Top Story »

Feature 2

‘Pericles’ at American Players: Through crazy accents, keeping the Bard’s rhyme and reason

Sep 18, 2017 – 9:19 am

Review: To use Shakespeare and farce in the same sentence is almost certainly to think of “The Comedy of Errors,” and maybe patches of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Probably not, however, the late romantic adventure tale “Pericles, Prince of Tyre.” But it is precisely a generous infusion of over-the-top silliness that makes such endearing stuff of “Pericles” at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis. ★★★★

Read the full story »
Latest Arts News
Classical + Opera
Theater + Stage
Streaming + Disc
Chicago Wine Journal

Theater + Stage »

Role Playing: Cristina Panfilio spreads wings she didn’t know she had as midsummer Puck

Sep 7, 2017 – 10:55 pm

Puck (Cristina Panfilio) and Oberon (Gavin Lawrence) celebrate some successful trickery. (Liz Lauren)

Interview: Surprised by the part, actress sprang into the magic (and rap) as the Bard’s woodland fairy at American Players Theatre. 
By Lawrence B. Johnson

Cristina Panfilio, the disarmingly sly and funny – and athletic! – Puck in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at American Players Theatre, didn’t see it coming. The role of the mischievous fairy sprite with magical powers is normally played by a male actor.  When director John Langs phoned her and cold-pitched her the part, she was flattered, of course. She was also overwhelmed by the thought.

“I connect more naturally to Helena,” says Panfilio, referring to one of a quartet of young lovers whose tangled pairings Puck only further confuses in the play’s crazy mash-up of human frailties and fairy machinations. “I know what it’s like to be the girl who’s not the prettiest but is OK with that. I played Helena in a Short Shakespeare production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. But Puck is iconic. What are you supposed to do with this character? There didn’t seem to be any rules. But once I stepped back and worked through the play and the words – it’s all in the language – it became fun.” Read the full story »

In magical return to its birth, APT embraces human heart of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Aug 31, 2017 – 8:38 am
xfeature 1

Review: Is there a better way to fall under the spell of Shakespeare than through “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”? Not if it’s the current production under the stars by American Players Theatre, which will get the job done for ages 7 to 97 at the least. The company is but an afternoon’s drive from Chicago into the Wisconsin woods near Madison, and the actors – more than a few of them based in Chicago – are uniformly proficient at finding the human warmth in Shakespeare’s comedy and making it clear in minute detail. ★★★★★

‘The Maids’ at American Players Theatre: Dressing up and getting down, sans laughter

Aug 26, 2017 – 2:02 pm
Feature 1

Review: In Jean Genet’s bleak existential drama “The Maids,” two young women, sisters and live-in house maids to the same mistress, secretly turn the tables in an ominous fantasy life about power and subservience. A noir study in delusional role-playing and its dark consequences, “The Maids” is on fascinating display at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis.. ★★★

‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ at American Players: Rostand’s sad hero, captured in lyric depth

Aug 10, 2017 – 6:47 am
Feature 1

Review: In a transcendent night under the stars in APT’s newly refurbished al fresco venue, the three-and-a-half-hour drive from Chicago to the theater, nestled in rolling hills about 30 miles west of Madison, was repaid amply by James Ridge’s complex embodiment of Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. Here is Cyrano in his full flesh and spirit: lyric poet, matchless swordsman and, above all else, unrequited lover, a man whose many gifts stitched together cannot veil the defeating protuberance that is his formidable nose. ★★★★★

Under Kalmar’s command, Grand Park forces triumph in oratorio hailing end of World War II

Jul 31, 2017 – 6:48 pm
Feature 1

Review: We’re well into another Grant Park Music Festival season that has demonstrated once again the value of conductor Carlos Kalmar’s artistic leadership through 18 summers. Where else but in Millennium Park, under Kalmar’s baton, might one hope to hear the likes of Swiss composer Frank Martin’s grand-scaled, inexplicably neglected oratorio “In terra pax,” a profound and moving reflection on the long-awaited end of the carnage that was World War II.

