Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fall update

Photos: Cast members from the Drama Group's "Rent" -- Marcus Desion (from left), Bill Klideris, Anne Litchfield, Barbara Myers and Tommy Slivka (kneeling). The poster for "Man of LaMancha at Theatre at the Center. The cast of "Alice in Wonderland" also at Theatre at the Center. James Harms, who stars in the title role in "Man of LaMancha."
Dear Patient Readers,
'And now presenting' is back in full force and is organized as follows: Potpourri includes art and special events, Theater is next with about a dozen shows, followed by Dance and Music and Chicagoland Treasures including museums.
The next several months, starting now, will feature events galore, more than any one person can possibly attend and enough to satisfy the proverbial something for everyone. The Tall Grass Art Fair, the musicals "Rent" and "Man of La Mancha" and an exhibit about YOU at the Museum of Science and Industry are just hints of what is inside this blog.
Once again, if this is forwarded to you and you would like to be on the e-mail update list or if you have an item for the blog, please e-mail me at Oh, if you see any errors or you just want to comment, please let me know.
I will keep up as closely as possible to the alternate week updates.
Enjoy whatever you like to do!
It's back, of course. September in the Southland wouldn't be the same without the acclaimed Tall Grass/Park Forest Art Fair! The storied two-day juried event returns for its 54th year on Sept. 12 and 13, featuring nearly 100 artists from across the country. Sponsored by Tall Grass Arts Association and dedicated volunteers, the fair again will be in Downtown Park Forest on Main Street between Western Avenue and Orchard Drive. Meet friends, shop for gifts and admire the talents of artisans creating paintings, jewelry, photographs, wood carvings, sculpture and more. Yes, there will be food vendors and music. The Tall Grass Gallery will be open to the public with its ongoing exhibit, "With These Hands: Sculptures 2009." The fair will open at 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. More information is at (708) 748-3377.
The huge Wizard of Oz Festival returns to Chesterton, Indiana for nearly three glorious days of life in Oz. Original movie costumes, memorabilia, special Emerald City events, and even actors from the 1939 classic film, including Munchkin Jerry Maren, one of the Lollipop Kids, are only a few of the exciting people and events set for the Wizard of Oz fest Sept. 18 to 20. All the festival details, including hotels and places to eat, as well as the daily schedules are at (219) 926-9900 and at Or e-mail questions to
Prairie State College, 202 S. Halsted St., Chicago Heights, honors Leonard Ferris, student photographer of the year, with an exhibit in the college's Christopher Art Gallery through Sept. 24. Ferris also will receive a scholarship for his photographs capturing people in their environment. "To create art in any form is to share your story with the viewer, listener, reader or participant of your chosen media," Ferris says. "I don't think this can be achieved without showing the inner workings of your own soul." In addition to the award-winning photographer's works, photos by student artists from throughout the South Suburbs also are featured in the exhibit. Exhibit and parking are free; exhibit hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. More details at (708) 709-3636.
THE DRAMA GROUP ... Rent's due!
