The Drama Group presents the Elton John and Tim Rice contemporary opera "Aida," May 8-10 at Bloom High School, Chicago Road and 10th Street, Chicago Heights. The story of the Egyptian princess and her lover, locked together in life and death, takes a contemporary and dramatic turn under the legendary collaboration of lyricist Rice and rock icon John. Those involved say the show is going to be ultra mega spectacular. Tickets are $18, $17 seniors, students. Box office phone number is (708) 755-3444; www.dramagroup.org.
The Drama Group also will present the powerful drama, "The Laramie Project" at the Studio Theatre, 330 202nd St., Chicago Heights. Mark the dates, June 11-21. "Curtains," a wacky, riotous Broadway musical, continues through May 17 at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Tickets are $29 to $35; dinner theater packages $43.75 to $56. This play within a play stars Chicagoland's extraordinary first couple of theater, Paula Scrofano and John Reeger, and a full cast of primo performers. A multiple murder mystery musical comedy (whew), "Curtains" showcases Reeger as the wacky director of the play within a play. Scrofano's stellar, though brief, appearance on stage will have you laughing from the outset. Tickets and info are at (630) 530-0111, Ticketmaster and www.drurylaneoakbrook.com. m.e. Next at Drury Lane Oakbrook -- "Pump Boys and Dinettes," a rock 'n' roll tribute to the long gone era when gas station attendants pumped and dinette gals sassed at Double Cupp diner. This tons of fun musical trip back in time opens May 28 and runs through Aug. 2. Want to know more? Check out the Drury Lane Web site and definitely check out the next blog.
Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre for Young Audiences continues its production of "Seussical," the Broadway musical based on the wonderful works by Dr. Seuss, is now running at Drury Lane through May 16 for the young and young of spirit. Tickets are $10.
Illinois Theatre Center's Summerfest 2009 brings Gilbert and Sullivan to the South Suburbs. Well, at least their music. From July 17 to 26, the Summerfest cast will perform the rollicking operetta, "The Pirates of Penzance." Tickets are now on sale, $15 adults, $14 students and seniors at (708) 481-3510 and at www.ilthctr.org.
Also on sale, ITC season subscriptions for 2009-2010.
A smashing production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," is in its last week at Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire, closing May 10. Tickets are $45, discounts for students and seniors on certain days: (847) 634-0200 and www.marriotttheatre.com. Marc Robin choreographs and directs, and his brilliant touches along with bravura performances by every cast member, create a "Joseph" with a grand flair of color, tremendous amount of levity as well as brilliant dance numbers and award-worthy directing. You'll want to see this more than once. www.marriotttheatre.com. m.e.
Marriott's next production, Tony Award-winning musical comedy "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," begins previews on May 13, officially opens May 20. Show tickets are $45 and dinner theater packages are available Wednesdays through Sundays. More "Spelling Bee" details next blog.
Now running at Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport, Chicago, "Mark's Gospel," a new musical based on the New Testament. Fellowship for the Performing Arts presents this theatrical eye-witness story as if a journalist had been issuing the first reports of Jesus' journey from rural obscurity to political assassination. It's funny, compelling and transcends any religion, press releases indicate. My e-mail exchange with a show publicist, leads me to believe "Mark's Gospel," like "Jesus Christ Superstar," indeed is for everyone. Tickets are $29 to $48 at (773) 325-1700 at all Ticketmaster outlets.
Palos Village Players present Woody Allen's smash farce, "Don't Drink the Water" one more time, at 7:30 p.m. May 9 at Palos Park Recreation Center, 8901 W. 123rd St. Tickets are $15, $12 for adults and seniors. Reservations are at (708) 479-3262.
Porchlight Music Theatre, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, presents "Once On This Island," a "Caribbean musical fairytale," re-imagined by the company, from May 9 though June 28.
Tickets are $37, discounts for students and seniors, at Ticketmaster outlets and at the theater, (773) 327-5252, www.porchlighttheatre.com.
Incidentally, the upcoming Porchlight season includes one of my all-time favorite musicals, "The Fantasticks," starting Sept. 11. While I love this 1960s classic, I have seen it only once, at ITC, probably in the late 1980s or early '90s. The huge cast included, as I recall, Howard Hahn and the late David Six. I look forward to trying "to remember the days of September" once again.
