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Articles by Nancy Malitz

‘Hinter’ at Steep: Down on farm, bodies pile up as thriller flips narrative on its head. Go figure.

Feb 21, 2018 – 5:54 pm
Peter Moore, and Sigrid Sutter in 'Hinter' at Steep (Lee Miller)

Review: In an imaginative whodunnit, Chicago writer Calamity West proposes the hypothetical solution to an unsolved mass murder from 1922. Bavaria’s counterpart to the Lizzie Borden story (in notoriety if not in detail) involves six people on a farmstead in Munich’s remote outback. All were found hacked to death. ★★★

Bellini’s ‘I puritani’ at the Lyric Opera: Love, vengeance, madness borne aloft on high C’s

Feb 8, 2018 – 10:52 pm
Albina Shagimuratova_I PURITANI_feature 2 (Andrew CIoffi)

Review: No one doubted that Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova would be back at the Lyric Opera of Chicago after doing such a superb job of going mad the first time around. In 2016 she portrayed the innocent Scottish lass Lucia, of Lammermoor, forced into an arranged marriage despite her betrothal to someone else. She emerged from the wedding chamber armed with psychotic coloratura, compliments of Donizetti, and a knife dripping in blood. Now she’s back as the Puritan maiden Elvira, who is mentally shattered by her fiancé’s abrupt departure on her wedding day. Cue the coloratura. ★★★

Minnesota Orchestra is fleet, crisp, complete in ear-opening visit to Chicago with Vänskä

Jan 30, 2018 – 6:23 am
Osmo Vanska feature image (Kaapo Kamu)

Review: The Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä has been the go-to guy for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on more than one urgent occasion in recent history, valiantly saving the day on not much more than pure adrenalin. But when he visited Chicago with his own Minnesota Orchestra, the maestro and his thoroughly prepared band projected a more serene mindset entirely.

Catering to opera-goers hungry before show, Lyric’s restaurant, bistro take it up an octave

Jan 19, 2018 – 4:59 pm
Lyric opera's Pedersen Room (lyricopera.org)

Around Town: Lyric’s onsite restaurants are fiercely dedicated to the principle that Yes, you absolutely will make curtain, and Yes, you can come back to your table at intermission for coffee, dessert, and the rest of the wine.

Firebrand sharpens the edgy musical ‘Lizzie’: Rough day for Mom and Dad in old Fall River

Jan 9, 2018 – 10:27 pm
Liz Chidester LIZZIE feature image, Firebrand Theatre (Marisa KM)

Review: The Firebrand Theatre’s production of “Lizzie” sides with the popular fiction that Lizzie Borden killed her dad and stepmom with axe whacks aplenty. But then this rock musical proceeds to imagine why. The answer puts Lizzie squarely in the tradition of Sweeney Todd and Hamlet and Clytemnestra and the girls of the “Cell Block Tango.” They had it comin’. ★★★★

One, two, (maybe) three: Muti again waltzes Vienna through beloved New Year’s concert

Dec 30, 2017 – 1:49 pm
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Preview: When Riccardo Muti conducts the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Day concert for the fifth time in his career, it will be 11:15 a.m. in the city of Mozart, Beethoven and Johann Strauss Jr., but only 4:15 a.m. in Chicago. Worry not, there are multiple ways to enjoy this event, which epitomizes the close friendship that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director has had with the esteemed Vienna Philharmonic, dating back some 47 years.

‘Red Velvet’ at Chicago Shakespeare: A black Othello who shocked staid old Covent Garden

Dec 28, 2017 – 8:27 am
CST_RedVelvet_01_feature 550 (Liz Lauren)

Review: Covent Garden’s greatest tragedian has collapsed in the midst of his 1833 “Othello” run, requiring the theater to swap in a substitute for the traditional blackface role of the Moorish general who commits a crime of passion against his fair-skinned wife. Perhaps London might delight in the novelty of a 25-year-old “African” actor to save the day. Dion Johnstone stars in this emotionally charged drama – based on an actual event – by British playwright Lolita Chakrabarti, who likes her humor dry. ★★★★

‘Belle of Amherst’ Emily Dickinson, pulled from pocket of a shirtdress at Court Theatre

