Around Town: Three fun activities


Tiffany dome at Chicago Cultural Center (J Jacobs photo)
Tiffany dome at Chicago Cultural Center (J Jacobs photo)

Now that November is here, normally, (and what is normal anymore?) calendars are full of fall and early winter events.  In the Chicago area that means many holiday activities and shows are usually available in person. Some of them are still taking place with timed tickets such as the Botanic Garden’s Lightscape and the Museum of Science and Industry’s Holiday Trees. More on those events next time. But other events will be presented differently this year. Here are a few suggestions.


Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (J Jacobs photo)
Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (J Jacobs photo)

Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park

Take a free tour of the Chicago Cultural Center or the art in Millennium Park.

The tours are offered virtually on demand by volunteers through the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Among stops at the 1897 Cultural Center is the Tiffany dome.

The Millennium Park tour includes work by Anish Kapoor and Kerry James Marshal. For more information and to sign up visit DCASEvolutuntours.


Art on theMART starts new projects. (Photo courtesy of theMART)
Art on theMART starts new projects. (Photo courtesy of theMART)

Drive or walk by theMART,

Art on theMart starts again Nov. 12. Among the scenes will be the Joffrey ballet’s images from “the Nutcracker,” and pictures from the Art Institujte of chicago’s M\”Monet and Chicago, “Bisa Butler’s Portraits and “
Arts of Life.

The images will on nightly at 7 and 7:30 through Dec. 30o. For more information visit


It's a wonderful Life Live (American Blues Theater photo
It’s a wonderful Life Live (American Blues Theater photo

“It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago

The American Blues Theater is bringing back its annual production. The classic show runs 80 minutes andcan be viewed virtually. However, it is live so there are specific times, dates and tickets.

“At American Blues, we miss so much of the experience of live theater, including its energy, social nature and ephemeral quality.,” said Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside

“This season, we will bring “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago” entirely live for every scheduled performance. We will also be interactive, bringing our popular audiograms to audience members during every performance.,” said. Whiteside. She added,” This year has been filled with so much uncertainty, but the one thing audiences can count on is the holiday tradition of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Based on Frank Capra’s film, it can be seen online Nov. 12 2020 through Jan. 2, 2021. For tickets and more information visit American Blues Theater.

Jodie Jacobs


Three reconfigured holiday shows


The Joffrey Ballet in The Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
The Joffrey Ballet in The Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theatre. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

Chicago’s theater community has come up with some interesting ways to present their shows for this COVID-directed 2020 holiday season.


“The Nutcracker”

The Joffrey Ballet is holding a one-time virtual look “behind the curtain” on the creation of the company’s famed “The Nutcracker” ballet. The event, held 3 p.m. Nov. 3, includes performance clips and interviews.  Tickets are $25. for tickets and more information visit Joffrey/event.


“A Christmas Carol”

The perennial Goodman Theatre favorite will be an audio play streaming  free, Dec. 1-31, 2020.

Directed by Jessica Thebus, the classic Charles Dickens holiday tale about compassion and redemption features Larry Yando in his 13th year as Ebenezer Scrooge.

“The notion of a holiday season without our production of “A Christmas Carol”—a favorite annual Chicago tradition for more than four decades—did not seem like an option in spite of the many challenges we face in producing live theater at this moment,” said Goodman Executive Director Roche Schulfer who initiated the production at the Goodman in 1978.

“At a time when this story is needed perhaps more than ever, we are pleased to offer this audio production free of charge as a gift to our city,” Schulfer said.

For more information visit Goodman Theatre.


“Christmas Carol”

Manual Cinema’s holiday show created for 2020 features live shows performed in the Chicago studio on specific dates that viewers will see via a streaming digital format on Marquee TV, Dec. 2-20, 2020.

This version follows Aunt Trudy, a holiday skeptic who is supposed to channel her late husband Joe’s Christmas cheer from the isolation of her studio apartment. She reconstructs Joe’s annual “Christmas Carol” puppet show over Zoom while the family celebrates Christmas Eve under lockdown.

