Stories by Hedy Weiss

Chicago Dance Crash. (Credit: Ashley Deran)

A Pair of Spirit-Raising Performances Celebrate Chicago’s Dance Scene

Both events served as the latest vivid illustration of why 2022 has rightly been designated “The Year of Chicago Dance.”

Antonio Lysy as Franchomme, Boris Giltburg as Chopin, Hershey Felder as Liszt. (Courtesy: Hershey Felder Presents)

Genius and Envy: The Dynamic That Drives ‘Chopin & Liszt in Paris’

“Chopin & Liszt in Paris” is the latest “musical film” created by Hershey Felder, widely known to Chicago audiences for his years of live performances in the city. Felder portrays the flamboyant Liszt, but he performs a great deal of Chopin’s music as he spins the story of his complex artistic relationship with that composer.

Enrique Mazzola, Lyric Opera’s Music Director and Donald Lee III, the inaugural Ryan Opera Center conductor/pianist, led the Lyric Opera Orchestra and singers from the Ryan Opera Center’s esteemed training center on the stage of the Pritzker Pavilion, Aug. 21, 2022. (Credit: Kyle Flubacker)

Lyric Opera Stages Enticing Preview of 2022-23 Season in Millennium Park Concert

On Sunday evening, in the wake of a thunderous few days of the Chicago Air and Water Show, Enrique Mazzola, Lyric Opera’s Music Director (along with Donald Lee III, the inaugural Ryan Opera Center conductor/pianist), led the Lyric Opera Orchestra and singers from the Ryan Opera Center’s esteemed training center on the same stage of the Pritzker Pavillion.

Cisco Lopez (Diego/Zorro), Emmanuel Ramirez (Ramon) in Music Theater Works’ ZORRO: THE MUSICAL, August 12, 2022 - August 21, 2022 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Music Theater Works’ Production of ‘Zorro: The Musical’ Is Lavish (and Long-ish)

Despite its many virtues and ambitious grand-scale staging, strong voices, daring swordplay, flamenco gypsy dances, lavish costumes, a tale of bitter sibling rivalry, political oppression and romance, plus the rousing music of the Gipsy Kings (including the irresistible “Bamboleo”) this take on the “Zorro” story needs work.

 “Parallel Lives,” a stunning work in the repertoire of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, a company that blends aspects of African American life and modern dance, and fully lives up to its use of the word “theater” in its name. (Credit Michelle Reid)

Dance for Life’s Benefit a Thrilling Highlight of the City’s ‘Year of Chicago Dance’ Celebration

Saturday evening’s Dance for Life program at the Auditorium Theatre served as an invaluable example of what a treasure that community has become. And the annual benefit extravaganza — a grand showcase of the city’s impressive range of talent and styles — was driven by an even more crucial goal.

Megan Masako Haley and Taylor Iman Jones in the musical version of “The Devil Wears Prada” now playing in Chicago. (Credit: Joan Marcus)

‘The Devil Wears Prada’: A New Musical in Need of Major Alterations

In a pre-Broadway Chicago tryout, “The Devil Wears Prada” musical features miscalculated costume design, a score lacking in magic and uneven direction. What’s more, the attempt to update the story for 2022 undercuts the time period so essential to both the book and film. 

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performs under the direction of Marin Alsop, Ravinia’s chief conductor, on July 30, 2022. (Courtesy of Ravinia)

A Momentous Evening at Ravinia With Masterworks by Golijov and Bernstein

Performed to breathtaking effect by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, along with the Chicago Children’s Choir, and a brilliant assemblage of instrumental and vocal soloists, the concert was superbly led by Marin Alsop, Ravinia’s chief conductor.

From left to right, Shaun White as Adam, Josh Houghton as Tick, and Honey West as Bernadette in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” at Mercury Theater. (Credit: Brett Beiner)

Love Conquers All in Mercury Theater’s Exuberant Rendering of ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’

A wildly exuberant, ideally performed, fabulously designed production of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”  — superbly directed and choreographed by the ever formidable Christopher Chase Carter — has come to the stage of Chicago’s Mercury Theater.

