Friday, April 16, 2010

Storms, bats, musical theater keep metro area moving!

Dear Readers,

No, It's not Twilight and I can assure you the bat pictured at left is not going to turn into a handsome, sexually steamy romantic vampire when the sun goes down.
But the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum will go batty during what promises to be an extraordinary and all-free evening April 21. The Mexican Free-tailed Bat (pictured) Although my intention was to release a full April-May blog this weekend, that won't happen until next weekend. In the meantime, I am sending this interim that covers what is going now through next weekend. 
Opening this weekend at Illinois Theatre Center, the musical comedy crime-thriller "No Way to Treat a Lady" should be tons of good talent and great fun. Theatre at Western Springs presents "Cadillac" and the bedroom musical "I Do, I Do" takes a married couple through from honeymoon to late in life, with all scenes in the bedroom at Theatre at the Center in Munster. No, this is definitely NOT adult rated so not to worry about bringing young adults or anyone who would be uncomfortable with X-rated material. Matisse is at Art Institute of Chicago and what should be a compelling historical look at "The Black Panthers: Making Sense of History," opens April 23 at DuSable Theatre right near the University of Chicago campus. 
Style-wise, a couple of readers commented that the blog might be easier on the eyes if it were more monochromatic in easy-to-read colors, so that is what we are trying. Would love to know your thoughts -- whether you like it better or not as well as the rainbow blog.
Please keep those comments, press releases and newsletters coming to and remember you also can link to us at two new informational and newsy websites, and AND if you run across anything that needs correcting -- date, time, phone number or even spelling or typo, also please inform me. Hope you have a great weekend and I expect to have much more for you in a little more than a week. Oh, don't forget, parking at virtually all the suburban theaters is free and easily accessed!  (note: Mexican-Free-tailed Bat photo courtesy Merlin B. Tuttle, Bat Conservation Institute)

See you again ... real soon.

BEVERLY HILLS UNIVERSITY CLUB presents the beloved  musical, Oliver," April 23-25 at Oak View Center, 4625 W. 110th St., Oak Lawn. Tickets are $21 adults, $19 seniors, students at (630) 202-3753.

BEVERLY THEATRE GUILD stages one of the most thrilling-twists-at-the-end mysteries ever to hit the stage, "Deathrap," April 30-May 2 at Baer Theater at Morgan Park Academy, 2153 W. 111th St., Chicago. Tickets, $20 each, as well as showtimes and more are at (773) 284-8497 and

DRAMA GROUP presents the musical"City of Angels" April 30-May 2 at the Bloom High School Theatre, Dixie Highway at Chicago Road, Chicago Heights. Tickets are $18 adults, $17 students and seniors, (708) 755-3444 and at Set in Hollywood in the late 1940s, the musical is a tapestry of two plots, a musical comedy and a detective story. This should be a phenomenal show.

DRURY LANE OAKBROOK TERRACE100 Drury Lane, presents the powerful musical  "Ragtime," with the theater's largest cast ever. The show continues through May 23. Tickets are $31-$45 and dinner packages can be purchased, (630) 530-0111, all Ticketmaster outlets and at SEE REVIEW BELOW.

GAELIC PARK PLAYERSChicago Gaelic Park, 6119 w. 147th St., Oak Forest, continue their run of Hugh Leonard's bedroom farce, "The Patrick Pearse Motel," on weekends through April 25. Tickets are $12 at (708) 687-9323 and at; dinner packages available with advance reservations only.

ILLINOIS THEATRE CENTER, 371 Artists Walk, Downtown Park Forest, closes its mainstage season with "No Way to Treat A Lady,: April 16-May 2. "No Way ..." is billed as a "slightly twisted musical comedy" about a publicity crazed actor-turned-serial-killer. David Boettcher directs. Tickets are $19-$21 at (708) 481-3510. Joe Lehman and Debra Criche Mell (pictured at right) are among the featured actors starring in the production.