Nov 24, 2017 – 11:14 am
Kate Fry. Belle of Amherst Feature 1a (Michael Brosilow)

Review: In an opening scene that would have made the poet chortle, Emily Dickinson walks into the room from which she barely ever leaves and catches – out of the corner of her eye – the supreme irony of hundreds of people instead of a bedroom wall. With the tiniest commiserating grin, actress Kate Fry embraces this utter incongruity; it’s just another mental puzzle to solve.★★★★★

Freshened, jumpin’ musical ‘School of Rock’ shakes the house as tour blows into Chicago

Nov 8, 2017 – 12:29 pm
School of Rock Feature image

Review: True to the spirit of the Jack Black film comedy about an aging rock ‘n’ roll wannabe who cons his way into a substitute teaching job and shakes up his class of uptight tweens, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway hit is a hilarious slam dunk in Chicago, starring Second City alum Rob Colletti as the guru of a dozen young rockers in bloom. ★★★★

Lyric Opera, in stylish step with Joffrey Ballet, dances into new season with Gluck’s ‘Orphée’

Sep 26, 2017 – 2:48 pm

Review: My first reaction to the sublime Elysium Fields scene in “Orphée et Eurydice,” as conceived by John Neumeier for the Chicago Lyric Opera, was that I was actually looking at Gluck’s music — that I was “seeing” the sound, so perfectly twinned were the diaphanous movements of the dancers to the serene music representing spirits in afterlife. My second reaction was that Neumeier knows his Freud. With plenty of insight and practical know-how, he has crafted a brilliant contemporary scheme for this 1774 Paris version of Gluck’s opera, which draws from the ancient myth of Orphée’s rescue attempt in the underworld. ★★★★★

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

Aug 31, 2017 – 8:38 am
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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. ★★★★★

‘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. ★★★★

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.

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.

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

May 29, 2017 – 11:17 am
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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.

‘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.
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​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 …

Muti, leading the CSO through Brahms cycle, says unsuspected sadness edges symphonies

May 12, 2017 – 12:13 pm
Brahms_c._1872 feature image (wiki)

Interview: Riccardo Muti has been conducting the symphonies of Brahms for 45 years, but to his current total immersion project with the Chicago Symphony he brings the excitement of a perpetual student. In a conversation with Chicago On the Aisle, after performing the First and Second Symphonies and with the Third and Fourth scheduled through May 13, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director said he was thrilled with the way things were going and conveyed the exhilaration of discoveries that have put into focus his remarkable experiences with Brahms as a young man.

In a spin at Lyric, ‘My Fair Lady’ still leaves romance in lurch, but the show’s irresistible

May 9, 2017 – 4:40 pm
feature 2 Lisa O'Hare_MY FAIR LADY_LYR170427_074_c.Todd Rosenberg

Review: For more than a century, people have been arguing about the ending of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” the play behind Lerner and Loewe’s beloved musical “My Fair Lady.” Now the Lyric Opera of Chicago jumps into this amusing fray, but don’t expect the matter to be cleared up. When it comes to the cockney guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle and the phonetics professor who successfully passes her off as an aristocrat, the romantic stakes are still dizzy with spin. ★★★★

Ravinia Festival creates role of conductor laureate for beloved leader James Levine

Apr 12, 2017 – 2:43 pm
James Levine (Cory Weaver)

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
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Longtime music director will renew his summer residency, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and leading master …

Chicago Opera Theater’s end-of-season gala involves surprise guest Philip Glass

Apr 12, 2017 – 2:03 pm
Philip Glass feature image

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
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Celebrate with Philip Glass and COT! COT’s End of Season Gala involves surprise guest Philip Glass!
April 12, 2016 …

Jeremy Piven leads intimate discussion with Kevin Spacey at Gene Siskel Film Center benefit

Apr 12, 2017 – 12:33 pm
Jeremy Piven 400

This Just In: The following is a news release written by an arts organization, submitted to Chicago On the Aisle.
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“Kevin Spacey: Renaissance Man,” features In-Depth Conversation with Golden Globe and Emmy Award-Winner Piven and Spacey …

Lyric Opera’s ‘Rising Stars’ concert reflects program designed to help young talent shine

Apr 1, 2017 – 8:44 pm
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Report: They were everywhere onstage all season, and seven are taking their final bows. It’s time to cut the cake for the gifted young artists who are emerging from the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s high-level Ryan Opera Center multi-year training program. They are venturing forth, some with bookings already in hand.

