Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday fare for all .... and on into 2010!

Photos: At left: Tracy Letts (left) and Francis Guinan in Steppenwolf Theatre's 'American Buffalo'; Zydeco legend Mojo who heads to the McAninch (Mac) in 2010 and has a new CD recorded live in the Black Forest. Mini-reviews of Marriott's 'My Fair Lady' and 'American Buffalo' are at the top of the blog and a brief review of Mojo's latest CD follows the Mac listing.

Dear Readers,
Well, this time I tried putting all the new listings at the top, thinking it would be easier. NOT! For some reason, this edition took me way too long to finish. Maybe it's not the blog arrangement, but just me trying to do forty-eleven things at once. In any case, theater mini reviews are followed by new and updated listings which are followed by ongoing events.
If you are having out-of-town guests, of any age, you'll find the perfect entertainment action here. And while I have not listed it yet, Oak Lawn has a wonderful children's museum that got rave reviews from my two grandsons, ages 3 and almost 2, after they took their parents there.
For regular blog readers, there's always some new theater production, art exhibit, sky show, concert ... a bit of everything and more to investigate here in the culture-soaked Southland and environs.
As always, please keep the arts and entertainment press releases coming and if you have them, send photos. If sending local theater production photos, please ID the actors. 
Meanwhile, I am trying to shift blog e-mails, including comments and corrections, to I still have the Comcast e-address but am relocating into the gmail realm.
As 2009 draws to a close, I realize the past year has been busy and very good to me. Murray and I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and a healthy and peaceful 2010.

Marriott's 'My Fair Lady' -- 'loverly' 
     One of the great Broadway classics, Lerner and Loewe's "My Fair Lady," continues its winter run through Feb. 14 at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. The production, starring Heidi Kettenring as Eliza Doolittle and Kevin Gudahl as Henry Higgins, delighted the opening night crowd which responded with a huge standing ovation. 
     Based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, "Pygmalion," the storyline is a take on the Cinderella theme. One Professor Henry Higgins, a linguist, agrees to turn a street flower girl he sees at Covent Garden into a lady no one would ever  recognize as a former 'guttersnipe.' He succeeds beyond any level he could have imagined.
    Kettenring and Gudahl handled their roles with panache and warmth as well as tremendous stage chemistry. With his energy, humor and stage presence, Don Forston stole the stage during his numbers as 'common dustman' Alfred Doolittle, Eliza's father. Catherine Lord as Higgins' housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, and Ann Whitney as Higgins' mother, also deserve special mention.
     Nancy Missimi's costume designs, especially Eliza's gown for the ball and the ladies' hats and dresses at the Ascot races, are absolutely gorgeous.
     "My Fair Lady" is delightful holiday fare for the entire family, a beautifully wrapped present topped with the phenomenal Lerner and Loewe score. Tickets are $45-$55 at (847) 634-0200 and at

         'American Buffalo' roars
    "American Buffalo," an early David Mamet play that crowned him as possibly America's foremost living playwright, opened at Chicago's Goodman in 1975. As the calendar heads into 2010, the Mamet script reiterates the mastery of Steppenwolf Theatre's company and casting. 
     Under Amy Morton's superb direction, Patrick Andrews (remember this name) along with Company members Francis Guinan and Tracy Letts, morph into compelling Mamet characters in a word perfect script that revolves around the trio's hackneyed plan to steal valuable coins. 
     Mamet's characters are both pathetic and comic as they stumble through the day trying to make their little plot happen. Guinan, Letts and Andrews become these oddball personalities; it seemed as if I were watching three genuinely inept would-be thieves whose flaws intensify as their grand theft plans evolve. 
     Raw language, Mamet's extraordinary three-dimensional characters and the Steppenwolf mastery combine for an phenomenal production.
    "American Buffalo" runs through Feb. 14 at Steppenwolf, 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago. Tickets are $20 to $77 at (312) 335-1650 and at

New listings, updates

H-F PARK DISTRICT 'SHOES': The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District's Stage Theatre presents "The Shoes" on Jan. 17 at the Auditorium, 2010 Chestnut, Homewood. Tickets are $7 adults, $5 children, senior; $1 off ticket price for three canned goods. Details at (708) 957-7275 and

'JOE' RETURNS TO SOUTHLAND:  Curtain Call Community Theatre presents the beloved musical, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat" Jan. 8-10 at Lincoln-Way East High 
School, 201 Colorado Ave., Frankfort. Tickets are $19, $17 students and seniors, (708) 699-2228 and

JAZZ-GOSPEL MESSIAH: A swinging, jazzing "Too Hot to Handel: Jazz-Gospel Messiah' heads to Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Parkway, Chicago on Jan. 16 and 17. Ticket to this tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. start at $30 at Ticketmaster and at

MOJO AT THE MAC: The phenomenal Zydeco and magic of Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies return to the McAninch Center at College of DuPage, Fawell and Park Blvds., Glen Ellyn, at 8 p.m. Feb. 13. Tickets are $30, $28 seniors, and are close to being sold out so order yours now, (630) 942-4000 and at   Meanwhile, the band's latest CD, "Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies: From the Bayou to the Black Forest" was recorded live, yes in Germany. With 19 tracks including some of Mojo's classics, as well as newer songs, the CD will pull you out of your seats and onto your feet no matter how tired you are.
    Mojo always opens with one of my favorites, "Allons mes ami" and then takes the energy level into the stratosphere. All the numbers are Zydeco originals with the unmistakable Mojo sound. There's a hint of good old rock 'n' roll in "Hey, hey tout q'uel qu'un" and when I'm done writing this, will e-mail Mojo to find out what the song titles mean. Meanwhile you can check out the tracks at and you can check out Mojo at And watch out, because "Mojo's gonna get you!"