MARRIOTT THEATRE, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire,  opens the 2010 season with the beloved musical, "Fiddler on the Roof," through April 25. The production stars Chicagoland theater favorite, Ross Lehman, and is directed by David H. Bell. The season's complete lineup and ticket information are at and at (847) 634-0200. Incidentally, Greg 'The Fire' Hirts, fidder with Mojo and the Bayou Gypsies, plays the title role of the fiddler.

NOBLE FOOL THEATRICALS, Pheasant Run Resort Mainstage Theatre, 4051 E. Main St., St Charles, tackles the tough words (OK, the easy ones too) starting April 22 when "The Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" buzzes through St. Charles. The run lasts through June 13, and if you have not seen this riotous ode to adolescents and spelling bees, it's worth the trip. (I-355 extension dramatically reduces the drive time to St. Charles.) Tickets are $29 and $39 at (630) 584-6342 and Ticketmaster. 

ORLAND PARK THEATRE TROUPE travels to River City, Iowa, onstage of course, for one of America's favorite musicals, Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" April 30-May 2 at Carl Sandburg High School Performing Arts Center, 13600 LaGrange Road, Orland Park. Tickets are $18 adults, $16 seniors and students, $14 children 12 and under, (708) 403-7275 and and click on Recreation and Parks/Programs/Theatre. 

PALOS VILLAGE PLAYERS present "Enchanted April," April 30-May 8, weekends only, at Palos Park Recreation Center, 8901 W. 123rd St., Palos Park. Tickets are $15, $12 seniors, students at (877) 787-8497 and Sarah Lowrence (pictured) and Bruce Fredrick  strike less-than-pleased poses during rehearsal. Of course, I don't think they are irritated with each other but their characters certainly look irritated.

PROVISION THEATER COMPANY, 1001 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago, presents the world premiere run of "The Hiding Place," based on the autobiography of Corrie ten Boom whose family joined the World War II Resistance to battle the Nazis and do what they could to undermine Hitler's "final solution." The production runs weekends through May 23; tickets are $25, $28 at (866) 811-4111 and

STEPPENWOLF THEATRE, 1650 N. Halsted, Chicago explores the theme of belief with the extraordinary production of Samuel Beckett's "Endgame" directed by the award-winning ensemble member, Frank Galati. The show runs continues through June 6. Nobel prize-winning playwright Beckett's play is described as an absurd comic masterpiece that follows Hamm (ensemble member William Petersen of "CSI" fame, pictured at left), a blind man who cannot stand. His servant, Clov (ensemble member Ian Barford), cannot sit and the two pass their days by a sea that may or may not exist. Ensemble members Martha Lavey and Francis Guinan also star in the production. Tickets are $20-$53 for previews, $20-$77 for regular run, (312) 335-1650. NOTE: Look for "Endgame" review in next blog.
Meanwhile the extraordinary trilogy, "The Brother/Sister Plays" by Tarell Alvin McCraney, continues in the Steppenwolf upstairs through May 23. Sarah Gross reviewed the entire trilogy and her review from earlier this year is at the end of the blog. Gross said the three one-act dramas are phenomenal, in the 'do not miss' category' for serious theater-goers. SEE REVIEW BELOW!

THEATRE AT THE CENTER, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN, takes its onstage vows with the Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt musical, "I Do! I Do!" an intimate (in the bedroom), nostalgic (as years go by) look at a couple's marriage through 50 years -- the good times, the not-so-good, the terrific and the really tough times. The show opened on Broadway in 1966 and has become a classic treasure in musical theater. The two-person production, featuring Chicago-based stage stars Bernie Yvon and Heidi Kettenring, opens April 22 and goes through May 23. Tickets are at (219) 836-3255 and and

THEATRE OF WESTERN SPRINGS, 4384 Hampton Ave., cruises along in "Cadillac," through April 25. Directed by Steppenwolf Theatre's Rick Snyder, the play, which opened to rave reviews in 2008, takes an inside look at a car dealership, the forces that drive it, the sales staff that propels it and the customers who keep it going. Tickets are  $18-$20 at (708) 246-3380 and at

CHICAGO CHILDREN'S THEATRE presents the Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia production, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favorites" through May 2 at Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive. Tickets are $35 adults, $25 children 12 and under and includes post show museum admission, (773) 227-0180, ext. 15 and at

MARRIOTT THEATRE OF LINCOLNSHIRE presents Marc Robin's original musical classic, "Sleeping Beauty" through April 25. Tickets are $15 at and at (847) 634-0200.

