Hershel outsmarts Hanukkah goblins

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (Phot0 courtesy of Strawdog Theatre Company)
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (Photo courtesy of Strawdog Theatre Company)

3 stars

Those Hanukkah candles may be just a melted memory until next year but a fun story about the celebration is still going on at Strawdog Theatre Company.

A few more performances of its yearly story: “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” continues through Dec. 20, 2020.  They can be seen live on zoom at 1 and 4 p.m. this weekend.

Now a Strawdog holiday tradition, “Hershel and the Hanukkah Ggoblins” is an interactive production based on the award-winning book by Eric Kimmel and adapted by ensemble member Michael Dailey.

Even though this really is a show for young children, adults will likely get caught up in the clever ways that Hershel tricks the goblins who have infested a small village and its old synagogue.

By the eight night the Hanukkah lights can once again be lit and the holiday celebrated. Along the way, viewers learn the Hebrew letters on the Hanukkah dreidel and the blessings said over the candles.

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

A broader Christmas Carol message

Manual Cinema A Christmas Carole (Photo courtesy of Manual Cinema)
Manual Cinema A Christmas Carole (Photo courtesy of Manual Cinema)

3 stars

Manual Cinema, an innovative company that blends story-telling, puppetry, actors, music and sound to tell a story, mixes Charles Dickens’ moralistic holiday tale with current phrases and crises in its premiere of “Manual Cinema A Christmas Carol.”

Given the current pandemic challenges, instead of presenting the show at Court Theatre where the company did “Frankenstein” or Chopin Theatre for “End of TV, its take on the Dickens’ story streams live to audiences per performance from Manual Cinema’s Chicago studio.

An early clue that audiences will be experiencing more than the basic story of Scrooge’s enlightenment, are the cards on a mantel behind actor/puppeteer N. LaOuis Harkins who introduces the story as Aunt Trudy and is the voice behind each character. The cards range from holiday wishes to get well and condolences.

“Trudy,” married to Joe whom she said died of COVID in August, is going through her late husband’s story-telling box of puppets. Her seemingly drawn-out reluctance to use them and present the tale for family members on zoom, makes sense at the end.

But the story needs to unfold so no ALERT here. Just appreciate the tale’s broader message. Oh, and have Kleenex handy for the graveyard scene.

The show is 60 minutes followed by chat time with performers. For tickets and more information visit Manual Cinema/Christmas Carol.

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

A Dickens of a story

 

One-Man A Christmas Carol by Writers Theatre (Photo by Joe Mazza)
One-Man A Christmas Carol by Writers Theatre (Photo by Joe Mazza)

3 1/2 stars

So many Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to see On Demand, stream live or hear, such as Goodman Theatre’s audio drama. And so little time. Wait! With the pandemic still going on there is plenty of time to catch a couple more interpretations.

Among them is Writers Theatre’s “One-Man A Christmas Carol” acted, narrated and adopted by Artistic Director Michael Halberstam, reviewed here. Another one that will be reviewed tomorrow is Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol.”

Because each production is different and brings the strengths of a professional team, all three shows merit time and ticket. Given Dickens’ adroit telling of his moralistic, ghostly novella, “A Christmas Carol” is a story worth repeating.

Viewers of the Writers Theatre’s show, produced in collaboration with HMS Media and directed by Stanton Long, are sure to get caught up in Halberstam’s portrayal of Scrooge, the ghosts, the Cratchit family and assorted other characters.

Background projections occasionally add interest to the telling although it would work as well as a radio show. What does work for me is that, though annotated, Halberstam does use Dickens’ original words and phrases.

What I didn’t expect, considering how often I’ve seen different productions of “A Christmas Carol,” is to tear up during the ghost of what’s to come’s visit to the Cratchit household.

That poignant scene really showcased Halberstam’s fine acting.

For ticket and other information visit Writers Theatre or call (847) 242-6000.

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

Unusual holiday gift

Snow leopard cub Ahava is among the residents of Brookfield Zoo in the Animal Adoption program. (Photo by Jim Schulz for the Chicago Zoological Society)
Snow leopard cub Ahava is among the residents of Brookfield Zoo in the Animal Adoption program. (Photo by Jim Schulz for the Chicago Zoological Society)

Imagine a youngster (or adult) opening  a large envelope with a photo of a cute leopard cub accompanied by a certificate of adoption this holiday season.

