The Forest Lords of Arden (left to right: Austin Eckert, Jeff Kurysz, Adam Wesley Brown, Michael Daniel Dashefsky, Kurt Schweitz) jam to the hit song of The Beatles in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “As You Like It,” adapted and directed by Daryl Cloran, in the Courtyard Theater, Oct. 6–Nov. 21. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

The show is not some crazy remake of the musical “Hair,” but rather a raucous, playful and exceedingly clever reimagined take on Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” 

Fernando Duarte and Stefan Goncalvez perform in “Swing Low.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

With its ideally titled program, “Home: A Celebration,” the Joffrey Ballet finally made its pandemic-delayed debut as the resident dance company at the Lyric Opera House on Wednesday. And it did so by way of a beautifully constructed and exquisitely danced program.

Jessie Montgomery, the CSO’s Mead Composer-in-Residence. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

On the heels of the recent triumphant return to live concerts by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Riccardo Muti, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association has announced its extensive programming plans for the remainder of the 2021 season and the first half of the 2022 season.

The Company of the RENT 20th Anniversary Tour RENT 20th Anniversary Tour (Credit Amy Boyle 2019).

Among the shows that have marked the return of live theater in Chicago are three very different music-driven works variously set in the final three decades of the 20th century. Seen during present day upheaval, as well as through the lens of their original conception, the result is an intriguing double vision. 

Music Director Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra perform Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 (Pathétique) as part of Muti’s final program in his fall 2021 residency. (Credit Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Maestro Riccardo Muti led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the third program of his fall residency with an intriguing juxtaposition of three works: Missy Mazzoli’s 2006 “These Worlds in Us”; Russian composer Anatoly Liadov’s 1908 tone poem, “The Enchanted Lake”; and finally, Tchaikovsky’s indisputable 1893 masterpiece, “Symphony No. 6 in B Minor (Pathetique).”

Bethany Thomas performs in “Songs for Nobodies.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

With her bravura one-woman performance in “Songs for Nobodies,” Bethany Thomas has clearly found the kind of star turn that can change a career, and a life, while unquestionably generating immense happiness, awe and bravos among her audiences.

Violinist Leonidas Kavakos acknowledges the audience following his performance with Riccardo Muti and the CSO, September 30, 2021. (Credit Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Leonidas Kavakos — the Greek-born violinist who thrilled audiences with his performance of Beethoven’s 1806 “Violin Concerto in D Major” two years ago — returned to the stage with a galvanic rendering of Brahms’ 1878 “Violin Concerto in D Major,” leaving the packed house in a state of contained awe between movements.

Ailyn Perez and Joshua Hopkins in the Lyric Opera production of “The Elixir of Love.” (Photo by Cory Weaver)

Gaetano Donizetti’s beguiling romantic comedy is a delightful  and winningly insightful tale of true love, money, egotism, self-doubt, wishful thinking and charlatanism. And, to top it all off, it comes with a happy ending.

Sondra Radvanovsky and Craig Colclough in the Lyric Opera production of “Macbeth.” (Photo by Ken Howard)

The Lyric Opera production of Giuseppe Verdi’s “Macbeth” — which marks both the ongoing pandemic-era reopening of the company’s renovated 3,200-seat theater, and the official start of Enrique Mazzola’s tenure as the company’s music director — is no standard witches’ brew. 

Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony in their first concert together since February 2020 to open the CSO’s 131st season, Sept. 23, 2021. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

It was a great spirit-raising moment of rebirth, celebration and pure musical enchantment Thursday night as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra along with an ebullient Maestro Riccardo Muti and a large, exuberant audience were all reunited in Orchestra Hall for the first time in 19 months. 

(Photo credit: Kyle Dunleavy)

Should you need any additional proof of the adage that “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” the recent one-night-only performance by the Joffrey Ballet at the Ravinia Festival provided all the evidence required.

The annual event that puts the spotlight on Chicago dance companies is free and open to the public this year with a concert at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

Willie Nelson performs at Ravinia on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021. (Credit: Kyle Dunleavy)

The crowd roared and jumped to its feet the minute the 88-year-old country music legend walked onto the stage on Saturday night — and his ability to instantly connect to his audience is unwavering, with his guitar playing still seemingly effortless.

Sheléa performs at “Unboxing Bernstein: A Live Revue” at the Ravinia Festival on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. (Courtesy of the Ravinia Festival)

“Unboxing Bernstein: A Live Revue” served as a stirring reminder of Leonard Bernstein’s genius for mixing and matching musical genres. 

Rachel Barton Pine performs with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Friday, July 16, 2021. (Courtesy of the Ravinia Festival)

It was quite a weekend at the Ravinia Festival. On Friday evening virtuoso violinist Rachel Barton Pine filled in for the indisposed Midori with just a few hours of advance notice, and aced Prokofiev’s fiendishly difficult “Violin Concerto No. 1.”

Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

From Grant Park to Ravinia, music and dance are returning in a big way this summer. Theater critic Hedy Weiss is returning, too, to talk about some recent live shows.