Maybe I’m a sucker for how folk music tells stories of other cultures while also leading to life changing experiences.
I loved “Once” since seeing it downtown Chicago years ago and just recently at Writers Theatre in Glencoe.
Steeped in Irish folk music and movement, the play brings an Irish musician/songwriter back from the brink of self-destruction as “Girl” whom he meets, convinces him his music is listening-worthy.
Then, this weekend, I fell in love with “The Porch on Windy Hill,” a bluegrass musical presented by Northlight Theatre in Skokie.
The play reunites Mira, a classical violinist, with Edgar, her Appalachian grandfather, a noted blue-grass musician living in the North Carolina mountains.
Ostensibly, the reason they see each other again is because Mira’s partner Beckett’s doctoral dissertation is on folk music cultures and they needed a break from their Brooklyn apartment where they were cooped up during the pandemic.
All three characters are really fine musicians and Mira, played by Lisa Heimi Johanson, has a terrific voice. So basically, audiences are treated to an exceptional “wingding” or “hootenanny.” But there is a backstory.
Beckett, portrayed by Morgan Morse, keeps trying to get Mira to explain why there appears to be a disconnect between her and her grandfather, called “Gar,” played by David M. Lutken.
Clues are dropped along the way by Mira who is biracial as she notices some changes around the old homestead. When Gar mentions that new families are moving into the area, she wonders if and how they are accepted.
When pressed again by Beckett, Mira, whose mom is from Appalachia and whose father is Korean, finally said, “It’s complicated.” Later, she admitted she felt her grandfather didn’t approve of the union because of his behavior towards her and her family.
Conceived and directed by Sherry Lutken, “The Porch on Windy Hill,” was written by Sherry Lutken and its actors: Lisa Heimi Johanson, Morgan Morse and David M. Lutken.
Set designer Mara, Ishihara Zinky, came up with the perfect porch and housefront for the play’s joyful music and serious discussion.
Details: “The Porch on Windy Hill” continues through May 14, 2023, at Northlight Theatre in the Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie. Running time: 2 hrs., 10 min. with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Northlight Theatre.
Yes, Spring is finally here which means fine arts groups are beginning to talk about their line-up of April and May shows and events.
Northlight Theatre in Skokie presents what it calls “an old play with new music.” It’s “The Porch on Windy Hill,” conceived and directedby Sherry Lutken and co-written with fellow actors/musicians Lisa Helmi Johanson, David M. Lutken and Morgan Morse who co-star in the show.
Running April 13 through May 14, 2023, it follows a classical violinist and her boyfriend who loves folk songs from their Brooklyn home to North Carolina’s mountains where the violinist reconnects with an estranged grandfather. Along the way to discoveries, they overcome family prejudice and find bluegrass, foot-stomping roots.
Artistic Director BJ Jones called it a “story that needed o be told” because it unveiled how cultural differences and race could lead to family estrangement. “The thought that music or art would be the balm and the bridge to reconciliation convinced me that the story would touch our audience as it did me,” said Jones.
Also in April, Chicago a cappella is doing “American Songbook.” Put together by Artistic Director John William Trotter with music direction by Paul Langford, it features songs favored by such balladeers as Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.
The performances will be in four different towns respectively: Chicago, Evanston, Naperville and Oak Park, April 22, April 23, April 28, and April 30. To find the venue and date convenient to you and get tickets go to American Songbook – Chicago a cappella.
About the first venue, Ganz Hall in the South Loop on Wabash, Executive Director Matt Greenberg said, “April 22 will be Chicago a cappella’s first concert appearance at Ganz Hall. “It’s a true gem of the golden age of Chicago architecture…, “and we’re singing music from the golden age of American popular music. It’s a perfect fit.”
Theater Wit will be asking what might happen if you told the truth and nothing but the truth, when it presents the Midwest Premiere of “The Whistleblower.
A comedy by Tony-Award winner Itamar Moses, author of “The Band’s Visit,” audiences can find an answer or two when the show runs May 5 through June 17, 2023. For tickets and information, visit theaterwit.org or call (773) 975-8150.
In addition, the 27th Annual Blues on the Fox Festival combines blues legends and rising stars on the banks of the Fox River, June 16 and 17 at Thomas J. Weisner RiverEdge Park 360 N. Broadway, downtown Aurora. For tickets and more information, visitriveredgeaurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by RiverEdge’s satellite box office, Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. More information will be included in the summer concert roundup.
Many Chicago area theater companies operate on a fall through spring/early summer season so look for check January and February offerings to start 2023 with fun and fascinating entertainment.