Ahava, a six month old snow leopard and Sasha, a nine month old Amur leopard, are among  Brookfield Zoo residents in an Animal Adoption program.

Operated by the Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo is doing different gift adoptions ranging from Basic Package of $35 to the Plush Duo of $120.

Basic includes a 5 by 7-inch color photo of the leopard, a personalized certificate, a species fact sheet, an Animal Adoption decal and an invite to the Animal Adoption summer event in 2021 (subject to COVID-19 guidelines).

Ahava is among Brookfield Zoo residents in the Animal Adoption program. (Photo by Jim Schulz for the Chicago Zoological Society)
Amur leopard Sasha Snow leopard cub Ahava is among Brookfield Zoo residents in the Animal Adoption program. (Photo by Jim Schulz for the Chicago Zoological Society)

Plush starts at $65 to include a 12-inch plush animal, four free tickets to the Animal Adoption summer event in 2021 and all the benefits of the Basic Package. But if not sure which leopard to adopt there are the Basic Duo at $65 and Plush Duo at $120 for  adoptions of both Ahava and Sasha.

In addition, the gifts help pay for the animal’s care at the

The leopard cubs are among two residents the zoo is featuring as holiday adoption gifts. There are also 4-year-old African lions Brutus and Titus, orangutans Kecil and Kekasih and Zeus, a bald eagle.

For more information on the packages and animals to visit CZS.org/AnimalAdoption or call (708) 688-8341. To ensure holiday delivery, orders must be received by Dec. 15, 2020.

Tis the season for ‘A Christmas Carol’

Larry Yando as Scrooge in Goodman theatre's audio version of 'A Christmas Carol' (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre
Larry Yando as Scrooge in Goodman theatre’s audio version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre

3 stars

Goodman Theatre’s long-running holiday favorite opened Dec. 1, not as a play on Goodman’s Albert Theatre’s stage or a show filmed live to be seen on certain dates or a zoomed show to watch now and later.

Running through Dec. 31 at carol.goodmantheatre.org, Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol” in 2020 is a fresh, 80-minute production performed as an audio play.

Starring Larry Yando who after years of portraying Dicken’s transformation of mean miser into giddy, generous gent, can most assuredly do Scrooge’s bah humbug in his sleep. Directed by Jessica Thebus, he and the rest of the cast bring the tale to life even without visuals.

However, it does matter how you listen. When first tried on my computer, I had trouble hearing all the words distinctly pronounced. But when tried later on facebook on my iPhone, it sounded much better. So, tip 1: If happy with the sound don’t worry but if not, try other devices. I didn’t catch all the narration when originally listening. But since the show does not have visuals so you know what is happening, the narration is very important. Chicago actor, writer, director Andrew White does an excellent job guiding listeners through the actions as the show’s narrator.

Secondly, although I do listen to music and news on the radio I felt I needed more to get into the personality of the recording and the  actors doing the show. So, tip 2: Before clicking on the show go to carol/goodman, click on The Play at the top and scroll down to the Behind-the-Scene trailer.

One last thought. The sound effects are excellent as is the music but I needed some magic. So, tip 3: Visit A Christmas Carol/35th Anniversary/ you Tube to learn about the show’s beginning, a director’s and Yando’s thoughts on the story and see a couple of short clips.

Enjoy the retelling in a different way.

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

Related: Chicagotheaterand arts.com/around-town

Around Town: Filling December with joy

 

Larry Yando as Scrooge in Goodman theatre's audio version of 'A Christmas Carol' (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre
Larry Yando as Scrooge in Goodman theatre’s audio version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre

 

 Marley as undead as a 1940s-50’s radio program

It’s OK not to reveal your age but does anyone remember sitting by the radio to hear the weekly broadcast of a favorite program? The “spirits” of good old family entertainment are back thanks to Goodman Theatre.

With renown Chicago actor Larry Yando once again portraying Scrooge, Goodman will put on its annual holiday treat, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens as a free, audio broadcast beginning 7 p.m. Dec. 1.  The story line is adapted by Tom Creamer and directed by Jessica Thebus. It is  adapted for audio by Neena Arndt, Jessica Thebus and Richard Woodbury.

Visit Carol/goodmantheatre for more information. You can also tune in to WBEZ 91.5 FM and Vocalo 91.1 F.M. Dec. 24 at 3 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 11 a.m. The program will also be available through On Demand.

