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Sep 19, 2019 – 5:38 pm

Fifth in a series of season previews: Sport meets dreams in multi-cultural America in a Steppenwolf Theatre season that bounces across continents and generations, sometimes in the same show. The lineup includes two world premieres. Or, as associate artistic director Leelai Demoz puts it, the Steppenwolf prospectus is dotted with “entry points” for self-discovery, self-realization and the painful embrace of hard truths.

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Chicago Symphony, its fabled sound blazing, gets wild welcome in return to Orchestra Hall

May 3, 2019 – 2:15 pm
5/2/19 9:51:29 PM -- Chicago, IL 
Chicago, IL 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, Conductor
Joyce DiDonato, Soprano


Bizet Roma
Berlioz The Death of Cleopatra, Lyric Scene for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra
Respighi Pines of Rome

© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

Review: O say, can you see – the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is back, its seven-week strike over, music on the stands and music director Riccardo Muti once more presiding from the podium. To a whooping, standing-O reception, the CSO roared back into action at Orchestra Hall on May 2 with a performance that made clear the orchestra, in a twinkling, was all the way back: a full-fledged do-over. And lest anyone miss the point that, even at the three-quarter mark of the season, this was in spirit a restart, Muti began with a flick of his baton for a drumroll and struck up “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

‘Hamlet’ at Chicago Shakespeare: In honoring Bard’s language, an actor hones ambivalence

Apr 30, 2019 – 8:14 pm
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Review: The much that is good about Chicago Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is very good indeed, starting with Maurice Jones’ rigorously thought-through and yet convincingly spontaneous performance as the melancholy Prince of Denmark. But unevenness among the rest of the principal roles takes a toll on this enterprise under company artistic director Barbara Gaines. ★★★★

‘Moby-Dick’ at Chicago Opera Theater: Condensing the scope, cranking up the power

Apr 29, 2019 – 4:24 pm
Moby-Dick Press feature image Selects Michael Brosilow 15

Review: When Jake Heggies’ opera “Moby-Dick” had its world premiere in Dallas in 2010, everything about it was gargantuan and cutting edge technically, with enormous set pieces, elements flying in and out, lighting sufficient to evoke boat-swallowing storms at sea, and whale-size computer graphics. But a new and nifty mid-size design concept, seen at Chicago Opera Theater at the Harris atop Millennium Park, was just as thrilling, even more intense, as it zoomed in on the swirling human action and lurking danger in the vast surround. ★★★★

‘A Number’ at Writers: Haunted by the past, dad seeks ideal son in future perfect of DNA

Apr 28, 2019 – 9:38 pm
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Review: Salter’s little boy was perfect. Beautiful. In his father’s eyes, the child Bernard was everything a man could wish for. Then, something happened. What, exactly, is the conundrum at the core of Caryl Churchill’s intriguing futuristic play “A Number,” in which William Brown and Nate Burger now occupy the stage at Writers Theatre. ★★★★

CSO strike ends with 5-year contract accord; musicians accept phased change in pensions

Apr 27, 2019 – 10:54 am
Feature image Steve Lester 4.24.2019 IMG_2712

Report: The striking musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra voted April 27 to approve a new five-year contract that compromises on pensions and projects wage increases totaling 13.25 percent. The agreement was reached April 26, the day Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped into a contentious dispute between the musicians and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association that had led to the strike March 11. Under the new agreement, the pension plan will be frozen after the 2022-23 season and transition thereafter to a model that shifts the future investment burden to the musicians themselves. Unanimous approval by the musicians came hours before the Association board of trustees also voted to approve the contract.

Joffrey Ballet shifts its gaze ‘Across the Pond’ with two world premieres on contemporary bill

Apr 26, 2019 – 11:52 am
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Review: To conclude a whirlwind season of grand-scale narrative works that included Christopher Wheeldon’s Degas-inspired riff on “Swan Lake” and his Chicago World’s Fair-driven take on “The Nutcracker,” as well as the world premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s cinematic version of “Anna Karenina,” the Joffrey Ballet’s artistic director, Ashley Wheater, decided to shift gears in a most intriguing way. The result is “Across the Pond,” the umbrella title for a fascinating mixed bill showcasing three contemporary British choreographers,

‘Hannah and Martin’ at Shattered Globe: Fireworks of mind and heart as the Reich rises

