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Stories by Hedy Weiss

A Musical Marvel as CSO, Salonen Soar in Mahler’s Haunting Symphony No. 9

Conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 on May 17, 2018. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

Although everything they touch turns to gold these days, nothing quite reveals the brilliance of the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra quite like the challenge of a Mahler masterwork. 

‘Columbinus’ More Harrowing With Cast of Actual High School Students

From left: Liliana Mastroianni, Cleo Shine and Thavory Hang in The Yard’s production of “Columbinus.” (Credit: Evan Hanover)

An intensely disciplined, fearless, altogether remarkable ensemble of sophisticated young artists brings this singular – and singularly riveting – docu-drama to life.

Sizzling ‘How to Use a Knife’ Turns Up The Heat in a Restaurant Kitchen

Anthony Irons in Shattered Globe Theatre’s Chicago premiere of “How to Use a Knife.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Among its several honors, Will Snider’s “How to Use a Knife” was named a finalist for a PEN Center USA Literary Award. Based on this exceptional Shattered Globe production alone, it should have won the prize.

The Real ‘Magic’ In This ‘Macbeth’ Is its Suggestion That Shakespeare Pre-Empted Albee

Lady Macbeth (Chaon Cross) is taunted by the unseen Weird Sisters in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Macbeth.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

This immensely compelling production adapted and directed by playwright Aaron Posner and the magician Teller is filled with a full array of sensory treats.

Brilliant Cast Rocks Buddy Holly Back to Life

From left: Chuckie Benson, Michael Mahler, Zachary Stevenson and Kieran McCabe in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Zachary Stevenson – a bravura performer who is the spittin’ image of the character he plays, and who possesses the voice, moves, guitar licks and irresistible energy of the “original” – is proof that Buddy Holly lives. 

Rodgers and Hammerstein Musicals Enjoying a Grand-Scale Rebirth

Samantha Hill, center, as Nellie in “South Pacific” at Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

There seems to be an unofficial renaissance of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals by way of three classics from the 1940s. Is this mere coincidence, or a a much-needed balm?

Healing Powers of Music and Love Drive Beguiling Musical ‘Once’

Barry DeBois and Tiffany Topol in “Once” at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

The stunning performers now gathered on the stage of the Paramount Theatre bring this unconventional piece of musical theater to life with a beguiling mix of emotional depth and comic zest.

Visceral Dance and Chicago Philharmonic Revive Haunting ‘Dream’

Visceral Dance Chicago performs Nick Pupillo’s “The Dream.” (Photo by Quinn Wharton)

Nick Pupillo’s haunting, hourlong narrative work, performed in collaboration with the Chicago Philharmonic, highlights the impressive dramatic skills of the Visceral dancers.

Joffrey Ballet Celebrates a Wild and Crazy Swedish-Style ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Joffrey Ballet’s North American premiere of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

You will never experience anything quite like it. Alexander Ekman’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is now receiving its North American premiere by the Joffrey Ballet, and it is a monumental achievement on every level.

Porchlight Unlocks the Blazing Heart and Soul In Musical ‘Memphis’

Liam Quealy as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in “Memphis” from Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo by Michael Courier)

A transformative evening in the theater, Porchlight Music Theatre’s production features galvanic direction, volcanic dancing, a powerhouse onstage band and a large, fiercely talented cast.

Putting a Bit of a Twist on This Year’s Non-Equity Jeff Nominations

Chris Chmelik, left, and Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel in the Steep Theatre production of Cordelia Lynn's play, "Lela & Co." (Photo: Gregg Gilman)

Acknowledging the existence of “gender fluidity,” the 45th annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards nominations for performance are now nonbinary.

Dreams, Drama Drive CSO’s Concert of Works by Debussy and Tchaikovsky

Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program of works by Debussy and Tchaikovsky in the final weekend of his April residency at Symphony Center. (© Todd Rosenberg)

The work of both composers shares the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s current program led by Maestro Riccardo Muti. And the result is a most winning mix of opposing musical temperaments.

In ‘The Doppelgänger,’ Insiders and Outsiders Greedily Savage an African Nation

Rainn Wilson and Celeste M. Cooper in “The Doppelgänger (an international farce)” by Matthew-Lee Erlbach. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

A sort of equal-opportunity snake pit of corruption, violence and ridiculous sex-capades, Matthew-Lee Erlbach’s play is now receiving its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre.

