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Stories by Hedy Weiss

In ‘BigMouth,’ a Torrent of Oratory at Once Brilliant, Provocative and Dangerous

Valentijn Dhaenens in “BigMouth,” on stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater through Sept. 22, 2018. (Photo by Maya Wilsens)

However you describe “BigMouth,” the virtuosic, one-of-a-kind, one-man show created and performed by Valentijn Dhaenens – its impact is undeniable.

3 Popular Musicals Sing of Quest for Self-Esteem

From left: “Sweet Charity,” “Legally Blonde” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” (Photo credit, from left: Justin Barbin, Liz Lauren, Brett Beiner)

They are set in different eras, and come with notably different sounds and story lines, but the three musicals now being produced on local stages share one major theme. Here’s a closer look.

Shattered Globe’s Piercing Dramatization of a Dostoyevsky Classic Soars

Ilse Zacharias (left) and Drew Schad in Shattered Globe Theatre’s new adaptation of “Crime and Punishment.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

The haunting dramatization of “Crime and Punishment” now on stage attacks the work with the same fire and attention to moral argument as the master writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, himself. 

‘Radio Golf’ Revival Tunes in to Hidden Wealth of August Wilson’s Final Play

Allen Gilmore, left, and James Vincent Meredith in “Radio Golf” at Court Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

A revelatory, brilliantly acted revival of August Wilson’s play is currently on stage at Court Theatre, under the direction of Ron OJ Parson.

Funny, Heartbreaking ‘No Child’ Taps Into the Art of Education

Adia Alli in Definition Theatre Company’s production of “No Child…” (Credit: Joe Mazza_Brave Lux, Inc.)

The blight, as well as the occasional bursts of beauty that define life in inner-city high schools is all too familiar. But rarely has it been captured with such a sense of wit, grace, exasperation and tragicomic insight.

Chicago Talent Headlines Bernstein’s ‘Candide’ in Knoxville, Tennessee

From left: Cecilia Iole, Aleah Vassell, Jeff Parker, Noelle Harb and Brittany Marie Pirozzoli in “Candide.” (Photo by Brynn Yeager)

Not only does director Calvin MacLean have deep Chicago roots, so do a number of the major players in this grand-scale production.

Black Button Eyes Brings John Collier’s Twisted Stories To Life

Kevin Webb in Black Button Eyes Productions’ world premiere of “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier.” (Photo by Cole Simon)

One thing you realize from the very start of “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier” is that its narrator – a dissipated, devilishly twisted writer – is not going to sugarcoat things. 

2018 Equity Jeff Award Nominations Announced

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

Nothing more concisely captures the impressive scope of the work done on Chicago-area stages than this annual list of nominations.

‘Vietgone’ Explores Emotional Wars of Vietnamese Immigrants Forging New Lives In US

From left: Aurora Adachi-Winter, Ian Michael Minh, Matthew Yee in “Vietgone.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Qui Nguyen’s play, now receiving its Chicago premiere at Writers Theatre, is a second generation, rap-era kid’s flashy, sexually charged version of a story about the pain and rage that come with being a refugee, and the difficult process of assimilation. 

Dancing the Night Away at Dance for Life

Chicago Dance Crash (Credit: Ashley Deran)

As always, the annual benefit concert served up a rich smorgasbord of styles Saturday. It also offered a subtle suggestion of Chicago’s dance history.

The Music and Mayhem of Midsummer Nights in Grant Park

Carlos Kalmar (Photo: Patrick Pyszka)

As difficult as it may be to believe, the summer of 2018 is winding down. One significant marker: the Grant Park Music Festival will give the final performances of its 84th season on Saturday.

A Glimpse of Magic in the Photo-Realist Paintings of Jeong Im Herbert

(Courtesy of Jeong Im Herbert)

The Chicago-based artist has an uncanny ability to capture the texture of surfaces in a way that is as precise as a photograph, yet at the same time, magically abstract. 

Reaping Faith, Fear and Ambivalence in ‘The Harvest’

Collin Quinn Rice, left, and Raphael Diaz in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of “The Harvest” by Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Jonathan Berry. (Photo by Michael Courier)

Broken souls grasp for meaning and connection in Samuel D. Hunter’s intense play that unfolds in a dreary church basement in the small town of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

1960s Chaos Meets Upheaval of 2018 in Bernstein’s ‘Mass’

A roundup of recent concerts from the Ravinia Festival

A scene from “Mass” (Russell Jenkins / Ravinia Festival)

As visitors to the Ravinia Festival well know, the picnics on the grass staged there tend to be legendary feasts. But it is the musical feasts that are the real food for thought.

