Friday, October 30, 2009

Dear Readers,
  Thank you for your patience this month. I had mentioned in my last blog that the next one would not be until the end of the month and while I'd hoped to avoid such a delay, my life, for which I am thankful every single day, kept me too busy to blog.
   There is a plethora of arts and entertainment in the next several weeks -- much of it right out here in the Southland. You simply cannot be bored for one minute. If you are battling the flu, and I do hope you are not, check out the museum exhibits online!
  "Copenhagen," a Tony-Award winning script depicting an imaginary war time meeting of physicists Werner Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, brought the audience to its feet Oct. 31 at Illinois Theatre Center. Guaranteed to keep you riveted to your seat, this extraordinary production features David Perkovich (left) as Bohr, Si Osborne as Heisenberg and Mary Mulligan as Margrethe Bohr, a role that serves as the Greek chorus of this brilliant play.
  Also opening out here, Palos Village Players' "The Lion in Winter" with Ellen Micotta as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Steve Bell as King Henry II.  Then look for the unbelievable White House replica coming soon to Museum of Science and Industry. The Blue Room, complete with holiday tree for the season, is pictured abovel. And, Kikashi, a baby orangutang will join the celebration of her species at Brookfield Zoo. All the details are below.
  I will try and bring out an update in two weeks. Meanwhile get out and have fun. I hope all of you stay healthy. As always, if you are handling press for an event or venue that fits in here or if you see something that needs correcting, please e-mail me with the 411 to If you have comments, feel free to send those too.
   Blog is organized as such: two mini-reviews followed by theater listings, visual arts, music and dance and Chicagoland treasures, the museums and planetariums (No. I will not say planetaria.)



 By Sarah Gross

  Broadway in Lincolnshire. Closer to the truth than you might imagine. The lead role of Tracy Turnblad is played with warmth and vibrance by Marissa Perr, last seen as the fifth and final Tracy on Broadway.
   Marriott's production never disappoints. The creative and dynamic choreography/staging by choreographer/director Marc Robin, delights and engages the audience throughout the show. There's never a dull moment. 
   My favorite musical number was "Timeless to Me," sung by Tracy's parents, Edna (Ross Lehman) and Wilbur (Gene Weygandt). Their song and dance number was charming and touching, yet funny. For a few moments I was transformed into a fly on the wall observing a real couple still in love after decades of marriage. Their flirtatious humor is highlighted by clever lyrics. The stage chemistry between Lehman and Weygandt is palpable, perhaps surprisingly since Lehman is, of course, in the drag role.
   Also turning in a superb performance is Billy Harrigan Tighe as Link Larkin, Tracy's love interest.
   Still, the real scene-stealer is E. Faye Butler as Motormouth Maybelle, owner of a record store/hangout. Butler's powerful, soulful voice eclipses the other cast members' voices and her presence fills the stage with energy, glamour and hope.
   I wholeheartedly recommend this "Hairspray" with its numerous shining moments, a hilarious script and memorable performances.
   Of note, the fabulous costumes, which are era-appropriate, necessitate a hats off to costume designers Michael Bottari and Ronald Case.
   The theater is at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Parking is free and tickets are $45, $5 discount to seniors and students: (847) 634-0200 and at . Dinner packages available.

By Sarah Gross

  In Steppenwolf's (upstairs theater) "The House on Mango Street," based on the 1984 novel by Sandra Cisneros, is one of the theater's Young Adult Series productions.
   Given the script's literary origin, much of the play's strength lies in its eloquence. The play is rich with succinct, meaningful lines that capture the internal struggles of the main character, Esperanza (Sandra Delgado). Her struggles are universal and capture what it is to be an adolescent girl, transitioning not only physically but emotionally as well.
   The play opens with Esperanza's dreams of moving "to a real house ... one we could be proud of on TV." Her family does buy a home but it's not the one they had hoped for, but rather a small and somewhat ramshackle house. As Esperanza sits on her new front stoop, she thinks out loud, "Esperanza, in English it means hope; in Spanish it's too many letters." It means sadness. It means waiting."
   As the script takes Esperanza and her friends into exploring their ever-changing adolescent world, it also delves into the lives of family members and other colorful characters in the neighborhood.
   This was an enjoyable production. However, one thing that distracted me and kept me from believing the characters is all the children are played by adults. Additionally, the concept 'ensemble cast' was taken too far in this production. Every actor played so many characters with so many costume changes, it was difficult to follow who was who in the play.
   Still, "The House on Mango Street" has a poignant and memorable script, if weakened by the casting issues. Adolescents, especially girls, would enjoy the play. Steppenwolf is at 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Tickets are $10-$20 at (312) 335-1650 and


