Citadel Theatre turns to upbeat shows for current season


Citadel Theatre Artistic Director Scott Phelps, (Photo courtesy of Citadel Theatre)
Citadel Theatre Artistic Director Scott Phelps, (Photo courtesy of Citadel Theatre)

Citadel Theatre, a professional, equity organization led by artistic director Scott Phelps and manager/wife Ellen, both longtime actors and directors, is presenting a four-show season designed to overcome pandemic blues.

Phelps talked about the 2021-22 season during a recent phone interview.

Up first and on stage now through Oct. 17, 2021 is Neil Simon’s funny, warm-hearted and insightful “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” (For a review visit Chicago Theater and Arts/Brighton Beach).

“We were in rehearsal for it when we had to close March of 2020 because of the pandemic,” said Phelps. “We’ve had a good response to the show. People are glad to be back seeing live theater.”.

He added, “And we’re glad to be doing live theater. There’s not a lot for audiences here in Lake County. It’s us and Marriott.”(Watch shortly for article on Marriott season).

“The holiday show will be the musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Phelps said.

With book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, based on Charles M. Schultz’s comics.  additional dialogue by Michael Mayer and additional music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, it is more than a children’s show, The musical has the Peanuts gang confronting and overcoming issues with help from friends.

“It’s family-friendly, a show for all generations from Grandparents down to grandkids . I like it. It’s upbeat,” he said. Charlie Brown will run Nov. 19 through Dec. 23, 2021.

“Outside Mullingar,” a romantic Irish comedy by John Patrick Shanley continues the season Feb. 11 to March 13, 2022.

“It’s light. Shanley has written dark plays like “Doubt, ” said Phelps. (Doubt-A Parable received the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drams)

“But people have been going through the pandemic. People need light. They need to laugh so we changed a couple of shows planned,” he said

Phelps pointed out that Shanley, a gifted playwright and screenwriter, had also written “Moonstruck” with Cher. It won the 1988 Academy Award for best Original screenplay.

Referring to directors who advocated presenting plays that are challenging, Phelps said, We’ve done that but its not right for this year. We changed out a couple of choices.  People want to feel good.

The season ends with Steve Martin’s witty comedy, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” April 22  through May 22, 2022. It has Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein discussing life’s probabilities at a Paris café in 1904.

“This is the first show that we are bringing back. It was in  the second season at Gorton. Not many of our patrons have seen that,” said Phelps.

Noting that the pandemic has changed our lives and how people will be discussing what was and what might be, Phelps added, “This is a good show to bring ack now.”

For those who might not have been around or knew of Citadel Theatre’s beginnings, it started in 2002 and put on shows in the basement of Gorton Community Center, a former school near downtown Lake Forest.. Citadel moved to its current space, a former science lab in what was a west campus school facility on Waukegan Road in Lake Forest in 1010. Citadel became an Equity company in 2015.

And Phelps plans to stay there. “I just signed another five-year lease,” he said. Pointing out that the room’s rows were raised, Phelps said, “There’s not a bac seat in the house.”

For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs


Thirteen Days on the verge of World War III


 Left to right: Shawna Tucker, Delia Ford, Andrea Conway-Diaz, Julia Kessler, Cameron Feagin, Sheila Willis, Maggie Cain, Noelle Klyce, Kat Evans in City Lit Theater's Thirteen Days. (Photos by Steve Graue)
Left to right: Shawna Tucker, Delia Ford, Andrea Conway-Diaz, Julia Kessler, Cameron Feagin, Sheila Willis, Maggie Cain, Noelle Klyce, Kat Evans in City Lit Theater’s Thirteen Days. (Photos by Steve Graue)

4 Stars

In 2020, the world premiere adaptation of Robert F. Kennedy’s “Thirteen Days” was in rehearsals and set to open in March. Due to the pandemic, it was forced to shutter. Fast forward to September of 2021 and the show has finally opened.