TOWLE THEATRE, 5205 Hohman Ave., Hammond, Indiana, presents Shelley Crosby's original musical adaptation of Roger Bradfield's children's book, "Pickle Chiffon Pie," at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. April 17, tickets $8. A special 9 a.m. performance includes breakfast with the cast; tickets $15 at (219) 937-8780 and at


DRURY LANE OAKBROOK, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, presents the legendary Bobby Vinton in three concerts on Mother's Day weekend, May 10 and 11. Tickets are $45-$55 with discounts for subscribers. Vinton's live shows leave nothing undone as he sings his greatest hits, 'Roses Are Red, My Love,' ''There, I've Said It Again,' 'Blue on Blue' and 'My Melody of Love,' the song that brought him the honorary title, the Polish Prince -- and many more chart toppers. Now in his 70s, Vinton remains the consummate stage performer. Tickets are at (630) 530-5203, and Ticketmaster.

CENTER FOR PERFORMING ARTS at Governors State University, University Park, presents "Whose Live Anyway" at 8 p.m. April 30. Based on the 1980s television series, "Whose Line Is It Anyway," the stage production features the same stars, Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Chip Esten and Jeff B. Davis. Tickets are $45 to $56 at (708) 235-2222 and at

FRIENDS OF THE ILLINOIS PHIILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA present five stellar musical-stars-in-the-making from the South Suburbs in the second annual "Rising Stars Showcase" at 4:30 p.m. April 25 at Prairie State College Auditorium, 202 S. Halsted St., Chicago Heights. Tickets are $10 at the IPO, (708) 481-7774. The extraordinary young performers include Robin Lawler on violin, Vincent Meklis on violin, Sonia Mantell on cello, Timothy Jones and euponium (small tuba) and Jacqui Michuda, vocalist

"Starry Nights" at I Homewood-Flossmoor Park District's annual summer concert series at IRWIN PARK, Highland Avenue and Ridge Road, Homewood, kicks off June 11 as Piano Man recreates the sounds of Billy Joel and Elton John. On June 26 Elevation performs U2 and Pink Houses plays John Cougar Mellencamp on July 23. Tickets on sale May 3 are $7 adult, $5 child at (708) 057-0300.
WILMETTE THEATRE, 1122 Central Ave., presents Laura Freeman as Doris Day, America's perpetual virgin, who reportedly turned 88 on April 3. While Day no longer tours, Freeman brings the legendary actress/singer to life on stage at 7:30 p.m. April 19 in a show that has garnered rave reviews. Tickets are $20, $15 students and seniors;

A Matisse blockbuster has arrived at the ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO: The world-class Art Institute,  111 S. Michigan Ave., looks at an extraordinary period in the life of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) in an original exhibit, "Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917," an extraordinary examination of this time frame in the artist's career, a period that included the  development of the iconic "Bathers by the River" in the Art Institute collection. The exhibit runs through June 20 and is included in general admission! All the information you'll need for an Art Institute visit are at

DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY, 740 E. 56th Place, Chicago, on April 23 opens what promises to be a compelling look at "The Black Panthers: Making Sense of History." The exhibit joins permanent galleries focuses on different eras of blacks throughout American History. Museum details are at (773) 947-0600.

