It may merely seem that swimming and filling the pail with lake water to build a giant sandcastle will las for at least another month but most Chicago-area beach towns will be sending their lifeguards back to school or wherever and swimming without them is not allowed.
The Chicago Park District site explains that “Swimming is permitted in designated swim areas at the beaches when lifeguards are on duty from 11 am – 7 pm daily. Swimming anywhere else along the lakefront is strictly prohibited and dangerous.”
The site notes that Chicago has 26 miles of free lake front and the beach season runs from the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day. Other Lake Michigan towns are likely to have similar lifeguard rules but different price points and admission rules.
Nothing wrong with “Lolla” but if you’d rather detour this weekend away from Lollapalooza’s half-million people filled Grant Park, there are a few alternatives. They range from family friendly to something for youngsters, oldsters and “Grateful Dead” fans.
Anyone who appreciates Marvel’s art and characters should head to “Marvelocity, the Art of Alex Ross.” It fills the walls at the Elmhurst Art Musem after drawing fans further north at the Dunn Museum in Northwest suburban Libertyville. The museum is at 150 Cottage Hill Ave., Elmhurst. *(see related Marvelocity note)
Those folks who appreciate West Town’s restaurants and craft beer scene plus understand its “Dancing in the Streets name and dates of Aug. 4-6, will appreciate the an annual West Town Chamber festival. People in the know understand Aug. 4-6. Think the “Days Between” that celebrate Jerry Garcia. His b-day was Aug. 1 and he died Aug. 9.
Those music lovers who like to relax on a blanket in a tree and sculpture-filled park while listening to Mozart, Rachmaninoff or Beethoven, should head to Ravina Festival in north suburban Highland Park this weekend. Hear Mozart’s The Magic Flute with Marin Alsop and the CSO. Also featured this weekend are the music of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff with Marin Alsop, Yunchan Lim, and the CSO. Ravinia is at the southeast end of Highland Park and accessible by train.
After seeing “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story,” an extraordinary musical production that opened at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, June 28, it’s hard not to think of Don Mclean’s version of ” American Pie” (see Rolling Stones and the “Day the Music Died) .
Of course, the show ends with a darkened stage for the tragic plane crash that took the lives of Holly, two other performers and the pilot. But the lights come back on, the music returns to high intensity and the audience knows Holly’s music lives on.
With “Buddy,” Marriott Theatre introduces another generation to Holly’s rock ‘ n’ roll style and songs. In doing so, the Marriott brilliantly cast Kieran McCabe as Buddy.
Written by Alan Janes, directed and choreographed by Amber Mak with music direction by Matt Deitchman, the production deserves the long, standing ovation it received on opening.
Other versions of the show have been mostly on national and international tours, but if it returns to Broadway where it opened at the Shubert Theatre Nov. 4, 1990 (and ran for 225 performances), it should star the exceptionally talented McCabe as Buddy.
More than a “jukebox musical” featuring the songs of Holly, those of the “Crickets,” as they were known when they backed Holly, and later, after he died, other rock n’ roll songs of the 50s and 60s time period, it’s clear it takes more than just knowing how to play a guitar. A lot of “Buddy” is showmanship.
You see Holly turn audiences onto rock’n’roll as he moves from a less than successful start in Lubbock, Tx at age 19 where a recording studio manager wanted country, not rock’n’roll, through Nashville, TN and on to the NorVaJak Studios in Clovis, NM, where his and the Crickets “That’ll be the Day” recording was released, May 1957, reached number three on the Billboard Top 100 by mid-September and went on to future successes including in Harlem.
By the end of the show you see McCabe play his guitar backwards, over his head and stop at the piano to add a riff similar to what audiences see in “Million Dollar Quartet.”
Indeed, some of the musicians in Buddy” have played in that show. McCabe was Fluke, the drummer/ Crickets’ bassist Joe Maudlin was Carl Perkins.
