predicted that one of the best pop concerts this summer would be at Marriott Theatre in suburban Lincolnshire.

Happening under the guise of one feminine hair style fad, “Beehive: The 60’s musical,” celebrates the multi-culture and frequent social changes of a tumultuous decade.

And it does so with terrific vocalizations and instrumentals.

The show stars six exceptional singers: Emma Grace Bailey (Marriott Theatre: The Music Man; Metropolis PAC: A Christmas Carol); Grace Bobber (Marriott Theatre: The Sound of Music, Paramount Theatre: Into the Woods); Lucy Godinez (Marriott Theatre: Big Fish, American Repertory Theatre: Real Women Have Curves); Miciah Lathan (Marriott Theatre debut; Black Ensemble Theatre: The Other Cinderella; Leah Morrow (Marriott Theatre: Madagascar; TV: Somebody SomewhereneXt ); and Aisha Sougou (Marriott Theatre: Beautiful, University of North Carolina School of the Arts: Crow’s Nest).

Understudies are Bridget Adams-King, Clare Kennedy, Tiyanna Gentry, and Savannah Sinclair.

The band is onstage led by keyboardist Celia Villacres. Musicians include Karli Bunn, Stephanie Chow, Kellin Hanas, Camila Mennitte, and Lauren Pierce.

Created by Larry Gallagher, “Beehive” is basically a covers musical that includes such songs as “Walking in the Rain” (Mann/Spector/Weil) and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (Goffin/King) and “performances” of such stars as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Tina Turner and Janis Joplin.

“The 1960’s was a decade known as one of, if not THE decade, that experienced the biggest shifts in music, fashion, culture and social evolution and revolution.” said director/choreographer Deidre Goodwin. “Beehive” is a love letter to the music of the 1960’s. It became a generation’s soundtrack for first loves, heartbreak, social awareness and growing up,” added Goodwin.   

A packed house, Wednesday, appreciated the messages and music.

If not for the announced need to keep aisles clear for performer costume changes, the opening day crowd Wednesday, would have been dancing, shouting, clapping, and singing along those pathways instead of just shouting, applauding and rising from their seats.

Unlike “1776” which comes mid-August and “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” for December, Marriott Theatre has deviated from its usual fine but tried-and- survived musical show schedule to bring us this over-the-top pop concert.

Thank you, Marriott Theatre.


 Details: “Beehive” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, now through Aug. 11, 2024. Run time is 120 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and more information call (847) 634-0200 or visit

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago



An artistic journey through Black history


Five performers in black leggings, T-shirts, and kente cloth dance in a line. The actor second from left plays a djembe.

1619: The Journey of a People” at Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Evanston. (Photos by Basil Clunie)


“1619: The Journey of a People” by Ted Williams III is an entertaining and informative chronology highlighting essential events in the progression of the African American experience. 

It uses music, dance and spoken word to craft an historical narrative that begins with the arrival of twenty slaves who landed on the North American continent roughly 150 years prior to our nation’s founding and continues through the most recent Black Lives Matter movement.

The performances are outstanding beginning with an all-cast stylized African dance routine. It’s punctuated with cries and whip sounds accompanied by the evocative complex drum beat of percussionist/actor Ozivell Eckford that sets the tone for the first part of the journey.

Interweaving traditional, pop, gospel, soul, hip-hop and rap, the musical styles change with each historic period represented.

The gospel-like version of the “Star Spangled Banner” performed by Simbryt Whittington Dortch was rousing and soulful as was her memorable heartfelt version of “Steal Away.”

Williams and Marchello Lee’s duet of “Booker T or W.E.B.” was a fast-paced explanation of the two men’s points-of-view on the actions needed toward progress.

“I Thought We Were Free” led by Shannon Stiles with backup vocals by Vanessa Love and Lucy Maura continued an energetic gospel vibe.

Lee’s choreography was expertly executed by dancers Love and Maura, the highlight of which was the visually stunning butterfly number featuring LED accented costumes by Cynthia Walls.

Action takes place in front of a 180-degree mixed media mural by Sholo Beverly reminiscent of graffiti art, blending a mélange of colorful muted images imbued with hidden messages.

The background is mostly in shades of blue, punctuated by areas of shocking red and white. Above that is a suspended array of sepia-colored broadsides and newspaper headlines proclaiming various momentous occurrences in African American history.

This production is jam packed with important information about individuals and events that shaped the history of black people in America, cleverly presented as a kind of Cliff’s Notes version of what you need to know to pass your high school black studies class.

It is not surprising that the author, Ted Williams III who also appears on stage, is himself a Poli-Sci teacher at City Colleges of Chicago. 

As a theatrical production there may be more interesting ways to tell this story.  Williams alludes to Alex Haley’s Roots, possibly the gold standard of black history presented in a creative context.

