Glorious vocals shine against spare set in ‘Madama Butterfly’

 

Ana María Martínez in Madama Butterfly at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Ana María Martínez in Madama Butterfly at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

4 stars

Brian Jagde’s powerful tenor and Ana Maria Martinez’s delicate and expressively lyrical soprano were worth the slosh through the snow for Lyric Opera’s opening of “Madama Butterfly,” Thursday.

No matter how audiences feel about Giacomo Puccini’s anti-hero, US Navy Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton, and his callous disregard of a 15-year-old Geisha’s heart, or the disastrous results, it is the composer’s arias, duets and a subtle chorus that make “Madama Butterfly” an opera-house staple and featured in concerts.

However, what original director Michael Grandage’s bare-bones production (revived by director Louisa Muller with set and costume designed by Christoper Oram), does, is to deliberately allow the leads to shine without the distraction of elaborate set changes and people movement.

Continue reading “Glorious vocals shine against spare set in ‘Madama Butterfly’”

Nothing cheesy about ‘The Mousetrap’ at Court Theatre

David Cerda, Allen Gilmore and Kate Fry in Mousetrap at Court Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)
David Cerda, Allen Gilmore and Kate Fry in Mousetrap at Court Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

4 stars

Many people familiar with Airbnb these days can probably appreciate issues related to inviting visitors into your home or at least dealing with travelling public.

In this popular Agatha Christie mystery, five distinctly eccentric individuals have each booked their stay on the inaugural weekend opening of Monkswell Manor, a country guesthouse owned and operated by Mollie and Giles Ralston (Kate Fry, Allen Gilmore).

Continue reading “Nothing cheesy about ‘The Mousetrap’ at Court Theatre”

Dancing near the river

 

Riverdance cast at Cadillac P:alace Theatre in Chicago (Jack Hartin Photo)
Riverdance cast at Cadillac P:alace Theatre in Chicago
(Jack Hartin Photo)

4 stars

“Riverdance” has played for a quarter of a century. Now appearing in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, the company is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Composed by Bill Whelan, produced by Moya Doherty and directed by John McColgan, Riverdance’s folk-driven exciting sounds and steps have been loved by people of all ages.

In 1995, the show’s premiere was in Dublin with Irish and international music and dance. Then it went to London followed by a hugely successful tour begn in New York in 1996.

During the next two decades, “Riverdance” toured North America, Asia, Europe, Oceania, South Africa, and South America. It has been a favorite Grammy Award-winning show all over the world!

Trading taps at the Riverdance show in Chicago. (Jack Hartin Photo)
Trading taps at the Riverdance show in Chicago. (Jack Hartin Photo)

The Riverdance Irish troupe was 24 dancers, with the six principals being Will Bryant, Maggie Darlington, Anna Mai Fitzpatrick, Patrick O’Mahony, Jason O’Neill, and Gianna Petracic.

The Riverdance tappers were Lamont Brown and Tyler Knowlin. And there were also additional dancers in the Russian folk dance troupe.

Not only was the audience thrilled with the dancing, but the singers, drums, saxophone, fiddles and whistles made the music fabulous. And the background showed many places, beginning with the river and continuing through many areas with spectacular lighting and beautiful costume designs.

DETAILS: “Riverdance” is at Broadway In Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre at 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago through Feb. 9 2020/. Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and other information, call Broadway In Chicago at (800) 775-2000, or go visit Broadway in Chicago.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Ravinia Festival creates a chief conductor and curator position helmed by Marin Alsop

Marin Alsop conducted the CSO’s Bernstein and Mahler program in the Pavilion at Ravinia Festival August 19. (Patrick Gipson/Ravinia photo)
Marin Alsop conducted the CSO’s Bernstein and Mahler program in the Pavilion at Ravinia Festival August 19. (Patrick Gipson/Ravinia photo)

Ravinia goers may recall that Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonyh No. 1 and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 were brilliantly played by the CSO and conducted by Marin Alsop in 2018. They may also remember that the conductor of the highly lauded Bernstein “Mass” performed July 2017 was also conducted by Alsop. The final protégé of Leonard Bernstein, Alsop was appointed in 2018 to curate Ravinia’s multi-season celebration of Bernstein.

This week, Ravinia announced that its Board of Trustees has named the highly regarded Alsop to the new position of Chief Conductor and Curator of Ravina Fesival beginning with the 2020 season.

Continue reading “Ravinia Festival creates a chief conductor and curator position helmed by Marin Alsop”

Three ways to spend Valentine’s Day

 

Orchids fill the greenhouses and overflow the corridors at the Chicago Botanic Garden. (J Jacobs photo)
Orchids fill the greenhouses and overflow the corridors at the Chicago Botanic Garden. (J Jacobs photo)

After Hours CBG Orchid Show

Instead of worrying about getting to a grocery store to find roses, consider an immersion in orchids. The Chicago Botanic Garden Orchid  Show stays open late on Thursdays for its After Hours event when drinks and food are available. However, to celebrate Valentine’s Day, After Hours will also happen on Feb. 14, 2000. For cost and hours visit Chicago Botanic/Orchid.

In addition, a heart-shaped cake  and glass of Champagne will be available at the Garden View Café and during Orchids After Hours. The Chicago botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Road Glencoe. For more information call (847) 835-6801 or Main: (847) 835-5440 or visit Chicago Botanic Garden.

 

Ocean Prime's special Valentine's Day dish. (Photo courtesy of Ocean Prime)
Ocean Prime’s special Valentine’s Day dish. (Photo courtesy of Ocean Prime)

Ocean Prime brings back popular seafood dish

Try a special dish in an upscale downtown Chicago restaurant with a view of the Chicago River. Created last year, Cameron Mitchell’s Ocean Prime will have its roasted sea bass over Alaskan King Crab gnocchi with Champagne cream on its valentine’s Day menu. Accompanied by a baby carrot salad, the dish will be $62 at the Chicago location.