NEVERLY NEW YEAR'S EVE: Nationally recognized for their exclusive Retro Rock Music Experience, the Southland's own Neverly Brothers will travel back in time, musically speaking, at the New Year's Eve Rock n' Roll Dance Party at Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake. Doors open at 8 p.m.; admission $75 includes food and open bar as well as champagne toast to welcome 2010 and of course, a chance to dance into the wee hours. Tickets/reservations at (815) 356-9212 and

ART INSTITUTE FAMILY FEST: The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., presents Holly Days Family Festival Dec. 27-30 with the proverbial something for everyone, artwork, story time and even a special Dec. 27 appearance by Artie the Lion are only a few of the activities and events during these special days. Museum admission for children younger than 14 is always free. Details and all the information for a trip to the Art Institute are at and at (312) 443-3600. 

HERBERT TRACKMAN PLANETARIUM:  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 Jan. 21, "Winter Skies for Kids"; Sunday Jan. 10, "Our Solar System." Tuesday Sky shows for the junior high set and older are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays. Coming up: Dec. 29, "Skies of January:" on Jan. 12, "Comets and Asteroids." 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. Shows are always 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.

CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM: Chicago History Museum (formerly Chicago Historical Society), 1601 N. Clark St., (312) 642-4600, presents its first multi-media theater exhibit, "My Chinatown." The exhibit focuses on the sights, sounds and history of Chicago's Chinatown, as told by people who live in the neighborhood and keep its traditions alive. All the details are at

TALL GRASS ARTS ASSOCIATION FILM SERIES: Tall Grass presents the final offering in its 2009 Art Film Series, "Moon," starring Kevin Spacey and Sam Rockwell, at 6:30 p.m. Jan.10 at Marcus Theatre, 1301 Hilltop Ave., Chicago Heights (immediately north of Lincoln Highway).Tickets are $8. Information at  (708) 748-3377. 

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART: In conjunction with its ongoingexhibit,"Italics: Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution, 1968-2008" the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago Ave., presents "Italics Film Series," several outstanding Italian films, all on rare 35 mm, seldom seen anymore. Most of the films are in Italian with English subtitles. The lengthy series includes 'The Decameron (Il Decameron)" from 1971; the original "Inglorious Bastards (Quel maledetto treno blindato)" from 1978, directed by Castellari; and even "Fellini's Casanova (Il Casanova di Federico Fellini)." The series opens at 6 p.m. Jan. 7 with Bernardo Bertolucci's "Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (La tragedia di un uomo ridicolo)." Details and the full film schedule are at

MARRIOTT THEATRE: Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences presents "A Christmas Carol" through Jan. 2. Tickets are $15, see above.

PORCHLIGHT MUSIC THEATRE: Porchlight Music Theatre, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, stages "Miracle on 34th Street," through Jan. 3. Tickets are $40 with discounts for students and seniors, (773) 327-5252 and all Ticketmaster outlets.


TALL GRASS ARTS ASSOCIATION GALLERY: "The Sacred, the Spiritual and the Sensual," an extraordinary art exhibit of works by acclaimed masters, Javier Chavira, Sergio Gomez and Harry Sudman," fills the exhibit hall through Jan. 31 at the Tall Grass Gallery, 367 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest, 708) 748-3377. Gallery hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission always free. 


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 time this season before it is retired to the archives. The Sky Theater will close in the summer of 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" examines contemporary theories of celestial events that may have given rise to the biblical story of the Christmas star. Regardless of one's religion or lack of it, "Star of Wonder" will run through Jan. 3Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive. Everything you need to plan your Adler visit is at Note: Adler has extended holiday hours!

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. Now through Jan. 24, "Monica Bonvicini: Light Me Black." This contemporary and apparently quite extraordinary exhibit explores the world of institutional architecture, particularly museums, through both the physical and psychological interpretations. Check out this link for more information:

Spectacular Holiday Magic events from 4 to 9 p.m. every day Dec. 26-31 features a million lights illuminating the zoo's walkways. Special events including ice-carving, the Kiddie Express train ride and more will delight visitors of all ages. Brookfield Zoo is located off First Avenue between Interstates 55 and 290. It's also accessible via I-294 and public transportation. More information about Holiday Magic and all its events is at (708) 688-8000. Activities free with paid admission, $12 adults $8 children 3-11 and seniors 65 and older; free to members. Tots 2 and under admitted free. Auto parking is $8, buses $10.75 Information also is at

Chicago History Museum (formerly Chicago Historical Society), 1601 N. Clark St., (312) 642-4600, features two parallel exhibits 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

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

Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive on the Museum Campus, features the hidden gem for the  little ones, Field's Crown Family Playlab, a permanent part of the museum, offers six themed play areas bursting with things to do. Little explorers can dig up dinosaur bones, grind corn in a pueblo or dress like an animal and crawl, hop or 'fly' around the museum. An extraordinary series of adventures await the young set during every family visit. The area includes family bathrooms, stroller parking and infant zones as well as a staffed reception desk where Field personnel will help make your Crown visits special. The Crown Family Playlab is included with regular museum admission. The Playlab can be     accessed through any Field entrance, including the little known East entrance. All the details you'll need for a Field visit are at

"Italics: Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution, 1968-2008" continues 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 at

Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Cornell (off Lake Shore Drive)  -- presents "Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light" through Jan. 2, with more than 50 dazzling holiday trees and other displays from around the world. 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." now though Feb. 15. All the info you need for an MSI trip is at DATES

"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"  through Jan. 17 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 Frank'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

You've reached the end of this blog entry.


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.