Stories by Hedy Weiss

In ‘Hedwig,’ Divided Cold War-Era Germany Gives Birth to Even More Divided Identity

Will Lidke in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” (Photo by Austin D. Oie Photography)

Arriving at Theo Ubique as the final show of the theater’s first season in its spacious new Evanston home, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” serves as definitive proof that this company can finesse anything and everything in the musical theater repertory.

A Winningly Eclectic CSO Concert Mixes Contemporary, Classic Works

CSO Piccolo Jennifer Gunn is the soloist in Ken Benshoof’s “Concerto in Three Movements” with Music Director Riccardo Muti and the CSO. (© Todd Rosenberg)

The unlikely combination of Vivaldi, Beethoven and Gershwin with two contemporary works was full of delightful surprises and unexpected revelations. 

Hubbard Street’s Summer Program a Series of Wildly Poetic Existential Adventures

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “The Loss of Place” by Brian Brooks. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

The titles of the four pieces provide a telling suggestion of the psychologically probing works being performed with the company’s trademark blend of uncanny fluidity, plasticity, control and ensemble perfection.

Rarely Produced British Play a Bitter Reminder of Veterans’ Fates

Krystal Ortiz and Matt Fletcher in Griffin Theatre Company’s production of “For Services Rendered.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

In some ways, “For Services Rendered” is an old-fashioned play, but it is a beauty. And coming at a moment when Britain is undergoing a different sort of social and economic upheaval, it seems ideally timed for a revival.

In ‘Ms. Blakk,’ a Raucous Campaign for a Queer Nation Candidate

Tarell Alvin McCraney in Steppenwolf’s world premiere production of “Ms. Blakk for President,” co-written by ensemble members Tina Landau and McCraney. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

This unabashedly flamboyant fantasia by Tina Landau and Tarell Alvin McCraney spins the true story of Joan Jett Blakk, who helped found the Chicago branch of the Queer Nation Party and ran for Chicago mayor in 1991.

There is True ‘Greatness’ in Firebrand’s ‘Queen of the Mist’

Barbara E. Robertson, center, with, from left, Max J. Cervantes, Neala Barron, Liz Chidester, Hannah Starr, Liz Bollar and Maryam Abdi in Firebrand Theatre’s Chicago premiere of “Queen of the Mist.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

“There Is Greatness In Me” is the defining song in this riveting musical that releases the full “greatness” in its lead character by way of an electrifying performance by veteran Chicago actress Barbara E. Robertson. 

Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ a Cautionary Tale for Those Who Would Play God

Lookingglass Theatre Company Artistic Associate Walter Briggs, left, and Keith Gallagher in “Frankenstein.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

The 200th anniversary of “Frankenstein” was celebrated by a slew of Chicago theaters last year. Lookingglass’ new production has arrived a bit late in the game, but with its raw beauty and feverish emotion, it turns out to be well worth the wait.

In Knockout Musical ‘Six,’ King Henry VIII’s Wives Have Their #MeToo Moment

From left: Abby Mueller, Samantha Pauly, Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Brittney Mack and Anna Uzele in “Six” at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Forget about spending your last dime for tickets to The Rolling Stones’ concerts at Soldier Field next month. Instead, check out the fire-breathing female royalty of this sensational musical at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

‘Bloomsday’ a Breathtaking Play About Time, Love, Regret and Fateful Decisions

Bryce Gangel in “Bloomsday,” presented by Remy Bumppo Theatre Company. (Photo by Michael Courier)

Steven Dietz’s hauntingly beautiful play is inspired by James Joyce’s groundbreaking novel “Ulysses,” but it is no stage adaptation. Rather, it’s a gorgeous, exquisitely imagined contemporary riff on Joyce’s essential themes.

Saul Bellow’s ‘Augie March’ Inspires a Theatrical Masterpiece at Court Theatre

The cast of “The Adventures of Augie March.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Labeling a work of art a “masterpiece” is a dangerous business, but on rare occasions there can be no doubt that such a tag is unavoidable. This is one such case.

In ‘Pygmalion Effect,’ Superb Dancers of Russia’s Eifman Ballet Undermined by Manic Choreography and Too Much Strauss

Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in “The Pygmalion Effect.” (Photo by Michael Khoury)

Watching the company as it performed Boris Eifman’s latest work, the feeling that his dancers are not well served by his relentlessly madhouse style of movement – manic, extreme, repetitive – could not be denied.

Violinist Hilary Hahn Elicits a ‘Wow,’ and More, at CSO Concert

Hilary Hahn is soloist in Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with conductor Marin Alsop and the CSO. (© Todd Rosenberg)

Hilary Hahn’s bravura handling of a fire-breathing passage in Sibelius’ “Violin Concerto in D Minor” brings forth a “Wow!” from what was certainly an adult man in the audience at Symphony Center.