The show, a rocking 100 minutes without intermission, magnificently proves, once again, that Buddy Holly’s musical vision, personality and ground-breaking style made him the super star that would live on past his tragic plane crash in 1959 at age 22.
DETAILS: “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire, IL, now through Aug. 13, 2023 Run-time approx 100 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information visit Buddy.
Instead of worrying about getting around downtown Chicago with the NASCAR Race July 1 and 2 in 2023, consider taking a fireworks cruise on Tall Ship Windy that Saturday before or Wednesday after July 4.
It goes from Navy Pier so you get the Pier’s Fireworks without the downtown hoopla and street closures. You can also come down a day early and stay in the Sable Hilton Hotel right on Navy Pier to enjoy fun rides, a beer garden, restaurants, art exhibits and a vacation with great views.
On the Fourth
Tune in to PBS at 8 p.m. CT July 4 for “A Capitol Fourth,” a really special annual concert from Washington D.C. that features international stars and patriotic music.
Among this year’s headliners are Renée Fleming, Boyz II Men, Belinda Carlisle, the Broadway cast of “A Beautiful Noise (Neil Diamond) the Muppets, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets and the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.
Then, stay tuned forWashington DC Fireworks shooting over the National Mall at 9 p.m. CT, co-sponsored by the National Park Service.
Broadway In Chicago is partnering with NASCAR to kick off the Chicago Street Race Weekend with a national anthem performance by MJ star Roman Banks prior to The Loop 121 NASCAR Xfinity Series event. The Loop 121 street race will be broadcast nationally on USA network at 4 p.m. CT, Saturday, July 1.
Banks has the title role of ‘Michael Jackson’ in the first national tour of MJ that begins Aug. 1 and continues through Sept. 2, 2023 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, Chicago,. 24 W. Randolph St. For MJ info visit Broadway in Chicago.
Hot Tix, Chicago’s discount ticket service for the League of Chicago Theatres whose membership consists of more than 200 Chicago area theaters, announced it will offer more competitive pricing options beginning July 3, 2023.
Half-price tickets will also remain an option, but discounts will now vary. The discount service is available online at HotTix.org and in-person at Guest Services inside Block 37 Shops on State, 108 N State Street. This location is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hot Tix sales generate revenue for the theaters and support theatre industry initiatives. For Chicago productions, visit the League of Chicago Theatres website, ChicagoPlays.com
The Who’s Tommy, reimagined for a new audience 30 years after the original production opened on Broadway, opened June 26 at the Goodman Theatre but already has extended performances twice. Now, the musical is running through Aug. 6, 2023.
The original Tony Award winning co-creators are re-telling the story of Tommy Walker for 2023 audiences—with music and lyrics by Pete Townshend and book by Townshend and Des McAnuff, who also directs. For the extension week schedule and other infor mations visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Tommy or the box office at 170 N. Dearborn (12 noon – 5pm).
Added to the fun is a free pop-up pinball arcade with one game per user. The highest score at the end of the run will win a custom Tommy Fender Stratocaster, signed by Pete Townshend of The Who! The arcade is open 90 minutes pre-show on most dates, closed during intermission, and open for 60 minutes post-show. who beat the high score should capture a selfie that includes their score and the date in the picture and email it to Pinball@GoodmanTheatre.org. More details at www.GoodmanTheatre.org/Tommy.
While it is still “Midsummer,” that sometimes mystical time of year around the Summer Solstice, go to the Grant Park Music Festival in Millenium Park to hear Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The concert, with Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra, is June 23 at 6:30 p.m. and June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The concert is free for lawn sitters and asks for donations for reserved seats.
The Grant Park Music Festival is presented by the Grant Park Orchestral Association with support from the Chicago Park District and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). For programs and other information visit Grant Park Music Festival.
