Stories by Marc Vitali

Violinist Joshua Bell. (Phillip Knott)

Grammy-Winning Violinist Joshua Bell on Performing With the CSO, Getting Goosebumps With ‘The Elements’

Vivaldi composed “The Four Seasons,” Holst convened “The Planets,” and now we can experience “The Elements,” a themed orchestral suite courtesy of violinist Joshua Bell and five composers. The world-renowned, Indiana-born musician returns to the Midwest to perform these works with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents “The Enigmatist,” an immersive experience of puzzles and illusion from David Kwong. (Justin Barbin)

Extraordinary Stage Show Mixes Magic With a Bounty of Brainteasers at Chicago Shakespeare Theater: Review

David Kwong is a magician who also constructs crossword puzzles. As he puts it, “I combine the two nerdiest hobbies into one.” In his one-man show “The Enigmatist,” Kwong asserts that the disciplines of puzzle-making and magic-making share DNA.

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog hosted a “Jeopardy!”-style game show at the Den Theatre on June 3, 2024. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

Rod Blagojevich, Ryan Dempster and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Walk Into a Bar: Reviewing a Strange Night in Chicago Comedy

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog hosted a “Jeopardy!”-style game show in Chicago this week with celebrity contestants, including ex-Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster, actor Samm Levine and ex-governor Rod Blagojevich.

The cover of “My Favorite Thing is Monsters Book Two.” (Provided)

Eagerly Awaited Graphic Novel Embraces Chicago, Art and Monsters — Both Real and Imaginary

Following the release of “My Favorite Thing is Monsters” in 2017, graphic novelist Emil Ferris was dubbed “one of the most important comics artists of our time.” Now Ferris is back with “My Favorite Thing is Monsters Book Two,” which continues the tale of Karen Reyes, a 10-year-old misfit who thinks of herself as a werewolf.

Robert Smigel as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. (Credit: Exploring the Right Brain)

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (and Comedian Robert Smigel) on the Cubs, Chicago Pizza and Rod Blagojevich

Robert Smigel may be best known as the breeder behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, the crass canine puppet whose jokes make Don Rickles look housebroken. We sit down with him before his Chicago show. 

Andrew Bird performs at the Green Mill in Chicago on May 29, 2024. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

Andrew Bird Flies High With Jazz Standards at the Green Mill: Review

Andrew Bird migrated back to Chicago last night, launching his new tour with a pair of shows at the Green Mill Lounge in Uptown. He led a trio of musicians performing jazz standards and a few favorites from his catalog.

A necklace and a piece by Lalique are on display at the Driehaus Museum. (Credit: Michael Tropea)

Bringing the Bling: Jewelry, Decorative Arts – and Oddities – From Prominent Local Families Flash Brilliance at Historic Chicago Mansion

A new exhibition illuminates the jewels in city collections, both private and institutional. There are enough gorgeous gems and decorative art objects here to fill a whole season of “Antiques Roadshow.”

Travis A. Knight, Michael Shannon and Lawrence Grimm in “Turret.” (Courtesy of Fadeout Media and Jesus Santos)

Michael Shannon Shines Bright in the Dark Tale ‘Turret’ From A Red Orchid Theatre: Review

In the world premiere play “Turret,” humans dwell at the bottom of the food chain, and their days at the top are a distant memory.

Larissa FastHorse. (Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Taking a Bite Out of Thanksgiving: Playwright Talks Native Humor, Chicago Audiences and Steppenwolf Run of Broadway Show

Larissa FastHorse is the first Native American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. “The Thanksgiving Play” is now onstage at Steppenwolf Theatre. It’s a satire about earnest theater folks who attempt to stage a historically accurate Thanksgiving play.

“Ancient Huasteca Women: Goddesses, Warriors and Governors” runs through July 21 at the National Museum of Mexican Art. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

Wonder Women of the Ancient World Visit Chicago in ‘Goddesses, Warriors and Governors’ Exhibit

Femme fatales and goddesses play for keeps at a new exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art. These deities and grande dames — etched in rock or molded from clay — are in Pilsen through July.

Contestants in the Illinois State Championship of the National Physique Committee are pictured on May 11, 2024. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

Mountains of Muscle in the Land of Lincoln — A Trip to the Illinois Bodybuilding Championship in Chicago Illuminates a Dedicated Subculture: Column

Mighty men and well-toned women paraded through the lobby of the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park last Saturday, crossing paths with fans, supporters and vendors. The muscled masses were competitors in the Illinois State Championship of the National Physique Committee.

Left: Untitled work by Christina Ramberg, 1971. (Stewart Clements Photography) Right: “Probed Cinch” by Christina Ramberg. (Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)

Tightly Bound: Inside the Bizarre and Slightly Risqué Art of Chicago Artist Christina Ramberg

“Christina Ramberg: A Retrospective” places an important, underappreciated Chicago artist where she clearly belongs — in the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. It’s the first full survey of Ramberg’s work in the nearly 30 years since her untimely death.

A performance of “Guys and Dolls” at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. (Brett Beiner)

Lady Luck Smiles on New Production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ at Drury Lane Theatre: Review

Sin and salvation form an odd power couple in Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls,” a true classic of American musical theater that’s tuneful and fresh nearly 75 years after it premiered. And Drury Lane Theatre’s new staging of the beloved 1950 musical finds the funny in its sturdy old bones.