Hersey Felder’s Portrait of Tchaikovsky Fueled by Composer’s Music of Suppression, Longing

Hershey Felder in “Our Great Tchaikovsky” at Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre.

For those still unfamiliar with the magic Hershey Felder can create, an introduction to the man, whose enthralling show about Tchaikovsky is now in a limited engagement at Steppenwolf’s Upstairs Theatre, is essential.

John Malkovich joins CSO and Muti in Copland’s ‘Lincoln Portrait’

The beautifully thought-out program serves as a subtle but revealing portrait of the deep but varied influences that have taken root in this country.

Broadway Revival of ‘Carousel’ Injects New Elements Into Rodgers and Hammerstein Classic

“Carousel” on Broadway. (Credit: Julieta Cervantes)

In many ways this show was ahead of its time when it was created. And now, whatever the flaws might be in this 21st century “rotation,” it is worth the price of a ticket for a ride on the “Carousel.”

CSO and Chorus Create Wondrous Veil of Sound, Color with Ravel and Debussy

Guest conductor Matthias Pintscher leads the CSO in Ravel’s orchestration of Debussy’s “Saraband and Danse.” (Photo © Todd Rosenberg)

The concert now being performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus – with the German conductor-composer Matthias Pintscher in flawless command – is sure to serve as a vivid reminder that Maurice Ravel’s genius was far more complex than “Bolero.”

‘Gentleman Caller’ Lays Bare the Not-So-Secret Lives of Tennessee Williams, William Inge

Curtis Edward Jackson, left, and Rudy Galvan in Raven Theatre’s world premiere of “The Gentleman Caller.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

A richly evocative new play by Philip Dawkins is now receiving a vividly acted world premiere at Raven Theatre.

‘Smart People’ a Searing, Steroid-Fueled Riff on Race, Sex and Super-Achievers

From left: Julian Parker, Kayla Carter, Deanna Myers and Erik Hellman in “Smart People” at Writers Theatre.

In her brilliant play “Smart People,” Lydia R. Diamond creates an impossibly thorny and twisted verbal, emotional and intellectual maze of race, sex and “super-achieverdom.”

‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ Puts High-Gloss Spin on a Prostitute’s Life

Samantha Barks and Steve Kazee in the world premiere engagement of “Pretty Woman: The Musical” at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Can a story that feeds on the decades-old roots of the #MeToo movement serve as a deftly massaged corrective?

‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ Sets the Table for Truths About Love and Race

Bryce Gangel, Michael Aaron Pogue in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” through April 15, 2018 at Court Theatre. (Credit: Michael Brosilow)

I confess I was wary about how this story would hold up a full half-century after the film dealt with some very uncomfortable truths. But the more things have changed, the more things have remained (almost) the same.

2 Chicago Dance Companies Feature Bravura Performers in Divergent Styles

Dancers Maeghan McHale and Devin Buchanan in Brock Clawson’s “Give and Take” (2009). (Photo by Reveuse Photography)

The work of two of Chicago’s most enduring but dramatically different contemporary dance companies – Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Giordano Dance Chicago – was on elaborate display this past weekend. 

CSO Debuts Fascinating New Piece, Celebrates A Heavenly Massing of Voices

From left: Soprano Amanda Forsythe and tenors Paul Appleby and Nicholas Phan are soloists in Schubert’s “Mass in E-flat Major” with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

The human voice is a remarkable instrument. And when the 115 heavenly souls of the Chicago Symphony Chorus gather on stage with the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, something extraordinary happens.

‘An Enemy of the People’ a Tragic, Comical Political Farce of Our Times

Philip Earl Johnson (Thomas Stockmann) and Scott Jaeck (Peter Stockmann) in “An Enemy of the People” by Henrik Ibsen, adapted and directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre. (Credit: Liz Lauren)

Corrupt and greedy politicians, a poorly educated citizenry skeptical of science and “facts,” and short-term thinking about the impact of pollution on health were all issues in 1882 when the play debuted and still resonate today.

CSO, Muti and Soloists In Eloquent Conversation with Mozart

Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in Mozart’s “Symphony No. 36” on March 15, 2018. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

A memorable moment from the film version of Peter Shaffer’s play, “Amadeus,” came rushing back to mind as I listened to this weekend’s glorious, spirit-altering concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which opened with Haydn’s “Symphony No. 89” and was followed by two works by his younger contemporary, Mozart.