“Thirteen Days, presented by City Lit Theatre,” tells the suspenseful story of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Based on a memoir by Robert F. Kennedy, who served as the Attorney General under his brother, President John F. Kennedy, the story is authentic and presented as a cat and mouse game played on the world stage.

On October 16, 1962, long-range Soviet missiles carrying nuclear warheads aimed at the United States were discovered in Cuba. For the next 13 days all eyes were on the White House as President John Kennedy and his team maneuvered around this international crisis.

Communications were conflicting, confusing and constantly changing during the stand down with Nikita Khrushchev and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin.

President Kennedy did not want to make another mistake like he did in the “Bay of Pigs.” His cabinet could not agree on the best strategy and military response. One wrong move could cause World War III.

 Kat Evans as Robert Kennedy in City Lit Theater's 'Thirteen Days.'
Kat Evans as Robert Kennedy in City Lit Theater’s ‘Thirteen Days.’

Adapted for the theatre and directed by Brian Pastor, City Lit’s Resident Director, this production features a cast totally comprised of women. While all of the characters in the book are white males, this ambitious twist creates a unique reflection of gender issues in the body politic.

The show’s cast includes Cameron Feagin (President John F. Kennedy), Kat Evans (Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy), Sheila Willis (Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara), Julia Kessler (Secretary of State Dean Rusk), Maggie Cain (Director of Central Intelligence John A. McCone and Soviet U.N. Ambassador Valerian Zorin), Andrea Conway-Diaz (McGeorge Bundy), Delia Ford (Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Maxwell D. Taylor), Noelle Klyce (Ted Sorenson), Kim Fukawa (Arthur C. Lundahl, the aerial photography expert who detected missile installations in Cuba and Soviet Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Dobrynin), Shawna Tucker (National Security Council member Llewellyn “Tommy” Thompson and Anne Wrider (Adlai Stevenson, United State Ambassador to the United Nations).

On the production team are Liz Cooper (lighting design), Jeremy Hollis (set designer) and Satoe Schechner (costume designer.)  Kudos to Schechner for dressing the women in business suits, ties, and shoes that make them look powerful and professional.

Cameron Feagin as JFK knows when to be tough and how to react to the building pressure. Kat Evans as Bobby Kennedy narrates this nerve-wracking drama, creating real tension until the final showdown.  Both of these lead actors bear an uncanny physical resemblance to the Kennedy family, adding to the performance.

Covid protocols include masks and proof of vaccination for entrance. The theatre will also be following CDC ventilation guidelines to ensure a complete exchange of air in the theatre between performances.

“Thirteen Days” runs through Oct. 24, 2021 at the Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago. Run time:  90 minutes with no intermission.

For tickets and other information visit or call (773) 293-3682.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago



‘Live at Mr. Kelly’s:’ A documentary for Chicago fans and history buffs



Live at Mr. Kelly's documentary. (Photo courtesy of the film's producers
Live at Mr. Kelly’s documentary. (Photo courtesy of the film’s producers

4 Stars

If you’re new to the city or younger than 60 you might not know that on the corner of Rush and Bellevue where Gibson’s Steakhouse now stands was one of the premiere entertainment venues in the country, a nightclub called Mr. Kelly’s that was the center of the city’s midcentury bohemian nightlife.

Kelly’s was ground zero for the local jet set, Michigan Avenue “Mad Men” and visiting businessmen from around the country who came to the Windy City to cut monumental deals.

It was virtually guaranteed that executives visiting between 1955 and 1975 would be treated to a night at Kelly’s that included a great steak and world class entertainment.

The venue was the brainchild of brothers Oscar and George Marienthal. This documentary film “Live at Mr. Kelly’s” is a love letter from George’s son, Executive Producer David Marienthal.

About 90 minutes long, “Live at Mr. Kelly’s” is  jam packed with testimonials and stories from many entertainers including Barbra Streisand, Lily Tomlin, Bob Newhart, Herbie Hancock, Shecky Green, Ramsey Lewis, Bette Midler, The Smothers Brothers, Lainie Kazan, Tom Dreesen, Tim Reed, Mort Sahl and others who, while in Chicago, called Mr. Kelly’s home or who attribute their appearance at the local club as a significant contribution to their success.