Back in Millennium Park, the Joffrey Ballet is holding a free, pre-perfomance dance class at 4:45 p.m. June 25. It is followed by a free program at 5:30 p.m. that features the Joffrey Company Artists, the Joffrey Academy and the Joffrey community Engagement Students. For more information visit Joffrey Ballet.
Music Theater works brings Pippin to the North Shore Center for Performing Arts in a production that is a feast for the senses and uses the entire spectrum of theater craft.
Explaining the plot of Pippin is as useful as trying to recall the details of a dream. What exactly happened is not important but the fact that your brain was trying to help you organize your thoughts and work through your anxiety is important.
But for context I’ll tell you that Pippin (Connor Ripperger) who has recently completed his education in Italy is the eldest son of Charlemagne Thomas M. Shea.) Ripperger’s Pippin has a longing boyish quality that is spot on.
The boy is anxious to make his way in the world but the problems in his way are stepmother Fastrada (Savannah Sinclair) and stepbrother Lewis (Andrew Freeland). They want to get rid of Pippin so Lewis will become first heir to the throne.
Though Lewis is purported to be a better warrior, Pippin sets out to prove himself in battle where he learns war is a deadly and dirty business.
Pippin’s grandmother, Berte (Kathleen Puls Andrade), encourages the lad to enjoy life and have more sex. He tries but his experiences bring him little pleasure and take him no closer to a fulfilling life.
Then Pippin falls into the arms of a wealthy widow,, Catherine (Desiree Gonzalez) who has a small b oy, Theo (Di’Aire Wilson). Again the promise of a quiet and distracting domestic life is not fulfilling to the restless youth.
Ultimately, Pippin is back in Charlemagne’s palace where he becomes king after the untimely death of his father. Saddened by the injustices of the world, Pippin attempts to right some wrongs but learns that the problems are more complex than they appear.
The phantasmagoric experience is orchestrated and narrated by the Leading Player (Sonia Goldberg) who promises a finale we will never forget. Goldberg has the needed commanding stage presence that lets you know she is in charge.
The action will not have anything to do with the actual life of Charlemagne. In fact, it includes video games, tv reports and images on large screens mimicking fragments expected from a dream.
Pippinwas co-written and originally directed and choreographed by Chicago native Bob fosse in 1972 at the epicenter of his successful and frenetic career. (Possibly his drug addiction might help explain this bizarre tale of how Pippin’s quest for meaning plays out.) Fosse’s fingerprints (or say footprints) are all over this psychedelic fever dream.
Many of the characters, notably Pippin and The Leading Player, are gloved which is a nod to Fosse’s iconic “Jazz hands” and his desire to accentuate hand movements as part of dance.
This production’s co-choreographers, Mollyanne Nunn and Kaitlyn Pasquinelli, got all they demanded from their talented company who kept the non-stop action energetic and entertaining.
Director Kyle A. Dougan with assistant director Patrick Tierney did an expert job wrangling the large cast of about 20 players around a limited area of the smaller North Theater in the Skokie complex.
Shane Cinal supplied the needed multilevel set design that provided additional room for movement including clever areas for unusual entrances and exits. Andrew Meyers lighting effects were key components of several scenes.
Jazmin Aurora Medina’s colorful fantastical costumes, augmented by Alice Salazar’s hair, wig and makeup, added the right look for the chaotic action. Charlemagne’s toys sealed in plastic and his plastic crown added a subtle brilliance of detail to the array of often absurd imagery.
The music and lyrics of Stephen Schwartz who gave us the highly acclaimed Wicked is high caliber. It doesn’t have a break-out number with the possible exception of “Corner of the Sky.” When performed by the Jackson Five it became #18 on Billboard. Schwartz almost simultaneously wrote Godspell. My initial response was to characterize Pippin as The Fantastiks meets Godspell.
On the surface, Pippin seems weird and fragmented but in retrospect, the Tony Award winning musical is deeply reflective of the competitive and often, tormented mind of Fosse. In a larger context, its the reflection of us all as we strive to live more meaningful lives.
