Fun video series visits Shedd and other Chicago institutions


All sorts of interesting creatures of different colors, patterns and movements are at the Shedd. (Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.
All sorts of interesting creatures of different colors, patterns and movements are at the Shedd. (Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.

Maybe you have enjoyed Wellington the Shedd’s penguin’s exploration around the aquarium on Facebook or seen IL Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s PSA with Wellington and penguin friends on You Tube.

Now, there is a great way to revisit the Shedd with Wellington but this time with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. A video done in partnership with Citadel and Chicago cultural institutions will premiere April 29, 2020 as the first in a weekly series called StayHome.HitPlayChicago.

After premiering online on Wednesdays, the videos in the series will be aired 5:30 p.m. Fridays on WTTW and at 12:30 p.m. Mondays on WTTW Prime.

They are a fun way to go back to places you might have visited and others you may want to see when museums, zoos and other Chicago destinations reopen to the public. They are similar to field trips and will include a component for youth.

In the inaugural segment Mayor Lightfoot stops at Shedd Aquarium to visit the penguins, feed the sharks and say hello to Nickel the rescued sea turtle. 

For a preview of the first segment in the series visit youtube/watch.

“Shedd Aquarium is proud to bring people eye to eye with animals and their remarkable underwater biology and aquatic biodiversity through this new opportunity,” said Shedd President and CEO Bridget Coughlin. “We can’t wait to reopen our doors and welcome everyhone back to Shedd. In the meantime, we are thrilled to kick off this at-home series and continue to welcome and connect with people virtually.”

The series takes viewers behind the scenes to such places as the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art, DuSable Museum of African American History, the Art Institute of Chicago and Lincoln Park Zoo.

“The exciting launch of “Stay Home, Hit Play” allows our city’s cultural gems to come to live, ensuring our students are able to stay connected and engaged with our world-class museums and institutions amidst the unprecedented restrictions of COVID-19,” said Mayor Lightfoot.

We are especially appreciative of the partnership of our parents, students, museum leaders and staff, WWTW, as well as Citadel whose support was instrumental for the creation of this series. As challenging as this moment has been, we will get through it together, and I look forward to joining all of Chicago in re-experiencing these inspiring sites when this crisis ends,” she said.

Citadel founder and CEO Ken Griffin said he was excited to “discover and rediscover” some favorite places in a new way. “These institutions embody what makes Chicago special. They invitge us to learn, imagine and dream togehter, and we hope “Stay Home, Hit Play,” will inspire children and parents this spring,” Griffin said. 

Jodie Jacobs


What will be on stage in Near North and Lincoln Park theaters


Victory Gardens productions are in the historic Biograph building. (J Jacobs photo)
Victory Gardens productions are in the historic Biograph building. (J Jacobs photo)

When looking up 2019-20 show listings don’t forget the theaters in the Chicago’s neighborhoods. You don’t want to miss excellent productions that are likely to be Jeff Award Winners. The next peek in a what will be on stage series takes in the Near North and the Lincoln Park area. (Don’t worry that some places spell theater.

(Part One was Looking ahead to the next theater season starting with Broadway in Chicago. Part Two was Theaters Downtown and on the Mag Mile.)


A Red Orchid Theatre

The theatre, 1531 N. Wells St., starts the fall with the world premiere of “Grey House” Oct. 10 – Dec. 1, 2019. Winter’s production is the Chicago Premiere of  “Do You Feel Anger?” Jan.16 – Mar. 8, 2020. Spring brings the Chicago Premiere of “The Moors” April 23- June 14, 2020.

For tickets and more information visit Red Orchid or Red Orchid/2019-20 season call (312) 943-8722.


Greenhouse Theater Center

The Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., hosts a variety of theater companies with a packed line-up in 2019-20. This list is for summer, early fall 2019.

Currently, BOHO Theatre is doing the Chicago Premiere of “The River” through July 28. The Comrades do “The Roast” July 18- Aug. 19. Then, MPAACT Summer Jams holds a theater festival of 17 acts in 7 days Aug. 5-11.

