Chris Jones is the chief theater critic and a Sunday culture columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His reviews of theater, performance, circus ...

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Chris Jones

Chris Jones

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Second City to open Harold Ramis Film School, a first for comedy moviemaking

Second City to open Harold Ramis Film School, a first for comedy moviemaking

February 9, 2016

Second City announced Tuesday that it is opening what it calls "the world's first film school dedicated to comedy."

  • 'King Lear,' via Belarus, rages and storms at Chicago Shakespeare

    February 7, 2016

    If a King Lear could still be said to exist anywhere in the world, then Alexander Lukashenko, the president of the Republic of Belarus, is about as close a candidate as you could find. In office for more than two decades, the monarchical dictator of the outlying Eastern European nation holds all the effective reins of governmental power, including near-total control of spending, the ability to dissolve an uncooperative parliament and a stranglehold on the judiciary.

  • Tracy Morgan at the Horseshoe Casino: He's picked up the pieces, now what?

    February 6, 2016

    "Yes. Yes," shouted Tracy Morgan as he took the stage at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond on Friday night, his face pointed toward the heavens.

  • 'The Explorers Club': In the mood for an impolite farce? Join the club

    February 5, 2016

    To the august members of the Explorers Club, a wacky crew of Victorian-era Brits who all look and behave like refugees from some half-baked Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, women are dangerous beasts. So when one of their patriarchal number, Lucius Fretway, suggests that the eminent cultural anthropologist Phyllida Spotte-Hume , famous for her study of the NaKong Tribe of the Lost City of Pahatlabong, be considered for membership, a near-riot ensues with her appearance.

  • Writers Theatre opens world-class new space. How did it get here?

    February 5, 2016

    How did Writers Theatre, a theater that formerly spent much of its history playing to 60 people in the back of a struggling suburban book store, and then to 110 people inside an old-school women's club, pull off its own $28 million, two-theater complex, designed by a world-class architect and located right in the heart of Glencoe, one of the most affluent communities in America?

  • Harris Theater leader to exit in December

    February 4, 2016

    Michael Tiknis, the president of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance for the last 12 years, said Thursday night that he has decided to leave his post at the end of this year.

  • What's this about no reviews for Mamet's 'American Buffalo'?

    February 4, 2016

    David Mamet's "American Buffalo" was the in-your-face drama that inspired Rich Cotovsky to get into the theater business. So when Cotovsky's Mary-Arrchie Theatre was making plans for its last show of all time, the famous triangular drama set in a Chicago junk shop was the theater's top choice. Here was its chance to help Cotovsky go out in style — that and the naming of part of Sheridan Road as Honorary Richard Cotovsky Way.

  • With 'The Last Defender,' House Theatre puts on a Cold War puzzle room

    February 3, 2016

    The latest endeavor from the restless minds at the House Theatre of Chicago is not so much a show as a puzzle room, constructed in the basement of the Chopin Theatre. Therein, an audience with a maximum size of 16 attempts to save the world from nuclear annihilation.

  • 'The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes' is hot on the trail of a great musical

    February 1, 2016

    The Mercury Theater, in Chicago's booming Southport corridor, is a jewel-box of a theater. But it rarely has contained a jewel box of a show, mostly because producers and directors have thoroughly enjoyed stuffing full-blown Broadway musicals into its challenging dimensions. But "The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes," a jovial, clever little musical whodunit, really does fit these friendly confines uncommonly well.

  • Haunting 'Mothers and Sons' asks, how long do we mourn before moving on?

    January 31, 2016

    "Don't they know it's the end of the world?" Karen Carpenter once asked in a deeply poignant song marveling how time marches on, the perplexingly cheery populace seemingly oblivious to the bereft singer's pain.

  • Review: 'Posh' an invite into a privileged, shocking world

    January 29, 2016

    Before the one-percentery raised its collective, meritocratic, self-justifying head, the posh ruled.

  • Behind a great trumpeter, the notorious Joe Glaser

    January 29, 2016

    In 2005, an auction of jazz memorabilia was held at the home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, benefiting foundations, archives and young musicians. One item, which went for $3,500, was a letter from Louis Armstrong to his manager, Joe Glaser, asking about his chance of playing Broadway. Another, which went for $1,600, was a telegram from Armstrong to Glaser referencing his dental problems and a lack of cash.

  • Review: What do Russians know of 'Measure for Measure'? Plenty

    January 28, 2016

    "Measure for Measure," the opening production in Chicago's hugely exciting Shakespeare 400 celebration, is performed in Russian, with English surtitles. I throw that out at the beginning mostly to marvel that one of the clearest and most involving piece of theatrical storytelling on a Chicago stage at this moment is, well, punctuated by many a "nyet."

  • Terrence McNally opens up about 'Mothers & Sons'

    January 28, 2016

    Terrence McNally, the author of such celebrated works of drama as "Love! Valour! Compassion!," "Master Class" and "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune," and the bookwriter of such musicals as "Ragtime," "The Full Monty" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman," is talking about mothers and sons.

  • Review: 'Another Word for Beauty' about pageant in a Colombian prison

    January 26, 2016

    What would you find inside a Colombian women's prison? Well, dear reader, may you never live to find out except through avenues theatrical, journalistic and metaphorical.

  • Disney's 'Aladdin' to launch national tour in Chicago

    January 26, 2016

    Another hit Broadway show is headed to Chicago for an extended run — this time it's Disney's "Aladdin," a hugely popular attraction in New York that routinely finishes third in the list of weekly Broadway grosses behind "The Lion King" and "Wicked."

  • Review: 'Le Switch' about a gay man unready for marriage

    January 25, 2016

    For which generation of gays and lesbians was the coming of same-sex marriage the most complicated?

  • 'Hairspray's' infectious beat keeps rolling in Aurora

    January 24, 2016

    With a live telecast staging planned for NBC in December and a Broadway revival also in the works, the masterful 14-year-old musical "Hairspray" is enjoying renewed attention. And that usually means the rights get restricted. So I suspect the Paramount Theatre of Aurora got in just under the wire with its genial, affectionate current staging of the travails of the plump revolutionary Tracy Turnblad, she who eats some breakfast and then sets about changing the world.

  • Review: Love is weakness in 'Sunset Baby'

    January 22, 2016

    "Love became a liability," it is observed in Dominique Morisseau's play "Sunset Baby." "It costs too much to be open."

  • David Bowie and Glenn Frey: On celebrities and death

    January 22, 2016

    Did any celebrity in the history of the world ever die as well as David Bowie? We certainly have had ample recent opportunity in the last week or two to compare the exits of other famous actors and musicians: the actors Alan Rickman, Brian Bedford and Dan Haggerty; Glenn Frey of the Eagles; Dale Griffin of Mott the Hoople; the incomparable Otis Clay. And that's an incomplete list.

  • Steppenwolf plans new bar, cafe and theater on Halsted

    January 21, 2016

    Celebrity spotters and hungry actors have reason to rejoice. Steppenwolf Theatre said Thursday that it plans to open a new cafe and bar, developed in collaboration with the Boka Restaurant Group and located directly north of its famous mainstage theater in Lincoln Park.

  • Review: In 'Animals Out of Paper,' folding an origami artist into a romantic triangle

    January 20, 2016

    As a lousy folder myself, I've always been in awe of origami, the ancient, fiendishly complex, Japanese art form that can make a paper crane to remember, and that also, in the right hands, can be used to demonstrate the proof of geometrical constructions.

  • The Den, a theater of hits

    January 20, 2016

    The year 2015 was not the easiest for Ryan Martin, the developer and operator of the Den Theatre, the Wicker Park arts venue that's playing an increasingly critical role in Chicago's off-Loop theater scene.

  • Bette Midler to star on Broadway in 'Hello Dolly'

    January 19, 2016

    Bette Midler, one of the biggest names and personalities in the entertainment business, will star in a new Broadway revival of the beloved Jerry Herman musical "Hello Dolly," it was announced Tuesday.

  • Review: 'Mad Men,' meet the women of 'London Wall'

    January 18, 2016

    There's no Don Draper, but meet the Mad Women of "London Wall." You're forgiven for never having heard of the latter drama. For one thing, it was written in 1931. For another, its author, John Van Druten, is not exactly Matthew Weiner when it comes to fame. Van Druten, a mostly forgotten mid-century Anglo-American scribe, died in 1957, when he was only 56. You might recall "I Remember Mama" (wherein Marlon Brando made his Broadway debut). And Van Druten was the guy who wrote the play "I Am a Camera," which became the basis for "Cabaret." But Van Druten never was a household name.

  • Not your father's Marriott Theatre for 'Spring Awakening'

    January 17, 2016

    As if in the proto-punk fever dreams of the youth of Frank Wedekind's "Spring Awakening," the musicians of the Marriott Theatre finally have been sprung from their glass-enclosed box. Like fliers who've reached 30,000 feet, they're now free to move about the theater.

  • Louis Armstrong takes a hard look at himself in intriguing 'Satchmo'

    January 17, 2016

    In 1922, Louis Armstrong rode the train of talent up from New Orleans to Chicago, hoping to give up his Crescent City day job and blow his horn full time in the wind.

  • In Dan LeFranc's new play, Orange County bruises easily

    January 15, 2016

    The last major new work from Dan LeFranc that was cooked up in Chicago, "The Big Meal," was a gorgeous, heart-wrenching drama and one of the best plays to premiere here in recent years. But if "The Big Meal" was a banquet of truth, LeFranc's halting latest, "Bruise Easy," also premiering at the American Theater Company, needs a lot more surgery, and a consistent style.

  • The remarkable Lois Weisberg: Famous as a connector, but really a producer

    January 14, 2016

    "She's a grandmother, she lives in a big house in Chicago, and you've never heard of her. Does she run the world?"

  • At the Marriott, 'Spring Awakening' is risky business

    January 13, 2016

    On Saturday, the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire is opening "Spring Awakening."

  • 'Byhalia, Mississippi' is a story of love, class, race and family

    January 12, 2016

    Evan Linder, one of the Chicago theater's most prodigious talents, has achieved a great deal: He is the co-artistic director of the New Colony, a busy actor and a satiric storefront scribe with a penchant for conceptual populism. His 2009 show, "Frat," was an amusing deconstruction of frat-boy excess and his "5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche" enjoyed tasty New York reviews and a decent off-Broadway run.

  • 'No Wake': Play about grief is lacking emotional oomph

    January 11, 2016

    At one point in "No Wake," an intense, three-character drama about a divorced couple dealing with the death of the estranged child they failed to understand, one of the parents wonders aloud how she came to raise a young woman who could so despise her own mother.

  • David Bowie was theatrical in the beginning — and to the end

    January 11, 2016

    When I reviewed "Lazarus," the new David Bowie musical at the New York Theatre Workshop, we ran the headline "Space Oddity" on the report about what turned out to be one of the great man's final creative acts.

  • Truth and Chicago's reconciliation: It's up to you, artists

    January 7, 2016

    What can Chicago's arts and cultural leaders — and the city's huge creative community at large — do to alleviate the soul-deadening depression that settled over the city at the end of last year and hangs here like a persistent lakefront fog?

  • What's ahead for Chicago theater in 2016?

    January 7, 2016

    Let's look ahead to what's likely to be going on in the business-that-is-show, here in the Middle West.

  • Winter theater preview 2016: Major tours and world premieres

    December 31, 2015

    The first half of 2016 promises an abundance of theatrical riches in Chicago. Shakespeare400, the citywide celebration of all things Shakespeare, gets under way. Several notable tours wend their way through Chicago, and, in most cases, you'll have to move fast. The major regional houses are staging several epic works, including the latest from Robert Falls. And Chicago's pulse, the city's storefront theaters, offer numerous Chicago, American and world premieres of new dramas from around the world.

  • 'Gotta Dance' has legs to succeed on Broadway, but only if the seniors sweat

    December 29, 2015

    Few Broadway shows have showcased dancers eligible for Medicare. Even fewer have called out the lie — the pervasive, soul-sucking, long-lived lie — that a professional dancer is all washed up at 30, relegated to coaching or teaching even though their bodies remain trim, flexible and far more nuanced and interesting with age.

  • The 2015 Chicago theater year that was

    December 29, 2015

    In 2015 ...

  • These 'Dynamite Divas' really boom, but story is a bust

    December 27, 2015

    The divas still are dynamite at the Black Ensemble Theater, but they need to be allowed to run the show.

  • Bad publicity aside, Redmoon deserves a fond farewell

    December 23, 2015

    Martin Sheen was there. So was Gov. Pat Quinn, posing for pictures with some guy from "Chicago Fire." Mayor Rahm Emanuel was floating around on a higher level.

  • Chicagoan of the Year in Theater: William Pullinsi of Theatre at the Center

    December 23, 2015

    This year's Chicagoan of the year for theater could have been the Chicagoan of the year in theater, or for dining, of any number of years.

  • Venerable Redmoon Theater is shutting down

    December 21, 2015

    Redmoon, an unusual performance company specializing in public theatrical spectacles and a part of Chicago's cultural fabric for 25 years, is going out of business, effective immediately.

  • It's sad Chicago is afraid of giant street puppets

    December 17, 2015

    In the summer of 2014, an ordinary young boy from Liverpool, England, decided he'd finally seen something bigger than the Beatles.

  • Our picks for the Top 10 great performances of the year

    December 16, 2015

    The Chicago actor — dedicated, trained, poorly compensated, ensemble-minded, unconcerned with celebrity — is one of this city's most overlooked assets. Here, in an end-of-year celebration of practitioners of the art, are 10 great performances (in alphabetical order) of 2015.

  • 'My Way' is Theo Ubique's tribute to Sinatra

    December 15, 2015

    Last Saturday night would have been the 100th birthday of the Chairman of the Board.

  • Review: 'Baritones Unbound' is an evening with the opera dudes at the Royal George

    December 14, 2015

    Here is what is on offer for your holiday pleasure at the Royal George Theatre: a trio of attractive men of a certain age, each with a formidable voice and a great deal of self-deprecating charm, warbling their way through a truly eclectic musical repertoire, ranging from Mozart to Frank, Verdi to Bing and Gregorian chants to Elvis.

  • Review: 'Domesticated' at Steppenwolf about a politician and a sex scandal

    December 13, 2015

    A public official stands at a podium, his steely-faced wife by his side. You can see that he is angry, feeling forced into this situation. He speaks into the microphones. He says that he'll be stepping down and signing a letter of resignation, for the public good. But, demonstrably, this alpha-male type (nickname: The Pulverizer) is having trouble demonstrating humility. He thinks it's all ridiculous. He sees himself as the victim of the political agendas of others.

  • Review: 'Twist Your Dickens' needs a few fresh twists

    December 11, 2015

    So you can "Twist Your Dickens" once for fun and profit. But can you scratch your Cratchit a second time? Tricky, that, tricky.

  • Theater Top 10 for 2015: The best on Chicago stages

    December 11, 2015

    "Mr. Burns" offered an intellectual thrill inspired by Bart Simpson. A Tupperware musical could not contain itself. A "Godot" arrived. No question there was a "Doubt." "Twisted Melodies" played all year. I think I caught a "Big Fish." And I seem to recall some show about graffiti ...

  • Our Top 10 Broadway shows of 2015

    December 11, 2015

    What was the best show on Broadway in 2015? If you judge these things by emotional impact, and the matching of form to theme, and good, old-fashioned artistic guts laid out right there before you, the answer has to be not Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton," but "Fun Home,"  the quieter but deeply satisfying musical based on the life and work of cartoonist Alison Bechdel.

  • Broadway's dazzling 'Color Purple' stars Jennifer Hudson amid a trio of strong women

    December 10, 2015

    When Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" was turned into a Steven Spielberg movie in 1985, Celie, Sofia and Shug Avery all became household names. But the conversation intimacy and sugar-and-spice complexity of Walker's masterpiece was lost amid the purple-hewed Technicolor vistas. When "The Color Purple" became a musical, which I first reviewed in Atlanta in summer 2004 and have seen four times since, a brassy, populist piece of emotional theatricality emerged with Oprah Winfrey on the roster of producers.

  • Consider yourself warned: 'Heir Apparent' is a farce

    December 9, 2015

    The new, old comedy at Chicago Shakespeare Theater begins with a flatulent grandfather clock — who knew? — and proceeds directly from there to the loud squawk of an unseen 18th-century Frenchman surprised by the contents of a chamber pot being emptied on his noggin as he walks down the street. All class, there on Navy Pier.

  • Can I get cheap tickets to 'Hamilton'? All your FAQs about the upcoming Chicago production.

    December 9, 2015

    "Hamilton," the Broadway musical written and composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is launching its first national tour in Chicago, it was announced this week. The show is about the first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and was inspired by the 2004 biography by historian Ron Chernow. It will begin an extended run at the PrivateBank Theatre, formerly the Bank of America Theatre, on Sept. 27. You have questions? We answer them here.

  • Space oddity: 'Lazarus' is Bowie at New York Theater Workshop

    December 7, 2015

    Few shows have sold out their entire run as quickly — it took only minutes. Even fewer have been mounted with such secrecy — meaningful advance information about the script, the characters or the list of songs was almost impossible to squeeze out of the New York Theatre Workshop, under pressure or otherwise. The director, Ivo van Hove, said little. The co-bookwriter, Enda Walsh, less. And the songwriter and co-book writer? The 68-year-old David Robert Jones, otherwise known as David Bowie, was never found to say anything public at all.

  • 'School of Rock' on Broadway: The kids are better than all right

    December 6, 2015

    The third in a savvy trifecta of separate but strikingly similar, mostly British musicals, all about empowering creative kids and their unconventional teachers — and, in the words of the pedagogical prophet Dewey Finn, "stickin' it" to clueless adult authority figures — "School of Rock" derives many lessons from "Billy Elliot" and "Matilda." Mostly written by baby boomers with scars from the remnants of the repressive educational systems that prevailed at least through the 1980s, these avenging shows all feature adults who don't believe in them, just as we suffered through adults who did not believe in us.

  • 'The Lion King': Broadway smash hit keeps rolling along

    December 6, 2015

    It now has been 18 years since Julie Taymor's "The Lion King" bowed on Broadway, and the tour that officially opened at the Cadillac Palace Theatre Friday has been carting giraffes on stilts everywhere from Anchorage to Albuquerque for a whopping 13 years. Feeling old?

  • Al Pacino in a David Mamet trainwreck

    December 4, 2015

    What are we to make of these bizarre later Broadway endeavors by the man from Chicago who wrote some of the greatest dramas of the 20th century? Are they soupcons? Digressions or meditations yet to be understood? Anarchistic jabs of defiance at the hyper-liberal, perpetually self-examining theatrical establishment with its committees, action groups and abiding impotence? Neocon jokes by about the only right-of-center scribe in the universe? A desire for more checks made out to David Mamet?

  • 'Gotta Dance': Who decided a group of seniors had to dance hip-hop?

    December 4, 2015

    It's a cold fall morning at New 42nd Street Studios, the maternity ward for most new Broadway musicals. Choreographer Nick Kenkel is standing facing a mirror, leading a crucial warmup. "Juniors!" he shouts.

  • 'Beautiful — Carole King Musical' is still lovely on tour

    December 3, 2015

    If you're playing Carole King in a jukebox show titled "Beautiful — The Carole King Musical," you have to deal with being compared to one of the most beloved singer-songwriters in American musical history. But Abby Mueller, the star of the new first national tour of that unexpectedly robust 2014 Broadway hit, a show that's mostly about King's first marriage and early songwriting prowess in the late 1950s and early 1960s, had to face down a second challenge at the Oriental Theatre on Wednesday night.

  • Review: 'Fool Me Twice, Deja Vu' is Second City like you haven't seen it before

    December 2, 2015

    Gone are the handsome Stephen Colbert wannabes in their crisp shirts and ties. Retired are the camera-ready, studiously neutral Jon Stewart acolytes, all prepumped up for fake news or weekend updates. And as for the kind of unhinged character work associated with Scott Adsit and Rachel Dratch?

