Articles by Lawrence B. Johnson
It’s all about the verbs, present and veiled past, as lies collide in ‘The Girl in the Yellow Dress’
Student-teacher clash at Next. 4 stars!
Stompin’ at Victory Gardens. 3 stars
Some wounds heal slowly. 4 stars!
Meltdown at Amer. Theater Co. 5 stars!
The Princess’ rival is her slave. 3 stars
Review: Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with the Chicago Children’s Choir conducted by Riccardo Muti. Maria Grazia Schiavo, soprano; Max Emanuel Cencic, countertenor; Stéphane Degout, baritone. Through Jan. 28. *****
Cynically, unbearably funny. 4 stars!
Review: If Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony is a yearning postcard “From the New World,” his Symphony No. 8 in G major is redolent of a composer happily settled on native ground. The Eighth is decidedly of the Old World, as conductor Manfred Honeck and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra so generously demonstrated Jan. 19 at Orchestra Hall. ****
Full count at the Lookingglass. 3 stars.
Interview: Diane D’Aquila, who brings Queen Elizabeth I to regal and vulnerable life in Timothy Findley’s “Elizabeth Rex” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, says acting in this gripping, keenly honed production “is a like a dance out there, and it’s scary as hell.”
CD review: Conductor Riccardo Chailly’s new recording of Beethoven’s nine symphonies, with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, may finally be the document that changes the way we think of these seminal works – and the way the next generation of conductors approaches them. *****
Preview: Barbara Gaines directs actors from Chicago Shakespeare Theater in concerts Jan. 5-14 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, featuring music inspired by the Bard.
And Odysseus is bearing down. 3 stars.
Interview: His clown suit, a bit tattered and soiled with soot, looks like it once might have been pure white. But the character Dean Evans plays in the Neo-Futurists’ production of “Burning Bluebeard” is decidedly dark, one might even say spectral.
Capra’s film as oldie broadcast. 4 stars!
The Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen shares a peculiarity of temperament and genius with Gustav Mahler. Like Mahler in his time, Salonen today stands among the most important conductors in the world. And again like his great forebear, Salonen would really rather be composing than be saddled with the responsibilities of music director for any orchestra you could name. Even one that might be looking for someone to succeed James Levine in Boston.
Shakespeare’s in the barn. 5 stars!
Review: For many music lovers, the single word Magnificat probably summons the name Bach, whose setting of this ancient “song of Mary” is doubtless the most famous to modern listeners. But in fact the Magnificat enjoys a long and glorious tradition in music history, notably in the 16th century, and several such Renaissance gems were on display Friday night in an exquisite concert by the Tallis Scholars at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel. *****
British pianist Paul Lewis brings a potent blend of ingredients to a diverse collection that shows Schubert as both Beethoven’s heir and an original, indeed daring creative spirit. ****
Interview: Actor Dan Waller describes himself as a simple guy who values friendship and the respect of his peers. That makes him a close kin to the North England coal miner, revealed as gifted artist, he portrays in Lee Hall’s play “The Pitmen Painters” at TimeLine Theatre.
Burning hot at the Cadillac. 5 stars!
Lovable but seriously bizarre. 4 stars!
Neo-Futurists riff on a tragedy. 4 stars!
At Bank of America Theatre. 4 stars!
In a quandary about what to give the person you dare not buy for? If that knotty assignment is a music or theater lover, we at Chicago On the Aisle have a garland of happy solutions: concert music, operas, plays and musicals on CDs, DVDs and downloadable recordings. We’ll be stringing our bright recommendations over the weeks ahead, so check back often.
Interview: Michael Stegall, who looks and sounds every inch a ropin’ cowboy in the Raven Theatre production of William Inge’s “Bus Stop,” grew up in the West. No surprise there. But wait a minute. Not that West. The 6-foot-3, 23-year-old actor hails from Palm Springs, CA, where the buffalo do not roam.
Review: The French conductor Stéphane Denève made a thrilling debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Thursday night. Denève, who turns 40 this month, is going to be an international force, and his concert with the CSO amply demonstrated why. *****
Maestro at the Royal George. 3 stars
The last three string quartets Mozart composed, in 1789 just two years before his death, utterly belie the desperate financial straits into which he had fallen. These sunny, and technically brilliant, performances by the Emerson String Quartet reveal Mozart at the zenith of his creative powers.
Engagingly off-kilter charms. 3 stars