Details: Pippin, a Music Theater Works production, is at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL ,through June 25, 2023. Running time: 2 and 1/2 hours with a 15 minute intermission. for tickets and information visit Music Theater Works or call (847) 673-6300.
Note: Though the production has an overall comedic tone it contains adult themes and language as well as allusions to sexual activity, murder and suicide so may not be appropriate for everyone.
For a professional theater experience in Chicago this month you can’t do much better than West Side Story at the Lyric Opera. This Leonard Bernstein / Stephen Sondheim musical deemed cutting edge and somewhat avantgarde when first introduced, is now a classic.
The story by Arthur Laurents is a rather faithful mid-century modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Rival teenage street gangs, the Sharks and Jets, battle in New York City streets to maintain what they feel is control of this small piece of Manhattan. Caught in the crossfire of this conflict are Tony (Ryan McCatan) and Maria (Kanisha Feliciano) two tragic lovers from opposite ends of the divide.
The production is a natural for this venue. West Side Story leans more toward opera as the story is told primarily through song, with many that found a firm foothold in the Great American Songbook, such as Maria, Tonight, and One Hand One Heart. They are augmented by the accompaniment of a full live pit orchestra led by conductor James Lowe, a rare treat that would likely not be included in a smaller company.
Director Francesca Zambello has largely remained faithful to the original production directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins that includes a substantial amount of modern ballet, executed here by choreographer Joshua Bergasse and the production ensemble. The Lyric’s massive Civic Opera House stage gives the dancers ample room to move.
The set design of Peter J. Davison featuring the iconic fire escape, towers over the audience. When Maria sings Somewhere to Tony as they embrace on the balcony while the dance company interprets her message of hope below, the scale of the proscenium provides an opportunity to suggest both the intimacy of the lovers as well as the suggestion of a world beyond.
The depth of the stage allows for a glimpse of the larger city, amplifying the claustrophobic feelings of the gang members whose view of the world is so limited they can not see further than their small neighborhood and the immediate “problems” that they largely have created themselves.
The story of street violence, turf warfare and ethnic battles are all too familiar in today’s environment illustrating that these often-deadly disagreements are nothing new, and difficult if not impossible to eradicate from our communities.
The “Gee, Officer Krupke” musical number comically reminds us of the continuous effort to understand and curb youthful anti-social behavior including psychology, sociology, and criminology as well as the conditions that lead to “delinquency.” Our mothers all are junkies / Our fathers all are drunks / Golly Moses, naturally we’re punks!
In America, Anita (Amanda Castro) and Rosalia (Joy Del Valle) expose the promise versus the realities of “The American Dream,” while in The Jet Song, Riff (Bret Thiele) and The Jets express the perceived value they get from being part of a gang.
I was happy to see a number of young people and children at the matinee performance I attended but caution parents to keep in mind that not all musicals are written for a Disney audience
In the nineteen-fifties and sixties there was a decisive movement to create musical theater with mature themes. Some of these included Carousel and Oklahoma (both of which have been staged at the Lyric) depicting or suggesting domestic abuse, murder and rape. This trend has continued and expanded since then, proving that the American Musical has a place in high art because it has the ability not only to entertain but also to inform, reach us emotionally in a profound way and expand our thinking.
The original West Side Story production ensemble of Laurents, Bernstein, Sondheim, and Robbins with Robert Griffith and Harold Prince did not shy away from difficult topics and instead embraced the trend by exposing the challenges related to depicting racial conflict, disaffected youth, street gang violence, murder and death, through music and dance.
West Side Story is a tragic love story that ultimately encourages us to be more tolerant and thoughtful as to how we perceive, judge and react to each other, particularly those with whom we have perceived differences. It is suggested that there is space for everyone if we open our hearts to each other.