On the Spot Theatre Company and Greenhouse are presenting “Sons and Lovers” Aug. 29-Sept. 29. Exit 63 Theatre has “Horse Girls” running Sept. 5-Sept. 22. Greenhouse and Proxy Theatre are doing “Midsummer (A Play with Songs) Sept. 4-Oct. 6.

Red Tape Theatre which has moved to the Greenhouse Theater Center, is doing “All Quiet on the Western Front”  Aug. 16 through Sept.14. . For tickets and other information visit Red Tape Theatre.

For more shows, information and tickets visit Greenhouse Theater and call (773) 404-7336.


Royal George

The venue, 1641 N. Halsted St., currently has the world premiere of  “Miracle: 108 years in the making” (about the Chicago Cubs) extended through Labor Day. Also “Late Nite Catechism” as an open run is at 5 p.m. Saturdays and “Bible Bingo” is an open run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.

For tickets and more information visit Royal George and call (312) 988-9000.



The theatre company, 1650 N. Halsted St., currently has “Ms. Blakk for President” (upstairs) through July 21 and Sam Shepard’s “True West” through Aug. 25 (main stage).

The new season begins with “The Great Leap” (upstairs) Sept. 5- Oct. 20 followed by “Lindiwe” based on music of Ladysmith Black Mambazo (downstairs) Nov. 7-Dec. 29 and the Chicago premiere of “Dance Nation” Dec. 12, 2019-Jan. 26, 2020.

Then comes Tracy Letts’ “Bug” Jan. 23-Mar. 8 (downstairs) followed by  “The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington”  downstairs) April 2-May 17.Then, “King James on LeBron James’s reign (upstairs) May 7-June 21, ending with “Catch as Catch Can (downstairs) June 4-July 26.

For tickets and more information visit Steppenwolf  and Steppenwolf season or call (312) 335-1650.


Theater on the Lake

A Chicago Park District property at 2401 N Lake Shore Dr. presents Manual Cinema’s “End of TV” July 16-19, “Stories from 2nd Story” 7 p.m. and “The Grelley DuVall Show” 9 p.m. July 23-26. The Neo Futurists are doing “Tangles and Plaques”  Aug. 13-16 and Peasus Theater has “Eclipsed” Aug. 20-23.  The 2019 summer season ends with Steep theatre’s Red Rex” Aug. 27=30. Tickets are free.  Reserve tickets at the Chicago Park District box office  (312) 742-7994  or find more ticket and time information at theater on the lake/theater.


Victory Gardens

The theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.,  currently has a co-production on stage. Sideshow Theatre Company and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble are doing “Something Clean” through July 21.

For its 45th season, Victory Gardens starts with the Chicago premiere of “Tiny Beautiful Things” Sept. 6-Oct. 13 followed by the world premiere of “The First Deep Breath” Nov. 15-Dec. 22, 2019.

Into the new year is the co-world premiere with Actors Theatre of Louisville’s “How to Defend Yourself” Jan. 24-Feb. 23. Then, “Dhaba on Devon Avenue” is Mar. 27-Apr. 26. The season ends with the Chicago premiere of “Right to be Forgotten” May 29-June 28, 2020.

For tickets and more information visit Victory Gardens and Victory Gardens Season and call (773) 871-3000.

Jodie Jacobs


Cows return to Chicago

‘Holy Cow’
(Photo courtesy of Harry Carey’s Restaurant)

About 20 of the original herd of more than 300 cows are returning to downtown Chicago for the month of July. Look for them in the Jane Byrne Park abutting Chicago’s historic Water Tower. But who knows, a few may pop up elsewhere.

The bovines in the park mark the 20th anniversary of 1999’s “Cows on Parade,” thanks to the Magnificent Mile Association which is calling the return exhibit “Cows Come Home.

The cows lived mostly on Michigan Avenue and in the Loop from June 15 through Oct. 31 1999 until they were auctioned off (money went to different charities).

