Saturday, July 4, 2009

Southland's Got Talent!!

Photos: John Ligda (from left), Judy Rossignuolo-Rice, Jeny Wasilewski and Ernest Ray get ready for Illinois Theatre Center's 'Summerfest.' Tall Grass Arts Exhibit features many sculptures including 'Abracadabra' by Michael Ruback.
Dear Readers,
This new edition of "And Now Presenting" brings you  jazz, dance, dinner theatre, the Beatle (well, close), Debbie Reynolds, fabulous sculptures and more. Also, Michael Jackson hometown tours begin this month. A few events start with one magic word. FREE. 
Know an arts group that's not here? Let the publicity person know any arts event and venue or community and professional theatre can submit information to
BTW: Looking for local film reviews. Bob Bob, a former colleague and editor at SouthtownStar, has launched a flick blog at
 Hope you find something to do. LOL!



FREE! There is such a thing as a free lunch. OK, a free dance gala. In this era of often-outrageous theater and concert tickets, "A Celebration of American Dance," an open performance under the stars takes place starting at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. This extraordinary event will feature artists from some of the country's most acclaimed dance troupes including Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Step Africa and Lar Lubovitch Dance Company and the all-male Les Ballet Grandiva. Seating begins two hours before curtain time and advance reservations are not necessary. 

DEBBIE DOES DRURY LANE Tickets are now on sale for the Aug. 6 to 9 appearances of the legendary Debbie Reynolds at Drury Lane Theatre100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. She continues her inside Hollywood stories as well as kicks up her heels -- all to adoring audiences and great reviews. The legendary Reynolds will take the Drury Lane stage Aug. 6-9. Tickets (info above) are $33 and dinner packages are available at (630) 530-0111 and at

It's Sunday brunch, music and a potpourri of entertainment. Yes, it's the Diva Brunch, a Chicago cabaret brunch extravaganza at The Spot, 4437 N. Broadway, Chicago. At 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. every Sunday, the stars of the Scooty and JoJo Show delight guests with cabaret music, gender illusionists, stand-up comics and more performers from the grand scene of Chicagoland theater. Special guest ZaZa with Leslie Lee joins the stage on July 12 only. ZaZa, known to many area theater-goers as John Boss, brings his genderbending character to life for two delightful performances. Brunch and show packages start at $35 and reservations are limited, (773) 728-8934.
All aboard the luxury coach bus for the next Chicago Jazz Club Crawl on July 30. The tour returns back to yesteryear when jazz pub crawls were the Chicago thing. All the details for this extraordinary jazz feast are at and at (866) 717-TOUR (8687). The tour returns back to yesteryear when jazz pub crawls were the Chicago thing. Check it all out. 

Yes, THE Michael. Chicagoland is the only metro area near Michael's hometown city of Gary and King of Pop Hometown Tours begin on July 18. All the details are at Be sure to get the 'the' in the url.
The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District's annual Starry Nights concert series at Irwin Park, Highland Avenue and Ridge Road, Homewood continues July 24 with Beatles Tribute Band "1964." Bring the kids/grandkids and some blankets or chairs. Carry your own picnic or buy food 'n drinks there.Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and showtime is 8 p.m. Advance tickets are $15 and $7 for children 3 to 15, (708) 957-0300 and at Park District offices. Tickets on day of concert are an additional $5. Info on

For more than 30 years, Illinois Theatre Center has presented an annual Summerfest musical featuring professional actors with many local performers. This year, ITC takes a journey back in time, a lively musical revue featuring songs from all the Summerfest productions for the last 31 years. Stars include Bernard Rice and Judy Rossignuolo-Rice, a real-life married team of performers who wowed audiences as Tevye and Golde in "Fiddler on the Roof" in 2005. Other returning stars include Cara Scott, Jeny Wasilewski, Carmen Severino, Burke Fry and Caron Buinis. Actor/director of note David Boettcher returns to direct the spectacular. Jonathan Billig is musical director and as an added attraction, Etel Billig, ITC artistic director as well as veteran of stage and screen, makes a special appearance. A full roster of other actors join the Summerfest cast for a wondrous revue. ITC is at 371 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest. Summerfest opens July 17 and runs on Fridays through Sundays for two weekends. Tickets are $15 adults, $14 students and seniors, (708) 481-3510.

One of my all-time fave local bands brings the rock and roll experience to life at loads of outdoor festivals and village concerts. Unless you've shared an hour or two with the phenomenal Neverly Brothers -- Kevin, Kegham and Craig -- you can't imagine what this trio does to retro. You won't be able to sit this band out. Upcoming concerts include the 8 p.m. July 10 at Fred P. Hall Amphitheatre, 262 E. Palatine Road, Palatine; 6-8 p.m. July 12 at the Evergreen Park Recreation Department Concert, Circle Park, 97th Street and Homan Avenue. Check out the band's gazillion village fest appearances