Details: West Side Story is at the Civic Opera House, 20 North Wacker Drive, Chicago, through June 25, 2023. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and information visit LyricOpera.org
Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon by Matthew C. Yee is a light romp with a dark twist followed by a hasty, muddled ending wrapped up in a cloud of very good music – all of which is performed by a remarkable cast of actor musicians.
This adventure revolves around Asian identity, Asian stereotypes and the experience of being Asian in America so I will simply set the stage now.
The following characters are all presented in the production as Asian or Asian-American: Charlie (Matthew C. Yee) and Lucy (Aurora Adachi-Winter), Grandma (Wai Ching Ho), Peter (Rammel Chan), Jeff (Daniel Lee Smith) and Bao (Harmony Zhang).
Characters presented as non-Asian are senior security professional agent Feinberg (Mary Williamson), Gabriel (Matt Bittner) and Martin (Doug Pawlik).
Lucy and Charlie met two weeks ago. Charlie has dubbed himself an Asian-American renegade and recently reinvented himself as a cool cowboy which attracted Lucy to him. They married and are on a poorly conceived amateurish crime adventure.
Charlie’s brother Peter, a security agent trainee, finds himself in the awkward position of investigating a convenience store robbery involving the pair.
In the meantime, at a rest stop, Lucy befriends Bao, a recent arrival from China, who is waiting to be picked-up by her sponsor, ostensibly to work for a cleaning company which Lucy quickly determines is really a front for a sex slave operation.
Peter gets his boss Feinberg, his grandma, and uncle Jeff involved to help rescue the couple, who, with Bao, have taken refuge at Grandma’s cottage in Winnebago, WI where the two hope to elude the sex-slave operators, Gabriel and Martin.
Kudos to Matthew C. Yee who wrote the book and music, plays the role of Charlie and performs a significant amount of the accompaniment as an onstage guitarist and does it all very well.
I feel Yee shot himself in the foot by not making his songs a little more universal and slightly less specific to the production.
All of the great commercially successful musicals have songs that can break out of the confines of the story and speak to a larger human condition. allowing them to stand apart and take on a life of their own.
The storyline had a spark of brilliance in the tradition of many classic screwball comedies, crime mysteries or culture clash stories. My major complaint is the use of gratuitous gun violence to resolve and ultimately squander the conflict that Yee spent the first act rather expertly crafting.
Additionally waving guns around in a post Alec Baldwin “Rust” era can be a bit disconcerting to audience members who find themselves looking down the barrel for extended periods of time. (Note to violence designers R+D Choreography, direct the action upstage as much as possible).
In act two the story takes a jarring turn, resulting in a schizophrenic tone. If you want to have fun then have fun. If you want to be serious then do that. Mixing the two has been done but it takes a deft hand. In this case it just seemed like an easy way out. This might be satisfactory in an improvisation or workshop but not as a finished production in a downtown theater especially if there is any thought of wider distribution.
Much of the overall production credit goes to director Amanda Dehner. The entire cast is outstanding, while also being exceptional musicians, breathing life into the material provided by Yee.
It was apparent they understood his vision and executed it expertly in front of a dizzying and whimsical array of floor to ceiling Western and Far East artifacts assembled by scenic director Yu Shibagaki.
Screen projections by projection designer Paul Deziel were helpful for sharing song lyrics and interjecting a bit of humor when referencing images we would were not be able to see. Sully Ratke provided a thoughtful and amusing costume selection.
Yee’s portrayal of Charlie affects a kind of deep silent type cowboy image that definitely takes a backseat to the over-the-top energy of Lucy who is driving much of the action. Peter, Grandma, and Jeff as a comical triumvirate of stereotypes handle the material well. It is obvious the playwright and the actors understand how far they can go when working with ethnic humor.
This group would make a very effective sitcom or web series. But I caution Yee to treat them and their situations with more respect.
Here is my dilemma. I work with an Asian non-profit organization in Uptown, have a number of close Asian friends and some individuals of Asian descent in my extended family. When I think about recommending Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon to them, I cringe.