Get ready for a spectacular October with Drama Group's production of the Broadway hit "Rent," a blockbuster musical opening Oct. 2 and running through Oct. 11 at the Studio Theatre, 330 W. 202nd St., Chicago Heights. Tickets are at (708) 755-3444 and The classic storyline of Puccini's opera "La Boheme" is brought into contemporary times where shelter remains a precious commodity for struggling artists and sickness brings a scourge upon the community. Only now the disease is not "consumption," but AIDS. Tickets are selling quickly so if you want to see the show, act now
DRURY LANE OAKBROOK ... Come to the Cabaret
Corti's 'Cabaret' a stunning production at Drury Lane Oakbrook
Berlin’s fictional Kit Kat lounge and the evil and decadence surrounding the rise of the Nazis in pre-war Germany are vivid onstage at Drury Lane Oakbrook in a brilliant production of “Cabaret.” Jim Corti takes the audience into the lives of American expatriate Sally Bowles (a powerful performance by Zarah Mahler) and American would-be author Clifford Bradshaw (convincingly portrayed by Jim Weitzer). Mahler easily slips into the jaded showgirl’s life and Weitzer looks and acts the part of the naïve young writer who is about to learn some bitter truths about life under Nazis. Rebecca Finnegan easily transitions from a middle-aged German woman running a rooming house, Fraulein Schneider, into the almost blushing fiancée of her middle-aged Jewish roomer Herr Schultz (caring, tender performance by David Lively). Kit Kat Cabaret’s Master of Ceremonies, Patrick Andrews, will not remind viewers of Joel Gray’s performance in the 1972 Academy Award-winning film. Rather, under Corti’s stellar direction, Andrews’ look, musical numbers and demeanor establish a compelling, less gaudy character and perhaps more sinister emcee. Corti’s “Cabaret” does not let the viewer off easily. The Nazi era threads its way through the script with startling clarity.In fact, the entire production, directing and acting, live music to striking costumes, staging and lighting brought the audience to its feet with huge applause when the curtain went down. The show runs through Oct. 13 at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Tickets are $33 at (630) 530-0111 and at
Take out the wooden stakes and all your anti-vampire paraphernalia. "Bunnicula," the vampire bunny that sucks juices out of vegetables, is coming to the 'burbs. The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District Community Theater presents this all ages charming production on Oct. 24 and 25 at the H-F Park District Auditorium, 2010 Chestnut, Homewood. Tickets (prices TBA) and times are at and at (708) 957-0300.
MARRIOTT THEATRE -- Big hair's back
Laughs galore, tons of fun and big hair will rock the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, when the Tony-winning Broadway musical "Hairspray" opens Sept. 23, running through Dec. 6. One of Chicagoland's most well-known actors, Ross Lehman, jumps into the role (along with wig, bra, makeup and more) as Edna Turnblad in this rollicking production directed and choreographed by the brilliant Marc Robin. Parking is free and tickets are $45 with $5 discount for seniors and students: (847) 634-0200 and Dinner packages are available.
'LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA'  -- Roman holiday
Reviews are in and Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, indeed has another hit of the 2009 season. The 2005 Tony-winning Broadway musical, "The Light in the Piazza," opened last week, bringing the romance of Italy to the stage through Sept. 20. Mary Ernster and Summer Smart shine as the characters originated by Olivia deHavilland and Yvette Mimieux in the 1962 Hollywood romance. 
The 2005 Broadway musical hit follows the original story of a very protective mother and her 20 year-old daughter galavanting around Rome. Romance finds the girl, but the mother holds a secret that could dramatically change this blossoming love. 
Fortunately, filmdom's George Hamilton did not have to sing as lovestruck Fabrizio in the movie, but Marriott's Max Quinlan is phenomenal. Gene Weygandt stars as Fabrizio's father, a part created by Rossano Brazzi and Paula Scrofano gives a charming, convincing performance as Fabrizio's mother.
While I enjoyed the show, I did not expect it to progress in an operatic fashion; that is with the storyline carried forward by actors generally singing their lines. While two other reviewers raved about the music, another critic shares my thinking; the music is not memorable. But then, "... Piazza" won a Tony in 2005 for Best Original Score so the critics who love the music obviously outweigh those of us who do not.
Joe Leonardo's directing is wonderfully on target for this Roman holiday. Tickets are at (847) 634-0200 and at Prices: $45 and $55, with $5 discount for students and seniors; dinner packages available. m.e.
Medieval England returns later this fall with the Palos Village Players' production of "Lion in Winter," Nov. 13 through Nov. 21 at Palos Park Recreation Center, 8901 W. 123rd St. Tickets are $15, $12 students and seniors; (877) 787-8197 and at More details to follow in later blogs.