Hershey Felder’s latest musical film is “Musical Tales of the Venetian Jewish Ghetto.” (Courtesy of Hershey Felder)

Hershey Felder Embarks on Fascinating Musical Voyage to Venice’s Jewish Ghetto

For the past few years, the prolific, multi-talented Hershey Felder — who forged his career in the U.S., and then moved to homes in Paris and Florence — has taken a new direction in the form of an ever-expanding series of what he has dubbed “musical films” that are available for screening on the web.

Casey Hoekstra as Jack, left, and Sarah Price as Louise in the Northlight Theatre production of “Dear Jack, Dear Louise.” (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

‘Dear Jack, Dear Louise’ Traces a Beguiling Wartime Courtship Conducted Entirely Through Letters

Among the many charms of “Dear Jack, Dear Louise,” Ken Ludwig’s beguiling play about his parents’ courtship during World War II, is the way it suggests the power of handwritten letters. 

From left, Martel Manning as Jim, Kamal Angelo Bolden as Troy and Shanésia Davis as Rose in “Fences” at American Blues Theater. (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

American Blues Theatre Production of ‘Fences,’ an August Wilson Classic, Sets Stage on Fire

A painfully honest look at the relationship between a husband and wife, and a father and his two sons, the play captures a sense of the generational turmoil in one Pittsburgh family. And, along the way, Wilson subtly presages the more overtly revolutionary era that will unfold in the 1960s.

Paul Alexander Nolan and Samantha Williams in Britta Johnson’s “Life After.” (Photo by Jeremy Daniel)

Musical ‘Life After’ Taps Into Disillusionment About a Beloved Parent

A combination of admiration, disillusionment, guilt and pain drives “Life After,” the musical with a book, music and lyrics by the young Canadian-bred Britta Johnson. The 90-minute show is now running at the Goodman Theatre.

Felicia Fields in “Pearl’s Rollin’ with the Blues” at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe. (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

Felicia Fields Captures Every Shade of the Blues in Virtuosic Performance at Writers Theatre

Felicia Fields, the Chicago-based actress who won a Tony Award for her work in the Broadway production of “The Color Purple,” radiates joy and a good bit of mischief in this stellar production at Writers Theatre in Glencoe.  

The townspeople of Sand Rock—Heckie (Sharriese Y. Hamilton), Frank (Jonathan Butler-Duplessis), Maizie (Ann Delaney), Ellen Fields (Jaye Ladymore), George (Alex Goodrich)— in Chicago Shakespeare's world premiere production of It Came From Outer Space in the theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, June 22–July 24, 2022. (Credit: Liz Lauren).

‘It Came From Outer Space’ a Wonderfully Zany New Musical With an Ideal Message for Our Time

Based on the iconic 1953 Universal Pictures film that was inspired by the writings of sci-fi master Ray Bradbury (who grew up in Waukegan, Illinois), “It Came From Outer Space,” the zany new musical now in its world premiere at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, is so crazily “in and out” of this world that it is irresistible.

A capacity crowd of 12,000 packs Millennium Park on a beautiful summer evening in the city to enjoy a free Concert for Chicago featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director Riccardo Muti performing music by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. The performance marked the first return to Millennium Park for Muti and the CSO since 2018.  (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

A Night of Mirth and Rebirth as Muti and the CSO Bring a Thrilling ‘Concert for Chicago’ to Millennium Park

An audience of 12,000 people poured into Millennium Park Monday evening to hear maestro Riccardo Muti lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a thrilling performance of works by Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky on the Pritzker Pavilion stage.

(Credit Todd Rosenberg)

Muti and CSO Pay Homage to Verdi With a Monumental Concert Performance of ‘Un Ballo in Maschera’

Thursday evening’s bravura production was a major event in Muti’s penultimate season as the CSO’s music director. And it was a grand homage to both the composer whose work he has long cherished, and the orchestra he has embraced and nurtured since becoming its music director in 2010.