  • 'Baritones Unbound' and talking a good game at the Royal George

    December 2, 2015

    Like the Internal Revenue Service, Brussels sprouts, synchronized swimmers and Rodney Dangerfield, baritones get no respect.

  • In Noel Coward's 'Fallen Angels,' loving a Frenchman

    December 1, 2015

    Within every British male breast beats a feverish insecurity concerning the French — especially when it comes to matters of pleasing women in matters of love.

  • Carole King opens up about 'Beautiful' — and the Muellers

    December 1, 2015

    On Tuesday night, the first national tour of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" arrives in Chicago for a 12-week engagement at the Oriental Theatre. In the title role will be Abby Mueller, older sister of Jessie Mueller, who won a 2014 Tony Award for playing King in this biographical treatment of her life and work. The Muellers grew up in Evanston.

  • Review: 'Christmas Story the Musical' laughs and loves in Aurora

    November 30, 2015

    A metallic flagpole has been set up in the lobby of the Paramount Theatre in Aurora and at Sunday night's opening of "A Christmas Story — The Musical" it was quite the magnet for tongues.

  • David Arquette as 'Sherlock Holmes': Elementary and worse

    November 27, 2015

    At the end of the new touring production of "Sherlock Holmes," at the Oriental Theatre for Thanksgiving week, that great breathy saxophone solo from the late Gerry Rafferty's 1978 hit "Baker Street" emerges from the loudspeakers — ra da da da d-a-a-arrr! This is, by far, the highlight of the night.

  • Chicago fallout from 'Chi-Raq' and the Laquan McDonald video

    November 25, 2015

    Three days after the Chicago premiere of Spike Lee's much-discussed movie "Chi-Raq," a provocatively titled but strikingly hopeful film about the scourge of gun deaths in Chicago, a Cook County judge brought about the release of a devastating video wherein one of the young African-American men whom Lee clearly was hoping to reach with his film was shot many times by a Chicago police officer.

  • David Ives talks 'Heir Apparent' — and Stephen Sondheim

    November 25, 2015

    Theater icon Stephen Sondheim was given the Carl Sandburg Literary Award on Oct. 21 by the Chicago Public Library Foundation. Sondheim was interviewed on stage by Scott Simon of National Public Radio and, predictably enough, the question came up as to what Sondheim was working on at present.

  • Review: She's 32, he's 15? 'No More Sad Things' will still make you smile

    November 23, 2015

    "No More Sad Things," the world premiere at the Richard Christiansen Theater at the Biograph, is about a holiday romance on Maui — a kind of Pacific version of "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" except that Stella is a 32-year-old woman named Jessiee from Akron, Ohio, and her collaborator in rejuvenation is a very attractive cliff-diver named Kahekili who just happens to be 15 years old.

  • Review: Break out the crash cart for flailing comedy 'Angina Pectoris'

    November 22, 2015

    Attending a satirical show named after the term for chest pain often deriving from coronary artery disease was perhaps a foolhardy way to spend a Saturday night, but the title alone of "Angina Pectoris" was insufficient warning for one of the worst shows I've seen in a good long while.

  • Review: 'Long Christmas Ride Home' the saddest holiday show in town

    November 20, 2015

    The saddest holiday show in Chicago is to be found at the Strawdog Theatre in Chicago, where a new production this year of Paula Vogel's "The Long Christmas Ride Home" offers the apt reminder that, for many people, the holidays are the most difficult of all times of the year.

  • David Arquette puts new spin on 'Sherlock Holmes'

    November 18, 2015

    Put this question in your Thanksgiving trivia contest: Which character from popular English-language literature has been played by more stage and screen actors than any other?

  • Review: Joys of eccentricity in 'You Can't Take It With You'

    November 17, 2015

    A lust for the abiding pleasures of non-conformity — otherwise known as embracing la vie boheme, telling the boss to stuff it, or moving to Portland, Ore., — beat inside many a fevered breast in 2015, even in Skokie, as surely as it did in 1936. That's the year master farceurs George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart introduced Broadway to the Sycamores, a big extended family of cheery snake-charmers, fireworks enthusiasts, musicians, artistes, chefs and free thinkers who eschewed the presumed misery of being part of America during the Great Depression — and who now are reborn on the Northlight Theatre stage under the direction of Devon de Mayo.

  • 'Pocatello': The issues of America play out in an Idaho chain restaurant

    November 17, 2015

    Samuel D. Hunter's beautiful new drama "Pocatello" is set in a very small town in Idaho where there are no paternalistic newspaper editors nor empathetic doctors, nor even an intimidating schoolteacher or two, to keep an eye on the town's struggling youth.

  • An inward-looking 'Agamemnon' at Court Theatre

    November 16, 2015

    Sophocles specialized in tense but humanistic dramas of passionate individuals trapped in impossible paradoxes. Euripides was a maverick and an iconoclast who loved upending his audience's mythic expectations. But Aeschylus, the first of the great tragic writers of ancient Greece, was the George Lucas of his day — a writer who embraced the thunderous and the epic; loved sequels, prequels and trilogies; and insisted that any given story of human struggle be understood in the fullness of chronology, ideally from the first sin of an ancestor to the final day of judgment.

  • 'Fulfillment': Graphic staged sex and edgy issues

    November 16, 2015

    There is more explicit sex in director Ethan McSweeny's American Theater Company production of Thomas Bradshaw's "Fulfillment" than any show you're likely to have seen. Unless, that is, you frequent locations outside the usual purview of this publication or seek out voyeur-oriented entertainment of a less serious nature than the latest in Bradshaw's highly provocative series of dramas about the perils of intimacy; the complexity of being an African-American in the allegedly modern, allegedly enlightened world; and the ubiquity of self-loathing, loneliness and desperation among affluent, amply educated urban professionals.

  • Laurie Metcalf, stuck in 'Misery' with Bruce Willis

    November 16, 2015

    In Stephen King's "Misery," a writer wakes from a serious car accident to find himself recovering in the spare bedroom of his self-nominated Number One Fan. Whether in the 1987 novel, the 1990 film starring James Caan and Kathy Bates or, as opened Sunday night, the Broadway play adapted by William Goldman from his own screenplay and starring Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf, the thought progression of the writer, Paul Sheldon, goes something like this:

  • 'Never the Sinner' puts ice-cold killers under the microscope

    November 15, 2015

    John Logan's carefully researched and clinically penned 1985 play "Never the Sinner," now the subject of a skillful new production at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre directed by Gary Griffin, was the breakthrough work for a singularly successful writer who would, over the next two decades, move on from the genteel Chicago murderers known as Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb to probe a plethora of other disturbing monsters.

  • Moderators of GOP debates vs. journalists in 'Spotlight'

    November 13, 2015

    In the recent Republican presidential debates, the moderators have made as much news as the candidates. During the notorious CNBC extravaganza of Oct. 28, the candidates were so furious with the moderators' questions that a jaw-dropping mix of anger and anarchy prevailed.

  • 'View From the Bridge' on Broadway: Seeing every side of the story

    November 12, 2015

    NEW YORK — The white-hot director Ivo van Hove is not the first to embrace the passionate smolder behind Arthur Miller's 1955 play of forbidden passion in Italian-American Brooklyn, or to realize that none of the clutter and clatter of the well-made play are needed to peel back the fused feelings of parental protection and raw lust that wrack the aging bones of longshoreman Eddie Carbone. There have been two operatic tellings of the tragic fate of Eddie and his loving niece, Catherine, one of which premiered in 1999 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

  • Which holiday shows are your best best? 'Lion King'? 'Christmas Carol'?

    November 12, 2015

    The Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which opens the Bruce Norris play "Domesticated" on Dec. 13, is the Chicago theatrical equivalent of REI, which enjoyed all kinds of publicity after declaring its stores will be closed on Black Friday.

  • Patti LuPone, Christine Ebersole in new musical at Goodman

    November 12, 2015

    Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, two of Broadway's most acclaimed divas, will come to Chicago's Goodman Theatre in June to star in a new, likely Broadway-bound musical about the famous rivalry of two giants in the cutthroat world of cosmetics: Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden.

  • Shakespeare 400 arts festival will turn Chicago into the world's stage

    November 12, 2015

    In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, Chicago will host a huge interdisciplinary arts festival in 2016, dubbed "Shakespeare 400." Led by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the extravaganza will encompass more than 60 local and about a dozen international cultural organizations and entrepreneurs, ranging from the Royal Shakespeare Company of Stratford-upon-Avon to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Shanghai Peking Opera to the Joffrey Ballet, and from the Pushkin Theatre of Moscow to celebrity chefs and restaurateurs like Rick Bayless and Alpana Singh.

  • 'The Raid': Story of abolitionist John Brown's fight needs more immediacy

    November 11, 2015

    Few of us would crave a memorial song that begins with an image of our body "a-mouldering in the grave," but that was the fate of abolitionist John Brown in the prelude to the Civil War, whose corpse and soul became the subject of a march especially popular with the Union army, and, for generations thereafter, with schoolkids all over the world.

  • Review: Elephant stars of 'Greatest Show on Earth' getting honorable exit

    November 10, 2015

    Earlier this year, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced it would be retiring the stars of its show — part of the circus for an astonishing 145 years — the Asian elephants. Ringling has said the elephants will be gone by 2018, and since its arena tours generally last two years or so, that suggests that the beasts who've toured the world for a lifetime will be seen just once, or maybe twice, more during the "Greatest Show on Earth's" annual autumnal stands in Rosemont and Chicago.

  • 'Pilgrim's Progress': Michael Shannon carves up new Thanksgiving comedy

    November 9, 2015

    Tanned, twitchy and with a huge pair of glasses attached to his oversized skull as he stirs his cranberry sauce, Michael Shannon on the stage of A Red Orchid Theatre looks nothing so much like a warped vision of David Letterman, home for the holidays for good.

  • 'Allegiance' on Broadway is inspired by life of George Takei

    November 8, 2015

    NEW YORK - George Takei is widely beloved for his role as Hikaru Sulu on "Star Trek." Now 78 years old, his eyes still pulsing with life and charm, the veteran actor is at center stage of "Allegiance," a new Broadway musical inspired, in part, by Takei's own emblematic experience of being taken from his home in Los Angeles and incarcerated with his family in one of the Japanese internment camps that prospered after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Some 120,000 Japanese-Americans were similarly "evacuated." American citizenship was no barrier to such treatment.

  • 'White Christmas': Just like the one you used to know

    November 8, 2015

    In "Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin," currently at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago, it is noted that Berlin wrote the song "White Christmas" while lounging, drink in hand, around the pool of a California hotel, dreaming of snow in the way that you do until you actually have to touch the cursed stuff. Each Chicago winter I find my sentiments more in line with the oft-dropped introductory verse: "The sun is shining, the grass is green, the orange and palm trees sway." Sign me up for some of what Mr. Berlin was drinking, and good luck to y'all with that Toro SnowMaster 724.

  • Harlan Haimes, ardent theater supporter, is dead at 69

    November 7, 2015

    Harlan W. Haimes, a periodontist in Northbrook for 40 years, a past president of the Illinois Society of Periodontists, and with his wife Susan, an indefatigable supporter of Chicago-area theater, died Saturday morning in his Highland Park home after a multi-year battle with cancer. He was 69.

  • 'On Your Feet!' is Gloria Estefan's joyous Broadway moment

    November 5, 2015

    Very few recording artists have sold 100 million records, achieved a truly global level of fame, created their own crossover sound in ballad and dance tracks, and managed to subvert the music industry's notorious insistence on market segregation. Of that group, Gloria Estefan is perhaps the only one who can honestly say that she is married to her first and only boyfriend.

  • What happens when Queen Elizabeth dies? 'King Charles III' asks the question

    November 5, 2015

    The queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and head of the Commonwealth, is 89 years old. So what happens — beyond changing the image on the currency and the verbiage in passports — when she dies?

  • Irving Berlin tunes bring back wealth of musical memories

    November 4, 2015

    A patriot and a populist, Irving Berlin liked to say he wrote for the people. And did he ever write. Over some 60 years, Berlin wrote a whopping 1,500 musical numbers. These songs were penned for stage musicals, revues, movies, publishers, television, vaudevillians, tavern owners, family members, war efforts (note the plural; he lived that long), branches of government, kids, the living and the dead.

  • Our Robert Falls top 12 for his Hall of Fame induction

    November 4, 2015

    On Nov. 16 at the Gershwin Theatre in New York, Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls will be inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.

  • 'Chapter Two': Neil Simon knew the comedy of late-in-life dating

    November 3, 2015

    The Windy City Playhouse has been waiting for a date with Neil Simon.  Since its founding a year or so ago, this theater in Chicago's Irving Park neighborhood has wanted to offer a different kind of theatrical experience: one with comfy armchairs, signature cocktails and upscale bar snacks and, most important, a welcoming atmosphere for folks who prefer a nice date-night out in the neighborhood to some bizarre and alienating performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Ergo, you need the right kind of play. And "Chapter Two," one of Simon's best works and a comedy about second-time-around dating in middle age, fits that bill very well.

  • 'Elf' opens holiday theatrical assault

    November 2, 2015

    Christmas 2015 arrived for me with a jolt, one day after Halloween, in the shape of Roger Mueller. As the actor and patriarch of a stable of musical theater stars barreled into the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire on a tricked-out golf cart in the guise of Santa Claus — despite it being close to 70 degrees outside — well, let's just say I could feel the turning, turning of the years. Buddy the Elf is here for your holiday pleasure, good people of the suburbs, ready or not!

  • New play 'Spill' explores aftermath of BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill

    November 1, 2015

    In 2010, BP's massive Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and burned off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers and causing the biggest offshore oil spill in history. For 87 days, until the well finally was capped, millions of gallons of environmentally damaging oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. President Barack Obama called the incident "the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced." BP and its partners were blamed for cutting corners when it came to safety, and the company eventually pleaded guilty to numerous criminal charges in a huge settlement deal with the U.S. Department of Justice. BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, was widely criticized for seeming out of touch, and was ridiculed for an injudicious remark that included the unfortunate line, from one who lived far from Louisiana: "I want my life back."

  • In power-mad entertainment biz, Twitter followers are everything

    October 30, 2015

    "Love Love Loved @HamiltonMusical" tweeted the punctuation-free @AmySchumer very early Thursday morning, attaching a photo of herself in a very nice orchestra seat at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway, clutching a Playbill.

  • Keira Knightley, alone in her Broadway spotlight in 'Therese Raquin'

    October 29, 2015

    NEW YORK — So why have an affair? How about if you're Keira Knightley? The very capable British screen actress — as at home in "Pride and Prejudice" as in "Pirates of the Caribbean" — has the chance to explore that question with paparazzi-free impunity by playing the title role in the Roundabout Theatre Company's new production of Emile Zola's "Therese Raquin," which opened Thursday night on Broadway under the direction of Evan Cabnet, and on a spectacular set from the redoubtable Beowulf Boritt that is at once expressionistic, operatic and aquatic.

  • 'Marjorie Prime': Can a robot replace your spouse?

    October 29, 2015

    Imagine: An elderly widow, suffering the onset of dementia, has access to a digital, three-dimensional version of her late husband, available at any age of his life. How about when he was 30 years old and still fun? Beats interacting with the strangers in the nursing home, wouldn't you say?

  • 'Grease' creator comes to American Theater Co.'s rescue

    October 29, 2015

    This weekend in New York, producer Scott Rudin told me he watched the Roundabout Theater Company's production of Stephen Karam's "The Humans," a play he first had read after its premiere at the American Theater Company in Chicago, through a haze of tears. Somewhere before the end, Rudin decided the play deserved to be on Broadway. Being in a position to make such things happen, he made it happen. The deal was done in about four days. "The Humans," an exquisite piece set on an ordinary Thanksgiving and probing the fears of a struggling, earnest American family, will hit Broadway sometime this spring.

  • Doctor, daughter and hurricane: Who owns this story?

    October 28, 2015

    Lots of playwrights write about their dads. Most of them just don't have the guts to stick it right there in the title.

  • Matthew Broderick, in bizarre mode, stars in 'Sylvia' on Broadway

    October 27, 2015

    NEW YORK — At one point in "Sylvia," the A.R. Gurney off-Broadway comedy from 1995 now sitting down on Broadway, the titular pooch walks out on the stage, having just being spayed.

  • A ceramic rabbit brings out the humanity in all

    October 25, 2015

    The hero of "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" is a rabbit made out of china. Merely moments into the Chicago Children's Theatre's fall production, directed by Stuart Carden, my unprompted 10-year-old son, a big fan of the source novel by Kate DiCamillo, mouthed into my ear the mother of all spoilers.

  • Kristin Chenoweth, large as life, hits town Saturday

    October 23, 2015

    The Broadway star  and recent Tony Awards co-host  Kristin Chenoweth  brings her concert show to the Chicago Theatre on Saturday night.

  • Nice move, O Tannenbaum: Chicago's Christmas tree heads to Millennium Park

    October 22, 2015

    Chicago's official Christmas tree will move from Daley Plaza in the Loop, its familiar home for close to 50 years, to a new spot in Millennium Park, the Tribune reported Wednesday. The city had sought to downplay the geographic significance of the move by focusing on a call for nominations for this year's fortunate (or maybe not so fortunate) woodsy plant. But traditionalists, ever eager for the first counterattack in the annual war on Christmas, still took to the comments section, decrying the tree's unexpected voyage east, leaving both the Picasso sculpture and the Christkindlmarket to hold down the seasonal fort on the cold concrete of Daley Plaza, now sans towering Tannenbaum.

  • Why Chicago needs fun, long-running shows

    October 22, 2015

    After nearly eight years, one of the great recent success stories of the Chicago theater is closing: "Million Dollar Quartet" has announced its plans to shutter Jan. 17. Its central accomplishment was entertaining hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans and, crucially, free-spending tourists and suburbanites. But although Rob Kolson, the owner of the Apollo, questions my assertion, there's no doubt in my mind that the show also saved the Apollo Theater for live performance.

  • 'The Terrible' review: The title says it all

    October 20, 2015

    Alas, "The Terrible" is pretty terrible.

  • New play about LGBTQ youth, based on a real Chicagoan, is utterly charming

    October 19, 2015

    In 2012, Tribune columnist Dawn M. Turner introduced Chicago to Gloria Allen, a 66-year-old transgender Chicagoan, who regularly ate lunch at the Center on Halsted with other senior members of the lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and questioning/queer community. Allen, who is African-American, cast her discriminating and experienced eye upon some of the young people who were frequenting the center and found them lacking in comportment, table manners and etiquette. Thus Allen started teaching a class therein.

  • Lookingglass 'Treasure Island' goes hunting for gold

    October 18, 2015

    "Did you read 'Treasure Island' as a child?" the woman in the seat next to me asked her companion before the Saturday opening of writer-director Mary Zimmerman's new show at the Lookingglass Theatre. "No," was the reply, "but I live across the street from the grocery store."

  • 'Love and Information': Tough to build a relationship between 57 scenes

    October 16, 2015

    Caryl Churchill's "Love and Information," now in its Chicago premiere from the Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, features 125 characters who appear in 57 distinct scenes. None of those scenes have what you'd term a traditional narrative connection and some contain just a few words. You might think of it as short-attention-span theater, though this being a Churchill play, that particular limitation of our technology-encrusted society is being critiqued, not satisfied.

  • So what was Aaron Sorkin really saying about Steve Jobs?

    October 16, 2015

    Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., the subject of the new Danny Boyle movie with a script by Aaron Sorkin, and the man who revolutionized the way we now consume information and construct culture, ran a computer company. But he lacked the temperament and skills of an engineer. In the Jobs universe, engineers were geeks who failed to understand people and their needs.