 

Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker (Photo courtesy of Joffrey Ballet)
Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker (Photo courtesy of Joffrey Ballet)

A Joffrey “Nutcracker’ dance class

Remember when short, Nutcracker dance classes were available for youngsters at the Chicago Cultural Center? The Joffrey Academy of Dance is offering “Virtual enchanted Evening: The Nutcracker” in two sessions: ages 4-6, Dec. 4 and ages 7-9 Dec. 11. Hours are 6:30-7”30 p.m. CT. The fee is $15. To find out what is needed and for more information or to register visit Virtual enchantged evening/Evenbrite.

 

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure (Photo courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater)
Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure (Photo courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure

It’s time after months of the pandemic for some faith and maybe,  a little pixie dust. You can visit Neverland via Chicago Shakespeare Theater, free, from noon Dec. 19, 2020 to 11:59 Jan. 1, 2021.

The production is a newly re-mastered, 80-minute feature film that was shot live of the 2018 production. Music is by the award-winning duo of Broadway’s “Mary Poppins” with a score by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewer.

Adapted from the play by J.M. Barrie with permission from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children the production is presented by special arrangement with Concord Theatricals.

For more information and to get the stream visit ChicaoShakespeareTheatre/PeterPan.

 

Live holiday fun not canceled

 

City of Chicago holiday tree (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)
City of Chicago holiday tree (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)

Although indoor holiday events such as the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World” has gone virtual, there are still outdoor places to visit. Three of them open this Friday, Nov. 20.

Chicago Tree

Drive or walk past Chicago’s holiday tree in Millennium Park. The lights officially go on Nov. 20. But the annual holiday ceremony goes virtual at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 on the city’s YouTube channel. For more information visit DCASE .

The program includes Chicago Children’s Choir, Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Percy Bady and Friends and a tribute to Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas.

Ice Skating

Maggie Daley Park’s Ice Skating Ribbon next to Millennium Park opens in time to see the Christmas Tree. Reservations needed to comply with Covid protocols. Visit  maggiedaleypark/skating.

Illumination at Morton Arboretum

The arboretum’s holiday light festival will be a half-hour drive through experience starting Friday as earlier announced, but bring your own refreshments because the concessions have been canceled and buildings will be closed.  Tickets are timed so visit Illumination for your time and date ticket.

 

Chicago museums close

Shedd Aquarium photo
Shedd Aquarium photo

Following Gov. Pritzker’s Covid-19 case mitigation orders on Nov. 17, 2020, Chicago’s museums will close this week. Several of them will shutter late afternoon Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd plans to close at 5 p.m. Wednesday and hopes to reopen Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. Its website has some fee-based videos, animal encounters and education programs to offset the loss of revenue it needs for animal care and conservation. For more information visit sheddaquarium.

 

Claude Monet, Stacks of Wheat, (Art Institute of Chicago photo)
Claude Monet, Stacks of Wheat, (Art Institute of Chicago photo)

 

Art Institute of Chicago

The museum closed Nov. 17. However, some of the exhibits and interesting information about them can be found online. Check Beyond the Surface for painting background on Monet at YoutTube/Watch and other information at articedu closure.

 

Museum of Science and Industry

MSI will close Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. The museum has digital programs and resources. Visit MSIChicago for more information. See some of the tree decorations that are part of the museum’s annual Christmas Around the world exhibit at Trees and Traditions. To see how the exhibit was build and what it looks like now visit Christmasaroundtheworld.

 

Adler Planetarium on the eastern edge of Chicago's Museum campus. (Photo by J Jacobs)
Adler Planetarium on the eastern edge of Chicago’s Museum campus. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Adler Planetarium

The museum closed back in March 2020 and has remained closed but it has  an online presence for star gazers and folks who want to stay current on sky events.  Visit astronomy live but also check the events that occur every week and every other week such as Skywatch Weekly. Click on the arrow to see what is available free such as NASA LIVE for the latest operations at the International Space Station.

 

 

 

Remarkable exhibition and art space come to Chicago

 

Immersive Van Gogh (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)
Immersive Van Gogh (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)

 

Imagine being surrounded by the art of Vincent van Gogh translated into movement, color and sound.