Mooving Eli. Eli, the cow, sports roller blades to keep on moovin' toward a big slice of cherry topped cheesecake! Eli is also carrying a large cherry cheesecake with a fork and cake server sculpture in case he runs into any other cows and wants to have a dessert party. Eli's spots are in the shape of the state of Illinois. (Photo courtesy of Magnificent Mile Asociation and Eli's Cheesecake.)
Mooving Eli. Eli, the cow, sports roller blades to keep on moovin’ toward a big slice of cherry topped cheesecake! Eli is also carrying a large cherry cheesecake with a fork and cake server sculpture in case he runs into any other cows and wants to have a dessert party. Eli’s spots are in the shape of the state of Illinois. (Photo courtesy of Magnificent Mile Asociation and Eli’s Cheesecake.)

A check of the records show that Peter Hanig (think shoes) brought the idea to then Chicago Cultural Affairs Commissioner Lois Weisberg in 1998 after he spotted and liked a  Zurich, Switzerland cow display.

Chicago’s fiberglass cows were constructed in three poses (head down, up or prone body) by the same Swiss company, then offered by the Department of Cultural Affairs to various artists to decorate as a Public Art Project.

What followed was that Chicago’s cows achieved international coverage and spawned similar art projects in other cities using different shapes.

'Lady Bug' cow decorates the front of The Talbot Hotel on Chicago's Gold Coast. (Photo courtesy of The Talbott Hotel)
‘Lady Bug’ cow decorates the front of The Talbot Hotel on Chicago’s Gold Coast. (Photo courtesy of The Talbott Hotel)

Among the famous cows that have returned, look for “Holy Cow!” a nod to Hall of Fame Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray (which likely will return to Harry Caray’s 7th Inning Stretch Restaurant), the “Lady Bug” cow last seen climbing? up the front of the Talbott Hotel and “Mooving Eli,” which usually resides at Eli Cheesecake  World.

Take advantage of the cows’ temporary grazing location to go across Michigan Avenue to the other half of the park’s historic campus. Visitors can go into the Chicago Water Works across the street to view and photo its unusual interior and also find out what its resident Lookingglass Theatre is doing this summer and the rest of the season.

. “We are excited to see the artful, whimsical installations on display and hope our patrons will find as much joy in them as we do,”  said Lookingglass Theatre Artistic Director Heidi Stillman.

“As part of the Water Tower Arts District—a district filled with theatre, art, music and culture—Lookingglass Theatre Company is glad to welcome back the Cows on Parade to our neighborhood, ” Stillman said.

Visit the Mag Mile Assoc. blog for more info.

Jodie Jacobs

Around town end of June

A parade of trombones, a tap dance opera and a dog invite that includes you close out June with interesting, fun events.


Goodman Theatre os doing a revival of 'The Music Man.' (Goodman Theatre Photo)
Goodman Theatre os doing a revival of ‘The Music Man.’ (Goodman Theatre Photo)

76 Trombones

What: To celebrate the revival of “The Music Man” that starts Saturday in its Albert Theatre, Goodman Theatre will hold a parade of more than 76 Chicago area trombonists and percussionists performing the show’s famed tune.

When: Friday, June 28 beginning at 1 p.m.

Where: The parade tarts at Goodman theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, then continues to Daley Plaza (50 N. Washington St., then returns to Goodman about 1:15 to do an encore .

Who:  The parade is in partnership with Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles that includes LGBTQ members and friends.


Chicago Tap Company's new production ends the last weekend of June 2019. (Chicago Tap Company photo)
Chicago Tap Company’s new production ends the last weekend of June 2019. (Chicago Tap Company photo)

“Saving the World”

What:  Chicago Tap Theatre’s opera-style dramatic tale of disasters colored by greed and demagoguery.

When: June 28-30 is the last weekend of this production, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Where: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

Who: Chicago Tap Theatre is a non-profit organization of tap dance professionals who put on story-based shows.


The Patio at Cafe Brauer is a popular pace for drinks or food with a view. (J Jacobs photo)
The Patio at Cafe Brauer is a popular pace for drinks or food with a view. (J Jacobs photo)

The Dog Days of Summer

What: A dog-friendly brunch where they can play and get treats while their people show down.

Where: The Patio that is the rear end of the historic Brauer building in Lincoln Park Zoo at 2021 N. Stockton Dr.