Many of the comedians credit Mr. Kelly’s with helping to fashion the unique American art form of standup comedy. Certainly the club championed the best of the best with early appearances by the likes of Lenny Bruce and Peoria native Richard Pryor.

Barbra Streisand opens the film with a story about shooting publicity photos on Oak Street Beach, one of which went on to win a Grammy for best album cover.

Did you know that the famed poet, Maya Angelou, was once a calypso singer who played congas? It’s true and she performed at Mr. Kelly’s.

The title of this film is something of a misnomer since it gives nearly equal time to the history of the London House, which by the way, also featured great steaks, peerless piano players and  top executives, and mentions the popular Happy Medium. Those venues were also owned and operated by the Marienthal brothers.

I learned from this film that one thing I have in common with Herbie Hancock is we both took prom dates to the London House. I don’t know about Herbie but I married my date

It was actually my now wife’s prom. She was graduating from Senn High School on the northside and going on to study piano at Millikin University in Decatur so of course she wanted a dinner venue with piano music. What could be better than Ramsey Lewis at the London House on Michigan Avenue and Wacker with a romantic late night boat ride afterwards.

The London House was the cool jazz version of Kelly’s, concentrating nearly exclusively on the hippest of the hip including greats like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Andre Previn and Oscar Peterson.

Both Mr. Kelly’s and London House made live recordings that added to their fame. Luckily for us they’re available to listen to and get a sense of the ambiance of each of the intimate spaces.

This is a bit of Chicago history that with each passing day fades further into obscurity. Thankfully this film has made an effort to stop the clock and capture a snapshot of the past from a few of those who were there to witness it in its heyday.

Directed by Ted Bogosian “Live at Mr. Kelly’s” had a premiere showing at the Siskel Center September 17-19, 2021. It will be released as a video on demand (VOD)  in 2021 on Oct. 12 and on DVD Oct. 19. For information visit www.misterkellyschicago.


Reno Lovison

Brighton Beach Memoirs captures family life on brink of WWII


Brighton Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre L-R: Siah Berlatsky, Ron Quade, Shaya Harris (back to camera), Abby Lee, Juliana Liscio, Danny Mulae (face obscured), and Monica Castle (Photos by North Shore Camera Club))
Brighton Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre L-R: Siah Berlatsky, Ron Quade, Shaya Harris (back to camera), Abby Lee, Juliana Liscio, Danny Mulae (face obscured), and Monica Castle
(Photos by North Shore Camera Club)

4 Stars


Live theatre is now alive and well at the Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest!

Opening their season after the pandemic is playwright Neil Simon’s warm and wonderful, “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” tells the story of Eugene Jerome, a young man who desires to be a writer and starts with what he knows best, his own downtrodden family. The time is 1937 in Brooklyn and undertones of the brewing war in Europe are laced throughout the play. America is well aware of the news, but wants no part of it.

Eugene, who also serves as the narrator and talks to the audience about his plight, has his own issues of teenage angst while dreaming of being a baseball player and lusting after his older cousin.

The trials and tribulations of not having enough money for his two parents, brother Stanley, widowed Aunt Blanche and her two daughters who live with them — loom large. Unemployment, gambling, sickness are all part of daily life.

Yet in typical Neil Simon fashion, you’ll laugh and you’ll cry, all within a few minutes.

Siah Berlatsky as Eugene has just the right amount of high energy and pathos to light up every scene. The audience really sympathizes with him and at the same time, recognizes his bright, successful future ahead.

Siah Berlatsky as EugeneBrighton in Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre.
Siah Berlatsky as EugeneBrighton in Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre.