  • Northlight plans to move back to Evanston

    October 15, 2015

    At the Evanston City Council meeting on Oct. 19, Northlight Theatre is slated to publicly reveal its interest in moving back to Evanston, the city where the theater company was founded by Greg Kandel, Mike Nussbaum and Frank Galati in 1974.

  • At Broadway Playhouse, Richard Pryor is unspeakably unfunny

    October 14, 2015

    Anyone headed to a show about Richard Pryor, one of the funniest comedians of the 20th century, might reasonably expect some laughs. Edgy amusement, sure, since Pryor was known for his profane routines, his racial epithets and the close proximity of comedy and personal pain. But laughs nonetheless. Pryor did not get to be the consummate comic's comic, and a colossal influence on so many that followed him, without splitting a few sides.

  • 'Fun Home,' 'Bullets Over Broadway,' 'Finding Neverland' all headed to Chicago

    October 13, 2015

    The first national tour of the critically acclaimed and Tony Award-winning musical, "Fun Home," is to play Chicago, the presenter and landlord Broadway in Chicago announced on Tuesday.

  • 'Good for Otto': David Rabe takes on mental illness in a big way

    October 11, 2015

    After every school shooting, two debates rage. One involves gun control. The other concerns mental health, since we widely assume that to walk into a room of unarmed people and shoot them is to be ill. Demonstrably, there is significant opposition to gun control. But few Americans — on ether side of that fight — think that the nation does a good job when it comes to treating the nation's ailments of the mind. On this — sometimes only this, it seems — we can all agree.

  • Tale about lives of busboys in 'My Manana Comes' needs to pick up the pace

    October 9, 2015

    At the top of Elizabeth Irwin's "My Manana Comes," a couple of battle-scarred busboys are decompressing after a busy shift in a posh Manhattan eatery. Their mutually congratulatory war stories — if you wanted bread, you got bread in seconds and not even a fork hit the floor — are no different, really, from what you might hear from two journalists at the Billy Goat Tavern after a tip paid off, or a pair of lawyers at the Chicago Cut Steakhouse after a long-sought conviction, or a group of private equity partners who made the right kill.

  • If Broadway saved New York, what about Chicago?

    October 9, 2015

    Did Broadway save a bankrupt city of New York? Such a case is credibly made by New York Post columnist Michael Riedel in his fascinating new book, "Razzle Dazzle," published this week by Simon & Schuster. Riedel focuses in on the year 1975 when the city's credit rating sunk after the discovery of a huge (and previously obscured) deficit. By that October, Riedel reports, New York had $34 million in the bank and $477 million in obligations to cover. Sanitation workers were on strike; garbage was strewn in streets widely seen as unsafe; furious firefighters may or may not have been on call.

  • 'Ride the Cyclone' is a hit, lovable dead teens and all

    October 8, 2015

    Imagine the characters from "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee." Or, if you prefer television, "Glee." Now imagine them all dead.

  • What is 'Unspeakable' about Richard Pryor?

    October 7, 2015

    Visiting a class at Northwestern University the other day, I met a doctoral student, Eleanor Russell, whose research deals with stand-up comedians of the mid-20th century. As Russell explained it to me, audiences developed very intimate relationships with comedians whose routines were recorded on vinyl. You'd sit in your living room, maybe darken the lights, play the recording and it would be as if you were in a Las Vegas showroom, right there with the comic. You'd sit and listen to the full set.

  • For a pair of couples in crisis, 'Cheats' is a slow burn

    October 7, 2015

    If you have ever been awoken by a fight in a neighboring apartment — or found yourself watching shadows in windows across the street — you might have sympathy for the genesis of "The Cheats," the new play at the Steep Theatre Company, penned by the New York-based Hamish Linklater. The writer has said he was spying on his neighbors when the idea for the play entered his head. The resulting drama, now in its world premiere on Berwyn Avenue under the direction of Joanie Schultz, is partly about the pleasures and limitations of voyeurism, partly about marital infidelity, but mostly about living in close proximity to the most intimate moments experienced by other couples.

  • Drama for dweebs: 'Watson Intelligence' is a really smart play

    October 6, 2015

    Theater Wit needs to hang out a new shingle on Belmont Avenue: Theater for nerds.

  • The story of Roger Ebert through the prism of his wife, Chaz

    October 5, 2015

    Is it legitimate to tell a story of Roger Ebert — the late, great film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, the formidably intellectual populist and the way-ahead-of-the-curve adopter of social media and the personal brand — entirely through the prism of his loving wife, Chaz?

  • 'Marvin's Room' still a beautiful thing to behold

    October 4, 2015

    Scott McPherson's "Marvin's Room," now in a fine production from the Shattered Globe Theatre that includes the Tony award-winning actress Deanna Dunagan, is a comedy about so many of life's great sadnesses: estranged families, dementia, aging, ill health, regrets, cancer.

  • 'Razzle Dazzle' by Michael Riedel offers enjoyable romp through Broadway

    October 2, 2015

    In 2011, Michael Riedel, the formidably sourced and eternally puckish theater columnist of the New York Post, was charged by his bosses with writing something on the eve of the Tony Awards. For a journalist like Riedel, who styles himself as the Last Great Broadway Columnist Still Standing (the Walter Winchell branch of the fourth estate having fallen on even harder times than their ragged host newspapers), such an assignment must have been torture.

  • Should prestige trump revenue? At the Chicago Symphony? For Amy Schumer?

    October 2, 2015

    On Tuesday, my colleague John von Rhein reported, the board of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and the musicians of that venerable orchestra attended separate meetings but came out with the same conclusion: to ratify a new three-year musicians contract resulting in a 1 percent salary increase in the first year and 2 percent raises the following two years, as well as a more than 4 percent increase in pension benefits. The agreement was achieved — reportedly after prolonged negotiations — with the help of a federal mediator.

  • A will and a way in Tony-winning 'Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder'

    October 1, 2015

    "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" did not come easily to the 2014 Tony Award for best musical — an award without which I doubt you would be reading this review of the opening night performance of the first national tour at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago. For the very persistent producers of this show, it was a struggle not unlike the darkly amusing one waged by the social-climber hero of this picayune musical about not very much at all, really. Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey) has to knock off all the rivals ahead of his own humble self in a familial line of aristocratic succession that leads to the easy life atop the landed British gentry.

  • What you should see now in fall theater: An update

    October 1, 2015

    The 2014 Tony Award-winning musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" opened its national tour in Chicago this week. So in honor of its arrival, and with a nod to the gender-parity imperative, let me offer a gentleperson's guide to the first wave of autumnal theater openings in the Chicago area.

  • 'Blood Brothers': Beautiful songs, not quite now and forever

    September 30, 2015

    I first saw Willy Russell's "Blood Brothers" in London's West End in 1983. I was already a rabid young fan of Russell's work. Plays such as "Educating Rita," "Our Day Out" and "Stags and Hens" not only celebrated working-class creativity and the class-jumping power of education, but they were populist, accessible entertainment that offered a good night out to ordinary people who wouldn't usually be caught dead in the theater. They spoke to me. So did Russell. I went to see him as a student. He was kind and generous with his time.

  • A horror show with 'Teeth' at the Goodman

    September 30, 2015

    Although there is a long and venerable tradition of splatter theater in Chicago's off-Loop theaters, the adjective "horror" has rarely been applied to shows at the Goodman Theatre. Well, not by the Goodman Theatre, anyway.

  • 'Sucker Punch' packs a wallop despite the boxing cliches

    September 29, 2015

    Dexter Bullard, the director of the Chicago premiere of "Sucker Punch" at the Victory Gardens Theater, made his bones working at the intimate, and now defunct, Next Theatre in Evanston, specializing in robust, fast, physicalized dramas, frequently about struggling, working-class characters from Britain. He has long known how to really propel a show into the laps of audiences. And on Friday night, he proved that he can do so even in the more expansive, often-tricky confines of the Victory Gardens Biograph, where shows can feel removed.

  • Auditorium executive director headed to Memphis

    September 28, 2015

    Brett Batterson, the executive director of the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago since 2004, has taken a new job in Memphis.  

  • Comedy | Fall 2015: Top 10 from Lewis Black to John Oliver

    September 28, 2015

    Are you fatigued by mass-produced Facebook clips of the same old late-night shtick? Are you ready for some live laughs? Will you turn off your cellphone? Can you get over the incessant need to document yourself?

  • Steppenwolf's 'East of Eden' adaptation rich in symbolism and substance

    September 27, 2015

    "Two stories have haunted us and followed us from our beginning," wrote John Steinbeck in his 1952 novel "East of Eden," a tempestuous biblical allegory and familial saga set in the Central Valley of California during the first two decades of the 20th century, just before the rise of refrigeration made the Salinas Valley the "Salad Bowl of the World." "We carry them along with us like invisible tails — the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel."

  • Fire Festival: Great flames are a great relief to Redmoon

    September 27, 2015

    First to the burning question: Would Houston have been satisfied?

  • 'Chi-Town Rising'? If only.

    September 24, 2015

    Even before Spike Lee came along with "Chi-raq," the presence of the term "Chi-Town" on a billboard (usually preceded by "Hey") meant one thing: An out-of-towner wrote the copy.

  • Chicago theater back in days of the Great Fire in 'Stagestruck'

    September 24, 2015

    If you're interested in the history of Chicago theater, you'll likely know the formidable collection of documents, programs and other memorabilia at the Harold Washington Library Center, the site of many an exhibit over the years. But you might know less about the holdings of the Newberry Library, where there is a fascinating new exhibit on display, drawing almost entirely from Newberry holdings and celebrating this "Stagestruck City."

  • 'Merchild' is about youth and transgender identity. What would you do?

    September 23, 2015

    Playwright Aline Lathrop gives us much to think about when it comes to youth and transgender identity in "Merchild" at 16th Street Theater.

  • Miss Buncle makes trouble in page-to-stage premiere at Lifeline

    September 22, 2015

    Barbara Buncle, the bespectacled heroine of D.E. Stevenson's 1934 novel "Miss Buncle's Book," lives a gray life as a spinster in a provincial English town. But she can write. And Miss Buncle thus is well-positioned to observe and chronicle the shallowness of her catty neighbors and, in what passed for an act of rebellious self-expression in the home counties before the war, she turns them all into characters in a juicy novel, which she then delivers to a welcoming London publisher.

  • Disgraced: Still no polite excuses for race and politics

    September 21, 2015

    Ayad Akhtar's "Disgraced" — a play that began at the American Theater Company in Chicago, moved to Broadway, snagged a Pulitzer Prize and now has shown up at the Goodman Theatre — is the most produced play in America's professional theaters this season. An HBO adaptation is already underway. The Goodman production, essentially a restaging of the Broadway version by the same director, Kimberly Senior, is headed to two other major regional theaters on the West Coast. If you're an actor in America of South Asian descent, you can be pretty darn sure you'll be auditioning for this play. If you want to work.

  • All about the state of its women in terrific 'Oklahoma'

    September 21, 2015

    At the top of director Jim Corti's gorgeously staged and emotionally sophisticated revival of "Oklahoma" at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora — with an 18-piece orchestra in the pit — the curtain rises on Aunt Eller messing with a saddle and Laurey putting her back, and her plunger, into the serious business of churning butter. Here, that is not the bucolic task it is traditionally staged to be.

  • 'Gem of the Ocean': Wilson's masterpiece rings true today

    September 20, 2015

    For my theater-going generation in Chicago, the plays of August Wilson were experienced mostly in the order that the master wrote 'em. ("Jitney" was an exception). We grew and changed with this wise scribe as his own preoccupations of form and theme grew and changed with us. He even came to town in person to work on them all. But with the news last week that Denzel Washington, who owes Wilson a thing or two, will soon produce for HBO all 10 of Wilson's plays reflecting the African-American experience of the 20th century, it dawned on me that future generations probably will experience these great plays in chronological order.

  • 'Funnyman' visits the dark night of George Wendt's soul

    September 20, 2015

    George Wendt — the much-loved comic actor, former improviser and "Cheers" star, the man saddled for life with an open-for-business sign on the Norm Petting Zoo — goes to some very dark places in "Funnyman," the world-premiere drama at the Northlight Theatre about an old-school comic in 1959 with a wretched family life, a tortured soul, and copious amounts of coiled-up anger at the lousy world. Indeed, I'll venture that some of da Wendt's many Chicago superfans who find their way to Skokie will leave uttering some version of "I didn't know George could do that."

  • Review: You've never seen a 'Tempest' like this

    September 18, 2015

    Infused with a steampunk sensibility, scored with the bluesy songs of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, choreographed by Pilobolus and powered (to re-appropriate a phrase from makers of computer chips) by the world-class magic of Teller, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of "The Tempest" is quite unlike anything ever seen before on Navy Pier.

  • Second City after the fire: Chicago improv comedy institution re-opens

    September 17, 2015

    On Thursday morning, Second City's co-owner and CEO, Andrew Alexander, met me on his charred theater's stoop at 1616 N. Wells St. Second City's mainstage was to re-open that night following a fire that had resulted in, Alexander said, some $9 million in damage and lost business. As we ascended the stairs to the mainstage, as I have for every mainstage show for some 25 years, we passed a re-painted coatroom, green no more. The famous staircase — with its photos of past performers for tourists to poke at and challenge the memory of their dates — was still there, although the frames on the fresh drywall had yet to be refilled with the youthful visages of George Wendt, Tina Fey and Gilda Radner.

  • Review: Conjoined twins' tale is no freak 'Side Show'

    September 16, 2015

    "Come look at the freaks," they sing in "Side Show,"' the 1997 Broadway musical with the cult following and a show inspired by the real-life travails of the conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton — sisters bonded, quite literally, at the hip.

  • Signal Ensemble will close at end of 13th season

    September 16, 2015

    Chicago theater companies tend to make their final exit in one of two very different ways. Some disappear quietly into the night, lingering like ghosts of their former selves. And some  — the smarter ones, usually — decide to go out with pride and dignity.

  • Drama asks: Can we call a truce in the culture wars?

    September 13, 2015

    Some of the arguments made by Kim Davis, the determined Kentucky clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite that being the law of the land, are forcefully articulated in the juicy new play at Rivendell Theatre, Catherine Trieschmann's "How the World Began." Effectively staged in Rivendell's intimate quarters, this is a deftly balanced drama about self-evident American polarization. The play is set inside one of the arenas of most conflict — public education — and asks one of the more salient questions of the political moment: Is there any middle ground to be struck?

  • Review: In 'Jamaica Farewell,' an immigrant's story is never more relevant

    September 11, 2015

    In the early 1970s, Michael Manley, the head of Jamaica's People's National Party and the newly elected Prime Minister of that Caribbean nation, displayed an admiration for, and developed ties with, Cuba's Fidel Castro. This new coziness between the two charismatic leaders did not sit well in Washington, D.C., where Americans hardly relished the prospect of two Soviet-influenced countries in easy striking distance of Florida.

  • Review of 'Peter and the Starcatcher': The pleasures of Pan never grow old

    September 11, 2015

    When the late, great Roger Rees, the original co-director of "Peter and the Starcatcher" on Broadway, turned his attentions to the national tour of that hit Peter Pan prequel, he decided to cast mostly out of Chicago.

  • David Rabe at Gift Theatre: A debut from the bard of Vietnam era

    September 10, 2015

    In the American theater, the Iowa-born playwright David Rabe has turned out to be the great dramatic poet of the Vietnam War era.

  • Theater | Fall 2015: If we have to pick just 10 ...

    September 10, 2015

    Culled from more than a hundred significant openings between now and the winter holidays, here are 10 fall shows that, for one reason or another, promise to be especially interesting.

  • Broadway | Fall 2015: Make way for Lloyd Webber, David Mamet and Gloria Estefan

    September 10, 2015

    Doth the Lord Lloyd Webber need to go back to school? What kind of Tevye will Danny Burstein be? How about Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery? Will Bruce Willis be miserable on a Broadway stage? Has David Mamet really written an actual play for Al Pacino?

  • Talking to Frank Galati about 'East of Eden'

    September 9, 2015

    In theory, Frank Galati is retired. He left his position at Northwestern University in 2006 after some three decades of distinguished teaching and creative work. He left his longtime position as an artistic associate of the Goodman Theatre shortly thereafter. He moved to Florida with his longtime partner, Peter Amster. He finally sold his Chicago condo. Sure, he has continued to work at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, which has been happy to have a locally based director of Galati's repute, and he has since returned to the Steppenwolf Theatre — from which he has not retired — to direct. Nobody expected Galati to disappear. But it felt like he'd chosen a quieter life.

  • Report from Stratford: Much to like, including 'Sound of Music' and a strong dollar

    September 8, 2015

    STRATFORD, Ontario — The last hurdle for the Von Trapp family — before they head over the Alps with Mother Abbess' "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" ringing in their ears — involves an encounter with a flashlight held by the young Nazi Rolf in the garden of Nonnberg Abbey. Dramaturgically, it is the climax of "The Sound of Music."

  • No one walks alone in The Hypocrites' 'American Idiot'

    September 7, 2015

    Behold the first production of Green Day's "American Idiot" with Chicago origins and a storefront soul. Herein, the ambitious and experimental theater company known as The Hypocrites offer up a visceral and impassioned theatrical experience that, in essence, re-casts the narrative of the punk-operatic 2004 album turned genuinely radical 2010 Broadway musical, as a story of the alienated perils of young adulthood.

  • Why theater companies are so valuable for developers

    September 3, 2015

    For decades, artists have moved into troubled neighborhoods, made them more desirable places to live and thus more valuable for developers, and then have been pushed out as rents rise. From Detroit to Logan Square, artists are agents of gentrification, as has been the case at least since the 1980s. But another phenomenon is now observable in the ever-fascinating relationship between artists and real-estate developers: Artists are now being used to make large-scale developments more acceptable to neighborhood advocacy groups, and thus more likely to get done.

  • A 'Les Miz' prequel? Boublil and Schonberg are in town

    September 3, 2015

    You might have heard of "Les Miserables," a musical by a pair of French guys that has played now and again in Chicago and has sold a few tickets. But did you know that before "Les Miserables" there was something called "La Revolution Francaise," a show billed as "the first French rock opera?" And might you be interested in hearing that work by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg, dudes who can write a decent musical number?

  • Did the Chicago mob kill JFK? 'Assassination Theater' says yes

    August 31, 2015

    In some two hours of gripping political theater in downtown Chicago, the investigative journalist Hillel Levin, once the editor of Chicago magazine, lays out his potent dramatic case that President John F. Kennedy was killed not by a lone shooter named Lee Harvey Oswald but by Tony Accardo, Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli, Chuck Nicoletti and a gaggle of other self-protecting Chicago mobsters looking to derail the Kennedy brothers' burgeoning interest in taking down organized crime.

  • 'The SpongeBob Musical,' with tunes by Bowie, Aerosmith, gets Chicago premiere

    August 31, 2015

    With an original score by such incongruous music luminaries as David Bowie, John Legend, Cyndi Lauper, Lady Antebellum, and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, the animated series "SpongeBob SquarePants" is to become a Broadway musical during the 2016-17 season in New York.

  • Murder at 'The Jacksonian.' Is Southern Gothic the killer?

    August 30, 2015

    The Mississippi-raised playwright Beth Henley — best known for penning "Crimes of the Heart" — has as much affection for the label "Southern Gothic" as her fellow scribe Sarah Ruhl does for the adjective "whimsical." Although the former descriptor has a more legitimate claim to an actual literary movement than the latter, they're both potentially condescending catch-alls for singularity or deviance from realism.