For reservations and more information call (312) 428-4344 or visit Ocean Prime Chicago. The restaurant is next to the London House Hotel, 87 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago.

 

Families decorate cookies and cupcakes at Max and Benny's. (Photo courtesy of Max and Benny's)
Families decorate cookies and cupcakes at Max and Benny’s. (Photo courtesy of Max and Benny’s)

Kids and grandparents decorate cookies at Max and Benny’s

To give parents a night out or include them, Max and Benny’s, a Northshore deli, is holding a special cupcake/cookie decorating event on Feb. 14, 2020. Families will do dinner at the deli, then go into the event room to decorate a cupcake or cookie to eat there or take home. Registration is suggested but not required. For more information visit Max and Benny’s events.

Max and benny’s is in the strip mall at 461 Waukegan Rd., Northbrook.

Jodie Jacobs

 

‘Sophisticated Ladies’ sparkles like New Year’s Eve for the Duke

 

(L to R) Chuckie Benson, Terri K. Woodall, Joey Stone, Madison Piner and Tristan Bruns in Rockin’ in Rhythm in Sophisticated Ladies at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo courtesy of PMT)
(L to R) Chuckie Benson, Terri K. Woodall, Joey Stone, Madison Piner and Tristan Bruns in Rockin’ in Rhythm in Sophisticated Ladies at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo courtesy of PMT)

 4 stars

A “Salute to the Duke” with concept by Donald McKayle, direction and choreography by Brenda Didier and Florence Walker Harris, “Sophisticated Ladies” celebrates  Porchlight’s 25th Anniversary Mainstage season by taking the big jazz band era of the Duke to new heights.

Featuring music by jazz composer, pianist and band leader Duke Ellington who composed thousands of songs during his 50-year career, the Duke is recognized as one of the most important composers in American musical history.

The show, a Porchlight Theatre production, takes the audience through Duke’s legendary career  with a treasure trove of hits, that include “Mood Indigo,” “Take the “A” Train,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Satin Doll.”

Continue reading “‘Sophisticated Ladies’ sparkles like New Year’s Eve for the Duke”

Ronnie Marmo brings Lenny Bruce to life

 

I'm not a comedian, I'm Lenny Bruce is at the Royal George Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Ronnie Marmo and Royal George Theatre)
I’m not a comedian, I’m Lenny Bruce is at the Royal George Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Ronnie Marmo and Royal George Theatre)

4 stars 

Prepare to be dazzled by Ronnie Marmo who plays the tragic Lenny Bruce in  “I’m Not a Comedian… I’m Lenny Bruce,” now extended at the Royal George Theater.

Written by and starring Marmo, the playwright/actor plays Bruce and other characters as he takes audiences through the highs and lows of Bruce’s life, including his relationships with his mother, wife Honey Harlow and daughter Kitty.

Thanks to the success of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, interest has been reinvigorated in Lenny Bruce who plays Midge Maisel’s mentor and friend. Time will tell how the award-winning series treats Bruce’s drug overdose. Continue reading “Ronnie Marmo brings Lenny Bruce to life”

Sandy Duncan returns to Chicago in new play

Sandy Duncan (Photo courtesy of Sandy Duncan)
Sandy Duncan (Photo courtesy of Sandy Duncan)

 

Imagine a TV, stage and screen veteran not shy about her age, what roles she could do or  what else she would do if not acting.

Chicago Theater and Arts recently spoke with Texas born, NYC/Conneticut-based Sandra Kay Duncan on her upcoming role in “Middletown,” a new Dan Clancy Play.

A GFour Productions show, the play will be at the Apollo Theatre Feb. 27 through March 22, 2020.

Continue reading “Sandy Duncan returns to Chicago in new play”

Groundhog Day relived

 

Woodstock Square where Phil the weatherman and Rita the reporter had their snowball fight in the movie ‘groundhog Day’ (J Jacobs photo)

Maybe groundhogs Woodstock Willie in Illinois and Punxsutawne Phil in Pennsylvania will not see their shadows on Feb. 2, 2020, this year’s Groundhog Day. So maybe spring will come early.

However you feel about a creature’s ability to predict the end of winter, the place to be if you are an early riser and live in Illinois is the village of Woodstock where Harold Ramis had filmed “Groundhog Day,” the popular 1993 movie that he and Danny Rubin wrote.

The celebratory highlight is a very early morning wake-up call for Woodstock Willie. The prognostication takes place Sunday in the town’s historic Woodstock’Square at 7 a.m.

But even if not willing to witness the weather prediction first hand, the town’s Groundhog Day festival is worth the drive. Woodstock has been celebrating the movie and it’s filmed locations for more than 25 years with a free movie showing, marked locations and tours.

To learn more about the event visit Woodstockgroundhog.

To learn about Punxsutawne Phil and the location where Bill Murray was supposed to go as TV weatherman Phil Connors, and how repeating each day until he could get Rita, the accompanying reporter to like him (Andie MacDowell) visit Groundhog.

Jodie Jacobs

A passion to make music

 

 Verboten by The House Theatre on stage at the Chopin Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Verboten by The House Theatre on stage at the Chopin Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

Verboten

4 stars

Back in 1982, a group of talented Evanston tweens who shared a close friendship and a mutual love for creating music, formed their own punk rock band.

For the most part, the four youngsters just enjoyed writing songs and playing them in their basement for each other.  But then things changed. Suddenly, they were performing at a bar.

Continue reading “A passion to make music”