Stories by Hedy Weiss

Bold Mix of Classics, Rarities and New Work Planned for Lyric Opera

“The Queen of Spades” (Felix Sanchez / Houston Grand Opera)

Productions of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades” and the Chicago debut of “Dead Man Walking” are among the highlights of Lyric Opera’s 2019-2020 season.

In ‘The Realistic Joneses,’ 2 Couples Try Desperately to Connect

From left: Joseph Wiens, Cortney McKenna, H.B. Ward and Linda Reiter in Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit’s Chicago premiere of “The Realistic Joneses.” (Photo by Evan Hanover)

In a joint production by Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit, director Jeremy Wechsler and his cast have tapped into the deftly conjured, fragmented, offbeat rhythms of Will Eno’s characters with impressive skill.

Puppet Theater Festival Explodes the Boundaries of Classic Art Form

Cast of “Ajijaak on Turtle Island”; An IBEX Puppetry production directed by Ty Defoe and Heather Henson (© 2018 Richard Termine)

A sampling of a trio of shows conveyed a strong sense that puppets have the power to take on the most vivid existences, even as their human puppeteers project powerful profiles of their own.

Windy City Playhouse Stages Breathtaking Production of ‘Noises Off’

Cast of "Noises Off" (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

The show, which is literally breathtaking and a breathtakingly funny production by Windy City Playhouse, is a bravura exercise in extreme mental and physical comedy.

Burnt-out Theater Critic Succumbs to Seductive Offer in ‘St. Nicholas’

Brendan Coyle in "St. Nicholas" (Photo by Helen Maybanks)

It takes an actor of formidable technique to bring this two-act, two-hour monologue to vivid, active, almost cinematic life. From the moment Brendan Coyle emerges from the shadows, the spell is cast.

‘La Boheme’ Sings of Love, Lust and Starving Artists

Adrian Sampetrean, Michael Fabiano, Maria Agresta, Ricardo Jose Rivera and Zachary Nelson in “La Boheme.” (© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018)

Lyric Opera’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s popular romantic tragedy features singers who not only fit their roles ideally but also know how to act. 

High School Playwrights Probe Painful Personal and Social Issues

Sam Godinez from “A Green Light” in the 32nd Annual Young Playwrights Festival at Pegasus Theatre Chicago (Photo by Michael Courier)

Students bold enough to try their hand at this challenging art form have the advantage of being able to tap into the raw emotion of youth in a uniquely fearless way.

Music Theater Works Casts an Enchanting Spell With ‘Into the Woods’

11)	Alexis Armstrong, left, and Kelly Britt in Music Theater Works’ “Into the Woods.” (Photo credit: Brett Beiner)

With its lushly beautiful, ideally performed production of the Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical, Music Theater Works has an instant hit on its hands. But you had better move fast if you want to catch it.

In ‘La Ruta,’ the Plague of Unavenged Murders of Poor Mexican Women

Karen Rodriguez, front, and the cast of “La Ruta” in Steppenwolf’s world premiere production by Isaac Gomez. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Full of raw emotion, Isaac Gomez’s play, now receiving its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre, explores the brutal killing of hundreds of women and girls in Ciudad Juárez between 1993 and 2013.

An Uneven ‘Fiddler’ Revival Arrives at an Ideal Moment

"Fiddler on the Roof" ©2018 Joan Marcus

The eternal themes that drive “Fiddler on the Roof” made it an instant classic, but the new touring production featuring contemporary additions makes the show feel uneven.

Chicago Shakespeare’s Flashy ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Tries Too Hard to Be Hip

Led in revels by the First Fairy (Adrienne Storrs) and Puck (Sam Kebede), the fairy ensemble gather to “Rock the Ground” in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Despite a number of fine performances and a gorgeous “flower power” set, the whole thing ends up feeling more clunky and exhausting than beguiling. Subtle it is not, and often the poetry and emotion get lost.

A Grand Leap Forward for Chicago’s Deeply Rooted Dance Theater

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater company in “Heaven.” (Photo by Michelle Reid)

Six powerful works by the exceptional dance company – including two true masterpieces – explored everything from social issues and personal endurance to a spiritual search.

Theo Ubique Inaugurates New Home With ‘The Full Monty’

“The Full Monty” at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Front: Nick Druzbanski, left, and Matt Frye. Background, from left: Jonathan Schwart, Neil Stratman, Joe Giovannetti and Marc Prince. (Photo by Austin D. Oie)

The theater company’s new home in Evanston marks a grand, and grandly deserved step upward. Its opening production looks at what happens when men lose their well-paying factory jobs and self-respect.