  • 'The Price': The emotional cost of selling your old stuff

    August 28, 2015

    If you've ever tried to sell the possessions of a loved one, you've doubtless encountered the popular game of reducing the seller's expectations. One approaches a dealer with an item — a lovely table, perhaps, or a heavy wooden wardrobe — and you get not a price but a groan. "People don't want these anymore," "there's no market," "the condition kills the value." If, say, you're selling stuff with emotional heft and the residue of memory, these encounters can be emotionally devastating. In the midst of one such depressing house clearing, I took to making an advance declaration that I wanted just a price, not a negative opinion on the quality of the stuff. I couldn't take any more. I knew who loved it, and why.

  • From the British seaside, asking, do we need Banksy?

    August 28, 2015

    GREAT YARMOUTH, ENGLAND — To pass a day at a cloudy British seaside resort in the waning days of summer is to embrace melancholy. The resorts themselves — conceived as great Victorian towns of pleasure and repose — have yet to recover from a period of decline that began in the 1970s when cheap European charter flights stole their clientele. Their demise only picked up steam when Walt Disney World in Florida started beckoning the long haul-willing British with the promise of sunny skies, meticulous flower beds and a level of themed customer service that one surely does not find at the roast-beef eateries here on Marine Parade, where a chatty waitress who hears an American accent unleashes her unrequited Florida dreams even as she brings a cheap plate of roast beef, veg and gravy.

  • Mary-Arrchie Theatre is closing after 30 years — why it matters

    August 27, 2015

    The news this week that Rich Cotovsky, one of the great unvarnished characters of the Chicago theater, will be hanging it up at Angel Island after 30 years of the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company deserves some reflection.

  • 'October Sky': Light a fire under these rocket boys

    August 27, 2015

    At one point in "October Sky," the new Marriott Theatre musical based on the biographical 1999 movie about the aerospace engineer Homer H. Hickam, Jr., the principal of Big Creek High School delivers one of those lines that authoritarian antagonists in musicals can be relied upon to spit out with relish. "Rocket scientists," he snarls at a teacher foolish enough to encourage her wide-eyed young charges, "don't come from mining towns."

  • A sad, sexy 'After Miss Julie' to launch the fall season

    August 26, 2015

    August Strindberg's Miss Julie — a posh, sexually adventurous young woman who goes looking for pleasure in the servant's quarters and who causes a plethora of trouble for the help — is among the most notorious seductresses in all of dramatic literature. She's generally played as a siren or an irresistible femme fatale; a bored, slumming rich girl intoxicated by risk and the intersection of power and submission. Most of the Miss Julies you see were born bad news for any and all weak males in their sights, and have so remained through a sexual maturity designed mostly to imperil.

  • TimeLine Theatre closer to new Andersonville home

    August 25, 2015

    TimeLine Theatre Company is a hefty step closer to moving to its own space in the former Trumbull Elementary School in the Chicago neighborhood of Andersonville.

  • This season, the Royal George will be Hershey Felder's living room

    August 19, 2015

    The impresario and performer Hershey Felder is doubling down on his commitment to the Royal George Theatre. He is, of late, the only one who seems to have been able to make the place work. Felder is making a move from tenant to, in essence, artistic director. Ergo, "Hershey Felder Presents," for a whole season.

  • 'October Sky': Rocket musical with a shot at Broadway

    August 13, 2015

    In 2002 at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago, a young actor from Naperville named Chris Herzberger appeared in a bizarre and now-forgotten commercial production of a musical called "Uncle Broadway." I called the show, which featured George M. Cohan rapping with Herzberger's alienated teen, a "dismal pastiche." But there has been nothing whatsoever dismal about Herzberger's subsequent career: he has rocketed his way to becoming a vice president at Universal Studios, charged with mining the formidable back catalog of Universal Pictures for the stage.

  • What happened to Defiant Bros., now reuniting at Second City

    August 13, 2015

    The Defiant Thomas Brothers are coming back. Why is that a big deal? You might well wonder, especially if you weren't in Chicago before 2006. That was the year the sketch comedy team of Paul Thomas and Seth Thomas split up.

  • With 'Kurios,' Cirque is back with 4-star dazzle

    August 7, 2015

    The venerable Cirque du Soleil is in a process of artistic and fiscal reinvention, driven by technological changes and the internal realization that some of its venerably whimsical touches had grown overly familiar. So the striped grand chapiteau from Montreal has been gone from the parking lot of Chicago's United Center for the last four summers.

  • Amy Schumer: All bow to the new supercomic

    August 7, 2015

    To stare at the Jiffy Lube magazine rack the other day was to behold the power and the glory of Amy Schumer, a woman who, as recently as a year ago, could have gone in for a synthetic oil change in total anonymity.

  • 'Hamilton': Hip-hop and Founding Fathers in dazzling Broadway musical

    August 6, 2015

    NEW YORK — Stare at a $10 bill at the Richard Rodgers Theatre — you'll need one for a soda and tip — and you might discern an unusually chirpy expression on the grainy visage of Alexander Hamilton. For the Founding Father never had a friend so loyal and true as Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose audaciously ambitious and supremely executed new musical is surely the most entertaining, provocative and moving civics lesson in Broadway history.

  • Hot New Faces of Chicago Theater: Meet the class of 2015

    August 6, 2015

    Meet the Tribune’s Hot New Faces of the Chicago stage, our Top 10 for 2015. Each summer for the last eight years, we’ve picked a crop of Chicago’s rising stars of the local theater.

  • Missed chances as Mission closes at iO Theater

    August 6, 2015

    Although hardly household names, TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi are revered figures in the world of improvisational comedy. Improvisers' improvisers, they are known in both Chicago and New York for their long-running show "TJ and Dave," a fully improvised performance that moves around from venue to venue and demonstrates the duo's prowess in so-called long-form improv.

  • 'Last Train to Nibroc' is the surprise don't-miss of summer

    August 5, 2015

    The play begins on a cross-country train headed back east in 1940. A young serviceman — recently discharged due to his epilepsy but still wearing his uniform — is chatting up a traveling small-town girl from Kentucky, recently disappointed in love.

  • 'Gotta Bingo' is retro, is it charmingly retro? Debatable

    August 4, 2015

    If someone in lederhosen were to shout at you "Ziggy, Ziggy, Ziggy," would you feel compelled to shout back "Oy, Oy, Oy"? Do you crave the chance to do a conga down Belmont Avenue with a guy dressed as a priest? Do you think to be Italian means to love lukewarm lasagna, and to be Irish means to head for the bar? Are you feeling nostalgic for the Chicken Dance and still remember the moves? And, above all, do you think most live entertainment in Chicago would be improved if only the shows included several games of bingo?

  • Kevin Hart rakes in the cash at the United Center

    July 31, 2015

    In ego-fueled world of stand-up comedy, size matters.  "Chicago, we sold this place out for three shows," the diminutive but blowing-up Kevin Hart crowed from the stage of the United Center around midnight on Thursday, his fans waving back and cheering from the crammed rafters. "You're trying to make me feel tall," said Hart.

  • Acrobats or holograms: What's next for Cirque du Soleil

    July 31, 2015

    Las Vegas has been through many reinventions — the Rat Pack era, the family-friendly moment, the uber-luxe resort era. But the profound, post-recession Vegas reinvention that has gone most unremarked upon to date is not something the Vegas tourist authorities like talking about: It's the revenue-generation reinvention.

  • Review: 'Pippin' still has its circus magic

    July 30, 2015

    "We've got magic to do," says the Leading Player in "Pippin," the eclectic and bizarre musical artifact from 1972 that retains a remarkably special place in the hearts of audiences, including those who were not born, or even conceived, when Ben Vereen first essayed the role with the great choreographer Bob Fosse writhing away at his side.

  • Review: What does it mean to 'Feast' well?

    July 30, 2015

    At one point in "Feast," the moving and provocative show by the Albany Park Theatre Project, a young performer asks the audience a direct question: How many have been to the public aid office?

  • Circus people? Broadway musicals just don't get 'em

    July 29, 2015

    "We move onstage and they say we're not dancers. We speak onstage and they say they we are not actors."  There is no more eloquent defender of the men and women of the circus than Gypsy Snider.

  • Michael Shannon headed back to Broadway

    July 29, 2015

    Michael Shannon, who is appearing at A Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago this fall, is to return to Broadway in the spring.

  • Stupid bird, annoying lives, never boring for a second

    July 28, 2015

    One of the best off-Loop shows of the past season, the Sideshow Theatre Company staging of "Stupid F---ing Bird," has reopened at the Victory Gardens Theater in an expanded commercial production, produced by a romantically named but pseudonymous entity Carlisle Hart, LLC. A spokesman for the company declined to reveal the lead producer's name (it surely was not Kitty), but research showed that company to be controlled by Frances Gecker, a Chicago attorney and board member of the Sideshow Theatre.

  • E.L. Doctorow and Theodore Bikel were guides in the march of time

    July 24, 2015

    In 2012, I asked E.L. Doctorow to describe William Tecumseh Sherman's infamously destructive 1864 trek from Atlanta to Savannah, Ga. Doctorow didn't answer with how Sherman's March to the Sea tore the heart, bodies and will of the Confederacy, or even with the myriad ambiguities and complexities of General Sherman's weird little place in history. Instead, he spoke of the army's march — the topic of his 2005 novel "The March" — as a living, pulsing, collective creature moving through space and time: An "intense organism," as one of his characters notes, "with a very small brain."

  • Gertrude Stein's words put to music in spirited 'Loving Repeating'

    July 22, 2015

    To love is to repeat. Not always, you might argue. But then Gertrude Stein probably would not define what you are talking about as love. And who are any of us to argue with Gertrude Stein?

  • Theodore Bikel, a great Fiddler on the Roof, dies at 91

    July 21, 2015

    Theodore Bikel, the actor and social activist best known as the consummate Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof," has died in Los Angeles at the age of 91. He died well versed in talking to God, having done so on stage during more than 2000 performances as the famous Jewish dairyman of Anatevka, afflicted with both persecution for his faith and daughters with independent ideas. 

  • Cry-worthy 'Beaches' is nearly ready for Broadway

    July 21, 2015

    The new musical "Beaches," which you can currently see at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, deserves a shot on Broadway. I say this not least because I sniffled and blubbered my way through a good portion of Act 2 at a matinee last week.

  • Time travel as a young genius's escape in Steep's U.S. premiere

    July 17, 2015

    Ever since "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" won its Tony Awards, the British playwright Simon Stephens has been a bonafide Broadway name. But before New York even remotely paid attention, Chicago's Steep Theatre was producing Stephens' hard-hitting but compassionate works in its incendiary little studio. Of late, Stephens has been telling every British journalist who will listen that the next big name to watch in UK playwriting is Alistair McDowall. And since Steep and Stephens have each other's ears, that probably explains why you can head over to Berwyn Avenue, see the American premiere of the work an exciting young writer, and have yourself some "Brilliant Adventures."

  • That Al Hirschfeld line, 100 years long

    July 17, 2015

    Al Hirschfeld was the most famous caricaturist in the world. And yet Hirschfeld wasn't really a caricaturist, given that the term implies exaggeration and distortion. Hirschfeld preferred the lines of character. You can see them in his jovial interpretation of the former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, drawn in 1989.

  • In 'Amazing Grace' on Broadway, forgiveness comes too easily

    July 16, 2015

    NEW YORK — The message of "Amazing Grace" — that the most despicable, slave-owning wretch can see the light and the errors of past ways and become a force for reconciliation — is an aspiration devoutly to be wished for, given the deep-seated racial divisions in the union, rolling back to the era of slavery, America's original sin.

  • Sandra Bernhard isn't like you and me

    July 16, 2015

    How does Sandra Bernhard handle people with cellphones, the current scourge of comedians minor and great? "People don't do that at my show," she said dismissively. "My people are very attentive. They are a little more cerebral than you find elsewhere. A little more engaged. That's more of an issue for the next generation of comedians behind me."

  • Raising the roof at BET with some unexpected voices

    July 14, 2015

    Now and again, Black Ensemble Theatre indulges in what the founder Jackie Taylor dryly calls "non-traditional casting," which is to say a couple of white guys show up in the show.

  • Abena Joan Brown, an arts powerhouse on Chicago's South Side, dies at 87

    July 13, 2015

    Abena Joan Brown, one of the early pioneers of African-American theater in Chicago and the president and chief executive officer of the eta Creative Arts Foundation for 40 years, died on Sunday.  She was 87. 

  • Navy Pier 'Little Mermaid' will satisfy her fans

    July 13, 2015

    For much of "The Little Mermaid," the summer attraction from Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, I found myself listening to two shows at once.

  • Crisis of faith comes to a boil in 'Grand Concourse'

    July 12, 2015

    Grand Concourse, a magnificent thoroughfare in the Bronx, was modeled on the Champs-Elysees but, as with sections of Chicago's roughly contemporaneous Boulevard System, current economic reality does not entirely conform to 19th century notions of the city beautiful.

  • Patti LuPone, anti-cellphone diva, gets all charged up

    July 10, 2015

    Clashes between artists and technology-wielding patrons are increasing in intensity. On Wednesday night, the actress Patti LuPone grabbed a cellphone out of a startled audience member's hand as LuPone was making her grand exit at Lincoln Center in New York, where she is appearing in a play. LuPone waltzed right out of the theater with the startled patron's phone, later saying that such behavior makes her fear for the future of her profession.

  • Talking to Cyndi Lauper on the heels of 'Kinky Boots'

    July 8, 2015

    I happened to talk to Cyndi Lauper on the morning last week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. "I was crying," said the pop icon and the woman who made the song "True Colors" into a 1986 hit and gay anthem. "It has finally happened and I can't even believe it. Now everyone can be just as miserable as the next guy."

  • Some choice off-Loop shows return

    July 3, 2015

    Some of the better off-Loop shows of the last 12 months are enjoying a summer reprise.

  • 'Inside Out' is a highly unusual defense of melancholy

    July 2, 2015

    The critically acclaimed Pixar movie "Inside Out" grossed a head-spinning $91 million in its opening weekend. Not bad for a movie that is not based on any source, is not part of any kind of pre-existing franchise, and is, in essence, a most spirited defense of allowing our children to sometimes be sad.

  • Griffin to return to Stratford Festival

    July 1, 2015

  • Vanya and his grumpy sibs play it for laughs at the Goodman

    June 29, 2015

    "I dreamed I was 52 and unmarried," says Sonia, one of the trio of siblings in Christopher Durang's very droll new comedy featuring the middle-aged children of a pair of academics, literary professors who named their kids after characters in the plays of Anton Chekhov and then died, leaving their offspring to deal for the rest of their lives with the names of those afflicted by ennui, misery, insecurity or all three at once.

  • Wrigley Field video boards: Is the programming any good?

    June 28, 2015

    Cubs fans have had about three months to recover from the initial thrill — or the mega-pixelated shock — of an eye-pulling, 3,990-square-foot video board located where wind once blew, and home runs flew, behind the left-field bleachers of Wrigley Field.

  • A 'Goldfish' escaping down Route 66

    June 26, 2015

    Back in 2008, the Route 66 Theatre Company made its debut with a fine production of a memorable play by John Kolvenbach, “On an Average Day.” That quotidian title kept swimming around my head as I sat among a small audience watching a Sunday matinee of another play by Kolvenbach, “Goldfish.”

  • New wind beneath 'Beaches' wings at Drury Lane

    June 26, 2015

    In 2002, the Co-operative Group's Funeral Services Ltd. in the United Kingdom released what it said was the most popular song at British funerals. "My Heart Will Go On," as recorded by Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" came in second and third, respectively. The winner was "Wind Beneath My Wings," as sung by Bette Midler and indelibly associated with Garry Marshall's weepie 1988 movie, "Beaches."

  • How a whale swallowed Chicago theater

    June 25, 2015

    On Sunday night, Lookingglass Theatre opened David Catlin's truly spectacular theatrical adaptation of Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick," the epic story of the captain of a whaling vessel's obsessive battles with the great and violent creature that haunts his working days and his feverish dreams.

  • The rise and fall of a tempestuous 'Storm'

    June 23, 2015

    Performance fused to the lineage of Jerzy Grotowski is rare these days in Chicago theater, unless you're watching a visiting international company. But Anna-Helena McLean, the British director of the new production "Storm," spent seven years working with the Polish anthropological-experimental company Gardzienice.

  • Muslim family's culture clash in 'The Who & the What'

    June 22, 2015

    Is God perfect? Can a feminist obey the teachings of the prophet Muhammad? Should she obey her father? Is the hijab something for a Muslim woman to wear with pride, or does it make her a victim of patriarchal subjugation?

  • Superb 'Moby Dick' goes hunting for inner demons

    June 21, 2015

    "Be gone, Starbuck," shouts Christopher Donahue's Captain Ahab in the Lookingglass Theatre's fabulous new three-act theatricalization of "Moby Dick," echoing the feelings of many an owner of a neighborhood coffeehouse.

  • 'City of Angels' is summer fare for the sophisticated set

    June 19, 2015

    Family musicals abound in the summer. This year, though, the Marriott Theatre has put Ariel, Belle, "Godspell" and all those other vehicles for smiley, post-collegiate ingenues on ice and is dispensing instead some adult performers in adult entertainment, a show that plays with the hard-boiled Hollywood of 1940s detective noir, and does so with at least a modicum of the seductive wit you can't easily find at your neighborhood pier or theme park.

  • Rachel Dolezal, the debate over identity, and Charleston

    June 19, 2015

    Within a matter of a few days, Rachel Dolezal told the "Today" show that she "identifies as black" and the perennially theatrical Donald Trump told America that he identifies as president of the U.S.

  • Chicago review: Gloria Estefan's story gets you 'On Your Feet'

    June 18, 2015

    “On Your Feet!,” the classy new biographical jukebox musical about Gloria and Emilio Estefan, is not merely a celebration of the oeuvre of surely the most successful Cuban-American singer of all time, a woman who sold 100 million records globally and who, with her entrepreneurial husband, proved that the adapted Spanish guitars and Afro-Cuban rhythms native to her explosively creative island could be fused with the keyboards and driving beat of mainstream Euro-American pop. “On Your Feet!” understands that the rhythm has got to get ‘em and thus pushes  its audience up and dancing — Act 1 concludes with a huge conga line snaking through the Oriental Theatre at Wednesday night's opening. That was to be expected. So was the inclusive, music-brings-us-all-together tone of a show about a woman who had more fans in Norway and Sweden than Little Havana.

  • 'Vanya and Sonia' at Goodman: Borrowing from Chekhov

    June 17, 2015

    "I'm starting to look a lot like Uncle Vanya," said Christopher Durang. And indeed, he does resemble the Chekhovian antihero. He has the beard and the grumbly demeanor. Heck, he even lives in Bucks County, Pa., On a hill. On a farm.

  • 'Body & Blood': Airing their issues on a Jefferson Park porch

    June 16, 2015

    One of the gifts of going to the Gift Theatre is that remarkable little artistic operation's interest in staging plays that feature the kind of conversations you could easily hear on the porches of Jefferson Park, the middle-class Chicago neighborhood that surrounds the theater.

  • Wordless antics in 'Ithamar Has Nothing to Say'

    June 16, 2015

    Ithamar Enriquez may have nothing to say, but this Latino Mr. Bean has a unique niche in the crowded but potentially lucrative arena of viral-digital-cable comedy. He's signed a production deal with comedy duo Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, who've in turn signed a deal with Maker Studios, a YouTube network producer that aims its content at millennials. Each episode of "Ithamar Enriquez Has Nothing to Say," the Web series, reportedly will last six or seven minutes. Today, that's a desirable, shareable format.

  • 'The Birds': Crazy birds, but not the end of the world

    June 15, 2015

    Mention "The Birds" and you doubtless think of Alfred Hitchcock, Bodega Bay, the lovebirds played by Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor, and a children's party where a flock of violent sea gulls fly in uninvited. If you're a fan of off-Loop theater, you might also recall one of the many stagings of the hilariously camp Hell in a Handbag parody, at which the very game Hedren once actually made a personal appearance. Hitch-free.

  • Abraham Lincoln was a ... what?