‘An American in Paris’: It’s got rhythm, it’s got cool sets – and many brilliant things more

Jul 31, 2017 – 12:57 pm
Sara Esty is Lise in An American in Paris. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Review: One might think it impossible to improve on the 1951 musical film ‘An American in Paris,’ with the inimitable Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron romancing each other to the music of George and Ira Gershwin. But in re-imagining this G.I. love story as a Broadway ballet for a cast of 25, director-choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has given the beloved classic a thrilling energy boost. Presented by Broadway in Chicago, the show plays at the Oriental Theatre through Aug. 13. ★★★★

‘Madagascar’ at Chicago Shakespeare: Kids give high praise to musical bestiary – silence

Jul 25, 2017 – 7:28 pm
Feature 1

Review: There is currently a zoo on Navy Pier, and a jungle too, thanks to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure.” This is not one of those shows that are also fun for kids. “Madagascar” exists only for kids. If you have children in your life, from toddler to 8 or so, do bring them to this colorful, toe-tapping animal extravaganza. The lack of squirming and whining in the theater indicated a mesmerized target audience. ★★★★

After rough start, Grant Park Orchestra takes Romantic turn, prize-winning violinist soars

Jul 20, 2017 – 11:20 am
Feature 2

Review: Americana and Romanticism, as well as a thoughtful view of America’s shadowed past, were on display at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion on July 19 when Brett Mitchell led the Grant Park Orchestra in works by Kenji Bunch and Copland as well as Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3 with soloist Angelo Xiang Yu, who had no trouble demonstrating why he won the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition in 2010.

‘Hir’ at Steppenwolf: In battle on home front, now a gender mine field, a Marine seeks cover

Jul 19, 2017 – 9:26 am
sub feature

Review: Taylor Mac’s tumultuous, off-the-wall play “Hir,” currently on stage in a bristling production at Steppenwolf, is about battles, foreign and domestic. And if the shape-changing military one in the Middle East has been going on for a long time, the societal one at the center of “Hir” is just building a good head of steam. Ex-Marine Isaac has come home to a household in chaos, and to a new sexual order – a whole new declension of genders in which “he” and “she” are but instances on a daunting new landscape. ★★★★

‘London Assurance’ at City Lit: Classic farce under full sail, by a wild Irishman before Wilde

Jul 18, 2017 – 1:34 pm
Assurance feature sub

Review: Oscar Wilde’s irresistible comedies exalting the escapades of the silly rich have never gone out of style, but City Lit theater company has done Chicago a big favor in allowing us to make the acquaintance of an all but forgotten playwright who was Wilde’s spiritual father of sorts. Now enjoying a raucous run in the Edgewater neighborhood is “London Assurance” by a fellow Irish playwright some three decades Wilde’s elder – Dion Boucicault. ★★★

‘Ragtime’ at Griffin: When America’s dream was young and promise came with an asterisk

Jul 14, 2017 – 5:58 pm
sub feature

Review: It’s hard to say which to praise first or most about Griffin Theatre’s splendidly intimate reduction of the musical “Ragtime” – the brisk, focused, wholly involved work of the 20 actors in the ensemble, the credible and affecting performances in the three central roles central or the imaginative achievement of director Scott Weinstein. Slice it however you may, Griffin’s small-scaled but high-powered “Ragtime” is a theatrical experience not to be missed. ★★★★

‘Ah, Wilderness!’ at Goodman: Young lovers, plotting a path through life’s tangled comedy

Jun 28, 2017 – 10:14 pm
Feature 2

Review: Fairly late in his career, Eugene O’Neill, that great purveyor of tragedy, penned a romantic comedy worthy of his darker plays. “Ah, Wilderness!” is that now-classic lark, and it once again bursts onto the stage at Goodman Theatre in a funny and affecting production that is arguably the crown jewel of Chicago’s theater season. ★★★★★

‘Going to a Place’ with ice cream for eternity, but where dialogue and plausibility are thin

Jun 27, 2017 – 10:11 pm
SONY DSC

Review: There’s a native directness about veteran Kathleen Ruhl’s acting that never fails to connect the viewer to her character. Call it authenticity. But no amount of straight shooting from the stage can magically turn a weak play into something terrific. Ruhl has demonstrated that proposition in two different plays in recent weeks — currently in Bekah Brunstetter’s “Going to a Place Where You Already Are” at Redtwist Theatre. ★★

CSO’s June fare offered smart change of pace, and a swim with ‘Jaws’ live tops off the month

Jun 26, 2017 – 3:07 pm
Riccardo Muti and Chicago SO and choruses (Todd Rosenberg)

Review: Bustin’ with freshness, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s June has been almost a season unto itself. The programs have been rich, novel and imbued with summer’s ease. Packed houses have been treated to programs of considerable class, as the names of Riccardo Muti, Susanna Mälkki, John Williams and Branford Marsalis imply. And there is still a big fish in the sea.

