Stories by Hedy Weiss

CSO Announces Innovative Fall Programming Plans

The CSO’s Lincoln Quartet composed of violinists Qing and Lei Hou, Lawrence Neuman on the viola and cellist Kenneth Olsen perform in a virtual recital in August. (Clay Baker / Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

For now, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be focused on intimate, virtual experiences for its fall 2020 season, which includes the launch of a new digital series of performances. 

Joffrey Ballet and Lyric Opera Cancel Their Fall Seasons

Cara Marie Gary in “The Nutcracker.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

This fall was to mark the Joffrey’s first season in its new home on the Lyric Opera stage after many years of residence at the Auditorium Theatre.

Dance for Life’s 2020 Benefit Rechoreographed For the Times

Dance for Life (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Dancers, perhaps more than any other group of performing artists, have been hit hardest, both artistically and financially, by the fallout from the coronavirus. So this year’s Dance for Life 2020 event will feature a new virtual format.

Writers Theatre Devises a Flexible Plan for 2020-21 Season

(Courtesy of Writers Theatre)

How do you design a pandemic-era theater season? The Glencoe-based theater has devised a multifaceted plan that combines a degree of certainty with the option of built-in flexibility, with the ultimate goal of keeping live theater alive.

Chicago Opera Theater Signals Return of Live Music Before Thanksgiving

A promotional image for “Il Postino (The Postman).” (Credit: Joe Mazza)

Amid all the dire warnings that live performances might not start up again until 2021, the news that the richly creative company plans to begin its three-production season in November comes as an enormous spirit-raiser.

Goodman Theatre Shuffles Schedule as Pandemic Uncertainty Reigns

(Courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

With all the uncertainty facing theaters and their audiences, the Goodman Theatre is postponing the four productions remaining in its current spring and summer 2020 season, and will announce additional shows for the coming season at a later date.

Grant Park Music Festival Joins List of Summer Cancellations

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

The news is increasing familiar, yet heartbreaking. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, yet another much-beloved live music series is being silenced this summer. 

Ravinia Festival Cancels Entire 2020 Summer Season

(Courtesy of Ravinia Festival)

The decision to cancel the season was made with the “health and safety of the festival’s artists, staff and neighbors,” in mind, Ravinia’s President and CEO Welz Kauffman said in a statement.

2020 Non-Equity Jeff Award Nominees Announced Amid Darkness of Pandemic

David Goodloe, center, with Lewon Johns, back left, and Michael Turrentine in Griffin Theatre Company’s Midwest premiere of “Mlima’s Tale.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

With 10 nominations, Griffin Theatre led the pack on a list that serves as a vivid reminder of the exuberance of pre-pandemic times on Chicago stages. But it suggests what has been lost, too.

Lyric Opera Crafts Future Seasons with Postponed Productions, and Muti Turns to CSO Archives

Dan Burton in “42nd Street.” (Credit: Théâtre du Châtelet / Marie-Noëlle Robert)

Lyric’s canceled productions of “42nd Street” and “Blue” are now slated to run in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Meanwhile, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is partnering with WFMT on a series beginning next week.

How Chicago’s Storefront Theaters Are Facing the Coronavirus Crisis

Courtney Rikki Green, left, Tamara Rozofsky, center, and MacGregor Arney in “Teenage Dick,” at Theater Wit. (Photo credit: Charles Osgood)

Because Chicago is the storefront theater capital of this country, it’s worth looking at the situation now facing some of these small companies and how they are trying to deal with the global pandemic.

A Smashing Lookingglass Premiere Captures Complex Chemistry Between Cabrini-Green and Jane Byrne

Ensemble member Christine Mary Dunford in “Her Honor Jane Byrne.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Lookingglass Theatre’s dazzlingly performed world premiere production is a theatrical and sociological gem of a work that should catapult its writer-director, ensemble member J. Nicole Brooks, to genuine fame.

Dance is the Name of the Game on Chicago Stages as Alvin Ailey Company Leads the Way

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Judith Jamison’s “Divining.” (Photo by Nan Melville)

Chicago’s dance card is full to bursting. And one of the city’s most beloved “visitors” – the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – is now drawing its usual huge crowds to the Auditorium Theatre.

TUTA Heightens the Shock Value in ‘Hedda Gabler’ With Blasts of Music

Lauren Demerath in TUTA Theatre’s world premiere adaptation of “Hedda Gabler: A Play with Live Music.” (Photo by Austin D. Oie)

When it comes to revivals of Henrik Ibsen’s plays in this era of neo-feminism, “A Doll’s House” attracts the most attention. But it is the title character in “Hedda Gabler” who takes the cake. And in this new production, she has never been more compelling and convincing.