Apr 25, 2019 – 5:46 pm
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Review: In a Chicago theater season that has produced a generous share of first-rate work, there’s been little that might top the brilliance and torment generated by Christina Gorman and Lawrence Grimm in Kate Fodor’s “Hannah and Martin” at Shattered Globe Theatre. It’s a story as mesmerizing as it is heated and exotic, this historical – and historically sound – romantic affair and intellectual tussle between two of the most influential philosophers of the last century: Martin Heidegger, a Nazi sympathizer, and the Jewish thinker Hannah Arendt, ★★★★★

‘The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey’: Charismatic gay boy, sundry friends, one actor

Apr 19, 2019 – 4:15 pm
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Review: What’s so seductively marvelous about Joe Foust’s one-man turn through James Lecesne’s bittersweet play “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey,” currently in production at American Blues Theater, is not simply the actor’s ability to sustain a complicated narrative alone on the stage. What’s absolutely magical is Foust’s blink-of-an-eye transformations from one fully formed character into another, each new persona as distinctive, empathic and credible as the last. ★★★★

Chicago Symphony throw-down is private: musicians and trustees only; all others beat it

Apr 14, 2019 – 9:13 pm
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Commentary: The strike by musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, now entering its second month, has brought into focus some realities about high-level orchestras in our time, the nature of work stoppages such as this one and the framework of negotiations between musicians and management. Perhaps the first point to be made is the inappropriateness of outsiders to presume to judge how an impasse in negotiations should be resolved.

‘For Colored Girls’ at Court: Getting through hard lives with a distant promise of rainbows

Apr 11, 2019 – 9:29 am
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Review: You have half a dozen more chances to see Ntozake Shange’s stunning play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” before it closes April 14 at Court Theatre. That is, assuming a seat opens up; the remainder of the run is sold out. No surprise there. “For Colored Girls” is a theatrical experience of authentic soul and rare beauty. ★★★★★

Lutenist O’Dette, Newberry Consort to revisit forgotten world of French Renaissance music

Apr 3, 2019 – 9:23 pm
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Review: Musically, the French Renaissance was a bountiful era that surely would never be forgotten. Yet curiously and regrettably, says the celebrated lute virtuoso and Renaissance expert Paul O’Dette, the music of 16th-century France has pretty much tumbled into oblivion. Which only makes the more alluring O’Dette’s appearance April 5-7 with the Newberry Consort for a program devoted to – what else? — la musique française à l’époque de la Renaissance.   

‘Sweat’ at Goodman: When the jobs go away, even best friends can lose sight of forever

Apr 1, 2019 – 6:12 pm
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Review: The tragic grandeur of Lynn Nottage’s play “Sweat,” now indispensably on display at Goodman Theatre, resides in its complex truths. All in one remarkable tumble, it is a play about the vulnerability of the labor class, the crassness of their overlords, the fragility of friendships, the partitions of tribalism and the volatile bond between mothers and sons. ★★★★★

Chicago Symphony contract talks to resume; events canceled by strike extended to April 9

Mar 27, 2019 – 10:22 pm
IMG_2531r fMarch 22 2019 (NMalitz)

April 3 Update: The musicians of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra had expected to play Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony on March 26 at Orchestra Hall. Instead, with the Chicago Symphony on strike, the visiting musicians took to the streets — one could almost say the barricades — in solidarity with their Chicago colleagues. Brass players from the two orchestras played briefly on the sidewalk in front of Orchestra Hall amid signs proclaiming their unity.

In a grand night of singing, Lyric Opera fetes Renée Fleming – with help from starry friends

Mar 25, 2019 – 9:21 pm
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Review: Her colleagues sang tributes, the next generation of opera stars chipped in with the exuberance of youth and the audience rocked the house on soprano Renée Fleming’s night – a very vocal celebration of that superstar’s multifaceted 25-year association with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The concert March 23 at the Lyric Opera House acknowledged the many ways the singer has contributed to the company as vocal star, consultant and mentor over the last quarter-century.

Lyric Opera’s small-scaled ‘American Dream’ reflects supersized bid to stretch the art form

Mar 24, 2019 – 6:36 pm
3/14/19 11:10:42 AM -- Lyric Opera Chicago
Lyric Unlimited
AN AMERICAN DREAM
Music by Jack Perla
Libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo

So Young Park, Setsuko Kobayashi
Ao Li, Makoto Kobayashi
Nina Yoshida Nelsen, Hiroko Kobayashi
Christopher Magiera, Jim Crowley
Catherine Martin, Eva Crowley

Matthew Ozawa Director


© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019

Commentary: The pool of grand opera subscribers  may be slowly shrinking nationally, but one can’t help feeling optimistic about Lyric Opera of Chicago’s long-term prospects as the company continues to refine and redefine itself. The Opera’s nimble branch – Lyric Unlimited – attracted two crowds of 1,100 each to the Harris Theater on March 15 and 17 for its latest chamber opera presentation, “An American Dream.” A loudly enthusiastic audience was the latest evidence of the hard work that Lyric has put into its own expanded vision.

