Four different holiday themed shows

 

Joffrey Ballet does The Nutcracker (Joffrey ballet photo)
Joffrey Ballet does The Nutcracker (Joffrey ballet photo)

Two shows, Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” and Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” top many holiday lists. Whether they are a family tradition or now on the calendar’s bucket list to do this year, they are such good productions that they deserve the annual visit.

“A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens’ ghostly tale of the redemption of a miser named Scrooge, is at the Goodman Theatre Nov. 19-Dec. 31. Famed Chicago actor Larry Yando is back for his 15th year in the starring role. For tickets and more information visit Goodman TheatreGoodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago.

“The Nutcracker,” The Joffrey Ballet’s wonderous story of Marie and the Nutcracker Prince’s adventures choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s music. Formerly at the Auditorium Theatre, it is on stage at the Civic Opera House, Dec. 3-27, 2022. The Civic Opera House, home of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, is at 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Joffrey Ballet The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker | Joffrey Ballet.

Cast of Steadfast Tin soldier at Lookingglass Theatre (Photo by Liz Loren)
Cast of Steadfast Tin soldier at Lookingglass Theatre (Photo by Liz Loren)

Two unusual shows to see this season are the “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” at Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago and Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol” at Writers Theatre, Glencoe.

Both productions use puppetry, are artistic and creative. Only Manual Cinema’s contains a parental advisory but it could apply to both shows. MC’s advisory reads “brief moments of profanity and themes of grief and losing a loved one. Children under six are not permitted. 

“The Steadfast Tin Soldier” is a Hans Christian Andersen tale told with the flare of ensemble member/director Mary Zimmerman. Adults would appreciate her creativity and the high quality of the production. However, the story and ending could be frightening to a young child as the Tin Soldier perseveres through a myriad of trials that ends with him and his ballerina love getting incinerated together.  “The Steadfast Tin soldier” is at Lookingglass theatre now through Jan. 8, 2023. Lookingglass Theatre Company

Lookingglass Theatre is at the historic Waterworks at 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Lookingglass.  

 Manual Cinema takes a different path to the telling of Dickens ghost story in “Christmas Carol” at Writers Theatre. Using puppets, cinematography, modern themes and music, the story starts when Aunt Trudy is asked to put her diseased husband’s Christmas cheer on a family Zoom call. The action changes as the puppets move into Ebeneezer and Dickens storytelling. Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol” runs Nov. 29-Dec. 24, 2022.

Writers Theatre is at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. For tickets and more information visit Writers Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

  

 

Imagine what can happen in a Cooney Farce

(Top l-r) Aimee Kleiman, Debra Rodkin, Declan Poll bottom David Whitlock and Tim Walsh) Photo by North Shore Camera Club

Recommended

Instead of going the Dickens or Christmas Story route, Citadel Theatre is doing “It Runs in the Family,” a classic British farce by comedic playwright Ray Cooney of “Run For Your Wife” and “Funny Money” fame. 

Its setting is a London hospital right before Christmas where presents for children are hidden like a body beneath a covered gurney and references to a Christmas Panto (a nutty pantomime) give it the requisite holiday note.

But anyone familiar with farces know that what really is important is a fast-paced rhythm of entrances and exits, revelations, mistaken (or not) identities and flow of ribald, fat fanny and rear-end gags.

The Citadel cast is excellent but on the Sunday I went, the first half of the first act felt slow and the audience didn’t pick up the gags until later.

Timing and pace is everything in a farce. It finally picked up speed and the characters threw their lines out with gusto during the second half of the first act which the audience appreciated with loud snickers, guffaws and applause. 

All the action takes place in the doctors’ common room where Dr.  David Mortimore is trying to prepare for his important, possibly career-making, speech to a conference of neurologists- when.

The not-so-morally-good doctor, played by Tim Walsh, had lots of reasons to be overly anxious. Walsh is believable as Mortimore if this were a regular play and not a farce. It’s actually OK to overplay anxiety.  