Days and Nights of Classical Musical Magic at Symphony Center

Pianist Daniil Trifonov (Credit: Dario Acosta)

Many of the concerts at Symphony Center are one-time-only events for which Orchestra Hall’s 2,500 seats are nearly sold out. But attention must be paid to the hours of remarkable music-making brought to the stage. Here are a few recent cases in point.

Scintillating ‘Book of Moron’ Intellectually Invigorating in an Era of Catastrophic Dumbing Down

Robert Dubac in “The Book of Moron.” (Courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

In 90 uninterrupted minutes of altogether irresistible satire, Robert Dubac – an actor, writer, comedian and grand master of sleight-of-hand (and mind) – ingeniously nails the current regrettable state of the nation and the world at large.

‘Mlima’s Tale’ Traces Global Trail of Destruction of a Grand, Endangered Creature

David Goodloe, center, with Lewon Johns, back left, and Michael Turrentine in Griffin Theatre Company’s Midwest premiere of “Mlima’s Tale.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Lynn Nottage’s 2018 play about the savage slaughter and potential decimation of Africa’s “big tusk” elephant population, and the illicit trade in ivory that drives it, is a stunning piece of work – equal parts poetry, ritual and an anatomy of corruption.

CSO Infuses Beethoven Classics With New Energy and Captures Ophelia’s Descent Into Madness

Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program featuring Beethoven’s Second and Fifth Symphonies on Feb. 20, 2020. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

What Maestro Riccardo Muti and the orchestra have made continually clear throughout this year of celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth is how thrillingly modern the composer’s work can feel. 

Joffrey Announces Big Plans for 2020-21 Season in New Home at Lyric Opera

Joffrey Ballet artists Stefan Goncalvez and Brooke Linford. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

A coming change of venue for the Joffrey Ballet is a major shift, and its initial opening season will be of great importance, especially since it also will mark the 25th anniversary of the Joffrey as a formidable Chicago cultural institution. 

Classical Technique Meets Contemporary Mindset in Joffrey Ballet’s Fast-Moving Mixed Bill

Joffrey Ballet artists in “Commedia.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

Throughout its history, the Joffrey Ballet’s dancers have been renowned for their ability to create characters as well as to put their superb technical skills to work. They also are capable of carrying over their acting ability to contemporary “plotless” works.

Musical Version of ‘Emma’ Taps Into Enduring Allure of Jane Austen

Lora Lee Gayer and Brad Standley in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Emma.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

The flaws and fancies, and triumphs and comeuppances of Jane Austen’s characters continue to ring true two centuries after the publication of her books. The latest proof can be found in this utterly charming production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. 

Lyric Opera Announces 2020-2021 Season of Classics, New Works and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

“Singin’ in the Rain” (Marie-Noëlle Robert / Théâtre du Châtelet)

The formidable full schedule will feature 10 major productions, eight of which will be “new to Chicago.” The season also will mark the grand finale of Sir Andrew Davis’ tenure as music director of the Lyric Opera.

Chicago Opera Theater’s World Premiere of ‘Freedom Ride’ a Triumph of Art and History

Robert Sims and Tyrone Chambers, II in Chicago Opera Theater’s “Freedom Ride.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

In its airtight, fervent, emotionally riveting 90 minutes, “Freedom Ride” vividly captures a pivotal moment in American history and the civil rights movement of the early 1960s in the most sophisticated yet accessible way. 

The Music Speaks for Itself in the CSO’s Riveting Concert Version of ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’

Mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, center, performs the role of Santuzza in “Cavalleria rusticana,” conducted by music director Riccardo Muti, right, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at Symphony Center on Feb. 6, 2020. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

The true magnificence of Mascagni’s 1890 opera – now focused entirely on the beauty of the music and the truthfulness of the singers, and stripped of the distractions of scenery, melodramatic acting and all the rest – was a great revelation.

Elusive Identities at the Center of 2 Whodunits Separated by Many Decades

Left: Cassidy Slaughter-Mason and Sean Parris in “How a Boy Falls.” Right: Kate Fry and Allen Gilmore in “The Mousetrap.” (Photos by Michael Brosilow)

Agatha Christie’s play, “The Mousetrap,” is now receiving a wonderfully entertaining revival at Court Theatre, while Northlight Theatre is presenting the world premiere of Steven Dietz’s “How a Boy Falls,” a compelling whodunit with very dark overtones.