ADLER PLANETARIUM AND ASTRONOMY MUSEUM, 1300 S. Michigan Ave. (at the east end of Solidarity Drive on the Museum Campus), (312) 922-7827 (STAR).  The first planetarium in the western world packs in a universe of information, exhibits, extraordinary shows and now, an all-new exhibit, Planet Explorers, hands-on, climb in take off for a new planet and modern day space exploration, all right at Adler Planetarium. This extraordinary exhibit, that we will detail after experiencing it ourselves, is free with general admission and geared to families with young children. But from what I read and have heard about, parents and other adults will want to join in the astronomical fun. Everything you need for a trip to Adler is at

Yes, Alice, there is a planetarium in Will County. The stars shine often in Joliet at the intimate HERBERT TRACKMAN PLANETARIUM, one of the Southland's far-too-well-kept secrets, located on the main campus of Joliet Junior College, 1215 Houbolt Road (be sure to get directions to the planetarium). If you have not made the trip, you're missing a real treat. The 6:30 p.m. Thursday shows are geared to the younger set. Coming up on April 15, "Spring Skies for Kids." The 7:30 p.m. Tuesday series is for the junior high and older set. Coming up April 20, "Wonders in the Sky." Further information is at (815) 729-9020 or go to and search Trackman. PLEASE NOTE: Astronomer Art wants to assure everyone that the world will NOT end on Dec. 21, 2012.

BROOKFIELD ZOO goes Ape in Ape-ril for Ape Awareness Month with special activities every weekend. The zoo is at 3300 Golf Road, between Interstates 55 and 290. All the information you need for a day at Brookfield is at (Chicago Zoological Society).

FIELD MUSEUM, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive (on the Museum Campus), (312) 922-9410. "Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age," a new 7,500-square-foot exhibit, continues through Sept. 4 and will thrill even the most jaded Ice Age fan. Star of this exhibit is a 40,000-year-old baby mammoth. At adulthood, the huge animals weighed as much as eight tons with tusks that could reach 16 feet in length. Alas, these cousins of elephants died out, but fortunately left a huge fossil record. Museum visitors will discover answers to many qustions including how the prehistoric creatures balanced their tusks, how much they ate and how elephants 'talk' to each other. Special tickets will be required. Information about Field Museum is at

Face the storms, including a giant 40-foot swirling vortex of air as you explore the dynamics of a tornado at MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. The power of lightning (at left) is only one of many powerful storms explored in "Science Storms," the just-opened two-level, 26,000 square feet permanent exhibit included with general admission. Also, now playing in the Omnimax theatre, "Hubble" and "Ultimate Wave Tahiti." All the details and everything you need to plan a day at MSI are at

There will be absolutely no charge to go batty from 5:30-8:30 p.m. April 21 as PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM, 2430 N. Cannon Drive, Chicago, presents Bat Mat Rob Mies, director of Organization for Bat Conservation, who will bring LIVE BATS and discuss the importance to this region of these strange mammals who navigate with their own type of bat radar, echolocation.  Before Mies' presentation, filmmaker Dave McGowan will take guests on a rare underground journey through Southern Indiana's most fascinating caves with his documentary, "Caves: Life Beneath the Forest." Bats, blind fish, cave millipedes are only a few of the intriguing organisms in the film. McGowan will be present to talk about his experiences making the film and there will be a Q and A period. The entire evening is free to anyone interested and there is no museum charge as it all takes place after museum hours. All the details and other information are on the Notebaert website, and at (773) 755-5100. Put your cursor on Education Resources and a drop down window will appear with a link to the film series. 

SHEDD AQUARIUM, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, brings "Happy Feet -D Experience" to its newly renovated theater. Visitors will travel to Antarctica and meet a lively cast of penguin characters in this magical 12-minute, 4-D family feature. Check out all the details and events as well as plan your trip to the world-famous Shedd Aquarium at

