Stories by Hedy Weiss

Swept Away by a Hurricane of Love and Betrayal in ‘Once on This Island’

Kyle Ramar Freeman (left) as Asaka and Courtnee Carter as Ti Moune in the North American Tour of “Once On This Island.” (Photo by Joan Marcus / 2019)

The show is full of exuberant dancing and performances by strong actor-singers, but the crucial intimacy of its storytelling too often gets lost in the carnival atmosphere that has been generated to give this 90-minute gem a Broadway gloss.

In ‘Juliet,’ A Mother and Her Children in Time of Extreme Political Distress

Melissa Lorraine in András Visky’s “Juliet” directed by Kevin V. Smith at Theatre Y. (Credit: Devron Enarson)

At once haunting, sad and beautiful, Andras Visky’s “Juliet” – now in production by Theatre Y – is a work of both real life and pure poetry.

Hershey Felder to Make Goodman Debut With Portrait of French Composer Claude Debussy

Hershey Felder in “A Paris Love Story” featuring the music of Claude Debussy. (Courtesy of Christopher Ash)

The multitalented actor, pianist (and yes, composer in his own right) brings the eighth installment in his renowned “Great Composers Series” to Chicago in June and simultaneously makes his Goodman Theatre debut.

‘Whisper House’ a Haunting Musical About Love, Loneliness, Betrayal and War

From left: Kevin Webb, Mikaela Sullivan and Leo Spiegel in Black Button Eyes Productions’ Chicago premiere of “Whisper House.” (Photo by Evan Hanover)

The stylishly macabre, morally challenging show by Duncan Sheik (of “Spring Awakening” fame) and Kyle Jarrow is now receiving its Chicago premiere by Black Button Eyes Productions.

‘Dance Nation’ and ‘Mean Girls’ Offer Sad Portrait of Adolescent Girls

From left: Danielle Wade, Megan Masako Haley, Mariah Rose Faith and Jonalyn Saxer in the National Touring Company of “Mean Girls.” (Credit: © 2019 Joan Marcus)

If you were to consider the dominant feelings expressed by the adolescent girls in these two shows, the obvious conclusion would be that for all the talk, the feminist movement of the past five decades has failed to reach a whole generation or two of girls.

CSO in a Dazzling Triumvirate of Works by Stravinsky, Dvorak and Adams

Edo de Waart and Leila Josefowicz (Credit, from left: Edo de Waart, Chris Lee)

Talk about ending the year with a bang. Just a few weeks before the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is to embark on a whirlwind tour of Europe, the orchestra, under the direction of guest conductor Edo de Waart, is performing an altogether thrilling program.

‘Working’ Sings of Something More Profound Than 9-to-5 Drudgery

Kiersten Frumkin (left to right), Jared David Michael Grant, Stephen Blu Allen, Michael Kingston, Loretta Rezos and Cynthia F. Carter in “Working.” Background, in band are Perry Cowdery (left to right), Jeremy Ramey and Rafe Bradford. (Photo by Austin Oie Photography)

Based on Studs Terkel’s 1974 best-selling book of oral history, this musical is now in a wonderfully realized, sweat-and-dreams production at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, where six actors portray the many and varied attitudes about work.

Deeply Rooted Dancers Set the Stage on Fire

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater company members perform “Parallel Lives.” (Photo by Michelle Reid)

Two questions invariably come to mind when I see Deeply Rooted Dance Theater: Why is this company not more famous? And why isn’t it championed as Chicago’s counterpart of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater?

‘The Light in the Piazza’ Dimmed By a Grand-Scale Venue

Solea Pfeiffer and Renée Fleming in the “The Light in the Piazza” at Lyric Opera House. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Created for Broadway, “The Light in the Piazza” is a profoundly intimate work and belongs in a space that can fully embrace that intimacy. The Lyric Opera House, where it is now being presented, is not such a place. 

The Surprising Power of 2 Plays Captured on National Theatre Live

Lindsay Duncan in “Hansard.” (Catherine Ashmore / Courtesy NT Live)

A fervent believer in the unique power of live theater, I have become quite a convert to broadcasts of live performances after seeing two superb National Theatre Live productions this past weekend. 

Taking Stock of Chicago Theater as 2019 Draws to a Close

Nondumiso Tembe in “Lindiwe,” left, Kelvin Roston Jr. in “Oedipus Rex,” center, and Christina Hall in “Always … Patsy Cline.” (Photos by Michael Brosilow)

It would be all but impossible to survey the many great, good and sometimes disappointing productions of the past 12 months. But three recent shows suggest the great variety of work produced in Chicago – and the immense amount of talent here.

A Radiant Moment in Chicago History Key to Magic of Joffrey’s ‘Nutcracker’

Yoshihisa Arai and Amanda Assucena of the Joffrey Ballet perform Christopher Wheeldon’s Chicago-themed reinvention of “The Nutcracker.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

This highly original reimagining of the classic holiday tale is a monumental production both in its storytelling and its design, yet it manages to beautifully interweave its grand scale elements with human scale emotions. 

Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky Vividly Conjures ‘Three Queens’ Betrayed

Sondra Radvanovsky in “The Three Queens.” (© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019)

In “The Three Queens,” the trilogy of semi-staged excerpts about the lives of Anne Boleyn, Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth I now in a brief run at Lyric Opera, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky captures their essence to sublime vocal and dramatic effect.

Revisiting the Unique Poetry of Simon & Garfunkel’s Soundtrack

Ben Cooley (left) and Taylor Bloom perform in “The Simon & Garfunkel Story.” (Photo by Lane Peters)

Listening to the richly faithful performances by Taylor Bloom and Ben Cooley was in many ways like stepping into a time machine. As I left the theater awash in memories, I wondered whether Simon and Garfunkel have seen the show in which they are so winningly captured.

Chicago Opera Theater Captures Extreme Passions in Pair of Life-and-Death One-Acts

Michelle Johnson and Andrew Bidlack in Chicago Opera Theater’s productions of “Aleko” and “Everest.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

As Robert Frost famously wrote: “Some say the world will end in fire, / Some in ice.” And in a very real sense it was those two opposing endgame scenarios that Chicago Opera Theater conjured this past weekend as it opened its 2019-2020 season.

‘The Wickhams’ Puts a Beguiling Twist on a Jane Austen Sequel

Netta Walker (left) and Luigi Sottile in “The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Northlight Theatre’s production of “The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley” has a playfully feminist spirit that Jane Austen surely would have appreciated, but it also remains true to its Regency era mentality. 

‘The Niceties’ Captures Contemporary University Turmoil

Ayanna Bria Bakari and Mary Beth Fisher in “The Niceties.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

“The Niceties” is a brief and telling chronicle of the temper of our times, and actors Mary Beth Fisher and Ayanna Bria Bakari sustain the necessary tension and subterfuge required to keep things at the boiling point. 

Stunning ‘Don Giovanni’ a Surprisingly Ideal Fit for the #MeToo Era

Amanda Majeski and Lucas Meachem in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Don Giovanni.” (Photo by Kyle Flubacker)

The production, directed by Robert Falls (artistic director of the Goodman Theatre) is the finest work he has done on any stage since “The Iceman Cometh,” and it has been cast with glorious singers who also are exceptional actors.

Muti and CSO Bring a Touch of Italian Heat to Works of 3 German Romantics

What happens when a conductor steeped in the Italian tradition takes hold of three works by quite different 19th century German Romantic composers? The answer could be heard as Maestro Riccardo Muti led the CSO in works by Wagner, Brahms and Schumann.

A Breathtaking Rendering of Beethoven, and a Richly Sonic New ‘Dream’

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Maestro Riccardo Muti performs with violin soloist Leonidas Kavakos. ©2019 Anne Ryan

Together with the brilliant musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Riccardo Muti and violinist Leonidas Kavakos launched into an absolutely spellbinding performance of Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto in D Major.”

Leguizamo Blazes His Way into an Often Unexplored Cultural Inheritance

John Leguizamo in “Latin History for Morons.” (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

There is no denying the ferocity of John Leguizamo’s tragicomic jeremiad, his bravura gifts as a terrific physical performer, or his ability to improvise in “Latin History for Morons.”

Tapping Into the Blistering Tragedy of ‘I’m Lenny Bruce’

Ronnie Marmo as Lenny Bruce. (Photo by Doren Sorell)

Directed with just the right balance of the sacred and the profane by Joe Mantegna, Ronnie Marmo’s show, “I’m Not a Comedian ... I’m Lenny Bruce,” is a seamless weave of excerpts from Bruce’s acts along with original material that deftly takes us inside the man’s psyche.

‘Andares’ a Powerfully Imagined Homage to Mexico’s Indigenous Cultures

Josué Maychi (from left), Lupe de la Cruz, and Alexis Orozco (who was unable to join the Chicago production and has been replaced by Domingo Mijangos) perform in “Andares.” (Photo by Raúl Kigra)

The show’s three exceptionally graceful, expressive actors – each of them powerful solo players – form a seamless bond that is beautiful to behold. They are at once passionate artists and fierce cultural warriors.

2019 Jeff Award Winners Capture Richness of Chicago Theater Scene

AnJi White in Court Theatre’s production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Was Enuf.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

The exceptional breadth, depth and variety of Chicago theater was on full display Monday night as the winners of the 2019 Jeff Equity Awards were announced. Here are the highlights.

Sensational Actress Works Her Magic in Writers Theatre’s ‘A Doll’s House’

Cher Álvarez (Nora) in “A Doll’s House.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Writers Theatre’s production of “A Doll’s House,” cannily but faithfully adapted by Sandra Delgado and Michael Halberstam, and featuring a bravura performance by Cher Alvarez, brought the play back to life in the most unexpected ways.