Indeed, this is not really a story at all but rather a multi-arts recital or cabaret show with a message. So, in this sense” 1619″ is not strictly theater but more of a performance arts review.

Ultimately, the result is a kind of pre-test fever dream full of fragmented pieces of information, names, places and events that will make you feel a need to pay attention to and take a lesson from.

However, that is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a very enjoyable, thought- provoking, ninety minutes or so that will have some of us “more chronologically experienced” members of the audience appreciating the number of events that have taken place within our own lifetime.

 I really wanted to jump to my feet and join-in on “We Shall Overcome” to relive some of the excitement of the promise of potential unity that song evoked back-in-the-day.

I was happy to see a number of young people in the audience who will hopefully take away a snapshot of the bigger picture of the African American journey that might encourage them to want to know more and delve deeper into the causes and effects that have brought us to this particular moment in time.

Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre specializes in African American and African Diaspora-centered storytelling. The Noyes Cultural Art Center stage and theater is a perfect sized comfortable venue for this production.

DETAILS: “1619 the Journey of a People, ” is at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre Noyce Cultural Art Center Center, 927 Noyes Ave., Evanston through June 30, 2024.  For more information call 847-866-5914 or visit

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


The Tony Awards


Marking 77 years of recognizing exceptional excellence on Broadway, the Antoinette Perry Awards (“Tony”®Awards) were announced at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York City, June 16, 2024.

Hosted by Ariana DeBose, the show started out with Leading Actor in a Pla, won by Jeremy Strong in “An Enemy of the People.” Originally written by Ibsen, it is an impressive story about a person who would not go along with the people in power who promote an incorrect local history. It was impressively done in Chicago. 

The following are the award winners:

Award Winner
Best Musical The Outsiders
Best Play Stereophonic
Best Revival of a Musical Merrily We Roll Along
Best Revival of a Play Appropriate
Leading Actor in a Musical Jonathan Groff (Merrily We Roll Along)
Leading Actress in a Musical Maleah Joi Moon (Hell’s Kitchen)
Leading Actor in a Play Jeremy Strong (An Enemy of the People)
Leading Actress in a Play Sarah Paulson (Appropriate)
Featured Actor in a Musical Daniel Radcliffe (Merrily We Roll Along)
Featured Actress in a Musical Kecia Lewis (Hell’s Kitchen)
Featured Actor in a Play Will Brill (Stereophonic)
Featured Actress in a Play Kara Young (Purlie Victorious)
Best Direction of a Musical Danya Taymor (The Outsiders)
Best Direction of a Play Daniel Aukin (Stereophonic)
Best Book of a Musical Shaina Taub (Suffs)
Best Original Score Written for the Theatre Suffs (Shaina Taub)
Best Scenic Design of a Musical Tom Scutt (Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club)
Best Scenic Design of a Play David Zinn (Stereophonic)
Best Choreography  Justin Peck (Illinoise)


 To understand the award process and who were competing visit 2024 TONY AWARD® NOMINATIONS | The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards®

Jodie Jacobs

Around Town Now and Coming


Timelapse of Corpse Flower Bloom

Video of Corpse Flower courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

Now while the “Corpse Plant is open and the odor happens

Go over to the Chicago Botanic Garden on Lake Cook Road just east of US 41 (Edens Expressway) but park in the first lot you come to because “Stinky Spike” is in the Plant Science Center on your right opposite that parking lot (just after the admission booth you pass where you pay for parking if not a member).

The Science Center daily hours for members are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for nonmembers.

 Spike is a huge flower now in full bloom and smelling like really bad, decayed food. The odor is to attract pollinators. The odor is strong while the bloom lasts from 24 to 26 hours.

“At 7 feet 6 inches, Spike is our tallest corpse flower ever. Another corpse flower, Sumatra, had a gorgeous bloom June 7 and is powering down, ” said Botanic Garden officials. Both are in the Plant Science Center.

Also known as titan arum, the corpse flower comes from Sumatra rainforests and have been at the Chicago Botanic Garden since 2003. Both Spike and Sumatra are on display.

Watch on webcam at  Titan Arum | Chicago Botanic Garden


Coming Illuminarium

An out-of-this-world, multi-sensory experience opens at Navy Pier Friday, June 28, in the 32,000 square-foot space that was the Crystal Gardens.  

What: Experience one of two features: WILD: A Safari Experience or SPACE: A Journey to the Moon and Beyond. Both features use cutting-edge cinematic production and virtual reality.

Experiences will typically be 45 to 60 minutes. Tickets begin at $34.99 for adults and $24.99 for children, plus taxes and fees.