‘Herland’ at Redtwist: Three senior ladies give new meaning to garage band’s sacred domain

Mar 23, 2019 – 4:47 pm
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Review: As shaggy dog stories go, Grace McLeod’s “Herland,” now rollicking about in the very small space of Redtwist Theatre, is funny from start almost to finish. The show derives its nearly nonstop energy and substantial appeal from three middle-aged actresses and a convincingly vulnerable young actress playing in a you-are-there garage set. Right at the finish line, however, “Herland” makes a sudden shift from high comedy to self-conscious morality tale and concludes in an awkward effort to make its point. ★★★

Starry cast will honor soprano Renée Fleming as Lyric notes 25th anniversary of her debut

Mar 19, 2019 – 9:04 pm
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Preview: Megastar soprano Renée Fleming, affectionately known in the opera world as “the diva next door,” remembers very well her debut 25 years ago at Lyric Opera of Chicago in the title role of Carlisle Floyd’s “Susannah.” But that event is only the touchstone of Lyric’s glittering 25th anniversary concert March 23, which really celebrates a quarter-century of close partnership between the opera company and Fleming as singer, consultant and mentor.

Striking CSO musicians to give free concerts; Barenboim, Pelosi send messages of support

Mar 11, 2019 – 8:50 pm
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Updated March 20: The striking musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will give two free performances they have dubbed “From the Heart of the Orchestra – Free Concerts for Chicago.” The two programs, announced as the first events in a projected series of free presentations, will feature a small ensemble playing chamber music March 22 and the full orchestra in works by Beethoven and Mozart on March 25. The musicians also made public letters of support from former CSO music director Daniel Barenboim and Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Steppenwolf to create new theater building, centerpiece of $73 million renewal project

Mar 5, 2019 – 12:12 pm
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Report: Steppenwolf Theatre unveiled plans March 5 for a new state-of-the-art theater building, the heart of a $73 million renovation project that ultimately will include remodeling of the company’s current main-stage theater. The new building is expected to open in summer 2021. “This is a monumental moment for us that is more than two decades in the making,” said artistic director Anna D. Shapiro, adding that the expansion plan is “built on the shoulders of the former leaders, the ensemble, the board, and the staff who have touched this project and together have made this vision a reality.”

Handel’s ‘Ariodante’ at Lyric Opera: Another star felled by illness; enter heroine (as hero)

Mar 4, 2019 – 11:00 pm
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Review: Spring – and the warmer, more healthful weather it augurs – can’t come too soon for Lyric Opera of Chicago. As of this writing, two title-role singers are indisposed. At least one of them, soprano Albina Shagimuratova, made it through opening night as Violetta in Verdi’s “La traviata.” But the second star to withdraw, mezzo-soprano Alice Coote, wasn’t even up for the March 2 opening of Handel’s “Ariodante.” Julie Anne Miller was pressed into service on opening night as Ariodante, a huge “trouser” role aglitter with coloratura fireworks but also touched by music of profound reflection. Miller proved to be more and more impressive as the night wore on. ★★★★

‘How I Learned to Drive’ at Raven: Pretty girl, adoring uncle and secrets of the automobile

Mar 1, 2019 – 9:32 am
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Review: Li’l Bit was just 11 years old when she got her first driving lesson from her Uncle Peck. He pulled her onto his lap and showed her how to place her hands on the steering wheel.at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions. Then Uncle Peck placed his hands in roughly the same positions on L’il Bit. In Paula Vogel’s bruised-memory play “How I Learned to Drive,” the 1998 Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama now on cringe-inducing display at Raven Theatre, Li’l Bit grows to young womanhood in the caring, caressing hands of her devoted Uncle Peck, a pedophile. ★★★

‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ at Writers: Flashy shoes, flashing weapons and some ’20s blues

Feb 27, 2019 – 9:36 am
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Review: It’s 1927, and the veteran blues singer Ma Rainey – or Madame Rainey, as she prefers – is the imperious queen of her realm. The black songstress has been around, and she doesn’t take any grief from anybody, including white folks. Brash trumpeter Levee, who’s playing a Chicago recording session with Rainey, is still finding his way. He’s young, gifted and black. And deeply angry. These two are the fire and ice of August Wilson’s towering tragedy “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” now in the sure hands of director Ron OJ Parson and a stellar cast at Writers Theatre. ★★★★★

Pianist Beatrice Rana makes impressive debut with display of technical prowess, fluent style

Feb 25, 2019 – 6:11 pm
Featured image Marie Staggat

Review: I confess I knew nothing about the 26-year-old Italian pianist Beatrice Rana before she made a phenomenal Symphony Center debut on Feb. 24. What initially lured me to her program was her choice of repertoire, including Chopin’s Etudes, Op. 25, and Ravel’s “Mirroirs.” In both her technical and interpretive skill, Rana proved to be extraordinary artist – one who held the audience at rapt attention.