As Trudy becomes more absorbed in her own version of the story, the puppets take on a life of their own. The show turns into a cinematic retelling of the classic tale. For information and tickets (15) visit manualcineman.  The event hosting and ticketing platform is

Go behind the scenes with The Joffrey Ballet



Joffrey Ballet's (Cheryl Mann photo from 2018)
Joffrey Ballet’s (Cheryl Mann photo from 2018)

Until the Chicago arts scene is back live on stage some of the companies have been streaming parts of their productions and others have been taking folks behind the scenes. The latest treasure find is The Joffrey Ballet

Go to “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance to learn via a PBS American Masters documentary how a small ensemble became the international sensation now based in Chicago.

Then, go to “Romeo and Juliet” to watch the lead couple’s beautiful, intimate dance scene.

Follow that with Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Nutcracker” dances starting with the snow scene.You get to see gorgeous dancing while listening to Tchaikovsky’s beloved music.


Related: Memorable Chicago Shakespeare Moments

Jodie Jacobs

Holiday Happenings Part One

Seeing A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre (2018 production)is a holiday tradition. (Goodman Theatre photo)
Seeing A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre (2018 production)is a holiday tradition. (Goodman Theatre photo)

Instead of going crazy trying to get to even a quarter of the all terrific festivals, shows and events in and around Chicago this holiday season, make a plan. Figure out which show and happening you and/or your family want to see most, put them on the calendar, then list the next couple of things you would like to do.

Because there are so many events, they are divided into two parts with shows (because they need tickets) and special events (because they may be one-time, date-specific)  in Part I which is a sampler and not a complete list.

Continue reading “Holiday Happenings Part One”

Around Town finds art events and Jane Eyre this week

2018 Arts in the Dark lit up State Street with costumed performers. (Arts in the Dark photo)

There is so much going on in and around Chicago that it is easy to miss something good.

Here are just a few of the fun things to do this week.

See “Jane Eyre,” The Joffrey Ballet’s production. It opens Oct. 16 at the Auditorium Theatre (at Roosevelt University) 50 E. Ida b wells drive (Former Congress parkway). For tickets and other information visit Joffrey.

Find art for you house while The Art Center holds its annual Recycled Art Sale. Works have been donated by private individuals and corporations so TAC can raise funds for its classes and exhibitions. The art work is offered at a fraction of its market cost. General Admission Benefit tickets for Oct. 18 are $85. The rest of the weekend is $5. But check TheArtCenter for more information. TAC is at 1957 Sheridan Rd., Highland Park.

Go downtown Oct. 19 to State Street for Arts in the Dark Halloween Parade. It runs from 6 to 8 p.m. starting at Lake Street on the north and continues south to Van Buren Street. It’s theme honors “Year of Chicago Theatre” so the parade features several theater companies and other groups such as The Joffrey Ballet. Visit Arts in the Dark.

Visit Intuit, the Outsider Art Museum Friday night from 6 to 9 p.m. because museum officials understand it is hard to fit in a visit during the day. The museum is at 756 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.  For all extended hours see IntuitArt.

Jodie Jacobs



A beauty of a ballet

It was impressive that the young dancers onstage for A&A Ballet’s May 4th performance of“Sleeping Beauty” were not thrown off by a cell phone ringing throughout the first half.

A stage manager solved that problem after intermission by asking audience members to turn off their phones completely, not just set them to silent. That was because the cell phones were interfering with the wireless systems in the Studebaker Theater, he said.

Whether that was true or not, it resolved the issue of the rude audience member so the rest of us were able to fully focus on the beauty onstage.

The matinee performance of the A&A Ballet featured a multi-cultural and multi-generational cast of impressive ballerinas, including some tiny tots who couldn’t have been cuter in their sheep costumes.

Continue reading “A beauty of a ballet”

‘Anna Karenina’ impresses with new choreography and sets


Alberto Velazquez and Victoria Jaiani in The Joffrey Ballet’s 'Anna Karenina..' (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
Alberto Velazquez and Victoria Jaiani in The Joffrey Ballet’s ‘Anna Karenina..’ (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

4 stars

The Joffrey Ballet has accomplished a a near impossible feat. With Yuri Possokhov’s choreography to Ilya Demutsky’s score and dramaturg Valeriy Pecheykin’s libretto, the Joffrey has turned Leo Tolstoy’s 800-page “Anna Karenina” into an extraordinary ballet only a little over two hours long that is both classic and contemporary.

A co-production with The Australian Ballet, “Anna Karenina” is an exciting new work commissioned by The Joffrey that opened Feb. 13. Unfortunately, it is only at the Auditorium Theatre through Feb. 24, 2019 before touring.

