Stories by hedy weiss

Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Bravura Start to Maestro Muti’s Final Season as Music Director

Music Director Riccardo Muti opens his 13th year with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program that included the U.S. Premiere of Coleridge-Taylor’s “Solemn Prelude” and works by Brahms and Tchaikovsky. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

If you needed to be reminded of the glorious sound Maestro Riccardo Muti has nurtured during his 13-year tenure as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Thursday evening’s concert, marking the start of the 2022-23 season, served as a perfect example.

An Odd Couple’s Disposal of Public and Personal Garbage at Northlight Theatre

Tiffany Renee Johnson and Luigi Sottile in Lindsay Joelle’s “The Garbologists” at Northlight Theatre. (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

“The Garbologists” is an engaging, sharply written, and cleverly titled two-character play by Lindsay Joelle now receiving its first professional production by Northlight Theatre. The production follows two garbage collectors who have a competitive tension and developing connection. 

A Dramatically Different Take on the Enduring ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at Lyric Opera

Dancers fly during Barrie Kosky’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Lyric Opera House. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Scaled to opera house grandeur, the production involves a total of 100 performers including a cast of strong actors, an ensemble of sensational dancers, a large chorus and the full Lyric Opera Orchestra.

Marriott Theatre’s ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Still Glowin,’ ‘Crowin’ and Goin’ Strong

Heidi Kettenring stars in the Marriott Theatre production of “Hello, Dolly!” (Credit: Liz Lauren)

In addition to its ideal cast, it is the seamless and often breathtaking dance sequences that set this production of “Hello, Dolly!” at Marriott Theatre apart. 

A Burlesque-Style Fantasy About ‘Miz Martha Washington,’ Slave Holder and First Lady, Opens at Steppenwolf

From left, Cindy Gold, Celeste M. Cooper and Sydney Charles in Steppenwolf Theatre’s “The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington” by James Ijames. (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

“I don’t come here to shame the founders (of our country), or in the case of my play, their spouses,” playwright James Ijames writes. “I come here to test the strength of their ideals.”

A Madhouse in Full Force in Court Theatre’s Wild and Crazy Production of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

Celeste Williams, Eric Gerard and TayLar in Court Theatre’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

Court Theatre has opened its 2022-23 season with “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Joseph Kesselring’s maniacally zany 1941 Broadway hit that is probably most widely known by way of its 1944 film version starring Cary Grant and Boris Karloff.

A Transfixing Work of Dance Theater by Alejandro Cerrudo Unfolds at Harris Theater

“It Starts Now” by choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo was performed at the Harris Theater in Chicago on Sept. 8, 2022. (Credit: Kyle Flubacker)

It Starts Now is not an easy work to describe. It is a transfixing physical manifestation of human existence  epic in its emotional tension, its simultaneously real and mystical aura and its remarkable dancing.

Art, Politics, History and Big Personalities Fill the Canvas in ‘Chagall In School’

Garvin Wolfe Van Dernoot as Kazimir Malevich, left, and John Drea as Marc Chagall in Grippo Stage Company’s “Chagall In School,” Sept. 6-Oct. 8, 2022 at Theatre Wit. (Credit: Anthony Robert LaPenna)

It was in 1919 that Chagall assumed the position of commissar of arts for Vitebsk and founded the Vitebsk Art School, which opened its doors to all who wanted to pursue their artistic dreams. That marks the setting for a world premiere play. 

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

Chicago Dance Crash. (Credit: Ashley Deran)

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

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

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

“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.

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

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)

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.

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

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.

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.

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

 “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)

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.

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

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

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. 

A Momentous Evening at Ravinia With Masterworks by Golijov and Bernstein

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

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.

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

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)

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 Embarks on Fascinating Musical Voyage to Venice’s Jewish Ghetto

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

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.

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

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

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. 

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

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)

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.

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

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

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

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

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.  

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

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).

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

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)

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.

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

(Credit Todd Rosenberg)

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.

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

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

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.

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

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)

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.