Standouts include his put-upon mother Kate, played by Monica Castle, who carries the weight of everyone’s problems and must convey a range of raw emotions. She does so with great style. Ron Quade as patriarch Jack, who everyone relies on, plays his role with power, heart and a little bit of vulnerability

The cast also includes Abby Lee (Blanche), Danny Mulae (Stanley), Shaya Harris (Laurie), and Juliana Liscio (Nora) who work together to create a realistic family group and share their challenges.  You’ll cheer them on and hope for the best.

Citadel Theatre Artistic Director Scott Phelps and director of the production makes great use of the theatre space. Having the dining room table where much of the dialogue takes place creates a very intimate stage, making the audience feel like they are right there.

Also on the production team are Jeff award-winner Eric Luchen (Set Design), Colin Meyer (Costume Design) and Samuel Stephen (Lighting Design).

DETAILS: “Brighton Beach Memoirs” runs through October 17, 2021 at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan, Lake Forest. Run time:  Approximately 2 hours with one intermission.  Seating is limited and masks are required.

For tickets and other information visit  Citadel Theatre or call (847) 735-8554, ext. 1.

Mira Temkin

(For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago)

Around Town: September Festivals


Several art and craft fairs, such as this one recently held in Lake Forest's Market Square are still scheduled for Fall 2021. (J Jacobs photo)
Several art and craft fairs, such as this one recently held in Lake Forest’s Market Square are still scheduled for Fall 2021. (J Jacobs photo)


Fall is for Festivals from toasting fall beer at Octoberfests and enjoying the fruits of the season at an Applefest to browsing fine art and crafts at art fairs and swaying to the blues in Millennium Park .

Here is a quick rundown of some of the fun outdoor fests to still catch in September in and around Chicago


Blues will be back at Pritzker Pavilion September 2021. (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events photo)
Blues will be back at Pritzker Pavilion September 2021. (Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events photo)


Sept. 17 Englewood Jazz Festival Sponsored by the Chicago Park District, the festival is at Hamilton (Alexander) Park, 513 W. 72nd St.  from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m..

Sept 18, Blues at Millenium Park  Part of Chicago in Tune, audiences can move to the music on the lawn or sit in in the Pritzker Pavilion (Fandolph Street east of Michigan Avenue.)

Sept. 25-26 Hyde Park Jazz Fest from 1 to 10 p.m. Sept. 25 and noon to 7 p.m. Sept. 26 Free but a $5 donation requested. Check Hyde Park Jazz Festival for locations around Hyde Park.


Octoberfest in Lakeview (Photo courtesy of Special Events Managements)
Octoberfest in Lakeview (Photo courtesy of Special Events Managements)

Beer and Food Fests

Sept. 16-26: Glendale Heights Oktoberfest in Camera Park, 101 E Fullerton Ave, Glendale will be all week. Hours are Mon-Thur 5 to 10 p.m., Fri, 5 to Midnight, Sat. Noon to Midnight and Sunday, Noon to 10 p.m. Admission $5 after 5 p.m., ages 16 and under free.

Sept. 18-19 Sam Adams Taco Fest Held in Lakeview on Southport Avenue between Addison and Roscoe, the hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more info check Chicago events.

Sept. 19: Bloody Mary Fest Held in Everts Park, 111 North Ave. in Highwood a little city (just over a square mile) that is known for great restaurants, the drink (and food, and music)  event goes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sept. 23-26: Manteno Oktoberfest includes a carnival and parade that involves the whole town. Visit Manteo for details.

Sept. 23-26: Puerto Rican Festival Held in Humboldt Park, look for details of this food, arts and music festival at

Sept. 24-25: Chicago Gourmet takes over the Harris Theatre Rooftop on Randolph Street at Millennium Park. It’s not all fancy food, so go for really good tacos and burgers. For tickets and details visit Gourmet.

Sept. 24-26: Oktoberfest Chicago Held in Lakeview at 1429 W. Wellington, the event is Fri,  5 to 10 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Cost: $10 Friday and Saturday and $5 Sunday.