A bold production of William Shakespeare's "The Tempest," at Steppenwolf, 1650 N. Halsted St., continues in the downstairs theater through May 31. Directed by Steppenwolf company member Tina Landau, the total staging pulls Shakespeare's script into the 21st century world of hip-hop, neon colors, multimedia and gender bending. Chicago theater legend and company member Frank Galati soars as Prospero and Jon Michael Hill holds the audience captive as the spirit Ariel. Landau's extraordinarily creative package defies description. Yes, this "Tempest" bursts all over the stage and yes, the script is Shakespeare's. The entire cast is strong and stage chemistry as magical as Prospero's island. I could easily sit through this again and again. That's the wizardry of Landau, the cast and set, costume, lighting and music designers. Tickets are $20 to $70 at (312) 335-1650 or www.steppenwolf.org. m.e
Also at Steppenwolf, John Steinbeck's powerful drama of friendship and survival-- "Of Mice and Men." The powerful drama takes place during the Depression. The two main characters, itinerant farmhands, seek their own little world where life will be sweet. Although the Young Adults series features works young adults will find compelling, the plays are not edited, says David Rosenberg, Steppenwolf communications director. All young adult theater performances will be at 11 a.m. Show continues May 9 and 10. Tickets are $20.
Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, presents the George and Ira Gershwin award-winning musical, "Crazy for You" from May 7 through June 14. The press release offers a brief, but compelling, story of the show that garnered a Tony in 1992, decades after the legendary Gershwin brothers died. "Their music became the soundtrack for the 20th century and saw America through some of her darkest days of the Great Depression and World War II," the release states. Wonderful songs such as "They Can't Take that Away from Me," "I Got Rhythm" and "Embraceable You," to name a few, were wrapped up in a script that "could not hold a candle to the music." Then in 1992, "Crazy for You," with book by Ken Ludwig, went through the roof and the Gershwin brothers' songs finally won an award they had earned long ago. Tickets to what should be a terrific production of this musical comedy are $36 though $40 at (219) 836-3255 and at www.tickets.com.
WAFF Productions presents "American Notes" at the Prop Theatre, 3504 N. Elston, Chicago, at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays through June 7. "Notes" is described as "part intertwined character sketchbook, part postcard collection and held together by desperation and coffee-fueled late night conversation." Tickets are $20, $18 with non perishable food donation, $10 for students, seniors, (866) 611-4111 and at www.willactforfood.com.
TOUR PRODUCTIONS Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University continues its production season with the Montana Repertory Theatre production of the Chirstopher Sergel script of Harper Lee's classic, "To Kill A Mockingbird" at 8 p.m. on May 9. Tickets are $27 to $42 at www.centertickets.net and at (708) 235-2222. At 3 p.m. on show day, the Montana Repertory Theatre actors and artistic team members will conduct a community conversation about the salient themes in TKAM at the Flossmoor Public Library, 1000 Sterling Ave. Tickets are free at the number above. VISUAL ARTS
From May 15 to June 27, Tall Grass Arts Association Gallery, 367 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest, presents "LANDMARKS: Restoration & Regeneration," an unusual and eclectic collection of works by Nikkole Huss and Heather Page, both widely-exhibited artists and college educators. The opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. on May 16 will give guests -- anyone who wants to be there -- a chance to meet the artists and hear about the genesis of their distinctive works. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, (708) 748-3377 and www.tallgrassarts.org. BTW: Tall Grass has a wonderful little gift shop packed with one-of-a-kind treasures from a few dollars up to, well, whatever. Anyway, it is definitely worth a stop when you visit the gallery. Admission to the gallery and shop is always free.
The Tall Grass Art Film Series continues as well. The French film, "The Class," will screen at 6:30 p.m., May 17 at Marcus Theatre, 1301 Hilltop Ave., Chicago Heights. Tickets are $7.50 and available at the gallery.
MUSEUMS Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, takes visitors on journeys beyond Earth. Trust me, today's Adler is not your old planetarium but stellar haven for the 21st century with loads of interactives and three separate theatres, including the Universe Theatre with a 3-D look at the universe. Another, the Definiti, brings the spectacular tilt dome effect to Adler. Now in repertoire in the Definiti is the powerful "Cosmic Collisions," narrated by Robert Redford. And there's the iconic Sky Theatre, under Adler's famous landmark dome. There's an entire section devoted to the Apollo program with loads of memorabilia from astronaut Jim Lovell of Gemini 12 and perhaps more well known, as commander of Apollo 13. The Gemini 12 capsule is the centerpiece of the huge two part exhibit, Shoot for the Moon, A Voyage with Jim Lovell. Entrance is on the top floor, right near the rainbow doors.
Mark your calendar for Charter One Telescope Days at Adler, June 7 to 12, when admission to the planetarium will be free. Plan to check out the new exhibit, "Telescopes, Through the Looking Glass," a look at 400 years of viewing since the legendary Galileo first looked into the sky with the wondrous instrument. All the details, admission prices on regular days and packages including show tickets are at www.adlerplanetarium.org. m.e.
While brutal pirates making headlines today are not the stuff of museum exhibits, pirates of yesteryear have been romanticized in films, novels and television shows and now are the focus of the compelling "Real Pirates," through Oct. 25 at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Blvd., Chicago. The exhibit includes the story of the Whydah, a life size replica of the ship's stern and "genuine artifacts (that) will transport you to back to an era that lives in legend," Field Museum information states. Special tickets are required for this exhibit. Admission prices, hours, tickets and more are atwww.fieldmuseum.org.