When: June 30 from 9 to 11 a.m. Reservations needed. Call (312) 507-9053

Who: The Patio at Cafe Brauer at the back of a Prairie School-style landmark is a popular summer cocktail and lunch stop that overlooks the pond at the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo  and its view of the Chicago skyline. Bentley’s Pets will have gift bags for the dogs.

Jodie Jacobs





Top holiday shows and shopping plus light sights

The Joffrey Ballet's Nutcraker at Aurditorium Theatre. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)
The Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcraker at Aurditorium Theatre. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

If you don’t want to be saying “Oops” this holiday season then 1. Don’t wait to get tickets to the shows you or your family want to see and  2. Do put those holiday events you want to go to on the calendar.

The good news is that there are numerous great holiday shows and happenings in the Chicago area. The problem news is that the many places to go, things to do and see make it hard to narrow down the choices to what is doable.

Tip: Be realistic when weighing what is manageable with kids, tired feet and meal breaks.

The following suggestions offer three Chicago area choices in each category – shows, shopping and spectacular lights and sights:



A Christmas Carol At Goodman Theatre (2017 photo by Liz Lauren)
A Christmas Carol At Goodman Theatre (2017 photo by Liz Lauren)

What: Goodman Theatre’s “The Christmas Carol” Nov. 17-Dec. 30, 2018

Where: In Goodman Theatre’s Albert Theatre at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago

Why: Goodman’s production of Charles Dickens’ “The Christmas Carol” is  a Chicago tradition that never gets old with new staging often added. But the show is also a talking point for families on what is important.

How:: See ticket and other information at Goodman Theatre/Carol


What:  Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” Dec. 1-30, 2018

Where: Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr. (50 E. Congress Pkwy) at Michigan Ave.

Why: Going to the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker” is also a Chicago holiday tradition. It was beautifully re-imagined  last year by choreographer Christopher Wheeldon as a visit by Marie and her mother to the 1893 World’s Fair. The mysterious Great Impresario turns the visit into an adventure. And it is all set to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s gorgeous music.

How: Find tickets and information at Joffrey Nutcracker


What: Lookingglass Theatre’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” Nov. 7, 2018 through Jan. 13, 2019.

Where: Lookingglass theatre is in the Chicago Water Works at 821 N Michigan Ave, Chicago.

Why: Lookingglass productions are highly innovative, well acted and engrossing. This tale based on a Hans Christian Andersen story is being staged as an exciting spectable by ttalented, creative Mary Zimmerman.

How: Tickets and information are at Lookingglass Theatre.



Good gift shopping at the Field Museum (J Jacobs photo)
Good gift shopping at the Field Museum (J Jacobs photo)

What: The Field Museum Store, anytime

Where: The Field is at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago, the furthest west building on the Museum Campus.

Why: The museum has a fantastic gift shop with items that would appeal to all ages.

How: For hours and admission visit Field Museum or shop on line


What: Christkindlmarket Chicago, daily Nov. 16-Dec. 24, 2018 and Naperville Thursday through Sunday Nov. 23-Dec. 24 2018.

Where: In Chicago at Daley Plaza on Washington Street between Dearborn and Clark Streets and in Naperville  at Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St.

Why: It’s fun to see, buy and taste the type of Bavarian gifts and treats popular at holiday markets in Germany.

How: More information is at Christkindlmarket


What: Art Institute of Chicago Gift Shop, anytime

Where:  On line and at the museum, front entrance at 111 S. Michigan Ave. and the Modern Wing entrance at 159 E. Monroe St.

Why: Gift shop entrances do not need admission fees or tickets. The shops carry one-of-a kind gifts that won’t bust the budget. The Modern Wing has good glass items and the main gift shop has excellent jewelry and ties. Both  shops have Frank Lloyd Wright  items and gifts inspired by other artists. Also visitors like to take holiday  photos with the wreathed lions in front.

How: For hours visit the museum at artic.

Spectacular lights and sights

Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo
Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo

What: Lincoln Park Zoo Lights Nov. 23-Jan.6

Where: In Lincoln Park at 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago

Why: See the animals while strolling among 2,5 million lights thanks to Com Ed and Invesco. Also visit Santa, watch ice carving, sip warm spiced wine, snack on holiday treats and watch a 3D light show.