‘An Inspector Calls’ at Chicago Shakespeare: High above earthy folk, fine hems betray mud

Feb 24, 2019 – 9:16 pm
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Review: JB Priestley’s classic “An Inspector Calls,” a noir thriller as morality tale, has been around for seven decades, and was made into a film in 1954. But director Stephen Daldry’s laser-focused staging with the National Theatre of Britain, now on view at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, is a masterpiece of ensemble acting wrapped in a brilliant concept that makes the play feel deliciously fresh, newly and wickedly biting. ★★★★★

In remembrance of Italian massacre in WWII, Muti and CSO turn to an American’s lament

Feb 24, 2019 – 11:51 am
Roma-fosseardeatine feature image (Wiki)

Review: The Ninth Symphony of American composer William Schuman, which Chicago Symphony music director Riccardo Muti conducted for the first time, commemorates a painful moment in modern Italian history – the systematic murder of 335 Italian civilians, with one shot each to the back of the head, by German soldiers in the last weeks of World War II.

‘The Scarlet Ibis’ at Chicago Opera Theater: Conflict of brotherly love, honed to lyric pitch

Feb 23, 2019 – 11:29 am
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Review: Brotherly conflict is at the heart of composer Stefan Weisman’s extraordinary operatic adaptation of “The Scarlet Ibis,” a celebrated short story by James Hurst. The 95-minute opera reveals layers of meaning and symbolism and blurs intense naturalism with a kind of dreamy magical realism. The staging by Chicago Opera Theater manages to be at once touching and tender, tough and unflinching: a revelation of the work’s power and depth. ★★★★★

‘A Doll’s House, Part 2’ at Steppenwolf:
Sharp knock at the door, but is anyone there?

Feb 21, 2019 – 3:13 pm
Feature 1 Brosilow

Review: Fifteen years after Nora Helmer famously – or perhaps infamously – walks out on husband and children at the end of Ibsen’s play “A Doll’s House,” what do you know but she’s back, knocking on that same door, and not exactly bonnet in hand. Indeed, Nora has found great success as a writer. What an intriguing conceit for the sequel Lucas Hnath has ventured in “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” now at Steppenwolf. Except that I came away with the distinct sense that Nora, the woman of the hour, was missing. ★★

‘La traviata’ at Lyric Opera of Chicago: Beneath layers of familiarity, a pristine jewel

Feb 18, 2019 – 9:15 pm
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Review: Every opera that gains such enduring popularity as to acquire the epithet warhorse was once, well, a colt – exhilarating in its spunky freshness, its beauty undimmed by long familiarity and habitual service. The real marvel of Lyric Opera’s current staging of Verdi’s “La traviata” lies not just in its lustrous surfaces but rather in its surprising depth, in its true and affecting recovery of a splendor beyond – or, more to the point, before – habit. ★★★★★

‘Anna Karenina’ at Joffrey Ballet: Epic tragedy, elegantly translated into masterpiece of dance

Feb 18, 2019 – 9:58 am
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Review: The Joffrey Ballet’s world premiere production of “Anna Karenina” is astonishing and thrilling on so many levels, from its concise distillation of Tolstoy’s prodigious novel, choreography that captures the story’s tragic essence and inspired multimedia effects to a superlative musical score. But this remarkable achievement is first and foremost tremendous theater. ★★★★★

In Chicago visit, Royal Concertgebouw unfurls colors, legacy in a grand tour of ‘Heldenleben’

Feb 14, 2019 – 1:50 pm
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest staatsieportret

Review: One of the world’s preeminent orchestras, the Amsterdam-based Concertgebouw is accustomed to touring, tallying 40 concerts away from home each year. But the brief U.S. tour included Chicago among only four cities treated to its renowned specialities. Richard Strauss’ highly personal 1897 fantasy for enormous orchestral forces “Ein Heldenleben” (A Hero’s Life) exploded with sound reverberating from the depths, gloried in woodwind sparkle and boasted the awesome grandeur of the Concertgebouw’s brass and battery.