The Buffalo Theatre Company presnts the John Ford Noonan comedy "A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking" through July 26 at the McAninch Arts Center at College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn. According to show information, the story focuses on a "waspy pictur-perfect housewife" in Westchester, N.Y. and her new neighbor from Austin, Texas. "Throughout this romp, (they) fight, scheme, cheat, laugh and love" and come to a "deeper understanding of their husbands and their marriages," as well as each other. Tickets are $25 to $33 at (630) 942-4000 and
One of my very first books was by Dr. Seuss, the now classic 'McElligott's Pool,' first released in 1947. Naturally it is my favorite Dr. Seuss tale. No doubt millions of people, perhaps billions worldwide, have favorite Dr. Seuss titles. Here's the good stuff! In just a few more weeks, many Dr. Seuss characters will, wonder of wonders, visit the South Suburbs. They'll be here for the kid in each of us as the Drama Group presents the the charming "Seussical the Musical" Aug. 7 to 16 at the Studio Theatre, 330 W. 202nd St., Chicago Heights. Tickets are $15 adults, $14 students and seniors, (708) 755-3444 and at
Coming this fall. The Drama Group will present 'Rent' starting Oct. 2. You just might want to get your tickets soon!!
ANYONE SEEN MY SADDLE SHOES? Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, continues its production of"Pump Boys and Dinettes," through Aug. 2. (Check it out. Bassist is Brian Burke of the legendary band, Mojo and The Bayou Gypsies. Mojo and company head to Chicagoland this winter at the Mac.) Tickets are $29 to $33, dinner theater packages available. Tickets are at (630) 530-0111 and
On Aug. 13 the legendary musical "Cabaret" comes to life on the Drury Lane stage. Jim Corti, an award=winning actor/director who understudied Joel Grey on the National Tour, directs. Tickets are $29 to $38 at number above and dinner theater packages are available.
"Cinderella" heads for the Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, 10 Marriott Drive stage beginning July 8 and running through Aug. 29. Marc Robin, an all-time favorite theater Renaissance man and a brilliant director, choreographer and composer, wrote this imaginative musical of this classic fairy tale. While the production follows the original story, everyone must help to make the magic happen. With whimsical music and audience participation, children of all ages and children at heart will join in the wonders as Cinderella learns dreams really do come true. All tickets are $12. Times and performance dates are at (837) 634-0200 and
Orland Park Theatre Troupe presents "Back II Broadway" dinner theater, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m., July 10 and 19 at Orland Chateau, 14500 LaGrange Road, Orland Park. The summer spectacular features 30 Broadway songs from countless productions including "West Side Story," "Evita," Avenue Q" and many more. Tickets are $40 a person at (708) 403-7275 and at Dinner is a full four-course meal and a cash bar will be open.
Chicago's own Route 66 Theatre Company presents a summer ghost story, "The K of D: An Urban Legend." Sarah Gross's review, which ran in the last blog issue, has been reprinted at the end of this issue along with show details. This production is an adventure in summer theater. What is K of D? We're not telling.
Route 66 next brings "High Fidelity ... The Musical" to the stage at Pipers Alley Theater, 1608 N. Wells St., Chicago, opening Aug. 17. (If the address sounds familiar, you probably were at Tony n' Tina's Wedding there, but after years of repeatedly going through their wedding vows, the couple is taking a honeymoon.) Anyway, tickets to 'High Fidelity ..." are $29.50 to $39.50 at (312) 664-8844 and at
Billy Vitucci stars as the Baker and Meghan Hoyt as the Witch when the all-new Southland Area Theatre Ensemble, or SLATE, opens its debut production, Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods," on Aug. 14 and 15 at Center for Performing Arts, Governors State University. Tickets are $18-$21 adults, $16-19 students at (708) 235-2222 and