Former nurse Jane Tate (Aimee Kleiman who also played her role as if it were a regular play) confronts Dr. Mortimore with the reason she had to quit 18 years and 9 months ago. Their illegitimate son, Leslie, is downstairs with a policeman because he drove drunk but wants to meet his father.

Mortimore’s wife, Rosemary Mortimore, portrayed by the consummate actress Ellen Phelps, shows up, is not supposed to know about the nurse or Leslie but sympathizes with all the tall tales her husband tells to cover up everything that is going on.

Matron, a terrific foil for all the goings on is perfectly played by Debra Rodkin as she is in and out with the gurney, holds a needle to subdue Leslie who has made his way upstairs to the doctors’ room, and she is yelling outside the window that she can’t hold on any longer while stopping Leslie from falling, entering or leaving.

Dr. Hubert Bonney, a good friend of Dr. Mortimore, well-portrayed by David Whitlock is also an excellent foil for the shenanigans and agrees to temporarily pretend he is Leslie’s father.

Leslie, the misbegotten reason for the action, is done by Declan Poll as a punk-rocker-style teenager who elicits sympathy because he just wants to meet his Dad.

Pompous Sir Willoughby Drake who wants to go over Dr. Mortimore’s speech, is well-handled by Ed Kufferft and elicits a fine chuckle when he sees Leslie bending in front of Mortimore.

Dr. Mike Connolly whom we meet early on when he tries on a tutu and other costume items for the Panto is delightfully portrayed by Philip J. Macaluso.

Police Sergeant. Don’t most farces need a policeman? Chris Bruzzini takes on that role but he could be played as more befuddled or with more personality than shown.

Scenic designer Eric Luchen makes full use of the small Citadel stage with two hospital-like doors, two regular doors and a window that is just right for some hilarious scenes.

Costume designer Elizabeth Monti had us believing we were in a hospital and Leslie was a nutty punk rocker.

Directed by Pat Murphy, the show is a nice change from the tear inducing Christmas dramas trying to make a statement this time of year.

DETAILS: “It Runs in the Family” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 South Waukegan Rd, Lake Forest, IL., through Dec. 18, 2022. For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre. Citadel Theatre or call (847) 735-8554.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

A delightful Christmas Story works well on Marriott stage

 

Leg lamp award dance sequence featguring Lorenzo R ush Jr at the Old Man (Photo courtesy of Mariott theatre)
Leg lamp award dance sequence featuring Lorenzo Rush Jr at the Old Man (Photo courtesy of Mariott theatre)

3 Stars Recommended

In a city filled with theater companies producing traditional holiday fare, Marriott Theatre has chosen a show usually seen as a film replayed on TV but seldom performed live.

First, what it’s not. “A Christmas Story Is not a moralistic Dickens’ style redemption piece that appeals to the whole family or a Jane Austen type upstairs, downstairs manners piece with sophisticated appeal.

Marriott Theatre’s “A Christmas Story: the Musical,” is a comedy that captures some of the frustrations and coping mechanisms of the middle-class, Midwestern Parker family, and particularly, those of its nine-year-old boy named Ralphie. Middle school aged kids and their parents would appreciate Ralphie’s and the Old Man’s challenges.

Based on a 1983 movie by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark and Shepherd’s collection of vignettes published in 1966 as “In God we trust: All others pay cash,” the musical version has a book by Joseph Robinette with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

The songs, such as “The Genius on Cleveland Street” and “When You’re a Wimp,” are insightful instead of memorable and hummable. 

Playing during the holiday season through Jan. 1, 2023, the show introduces another generation to Shepherd’s famed, sexy “Leg Lamp” that sits in the Parker family’s front window in Homan, IN.

Actually, filmed in Cleveland, OH in an old yellow house that has since been turned into a museum, the “Lamp” is still there and can be seen despite having supposedly been broken and buried during the play.

Won by “the Old Man,” the Parker family dad who means well, works hard, battles neighbors’ dogs and is not as smart as his wife, he is excited to receive the lamp as a “Major Award” for a contest he entered and won. To the Old Man, the lamp award redeems his self-worth.