In ‘Next to Normal,’ Mother’s Mental Illness Wreaks Havoc with Family’s Health

David Schlumpf and Keely Vasquez in “Next to Normal” at Writers Theatre. (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

This 2008 musical is unsettling, irritating, frustrating, relentless and more. But director David Cromer and his actors have tapped into the dark charm and moments of humor in the show with great skill.

On Chicago Stages, 2 Solo Turns About Mental Illness

Margaret Trudeau and Adam Strauss (Credit: Kirsten Miccoli, left, Michael Courier)

In what is clearly a case of pure happenstance, two autobiographical solo shows about mental illness recently arrived on Chicago stages. A look at “Certain Woman of an Age” and “The Mushroom Cure.”

Pianist Evgeny Kissin Brings Down the House at Symphony Center

Evgeny Kissin (Courtesy of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

A number of extraordinary pianists have played on the Symphony Center stage during the past season or two. Sunday’s concert brought four encores, extended standing ovations and volcanic applause.

A Week of 3 Remarkable Concerts in Chicago and Beyond

Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti on the podium during the CSO’s May 9 program of works by Mozart and Stravinsky. (Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg)

A concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra featuring the transcendent Mitsuko Uchida. A visit by Maestro Riccardo Muti and several master musicians to a juvenile detention center. And a virtuosic chamber concert.

Why One Musical Works, and Another Doesn’t

Dylis Croman in “Chicago, The Musical,” left, and George Abud and Sydney Shepherd in “August Rush: The Musical.” (Credit: Jeremy Daniel, left, Liz Lauren)

“Chicago, The Musical” holds the record as the longest-running American musical in Broadway history – and it’s a keeper. “August Rush: The Musical” is a New York-bred “tryout” production, and it just doesn’t work.

Bravura Revival of ‘West Side Story’ Marks Lyric’s Finest Broadway Venture

Mikaela Bennett “West Side Story” at Lyric Opera of Chicago. (Photo credit: Todd Rosenberg)

This electrifying revival demonstrates how, without straining to “modernize” or rework the 1957 Broadway musical – but by maintaining total respect for its vintage truth and beauty – its enduring power can be fully released.

After an Agonizing Strike, the CSO is Back – and in Glorious Form

Music Director Riccardo Muti leads the CSO in Respighi’s “Pines of Rome.” (Photo © Todd Rosenberg)

At the Symphony Center, a palpable sense of relief and joy as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra marked its return to the stage after a bruising seven-week strike.

Perlman and Kissin Bring the Music Back to Symphony Center

Violinist Itzhak Perlman, left, and pianist Evgeny Kissin. (Credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco, left, Bette Marshall)

How do you bring the music back to the stage of Symphony Center in the wake of an agonizing seven-week strike by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra? With two of the world’s most formidable virtuosos.

A Tragicomic Reckoning With the Past, Present and Future in ‘The Children’

Janet Ulrich Brooks and Yasen Peyankov in Steppenwolf’s Chicago premiere production of “The Children” by Lucy Kirkwood. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Now receiving its Chicago premiere by Steppenwolf Theatre, British playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s quirky tragicomedy tackles aging, sexual competition, parenting and the catastrophic result of certain scientific and engineering “advances.”

Riding the Waves of Madness and Sanity in Opera Version of ‘Moby-Dick’

Andrew Bidlack (Greenhorn) and Vince Wallace (Queequeg) in the play “Moby-Dick.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Transforming Herman Melville’s 1851 classic is no easy feat. This opera not only captures the pivotal characters in the novel, but also illuminates its major themes with impressive emotional directness.

‘Cambodian Rock Band’ Traces a Musical Line Back to Genocide of 1970s

Cast of “Cambodian Rock Band.”  (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Lauren Yee thrillingly fuses her writing with music that links two cultures and two eras in the richly theatrical “Cambodian Rock Band.” 

Trio of Superb Chicago Productions Highlight Language of Dance

The cast of “A Chorus Line” at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Credit: Michael Courier)

Three very different productions that recently opened on Chicago stages serve as a powerful reminder of the dramatically varied ways in which the language of dance can be spoken.

Instantly Joyful ‘Djembe!’ Encourages Everyone to Bang on a Drum

“Djembe!” (Credit: Liz Lauren)

Prepare to head home from “Djembe!” – the irresistibly engaging interactive music show now at the Apollo Theater – with callouses on the palms of your hands and a giant grin on your face.