UP, UP AND AWAY We all day dream, letting our minds drift away into some real or imaginary place where life is calm and the brain can take a brief respite from the real world. Chicago's famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago, concludes the current season with "Up,"written by Bridget Carpenter and directed by ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro. "On the best day of his life, Walter built a flying machine that reached the clouds," the press release states. "Ever since, he's tried to invent new ways to fly while his wife keeps the family afloat. 'Up' is a quirky, bittersweet tale about escaping the boundaries of the everyday and how we dream ourselves into a future." The show runs through Aug. 23 Tickets are $20-$70 at (312) 335-1650 and at
Back from Broadway, South suburban native Matt Raftery stars as Ren when the energetic musical "Footloose" explodes on stage beginning July 10 at Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster. Tickets are $36 to $40 at (219) 836-3255 and Parking, of course, is always free! VISUAL ARTS
FREE! The Tall Grass Arts Association, 367 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest, presents "With These Hands," a exhibition of sculpture and wall images by local and national artists, opening July 10 with an artists reception from 7 to 9 p.m., free and open to all. This is the first exhibit of this type for Tall Grass as well as the first time many of these artists have exhibited their works in the Chicago area. The media employed are limitless, from three-dimensional portraits of plaster, bronze and other materials to sculptures in ceramic, plaster and mixtures only the creative could have conceived. Ford Heights sculptor Grant White will be one of the featured artists. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. More information is at the gallery, (708) 748-3377 and at
The Tall Grass Art Film series continues with the 6:30 p.m. July 19 showing of "The Visitor," directed by Thomas McCarthy. According to the Tall Grass press release, "Visitor" is the story of a widowed professor who inadvertently becomes involved in the lives of an immigrant couple he finds squatting in his New York apartment. The film is in English and a discussion will follow. Tall Grass art films are at the Marcus Theatres, 1301 Hiltop Ave., Chicago Heights. Information is at the Tall Grass Gallery, (708) 748-3377.
FREE! More Free stuff. Check out free films at sunset every Tuesday from July 14 to Aug. 25 at Butler Field in Grant Park, Lake Shore Drive at Monroe. Movies include "Sunset Boulevard," the Marx Brothers classic "Duck Soup," the Tennessee Williams classic starring Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" and "Young Mr. Lincoln" are just a few of the legendary silver screen gems set to roll during the festival. Schedule and details? Long url so just google Chicago Outdoor Film Festival. 
For those of us who were born then, it's hard to believe but July 20 marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Adler will celebrate with events throughout the month. Space programs of the last century are very much alive at Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Visitors should not miss "Shoot for the Moon," a two-gallery exhibit focused the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo years. The actual Gemini 12 capsule that launched Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin into space on Nov. 11, 1966, has been restored and is considered the centerpiece in "Shoot for the Moon." The exhibit is included in admission price. Moon related fun every day from 1 to 3 p.m. and outdoor solar telescope viewing during that same time slot. Moon landing birthday cake at 3:17 p.m. July 20 followed by a Moon Landing Celebration from 6 to 10 p.m. Get the moon scoop, plan your visit, purchase tickets and more at
Say "hi' to Sue. There's something exciting about dinosaurs, and kids as well as the kid within each of us, find adventure and intrigue in the giant animals that walked Earth millions of years ago. Alas, far too many people have never met Sue, the ginormous T. rex that greets visitors in the huge open area immediately past the entrance at Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Sue's relatives appear in an all-new 3D film, "Dinosaurs Alive," in the museum's new theatre.  "Real Pirates," continue to ride the seas through Oct. 25 at Field. These are the pirates of yesteryear. Tickets to the museum and special events, as well as the schedules, can be found
Don't fence me in. But if you must, then first of all check out the traveling Smithsonian (yes, that Smithsonian) exhibit "Between Fences" at the Historical Society (OK, kind of a museum) at 803 S. State St., Lockport now through July 26. Throughout history, Americans have fenced millions of miles with an amazing variety of fences, posts, rail, board and wire and more. The exhibit examines how neighbors and nations divide and protect through man-made dividers. Check out the photos, maps and fencing at the exibit. More details are at (815) 838-5080 and at There is a nominal admission charge.
Faster than you can cast a spell, it'll be Harry Potter heaven at the Museum of Science and Industry, Lake Shore Drive at 57th Street and Cornell in Chicago. Think about this! Five stories high. Harry, friends, enemies and Hogwarts will come alive on the five-story Omnimax tilt dome screen that takes you right there, into the exclusive Imax format run of "Harry Potter and the Blood Prince" from July 15 to 28. Five special midnight showings, July 16 to 19, will kick off the Imax spectacular. Following the initial two weeks, the Omnimax will have several daytime showings of the film through Sept. 27, coinciding with the ongoing "Harry Potter, the Exhibition." All the details, ticket purchase options, times and everything else you want and need to know are at

 Shedd Aquarium is at 1200 Lake Shore Drive and details are at I hope to have more details in the near future about the reopening of the Oceanarium.

A Summer Ghost Story
Review by Sarah R. Gross

Riveting.  Simply put, this one word aptly characterizes Route 66 Theatre Company's production "The K of D: An Urban Legend," running at A Red Orchid Theatre through July 12.  To call this a one-woman show is almost a misnomer, as the extraordinarily talented Gwendolyn Whiteside (see photo above) fills the stage with her rich, believable portrayals of a dozen different characters.  
Whiteside seamlessly transforms from one character to the next, recreating conversations among four or five people at once; her masterful use of voice, body language and mannerisms allows the audience to know effortlessly which character she's portraying at any given moment.   The main character and narrator, known only as "the girl," recounts the urban legend of a small Ohio town, and the mysteries surrounding the kiss Charlotte McGraw received from her adolescent twin brother upon his dying breath.  
Some people thought the kiss was merely a "sweet, strange goodbye," the girl tells us, but "Some of us...some of us thought there was more to it than that."  
As the story unfolds, with its laugh-out-loud humor and touchingly poignant truths, it evokes eternal questions about the meaning of life and death, through the innocent yet insightful perspective of our narrator.   "This is the thing about legends," the girl proclaims near the beginning of the play, "If you tell them right, you can keep a person breathing."  She then proceeds to do just that, breathing life into each unique character of this compelling small-town urban legend.
Laura Schellhardt's haunting drama runs from June 9 to July 12 at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells St., Chicago. Tickets are $20 to $25 at (773) 308-6927 and


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.