The Parker family, in A Christmas story the Musical at Marriott Theatre (Photo courtesy of Marriott)
The Parker family, in A Christmas story the Musical at Marriott Theatre (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

More importantly, Marriott has introduced another generation to nine-year-old Ralphie who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Made by the Daisy company, it is named for a heroic comic strip cowboy.

Ralphie fantasizes how he can stop the terrorizing by bullies Scut Farkus and Grover Dill of him, friends, Flick (of tongue stuck on icy pole fame) and Schwartz and classmates if he had a bb gun that looks like a Winchester rifle.

Set about the early 1940s, warnings by his mom, teacher and the Santa at Higbee’s Department Store that you’ll “shoot your eye out,” would have been a sufficient talking point.

However, given today’s anti-gun legislation and school shootings attributed to bullying, families seeing the show may either object to a bb gun that looks like a rifle or want to take the discussion several steps further. 

Directed perfectly by Scott Weinstein as both entertaining and perceptive of family and school dynamics, “A Christmas Story: the Musical” has several funny incidents, excellent character portrayals, terrific dance sequences and wonderful vocals.

Kavon Newman who has appeared on TV and New York’s Radio City stage, is amazing as Ralphie

 Local theater veteran Sara Reinecke is the can-do mother the Parker family needs and has a terrific voice. Her role is well matched with that of the Old Man, delightfully portrayed by another local veteran, Lorenzo Ruch, Jr.

Levi Merlo who has a string of TV credits, is adorable as Ralphie’s young brother, Randy. He will likely be remembered by audiences as the kid who couldn’t move his arms or get up because of his ballooning-style snowsuit.

The fun, over-the-top character of teacher Miss Shields was deftly handled by local veteran Jenna Coker-Jones.

Narrator Kevin McKillip as Jean Shepherd (Marriott photo)
Narrator Kevin McKillip as Jean Shepherd (Marriott photo)

A “Christmas Story” is narrated by Kevin McKillip who as Jean Shepherd, reminisces as he somewhat relates to each scene and experience as a much older, adult Ralphie.

After seeing a very strong Marriott production of “Sound of Music” with a terrific cast of child actors, I was not surprised by the high quality of the “Kids” ensemble that appeared in several sequences.

Which brings us to Tiffany Krause’s choreography. Marriott typically has superb dance numbers. But they are usually performed by the main characters backed by a dance ensemble. In “a Christmas Story,” it’s the talented Kids and Ralphie who primarily take center stage.

That is except for Rush, Jr’s exuberant dance celebration of “A Major Award” and talented song and dance actor Jackson Evans delights audiences in the second act as the Higbee’s department stores’ disgruntled  Santa Clause in “Up on Santa’s Lap.”

A shout out has to go to costume designer Izumi Inaba for setting the period and mood.

Details: “A Christmas Story: the Musical,” is at Marriott Theatre at 10 Marriott Dr. Lincolnshire, off Milwaukee Avenue just south of Rt. 22, through Jan. 1, 2023. For tickets and more information visit www.marriotttheatre.com or call (847)- 634-0200.

Note: A Christmas Story Christmas begins streaming Nov. 17 on HBO Max with Peter Billingsley reprising his Ralphie, who is now an adult, a struggling writer and the head of the Parker household.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Xanadu is a relaxing trip to nowhere.

 

Xanadu an audio play by Theater in the Dark
Xanadu an audio play by Theater in the
Dark

Somewhat Recommended

2 Stars

Skillfully presented, this streaming audio play “A murder in the court of Xanadu” presented by A Theater in the Dark is a jumble of characters and events that in the end I simply did not care about.

I truthfully cannot give you a synopsis of this play. I enjoyed listening to it but ultimately do not understand anyone’s motivation for doing whatever they did and am not sure why it was interesting or important.