DRAMA GROUP 'Darling, I'm your Auntie Mame'
DG presents the riotous musical, "Mame," Dec. 4-6 at Bloom Auditorium Theater, 10th Street and Dixie Highway, Chicago Heights. Tickets are $17 and $18 at (708) 756-3444 and .

The Broadway smash hit "Thoroughly Modern Millie," directed by artistic director William Osetek, continues through Dec. 20 at Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace, 100 Drury Lane.  Show only tickets are $29-$38 and dinner theater packages are available. Student and senior tickets greatly reduced; (630) 530-0111, and all Ticketmaster outlets.
GGP presents "Craddock's Well," Nov. 6-22 at Chicago Gaelic Park, 6119 W. 147th St., Oak Forest. Tickets and times are at (708) 687-9323.

Illinois Theatre Center, 371 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest, presents the powerful drama "Copenhagen," Oct. 30-Nov. 15. Set in 1941, German physicist Werner Heisenberg (Si Osborne) returns to Copenhagen, under Nazi control, to visit his Danish counterpart, former mentor and colleague, Niels Bohr (David Perkovich). During their somewhat clandestine meeting, the men dance around the topic of nuclear power and its potential applications.  Margrethe Bohr (Mary Mulligan) has her own opinions. Tickets are $19 and $21, $1 discount for seniors, students; (708) 481-3510.

MARRIOTT THEATRE -- Big hair's back!
See "Hairspray" review at top of blog.
Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences presents "A Christmas Carol" from Nov. 13 to Jan. 2. Tickets are $15, information above.

The OPTT presents "Sound Effects," Nov. 13-15 at Orland Park Civic Center, 14700 Ravinia. Tickets are $13, $11 seniors and $9 for children, (708) 403-7275 and at

Medieval England returns as Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, wage a brilliant war of word in Palos Village Players' production of "Lion in Winter," Nov. 6 - Nov. 14 at Palos Park Recreation Center, 8901 W. 123rd St. Tickets are $15, $12 students and seniors; (877) 787-8197 and at

The almost mythical romantic comedy musical, "The Fantasticks," opened the 15th season of Porchlight Music Theatre in the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont and runs through Nov. 14. Tickets are $37, discounts for seniors, students: (773) 327-5252 and through Ticketmaster outlets.
Porchlight's production of the family classic, "Miracle on 34th Street," opens Nov. 20 and runs through Jan. 3. Santa Claus will be present to greet little visitors and listen to their wishes after every performance. Tickets are $40 with discounts for students and seniors. See phone number above.

STEPPENWOLF -- Watson, that skull please!
Steppenwolf Theatre's  season opener, "Fake," written and directed by Eric Simonson, is a brilliant drama that shifts between 1914 and the mid-20th century with the Piltdown man hoax the focal point for escalating tension in both time periods and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as one of the pivotal characters. Through Nov. 8 in the downstairs theater, 1640 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Tickets are $20 to $70 at (312) 335-1650 and at and (312) 335-1640.
A review of the 'The House on Mango Street," in the upstairs theater, is at the start of blog.

THEATRE AT THE CENTER -- Hoist the mainsail
Join the crowd heading up the ramp for a voyage aboard "The Christmas Schooner," a new holiday musical by Chicago theater legend John Reeger and composer/lyricist Julie Shannon. Voyage runs Nov. 12-Dec. 20 at Theatre at the Center, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster. The story follows the 19th century adventures of a brave ship captain who sails Lake Michigan to bring Christmas trees to immigrants in Chicago. Tickets are $36-$40 at and at the theater box office, (219) 836-3255. More show information is at 
Theatre at the Center for Young Audiences presents "The Story of the Little Mermaid" Nov. 30-Dec. 14. Times and ticket information available at number and website above.