In ‘Hamilton’ immersion, Chicago school kids embroider the musical with riffs of their own

Mar 31, 2017 – 6:13 am
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Report: I wish every adult attending the hit musical “Hamilton” could see it the way nearly 20,000 Chicagoans in their mid-teens will experience it over the coming months. And not just because of the $10 tickets for a show that generally costs hundreds. What each student comes away with is a personalized connection to America’s birth.

‘Eugene Onegin’ at Lyric Opera: As anti-hero, Mariusz Kwiecień summons a tragic elegance

Mar 4, 2017 – 11:09 am

Review: Love took a glorious beating in the final grand opera of the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s season, but then it has been pretty much that way since October. Prince Tamino and Princess Pamina lived happily ever after, but otherwise things ended badly for the aspiring lovers of 2016-17. Now the Lyric gives us Tchaikovsky’s cynical anti-hero Eugene Onegin, brought to life in a devastating package of elegance and self-deluding condescension by baritone Mariusz Kwiecień. ★★★★

Channeling film-maker Eisenstein, Muti directs epic struggle in Prokofiev’s ‘Ivan the Terrible’

Feb 26, 2017 – 7:02 am

Review: Even for Riccardo Muti, it was an extraordinary night at the symphony. The maestro’s latest musico-dramatic assemblage, Prokofiev’s “Ivan the Terrible,” received its Chicago Symphony premiere featuring longtime Muti friend Gérard Depardieu as Russia’s ruthless Tsar Ivan IV. The performance was nothing short of operatic in the majesty of its vision, the grandeur of its pageantry and the grip of its blood-red emotional palette.

Elizabeth DeShong carries a torch for tragic bel canto – and for Bernadette, Bette, Judy

Feb 19, 2017 – 10:48 am
Elizabeth+DeShong feature crop (Kristin Hoebermann)

Interview: Enough with comedy. This singer, now featured in “Norma” at the Lyric Opera, and soon to kick back with other rising stars at a “Beyond the Aria” event at the Harris Theater, believes the world is poised for a major revival of coloratura-tinged drama, bel canto’s serious side. Her inspirations include opera’s Marilyn Horne, but she admires those legendary Broadway belters, too.

‘A Disappearing Number’ at TimeLine: Infinity as starting point in a story of incalculable love

Feb 16, 2017 – 11:35 am
A Disappearing Number feature image (Lara Goetsch, TimeLine)

Review: Who are the rare humans able to unlock secret patterns of the universe, sharing their discoveries as music, science, mathematics or metaphor? You might think of Michelangelo or Bach. Copernicus or Newton. Shakespeare. Einstein. But Ramanujan? If this name stopped you, then you’re a candidate for TimeLine’s fascinating romance “A Disappearing Number.” ★★★★

‘Norma’ at Lyric Opera: Radvanovsky’s fiery priestess sets the tone for blazing melodrama

Feb 1, 2017 – 2:36 pm
Sondra Radvanovksy NORMA Chicago Lyric 037A4590 crop (Cory Weaver)

Review: There is no Verdi at the Lyric Opera of Chicago this season, but there is plenty of Italian spectacle from the generation prior. Donizetti’s crazed “Lucia di Lammermoor” bowed earlier this season, and now comes Bellini’s “Norma,” the bel canto saga of a Druid high priestess betrayed in love. Sondra Radvanovsky stars in a majestic turn. ★★★★

Lyric’s ‘Flute’ is a time-bending gift from ’50s, backyard fun boxed in spirit of Disney magic

Dec 19, 2016 – 10:51 am
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Review: The ultimate holiday gift for arts lovers this season is Lyric Opera of Chicago’s rambunctiously retro world premiere production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” set triumphantly in the world headquarters of the baby boom. Which is to say, a backyard of the ’50s and ’60s, as seen through the eyes of a child. This nostalgic feat is an exceptional musical delight and a fine show for families of all ages. What makes this show giftable is its extended January run. ★★★★