Can't get to Hogwarts, you say. Well, whether you're a wizard of sorts or one of the muggles, you'll be in Hogwarts heaven at "Harry Potter, the Exhibition," through Sept. 27 at Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. More than 200 authentic costumes and props from the Harry Potter movies will be on display in settings inspired by rooms at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and other magical locations, including Hagrid's hut and more. Special timed tickets, in addition to museum admission charge, are required for this exhibit and it will have extended hours. All the details and ticket prices and package options are at www.msichicago.org. Museum hours, other exhibits and upcoming events also are at the wonderful MSI website. Upcoming free days (do not include special exhibits) are June 1-5, June 19. More free dates in the fall. All the details, prices and exhibition details are at www.msichicago.org
A hidden treasure. Trackman Planetarium at Joliet Junior College, 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet, continues its FREE series of wonderful sky shows, each followed by a live discussion led by amazing astronomy advocate and planetarium director Art Maurer, yes, the guy from Crete. Shows, always free, are as follows: "Our Place in Space" at 6:30 p.m. May 7; "We Go to the Moon" at 6:30 p.m. May 21; "The Solar System and Beyond," 7:30 p.m. May 26 and "Summer Sky for Kids" (of all ages) at 6:30 p.m. June 4. The 6:30 p.m. shows are geared to the younger set but everyone learns from Art. Information and directions are with the planetarium office at (815) 280-6682. MUSIC
One of my all-time, high energy favorite bands, Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies, return to the Chicago area for a May 15 rockin' Mojo-style Zydeco concert at the Barn Theater, 6526 S. Clarendon Hills Road, Willowbrook. Tickets are $20 to $55 at (630) 415-1405. I'll be in Minnesota, but for that evening, my soul will be at the Barn with my good buddy Mojo at the band's CD release House Party. Mojo and his band will have you up and rockin' before you can say "crawfish." Indeed, the poster cautions, "Warning! May Induce Wild Behavior." Want to check out Mojo's steamy bayou sound? Head to the Web site at www.redhotmojo.com.
Once again, the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District will present its Starry Nights Concert Series at Irwin Park, Ridge Road and Highland Avenue, Homewood. More later but here's the scoop on the lineup: The Guess Who on June 12; Doo Wop Spectacular with Terry Johnson's Flamingos, the El Dorados and Jonny Keyes & the Magnificents on June 26; 1964, a Beatles tribute band, on July 24. Advance tickets will be available May 1 at (708) 957-0300. Ticket prices will vary, $15-$20 for adults, depending on show; kids 7 and younger, $7 for all shows. More details as summer nears.
St. Xavier University rocks. Well, if it doesn't now, it will for one hour, starting at 4 p.m. May 21 in the old gymnasium, 3700 W. 103rd St., Chicago. So here's the deal, according to my good friend and adopted nephew Kevin Giragosian of the Neverly Brothers, an SXU professor of music brings the band on campus so his music students can experience the full range of 1950s and '60s rock. Here's the best part. The concert is open to the public and it's a freebie. This is much more than music. The Nevs immerse the audience as per Bob Seger's cry: "Gimme that old time rock 'n roll." It's a great time to ditch the world's ills for an hour and rock it on up. Check it out along with the Nevs' full schedule at wwww.theneverlybrothers.com.
The Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra season finale, "Titan," will include Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 by Johann Sebastian Bach and Symphony No. 1, D Major, the "Titan," by Gustav Mahler. The 8 p.m. May 30th concert will be at the IPO's home venue, Lincoln-Way North High School Performing Arts Center, 19900 Harlem Ave., Frankfort (turn west at Vollmer Road/L-W North intersection.) Tickets are at (708) 481-7774 and www.ipomusic.org. Tickets are $30 to $50 at (708) 481-7774.
On April 25, five young musicians wowed an audience of some 300 at Prairie State College. Tim Michuda, 13, played Mozart's Concerto No. 3, First Movement, entirely by heart and certainly with heart. His superb performance was one of the highlights of the entire afternoon.
Homewood-Flossmoor High School junior Aaron Washington on trumpet delighted the audience with a work by Handel and a few jazz pieces that showed where his real musical interest fits. Aaron rocked.
Anna Cho Walker, already performing and teaching, played the complicted Brahms Sonata for Piano and Violincello in E Minor, Op. 38.
Benjamin Amenta's fingers flew across the piano keyboard as he wowed the audience with several short songs by Mendelssohn and an etude by Chopin. Amenta graduates this spring with a master's degree in music from Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.
Crete-Monee High School junior Matthew Lipman on viola brought the audience to its feet with his bravura interpretation of La Campanella by Paganini. His fingers moved faster the eye could catch and he did not miss a beat although he performed that piece and two other short ones entirely by memory.
The entire afternoon was full of lovely surprises from these young performers and the concert was a financial success for Friends of the IPO. Hopefully Rising Star will become a springtime tradition.