As touring ‘King and I’ splashes across stage, keynote of cross-cultural rapport rings afresh

Jun 25, 2017 – 4:38 pm
Feature 2

Review: “The King and I” holds up a revealing mirror to our better selves. The Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, now at the Oriental Theatre in an enchanting tour production run, is enormously popular for its wealth of wonderful songs and magnificent visual possibilities. But its real importance lies in its message of cultural transcendence, and we as Americans have never had greater need of that message. ★★★★

Soprano Susanna Phillips, Lyric Opera alum, returns to Chicago to sing at Grant Park fest

Jun 20, 2017 – 10:56 pm
Feature 2

Interview: Despite sounding hoarse over the phone because of a cold, Susanna Phillips gushed enthusiasm about making her debut at the Grant Park Music Festival on June 21 in a concert conducted by festival music director Carlos Kalmar. She’s just as enthusiastic about the unusual repertoire she’ll be performing, Aaron Copland’s “Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson.”

Summer is icumen in: Classical concerts fill Ravinia Festival stages, alfresco and indoors

Jun 20, 2017 – 9:55 am
Feature 1

Preview: A bountiful smorgasbord of classical music enriches the summer fare at the 2017 Ravinia Festival. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra puts in a stint with an array of guest conductors and soloists at the festival pavilion, while on a smaller scale indoor venues will see a parade of string quartets and pianists. We offer a comprehensive look-ahead at Ravinia’s classical presentation.

In rainy weather, Grant Park Festival shines when orchestra, chorus, soloists go seafaring

Jun 19, 2017 – 4:08 pm
sub feature

Review: Music director Carlos Kalmar’s always imaginative – and often quite bold – programming for the Grant Park Music Festival hit an early peak June 16 and 17 in his choice of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ prodigious “Sea Symphony.” This 70-minute masterpiece for orchestra, chorus, soprano and baritone uses texts from Walt Whitman’s poem “Leaves of Grass” to create an epic duality: a great paean to the sea and a metaphor for the grandeur and the possibilities of human life.

American Players set to dedicate a new stage after $8 million renovation of outdoor venue

Jun 17, 2017 – 11:55 am
Feature 1

Preview: At the outset of its 38th season, American Players Theatre has the look of a company starting afresh. Its 2017 summer at Spring Green, Wis., about 30 miles west of Madison, opens on a brand-new stage, the centerpiece of an $8 million renovation of both production and public facilities. “Our theater was literally falling down,” says APT artistic director Brenda DeVita. “This renewal has given us, and our audience, a theater that is better is so many ways.”

‘Pass Over’ at Steppenwolf: Two black guys hanging out on a corner, waiting for to go

Jun 14, 2017 – 10:08 pm
Feature 1

Review: We are political creatures. We all have our world-view, our personal dispositions, our social sympathies and antipathies. That applies as well to creations for the stage. It is an ineluctable truth that all theater is political, even if some plays are more specifically agenda-driven than others. That said, I have short patience with the more overt, I might say hell-bent, forms of agenda theater. They tend not to be very good drama. Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s “The Exonerated” springs to mind. Antoinette Nwandu’s play “Pass Over,” in its world premiere run, is no simple rant but does come with its own set of problems. ★★

‘Relativity’ at Northlight: In pursuit of Einstein, and confronting the hard reality of genius

Jun 13, 2017 – 4:01 pm
Feature 1

Review: The nature of genius, its obsession and its isolation, lies at the core of Mark St. Germain’s taut, indeed irreducible play “Relativity,” a fictional perspective on Albert Einstein that bears the resonance of reality at Northlight Theatre — thanks to a stellar turn by Mike Nussbaum as the larger-than-life theoretical physicist. ★★★★

Pianist Gerstein measures himself against pair of Olympians, and displays solid gold mettle

Jun 12, 2017 – 9:52 pm
Kirill Gerstein
Photo: Marco Borggreve

Review: As prodigious as it was unusual, pianist Kirill Gerstein’s recital June 11 at Orchestra Hall bundled the double rarity of Brahms’ ambitious early Sonata No. 2 in F-sharp minor and the full dozen of Liszt’s spectacular “Transcendental” Etudes. To the teenage Brahms’ brash grand sonata Gerstein, now age 37, brought a young man’s bravura spirit, and in Liszt’s monumental Etudes he showed a leonine profile of strength, agility and grace.