Sept. 24-26: Apple Fest is a popular Long Grove festival that is a chance to see the historic town while munching on apple cider donuts, chocolate and caramel dipped apples. Held downtown Long Grove at 308 Old McHenry Road and the Stemple Parking Lot, the hours are Fri noon to 11 p.m. Sat. 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sun 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. cost is $5., ages 6 and under free.


Eye-catching art at an ACE booth at the Chicago botanic Garden. (IJ Jacobs photo)
Eye-catching art at an ACE booth at the Chicago botanic Garden. (IJ Jacobs photo)

Arts and crafts

Sept. 18-19: Riverwalk Fine Art Fair  is held in Naperville at Main and Jackson and along the river from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sept. 18-19: Artfest Michigan Avenue An Amdur Productions juried art fair, about 70 artists will fill the courtyard space at 401 N Michigan Avenue between the former Tribune Tower and the Apple store, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sept. 18-19: West Loop Art Fest  covers four blocks in the booming West Fulton Street, North Sangamon Street area from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sept. 18-19: Renegade Craft Fair  A popular Wicker Park neighborhood festival, the booths will be up along Division Street  between Damen and Ashland Avenues from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sept. 20-26: American Craft Exposition |Usually known by its initials, ACE features one of a kind exceptional works by about 100 artisits. Formerly held on Northwestern universityh’s Evanston campus and the at the botanic Garden in Glencoe, ACE has gone virtual this year of 2021. Find more information at American Craft Expo | An Exhibit and Sale of Fine American Craft.

Sept. 24-25: West Town Art Walk Art walks were once popular on Friday nights in towns across the country.  A few have moved, reinvented themselves where art galleries still exist or have moved in such as in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. This festival covers Division to Hubbard and Halsted to Kedzie but free Pedicabs are available to visit the galleries on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. For more details visit West Town Art Walk | West Town Chamber


Jodie Jacobs

‘Searching for Mister Rugoff’


Documentary film Searching for Mr Rugoff. (Photo courtesy of Ira Deutchman
Documentary film Searching for Mr Rugoff. (Photo courtesy of Ira Deutchman

“Searching for Mr. Rugoff” is a documentary film about a man who’s taste in film contributed to shaping the culture of the 1960s and 70s. However, this is also a story how a once powerful individual can fall almost instantly into obscurity.

Rugoff was responsible for distributing and promoting  Elvira MadiganZ,  The Sorrow and the PityPutney SwopeTrashMarjoeGimme Shelter,  Scenes From a Marriage Swept AwayMonty Python and the Holy GrailThe Man Who Fell to Earth or Pumping Iron to name a few.

If these are familiar to you it is probably at least in some part due to the decisions and possibly the “P.T. Barnum” tactics of film distributor Donald Rugoff.

Producer / Director Ira Deutchman provides a peek at the inner workings of the business of film distribution and how one person like Rugoff can make decisions that influence each of us subtly or even in direct and profound ways.

Deutchman acquaints us with the role of the film distributor as having the responsibility of introducing new films to moviegoers and is thereby charged with creating the needed momentum that will ultimately lead to a film’s monetary success or not. It is at this point that many worthy films live or die.

If you are unfamiliar with these titles I can assure you that they each in their own way either expressed  or reflected back to the audience images of the counter-culture and for many provided a virtual roadmap of changing values and shifts in social discourse.

“Searching for Mr. Rugoff” is obviously a labor of love, or at least a labor of deep appreciation and respect for the man who Deutchman describes as his mentor. He says Rugoff taught him everything he knows about film distribution.

The release of the 94 minute film was delayed due to COVID and is now enjoying  a limited screening schedule at the Music Box Theater on Southport.

Alternatively it can be downloaded at for streaming online at home. For more viewing options nationwide visit and to learn more about the producer / director. To see outtakes from the film visit

Reno Lovison

‘Kinky Boots’ kicks off delayed Paramount season with joy and stilettos


Devin DeSantis (L) is Charlie and Michael Wordly is Lola in Kinky Boots at Paramount Theatre. (Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Devin DeSantis (L) is Charlie and Michael Wordly is Lola in Kinky Boots at Paramount Theatre. (Photo by Liz Lauren.)