From the steamy, sensuous divan scene between the illicit lovers, Victoria Jaiani as Anna and Alberto Velazquez as Count Vronsky, and the gorgeous  Joffrey company’s dance scenes, to the fascinating,  evocation of cinema-like atmosphere by Tom Pye’s set designs, David Finn’s lighting and Finn Ross’ projections, this new work is destined to be in high demand.

Other notable performances during its opening week (I saw the Feb. 16 matinee) were Fabrice Calmels as Anna’s unhappy, aristocratic husband, Count Alexey Karenin, Anais Bueno as Princess Kitty Shcherbatsky and Yoshihisa Arai as her pursuer, Konstantin Levin.

Possokhov’s choreography, backed by Dtmustskhy’s score played by the Chicago Philharmonic, totally puts across the ardor, agony and expectations of the Russian aristocracy of Tolstoy’s “Anna.”

This is a ballet to see again and again.

DETAILS: The Joffrey Ballet production of “Anna Karenina” is at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Ida B. Wells (Congress Expressway at Michigan Avenue)  through Feb. 24, 2019. Running time: about 2 hrs. 10 min. with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Joffrey/Anna.

Jodie Jacobs

Related article: Joffrey to debut new ballet.

Joffrey to debut new ballet


Joffrey Ballet dancers Victoria Jaiani and Alberto Velazquez. (Photo by Cheryl Mann at The Richard Driehaus Museum)
Joffrey Ballet dancers Victoria Jaiani and Alberto Velazquez.
(Photo by Cheryl Mann at The Richard Driehaus Museum)


Imagine a story about Imperial Russian society, desire and betrayal as the body and bones for an exceptional novel. Leo Tolstoy did and penned “Anna Karenina” in a periodical series from 1873 to 1877, then as a book in 1878.

Tolstoy’s story of Anna’s scandalous extramarital affair with a dashing cavalry officer and the couple’s ensuing downfall has been the dramatic fodder of many media forms from opera to movies and ballets.

John Neumeier’s “Anna Karenina” using mostly Tchaikovsky’s music and moving the story to contemporary times, had its North American Premiere with the National Ballet of Canada in Nov. 10. 2018.

But fresh from the highly successful re-imaging of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” the Joffrey Ballet Company saw the potential of interpreting “Anna Karenina” in a new ballet with a new score.

To do so the company commissioned Russian composer Ilya Dtmutsky for the score and San Francisco Resident Choreographer Yuri Possokhov to interpret it in dance.

“It’s a real rarity for any ballet company to commission a full-length score. And it was a coup to secure Demutsky, one of the brightest lights in the world of music today,” said Joffrey Music Director Scott Speck.

About the choreography, Speck said, “Possokhov is very careful to be true to the score, so he is using Demutsky’s musical vision as the inspiration for his choreography. Ilya is the Tchaikovsky of this ballet.”

Accompanied by the Chicago Philharmonic led by Speck, Joffrey Ballet’s “Anna Karenina” will have its world premiere at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Ida B. Wells (Congress  Expressway at Michigan Avenue) )Feb. 13 and continue through Feb. 24, 2019.

For tickets and more information visit Joffrey/Anna.

Jodie Jacobs




‘The Nutcracker’ magic still exists

Cara Marie Gary (Marie) and The Joffrey Ballet. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
Cara Marie Gary (Marie) and The Joffrey Ballet. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

4 stars

Imagine what if. What if Marie Stahlbaum’s nutcracker Christmas gift and her dream, a tale by E.T. A. Hoffmann, and adapted by Alexandre Dumas that was first presented with Tchaikovsky’s music in 1892, changed location and style.

What if it moved from a wealthy, European estate to Chicago where dreams were possible for a young girl who lived in a shack. And, what if the story kept the late 19th century date.

What was going on in Chicago that year was preparation for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition also called the Chicago World’s Fair. It celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’1492 landing in the “new world.”  Indeed, the Chicago World’s Fair dedication was in 1892 but the fair didn’t open until 1893.

Imagine all the possibilities the fair with its multi-cultural pavilions and its noted (first) Ferris Wheel as a background might hold for a ballet.

Continue reading “‘The Nutcracker’ magic still exists”