PROVISION THEATER COMPANY -- Matthew, John go musical
Provision Theater revives its 2004 hit, Harry Chapin's "Cotton Patch Gospel," with a revamped version in the company' new home, 1001 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago. "The production features the reverential retelling of the Gospels of Matthew and John in a contemporary southern setting set to bluegrass music," the press release states. The show runs from Sept. 10 to Nov. 8. Tickets are $22 for previews then $25 to $28 at (866) 822-4111 and at
STEPPENWOLF THEATRE -- Watson, that skull please
Attention Sherlock Holmes, anthropology and archaelogy students and fans. Chicago's acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre opens its 2009-2010 season with "Fake," a new play written and directed by company member Eric Simonson. The story follows four guests invited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to join him at his English Country home. "Each visitor has a connection to the infamous Piltdown Man, purported to be the missing link between ape and man and later exposed as a hoax," the press release states. "Swinging back and forth through time, 'Fake' investigates how Piltdown rattled assumptions about evolution, faith and science ... and how we are transformed by our quest for the truth." The production will be in downstairs, 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago; preview tickets starting Sept. 10 are $20 to $48, regular run to Nov. 8 $20 to $70 at (312) 335-1650 and at
The almost mythical romantic comedy musical, "The Fantasticks," the longest running show in New York, opens the 15th season of Porchlight Music Theatre in the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont. Previews begin Sept. 11 and the regular run on Sept. 13 through Nov. 14. While timeless and ageless, this charming retro musical also brings back the feel of the 1960s and a wonderful score, including the classic, "Try to Remember." If you've never seen this show, grab the chance now, and if you have seen it, watch it again and grab some memories of years gone by. Tickets are $37, discounts for seniors, students: (773) 327-5252 and through Ticketmaster outlets.
"Veronica's Room," a chilling thriller by Ira Levin, author of "Deathtrap" and "Rosemary's Baby," walks a fine line between "fantasy and reality, madness and murder," according to Spotlight's Facebook page which also lists showtimes and details on ticket prices. The show opens Oct. 16 and runs through Oct. 24 at Sherman Recital Hall, Governors State University, University Park. Tickets are $14, senior student discounts; reservations at (708) 798-1188 and by e-mail at
THEATRE OF WESTERN SPRINGS -- Greetings, Miss Marple
Get ready for a riveting performance of Agatha's Christie's "Murder at the Vicarage" that launches the 81st season for Theatre of Western Springs. Starting Sept. 10, the show runs through Sept. 20 at TWS, 4284 Hampton Ave. Suspects abound when Col. Lucius Protheroe, the least-liked resident in the small English village of St. Mary Mead, turns up dead in the vicarage study. Miss Marple, of course, is called in to solve the mystery in what will be an entertaining and sit-on-the-edge of your seat production. Parking is free and tickets are $18 to $20 at (708) 246-3380 and Performance times are on the Web site.
Route 66 'High Fidelity' dazzles, sometimes disappoints
By Sarah Gross
On its own, without comparing it to the hit movie or Nick Hornby’s novel, Route 66 Theatre Company’s re-staging of the Broadway musical “High Fidelity” is a smart, charming and funny production with some stand-out performances and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The show runs through Oct. 11 at Pipers Alley.
The story, which follows local record-store owner Rob and his broken heart, is buoyed by colorful performances by supporting characters including store clerks Barry and Dick.
The songs, which could be described as a hybrid of show tunes with rock and blues, range from catchy and clever to utterly forgettable. The music is played live by a skilled band (some actors double as band members), and the clever staging makes for smooth transitions between dialogue and music. Stef Tovar’s performance as Rob is inspired and believable, but his singing voice isn’t strong enough for even a non-traditional musical such as this.
As ex-girlfriend Laura, Tricia Small unfortunately lacks the warmth and vulnerability to make the audience relate to Rob’s longing for her. The real scene-stealers (and laugh-inducers) are Michael Mahler as Dick, Dana Tretta as the couple’s friend Liz and Michael Webber as the new-age hippie neighbor who becomes Laura’s rebound relationship.