4 Stars

Nearly a year and a half after Paramount Theatre was abruptly forced to lower the curtains and dim the marquee due to COVID-19, the historic Aurora venue returns to live–and lively–performances with the regional premiere of “Kinky Boots.”

Directed by associate artistic producer and casting director Trent Stork, the Paramount production opens the theater’s 10th Anniversary Broadway Series season.

The feel-so-good musical, decked with high energy and loads of razzle-dazzle, is the perfect choice to lead theater-goers out of the darkness and into light and laughter. The 2013 Tony award winner for Best Musical features music and lyrics by Grammy-winner Cyndi Lauper, and a book rooted in fun, love and acceptance by Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein.

“Kinky Boots” tells the story of Charlie Price who reluctantly takes over his late father’s failing shoe manufacturing company. By chance, he finds an unlikely partner in drag queen Lola, and the two learn they have more in common than they thought.

Paramount’s stellar cast of 34 actors, singers and dancers seems to exude exceptional vigor. They must be thrilled to be back on stage again. They’ve waited a long time for this.

All eyes are on Lola played by Paramount newcomer Michael Wordly. He shows extensive range, musically and dramatically from flamboyant to melancholy.

Charlie is expertly played by Devin DeSantis whose Paramount credits include “The Little Mermaid” and “Hairspray.” Wordly and DeSantis are strong soloists but their duet, “Not My Father’s Son,” is perhaps the most heartrending number in the show.

Another standout is Sara Reinecke playing Lauren, a factory worker who has eyes on Charlie. Her voice rings clear and powerfully, and every woman can relate to her mighty rendition of “The History of Wrong Guys.”

Fun fact: Cast members learned to make shoes from the Chicago Shoe Academy to be able to realistically act like factory workers.

The dance numbers, choreographed by Isaiah Silvia-Chandley and Michael George, impart high kicks, deep splits and leaps for joy. We were happy to see each of Lola’s Angels has a chance to strut her individual acrobatic moves.

The over-the-top embellishments of costume designer Ryan Park and wig, hair and makeup designer Katie Cordts are visually stunning. Their sartorial eye candy is flashy, splashy and sassy with just the right amount of trashy. Creative lighting effects by Greg Hofmann magnify the visual excitement on stage.

Also on the creative team are co-scenic designers Kevin Depinet and Christopher Rhoton. Music director Kory Danielson conducted the 12-piece Paramount Orchestra. In addition to serving as associate director, Darren Patin is a Chicago drag queen named Ari Gato.

COVID-19 safety guidelines as mandated by the State of Illinois are in place. Attendees must show proof of vaccination and photo ID. Masks must be worn throughout the building and during the performance. Covid restrictions are in place.

DETAILS: “Kinky Boots” is presented by Paramount Theatre in Aurora, 23 E. Galena Blvd., through Oct. 17, 2021. Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes including a 15-minute intermission. For tickets and other information, call 630-896-6666 or visit

Pamela Dittmer McKuen

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago




A new view of Pagliacci from the Lyric

Ailyn Perez and Russell Thomas_Pagliacci_Lyric-Opera of Chicago (photo by Kyle Flubacker)

Ailyn Perez and Russell Thomas_Pagliacci_Lyric Opera of Chicago (photo by Kyle Flubacker)

The Lyric Opera of Chicago is providing the world with a fine gift in the form of “Pagliacci.” A recorded version of Rugerro Leoncavallo’s iconic opera is available to view online free of charge for an indefinite period of time beginning at once.

It is difficult to say where the first reference to a sad clown who is laughing on the outside but crying on the inside begins but surely the character of Pagliacci is one of the best known. It is a short opera at roughly 90 minutes with a fairly straightforward plot and lyrical melodies that makes it a very good first opera for the uninitiated and a perennial favorite among many aficionados.