If you deliberately drive or walk past theMart to see what pictures are currently shown on the huge Wacker Drive side of the building as Art on theMart or it you tried getting tickets for last year’s sold-out last year and this year’s almost sold out Lightscape, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s stroll through immersive light and sound, you are likely to want to get to tickets when they go on sale this month to “Immersive Van Gogh.”

Tickets go on sale 11 a.m. CST Nov. 23, 2020 at VanGoghChicago and (844) 307-4644. Prices start at $39.99, adults and $24.99 for youth age 16 and younger. Tickets and space conform to pandemic protocols of social distancing and hand sanitizing.

The exhibition deconstructs Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh and several of his works including “The Starry Night” and some of the “Sunflowers” series during an hour-long, 360 degree experience among changing projections and music in a 500,000 cubic foot space.

 

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)
Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)

 

The creative team responsible for the Parisian Atelier des Lumières Exhibition in Paris is getting the Chicago edition of “Immersive Van Gogh” ready to open Feb. 11, 2021, according to Chicago Commissioner of Culture Mark Kelly during an introductory conference Nov. 16.

However, as remarkable as the Immersive van Gogh exhibition will be, Kelly also considered the space as equally important. The exhibition which leaves early May is going up in the formerly dormant, now remodeled, historic Germania Club in Old Town. The building will be known as Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago, a new venue for immersive art.

After noting that the Paris exhibition drew more than 2 million visitors, Kelly pointed out that Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago would, from a global view, become a new “art destination.”  He added that Chicago, already known for its art institutions, would be an “art powerhouse.”

Jodie Jacobs

How The Loop got its name

Patrick Reardon, author of 'The Loop' (Photo courtesy of Reardon and Southern Illinois University Press)
Patrick Reardon, author of ‘The Loop’ (Photo courtesy of Reardon and Southern Illinois University Press)

Readers who pick up “The Loop: The ‘L’ tracks that shaped and saved Chicago” by Patrick T. Reardon, today, should picture the constant stream of office workers, lawyers, financers, shoppers and theater goers who filled Chicago’s downtown business district before the COVID-19 pandemic forced pretty much everyone to work and shop from home.

Reardon makes the case that unlike some big cities’ downtowns such as Detroit which faced difficult times until it recently started a comeback, Chicago’s business district flourished because its heart was encompassed by the approximately two miles of elevated tracks known as The Loop.

Ask many Chicagoans about The Loop and they are likely to say it is the downtown business district. The Loop’s elevated tracks follow Wabash Avenue on the east, Lake Street on the north, Wells Street on the west and Van Buren Street on the south.

Indeed, The Loop is usually considered so important as a Chicago neighborhood that business, restaurants and residences that have developed south and west of it are now known as in the West Loop and South Loop neighborhoods.

However, the author doesn’t start with the building of what is actually a rectangle of tracks.

Readers interested in that beginning should start on page 97 in the chapter called “The Birth of the Union Loop” which chronicles some of the shenanigans by city and real estate movers and shakers that entrepreneur Charles T. Yerkes wallowed through to make the Union Elevated Railroad Company (Union Loop Company) a downtown elevated track reality beginning in 1895 and completed in 1897.

Starting with the later chapter and then going back is a good idea because Reardon often refers to The Loop early on as the Union Loop but the word Union doesn’t mean much until the birth of his company.

The Loop (Southern Illinois University Press photo)
The Loop (Southern Illinois University Press photo)

What Reardon, a long time Chicago Tribune writer, columnist, editor and Pulitzer Prize winner, does do early in the book is convincingly dispute claims that The Loop really was an evolutionary name that grew from the many small loops made by cable cars.

And even though Chicagoans have lovingly adopted The Loop name for downtown Chicago, the book also describes efforts to tear down the elevated tracks because they pass second-story business windows, shadow the businesses on their streets below and make a racket.

The book contends that the “L” tracks still exist today partially as a result of their landmark status, their universal identity with Chicago similar to San Francisco’s cable cars and New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the efforts to save them by a former mayor, the late Jane Byrne, after Mayor Richard J. Daley wanted them gone.

As evident by the bibliography, notes and 230 pages of historic references, Reardon has definitely done his research. Translated, that means there is extraneous information including bits about skyscrapers and Potawatomi Indians, but readers will come away with a better understanding of Chicago and its core.

The Loop: The “L” Tracks that Shaped and Saved Chicago (Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 2020)

Jodie Jacobs