    June 14, 2015

    The sexual orientation of the 16th president of the United States has long been a matter of politically charged curiosity; Tony Kushner grappled with the issue when he wrote his Oscar-nominated screenplay for the 2012 Steven Spielberg movie "Lincoln." Given the Illinois lawyer's singular achievements — you know, like abolishing slavery, restructuring the economy and totally saving the union — it's no surprise that his personal life is of interest, no less as the Supreme Court debates gay marriage.

  • Nerdy good fun and a self-doubting cyborg in 'Invincible'

    June 12, 2015

    Like journalists and NBA stars, superheroes may look like they align to save the world, but they're actually an internally competitive bunch. And on what grounds does the average cyborg compete? It's not so much built-in weaponry or fighting chops. No, everyone has those tricks. What really matters in any super-hierarchy is a really good origin story. If you can't spin a great tale of whence you came, your brand is as limited as your leadership potential. Hillary Clinton and a host of Republican rivals are all worrying about the very same issue right now.

  • Why Seinfeld took a stand against political correctness

    June 12, 2015

    Jerry Seinfeld made some news the other day by telling ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd that college campuses are no fun for a stand-up comedian these days. "A lot of people tell me, 'Don't go near colleges, they are so P.C.,'" Seinfeld said on the sports talk show, before launching into a story about his teenage daughter giving him a hard time and lamenting how young people "just want to use these words: 'that's racist,' 'that's sexist,' 'that's prejudiced.' They don't even know what they are talking about."

  • 4 Chicago shows heading to Broadway next season

    June 11, 2015

    The Tony Awards on Sunday night were more bangers and mash than Italian beef. British shows dominated. Productions with origins in Chicago — and artists who are based in Chicago — were far less evident than in previous years. Producer Stuart Oken did not win a Tony for "An American in Paris," but he has scored a hit, which will last longer than any Tony Award afterglow. Steppenwolf ensemble member K. Todd Freeman had a shot at best supporting actor for his superb work in "Airline Highway," but no bull's-eye was forthcoming. Tough competition.

  • 'Fantasticks' makes the most of the music

    June 9, 2015

    List the great American musicals you're dying to hear played by a full orchestra and I'll bet "The Fantasticks" is nowhere close to the top. Most of the great Rodgers and Hammerstein titles, say, were scored for some 30 players or more, before reductions and digitization took their toll. But "The Fantasticks" (book and lyrics by Tom Jones, music by Harvey Schmidt) is forever associated with its original, long-running off-Broadway production at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York, wherein the orchestra numbered precisely two: One piano and one harpist, the latter of whom occasionally rattled a tambourine or hit a cymbal.

  • The 2015 non-Equity Jeff Award winners are ...

    June 8, 2015

    Brenda Didier's musical production of Michael John LaChiusa's "The Wild Party" for Bailiwick Chicago was the big winner at the 2015 non-Equity Jeff Awards, cavorting its way to eight kudos, including the top prize for best musical production and the much-coveted Jeff for best ensemble of the year.

  • Theo Ubique's 'Songbook' turns up the heat on Hamlisch's melodies

    June 7, 2015

    You don't generally think of the music of Marvin Hamlisch — compositions by the great mensch of the American musical theater of the last half of the 20th century — as the kind of songs that could steam up the windows of the No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park.

  • For 2015 Tony Awards, ups, downs and 2 very different musicals

    June 5, 2015

    At first glance, it's hard to imagine two more different musicals than "Fun Home" and "An American in Paris," the shows that have the best chance of winning the coveted Tony Award for best new musical at the 2015 edition of the Broadway awards show slated for Radio City Musical Hall on Sunday night. The ceremonies, hosted by Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming, will be televised live on CBS at 8 p.m.

  • Why 'Chiraq' has Chicago so tied up in knots

    June 5, 2015

    Last week, Spike Lee was around town filming his movie about violence in Chicago, provisionally titled "Chiraq," or maybe "Chi-raq." And Chicago's politicians, opinion leaders and many citizens remain deeply conflicted about how to respond. Understandably. They feel a loss of control, and they're right. There's a paradox at work here, and it needs to be better understood.

  • 'Stick Fly': A family with secrets, aired on Martha's Vineyard

    June 4, 2015

    In 2006 on Chicago's Near West Side, the director Chuck Smith staged the premiere of a play called "Stick Fly" by a very promising Chicago playwright named Lydia R. Diamond. It was the work of a fine new company called the Congo Square Theatre Company and the story of an insecure outsider who finds herself in love with the scion of a very elite African-American family, an upscale crew with its own house on Martha's Vineyard, a fiercely intellectual brand of conversation, a certain sense of entitlement when it comes to servants and resources, and a love for criticism of others masquerading as conversational banter.

  • Playwright Ayad Akhtar is not letting up

    June 4, 2015

    In 2012, Chicago's American Theater Company programmed a play called "Disgraced," penned by a first-generation Pakistani-American writer named Ayad Akhtar. Akhtar, who grew up in suburban Milwaukee, was not exactly a neophyte. His debut novel, "American Dervish," about a Pakistani-American boy growing up in a secular Muslim household in suburban Milwaukee and struggling with his faith, had just been released to considerable critical acclaim. But he was far from a nationally familiar name, except in the Pakistani-American community.

  • Sideshow's 'Chalk' seems a bit alien

    June 4, 2015

    If you are convinced your once-lovely teenager has been taken over by an alien invader, then you may find yourself sympathizing with Maggie, the beleaguered mom in Walt McGough's new play, "Chalk," a piece with a title that seems to suggest Bertolt Brecht but a heart and soul very much in the horror-science fiction realm.

  • Four-star 'Once' still bringing people together

    June 3, 2015

    The burly and otherwise taciturn gent in the seat next to me at the Cadillac Palace Theatre on Wednesday night was wiping away tears half the night at the musical "Once," which has returned to Chicago on tour for a single-week reprise. In the row in front, a gay couple were subtly canoodling. And in the row behind, a man and a woman kept vocalizing their collective emotions somewhere close to my left ear. "Once," the evidence would suggest, brings people closer together. It must be the focus on the heart.

  • Digital disruption in 'Stop. Reset.'

    June 2, 2015

    Be they book publishers, journalists or academics, communication professionals of a certain age have much to fear from the ongoing digital revolution. It is not a fear expressed openly in offices like mine — if there is one truth about change, it's that only a fool wants to be perceived as against it. The smart money always figures out where the corporate office thinks the puck is going and claims the same goal, gung-ho all the way.

  • A somber trip through 'Secret Garden' at Court Theatre

    June 1, 2015

    When director Charles Newell and his musical director Doug Peck create Court Theatre versions of Broadway musicals — such as of Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman's "The Secret Garden" — they tend to do so without regard for the contemporary wisdom of the form, often finding darker currents inside works that we thought familiar and deconstructing the typical structure of traditional shows.

  • American Theater Company hires interim artistic director

    June 1, 2015

    American Theater Company is to announce Monday that is has hired Bonnie Metzgar, the artistic director of About Face Theatre from 2008-2013, as its interim artistic director.  Metzgar replaces PJ Paparelli, who died recently in an automobile accident in Scotland.

  • Here in Chicago, would you believe a show about con artists?

    May 29, 2015

    You will be shocked — shocked — to know that the great city of Chicago and has a long and distinctive history of grifters, tricksters, bamboozlers, fakers and specialists of the great and almighty con, both long and short.

  • 'Crime Scene: Next Chapter' a new play about Chicago's gun violence

    May 28, 2015

    The first time Collaboraction staged "Crime Scene," its original, ensemble-driven, heartfelt response to the scourge of gun violence in Chicago, it came at the height of a 2013 epidemic of murder which then felt inconceivable. It would, then, be nice to report that "Crime Scene: The Next Chapter," Collaboraction's new follow-up show which opened Wednesday night in Wicker Park, felt less timely and not so much a response to a particular moment in an emblematic American city.

  • What PJ Paparelli knew, and why he mattered

    May 28, 2015

    Doreen Ambrose-Van Lee was born in 1969 in the Cabrini-Green housing project. She became a poet and, sometime later, found publishers and an audience. Her story is central to "The Project(s)," the masterful American Theater Company exploration of the historical complexities of public housing in Chicago. Fate determined that "The Project(s)," which is playing through June 21, would be the final project for PJ Paparelli, who was killed in an automobile accident in Scotland last week, leaving a hole in cultural Chicago as wide as the Atlantic Ocean he'd crossed for his vacation.

  • 'Big Fish' has the songs to lure you to Indiana

    May 26, 2015

    What's worth a rush-hour drive to Indiana? I'll nominate Colette Todd singing Andrew Lippa's "I Don't Need a Roof," the gorgeous Act 2 ballad that is the highlight of "Big Fish" and a song all about a woman telling her dying partner that a few shingles "dangling overhead" (or not) don't amount to hill of beans in the face of losing someone you love.

  • What Don Draper, David Letterman had to say about retirement

    May 23, 2015

    Within the space of 72 hours last week, a pair of aging alpha males, one real, one fictional, said goodbye for good. Both feel like the last of their breed. Both carried great symbolic weight. Both revealed a lot about the changing face of retirement — actually the new terror thereof. Before their millions of fans, both the "Mad Men" character Don Draper and longtime talk show host David Letterman went out heaping scorn on late-in-life leisure and venerating the life-giving force of work.

  • An eye-opening morning at Congo Square's 'Twisted Melodies'

    May 22, 2015

    In one of those prosaic upstairs studios at the Atheneum Theatre in Chicago, and with only a few projections, a bit of tape and a small amount of scenery for company, Kelvin Roston Jr. is taking a deep dive into the psyche of Donny Hathaway.

  • PJ Paparelli of American Theater Company dies at 40

    May 21, 2015

    PJ Paparelli, the artistic director of the American Theater Company, a highly respected and nationally accomplished director of new plays, the co-author of such potent works of documentary theater as “Columbinus” and “The Project(s),” and one of the Chicago theater's most formidable and complicated talents, died Thursday while on vacation in Scotland, following a car accident earlier in the week.

  • Amy Schumer pops up at the Laugh Factory, at a crossroad

    May 21, 2015

    Amy Schumer's brother lives in Chicago, replete with wife, baby and at least one cat that sheds all over his sister. That family visit, Schumer said Wednesday night at the Laugh Factory, explained the mystery of why she had suddenly announced an intimate, one-night show at the North Side comedy venue less than 24 hours before showtime. Well, that and the difficulty of promoting her new comedic movie "Trainwreck," in the face of the real event hitting the news. "Imagine," Schumer said to sympathetic groans. "I didn't want to say anything about it at all."

  • 'Lunacy!': Jackalope Theatre pulls off fake moon landing

    May 20, 2015

    Taking a break from railing against the purported roundness of our planet, the Flat Earth Society was one of the first groups to argue that the six Apollo moon landings all were fakes, and that no man ever walked on the moon. In the 1970s — not exactly the golden age of trust in government — there were plenty of conspiracy theorists making that claim.

  • 'Our New Girl': For a stressed London family, is help at the door?

    May 19, 2015

    In the early minutes of "Our New Girl," a tense domestic thriller from Britain that's now in its first Chicago production at Profiles Theatre, an Irish nanny named Annie arrives with her suitcases at the home of a harried professional woman in London. The mother, Hazel, an intense former lawyer who has left her profession to work at home and take care of her young son (and a girl on the way), surely could use the help. Her needy kid is acting out — maybe violently — and her marriage is stressed. But she had no idea whatsoever that Annie was coming. No nanny was ordered.

  • 'Inana': Love, looting, loss in a play about Iraqi artifacts

    May 18, 2015

    In the final weeks of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I found myself in the Mesopotamian Gallery at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. The then-director Karen Wilson was showing me photographs of antiquities in the collection of the National Museum of Iraq and lamenting how the whereabouts of those pieces were unknown. As she explained it at the time, the issue was mostly a consequence of the lack of interest of the armed forces in the United States in safeguarding the museum.

  • Glowing music commemorates Ottawa's 'Radium Girls'

    May 17, 2015

    In most musicals, factory work is presented as quotidian drudgery, something to be endured before heading out, say, to ride the carousel. But in the early minutes of "Shining Lives: A Musical," the fervent new tuner at the Northlight Theatre, we keep hearing the central character, Catherine, tell us how much she loves her job. For Ottawa, Illinois, in the 1920s, it pays well. It gives a young woman independence and the chance to supplement the family income. Her co-workers are are her fast friends.

  • As Goodman builds 'the Alice,' the word 'engagement' has some buzz

    May 15, 2015

    On Tuesday, the Goodman Theatre formally announced its new Alice B. Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement, a $15 million endeavor named for a beloved late trustee. Dedicated to educational programs, the campaign will fund the development and operation of new classroom and meeting spaces inside the Goodman's downtown building.

  • In 'Doubt,' 'Project(s)' and 'Little Foxes,' finding a way through chaos

    May 14, 2015

    Tragedy is an experience of chaos. Most great tragic actors eventually realize that truth. Whether it's Oedipus the King or Hamlet, these great characters aren't so much making decisions as trying to keep their heads as the world explodes.

  • For 'Quiz Show' to work, the game has to be real

    May 12, 2015

    Back in the 1970s and 1980s, British radio and television was filled with so-called light entertainment, prime-time quiz shows, wish-fulfillment shows and variety shows with music and comedy. Looking back on that fare now is to recall a more innocent moment on the great media landscape.

  • Goodman Theatre plans expansion with education center

    May 12, 2015

    Chicago's Goodman Theatre is to expand its downtown facility at 170 N. Dearborn St. to include new classroom, meeting and rehearsal space for its educational programs. Dubbed the Alice B. Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement, the new complex of student-centered meeting rooms will be carved out of vacant office space located above the Petterino's restaurant and directly accessible from the southern end of the Goodman's second-floor lobby.

  • All of the drama in the Goodman's 'Little Foxes'

    May 11, 2015

    At one point in "The Little Foxes," Lillian Hellman's juicy morality melodrama of 1939, the amoral entrepreneur Ben Hubbard delivers a prescient little speech about the future. Soon, he opines, America will open up and throw out all the genteel aristocrats who run the place. They'll be replaced by people like himself — opportunistic entrepreneurs who see the merits of greed. "They will own this country," he says.

  • 'Bad Jews' make for savagely good comedy

    May 10, 2015

    With all the focus on the development of earnest, worthy, politically predictable new plays around Chicago, Theater Wit has been able to carve out a very simple but savvy niche. It favors fresh but fully formed comedies that were big hits in New York, have yet to be seen in Chicago and appeal to younger, smarter audiences in the mood to laugh.

  • A ring of truth in Johnny Cash jukebox musical

    May 8, 2015

    In 1944, Johnny Cash's beloved older brother, Jack, was pulled into a head saw in the mill where the kid worked to help his cash-strapped family. He died a week later from his horrific injuries.

  • Cue summer: Here's what's coming to Chicago stages

    May 7, 2015

    The news this week that the highly entertaining "Louis and Keely 'Live' at the Sahara" was closing at the Royal George on May 17— despite good reviews and fairly robust ticket sales, I'm told —removed one of the potential long-running, mass-appeal attractions for one of the busiest but most unpredictable seasons of theater in Chicago. The summer.

  • 'Doubt,' in a Glencoe church, has a riveting Sister Aloysius

    May 7, 2015

    The Writers Theatre production of John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt: A Parable," the well-known 2004 play (and then 2008 movie) about a nun who suspects a priest of child abuse, is being staged in the library of a Glencoe church. It will not be a surprise that the venue, the Glencoe Union Church, is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Had such a denomination of worship accommodated a staging of this drama, which draws from the well-documented management habit of moving abusive priests from parish to parish, that would indeed have been striking news. Still, "Doubt" is very much a play about the hierarchy of all religions and the chilling consequences of those who knew of transgressions not being given the ear of those in power.

  • Steppenwolf artistic director is hospitalized

    May 7, 2015

    Martha Lavey, artistic director of the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago since 1995, is in a Chicago hospital, recovering from a stroke.

  • 'The Project(s)': Unforgettable stories from Chicago public housing

    May 6, 2015

    No one who was living in Chicago in 1994 can ever forget the death of 5-year-old Eric Morse, who fell to his death from the 14th floor of the Ida B. Wells public housing complex on Chicago's South Side, after two neighborhood boys, aged 10 and 11, dangled and then pushed him out of the window for refusing to steal candy from a store.

  • 'Louis & Keely' not long for the Royal George

    May 4, 2015

    "Louis and Keely 'Live' at the Sahara," the show about the singer-musician Louis Prima and his partner Keely Smith, has posted its closing notice at the Royal George Theatre for May 17.

  • 'Melancholy Play': An unfashionable emotion takes center stage

    May 4, 2015

    If, like me, you frequently find yourself afflicted by melancholy — which we'll define here as a mild but persistent form of sadness of vague or indeterminate cause — then I think you will very much like the current show at the Piven Theatre in Evanston, Sarah Ruhl and Todd Almond's "Melancholy Play: A Chamber Musical." For at least a couple of reasons.

  • Erin Myers, a warmhearted Chicago actress, dies at 41

    May 4, 2015

    When Sean Graney staged his 12-hour epic "All Our Tragic" for the company known as The Hypocrites last fall, he knew that the audience would need a few warm and funny guides through the darkness of Greek tragedy. So he settled on a chorus of three women and he cast the actress Erin Myers in the weird but aptly named role of Odd-Job Alice.

  • Russ Tutterow, lover and defender of Chicago playwrights, dies at 68

    May 4, 2015

    The hospice inside Weiss Memorial Hospital on Chicago's North Side is a quiet and peaceful place. But for the last several days, one room therein has been bustling with people.

  • 'Side Man': Memories of a jazzman father — and the price paid

    May 1, 2015

    At one crucial moment in playwright Warren Leight's "Side Man," a deeply affectionate tribute to the journeyman jazzman and the price he pays for his passion, we see a musician watching Elvis Presley on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and having an unpleasant premonition. "That kid," he says, "will do to horn players what talkies did to Buster Keaton."

  • When father's not coming home: Absent parents in 'Mad Men' and on stage

    May 1, 2015

    As AMC's "Mad Men" approaches its final three episodes, it's already clear that the series auteur Matthew Weiner is honing in on the anguish of, and the anguish caused by, absent parents.

  • In wake of Jeffs reversal, where the Equity lines blur in Chicago

    April 30, 2015

    Last weekend's scandal-ette at the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee was a reminder of the increased difficulty of carving out hard-and-fast categories from the interconnected (not to mention highly opinionated) blob that is the professional Chicago theater. And the discovery that The Hypocrites — which had the most nominations in the non-Equity category of awards for 2014-15 — were, apparently unbeknownst to all parties involved, operating under a so-called Tier N agreement with Actors' Equity, was embarrassing for all concerned. This made the company indisputably ineligible for the non-Equity Jeffs. As the complaints came in, The Hypocrites fessed up, apologized and claimed confusion over the rules. Everything had to be re-done, and there were disqualifications, additions, disqualifications-without-additions, and grumbling all around.

  • Young Definition Theatre builds a capable 'Doll's House'

    April 28, 2015

    The Definition Theatre Company, an intriguing new Chicago theater company formed by graduates of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently in its inaugural season, describes itself as "featuring a multi-ethnic core companionship of actors," which is an interesting update of the notion of ensemble.

  • 'Wonderland' is Lewis Carroll with indie cool

    April 27, 2015

    They have some competition for the "Alice in Wonderland" title — Taylor Swift-size competition — but the new take on the beloved works of Lewis Carroll at Chicago Children's Theatre is certainly a refreshing, rockin' take on the adventures of Ms. Alice, here rendered not as a dainty lady, pop song (Swift's) or a pliant aerialist (a la Lookingglass Theatre), but as an indie-like musician, as cool as the Cheshire Cat.