It was kind of like listening to a Chinese opera. I do not speak Chinese but I might walk away understanding that someone was rich, someone was a conniving trusted advisor, someone got killed, and in the end, someone got something of value that maybe was surprising and undeserved. But I could not catch the details. In the meantime, it was oddly enjoyable to listen to because the vocal tones and rhythm of the presentation with its evocative incidental music was pleasing.

The place of Xanadu is known to most of us a symbol of utopian excess perhaps best remembered from the Samuel Coleridge poem of the same name. In fact, as a result of a recent Jeopardy question on the popular TV game show, I was able to immediately recall the opening words “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,” though I have no recollection of ever reading the entire poem.

We might also be familiar with “Xanadu” as the name of the mansion in the well know movie “Citizen Kane.” In this case I can tell you that Kane was a Khan-like business ruler with a strong desire for beauty and excessive wealth. I know this because I learned as much through the storyline. The story of Citizen Kane challenges us to try to understand the motivation behind the main character’s actions.

In “A murder in the court of Xanadu” we are basically told, though a narrator, who the characters are rather than have them reveal themselves to us. There is no discernible mystery to unravel and no reason to be interested in the fates of a number of greedy self-centered individuals who do not seem to have derived their wealth or status through any particular talent or ability of their own.

The standout performance for me was Erin Lin as Marla who acts as a kind of narrator. Her voice was clear, expressive and well modulated with a kind of musical quality. I would be happy to listen to her read or recite virtually anything.

The theater’s website suggests that the character of Marla is inspired by Marco Polo who incidentally provided the earliest description of the Khan’s pleasure retreat. However, this relationship is totally lost to the uninformed listener, and one or two periodic allusions to Venice in my mind only added to the confusion. I feel strongly that a theatergoer should not have to bring any previous knowledge to the experience in order to understand the action.

Nessa Amherst as Marigold provided nearly all of the much needed auditory contrast, providing a kind of comic quality and strong characterization.

I felt that all of the male actors including Robinson J. Cyprian (Kane), Van Ferro (An Actor Who Plays Many Parts), and Gabriel Fries (Ahmad) understood what they were saying (even if I did not), delivering their lines with conviction. I would have enjoyed more vocal variety between the three of them and a little more resonance from Cyprian who I remember gave us more vocal depth in his performance of Ahab in the company’s performance of “Moby Dick.”

If there is any fault to be assigned it belongs to the author Cory Bradberry who has demonstrated through his previous works a real ability and commitment to this genre. That said, this is not a disaster but rather a miss. Perhaps with a bit more work and revision he can overcome whatever it is that is lacking.

Bradberry does partially cover his tracks through his exceptional direction. The performance does have an overall lyrical quality and pleasing tone that is enhanced through just enough foley work to provide some needed ambiance with a very enjoyable use of an original musical score by Paul Sottnik.

DETAILS: “A murder in the court of Xanadu” presented by A Theater in the Dark is available for streaming beginning November 3, 2022 at www.atheaterinthedark.com Runtime is about 90 minutes.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

A fond First Folio farewell season

 

 

First Folio Cofounder David Rice (Photo courtesy of David Rice)
First Folio Cofounder David Rice (Photo courtesy of David Rice)

Actor, playwright and director David Rice, cofounder of First Folio Theatre in Oakbrook, is reminiscing about how different audience members react to some of its productions’ twists and about the loyalty of supporters. 

After William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night closes April 9, 2023, Rice will take his last bow at the theater he and his late wife and First Folio co-founder actor Alison C. Vesely started in 1996.

 

He is ending as they started – with Shakespeare. Their first production was “The Tempest” in 1997. 

First Folio regulars know that it began by just doing Shakespeare on a large stage on the grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook, a Du Page County Forest Preserve property. 

“We started the theater because we were both interested in doing Shakespeare outdoors,” said Rice, noting that they were both theater professionals.

When the Forest Preserve renovated the estate, First Folio added shows inside. Mostly, they were in the estate’s Hall. But sometimes, such as when doing “The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe,” they moved from room to room for different Poe stories.