Realistically, for better or for worse, most audience members will compare the musical production of “High Fidelity” to the book and/or movie. And while the show is fun and entertaining, it lacks the gravity of its predecessors. Much of the appeal of the book and movie lie in the endless references to popular music, which draw in music fans of all ages and eras. The musical production drops from its script all but a few of these references, favoring focus on its own original score.
There are instances in which the play shines in its own utilization of the stage medium, including some hilarious moments where they create “split scenes” onstage, and some brilliant physical comedy in which a scene is rewound and re-done several times over in different ways. 
The play is fun and entertaining (if a little long). It’s best experienced with an open mind and with expectations of an experience quite different from its origins.
Pipers Alley is at 1608 N. Wells St., Chicago. Tickets are $29.50 to $39.50 at (312) 664-8844 or at
Literary heroes often are incarnations of others who appeared in earlier works by different authors. But only one memorable hero fought windmills, saw a beautiful loving woman in the face of a whore and saw sunshine where darkness fell while he was imprisoned during the Inquisition.
Miguel de Cervantes' fictional Don Quixote came to life in the early 17th century. An mid-20th century play was the basis for the award-winning Broadway musical “Man of la Mancha.”
When I first read that Chicago-based musical theater star James Harms would have the lead role in Theatre at the Center’s fall production of “Man of la Mancha,” I literally jumped up with joy. Not only is Harms one of my all-time favorite actors, he is a stellar performer who slips into his characters completely and always brilliantly.
The pairing of Harms and Don Quixote could not be more perfect, I thought, assuming the nationally acclaimed performer must have been in many productions of “Man … Mancha.”
Not so, it turns out. “I flipped too (when I got the part),” Harms told me recently. “I’m thrilled to be doing this. I had always wanted to do it but it never worked out until I played the role in the Chamber opera production for two days (earlier this year).” His own quest, it seems, has once again come to be.
Asked how he sees his title character, Harms said, “Don Quixote is a madman and such an idealist and dreamer. To not be realistic is to be mad,” he said. Indeed, many of the world’s greatest geniuses were seen as mad during their times.
“He sees good in everything,” Harms continued. “Cervantes had a terrifying life. He was in prison, alone and never made any money. He had seen the dark side of life but where would he (or anyone) be without dreams?“We have to keep believing in something better. Without people like (Cervantes/Don Quixote), we’d all be living in darkness.”
William Pullinsi directs and Stacey Flaster choreographs what should be a phenomenal production. Additionally, another acclaimed Chicago theater veteran, David Perkovich, stars as Sancho Panza. The show opens Sept. 10 and runs through Oct. 17 at Theater at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster. Tickets are $36 to $40 at (219) 836-2555 and at More details are at     Myra Eder
Also, Theatre for Young Audiences at TATC bring's "Alice in Wonderland" right to the Munster stage Oct. 7 through 10. Details are at the website listed above.
The Center for Performing Arts, Governors State University, University Park, opens it entertainment season with "Unbound," on Sept. 18-20, described as a hilarious stage play about relationships. The Center has a full and eclectic lineup for the 2009-2010 season including Hubbard Street Dance Company, Los Lobos, Jim Brickman, Salt Creek Ballet's "The Nutcracker" and many more. Special pricing is available for many shows and now, to celebrate its 15th anniversary, the Center is offering the first 15 main floor tickets to any show for only $15. But that opportunity takes place only on Tuesday, Sept. 15. All the details are at
Ron Hawking returns Oct. 6 for two performances only of "The Men and Their Music" at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Tickets are $39 with dinner packages available at (630) 530-0111, at and all Ticketmaster outlets. More details on Hawking's show also are at the theater site.