  • A straight-forward trip to the 'Forum'

    April 26, 2015

    If you are a fan of the comedic lyricist's art — the provision of the perfect rhyme, the acknowledgment of alliterative pleasures, the coupling of deliciously contrasting notions, the matching of rhetorical form to musical function — then there is no better show to ponder than "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," first seen on Broadway in 1962. Of all the great Stephen Sondheim musicals, "Forum" has the lyrics with the most oomph, mostly because they are so much better than they needed to be.

  • Jeff Awards disqualify The Hypocrites and release new nominations

    April 25, 2015

    The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee said on Saturday that it had disqualified The Hypocrites from its 2014-15 non-Equity awards, due to its discovery of the theater's status as a Equity company operating under a low-level "Tier N" agreement. 

  • Why 'I love you more than Netflix'

    April 25, 2015

    At the Second City e.t.c. comedy show the other night, I was pulled up short. The moment was a sequence of sketches all dealing with our addiction to technology. After watching someone play a needy iPhone that refused to shut down, and then witnessing the wail of a New Orleans-style funeral for a dead smartphone, we arrived at the topper: "I love you," somebody in the show screamed, "more than Netflix."

  • UPDATED: The 2015 non-Equity Jeff Award nominees are ...

    April 23, 2015

    UPDATE: Here is a full list of the nominations for the Joseph Jefferson Awards honoring excellence in non-Equity Chicago theater during the 2014-15 season. These nominations were changed April 25, following the determination that The Hypocrites is an Equity company and therefore ineligible.

  • 'Airline Highway' a sensual Broadway toast to the Crescent City

    April 23, 2015

    NEW YORK — With most of its stellar original cast from the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago intact, Lisa D'Amour's "Airline Highway" moves to Broadway as an affectionate updating of Lanford Wilson's "Balm in Gilead" and a gentle, even sentimental, portrait of those who keep New Orleans humming. Its main characters service the multifarious needs of the city's tourists by pouring beverages, playing instruments, dressing in drag, dancing half-naked and providing, at some cost to themselves, specials from a whole array of hidden but affordable menus, the ones best confined to the rooms of a faded motel, out toward the airport.

  • 'The Visit': Chita Rivera stars in Broadway musical about revenge

    April 23, 2015

    NEW YORK - When I first saw "The Visit" at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago in 2001, I wrote that here was a strange, difficult, slow-to-build musical that could still pierce the skin with its mysteries and complexities, especially if some clutter and clatter was removed. I spoke of Broadway potential, if this piece, which is a musical about the morality of vengeance, could leaven its macabre coldness with more attention to questions to which we all might relate.

  • Simon Amstell makes his neurotic Chicago debut

    April 23, 2015

    At one point in his Chicago show at Thalia Hall in Pilsen Wednesday night, Simon Amstell, the popular young British comedian known for the quiz show "Never Mind the Buzzcocks" and now on a kind of American coming-out tour, noticed an audience member with red hair, outre attire and, he decreed, a palpable need for attention. A need that Amstell understood.

  • Anna Shapiro: The entrance interview and her plans for Steppenwolf

    April 23, 2015

    In a cafe on the Upper East Side this week, incoming Steppenwolf Theatre artistic director Anna D. Shapiro sat down to talk about her new job in Chicago. For the past year, Shapiro, her husband, Ian Barford, and their two young children have been living in New York. Shapiro has directed Kenneth Lonergan's "This is Our Youth" and Larry David's "Fish in the Dark" on Broadway this season, both for producer Scott Rudin. Meanwhile, Barford, an ensemble member at Steppenwolf, is appearing on Broadway in "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."

  • 'Something Rotten!' has its way with the Bard on Broadway

    April 22, 2015

    NEW YORK — For the first half hour of "Something Rotten!" — the wacky new Broadway musical set among insecure creative types in an ersatz version of Elizabethan London where Shakespeare is a rock star plagiarist and his fellow scribes self-loathing rivals — it feels like same winds that blew Mel Brooks' "The Producers" into the St. James Theatre finally are back. At gale force. With fun and profit for all.

  • 'Doctor Zhivago': Russian love is frozen over on Broadway

    April 21, 2015

    NEW YORK — Michael Weller's adaptation of "Doctor Zhivago" begins at a Moscow cemetery, in winter. An air of gloom prevails. The titular hero of Boris Pasternak's 1957 epic novel — which is on Broadway mostly because of the abiding romantic appeal of David Lean's 1965 movie, which featured the fervent, fur-clad coupling of Omar Sharif and Julie Christie — is already dead. The second scene is that same gravesite, some years earlier. He is still dead. An air of gloom further prevails. And the third scene? Another graveyard, another funeral. Same mood.

  • Adly Guirgis wins drama Pulitzer

    April 20, 2015

    NEW YORK — Stephen Adly Guirgis' "Between Riverside and Crazy" is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in drama for 2015, it was announced today at Columbia University.

  • 'Fun Home' is an emotional powerhouse

    April 19, 2015

    NEW YORK — "Fun Home," the gorgeously wrought and emotionally overwhelming new musical now playing on a newly open-hearted Broadway, is based on a graphic novel drawn in panels. And thus it can accommodate a caption. One is helpfully provided close to the beginning of the show by the character based on writer-artist Alison Bechdel, who is recalling her early life as she draws. "Caption," she says, sitting in her studio as her childhood explodes in her head and all around the theater. "Dad and I both grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town. And he was gay, and I was gay, and he killed himself, and I became a lesbian cartoonist."

  • Second City e.t.c.'s 'Soul' finds its groove

    April 19, 2015

    These days at Second City, items of technology have replaced spouses and lovers as the chief antagonist, just as those items of technology have replaced spouses and lovers in real life. Or become them.

  • At Drury Lane, never a 'Billy Elliot' so real

    April 17, 2015

    Given its roots in hard work, solidarity and the stubborn persistence of creative expression, the Elton John musical "Billy Elliot" long has seemed to me a natural fit for the artists of the Chicago theater and those who love their work.

  • 'Anything Goes': A lackluster voyage through Cole Porter

    April 16, 2015

    Anything, ideally, does not go when reviving "Anything Goes," the justly beloved Cole Porter musical from 1934 featuring assorted comedic shenanigans aboard an ocean liner. The SS American is now boarding at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire but offers a voyage that — despite the abiding quality of the material and the seaworthy crew of Chicago talent on deck —feels too much like a routine crossing.

  • It's a miracle: 'Amazing Grace' will open on Broadway

    April 16, 2015

    Despite mixed reviews at its Chicago tryout last fall, "Amazing Grace," the resilient, spiritually minded musical about the life and times of the former slave-owner John Newton, and the backstory of the beloved hymn he went on to write, will open on Broadway this summer.

  • More than a chef, Cantu had an artist's ability to transform us

    April 15, 2015

    Boil down cooking to its essence — and it is a distillate clearly essential to the human progression toward civilization — and you have transformation.

  • How actor-playwright Kinnear wrote his life into 'The Herd'

    April 15, 2015

    Here are some salient facts about the life of Rory Kinnear, the 37-year old author of the remarkable new play, "The Herd," now in its U.S. premiere at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.

  • 'Between You, Me and the Lampshade': Humor, humanity in play about border crossings

    April 15, 2015

    The plight of those who risk exhaustion, exploitation, mules and snake bites to cross the border in the dark into America and pursue their dreams is not normally fodder for comedy. But the very interesting new play from Teatro Vista, "Between You, Me and the Lampshade," penned by Raul Castillo, one of the writers on the HBO show "Looking," is a refreshing new entry into the canon of works about immigration and border-crossing, not least because it's funny, lively, mercifully unacademic, kind and understanding of the general messiness of human lives on both sides of the border.

  • 'Shoulda Been You' is a Broadway marriage farce with a fresh face

    April 14, 2015

    NEW YORK — Jenny Steinberg, the full-figured older sister of the pretty-perfect bride whose chaotic nuptials make up the action of the highly entertaining new Broadway musical "It Shoulda Been You," does not exactly relish her bridesmaid duties. Her lack of enthusiasm is conveyed in the songs she sings: "Jenny's Blues" and "I Never Wanted This."

  • 'An Issue of Blood': An early turning point for race in America

    April 13, 2015

    In many dramatic works about race in modern-day America, the heinous institution of chattel slavery is seen as the original American sin, the moment when a decision was made by human beings to chain others of their kind, to sell them like cattle, to rend child from parent, to destroy families and to kill off any semblance of mutual human dignity.

  • 'An American in Paris': Wheeldon should let love have its dance

    April 12, 2015

    NEW YORK — When the compelling choreographer Christopher Wheeldon fills the stage of "An American in Paris" with a beautiful ensemble of ballet-trained dancers, all of whom can act and sing, this new musical based on the beloved movie about an art-loving GI in the City of Light achieves an air of elegance and sophistication that's rare on today's Broadway. Wheeldon, who directs and choreographs, and his exquisite dancers, including the leads Robert Fairchild (of the New York City Ballet) and the British dancer Leanne Cope, genuinely forge new vistas and trajectories of feeling, especially in the conclusionary, titular ballet set to the music of George Gershwin. In that memorable last few minutes, "An American in Paris" manages to be at once warm, cool, gorgeous and counterintuitive.

  • Deeply felt emotion powers Lyric's 'Carousel'

    April 12, 2015

    "Oklahoma!" is about America growing into adulthood. "The Sound of Music" pairs romance and family reconstruction with growing moral determination. But "Carousel," the most emotionally potent of all the great Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musicals, veers on the tragic, with two lovers who seem to know their lousy destiny from the beginning, and who pass on the profound sadness of their dysfunctional mutual attraction to the next generation. There is hope in "Carousel" — there were limits to how much theatrical sadness audiences were willing to buy in 1945 — but it arrives only after you're already dead.

  • 'The Herd': A family jokes its way through hell

    April 12, 2015

    There is a storied, if recently dormant, tradition of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company picking up yearning new plays from small productions on the London fringes — emotional works about struggling, broken people — and then throwing its formidable acting firepower at those plays, deepening their emotional vocabulary, and becoming inextricably linked with their stateside future.

  • With Indiana in mind, the divide between art and religion

    April 10, 2015

    On the face of it, the now-notorious Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act would appear to be something a liberal secularist — or, at least, a liberal secularist with libertarian tendencies — could embrace. The idea of government being obliged to show "compelling interest" before imposing substantial burdens on the exercising of a free person's religion hardly seems unreasonable. One does not have to practice religion to support the right to do so, as unencumbered as is reasonably possible, of one's fellow Americans.

  • The brass ring for Lyric's 'Carousel' is Broadway

    April 9, 2015

    Will "Carousel," which opens Saturday night, be the first of the Lyric Opera of Chicago spring musicals to transfer to Broadway? Revivals being high-risk endeavors, it would have to be a really nice clambake over on Wacker Drive for that to happen. The show's director, Rob Ashford, bats away such speculation with the usual "we're doing it for here" answer. Still, certain stars seem to be aligning. Literally. First and foremost is a cast of a significantly higher profile than the playbill for the previous two years of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musicals at the Lyric. More notable, the cast includes several performers for whom these roles look like logical next steps in their careers. Which is presumably why many of these Broadway players are spending April in Chicago with the full blessing of their agents.

  • Vanessa Hudgens in 'Gigi' on Broadway: Where are we again?

    April 9, 2015

    To say that Vanessa Hudgens, the apparent raison d'etre for the anemic, sterile — and, at times, rather creepy — revival of "Gigi" on Broadway is no Leslie Caron or Audrey Hepburn is probably not fair to the former star of "High School Musical." Her predecessors in the role, first conceived by the French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, played the beautiful French teenager in a retro era when men could sing lyrics about girls becoming women in front of their eyes and so do with relative impunity. Hudgens has to come up with a Gigi in an era when it is generally thought best that little girls are allowed to grow up in a most delightful way, far away from the prying eyes of older suitors waiting for them to bloom. Imagine "High School Musical" with adults at the prom.

  • 'Louis & Keely': The couple Vegas made and broke

    April 8, 2015

    Back when Chez Paree was chic and the Empire Room at the Palmer House Hotel was in its regal cabaret splendor, the vocalist Keely Smith was once a regular visitor to Chicago.

  • A hellish sock puppet petrifies in 'Hand to God'

    April 7, 2015

    NEW YORK — Ever since there have been ventriloquists with their arms up dummies, there has been truth-telling by puppet. Fred Russell had Coster Joe. Edgar Burton had Charlie McCarthy. And on the great 1970s sitcom "Soap," Jay Johnson's mild-mannered Chuck Campbell demanded that everyone treat his loquacious alter-ego, Bob, as if he were a real human being. Milquetoast Chuck smiled; Bob eviscerated.

  • Broadway, ballet mix for 'An American in Paris'

    April 7, 2015

    In January 2002, the Chicago-based theatrical producer Stuart Oken found himself at a party. The ill-fated Broadway musical “Sweet Smell of Success” had opened its Chicago tryout, and the Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls, the playwright John Guare and the director Nicholas Hytner were all seated at a table.

  • 'Upstairs Concierge' is a manic mess

    April 7, 2015

    “The Upstairs Concierge,” the bewilderingly meandering, endlessly indulgent and thoroughly disappointing new show at the Goodman Theatre from the gifted writer Kristoffer Diaz, sets itself up as a manic farce with all of the trappings of that genre: a hotel with multiple doors and bedrooms, comic bellhops, pushy celebrities, exploding light fixtures, people dropping their pants, characters showing up in their underwear and a general atmosphere of sexual desire laced with confusion.

  • Talking to Will Eno: The important questions get answered

    April 2, 2015

    "I am not trying to write weird, prickly little plays and I am not trying to write boffo box office," the playwright Will Eno observed over lunch recently, "but if you keep it lean then there is room for people to fill in things."

  • 'The Good Book' needs to go further into faith

    March 30, 2015

    The Bible, it is rigorously and rightly observed in "The Good Book," flows through American culture like blood. No question. If you wanted to simplify the nation's most persistent schism, you could do a lot worse than to argue that the interpretation of biblical precepts is at its core. The abiding power of the Bible is impossible to dispute, its ancient words still informing everything from how we mark our greatest joys and despairs to the details of recent legislation in Indiana.

  • 'Title and Deed': Brutal truths about life and death

    March 29, 2015

    "We all come from blood and saltwater and a screaming mother begging us to leave." Given what we know about the origins of the species, and the rarity of even the most enthusiastic birthing mother looking to prolong the miraculous but less-than-relaxing process, this is a pretty noncontroversial observation about our common origins. It's the kind of starkly philosophical phrase you really don't hear every night at the theater, or on television, or spoken at your local suburban chain restaurant over the unlimited breadsticks.

  • Lottery gift and a new playhouse: Chicago theater talks about money

    March 26, 2015

    In the Chicago theater, a paucity of financial resources is often a point of pride, even part of the town's aesthetic. But it's also a reason to complain. In the minds of some theater artists, the situation in arts funding mirrors the growing inequalities of American society: The rich always get richer, even if they are nonprofit institutions.

  • 'On the Twentieth Century': Full speed ahead for Kristin Chenoweth on Broadway

    March 25, 2015

    NEW YORK — You can't get from New York to Chicago by train in 16 hours anymore. And you could argue that musical theater has been similarly immune from progress since the 1930s, when the plays by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur and Charles Bruce Millholland that inspired this 1978 musical were penned.

  • 'End Days': Not the place to watch the end of the world

    March 24, 2015

    Champagne corks popped Monday night at the Windy City Playhouse, the plush new venue for live performance at 3014 W. Irving Park Road, in an area of Chicago with many arts workers and arts lovers but, prior to the arrival of this new Equity-affiliated theater company, very few theaters. Run by real estate developer, artistic director and co-founder Amy Rubenstein, this is a very nice joint: The ceiling is high; many of the chairs are leather loungers set beside tables for appetizer and drink service; the ambience strives for a big-night-out glamour; and staffers could not be nicer, down to the crucial valet parker in front.

  • Celebrating a street vibe in Griffin's 'Balm in Gilead'

    March 24, 2015

    A drunk — maybe also a stoner, maybe not — was wandering down Milwaukee Avenue on Sunday night in the environs of the Den Theatre. Another amped-up dude could be found staggering in the line to the restrooms. Both were adjuncts of director Jonathan Berry's expansive and intriguingly immersive production of Lanford Wilson's "Balm in Gilead," staged in a studio with a back wall of windows, looking out on the real fire escapes and streetlights of 2015 Wicker Park. Here Wicker Park was a stand-in for Manhattan's upper West Side of the mid 1960s, an era before Russian oligarchs bought up all the real estate, and a sweet hooker from Chicago could still find a friendly counter perch in an all-night coffeehouse and a cute pusher for whom to care.

  • To the barricades in Aurora for 'Les Miz'

    March 23, 2015

    Since the musical "Les Miserables" has been in the public consciousness for 30 years, it is hard to imagine that you don't know something about this epic Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg musical. Given the show's shrewd brand expansion — the ballad "I Dreamed a Dream" has now become the ubertext for the stardom-seeking and the 2012 movie was, depending on your point of view, either a grand reincarnation or a travesty — it is highly unlikely that this particular epic has passed you by. Especially if you are reading another review of "Les Miserables," one of a dozen such reviews I've written for this newspaper, albeit the first for a production, of operatic scale, at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.

  • 'Outside Mullingar': Spark of intensity lights an Irish fire

    March 22, 2015

    "Outside Mullingar," a recent play by John Patrick Shanley ("Doubt") and the newest attraction from the Northlight Theatre in Skokie, starts out in a manner familiar to anyone with affection for dramas set in rural Ireland, suggesting a comfortable and comforting St. Patrick's Day attraction with very few surprises.

  • 'Genius': Tale about MacArthur grants has work to do

    March 20, 2015

    The "Genius" that makes up the one-word title of the potentially provocative play by Kate Walbert, now at the Profiles Theatre, does not refer to God-given talents but to a designation by a somewhat lesser authority: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

  • Powerball jackpot winner pays for Steppenwolf and Goodman plays

    March 20, 2015

    NEW YORK - Last June, a man named Roy Cockrum walked into a Kroger supermarket to buy a Powerball ticket. He won the largest lottery jackpot in the history of Tennessee: $259 million, which he took in the form of a lump-sum, after-taxes payment of $115 million. He already knew what he was going to do with the money.

  • Elisabeth Moss a good fit for 'Heidi Chronicles' on Broadway

    March 19, 2015

    NEW YORK — Baby boomer Heidi Holland, the angst-ridden, art historian heroine of the justly beloved Wendy Wasserstein play from 1988 that bears her name, would now be about 66 years old if the carefully charted chronology of "The Heidi Chronicles" is extrapolated into current reality. That's a shock to the system for some of us for whom the late Wasserstein's alter-ego Heidi, a well-meaning and brilliant Chicagoan, will forever seem either 21 or 31, searching for personal happiness to add to her formidable professional accompaniments, a quest that forces her into the orbit of two unsuitable men who talk entirely too much.

  • Brand new Windy City Playhouse opens with 'End Days'

    March 19, 2015

    Next week, a new theater that will surprise a lot of people will open in Chicago: the Windy City Playhouse, at 3014 W. Irving Park Road, at the western reaches of Chicago's North Center neighborhood.

  • 'Two Trains Running': Set in a Pittsburgh diner on sidelines of history

    March 16, 2015

    Although set in 1969 — the height of militant social action, you might think — August Wilson's "Two Trains Running" is actually a portrait of Pittsburgh folks stuck in a siding. Everyone in this play wants something, in most cases quite desperately: a job, a fair price, a jackpot in the numbers racket, a lover, a ticket to Atlanta, a life. But everyone is forced to wait. Wilson attached a traditional but contextually quixotic quotation to the frontispiece of the play's published edition: "If the train don't hurry, there's gonna be some walking done."