“Pagliacci” was indeed my introduction to opera at about age 10 when my mother sang as a chorus member in the Chicago Opera Guild based in the Fine Arts Building.

Of course the great Caruso gave “Pagliacci” to the word in 1907 when the composer himself directed the famed tenor in the first phonograph recording of an entire opera making them both worldwide sensations.

Similar to a number of Shakespeare plays “Pagliacci” is based on a play within a play. The story is centered around a troupe of actors performing a commedia dell’arte performance, a theater style that originated in Venice and features standard character types that included at least three clowns. In the opera’s commedia dell’arte company the character of Pagliacci is played by Canio and his wife Nedda plays Columbine while Tonio plays one of the lesser parts.

In this updated Lyric version Nedda (Ailyn Pérez) is an unfaithful wife whose current love interest is stagehand Silvio (Lucas Meachem). Tonio (Quinn Kelsey) is secretly in love with Nedda but she rejects him. His adoration turns to resentment. Seeking revenge, Tonio leads Canio (Russell Thomas) to witness for himself Nedda’s unfaithfulness. In a rage, Canio pursues Silvio who escapes.

In good theatrical tradition the troupe evidently decides “the show must go on.” In preparation for his performance as Pagliacci Canio sings the famed aria “Vesti la giubba” where he laments that the world sees him as a ridiculous clown when he is in fact a man with deep emotions.

It is no doubt at this point that Canio resolves to redeem his manhood, then during the performance demands that Nedda reveal the identity of her lover. She refuses to give him up and Canio kills her. Silvio, working nearby, leaps to her defense and is likewise dispatched by the enraged clown.  Somewhat amused Tonio announces that the “comedy is over.”

Lyric Opera stage (during a recent concert) Photo courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago
Lyric Opera stage (during a recent concert) Photo courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago

The brilliant part of this Lyric Opera of Chicago’s streaming version of “Pagliacci” (directed by Peter McClintock, with film direction by Matt Hoffman and scenic design by Maria DeFabo Akin and Scott Wolfson) is the use of the Lyric Opera House itself as the set location.

The action begins outside the building with baritone Quinn Kelsey singing the prologue as he strolls into and through the building ultimately on to the empty stage where the bulk of the performance will take place. This is a story about actors so the Lyric creative team takes full advantage of the company’s readily available stagecraft apparatus as the backdrop. The performers are in modern dress and the play-within-a- play substitutes iconic commedia dell’arte characters for those of a more modern art form referencing a television situation comedy.

This is where it gets a bit muddy for me. I love the concept but in my view costume designer Scott Marr is missing something by not having Pagliacci in a more comic costume. After all it is Pagliacci’s ridiculous visual persona contrasted with his depth of emotion that is the essence of the character and the story.

Additionally, tenor Thomas who has an outstanding voice, does not give “vesti la giubba” full throttle. No doubt the feeling is that since this a more intimate filmed version he did not want to seem “over the top.” However, the result is a kind of tepid emotion that does not fully convey the character’s torment that will ultimately lead him to murder. This, together with his lack of costume or make-up as a reference flattens the storyline.

There is still plenty to love about the production with its backstage views and enjoyable melodies. The always brilliant Lyric Chorus led by Michael Black seems to be having a great time singing towards the proscenium for an entirely new point-of-view while Enrique Mazzola conducts the thrilling orchestra from some unknown location, presumably a practice room onsite.

Details: “Pagliacci” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago is online through January 2022 (at least). Running time is about 90 minutes. Visit LyricOpera 

Reno Lovison

(Ed note: Viewing the film is free but requires registration. To register go to Pagliacci Lyric Opera of Chicago.)

Around Town: A few theaters reopen


Northlight still puts on its productions at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.( J Jacobs photo)

Northlight still puts on its productions at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie .(photo courtesy of North Shore Center for the Performing Arts)
Northlight still puts on its productions at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie .(photo courtesy of North Shore Center for the Performing Arts)

Going back to a stage show will feel different fall of 2021. But those folk who really want an in person experience won’t be complaining about wearing a mask indoors.  Just expect it to be a requirement, then sit back and enjoy the live action on stage.