First Folio cofounders David Rice and his late wife Alison C. Vesely. (Photo courtesy of First Folio)
First Folio cofounders David Rice and his late wife Alison C. Vesely. (Photo courtesy of First Folio)

He didn’t say whether the company’s final Shakespearean production would be inventive but Rice recalled two different reactions to the company’s take on a Shakespearean comedy. 

“You can’t please all members of an audience at any given show,” he said.

We were doing “Taming of the Shrew.” We set it in the
American Wild West and wrote some fun songs for it that referenced tv shows,” Rice said.

“One night, after the curtain came down, a member of the audience came over and said that was the best Shakespeare comedy he’s seen. He left, and a minute later another member of the audience came and said, please do not do this to Shakespeare again if you want me to come back.”

Fortunately, First Folios’ audiences kept coming back and supported the theater for more than two decades.

This not-for-profit Equity theater has mounted more than 80 productions including 25 shakespeare works outdoors and 14 premiers of which six were commissioned by First Folio.

Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)
Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)

“I have learned how much the arts matter to people because it has become part of their lives,” said Rice.

Thinking back on how First Folio followers reacted when his wife lost her battle with cancer in 2016, he said, “I was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up at her wake.”

 Now he’s hearing from people who heard that 2022-23 is the theatre’s last season. “I’m hearing how much First Folio has meant to them.  People truly become attached.”

“First Folio wouldn’t exist all this time without the support of our community. We would not have survived the pandemic without that support and we still need it this year. Tickets are only 50 percent of expenses.”

The final season is a typical First Folio mix of classics, interesting works and Shakespeare. It opens in November with Margaret Raether’s “Jeeves Intervenes,” followed by Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” then Ann Noble’s “And Neither Have I Wings to Fly” and ends in April with “Twelfth Night.”

“I wanted it to end while it was still good and I was still having fun,” said Rice. “I’d like to keep on acting and I have three projects going,” said the actor/director/playwright.

Jodie Jacobs

Something is amiss in Camelot

 

Christine Mayland Perkins (Guenevere)) and cast in Music Theater Works' "Camelot" (Photo courtesy of Music Theater Works)
Christine Mayland Perkins (Guenevere)) and cast in Music Theater Works’ “Camelot” (Photo courtesy of Music Theater Works)

Recommended

 

The good part of “Camelot” now playing at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, is the beautiful voice of Christine Mayland Perkins as Guenevere and such wonderful Lerner and Loewe songs as “Camelot,” “How to Handle a Woman,” “If Ever I Would Leave You” “What Do the Simple Folk Do? and “I loved You Once in Silence.”

The problem this writer has with the show is that even though it is put on by Music Theater Works it has nothing like the scope and theatrical impact that the company’s productions had at Kahn Auditorium in Evanston which included a memorable “Mame” and “Pirates.” 

The current slim-down, post pandemic offering is held in the Performing Arts’ smallish North Theatre which works well for Northlight’s plays, but is likely to disappoint Music Theater Works longtime subscribers.

Ann Davis’ set worked well for the stage and small cast of nine but the production felt more like good community theater than the excellent full-scale musicals and operettas that gave Music Theater Works its reputation.

However, current audiences might look beyond scale and appreciated director Brianna Borger’s focus on ideals clashing with desires.

DETAILS: “Camelot” presented by Music Theater Works, runs now through Nov. 13, 2022 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL. Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets visit Musicaltgheaterworks/camelot or call (847) 673-6300.

Jodie Jacobs  

For more shows visit www.theatreinchicago.com

 

  

 

 

 

Theater Comings and Goings

 

Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)
Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)

Tis the season for a couple of major changes in suburban theaters.

Most everyone in Chicago’s theater community knows that Goodman Artistic Director Robert Falls had announced leaving in 2022 and that Anton Chekhov’s a “A Cherry Orchard” in Goodman’s 2022-23 season would be his last production. 

But word is out now that Writers Theatre in north suburban Glencoe has found its new artistic director and that the founding executive director of First Folio Theatre in west suburban Oakbrook is retiring.