Jodie Jacobs



Grant Park Music Festival ages well


Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hosts music and dance performances. (J Jacobs photo)
Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hosts Grant Park Music Festival and other music and dance performances. (J Jacobs photo)

Grant Park Music Festival now and then


Sit on the grass or bring a chair or reserve a seat to hear great classical music interspersed with special programs. It’s summer as celebrated downtown Chicago at the Pritzker Pavilion. The Blues Fest was just here but now a summer-long music festival starts.

Grant Park Music Festival opens tonight, June 12, 2024, with the Dvorak Cello Concerto played by Alban Gerhardt and continues this week with Christian Tetzlaff playing Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto. At the podium is Carlos Kalmar who has been conduction the Grant Park Orchestra since 2000.

And so goes the Grant Park Music Festival in 2024 with free tickets for those who don’t mind sitting further back of the Pritzker Pavilion or with a low price, often $27, for reserve seats closer up.  Visit GPMF Schedule, or call (312) 742-7647 for more information. 

(Common is performing July 20 so tickets are higher. Visit Common :: Grant Park Music Festival.



Summer concerts started in Grant Park in the 1930s and became a tradition in 1935. By 1944 the Chicago Park District started the Grant Park Orchestra to be led by Conductor Nikolai Malko. He was followed by such renowned conductors as Irwin Hoffman, Leonard Slatkin, David Zinman, Zdenek Macal and Hugh Wolff.

The Grant Park Chorus was formed in 1962 by Thomas Peck and then led by Michael Cullen and guest conductors. Christopher Bell took over in 2002.

In 1962, the Grant Park Chorus was established under the direction of Thomas Peck. It was subsequently led by Michael Cullen (1994–97) and a series of guest conductors until the appointment of current Chorus Director Christopher Bell in 2002.

As to location, the Grant Park Music Festival was in the bandshell at the south end of Grant Park then moved in 1978 to the Petrillo Bandshell named for former musicians’ union president James C. Petrillo who joined with then mayor Anton Cermak to start a music festival in Grant Park.

When Millennium Park opened in 2004 with Jay Pritzker Pavilion designed by architect Frank Gehry,  it became home to the Grant Park Music Festival and other music performances and festivals.



Best US chefs and restaurants named by James Beard Foundation


James Beard Awards and Events


The James Beard Awards for Best chefs and Restaurants announced in Chicago, June 10, 2024 

Best Chefs by region

Best Chef: California: Ajime Sato, Sozai, Clawson Milord Maynard Llera, Kuya Lord, Los Angeles, CA

Best Chef: Great Lakes (IL, IN, MI, OH): Hajime Sato, Sozai, Clawson, MI

 Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic (DC, DE, MD, NJ, PA, VA): Harley Peet, Bas Rouge, Easton, MD

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI): Christina Nguyen, Hai Hai, Minneapolis, MN

Best Chef: Mountain (CO, ID, MT, UT, WY): Matt Vawter, Rootstalk, Breckenridge, CO

Best Chef: New York State: Charlie Mitchell, Clover Hill, Brooklyn, NY

Best Chef: Northeast (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT): David Standridge, The Shipwright’s Daughter, Mystic, CT

Best Chef: Northwest and Pacific (AK, HI, OR, WA): Gregory Gourdet, kann, Portland, OR

Best Chef: South (AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, PR): Valerie Chang, Maty’s, Miami, FL

Best Chef: Southeast (GA, KY, NC, SC, TN, WV): Paul Smith, 1010 Bridge, Charleston, WV

Best Chef: Southwest (AZ, NM, NV, OK): Rene Andrade, Bacanora, Phoenix, AZ

Best Chef: Texas: Ana Liz Pulido, Ana Liz Taqueria, Mission, TX

The Following awards are for Outstanding Chefs, Restaurants and contributions

Outstanding Chef: Michael Rafidi, Albi, Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Restaurant: Langbaan, Portland, OR

Best New Restaurant: Dakar NOLA, New Orleans, LA

Outstanding Restauranteur: Erika Whitaker and Kelly Whitaker, ID EST (The Wolf’s Tailor, BRUTØ, Basta, and others), Boulder, CO

Emerging Chef: Masako Morishita, Perry’s, Washington, D.C.

Outstanding Bakery: ZU Bakery, Portland, ME

Outstanding Pastry Chef or Baker: Atsuko Fujimoto, Norimoto Bakery, Portland, ME

Outstanding Hospitality: Lula Cafe, Chicago, IL

Outstanding Wine and Beverages Program: Lula Drake Wine Parlour, Columbia, SC

Outstanding Bar: Jewel of the South, New Orleans, LA


Watch theChef/restaurant awards livestream  Chef awards that were on June 10. 2024 James Beard Awards Presented by Capital One Restaurant and Chef Awards (