Tall Grass Gallery, 367 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest, continues the exhibit "Here and Now," through Nov. 21. The exhibit features works by many Tall Grass artists. Admission to the gallery is free. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. More information at (708) 748-3377 and at
Tall Grass continues its 2009 Art Film Series at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at Marcus Theatre, 1301 Hilltop Ave., Chicago Heights (immediately north of Lincoln Highway) with a Sam Mendes-directed production,"Away We Go," starring SNL alumnus, Maya Rudolph.Tickets are $8. Information at phone number above.


A wondrously magical experience, ADC's annual 'Holiday Fantasy,' Nov. 21-22, at the Tinley Park Convention Center, showcases dance as you've never seen it before!  The Homewood-and-Orland Park-based legendary dance studio features its own company dancers and faculty, along with guest artists, in a production interspersed with several courses of lunch or dinner. Imagine enjoying an appetizer, then watching lights dim while dazzling holiday visions appear -- ballet or tap dancers performing a holiday classic. Another course, then more dance until you've had a complete meal and watched a glorious show. This is a one-of-a-kind, breath-taking production. Details and reservation information are at 

Artistic director Benoit-Swan Pouffer, formerly with Alvin Ailey dance, brings the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet to the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago, on Nov. 14 and 15. Tickets are $30-$65 at the theater box office and at all Ticketmaster locations.


"Dave Rudolf's Not So Scary Halloween Spooktacular" comes to the Center for Performing Arts, Governors State University stage at 11 a.m. Oct. 31. Show tickets start at $10.50 at (708) 235-2222 and at . Tickets also are available at the box office day of show.
The Center presents "A Tribute to Motown Greats" at 7:30 p.m. Join the fun and see the show Richard Steele describes as a "realistic flashback to the days when no party was complete without the sounds of Motown." Tickets are $23- $43 at web site and phone number above.
Think "Stairway to Heaven" as Led Zeppelin tribute band Heartbreaker takes the Center stage with a full range of the band's classic hits at 8 p.m. Nov. 14. Tickets are $22 to $42 at (708) 235-2222 and at

JWR Tours Jazz Club Crawl next one is Nov. 7. Get on board in Chicago or the South Suburbs. Guests travel on luxury limo buses to two or three of Chicago's most elegant jazz venues with surprises including champagne, wines and cheeses while riding in comfort. Check it out Registration is set up at the website.

The Southland's own world-class symphony orchestra, the IPO with Maestro Carmon DeLeone, opens its 32nd season at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at Lincoln-Way North  Performing Arts Center, 19900 S. Harlem Ave., Frankfort. The same program, which features guest pianist Natasha Paremski on piano, is performed again at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22. The program includes music by Bach, Rachmaninoff, Litolff and Ravel. Evening tickets are $30-$50 and $25-$30 on Sunday. All students under 18, $15 for either performance. Tickets are at (708) 481-7774 and


The long-running family holiday sky show, "Star of Wonder," will run under the iconic dome of the Sky Theater at Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum for the last this season before it is retired to the archives. The Sky Theater will close in the summer 2010 for renovation. "Star" has long been one of our family favorites, and when my children were small, we drove down to Adler every holiday season to see it. Today "Star" continues to examine the contemporary theories behind the star as well as examine celestial events that may have given rise to the biblical story of the Christmas star. Whether you believe the Bible or not, "Star of Wonder" generates its own magic. It opens Nov. 23 and will run through Jan. 3. Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive. Everything you need to plan your Adler visit is 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 Sunday afternoon show series, which starts at 2 p.m., and the Thursday series that starts at 6:30 p.m. are geared to the younger set. Coming up -- Thursday Nov. 12, "What's in the Sky"; Sunday Nov. 29  Oct. 18, "Our Solar System." Shows for the junior high set and older are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays. Coming up: Nov. 3, "The Seasonal Sky: Skies of November"; Nov. 17, "How to buy a telescope"; Dec. 1, "Skies of December." All shows, for young people and general audiences, begin with a live show of the current night sky presented by astronomy guru Art Maurer of Crete. If you have questions, Maurer will happily answer them. All shows are free so you just show up. The phone number is (815) 280-6682. The full sky show schedule is at Then put Trackman in the search spot.

