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Stories by Hedy Weiss

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.

Visceral Dance Soars in a Dramatic New Industrial Space

(Credit: KT MILLER Photography)

A study in the darkness and luminosity inherent in human interaction, “Take” is nothing short of spellbinding. And it marks a new high point in artistic director Nick Pupillo’s always original, sensual, highly charged choreography.

In ‘Scientific Method,’ Politics in the Lab Are as Rigorous as the Research

Ashley Neal and Glenn Obrero in the world premiere of “Scientific Method.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

If you think this country’s political culture is the quintessential hornet’s nest, you probably haven’t been exposed to life in the world of scientific research. Jenny Connell Davis puts it under a powerful magnifying microscope in this world premiere work.

A Chicago Homecoming for Daniel Barenboim

Daniel Barenboim speaks at a Chicago Symphony Orchestra press event on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

At an intimate press conference celebrating his return visit to the city, conductor Daniel Barenboim expressed his delight at what will be a two-part homecoming at Symphony Center.

In ‘Lady in Denmark,’ One Woman’s Life in Copenhagen and Chicago, Set to Echoes of Billie Holiday

Linda Gehringer as Helene in the world premiere production of “Lady in Denmark” at Goodman Theatre. (Credit: Liz Lauren)

As it happens, there are two “ladies” in Dael Orlandersmith’s play, “Lady in Denmark,” now in its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre. But only one is fully seen or heard on stage.

In ‘Fight Night,’ Clever Voting Game Suggests What Our Elections Are Really About

From left: Aurelie Lannoy, Angelo Tijssens and Charlotte De Bruyne in Ontroerend Goed’s “Fight Night.” (Photo by Yvon Poncelet)

Audience members engage in a process similar to a television “elimination” contest to choose one of five contenders for an unspecified office. It is great fun, but also offers food for thought – and a healthy dose of cynicism.

‘Hello, Dolly!’ Still Leads the Parade of Musicals in the Key of Joyful Escapism

Betty Buckley, center, and the “Hello, Dolly!” National Tour Company – 2018. (Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes)

The enduring 1964 hit with an impossibly catchy score fervently champions the quest for love, adventure, mischief and the all-important joy (and necessity) of seizing the day.

In ‘Private Peaceful,’ Most Brutal Enemy Turns Out to Be One’s Own Country

Shane O’Regan stars in the one-man show “Private Peaceful.” (Credit: Ahron R. Foster)

A beautifully realized, profoundly moving one-man show now on stage at the Greenhouse Theater Center features a performance of great heart by Shane O’Regan.

American Blues Theater’s ‘Buddy Holly Musical’ Tops 2018 Equity Jeff Awards

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

They say “the music died” on the day in 1959 when rock ‘n’ roll legend Buddy Holly perished in a plane crash. But that geeky Texas boy with the trademark thick glasses is still making a big noise.

At the CSO, a Pianist Shakes the Musical Universe With a Prokofiev Concerto

Daniil Trifonov is soloist in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with guest conductor Marin Alsop and the CSO. (© Todd Rosenberg)

You have just one more chance to catch a concert at Symphony Center that brings you into direct contact with absolute genius. Beg, borrow (or maybe even steal) a ticket to hear 27-year-old Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov in an electrifying performance.

Joffrey Ballet Dancers Demonstrate Their Prowess in ‘Swan Lake’

Joffrey Ballet dancers Victoria Jaiani and Dylan Gutierrez in “Swan Lake.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

It has been four years since the Joffrey Ballet first performed Christopher Wheeldon’s reimagining of “Swan Lake.” Its current revival serves as a vivid indication of the extraordinary artistry that now defines the Joffrey, from principal dancers to corps.

In Porchlight’s ‘Gypsy,’ a Mama Rose of Hurricane Force

E. Faye Butler as Rose in “Gypsy” from Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo by Michael Courier)

With her force-of-nature personality, powerhouse voice and galvanic emotional range, E. Faye Butler was clearly was born to play Mama Rose.

African-American Women Assert Their Independence in ‘Flyin’ West’

From left: Tiffany Oglesby, Sydney Charles and Joslyn Jones in American Blues Theater’s production of “Flyin’ West.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

With echoes of “Oklahoma” in its evocation of the hardscrabble lives of exceptionally strong women, Pearl Cleage’s story revolves around the different choices made by four women, including the elderly but unbending matriarchal figure who experienced the abominations of slavery, yet survived to tell the story.

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