Overly Similar Pieces Undercut Impact of Hubbard Street’s New Works Festival

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “III. Third” by Rena Butler. (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

If you are in search of fresh choreographic talent, why not turn to the dancers who are right under foot in your own studio? Sometimes, this makes perfect sense. But as revealed in “dance(e)volve New Works Festival,” there can be drawbacks to this effort.

Lyric’s ‘Cendrillon’ an Enchanting French Rendering of ‘Cinderella’

Siobhan Stagg in “Cendrillon” at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Alternately farcical and romantic, this very French rendering of the Cinderella story has arrived on the Lyric Opera stage for the very first time in an altogether enchanting production.

The Splendor, Invention in Joffrey’s ‘Nutcracker’ Grows Stronger Each Year

The Joffrey Ballet (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

Now in its third season, the Joffrey Ballet’s radiant and altogether ingenious production of choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Chicago-themed reinvention of “The Nutcracker” is more luminous than ever. 

‘Rise Up!’ Lifts the Curtain on Era of Social, Theatrical Revolution

A review of Chris Jones’ new book

In his new book, Chris Jones – my colleague-on-the-aisle in Chicago since the 1990s – has chronicled the American theater in a singularly creative way.

Wedding Rehearsal Exposes Cross-Cultural Chaos in Danai Gurira’s ‘Familiar’

Lanise Antoine Shelley and Erik Hellman in Steppenwolf’s Chicago premiere production of “Familiar” by Danai Gurira. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

With great bursts of raucous humor, as well as zany rom-com moments and deep anguish, playwright Danai Gurira infuses her exuberantly boisterous play with issues of family contention that go well beyond the usual disputes.

Tradition and Hi-Tech Blend Seamlessly in Broadway-Ready ‘Wizard of Oz’

From left: Paul-Jordan Jansen, Carl Draper, Elizabeth Stenholt, Kyle Adams and Nessa (as Toto) in Paramount Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz.” (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

At Paramount Theatre, director-choreographer Amber Mak and her sensational team of actors and designers magically pay homage to the emotional richness of the 1939 film while incorporating some of the newest tricks of technology.

New ‘Miss Saigon’ Tour Turns Up the Heat But Loses the Heart

(Photo by Matthew Murphy)

The new touring production of the epic show could not be more elaborate, but it trades more in shock value than pathos, and loses something in the process.

Mary Zimmerman Puts English Panto Twist on Heartbreaking Tale

Alex Stein and Kasey Foster in “The Steadfast Tin Soldier.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

To bring Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” to vivid life, director Mary Zimmerman looks to the English pantomime tradition, and draws on her ingenious, visually stunning storytelling tricks.

‘Mansfield Park’ a Sparkling Reminder of Why Jane Austen Endures

Kayla Carter in “Mansfield Park.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Watching Northlight Theatre’s luminous world premiere stage version of Jane Austen’s third published novel, it was impossible not to wonder what the writer might make of her enduring cult status among 21st century audiences.

Irving Berlin’s ‘Holiday Inn’ Becomes Newly Minted Gem on Marriott Stage

Will Burton and Kimberly Immanuel in “Holiday Inn” at the Marriott Theatre. (Courtesy of Liz Lauren)

The recent Broadway musical based on the hit 1942 film is an old-fashioned charmer on every level, with just enough of a sardonic bite to make it feel fresh, and just enough nostalgia to pierce your heart.

Nature, Nurture and the Art of Creation in Manual Cinema’s Astonishing ‘Frankenstein’

Sarah Fornace in “Frankenstein” by Manual Cinema at Court Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

This wildly imaginative version of Mary Shelley’s classic is at once handmade and high-tech, and as you take your seat at Court Theatre, you immediately sense that something completely out of the ordinary is about to unfold.

CSO’s ‘Verdi Requiem’ is Music of the Moment in Wake of Latest Slaughter

Soprano Vittoria Yeo, mezzo-soprano Daniela Barcellona, tenor Piotr Beczala and bass Dmitry Belosselskiy are soloists in Verdi’s Requiem with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus led by Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti. (© Todd Rosenberg)

Verdi’s monumental and altogether ravishing “Requiem” is a signature work of Maestro Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. In light of recent shootings, Thursday’s performance brought even greater potency and fire to this work.