The Boomers and GenX folks especially those who were not born here might find some of the content offensive or at least sophomoric and it’s a bit too rough for the teen and preteen crowd.
That leaves the middle 20- to 40-year-olds who were born here and grew up in a cross-cultural environment that at times, confused and maybe even embarrassed their elders. It’s full of a lot of insider humor. I get this and I know two thirty-something Asian guys who would love this and totally get it. Though this limited target audience is probably not adequate to create the level of success the essence of this play deserves.
Every American-ethnic group has experienced what Yee is trying to convey and it’s an important story. But it has to be told in a way that a general audience can understand and appreciate.
Sex-trafficking and other exploitation of immigrants is a very serious topic that deserves more than a cursory glance and cartoonish treatment.
So as much as I love the actors, characters and the music and appreciate the premise, I can only somewhat recommend Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon.
It’s an entertaining Asian-American rockabilly musical but playwright Yee should give “Lucy and Charlie” a second look.
Details: Lucy and Charlie’s Honeymoon is at the Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Avenue through July 16, 2023. Runtime is 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and information visit lookingglasstheatre.org
It doesn’t matter if a member of the Pride community. The City of Chicago takes pride in supporting LGBTQ+.
Everyone is invited to what has become huge, fun, food and entertainment events such as Pride Fest in the Halsted Street area, a food and entertainment festival in Grant Park, and voila, one of the country’s largest Pride Parades that swings through several of the city’s neighborhoods.
Those events are in addition to some that already took place in neighborhoods and suburbs last weekend and events still to come at Navy Pier and the Chicago area. See the details and mark the events on the calendar.
Chicago Pride Fest, a two-day annual festival in Northalsted
What to expect: Held the weekend before the Chicago Pride Parade, the Fest features music on three stages, good Chicago drag performances, the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, a Pet Parade, a high-heel race, a Youth Pride Space for teens and several merchandise and food vendors.
In addition, SHAB, a pop artist and Iranian refugee, will be among featured guests performing on the Bud Light North Stage on Saturday. She is just back from a UK tour centered on her new video Indestructible.
Details; Centered at Halsted and Addison, June 17-18, 2023, it opens at 11 a.m. Saturday and ends at 10 p.m. Sunday and attracts about 60,000 people over the two days. A $15 donation is requested to cover expenses. For more information visit Chicago Pride Fest 2023 | 06/17/2023 | Choose Chicago.
Pride in the Park
What to expect: an annual, two-day music festival that includes food, merchandise and art. It draws big name stars that this year includes Zedd, Zara Larsson and Saweetie.
Details: Grant Park, June 23 and 24, 2023. For more information visit Pride in the Park
Back Lot Bash
What to expect: Dedicated to women, it’s a highly attended block-party of food and music that this year features DJ Mary Mac and Lauren Sanderson.
Details: Held in Andersonvilee, June 24, 2023. For hours and location or more information visitBack Lot Bash Chicago.
Navy Pier Pride
What to expect: Music in three Navy Pier venues.
Details: Entertainment June 24-25 on the West Performance Platform from 11 a.m. to noon and more entertainment on the Orsted Wave Wall Performance Platform from noon to 7 p.m. Entertainers at the Navy Pier Beer Garden from 2 through 11 p.m.
What to expect: Begun as a protest march in 1970 following New York City’s Stonewall Riots, it has become one of Chicago’s largest parades with close to 200 entries and attracts more than a million people. Street closures start around 8 a.m. at Montrose, Irving Park and Wellington at Broadway and Addison and Grace and Roscoe at Halsted. Streets and fully reopen by 8 p.m.
Details: The parade is June 25. It assembles at 10 a.m. then starts at noon in the Uptown neighborhood at Montrose and Broadway. Then, it winds through neighborhoods including East Lakeview and ends in Lincoln Park near Diversey Parkway and Sheridan Road.