First, take advantage of seeing a fine Equity production in an atmospheric estate before this not-for-profit theatre in the western suburbs closes in 2023.

With the retirement of Executive Director David Rice after 25 years, First Folio Theatre will be saying goodbye to the remarkable Mayslake Peabody Estate it calls home in Oakbrook.

It’s worth going to the show just to see the estate, but the acting is excellent and the 2022-23 season has four shows representative of the kind of theater experience that gives First Folio a top-notch reputation.

Its final season features Margaret Raether’s “Jeeves Intervenes,” Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” Ann Noble’s “And Neither do I Have Wings to Fly” and William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”

For tickets and more information visit www.firstfolio.org.

 

Writers Theatre in Glencoe. (Photo by J Jacobs)
Writers Theatre in Glencoe. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Now, expect even more new shows and projects than Writers Theatre has accomplished in the past. Seattle Repertory Theatre, the largest not-for profit theater in the Pacific Northwest and known for premiers, is losing Artistic Director Braden Abraham to WT in 2023.

He will be coming to town shortly after the late December 2022 closing of the premier of “Mr. Dickens and His Carol” by Samantha Silva that Abraham developed and is directing.  

Interim Artistic director Bobby Kennedy has been helming productions since WT co-founder Michael Halberstam resigned in July 2021.

Founded in 1992, WT has done more than 120 productions ranging from re- interpretations of classics to holding more than two dozen world premieres.

It also built a highly acclaimed theater complex designed by Jeanne Gang and her Studio Gang Architects.  

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Jeff Equity awards announced

Drury Lane, Oakbrook, hosted the Jeff Equity Awards ceremony and announcement for 2022. (Drury Lane photo)
Drury Lane, Oakbrook, hosted the Jeff Equity Awards ceremony and announcement for 2022. (Drury Lane photo)

The 54th Jeff Equity awards ceremony, hosted by Chicagoan E. Faye Butler and directed by Jim Corti with music direction by David Fiorello, announced 46 winners in artistic and technical categories at Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook, Oct. 17, 2022.

The evening was a celebration of in person theater after going dark following the 2019 COVID outbreak. This year, the ceremony featured several nominated productions.

Paramount Theatre walked off with six awards in various categories for its production of “Kinky Boots” and Goodman Theatre earned five awards for “Good Night, Oscar” plus an award for “Gem of the Ocean.”

Red Orchid Theatre took home five awards for “the Moors” and Porchlight Music Theatre received four awards for “Blues in the Night.”

“Short Run Productions” was added this year as a new category to acknowledge the value of shorter productions and also recognize theaters returning to in-person shows following COVID pandemic closures.

For more award listings go to Jeff Equity Awards.  

For acceptance speeches and special moments check the Jeff Awards YouTube channel.

Jodie Jacobs

A ‘Hart’ felt story of hidden love

 

From L: Sean M. G. Caron, Mandi Corrao, and Sean Michael Barrett (Photo MadKap Productions)
From L: Sean M. G. Caron, Mandi Corrao, and Sean Michael Barrett (Photo MadKap Productions)

Recommended

The duo of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were the genius songwriters behind several hit Broadway musicals with many of their numbers going on to become standards in the Great American Songbook.

This Madkap Production of “Falling for Make Believe” at the Skokie Theatre purports to be “The Real Story Behind the Music of Rodgers and Hart,” but might more accurately be called the real story behind the suffering of Lorenz Hart.

In recent years Hart has been widely known to be an alcoholic though this reality was skillfully avoided during his lifetime and at the time of his death, as alluded to in this version of events. His homosexuality was also a tabu topic in the mid-century “don’t ask don’t tell” era, but is front and center in this updated retelling of his life by Mark Saltzman.

It is notable to mention that Saltzman began his career writing for Muppets creator Jim Henson and in an interview caused a stir when he suggested that he had created the popular characters of Bert and Ernie as a gay couple. He has also written a number of successful movies, and he demonstrates in this well written production that he knows how to tell a story and handle dialog.