Brianna Buckley, Demetra Dee, Renee Lockett and Sydney Charles in “cullad wattah” at the Victory Gardens Theatre. (Credit: Liz Lauren)

‘cullud wattah’ Shows the Toxic Effects of Polluted Water and Corrupt Politics on Michigan Family

The Flint water environmental catastrophe, with its strong racial overtones, is at the core of “cullud watta,” the expertly written play by Erika Dickerson-Despenza. Her powerful story of three generations of Black women, now receiving a fiercely emotional regional premiere at Victory Gardens Theater, is a model for how to fully humanize a social crisis.

The CSO’s Sir Georg Solti Conducting Apprentice Lina González - Granados leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C Minor. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Saved by the Understudy: Lina Gonzalez-Granados Steps in for Maestro Muti

With the pandemic still bedeviling live performance these days understudies have become heroic figures. Now, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has its very own “last minute hero” story, too. 

Conductor James Gaffigan leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program with works by Saint-Saëns, Saint-Saëns Mussorgsky (Orch. Rimsky-Korsakov), and Tchaikovsky. (Photo Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Three Chicago Symphony Orchestra Concerts to Remember

Performed earlier this month, a trio of Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts led by guest conductors and featuring guest violinists deserve to be chronicled.

 Kelli O’Hara performs with the CSO led by conductor Steve Reineke at 2022 Corporate Night event. (Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Broadway Star Kelli O’Hara Spins a Marvelous Web of Broadway Classics and Hidden Gems

Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara performed a bravura solo concert Thursday accompanied by that ever dazzling “band,” the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Victoria Jaiani as Kitri in "Don Quixote." (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

Joffrey’s Production of ‘Don Quixote’ Taps Into Grandeur and Comedy of Cervantes’ Novel

The production not only ideally captures the mix of the comical, satirical, fantastical and romantic aspects of Miguel de Cervantes’ story, but with its beautiful sets, costumes, projections, puppets and aerial tricks it also is an ideal showcase for the Joffrey.

“Grandma’s Jukebox” is an intriguing psychological family drama that homes in on the particular fears, frustrations and needs of each of that woman’s four rather different and troubled grandchildren, and featuring periodic outbursts from the somewhat haunted jukebox that has long held a place in their grandmother’s living room. (Credit: Alan Davis)

A Boffo Debut for the Black Ensemble Theater’s Multi-Talented New Associate Director

Michelle Renee Bester’s 90-minute show is a quasi-autobiographical story that pays homage to her late grandmother. It spins an intriguing psychological family drama that homes in on the particular fears, frustrations and needs of each of that woman’s four rather different and troubled grandchildren. 

From left, Marcus Paul James, Jalen Harris, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Harrell Holmes Jr., James T. Lane from the National Touring Company of “Ain’t Too Proud”. (Credit: Emilio Madrid)

Celebrating the Enduring Magic of The Temptations With ‘Ain’t Too Proud’

“Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of The Temptations” is an exhilarating, at times heartbreaking, and superbly executed musical now in an all too brief run at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago.

Joseph Primes, Alfred H. Wilson, A.C. Smith, Jerod Haynes and Kierra Bunch in the Court Theatre’s production of “Two Trains Running.” (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

With ‘Two Trains Running,’ Court Theatre Stages Its Latest Rousing Revival of an August Wilson Classic

“Two Trains Running” is one of the finest plays in August Wilson’s renowned 10-play “Century Cycle” that captures elements of Black life in each decade of the 20th century. And Court Theatre’s latest revival of this seminal work is not to be missed.

Conductor Karina Canellakis in her CSO debut led a program featuring music by Augusta Read Thomas, Robert Schumann and Richard Strauss (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Dives Fearlessly Into an Emotionally Feverish Program

Guest conductor Karina Canellakis led the CSO in “Brio” (by Augusta Read Thomas); Robert Schumann’s lushly beautiful “Piano Concerto in A Minor” (featuring pianist Kirill Gerstein); and finally “Ein Heldenlaben (A Heroic Life),” Richard Strauss’ sweeping, fiercely emotional tone poem.

A North American touring production of “Fiddler on the Roof” is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago through May 22. (Credit: Joan Marcus)

The Uncanny Resonance of ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ Now Playing Limited Run at Cadillac Palace Theatre

The current touring production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” playing Chicago for only one week, is an ideal example of how “a classic” can have a whole new resonance at this very moment.