Monday, May 11, 2009

Arts, entertainment for all

Dear Readers,
You will be delighted to know former Firstlook editor Don Snider offered a comment on Theatre at the Center's new production, "Crazy for You." Don, a good friend and my former boss, will be adding remarks and mini reviews from time to time. 
Also, be sure to check out Adler Planetarium's newest sky-watchers exhibit and Shedd Aquarium's Oceanarium news. Also, the Drama Group is in rehearsals for what I believe is the first local production of a powerful new drama.
Meanwhile, although I plan to keep the blog on an every other week schedule, I will not be reviewing for a while as husband Murray is having knee replacement surgery tomorrow, May 19. Clearly we will not be galavanting around for a bit. So, if you see any shows and would like to send me a brief comment, I will be delighted to consider adding it to upcoming editions. Meanwhile, please do e-mail me at with any items needing correction. And if you want to be on the blog reminder list, let me know as well.  
Finally, I still have not heard from Curtain Call or Oak Lawn Park District theater groups or from Union Street or McCord galleries and would love to receive their press releases too.
Thank you bunches for your ongoing support!
captions: The Neverly Brothers, Kegham Giragosian (from left), Kevin Giragosian and Craig Gigstad heat up the stage with their awesome rock 'n' roll experience show. See Music section.
Richard Strimer and Amy Brophy share a romantic tune in "Crazy for You" at Theatre at the Center in Theater section.
Frank Galati as Prospero and Jon Michael Hill as Ariel in Steppenwolf's "The Tempest," bring new life to the classic Shakespeare script.
The Drama Group, which just completed a hugely successful weekend run of "Aida," is now in rehearsals for its next production, the powerful drama, "The Laramie Project" set for the Studio Theatre, 330 202nd St., Chicago Heights. This show, which has received rave reviews in professional productions, is told in in a series of "interviews" in the wake of the brutal 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student. The young man was a hate crime victim, tied to a fence post and tortured because he was gay. I have not seen the "Laramie," but all indications are this is a compelling work. The Drama Group, as far as I know, is the first local theater to tackle this challenging piece, and I am certain they will do the late Mattnew Shepard justice with a superb show. Mark the dates, June 11-21. Box office phone number is (708) 755-3444. Web site is
Opening May 28 at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, "Pump Boys and Dinettes," is a toe-tapping musical tribute to the long gone era when gas station attendants pumped and dinette gals sassed next door at the Double Cupp diner. This tons of fun musical trip back in time, terrific summer fare, opens May 28 and runs through Aug. 2. Tickets are $29 to $33, dinner theater packages available. Tickets are at (630) 530-0111 and
Still kicking up her heels to great reviews, the legendary Debbie Reynolds will take the Drury Lane stage Aug. 6-9. More details later this summer.
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
Also on sale, ITC season subscriptions for 2009-2010.
Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire asks, "Can you spell 'h-i-l-a-r-i-o-u-s?'" Now running on Marriott's theatre-in-the-round stage, the Tony-winning musical comedy "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," continues through July 19. "Spelling Bee" is billed as "a tuneful, sometimes heart-warming tale that follows the story of six pubescent outcassts who ... learn that winning isn't everything and losing doesn't necessarily make you a loser." The show obviously touches on the feelings about oneself that most pre-teens and teens experience at some point in time, no doubt one reason for the show's universal appeal. Marriott is at 10  Marriott Drive. Show tickets are $45 and dinner theater packages are available Wednesdays through Sundays. 
Porchlight Music Theatre, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, presents "Once On This Island," a "Caribbean musical fairytale," re-imagined by the company, through June 28.
Tickets are $37, discounts for students and seniors, at Ticketmaster outlets and at the theater, (773) 327-5252,
Incidentally, the upcoming Porchlight season includes one of my all-time favorite musicals, "The Fantasticks," starting Sept. 11. 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.orgm.e
Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, presents the George and Ira Gershwin award-winning musical, "Crazy for You" 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. Don Snider saw the musical last week on press night and was delighted to see a veteran Chicago actor in the starring role. Don wrote: "Richard Strimer has long been one of the top tap dancers in the Chicago area. Now he has the lead in this show where he can display his multiple talents. Strimer plays Bobby Childs in the fabulous 'Crazy for You' production." Tickets are $36 though $40 at (219) 836-3255 and at
WAFF Productions continues "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
Continuing through June 27Tall 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. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, (708) 748-3377 and 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 Israeli film, "Waltz with Bashir" will screen at 6:30 p.m., June 14 at Marcus Theatre, 1301 Hilltop Ave., Chicago Heights. Tickets are $7.50 and available at the gallery.
"The Rat Pack" tour production, recreating the trio that made the pack famous - Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. - will be at the Halls of St. George, 905 E. Joliet St., Schererville, IN, for one night only. Tickets to the 8 p.m. June 26 show are at (219) 865-9411. Details are at
MUSEUMS Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, takes visitors back in time and on into the universe of today and tomorrow. Opening May 22 and running through December, "Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass" will be one of those spectacular trips in time and vision. Visitors will experience viewing the universe from Stonehenge days to the time of Galileo's first peek at the heavens through a spyglass. From that point in stellar history, the telescope has evolved so phenomenally that astronomers studying exoplanets can actually see planets in other solar systems. The exhibit should be, in a word, mindboggling. By the way, the Space Visualization Laboratory (SVL) is just around the corner from the telescope exhibit. If you are at Adler in the afternoon, try to check out the SVL and see how 21st century astronomical exhibits continue to evolve along with technology. Great news -- free planetarium admission on Charter One Telescope Days. , June 7 to 12, will leave you with extra bucks to spend on sky shows and all sorts of galactic goodies. All the details are at www.adlerplanetarium.orgm.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 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
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 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
They're back and there are more cetaceans than before. After 18 months of absence, the wonderful sea creatures at Shedd Aquarium's Oceanarium are back, with many related species in the new, greatly expanded and reinvented, Oceanarium. This opens to the public this coming weekend and should be spectacular. Shedd Aquarium is at 1200 Lake Shore Drive and details are at I hope to have more details and photos for the next blog edition.
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: "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
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
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 Tickets are $30 to $50 at (708) 481-7774.


photo by sarah gross

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Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.