Powerful ‘Ragtime’ soars through Drury Lane 

He is Q. His presence completely fills the house with a tangible energy, a positive force that gains strength throughout the evening.
Q would be phenomenal actor Quentin Earl Darrington (pictured above) whose bravura Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Drury Lane Theatre’s “Ragtime” stunned the Oakbrook Terrace house for nearly three hours on opening night.
In fact, the entire cast in the theater’s lavish production keeps a tight grip on the audience with riveting performances.
Loosely based on the E.L. Doctorow novel of the same name, “Ragtime” weaves together three stories and three families -- upscale white New Yorkers, a trio of African Americans and Latvian immigrants, a father and daughter, who have arrived in New York with nothing but hope. The unlikely paths of all cross in early 20th century America with profound impacts on the lives of all.
“Ragtime” celebrates life while it reveals the inequities, cruelty and northern style lynchings blacks dealt with every day.
Cory Goodrich’s dazzling performance of the upscale Mother was touching, humane and strong, and Larry Adams as the baffled, confused Father, whose lifestyle and mores remained stuck in the 19th century, was brilliant.
Mark David Kaplan, Max Quinlan and Valisia LeKae as the Immigrant, Mother’s Younger Brother and Sarah, respectively, were phenomenal and their performances kept the house energy high and stage chemistry hot.
This was the third “Ragtime” production I had seen over the years, and the only one that had a grip on me throughout the night.
The superb cast under Rachel Rockwell’s direction and Roberta Duchak’s music direction came together in a “Ragtime” that thrilled the audience from the moment it began. Every musical number garnered a huge round of hoots and applause, and when the cast began taking its bows, virtually everyone jumped up immediately to join in the thundering standing ovation.
If this show and its actors do not capture Jeff Awards, I cannot imagine what will. 
The show continues through May 23. Tickets are $31-$45 and dinner packages can be purchased, (630) 530-0111, all Ticketmaster outlets and at    

Extraordinary 'Brother/Sister Plays' trilogy exended through May 23

Review by Sarah Gross 

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s (McCraney photo at right) triptych “The Brother/Sister Plays,” running through May 23 at The Steppenwolf Theatre, seamlessly melds elements of theater with storytelling, poetry, and music. McCraney’s talent and accomplishment belie his 29 years. His writing is contemporary and timeless, as fresh and raw as it is mythic and tragic.
The full-length “In the Red and Brown Water” is performed in rotation with a double bill of one-act plays, “The Brothers Size” and “Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet.”  The plays share characters and setting; they complement each other but stand alone. 
All three plays are set in a poor African-American housing project in the south. An extraordinarily talented ensemble cast brings the setting and characters to life under the poignant, spare direction of Steppenwolf member Tina Landau.
Speaking their own stage directions, the characters turn to the audience with words that reveal or create a scene. These directions range from the simple, “Enter - the boys” and “Exit Shongo,” to the descriptive and poetic, “Oya, sitting on the front porch, humming, then crying.” This storytelling-like technique draws the audience into an intimate relationship with the actors and characters.
The first segment of the trilogy, “In the Red and Brown Water,” tells the tragic story of Oya (Alana Arenas), a young woman forced to choose between an athletic scholarship and staying home to care for her mother. As the story unfolds, she also struggles with the pain of unrequited love and the grief of discovering her infertility. Oya’s journey is both eased and complicated by the colorful cast of characters in her community.
 “In the Red and Brown Water” employs an ancient technique, the Greek chorus, whose haunting chants accentuate the dialogue. Music also sets the scene in a stirring rendition of the gospel song “Down By The Riverside,” which marks the passing of one of the characters.
“The Brothers Size,” performed by a cast of three, captures the kinship of brotherhood as Ogun Size (K. Todd Freeman) attempts to rebuild a relationship with younger brother Oshoosi (Phillip James Brannon), who was just released from prison. When the brothers break into song and dance for a spontaneous rendition of Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” their playful intimacy makes this scene one of the trilogy’s highlights.
In the final play, “Marcus: Or the Secret of Sweet,” teenaged Marcus struggles to come to terms with his homosexuality. Like Oya, Marcus finds both support and conflict in his community.
“Theatre is one of the rare opportunities where we are all together taking a leap of faith to believe something…to pretend for a moment that this is happening," said playwright McCraney in a post-show talk.
Steppenwolf’s production of “The Brother/Sister Plays” invites you to take this leap of faith with an ensemble of immense talent.

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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.