Artist Katie Chung paints a mural on the 94th floor of 875 North Michigan. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

Mural on the 94th Floor: Chicago Artist Spotlights City Neighborhoods and Her Heritage at the Top of a Skyscraper

High above Michigan Avenue, artist Katie Chung pays tribute to the neighborhoods below. She uses many colors while keeping in mind Obangsaek, a color scheme known as the five cardinal colors of Korean culture.

Art on display in “Alice Shaddle: Fuller Circles” at the Hyde Park Art Center. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

Discover an Unsung Chicago Artist, Explore Colorful Collaborations at Hyde Park Art Center

It’s an inspiring spring at the Hyde Park Art Center, where two shows by essential Chicago artists are currently in bloom.

Australian native Harry Milas is bringing “The Unfair Advantage” to Steppenwolf’s Merle Reskin Garage Theatre through April 21. (Courtesy of Harry Milas)

Gambling Meets Magic: Australian Magician Offers Insider’s View on Card Cheating and Casino Security

A magician who once worked in casino security is doubling down on revealing the secrets behind card tricks. And there’s a catch: Everyone must sign a confidentiality contract before the show.

Inside the “A Night at Mister Kelly’s” exhibit at the Newberry Library. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

A Tip of the Hat to Mister Kelly’s: Legendary Chicago Nightclub Takes the Spotlight Once Again

The Newberry Library is raising a glass to the Chicago nightclub that helped shape American music and comedy. The new exhibition “A Night at Mister Kelly’s” is a swinging selection of artifacts and eye-opening information about the famous hotspot.

A mosaic at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

Driehaus Donation Adds Luster to a Gem of a Museum in Oak Brook

From its home in Oak Brook, the Lizzadro Museum spotlights a captivating collection of stones, both hand-carved and in their natural state. Jade carvings, cameos and dioramas live side-by-side with fossils and rough minerals.

“Psalms for an Irish Girl” by Chicago artist Tony Fitzpatrick. (Provided)

Chicago Artist Honors Sinéad O’Connor With ‘Psalms for an Irish Girl’

“I’m so proud of being Irish when I think of her, her music, her principles, what she stood for and what it cost her,” artist Tony Fitzpatrick said.

Ronnie Marmo as Bill Wilson in “Bill W. and Dr. Bob.” (Credit: Cortney Roles)

‘Bill W. and Dr. Bob’ – Sobering, Humane Drama Brings to Life Story of Alcoholics Anonymous Founders: Review

In the same decade, two unassuming middle-aged men – Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith – joined forces to create Alcoholics Anonymous. A play at the Biograph Theater explores that time. 

A look inside the “007 Science: Inventing the World of James Bond” exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. (Kelsey Ryan)

New James Bond Exhibit at Museum of Science and Industry Will Leave 007 Fans Shaken AND Stirred

Two large galleries showcase tricked-out vehicles, artifacts and gadgets from 25 films in the series, along with movie clips that set the scene.

Ronnie Marmo as Lenny Bruce. (Doren Sorell)

What Do Lenny Bruce, Joe Mantegna and Booze Have in Common? 2 Plays About American Trailblazers Light Up the Biograph Theater

Local legend Joe Mantegna is directing “I’m Not a Comedian… I’m Lenny Bruce” starring Ronnie Marmo as the comedian who took a bullet for anyone who values free speech. Marmo also directs and stars in “Bill W. and Dr. Bob,” the true story of the dramatic founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Brigitte Calls Me Baby performs at Schubas Tavern on March 2, 2024. (Marc Vitali / WTTW News)

Brigitte Calls Me Baby, Breakout Chicago Rock Band, Meets the Moment With Electrifying Show at Schubas: Review

There was a charge in the air at Schubas Tavern on Saturday night. Maybe it was the singer with the electric chair tattooed on his chest. Brigitte Calls Me Baby played its first sold-out hometown show.

(Courtesy of Brigitte Calls Me Baby)

Homecoming for Chicago Band Brigitte Calls Me Baby — Lead Singer Talks Elvis, Pen Pals and a Promising Future

The spotlight shines brightly these days on Chicago band Brigitte Calls Me Baby. The group just had its national TV debut on “CBS Saturday Morning,” and the influential public radio station WXPN called the band “future rock royalty.”

(Courtesy of Alexandra Duvivier)

How Do You Say ‘Abracadabra’ in French? Acclaimed Parisian Magician on Chicago Performances, Life in Magic and Fooling Penn & Teller

Paris-based magician Alexandra Duvivier charms audiences with the art of close-up – or parlor – magic. She’s one of a growing number of women in the profession, and she even performed a trick that fooled famed duo Penn & Teller.

Chicago Art Auction, Paschke, Origin, 1995 (Courtesy of Rago/Wright/Toomey & Co.)

Auction House Puts Chicago Art on the Block: A Preview of ‘Elevated’ Artwork

Toomey & Co. Auctioneers will devote an entire sale to Chicago artwork from the past 100+ years. The auction is titled “Elevated: Art Via Chicago.”