Under the artistic direction of ballet legend Edward Villella, the acclaimed Miami City Ballet makes its Chicago debut Oct. 2 to 4 at Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway. The company will perform four ballets: "Symphony in Three Movements" choreographed by the late George Balanchine; "Valse Fantaisie 1953" also by Balanchine; "Black Swan Pas De Deux" created by 19th century choreographer Marius Ivanovich Petipa, viewed as the father of modern ballet; and Twyla Tharp's "In the Upper Room." Tickets are $30 to $89 at Auditorium Theatre box office as well as all Ticketmaster outlets. More on the Miami City Ballet's Chicago debut in the next blog.
Also at Auditorium Theatre: A small number of tickets remain for Tom Wopat at 8 p.m. Sept. 12. See above for ticket locations.
NEVERLY BROTHERS  -- Rockin' the night away
Rock 'n' Roll and learn. The Neverly Brothers return to present the "Rock 'n' Roll History Class" open to the public at St. Xavier University, Old Gymnasium, 3700 W. 103rd St., Chicago. Yes, once again the three amazing singer musicians bring their rock experience -- much more than music -- to SXU for an one-of-a-kind lesson session from 8:15 to 9:15 Sept. 15. There is no charge for admission. Then from 8 to 10 p.m. Sept. 24, the Neverlys rock at a 1950s & '60s Dine and Dance Party at John Barleycorn, 1100 American Lane, Schaumburg, (847) 619-5540. All the details are at and at
Southland performer John Boss is Swami in "Kama Sutra Bound and Gagged," a new show at 10:30 p.m. Saturdays from Sept. 19 to Oct. 21 at Davenport's, 1383 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, (773) 456-5262. Admission is $20 plus two drink minimum. Do not even think of bringing the youngsters! This really is for the 21 and older crowd. Details are at
The iconic dome that tops a magnificent structure jutting out into Lake Michigan can only belong to one place; Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive. Under that dome, the Sky Theater continues to delight visitors as it has since 1930 when Adler opened as the first planetarium in the Western World. But there are other domes in Adler, one of them a hidden sky treasure built in 1913 -- the Atwood Sphere, now open on the lower level. About 10 visitors at a time ride a tiny cable car into the sphere. It is 15 feet in diameter with 62 holes in its metal dome into which light shines to show the positions of some of the brightest stars in the night sky. The Atwood Sphere was originally used not only as a star display but also was employed to train early pilots to navigate the night sky. Of course, stellar events and exhibits as well as shows always are open. Adler's newest exhibit examines the history of stargazing, from before the era of telescopes to the modern era of telescopes  and beyond. You'll see authentic telescopes from the Galileo era (early 1600s) on up through today and into the realm where telescopes can actually communicate with each other."Telescopes: Through the Looking Glass" is included in general admission. All the details about exhibits as well as options to plan your trip and purchase tickets are at
Two incredible exhibits come down this month. Japanese folding screens have captivated the imagination of art lovers worldwide since first introduced to the Western world in the 16th century. The expansive screen provided each artist with a tableau on which to create any reality, any dream and flight of fantasy -- limited only the painter's imagination. "Beyond Golden Clouds: Japanese Screens from the Art Institute of Chicago and the St. Louis Art Museum" will continue on display through Sept. 27 at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave. "A Case for Wine: From King Tut to Today" explores the shapes and scenes and materials artists have employed since ancient times to create wondrous vessels for the fruit of the vine. With credit to the Art Institute for the comment, I would note the exhibit is pegged as "intoxicating." The exhibit runs through Sept. 20. On schedule for March, "Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917,"should be a blockbuster. All information about the museum is at
Tons going on at the Chicago History Museum (formerly Chicago Historical Society), 1801 N. Clark St., (312)642-4600, during this bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Can't get down to the museum now? Check out the website, and look at "Lincoln at 200." Below that paragraph on the museum's home page, click on "Visit Lincoln at 200" for a cyberlook at the life and times of our country's 16th president. Also, on Oct. 10, parallel exhibits open focusing on Lincoln and Mexico's historical president Benito Juarez and the major influence each man had on his country. More as the date comes closer.