Black Ensemble Unwraps the Joyful Healing Properties of the Blues

From left: Theo Huff (obscured), Rick Stone, Dwight Neal, Lamont “Harmonica Man” Harris, Cynthia Carter and Rhonda Preston in “Rick Stone the Blues Man” at Black Ensemble Theater. (Credit: Alan Davis)

In her deftly crafted new show, “Rick Stone the Blues Man,” writer/director Jackie Taylor has devised a wonderfully engaging way to explore the full spectrum of blues classics.

‘Something in the Game’ Wins One for The Gipper, and for Musical Theater, Too

Knute Rockne (Stef Tovar) fires up the Notre Dame football team. (Credit: Justin Barbin)

In spinning the tale of Knute Rockne and his prize athlete, the creators of this terrific show have tapped into much grander themes than the nature of intensely competitive college football.

In ‘Pamplona,’ Stacy Keach Runs with Hemingway and the Matadors

Stacy Keach in the world premiere of Jim McGrath’s “Pamplona,” directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre. (Credit Liz Lauren)

A little more than a year after he suffered “a mild heart attack” midway through his opening night performance in “Pamplona,” Stacy Keach is in top form. 

Elvis Makes a Faustian Bargain in ‘Heartbreak Hotel’

From left: Matt Codina, Eddie Clendening, Jamie Pittle and Zach Lentino in “Heartbreak Hotel” at the Broadway Playhouse. (Credit: Brett Beiner)

Too often this Elvis Presley-focused prequel to “Million Dollar Quartet” homes in on material that might have been cut from that earlier show. But on the plus side, it infuses the story with much that was omitted from “Quartet.”

‘Murder for Two’ Sets Pair of Actors in Breathless Pursuit of Perpetrator

Jason Grimm, left, and Noel Carey star in “Murder for Two” at the Marriott Theatre. (Photo credit: Liz Lauren)

The real question at the heart of this 95-minute, music-infused marathon of a farce – which features two actors playing 13 characters and frequently sharing time at a piano – is whether the performers themselves will make it out alive.

Tapping Into the Operatic in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’

Anthony Bowden and Genevieve Angelson in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (Credit: Brett Beiner Photograpahy)

In the feverish intensity of its emotions alone, this Tennessee Williams revival directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge is grand opera from start to finish. 

In ‘The Csardas Princess,’ Cabaret Singer Embroiled In Love, Marriage and Social Chaos, Operetta-Style

Brian Mengler, Josh Hills, Jonathan Zeng, Nick Cuellar, Athena Kopulos, Emma Sorenson and Alfredo Jimenez in “The Csardas Princess.”

What is most impressive about this romantic comedy, the first work to be produced in Folks Operetta’s “Reclaimed Voices” series, is the exceptional beauty of the voices in the show’s large cast, and the performers’ comic swagger.

In ‘Waitress,’ Master Pie Maker Finally Discovers Recipe for Love, Liberation

Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in “Waitress.” (Credit: Joan Marcus)

Director Diane Paulus taps into the pain and high comedy of the story, but Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre is far too big a venue for this essentially intimate show.

High-Wired ‘Peter Pan’ Flies on Well-Defined Gender Battle

Peter Pan (Johnny Shea) in “Peter Pan – A Musical Adventure,” directed and choreographed by Amber Mak. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

The elaborately produced 75-minute show has all the energy and magic necessary to keep young audiences engaged. At the same time, the adult aspects of the story emerge with particular force and clarity.

At Goodman and Steppenwolf, 2 Plays That Mirror Each Other While Stretching Believability

Scenes from “Support Group for Men,” left, and “The Roommate.” (Photo credit: Liz Lauren, left, and Michael Brosilow)

While both “Support Group for Men” and “The Roommate” rely on predictable clichés, each serves as a prime example of how absolutely first-rate actors invariably bring total devotion to mediocre scripts.

Mercury Theater’s ‘Avenue Q’ Revival Taps Into Irresistibly Funny Truthiness of Life’s Disappointments

Christian Siebert, Jonah D. Winston and Dan Smeriglio in “Avenue Q” at Mercury Theater. (Credit: Brett A. Beiner)

The surprising thing about “Avenue Q” is just how wise, witty, open-minded and openly devoid of by-the-book political correctness it manages to be.