” The Golden Girls” is opening at the Mercury Theatre, 1745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, this weekend. A new, original show, it has the fabulous girls we’ve come to know and love. The show runs Jan. 13 through Feb. 12, 2023. For tickets and info visit THE GOLDEN GALS LIVE! — Mercury Theater Chicago.
Among other interesting shows on the docket is MadKap Productions: “The Book of Merman” (That’s not a typo). It is coming to the Skokie Theatre 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, Feb. 3- 26, 2023. “The Book of Merman” starring Julie Peterson as Ethel Merman is about a visit by two Mormon missionaries. For tickets and more info call (847) 677-7761 or visit https://www.skokietheatre.org/.
And check out “Andy Warhol in Iran” at Northlight Theatre. The artist goes to Tehran to take photos of the Shah’s wife but learns more. The show runs Jan. 19-Feb. 19. Northlight is in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts at 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. For tickets and more information visit Northlight Theatre | Andy Warhol in Iran.
Another show to catch is “Big Fish” at Marriott Theater, Lincolnshire. A family-friendly musical adventure by John August and Andrew Lippa, previews start Jan. 25 with the run going from Feb.1 through March 19, 2023. Based on the film screenplay by August and novelist Daniel Wallace the story couples an adult and his childhood timeline with his relationship with his son, Will. For tickets visit Tickets.MarriottTheatre.com. For more information see MarriottTheatre.com.
Raven Theatre is doing the Chicago premiere of “Right To Be Forgotten”, bySharyn Rothstein. Directed by Sarah Gitenstein, the story is a timely plot about human forgiveness in the age of the internet “Right to be forgotten runs Feb. 9 – March 26, 2023 in Raven’s 85-seat East Stage, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville), Chicago. For tickets and more information visit raventheatre.com or call (773) 338-2177.
Northlight still puts on its productions at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.( J Jacobs photo)
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.
“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.
Audiences move below the stairs in “The Wickams: Christmas at Pemberley,” the second part of a trilogy that started with “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley.
Co-written by playwrights Lauren Gunderson (“Book of Will”) and Margot Mekon (former Marin Theatre New Play Development Director) Jane Austen fans will recognize some of the characters, their foibles and charm, as inspired by Pride & Prejudice.
Indeed, the troubles between Fitzwilliam Darcy (Luigi Scottile) and George Wickham (Will Mobley) start in the famed Austen story and reach another scandalous level in Part Two about the Bennets and the Darcys.
In a letter to her sister, Lizzy (Elizabeth Darcy played by Netta Walker), Lydia Wickham, née Bennet, portrayed by Jennifer Latimore, says she is coming to Pemberley for Christmas. Lydia’s husband, George, a gambler and unscrupulous womanizer, is not welcome at the Darcy estate.
Theater critics tend to return to the same places before covering a show. They are not usually the upscale places gone to for a special occasion or the newest eatery with a gourmet menu or “in” vibe. They have good food and are convenient to the venues.
Here are my recommendations based on experience for two downtown theaters ( I use theater spelled er) and two places in the northern suburbs. More areas later.
When going to the Goodman Theatre 170 N Dearborn St. or James M Nederlander Theatre, a Broadway in Chicago venue at 24 W. Randolph St., I reserve a table in the bar at Petterinos (312-422-0150, 150 N. Dearborn St.) at the corner of Dearborn and Randolph Streets.
The bartenders here are terrific. They serve their patrons quickly when they know they have a show. And I like the fried calamari when looking for something light and the amazing chicken pot pie when cold weather calls for a dish to warm the insides.
The restaurant is literally next door to Goodman and just a few steps across Dearborn to the Nederlander (former Oriental). I take public transportation but Petterinos has a valet service for customers who want to park there and see a show.
Downtown – Mag Mile
There are lots of places to dine on and near the Magnificent Mile. But when reviewing a show at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N Michigan Ave. in the historic Water Tower Water Works on the east side of the Water Tower campus or at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., I reserve a table at Mity-Nice Grill on the Mezzanine Level of Water Tower Place (835 N. Michigan Ave., 312.335.4745).
I like their veggie burger and their salads and that they bring tiny Yorkshire pudding bites to start the meal.
North Suburbs – Lincolnshire
I look forward to dining at the Three Embers Restaurant in the Marriott Resort, 10 Marriott Dr., when reviewing a show at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
Executive Chef Pierre Daval and Chef de Cuisine Jesus (Chuy) Medina are currently showcasing their Harvest Dinner. At Three Embers, diners get honey butter for their rolls that is a taste treat made with honey from Daval’s beehives on the property. I also love the Honey BBQ Brisket with smoked grits. But I’m thinking of trying the Sea Scallops dish with butternut squash and a maple glace when I go for the next show because squash and maple are too seasonal to pass up.