An all-new wing opened earlier this year at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave. Admission to the classic and new sections is included in the admission price. Many Chicago area museum-goers do not know about the mesmerizing Thorne Miniature Rooms, some 20 small diorama-like spaces designed and furnished with miniatures representing different eras over the last few centuries in Europe and America. While not fairyland scenes, the rooms dazzle with precision as do the miniatures in the Fairy Castle at Museum of Science and Industry. Everything you need to know for a trip to the Art Institute is

BROOKFIELD ZOO -- Celebrate orangutans
Brookfield Zoo celebrates Orangutang Awareness Weekend Nov. 14-15. Orangutans in the wild are rapidly decreasing. Brookfield as part of the Chicago Zoological Society will observe this weekend with special festivities featuring Kekasih, the baby orangutang who just turned 1, and her family, mom Sophia, 28; dad Ben, 31; and brother Denda, 7. All the event details including a full schedule of what is is going on at Brookfield are at the Chicago Zoological Society website, The zoo is at 3300 Golf Road, Brookfield. Directions are on the website.

Imagine this. Admission is only a penny for one entire weekend. Keep reading. Tons going on at the Chicago History Museum (formerly Chicago Historical Society), 1601 N. Clark St., (312) 642-4600, during this bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Two parallel exhibits run through April 2, 2010: "Abraham Lincoln Transformed" and"Benito Juarez and the making of modern Mexico." This exhibit is co-curated with the National Museum of Mexican Art and features more than 25 Mexican treasures never seen before in the United States. All the museum details are at

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


"The Nature of Diamonds" and the updated, remodeled and renovated  Grainger Hall of Gems continue to dazzle museum visitors exploring the nature of gems at Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive on the Museum Campus.
However, in addition to the lovely Sue, the 90-foot T. rex skeleton that welcomes visitors in the main hall, I love the mummies and anything about ancient Egypt. Field's Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit includes a life-size Egyptian tomb, real mummies, authentic sculptures and other treasures, yes, including scarab jewelry, and much more. With the holidays coming around, the mummies might enjoy visitors who haven't been there for a while, new little visitors and tourists as well. 
This fascinating series of rooms is included with general admission. All the details you'll need for a Field visit are 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 offers a deep sense of originality and vitality," museum press notes state. The MCA not only contains its permanent and temporary exhibits but offers a wide range of avant-garde presentations. All the details are

Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Cornell (off Lake Shore Drive)  -- presents "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 of You as Wii on steroids.
Opening Nov. 2o, two breath-taking exhibits. The annual "Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light" features more than 50 dazzling holiday trees and other displays from around the world and runs through Jan. 2. If you have never seen it, do not miss the breath-taking "White House: A Look Inside." This 60-by-13-foot large scale replica of the White House has involved more than 600,000 hours of labor, a labor of love started and coordinated by John and Jan Zwiefel in 1975 as a "gift to the people from the people." In the early 1990s, the extraordinary WH came to Lincoln Mall in Matteson. I was was assigned a feature about a Homewood woman who made the rug for the Blue Room, purely as a volunteer of course. She wove it, as I recall, and followed the exact pattern of the authentic WH rug. Go to website. Click on the right side, "coming soon" and then on the WH exhibit. You'll want to see the rest. All the info you need for an MSI trip is at

"Fantasea," the all-new Oceanarium show at Shedd Aquarium, 1200 Lake Shore Drive on the Museum Campus, takes visitors on a magical trip. Dolphins, beluga whales and other ocean mammals become part of a story that combines theater and the Oceanarium experience in an extraordinary production unlike anything you've ever seen at the world-famous aquarium. The new, improved and enlarged Oceanarium offers delights for all ages including the Polar Play Zone where youngsters (OK, anyone) can pretend to be a penguin or deep sea explorer and much more. What fun! Details, tickets and information for planning your trip to this extraordinary aquarium, a Chicago treasure, are at 

While Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies always features programs and exhibits focused on Jewish life, you can see "Ground Level Project" in the street-level vestibule, visible from outside the magnificent structure at 610 S. Michigan Ave. Spertus commissioned four artists to express, investigate and challenge "traditional perceptions of the Jewish experience." Artist Jason Lazarus' moving image "The top of Anne Franke's chestnut tree" was recorded from the Annex where the Frank family hid for two years before their presence was revealed to the Nazis. Anne wrote of the chestnut tree in her now classic "Diary of a Young Girl." More Spertus details are at

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photo by sarah gross

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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.