Blues in Bronzeville, uniquely Chicago. Now through Dec. 13, the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place, Chicago, in conjunction with "The Chicago Blues Museum, presents "The Soul of Bronzeville: TheRegal, Club DeLisa and the Blues Exhibit." The exhibit features rare photos and memorabilia of Chicago blues legends Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Buddy Guy and more. In addition to the Blues exhibit, the museum also presents, "Red, White, Blue & Black: A History of Blacks in the Armed Services." "The call to serve one's country, for the more than 14 million black men and woman who have served, has been a battle of its own long before the colonies enlisted the first militia," museum information states. More than 100 artifacts, objects, images and documents from that battle are on display in an open-ended exhibit. More information about the DuSable Museum is 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. Coming on Oct. 23 -- They sparkle, dazzle and have a dark side too. An all new exhibit,"The Nature of Diamonds," opens Oct. 23. Watch for more details. Everything needed for a trip to the legendary Field Museum on the Museum Campus is at
"Italics: Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution, 1968-2008" opens Nov. 14 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., Chicago. This "ground-breaking" exhibit is "devoted to contemporary Italian art and creativity ... and presents more than 80 Italian artists active during the past four decades whose work work offers a deep sense of originality and vitality," museum press notes state. More about the exhibit in the blog as it comes closer. However, the museum not only contains its permanent and temporary exhibits but offers a wide range of avant-garde presentations. All the details are at
Opening Oct. 8 at Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Cornell (off Lake Shore Drive)  -- "YOU! The Experience." You read that right. An all-new permanent exhibit looking at YOU celebrates the mind, the body and spirit in an interactive, high tech 21st century gallery.  Think Wii on steroids. Watch your blood flow in infrared, see the new 13-footsize human heart and find out your own heart rate. Ever thought hamsters had it great, playing all day on those little wheels they push round and round? Well, a visit to YOU will give you just the chance to play hamster on a human-sized wheel. Unlike the hamster, however, you'll be getting real-time feedback on your body's response to aerobic activity. YOU will offer much more and this blog will provide more details as opening date nears. Attention LEGO fans of ALL ages will not want to miss "Art + Science = Architecture," a mind-boggling exhibit of architectural wonders recreated in, yup, LEGOS. Structures include Sears (Willis???) Tower, St. Louis Gateway Arch and skyscrapers from around the world, all created by trained architect and LEGO professional Adam Reed Tucker. Also, Tucker will be working on his latest project on Sept. 12 in the museum's Rotunda. The entire exhibit runs through March 15 and is included in general admission. Watch for details on Wonder Kids days listed in future blogs. All the info you need for an MSI trip is at
 Shedd Aquarium is at 1200 Lake Shore Drive on the Museum Campus and there's something fishy going on there. Of course, the new, improved and enlarged Oceanarium offers delights for all ages and if you are with the young ones, you can take them to Polar Play Zonewhere they can pretend to be penguins or deep sea explorers and more. What fun! Details, tickets and information for planning your trip to this extraordinary aquarium, a Chicago treasure, are at
If you live in the Southland and never heard of Joliet Junior College's Trackman Planetarium, 1215 Houbolt Road (be sure to get directions to the planetarium), you are missing a real treat. It's one of the best kept secrets out here. The small planetarium sits several dozen people and shows are run by astronomy guru and advocate Art Maurer of Crete who always adds to the show and has a Q and A session afterwards. All shows are free and all you do is show up. Trackman kicks off its sky show season Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m. with "The Seasonal Sky: Skies of September." On Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m., is "Our Solar System." Young Peoples shows are all at 6:30 p.m., Thursdays; Oct. 1, "We Go to the Moon." The phone number is (815) 280-6682 and you can access the planetarium through the college website


photo by sarah gross

Blog Archive

About Me

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.