North Suburbs – Skokie
Across the road from Northlight Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, is a small strip mall that contains the popular Bonefish Grill at 9310 Skokie Blvd. Yes, you need a reservation and tell the waitperson you are going to a show.
I like the restaurant’s bread and dipping oil, its Caesar Salad and any shrimp dish with a variety of sauces.
The story of Joan of Arc, spelled in her home country of France as Jeanne d’Arc and also called “The Maid of d’Orléans,” has inspired numerous sculptures, musical works, books and films. Among the best plays is George Bernard Shaw’s classic “Saint Joan” which premiered in 1923, three years after the Roman Catholic Church canonized her.
A age 19, she was burned at the stake for heresy stake in 1431 after continuing to claim visions of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (and other saints). Her successes in leading French troops against the English during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War had worried powerful people in the government and church so when captured by a French faction friendly to the English she was put on trial by Pierre Cauchon, a pro-English bishop.
What playwright Jane Anderson has done in “Mother of the Maid,” now playing at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, is zoom in on Joan’s mother, Isabelle Romée. Born in a peasant family of northeastern France, Joan’s name comes from her father, Jacques d’Arc.
The idea of examining how her family reacted to her visions and particularly how her mother worried and coped with unusual challenges may arguably form the basis of a fine play.
However, the work on stage at Northlight has contrived dialogue infused with current language trends and moves from one stilted scene to another.
DETAILS: “The Mother of the Maid” is at Northlight Theatre in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, through Oct. 20, 2019. Running time: about 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 676-6300 or visit Northlight.
Experienced theater goers know that not all memorable plays are on stage in the city. Chicago’s suburban theaters also put on Jeff award-winning productions. To be sure to catch a show you want to see, copy it and save or mark those productions on the calendar. (Note: Some companies spell their work and space “theater,” others use “theatre.” Both are correct.) A look at the coming suburban theater season is the last round-up in Chicago Theater and Arts’ Sneak Peek Series.
The theatre is in a school building at 300 S. Waukegan Rd. Lake Forest.
Citadel is doing “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Sept. 18-Oct. 20 followed by “Annie,” Nov. 20-Dec. 22. “The Fantasticks” start out 2020 Feb. 5-Mar. 8, followed by “Brighton Beach Memoirs” Apr. 22-May 24.
For tickets and other information call (847) 735-8554 and visit Citadel Theatre.
The theatre does musical productions in the Marriott Resort at 10 Marriott Dr,. Lincohnshire.
“Darling Grenadine” continues through Aug. 18 followed by “ Something Rotten,” Aug. 28-Oct. 20 and “Oliver” Oct 30-Dec. 29, 2019. “Shrek the Musical” (children’s show) Oct. 5-Dec 30 and concludes with “Holiday Inn” Nov. 7-Jan. 6.
Marriott’s shows for young audiences feature “Junie B. Jones,” now through Aug. 11 and “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” Oct. 4-Dec. 29.
For tickets and other information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.
Metropolis Performing Arts Center
The Center, at 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, is currently doing “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” through Aug. 31, then “Anything Goes” Sept. 19-Nov. 2., 2019. The new year begins with “Noises Off” Jan 20-Mar. 14, followed by “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” May 14-June 27 and “Mama Mia! July 16 -Aug. 29.
The theatre is in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. Skokie
Northlight is doing the Midwest premiere of “Mother of the Maid” Sept. 12-Oct. 20 and the world premiere of “The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley” Nov.7-Dec. 15, 2019. The season continues in the new year with the world premiere of “How a Boy Falls” Jan. 23-Mar. 1 followed by “Intimate Apparel” Mar. 12-Apr. 19 and “Songs for Nobodies” May 7-June 14. 2020.
For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 and visit Northlight.
A theatre workshop/school at 927 Noyes St., Evanston, that also presents productions in co-operation with other groups. The Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre presents“The Black Ballerina” in partnership with Piven, Dear Evanston and Dance Center Evanston, Aug. 10-25.
For Piven tickets and other information call (947) 866-8049 and visit Piven Theatre.
The theatre is in a small, historic, movie theater building at 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie
Skokie Theatre is doing “The Fantasticks” Sept. 6-Oct. 6 followed by “Marjorie Prime: Nov. 8-24, 2019. The season continues in 2020 with “Veronica’s Room” Feb. 7-Mar. 1.
For tickets and other information call (847) 677-7761 and visit Skokie Theatre.
Designed by architect Jeanne Gang and her Studio Gang, WT has two stages in an award-winning building at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe; The Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre and the The Gillian Theatre.