Here are a few of the shows opening in Chicago and the suburbs this fall.

Aurora: “Kinky Boots” at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd, Now through Oct. 17. For tickets and more information visit Paramount.

Evanston: “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992″ at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St.  A Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre production, it runs Sept. 11-26. For tickets and more information visit Fleetwood Jourdain.

Lake Forest: “Brighton Beach Memoirs” at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Sept 17-Oct. 17.  For tickets and more info visit Citadel Theatre

Lincolnshire: “The World Goes Round” at the Marriott theatre, 710 Marriott Drive, Sept 15=Nov. 7 . For tickets and more info visit Marriott Theatre.

Oakbrook Terrace: “Forever Plaid” at Drury Lane, 100 Drury Lane,  Sept. 17-Nov. 7. For tickets and more information visit  Drury Lane Theatre.

Skokie:  “Songs for Nobodies” at Northlight Theatre in the North shore Center for the Performing arts at 9501 Skokie Blvd., Sept  23-Oct. 31. For tickets and information visit Northlight Theatre.

The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (J Jacobs photo)
The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (J Jacobs photo)


“As You Like It” at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier at 600 E. Grand Ave. Oct 6- Nov 21. For tickets and more information visit  Chicago Shakespeare Theater

“Macbeth” Sept 17-Oct. 9 and The Elixer of Love  Sept. 26-Oct. 8 at Lyric Opera of Chicago 20 N. Wacker Dr. Visit Lyric Opera of Chicago.

“The tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice” Oct 7-Nov. 21 at Court Theatre  5535 S. Ellis Ave. on the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus. For information and tickets visit Court Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

Two fall ticketed events to get now


Chicago botanic Garden Night of 1,000 Jack o Lanterns. (Botanic Garden photo)
Chicago botanic Garden Night of 1,000 Jack o Lanterns. (Botanic Garden photo)


Ready for fall?

The signs are there. A few leaves are already floating on the wind, Cars are filling school parking lots, Theater billboards and marquees announce show openings. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the next full moon after this weekend’s large orb, is the Harvest Moon on Sept. 20, 2021.

It’s time to start marking the calendar with fun, fall activities. Just don’t let too many weeks go by without snagging tickets for events that sell out.

Two 2021 festivals that sell out before people on the go realize the tickets are gone, are the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Night of 1,000 Jack o Lanterns and Lightscape.

Jack o Lanterns Oct. 13-17 and Oct. 20-24, 2021

“A: Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns is one of our most popular events at the Garden and in 2019, we expanded this event to run for 10 evenings due to popular demand, “said Zombolo, associate vice president of visitor events and programs.

“I’ts become an annual fall tradition,” she said and added, that people are “ amazed by the artistically carved pumpkins.”  And it’s all “ in a beautiful fall setting,” said Zombolo.

According to Zombolo, the event adapted procedures to fit recommended pandemic protocols.  “Last year we implemented new procedures including limited capacity per timeslot, a one-way trail with a separate entrance and exit, and extra space between pumpkins. We will be continuing those procedures in 2021.”

Tickets are time and date sensitive. They go on sale to members Aug. 23, 2021 and to the public Aug. 27.  Adults: $16/$18, Children 3 – 12: $12/$14
Children 2 and under are free. A $20 parking fee applies to  nonmembers and must be purchased ahead, online. Members park for free.  The Garden closes at 5 p.m. during the event and reopens at 6 for ticketed event guests.

Lightscape Nov. 12, 2021 to Jan. 2, 2022.

Now in its third year, the event’s famed winter cathedral will be back along with sing along musical trees but there will also be new features and a newly reworked, 1.25 mile path.

Tickets are already on sale for Lightscape. As with Jack o Lanterns, tickets are date and time sensitive. Ticket information for Lightscape.

Jodie Jacobs