  • Ambitious 'Five Presidents' could use some work

    March 15, 2015

    MILWAUKEE — When former presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush joined the incumbent president, Bill Clinton, at the 1994 funeral of former president Richard Nixon in Yorba Linda, Calif., it had been more than two decades since membership in the world's most exclusive club had gone down one through death. Occasion, perhaps, for some soul searching among great men so rarely together? Or, as they waited in a secure holding pen for the services to begin, did the leaders of the free world prefer banter, small talk or petty bickering?

  • 'The Illusionists': Conjuring up a most enjoyable evening

    March 13, 2015

    Even for the likes of David Copperfield, Criss Angel and Nik Wallenda, it's never easy for an illusionist to sell out a big theater or sustain a national movement. They all need personal brands: Copperfield sells approachable romance, Angel sells punkish attitude, and Wallenda markets life-threatening danger of ever-increasing scale. But what about a clutch of magicians together, co-branded and sharing a bill?

  • Not so sweet revenge in pre-Broadway 'First Wives Club'

    March 12, 2015

    As old Willy Shakes well knew, revenge is a tricky emotion to sell on the rialto. Buried in our Judeo-Christian consciousness is the nagging feeling that forgiveness is a preferable emotion. And, to paraphrase the ancient prophet Taylor Swift, there's an equally good case for just shaking it off. But "First Wives Club," the troubled new musical based on the 1996 movie and the Olivia Goldsmith novel of the same title, now in a pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago, is stuck with payback at its core.

  • 'Lost in the Stars': Annaleigh Ashford is a star in this town

    March 11, 2015

    When you play a prostitute (Betty) in a popular Showtime television series ("Masters of Sex"), you should probably expect a few stares when you visit Walt Disney World with your husband. Annaleigh Ashford is presently, but likely not eventually, what you might call a demi-celebrity. She's a full-blown star on and around Broadway, but in Orlando, Fla., she's a face that many people think they should know but not entirely why they should know it nor from where they do.

  • Theo Ubique manages to make 'Superstar' sound new

    March 10, 2015

    I first heard the score of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in about 1975, when my childish self (for I was but a babe) gave the original concept album a whirl on the old turntable. Ian Gillan, the incomparable lead singer of Deep Purple and one of rock's great voices, turned the anthemic "Gethsemane" into quite the breathy tour de force. Over the ensuing 40 years, with and without Ted Neeley and Dennis DeYoung, I've had more than ample opportunity to ponder such lyrics as "Hosanna, Heysanna, Sanna Sanna Ho" and "Then when we retire, we can write the Gospels" and, my personal favorite, "Just don't say I'm" (bam bam bam bam bam bam bam bam) "damned for all time." Screech optional.

  • 'Heat Wave': Death in a sweltering 1995 Chicago

    March 9, 2015

    Between July 13 and July 20, 1995, when temperatures lingered at 106 degrees and the heat index reached 125 degrees, more than 700 Chicagoans died. A preponderance of those deaths were of minorities and/or of the poor.

  • John Hughes show needs more teen angst

    March 8, 2015

    Music, especially angsty British new wave from such artists as Altered Images, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and New Order, was an indispensable part of the cinematic oeuvre of John Hughes.

  • Helen Mirren stars in 'The Audience' on Broadway

    March 8, 2015

    Aside from giving the redoubtable Helen Mirren another chance to essay Queen Elizabeth II — a necessarily reclusive character with whom this actress is now so closely allied that the two verge on a coalition, with Mirren doing all the talking — Peter Morgan's "The Audience" succeeds because it intuits the heavy price a monarch must pay in a constitutional democracy.

  • Remembering August Wilson: His train keeps running

    March 7, 2015

    In August 2005, August Wilson picked up the phone and called two reporters to tell them he was dying.

  • 'Fish in the Dark': Broadway debut for Larry David's brain

    March 5, 2015

    NEW YORK — Larry David's first foray into Broadway comedy is like watching a weird — but undeniably entertaining and, God help us all, even potentially transformative — fusion of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Borscht Belt comedy of the old school, long-form improv of the Chicago school, and the kind of black situational farce associated with Joe Orton or other radicals with dark, anarchic souls and a taste for shows commanding premium prices.

  • 'Infinite Monkey Cage': They have facts and they're not afraid to use them

    March 5, 2015

    "We have an agenda," said the comedian Robin Ince the other day, between bites of a chicken sandwich. These days, who doesn't? Of course, the most effective polemical tool might not be calling your show "The Infinite Monkey Cage Live." Or so you'd think.

  • Why Ringling is ending its elephant acts

    March 5, 2015

    The elephants are to be phased out of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Associated Press first reported Thursday morning. The lumbering pachyderms will be gone from the show by 2018. It will take that long for Ringling's twin touring companies to fully turn over into new shows.

  • 'The Diary of Anne Frank' at Writers Theatre: trapped together

    March 4, 2015

    We all know "The Diary of Anne Frank" does not end happily. If you are watching a truthful, deeply engaged production, and director Kimberly Senior's work for Writers Theatre is most certainly in that category, you are left with a feeling of unspeakable waste, loss and regret, the very familiar having been made cruel and strange. The 13-year-old diarist who perished in the waning days of the Nazi death camps left behind in Amsterdam a record of optimism, anticipation and, above all, existence. "L'chaim!" she wrote, figuratively, on every page of "The Diary of a Young Girl," before they snuffed her out and tossed her body in a mass grave.

  • 'The Royal Society of Antarctica': Life and love at the bottom of the world

    March 3, 2015

    A three-act, three-hour play set in Antarctica? At this point in this particular Chicago winter, it is hard to imagine an onstage prospect with less commercial potential. Even this critic — who had had a day of it Monday, let me tell you — almost feigned a cold.

  • REVIEW: 'Yankee Tavern' at American Blues Theater

    March 2, 2015

    Steven Dietz's play "Yankee Tavern" is a cleverly self-protected piece of writing, a deconstruction of 9/11 conspiracy theories that also airs a good number of them, ranging from the spike in the short-selling of stock in United and American Airlines on Sept. 10, 2001, to the guy who claimed to have a notarized prediction of the hijackings in advance, to the notion that Building 7, the other New York City skyscraper to fall on that terrible day beyond the Twin Towers, was deliberately demolished so as to protect the secrets of some of the agencies who were tenants therein.

  • REVIEW: 'Dunsinane' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

    March 1, 2015

    The National Theatre of Scotland — unusual in that it is a national theater without any physical theater of its own — has been in existence for only nine years. It has already been to simpatico Chicago, by my reckoning, five times. Perchance it is similarities of the climate. "If God had wanted people to live this far north he would have given us fur," says one of the apple-cheeked invaders from the Garden of England, bogged down in bewitching, 11th-century, not-so-bonny Scotland, a place of bedevilment, mysticism, feminized sexuality and danger.

  • REVIEW: 'This Is Modern Art' at Steppenwolf Theatre

    March 1, 2015

    Is graffiti a legitimate artistic expression accessible to the otherwise excluded, or criminal vandalism that is the scourge of a great city?

  • Netflix raises the question: What is a movie?

    February 28, 2015

    A few days ago, it was announced that former Chicago improviser Tina Fey's new TV show, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," would not air on NBC like her colossal hit "30 Rock," but would be available for streaming on Netflix. It was further announced Tuesday that Netflix will begin production on a new "feature film" featuring the character of Pee-wee Herman, titled "Pee-wee's Big Holiday." Herman, you'll likely recall, is the alter ego of the 62-year-old former Los Angeles improviser Paul Reubens, whose career was stymied in 1991 after a scandal involving an adult theater, a modest transgression as these things go today.

  • REVIEW: 'The Sweeter Option' at Strawdog Theatre Company

    February 27, 2015

    With the opening of John Henry Roberts' "The Sweeter Option," Strawdog Theatre Company has produced 100 shows over 27 years, mostly in its second-floor walk-up near the corner of Broadway and Irving Park Road. Wow. That's impressive off-Loop longevity. But such formidable experience in the trade should have prompted someone to examine the show currently in production and bring up an ever-useful question.

  • REVIEW: 'The Book of Mormon' at Bank of America Theatre

    February 26, 2015

    Imagine a cross between Neil Patrick Harris and Seth Meyers — combined with the spawn of Barry Manilow — and you have a sense of David Larsen, the shrewdly guileless new Elder Price atop "The Book of Mormon," the phenomenally successful satirical musical which arrived in Chicago Wednesday night for a second engagement. The "South Park"-style Mormons are ringing Chicago's doorbell with considerably less fanfare this second time around — no TV cameras or hangers-on were to be found at the Bank of America Theatre, just regular paying customers — but this will be a long run by the standards of today's tours. The idealistic elders are here again — and, alas, unwilling to perform without ample box-office contributions to their cause — all the way through mid-May.

  • REVIEW: 'Endgame' by The Hypocrites

    February 25, 2015

    Must you feel anything when watching a play by the iconic absurdist Samuel Beckett? That question, precipitated by feeling next to nothing Tuesday night while watching The Hypocrites' production of "Endgame," gnawed away at me for hours.

  • REVIEW: 'The Royale' at American Theater Company

    February 24, 2015

    In 1910, Jack Johnson, a boxer who had long dominated the World Colored Heavyweight Championship, finally coaxed the formerly undefeated James J. Jeffries out of retirement. The former world heavyweight champion (from 1899-1905) was in it mostly for the money, but the racially charged contest between Johnson and Jeffries became known as "The Fight of the Century." Johnson's July 4 victory in Reno, Nev., over his white opponent was hailed as a singular moment for the advancement of African-Americans, many of whom felt enormous pride as they listened as the Galveston Giant laid his doubters, and, symbolically, white America, flat on the canvas.

  • REVIEW: 'The Other Place' at Profiles Theatre

    February 20, 2015

    If you are familiar with Lisa Genova's "Still Alice" — a play and now a movie starring the Oscar-nominated Julianne Moore, as well as a book — then you'll have encountered a woman who has to deal with so-called early onset dementia. Genova's central character comes to terms with her situation and, with a cleareyed detachment that would certainly escape me in such circumstances, reorders her life.

  • Why it's the Pullman porters who deserve the monument

    February 20, 2015

    Before dawn on a frigid Thursday morning, as President Barack Obama came to Chicago to declare the site of the Pullman Palace Car Co. a national monument, I caught the train they call the City of New Orleans on a portion of the old Illinois Central railroad. It was alongside the Illinois Central's old mainline tracks that George Pullman built his huge railcar plant, often described as America's first industrial town — perhaps a benevolent pathway toward a tenuous middle-class existence, perhaps a place of indentured servitude. Perhaps both.

  • 'Let It Be': Why show coming to Rosemont is a Beatles 'celebration'

    February 19, 2015

    Back in 2010, Chicago's Signal Ensemble Theatre staged "Aftermath," a fabulous little show about the Rolling Stones penned by Ronan Marra. "Aftermath" was all about the demise of the influence of Brian Jones — the Syd Barrett of the Stones — and the smart piece also featured a great young actor, Nick Vidal. Vidal was a dead ringer for Mick Jagger, lips and all.

  • REVIEW: 'A Kid Like Jake' at About Face Theatre

    February 17, 2015

    For anyone with a modicum of self-awareness — and that only describes a subset of parents applying to private or highly selective public schools — the act of filling out a school application for a kindergartner involves a plethora of dilemmas.

  • REVIEW: 'Samsara' at Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre

    February 15, 2015

    The theater is a funny place. It's not hard to believe a mother is having quite a profound conversation with the fetus inside her womb — writ large and standing before her. But an over-acting fetus? An over-the-top embryo leaping all over the stage, like no self-respecting embryo surely would do even in someone's fever dream? Well, that just stops you cold.

  • REVIEW: 'Marie Antoinette' at Steppenwolf Theatre

    February 15, 2015

    Although its setting is 18th century Versailles and its central character is the wife of Louis XVI and the erstwhile queen of France, you could chop the noggin off the Steppenwolf Theatre's blithely anachronistic but fundamentally insecure new production of David Adjmi's "Marie Antoinette" before anything or anyone admitted they were in a historical drama.

  • Sam Smith and 'Fifty Shades': Balancing between safe and sultry

    February 14, 2015

    Ascending the stage at the Grammy Awards last weekend, the British crooner Sam Smith observed that before he made his winning hit, "Stay With Me," he'd been doing everything possible to try to get his music heard. Alas, "awful" music had resulted from such conformity and compromise.

  • REVIEW: 'First Date' at the Royal George Cabaret

    February 13, 2015

    Early in “First Date,” the savvily titled but thoroughly predictable Broadway musical from 2013, one of the primo datees, the cute-but-snarky Casey, she of the red dress and the wrist tattoo, decides to torture the disappointingly nebbish gentleman, he of the suit and bleeding nerd heart, with whom she's sharing a table. She thinks he's dull (heck, she's right). So she comes up with a ruse. She pretends to have to a 4-year-old kid.

  • REVIEW: 'The Iceman Cometh' at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

    February 12, 2015

    NEW YORK — Some three years after its genesis in Chicago and with its huge, original cast intact, director Robert Falls' five-hour epic production of "The Iceman Cometh" is improbably reborn in Brooklyn, propelled into the shabby-chic confines of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's gorgeously decrepit Harvey Theater, the kind of joint you might associate with Stephen Sondheim's "Follies," a musical set in a theater falling to bits.

  • Don't overlook the need for avant-garde, even in Chicago

    February 11, 2015

    A healthy theater scene needs a lively avant-garde. That might strike you as a curious statement: Chicago theater is a famously edgy and intense collection of institutions. Celebrities appear but hardly dominate. And many of the best-known companies in town are openly disdainful of programming merely for popularity at the box office. The brand here is that it's the work that matters, the truth that matters, and the city's loyal and committed audiences — the ones who write to me, at least — tend to swell with civic pride at all that has been achieved.

  • REVIEW: 'Sondheim on Sondheim' by Porchlight Music Theatre

    February 11, 2015

    Charming and unpretentious as he can be in person, Stephen Sondheim (or, as they like to say in the musical theater, God) is acutely aware of his place in history. And when it comes to controlling the narrative, lest others control it for you, he's no fool.

  • REVIEW: 'Music Hall' by TUTA Theatre Company

    February 10, 2015

    Zeljko Djukic, the capable founding artistic director of the avant-garde Chicago company known as TUTA Theatre Chicago, has been off on a Fulbright Scholarship. He has been missed. But he's back with directorial vengeance — if that's the right descriptor for a soupcon of l'avant garde Francais — with a remarkable 80-minute show at the Den Theatre called “Music Hall.”

  • 'Smokefall' will get a New York production

    February 10, 2015

    Noah Haidle’s play “Smokefall,” which had two highly successful runs at the Goodman Theatre starring Mike Nussbaum, is to have a New York production at the MCC Theater early in 2016, it was announced in New York on Tuesday. 

  • REVIEW: 'The Addams Family' at the Mercury Theater

    February 9, 2015

    For anyone who saw the first national tour of the musical "The Addams Family," the amusements currently to be had alongside Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday and Pugsley at the Mercury Theater will not come as a surprise.

  • 'Gotta Dance' is next pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago

    February 9, 2015

    Chicago is getting another pre-Broadway tryout: “Gotta Dance,” a new musical based on a 2008 Dori Berinstein documentary about the New Jersey Nets’ hip-hop dance team made up of senior citizens. The documentary followed the neophyte team of 12 women and one man from auditions through their public performance.

  • REVIEW: "La Cage aux Folles" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire

    February 7, 2015

    Present reality means wind chill and snowpacks. Fortuitously, life is always a celebration with composer Jerry Herman on your arm. For that most helplessly optimistic of the Broadway songsmiths, the sand always runs warm, the waves remain gentle, and neither the passing years nor temporary lapses in judgment constitute any barrier to love.

  • Emotionally engaged? Maybe you weren't paying attention

    February 6, 2015

    In a book called "Seducing the Subconscious," Robert Heath, an advertising executive who moved into academia, makes the argument that emotional engagement is everything. No surprise there. In an era with so many cultural forces vying for attention, emotional engagement is a proverbial compound buzzword in all media circles these days. Emotionally engaged people stick around, buy stuff, contribute, subscribe, care, consume, evangelize, feel loyalty to a brand. We all want your heart: the Lyric Opera, Apple, HBO's "The Leftovers," "The Theory of Everything," Riccardo Muti, the Chicago Tribune. I'm gunning for it right now.

  • Hypocrites names new executive director

    February 5, 2015

    Kelli Strickland, the executive director of the Raven Theatre Company on Chicago’s North Side for the past two years, has left that post to become the new executive director of the Chicago theater company known as The Hypocrites.  

  • Now on stage: Those tantalizing choices of life

    February 5, 2015

    So here's one way to know the recession is over: Lots of shows about the agony of life's choices. I'm overly inclined to wander down the road not traveled and second-guess myself — a habit coupled with my seemingly unshakable inability to appreciate what I am lucky enough to have. Clearly, I'm not alone. I've been struck lately by how many plays I've seen that set up two paths through life and explore the what-might-have-happened.

  • REVIEW: 'Dividing the Estate' at Raven Theatre

    February 3, 2015

    Of all the American playwrights, the late Horton Foote was the closest this country ever had to Anton Chekhov. Although Foote's reputation during his lifetime was never equal to that of Arthur Miller, William Inge and Tennessee Williams, his peers, history surely will prove that Foote deserves his spot alongside that great triumvirate — let's call it a quartet. We'll leave Eugene O'Neill in a class of his own.

  • Big change at Chicago Dramatists

    February 3, 2015

    Russ Tutterow, founding artistic director of Chicago Dramatists, is stepping down after 30 years, the Chicago organization said Tuesday morning. He is to be replaced, on an interim basis, by Meghan Beals, formerly the associate artistic director. 

  • REVIEW: 'White Guy On the Bus' at Northlight Theatre

    February 1, 2015

    I'll say this for Bruce Graham's "White Guy On the Bus," now premiering at the Northlight Theatre: It is a play with guts. This writer has previously been inclined toward sentimentality, as such sweet works as "Stella and Lou" and "The Outgoing Tide" attest. Not this time. The gentle first few minutes notwithstanding, this one is red, racially charged meat.

  • In the controversy over all-white Oscar nominations, what needs fixing?

    January 31, 2015

    The Jan. 15 announcement of the 2015 Academy Award nominations was greeted with widespread dismay at the omission of Ava DuVernay, the director of "Selma," and David Oyelowo, the movie's star. Once people analyzed and totaled up the nominations, dismay turned to outrage as those in the industry and moviegoers at large realized that, for example, all 20 of the acting award slots had, improbably, been handed to white performers. And there was nothing for Gillian Flynn or Angelina Jolie. It thus was widely noted that the body doing the awarding, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was itself overwhelmingly white, male and with an average age of 63.

  • Second coming of 'Iceman' and Brian Dennehy is ready

    January 29, 2015

    To interview actor Brian Dennehy in Chicago is to be told that Chicago is a great town, to be regaled with memories of O'Rourke's tavern, the hedonistic pleasures of Gibson's Steakhouse, the sticky blues at Kingston Mines. This time there is a variation on a theme.

  • This is a new golden age for suburban Chicago theater

    January 28, 2015

    When I first started reviewing Chicago theater — some years ago now — the commercial suburban theaters that ringed the city seemed like aberrations and relics of a former era. Places like the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace or the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire — both food-and-theater-under-one-roof operations first developed by the late entrepreneur Tony DeSantis — seemed likely to be gone in a few years.

  • REVIEW: 'The Life and Sort of Death of Eric Argyle' at Steep Theatre

    January 28, 2015

    There are dramatic plays — a few thousand years of them have unfurled to date — and there are story plays. The two categories overlap in that all great drama tells a story, of course, and even your bedtime stories had better be dramatic, lest the honoree fall too quickly asleep. Still, there are some works written for theater that are explicitly driven by the recounting of a narrative.