The story pivots around the character of a gay farm boy from Pennsylvania, Fletcher Mecklen (Nate Hall) and his on-again-off-again relationship with Lorenz Hart (Sean Michael Barrett), known as Larry to his friends.

: Sean Michael Barrett, Nate Hall, Mandi Corrao, and Donaldson Cardenas (Photo MadKap Productions)
: Sean Michael Barrett, Nate Hall, Mandi Corrao, and Donaldson Cardenas (Photo MadKap Productions)

I could not find any reference online to an actual Fletcher Mecklen and therefore assume he is a vehicle for representing the more private, and indeed, hidden side of Hart’s life.

The story suggests that this secret pressure and his inability to openly receive love is perhaps the seminal reason behind Hart’s psychological turmoil.

It is likely a potential factor in his alcoholism, as well as possible drug addiction which is suggested here through the character of Doc Bender (Donaldson Cardenas), a sometimes talent agent and former dentist who tells us that he keeps his license up to date in order to keep his prescription pad valid.

Sean Caron portrays the long-suffering business partner Richard Rodgers who works tirelessly to keep Larry on the straight and narrow in order to keep him working but also to protect his reputation and later his legacy.

Mandi Corrao as Vivienne Segal is basically their on-call chanteuse. Cheryl Szucsits rounds out the cast playing three minor roles but is given the honor of singing “Falling in Love with Love” which features the title lyric “Falling for make believe.”

The production features a number of notable Rodgers and Hart tunes such as” Bewitched” (a/k/a Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered), “The Lady is a Tramp, ” “I Could Write a Book” and “Where or When.”

DETAILS: “Falling for Make Believe” is at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave in Downtown Skokie through Oct 16, 2022. Running time is about 90 minutes including a short intermission. Tickets can be purchased online at SkokieTheatre.org or by calling (847) 677-7761.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Around Town early to mid-October

 

 

American Craft Expo features high quality items ranging from wood and ceramics to leather and glass.J Jacobs 2014 photo)
American Craft Expo features high quality items ranging from wood and ceramics to leather and glass. (J Jacobs 2014 photo)

t is easy to miss events when September ends on a Friday and October starts on a weekend. Plus, a COVID break of events for two years changed when some events are re-appearing.

American Craft Expo

Sept. 30 through Oct. 2

Usually held earlier in the year, ACE, as the art exposition is known, will be at the Chicago Botanic Garden again but runs this weekend on the cusp of September/October. A top-notch show of works from100 juried-in artisans, ACE is sponsored by the Auxiliary of NorthShore University HealthSystem and is a fundraiser for NorthShore research and care.

Hours: Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe. For more information visit Chicago Botanic Garden and American Craft Expo. Chicago Botanic Garden, CBG/ACE and American Craft Expo.

 

World Music Festival Chicago (Photo courtesy of Dept. of Cultural Affairs and special Events)
The all-night Ragamala concert of Indian classical music in Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center, September 2018.

 World Music Festival Chicago

Sept 30 through Oct. 9

The festival has free band concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and locations across the city from restaurants and bars to the University of Chicago. Its artists and ensembles represent 22 countries and areas. A special feature is Ragamala, the largest all-night long presentation of live Indian classical music in the United States. For more information visit World Music Festival Chicago. For the bands and locations visit Schedule.

Lyric curtain before lecture on Fiddler. (J Jacobs photo)
Lyric curtain before lecture on Fiddler. (J Jacobs photo)

Fiddler on the Roof

Oct. 2 through Oct. 7

Opera director Berrie Kosky premiered his “Fiddler on the Roof” at Komische Oper Berlin in 2017. Now it has been adapted by the Lyric Opera of Chicago for its US premiere, but it leaves soon.

Both Grand, with the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus and powerful with fine acting and exceptional dances, “Fiddler” visits the village of Anatevka in 1905 in what became Ukraine (and in 2022 is a war zone.) Lectures on operas and shows are one hour before curtain time.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago is at 20 N. Wacker Dr. For tickets and more information visi. Lyric Opera and call (312) 332-2244.