How: Find hours and admission at LPZoo Zoolights.


What: Chicago Botanic Garden Lights and Wonderland Express Nov. 23-Dec. 21,2018

Where: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe

Why: the Garden’s event is called Wonderland Express but before going into the building that has trains zipping through Chicago landmarks, see trees and walkways lit by thouands of lights and visit the greenhouses’ topiaries and poinsettias. Then don’t worry about the “snow” falling on shoulders inside the exhibit building. It’s all about fun and winter wonders.

How: For hours and admission visit Chicago Botanic/Wonderland


What: Morton Arboretum Illumination Nov. 17, 2018-Jan 1, 2019

Where: The grounds of the Morton Aroboretum at 4100 IL Hwy 53, Lisle.

Why: These lights don’t stay still. They change color, they move to music, they’re interactive and Illumination, supported by Com Ed and Invesco, is fun.

How:: See hours and admission at MortonArb/Lights


Jodie Jacobs




Old is new again in refreshed ‘Chicago’



It was a very appreciative audience, some dressed as flappers, who packed the house opening night of “Chicago” at Drury Lane Oak Brook.

Alena Watters (Velman Kelly) and ensemble in 'Chicago' at Drury Lane Theatre, photo by Brett Beiner
Alena Watters (Velman Kelly) and ensemble in ‘Chicago’ at Drury Lane Theatre, photo by Brett Beiner

The Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb script with music by John Kander is iconic due in no small part to its signature song “All that Jazz.”

This new production is fresh and energetic with a set worthy of a full-fledged Broadway production. The costumes (or lack thereof) were tastefully sensuous with no hint of vulgarity.  Every performance was spot on and the choreography of Jane Lanier was an entertaining mix of classic Fosse with a hint of Busby Berkeley.

It’s hard to explain how a story line that follows the escapades of a number of imprisoned female murderers plotting their strategies to elude prosecution can be so amusing. However this dark subject matter manages to find humor in the abject cynicism of the characters and the media’s interest in salacious subject matter.

The two co-equal leading ladies Alena Watters (as Velma Kelly) and Kelly Fethous (as Roxie Hart) are smitten with the idea of parlaying their infamy as murderesses into bankable fame on the vaudeville stage upon their seemingly inevitable acquittals.

Velma and Roxie’s certainty of release is based on the flawless record of their attorney one Billy Flynn skillfully played by Guy Lockhard.

Cast of 'Chicago' at Drury Lane Theatre, photo by Brett Beiner
Cast of ‘Chicago’ at Drury Lane Theatre, photo by Brett Beiner

These three characters drive the story aided by Matron Mama Morton (E. Faye Butler) and Roxie’s pathetic husband Amos Hart (Justin Brill) who interject a good deal of humor, notably Amos’ song “Mr. Cellophane” and a charming duet, “Class” by Velma and Mama Morton.

The character of Mary Sunshine (J. London) is also delightful as is her solo “A Little Bit of Good” dynamically sung in an operatic style.

The action takes place in the 1920’s, so suitably, the play’s style harkens back to productions from that era.

It is more of a musical revue based around a loose storyline, rather than a more traditional play that utilizes songs to further the plot – – which is the formula of modern American Musicals of the post WWII era

In this way the production is closer in style to George Cohan than Rodgers and Hammerstein while the overall mood is reminiscent of ‘ Cabaret’ and ‘A Three Penny Opera.’

‘Chicago’ is a fun evening, suggested as appropriate for children 13 and older.

Details: ‘Chicago’  is at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL now through June 18, 2017.  For tickets and other information call (630) 530-0111 and visit Drury Lane.

By Reno Lovison

(Guest reviewer Reno Lovison produces business videos. His interest in theater began very young. He studied with the Jack & Jill Players Children Theater and earned his Equity Card appearing in several professional Chicago productions at the Goodman Theatre, Mill Run, Melody Top and Ivanhoe. Reno does content writing, blogging and business articles and has authored two non-fiction books. See business video at Renoweb.)