Concertos aplenty (world premiere for horn), star soloists await at Grant Park Music Fest

Jun 11, 2017 – 9:33 pm
Grant Park Music Festival feature image (Christopher_Neseman)

Preview: The 2017 Grant Park Music Festival begins Wednesday, June 14. Here’s a look at all that’s in store on the great lawn at Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, where star-gazing, the Lake Michigan breeze and great music are free. See our highlights preview.

Pair of Mozart masters light it up with the CSO — no hurdle’s too high for Honeck or Lewis

Jun 10, 2017 – 11:35 am
6/8/17 8:02:00 PM --  Chicago, IL
Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Manfred Honeck conductor
Paul Lewis piano
Regula Mühlemann soprano

 © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2017

Review: The Chicago Symphony is, at its present time in history, a Mozart orchestra of sheer delight. With Austrian guest conductor Manfred Honeck and English pianist Paul Lewis as able interlocutors, the nimble ensemble has the brightness, delicacy and tensile strength to float long lines at breakneck speeds, remaining ever lyrical while having wicked fun.

Austrians arm in arm: Manfred Honeck brings multidimensional Mozart to four CSO concerts

Jun 6, 2017 – 9:47 pm
Feature 1

Preview: Manfred Honeck, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony, returns to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to lead concerts June 8-13 that might be characterized as a theme with variations. The theme is Mozart; the variations are, well, comprehensive. “To celebrate Mozart in just one concert program is never easy,” says the maestro, in his ninth year with Pittsburgh at age 58. “How do you make choices among so many masterpieces?”

‘Time Stands Still’ at AstonRep: War and souls in shattered images, captured in close-up lens

Jun 2, 2017 – 10:24 pm
Feature 2

Review: She’s a photojournalist maimed in battle, back home and barely on the mend. He’s a fellow correspondent torn with guilt for not being there when it happened. And their mutual editor is going through a May-December thing with a cutie in AstonRep’s excellent take on David Margulies wry tale of life’s reeling course. ★★★★

‘Harvey’ at Court: In wacky account, message of a good soul, invisible rabbit is plain to see

May 30, 2017 – 7:32 am
Feature 2

Review: In these parlous times, it’s good to remember that Mary Chase’s radiant moral comedy “Harvey” won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. As Elwood P. Dowd, the protagonist who pals around with a 6-foot-tall invisible white rabbit, might say: I’d like to see a prize awarded to Court Theatre for its lovely staging of the play. ★★★★★

Civitas, Gipsy Way musicians pursue cultural connections and leave digital footprints, too

May 29, 2017 – 11:17 am
secondary feature

Review: Shanghai-born violinist Yuan-Qing Yu is a tenacious advocate for contemporary music and a member of the Chicago Symphony. Czech-born Pavel Šporcl is a celebrated virtuoso with a gypsy crossover streak and a bodaciously blue violin. They brought their international project “Alla Zingarese,” which involves Chicago’s Civitas and Šporcl’s Gipsy Way ensembles, to Chicago May 21 before laying down the tracks for the local Cedille label.

‘Objects in the Mirror’ at Goodman: Escaping calamity in Africa, surviving the folly of youth

May 25, 2017 – 8:55 pm
Feature 1

Review: Playwright Charles Smith’s “Objects in the Mirror” is a gritty, honest and provocatively open-ended story about coming of age. Mesmerizing, if no less exasperating, it is served with resonant conviction in a world premiere production at Goodman Theatre. ★★★★

‘Shakespeare in Love’ film-to-theater adaptation extended through June 18

May 21, 2017 – 7:31 pm
CST_ShakesinLove_02_LizLauren 400

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
——
​Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Shakespeare in Love extended by popular demand through June 18  
Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) announces today …

Chicago Shakes announces cast for family musical version of ‘Madascar,’ coming July 13

May 21, 2017 – 7:04 pm
CST_MADAGASCAR_Animation crop 400

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater announces casting for “MADASCAR – A MUSICAL ADVENTURE”
DreamWorks animated film brought to life onstage …