The 2019-20 season opens with “Into the Woods” Aug. 14-Sept. 22, followed by “A Doll’s House” Sept. 25-Dec. 15, 2019. :The Niceties” is Nov. 6-Dec. 15. It continues in 2020 with “Stick Fly” Feb. 5-Mar. 15. and “The Last Match” Mar. 18-June 7. And “Mementos Mori” ay 6-June 14. .
For tickets and other information call (847) 242-6000 and visit Writers Theatre.
Drury Lane Theatre
The theatre is at the Drury Lane Resort, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace.
Drury Lane Theatre continues “And then There Were None” through Aug. 26 then is doing “The Color Purple” Sept. 13-Nov. 3. 2019 goes into 2020 with Mary Poppins” Nov. 15 –Jan. 19. “An American in Paris” is on stage Jan. 31-Mar. 29.
The theatre uses the rooms and grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate at 1717 W. 31st St. Oak Brook.
First Folio is doing “Henry V” through Aug. 18. Then, “Sherlock’s Last Case” Oct. 2-Nov. 3, 2019. Shows continue in 2020 with “Jeeves Saves the Day” Jan. 29-Mar.1 followed by “Louisa May Alcott’s Little women.” Mar. 25-Apr. 26.
Fir tickets and other information call(630) 986-8067 and visit First Folio.
Jedlicka Performing Arts Center
The Center at 3801 S. Central Ave., Cicero., is doing “In the Heights” with Vision Latino Theatre Company, fall of 2019. Dates TBA. For tickets and other information call (708) 656-1800 and visit Jpac Theatre.
Madison Street Theatre
The theatre, at 1010 Madison St. Oak Park, is a multi-venue building. For information call (312) 282-1750 and visit MSTOakPark.
Oak Park Festival Theater
The theater, 157 Forest Ave., has is doing “Much Ado About Nothing” through Aug. 31. Followed by “The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe: A Love Story” Oct. 24-Nov. 17, 2019.
The theatre is in a historic movie palace at 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
Paramount is doing “Newsies” Sept. 4-Oct. 20, then “Beauty and the Beast” Nov. 13-Jan. 19, followed by “The Secret of My Success” Feb. 12-Mar. 29. “Kinky Boots” ends the season Apr. 29-June 14.
For tickets and other information call (630) 896-6666 and visit Paramount Aurora.
Sixteenth Street Theatre
The theatre, 6420 16th Street, Berwyn, is doing “His Shadow” Sept. 5-Oct. 12, 2019 and “Small Jokes About Monsters” Jan. 10-Feb. 16, then, “Good Enough” Mar. 14-Apr. 20, 2020. For tickets and other information call (708) 795-6704 and visit 16th Street Theater.
Theatre of Western Springs
The theatre is at 4383 Hampton Ave., Western Springs.
It is doing “Murder in the Studio” Sept. 5-15 followed by “Accomplice” Oct. 17-27. The new year starts with “The Nerd” Hab, 16-26. Then, “The Great Gatsby” is Feb. 27-Mar. 8 and “TheGame’s Afoot” May 28-June 7.
Readers familiar with Jane Austen’s novels know this author sees through surface-only charm, social pretense and people who talk about manners but are not at all well-mannered.
These readers also know to expect thinly cloaked feminism about a century before the women’s rights movements were causing waves and making some progress in England and the United States.
But given Austen’s first two books, “Sense and Sensibility” in 1811 and “Pride and Prejudice” in 1813, audiences who see “Mansfield Park,” now at Northlight Theatre, will find in Austen’s third novel, out in 1814, that practicality no longer wins arguments. They will also note that one of “Mansfield Park’s theme stresses that financial benefit doesn’t excuse slavery.
“Mansfield Park’s heroine Fanny Price is portrayed to perfection by Kayla Carter. She convincingly takes her character from a young girl trying to adapt to her relative’s moneyed and mannered life when sent there as a servant and companion, to her metamorphosis as an independent young lady who does not succumb to pressure and who is willing to lead an impoverished life.
In Rachel Bonds’ “Curve of Departure,” now at Northlight Theatre, you see four characters who face different issues they sort of resolve by the end of the 75-minute play.
The characters, Rudy (Mike Nussbaum), ex-daughter-in-law Linda (Penelope Walker), her son, Felix called Fe, (Sean Parris) and Fe’s boyfriend, Jackson ,(Danny Martinez) have come together for the funeral of Rudy’s son, and Linda’s former husband, Cyrus, who is only a presence by their discussion of how awful he was.
Rudy’s grandson and his friend share a New Mexico motel room with Rudy and Linda to save money.
It is easy to get caught up in their troubles without realizing the big picture.