  • REVIEW: 'Rapture, Blister, Burn' at the Goodman Theatre

    January 26, 2015

    Feminism carried the promise of equality in marriage — a union between two equally empowered individuals, dividing up power, opportunity and responsibility; raising kids together; climbing the career-ladder in step; sharing emotional needs and self-actualizing a deux. With neither partner telling the other what they could — or should — do. And with neither leading, neither following. Just blissfully, equally, being.

  • REVIEW: 'Waiting for Godot' at Court Theatre

    January 26, 2015

    When Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" had its 1956 North American premiere — improbably at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida — a good portion of the audience who'd shown up to see Bert Lahr and Tom Ewell had no idea that Godot wasn't actually coming. They waited along with Beckett's purposeless hobos, Vladimir and Estragon, vicariously living the rise and fall of their expectations and disappointments.

  • Sean Graney is back as artistic director at the Hypocrites

    January 26, 2015

    Sean Graney will return to be the artistic director of The Hypocrites, the Chicago theater company he founded 18 years ago. The Hypocrites has been under the leadership of Halena Kays, who is exiting the position to focus more on teaching, her own creative work and on her family. Kays is to be a member of a new artistic council that Graney has set up. Composed of Miranda Anderson, Geoff Button and Steven Wilson, the group will offer advice and support to Graney.

  • REVIEW: 'That Hopey Changey Thing' and 'Sorry'

    January 25, 2015

    Probably the single most infuriating and limiting thing about the American theater is its lack of immediacy when it comes to political and social commentary, mostly due to the absurd rigmarole and developmental time lags between someone writing a play and seeing it produced.

  • REVIEW: 'West Side Story' by Drury Lane Theatre

    January 23, 2015

    "West Side Story," that ever-astonishing work of musical theater, is justly famous for the gangland rumblings between the Jets and the Sharks, stunning Jerome Robbins feats of 1950s choreography that advanced the Arthur Laurents narrative like no dance in a musical had ever done before. But when you really look at this show, the structural tension isn't so much between the Jets and the Sharks, or even between Tony and his illicit love, Maria. It's between civilized behavior and barbarism. That's what "West Side Story" is really about.

  • News this week has been a strange-go zone

    January 23, 2015

    Improbably this week, Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, said she and her city intend to sue Fox News on the grounds that the famously opinionated cable news channel had claimed that certain areas of the City of Light were "no-go areas" for non-Muslims. She told CNN that both the "image" and the "honor" of Paris had been harmed.

  • What about the boy? In 'Tommy,' new insights into Pete Townshend

    January 22, 2015

    When, in 1975, the movie director Ken Russell turned "Tommy," an album by The Who, into a film, catapulting the Pinball Wizard to further glory, he made one particularly notable change: He switched the period of the rock opera from the years following World War I to the years following World War II. This necessitated changing the title of one of Pete Townshend's rock numbers ("1921" became "1951"), but the benefit was not just a more contemporary milieu (back in '75, at least) but a period that more closely charted Townshend's own life.

  • REVIEW: 'Plastic Revolution' by The New Colony at Den Theatre

    January 21, 2015

    Around 1950, a woman named Brownie Wise came to the attention of Earl Tupper, the inventor of a brand of airtight plastic containers designed to keep leftovers fresh. Wise (reportedly to be played by Sandra Bullock in an upcoming movie) told Tupper about the success of her home-based parties wherein women socialized and bought Tupperware in varying sizes. Tupper was convinced that this was the way to sell a product touted as giving women more time for their families and themselves: by women, through women, to women.

  • Review: 'Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play' at Theater Wit

    January 20, 2015

    "Cape Fear," the 1991 thriller by Martin Scorsese, is perhaps best remembered, if it is remembered at all, for a creepy, finger-sucking seduction scene involving Juliette Lewis and Robert De Niro. But if you are a fan of "The Simpsons," your head likely has already gone to the second episode of that animated series' fifth season, "Cape Feare," wherein Kelsey Grammer returned as Sideshow Bob, the self-proclaimed genius who was constantly trying to kill Bart Simpson, child of Homer and Marge and all-American icon of hinterland rebellion.

  • Review: 'Accidentally, Like a Martyr' at A Red Orchid Theatre

    January 20, 2015

    For a quick lesson in how much the widespread expansion and acceptance of gay marriage has changed the culture of America, one need only stop in at A Red Orchid Theatre for "Accidentally, Like a Martyr," a play set among the mostly solitary and caustic denizens of a gay bar and dealing with issues of loneliness, commitment, family and aging in the gay community.

  • REVIEW: 'Keys of the Kingdom' at Stage Left Theatre

    January 19, 2015

    Penny Penniston has been writing plays in Chicago for two decades now. She's not wildly prolific, and most of her works have premiered — like her latest, "Keys of the Kingdom," now in its world premiere at Stage Left Theatre — at smaller Chicago theaters. But over the years she has been synonymous with intelligent, inquisitive scripts.

  • Review: 'The Who's Tommy' at Paramount Theatre

    January 18, 2015

    In the summer of 1968, Pete Townshend gave a lengthy interview to Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone about the future direction of The Who, Townshend's rock band. "We've been talking about doing an opera," he said. "We've been talking about doing, like, albums, we've been talking about a whole lot of things and what has basically happened is that we've condensed all of those ideas, all this energy and all those gimmicks … into one juicy package. The package I hope is going to be called 'Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy.'"

  • Many Charlies: Why the world is speaking out in support of satirists

    January 16, 2015

    Never — surely — has the world come so powerfully to the defense of outre satirists as it did last Sunday in Paris. The march in defiance of those who, on Jan. 7, murdered writers and cartoonists of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was remarkable in so many ways. Its sheer size — BBC cameras caught a great sea of people out in the streets of the French capital, waves of humanity, seemingly without end. The stature of the attendees — the linked-arm appearance of some 40 world leaders, from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister David Cameron and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — was enough of a visual statement in itself to embarrass the Obama administration, which had failed to comprehend quickly enough what was coming together.

  • REVIEW: 'Honeymoon in Vegas' on Broadway

    January 15, 2015

    NEW YORK — Were you to honeymoon in today's Las Vegas, you'd find hip European DJs have replaced crooners and Elvis, and showgirls about as rare on the Strip as a winning hand. But “Honeymoon in Vegas,” the startlingly retro new Broadway musical starring Tony Danza, with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, is blissfully unaware of any such metamorphosis.

  • Why 'Newsies' and 'Mary Poppins' broke box-office records

    January 14, 2015

    In the business of commercial theater, there is no better week than the one roughly between Christmas and New Year. Just ask Disney. In that week in Chicago, the tour of "Newsies" pulled in $2,012,723, which is the first time any theatrical attraction in Chicago has broken $2 million in a week. "Cinderella" also was at close-to-capacity business that week.

  • REVIEW: 'Constellations' on Broadway starring Jake Gyllenhaal

    January 14, 2015

    NEW YORK — "Before people had faith," remarks one of the two characters in Nick Payne's head-spinning new Broadway play "Constellations," "people's lives were their own."

  • 'Gentleman's Guide' tour will start in Chicago

    January 14, 2015

    Last year's Tony Award-winning best musical, "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder," is to kick off its first national tour in Chicago in September, it was announced Wednesday.

  • REVIEW: Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival

    January 12, 2015

    Even after 14 years, Chicago's Sketch Comedy Festival hovers below a lot of cultural radars. This is partly due to the glut of small festivals in early January; SketchFest competes both with the fringe-theater Rhinoceros Theater Festival and, this year, the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.

  • 'Newsies' claims biggest box office in Chicago history: $2,012,723

    January 8, 2015

    The Disney musical "Newsies" had a front-page week in Chicago over the holidays. The nine performances at the Oriental Theatre in the week ending Jan. 4 grossed a whopping $2,012,723; Disney claimed on Wednesday that this was “the highest grossing week in Chicago theatrical history,” and they were right.

  • How we confront death in the Facebook era

    January 8, 2015

    Social media, especially Facebook, profoundly has changed the way we announce death and/or its imminence, the way we find out about loss, the way we mourn, the language we use to comfort the grieving and the status of those who do the comforting. That profound change in the culture is beyond question. Whether this all is for the better is another issue entirely.

  • Mercury Theater's plans may spell end of Cullen's Bar

    January 7, 2015

    A battle is brewing in the red-hot Southport Avenue corridor between a planned performance venue in the mode of New York's 54 Below cabaret, and a much-loved Irish bar of the old Chicago tradition.

  • 'Dear John Hughes' coming to Chicago, a show celebrating his movies

    January 6, 2015

    A multi-media, concert-style show designed to celebrate the movies of the late John Hughes — including such nostalgic titles as “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” “Weird Science,” “Pretty in Pink,” “Some Kind of Wonderful” and “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” — is headed to Chicago in March.

  • Sting's 'The Last Ship' to close

    January 6, 2015

    "The Last Ship," the Broadway musical composed by (and based on the life of) Sting, is to close on Jan. 24, the show's producers announced Tuesday morning.

  • Julia Neary, Chicago actress and educator, dies at 50

    January 3, 2015

    Julia Neary, an ebullient, energetic, ensemble-loving actress, a sought-after movement specialist and a dedicated educator with 25 years of distinguished work on the neighborhood stages of Chicago, died from cancer at her parents' Michigan home Saturday. She was 50 years old. Her death was announced Saturday by the Theatre School at DePaul University, the Chicago institution from which she graduated and where she returned to teach.

  • Theater in Winter 2015: Puppets, 'Godot' and a busy Berry

    December 31, 2014

    The winter season in Chicago theater features festivals, large-cast epics and revivals with a twist. Out of the scores of shows opening in the next few weeks at Chicago theaters, here are 10 that, for one reason or another, I'm anticipating with particular relish.

  • Big moments in theater in 2014

    December 30, 2014

    In 2014 ... Chicago's Jessie Mueller snagged the role of Carole King in "Beautiful" on Broadway. By June, she had a Tony Award and the Mueller family was on its way to becoming a national theater brand. Seth Meyers, first spotted doing a little show called "Pickups and Hiccups" on North Clark Street, took over "Late Night" from Jimmy Fallon and hired a bunch of jokesters from Chicago — meaning that Chicago-trained writers officially began their utter domination of late-night talk shows.

  • Chicagoan of the Year in Theater: Ike Holter

    December 25, 2014

    This past spring and summer, hundreds of Chicago Public Schools teachers came to see Ike Holter's "Exit Strategy," a riveting new play from the little-known Jackalope Theatre about the last gasps of a Chicago school. Serving a disadvantaged population of students, the school was branded a failure and earmarked for closure, but nonetheless loved, as all places of learning are loved. At least by those who have learned therein.

  • To close the year, 10 great performances of 2014

    December 23, 2014

    Here's a great way to end the year with this column, a celebration of 10 of the great performances of 2014. In alphabetical order:

  • REVIEW: 'The Merry Widow' by Light Opera Works

    December 23, 2014

    When Light Opera Works produced "The Merry Widow" in 2005, starring Stacey Tappan and Larry Adams, the company was greeted with reviews remarking on the frolicsome pleasures of Franz Lehar's quintessential Viennese operetta, then 100 years old but replete with a newly adapted libretto from the original Viktor Leon and Leo Stein confection by the local writers Jack Helbig and Gregg Opelka. Nine years later, "The Merry Widow" has returned to Evanston with the same director in Rudy Hogenmiller, the same leads in Tappan and Adams, but not much of a discernible reason, really, for another Pontevedrian waltz.

  • REVIEW: 'H.M.S. Pinafore' by Hypocrites at the Den Theatre

    December 23, 2014

    When it comes to cheating the gray skies of winter, only Santa has a bigger bag of tricks than Sean Graney and The Hypocrites, the theater company Graney founded in 1997. In 2010, his production of "Pirates of Penzance" transported audiences to what felt like a homespun Margaritaville in Negril. In 2012, his version of "The Mikado" was an immersive trip to a circus, replete with giant, kid-friendly mosh pits designed for frolicking to the timeless, Victorian song parodies of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.

  • Artistic directors protest firing at Jewish theater

    December 22, 2014

    Several Chicago-area artistic directors have signed an open letter protesting the firing of Ari Roth, the artistic director of Theater J in Washington, D.C. Although the stated cause of Roth’s firing last week was insubordination, Roth has said in several interviews with the Washington-area media  that his firing was due to his programming of work critical of the State of Israel at Theater J, one of the nation’s leading Jewish theaters.

  • REVIEW: 'Cirque Dreams Holidaze' at Chicago Theatre

    December 19, 2014

    A title like "Cirque Dreams Holidaze" does not exactly pack the familiar punch of "A Christmas Carol" or "Cinderella," which may account for the many empty seats at the Chicago Theatre on Thursday night. "What is that, exactly?" was the question around the office as I declared my plans for the evening, usually accompanied by one of those Scrooge-like furrowed brows, de rigueur here in Tribune Tower and untouched by the softness of the season.

  • REVIEW: 'Cinderella' at the Cadillac Palace Theatre

    December 18, 2014

    Two Cinderellas dreamed of a handsome prince at the Cadillac Palace Theatre on Wednesday. The one listed in the program, Paige Faure, suffering from what sure sounded like a severe cold or flu, danced off into the wings in the middle of the first act, never to go to the ball. Out then popped a second Ella in waiting, Audrey Cardwell. No wonder the prince remarked, "I don't even know your name!" as his Cinderella ran away. He was not alone.

  • 'Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara' coming to Royal George

    December 18, 2014

    A show from Los Angeles about the Vegas singers Louis Prima and Keely Smith is headed to the Royal George Theatre mainstage, the presenter Hershey Felder said on Thursday.

  • For 'Airline Highway,' Lisa D'Amour knows New Orleans

    December 17, 2014

    When Lisa D'Amour wrote "Detroit" — a play that premiered at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre in 2010 and went on to New York and London's National Theatre and became a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize — it seemed like she knew the Motor City uncommonly well.

  • REVIEW: 'Burning Bluebeard' by The Ruffians at Theater Wit

    December 17, 2014

    In the days after the fire at the Iroquois Theatre in 1903, a fire in which 600 lives were consumed by flames, this newspaper published the names of almost all of the victims. It was a formidable piece of reporting for its day — it took the entire staff of the newsroom to pull off — and it laid bare a terrible truth. The list was dominated by mothers and children, ordinary Chicagoans who had been seated in the balcony for a matinee performance of "Mr. Bluebeard." Virtually all of the performers got out alive.

  • REVIEW: 'Newsies' at the Oriental Theatre

    December 14, 2014

    Ugly, groggy-eyed and not unlike a low-rent Tony Soprano, I headed to my stoop for my Sunday Tribune. My early-morning eyes landed on an envelope for my very loyal carrier's holiday tip. Excellent timing, Andre! I had the Newsies ringing in my ears.

  • REVIEW: 'Airline Highway' at Steppenwolf Theatre

    December 14, 2014

    "In the beginning," observes a dying character in Lisa D'Amour's fascinating new Steppenwolf Theatre Company drama, "Airline Highway," "there was sex."

  • REVIEW: 'Twist Your Dickens, Or Scrooge You!' at the Goodman Theatre

    December 12, 2014

    For those who have been blessed by one onstage Tiny Tim too many — and which of us is not in that number at this cultural juncture? — the Goodman Theatre is, for the first time this year, offering a tempting seasonal alternative.

  • REVIEW: 'Pericles' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

    December 11, 2014

    Late in life, when writers are more inclined to take the bigger, sadder, more complicated view of our long haul on this planet, William Shakespeare wrote (or more likely co-wrote) what variously are called the romances, the late plays or last plays. I sometimes think of them as the mellow plays, since such works as "Cymbeline," "The Tempest" and "Pericles" — the third now at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier — are awash with the notion that happiness is usually tempered with sorrow, wins with losses, and desperation with the possibility of redemption.

  • Best Theater of 2014: An intense year of tough stories

    December 11, 2014

    The year 2014 in Chicago theater could perhaps best be described in the words of Samuel Beckett: "I can't go on, I'll go on."

  • Best of Broadway 2014: A year to trust the paying customers

    December 11, 2014

    Here's one striking truth about Broadway in 2014: There was an unusually rich correlation between quality and commercial success. This runs counter to a lot of the things often said about Broadway audiences. They're fickle, we're told. They won't pony up their money without a star on the marquee, it is declared, and not without great reviews and a familiar title above the door. But in 2014, the paying customers of the Great White Way ignored many of those rules, much of the time.

  • Read all about it: 'Newsies' is in town

    December 10, 2014

    To the delight of Midwestern fans of dancing newsboys, the one and only national tour of "Newsies" opens in Chicago on Friday night. Sales have been very brisk — some performances this weekend already are close to sold-out. It's a peak time of year for theater, certainly, but Specs and his hugely popular, paper-toting pals also aren't in town for long. Just four weeks. Not exactly "Book of Mormon" territory.

  • REVIEW: 'Living The History — 125 Years of the Auditorium Theatre'

    December 10, 2014

    Tuesday night's performance in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Auditorium Theatre ended with something even regulars at the venerable arts venue had never seen before. The gilded panels at each side of the stage — the ones with the composers' names — were flown out into the rafters, unmasking the full width of this spectacular building's stagehouse and provoking more than a few gasps.

  • REVIEW: 'The Clean House' by Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

    December 9, 2014

    Playwright Sarah Ruhl, who grew up on Chicago's North Shore and has enjoyed a long and extensive relationship with several Chicago theaters, has published a new book of prose, "100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write." One entry in that charming volume is especially telling: "Why I hate the word whimsy. And why I hate the word quirky."

  • REVIEW: Hansel & Gretel by Emerald City Theatre

    December 8, 2014

    Justin Roberts, the Chicago-based kids singer and songwriter, has written the kind of score for "Hansel & Gretel," the holiday attraction from the Emerald City Theatre, that makes you wish someone would hand him an assignment to pen a full-length score for a more complex show. Maybe, gasp, even one for adults.

  • Musical of Bette Midler's 'Beaches' gets pre-Broadway tryout at Drury Lane

    December 8, 2014

    The Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace is sticking its toes into the complicated waters of pre-Broadway tryouts, aiming to provide new competition for the more costly Broadway in Chicago venues when it comes to tempting Broadway producers who want to develop their new work in the highly attractive Chicago theater market. The first foray will be the musical version of the 1988 Bette Midler movie "Beaches," probably best known for the song "Wind Beneath My Wings."

  • Review: 'Pretty Persephone' musical by Billy Corgan

    December 7, 2014

    It might engender a few eye rolls, but the notion of Billy Corgan writing a musical makes excellent sense. He has always been an artist of ambition, his lyrics long suffused with the emotional language of melancholy and transformation. He has enjoyed being involved with soundtracks to movies like "Lost Highway." He is an inveterate collaborator. And several Smashing Pumpkins albums — "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," for example — are conceptual or narrative or whatever you want to call it when a rock band wants to use its music to tell a bigger story.

  • REVIEW: 'Panic on Cloud 9' on Second City Mainstage

    December 5, 2014

    Superior amusement at The Second City usually arrives riding on the back of panic. The crisis can be as picayune as riding Greyhound: "If think I'm on this bus any longer," Daniel Strauss' airline refugee complains at the top of the new Mainstage show on Wells Street, "I'm going to drop into a lower tax bracket." Or the crises can be so real and scary as to seem impregnable by humor. Of course, nothing is impregnable by humor, something that needs reiterating now that Joan Rivers is not here for reassurance.

  • Watching British TV ads — a different kind of holiday tradition

    December 5, 2014

    Welfare officers arrive at an ordinary British house — they seem to suspect ill-treatment of one of the occupants. They're emotionally overwhelmed by the task — we see one of them shaking and crying, almost unable to continue. They find the abused victim stuffed in the back of a cupboard — a vulnerable jar of Marmite whose needs have been cruelly ignored. The awful family that has done this injustice to the infamously yeasty British sandwich spread is plunged into turmoil as the team of emergency workers rush the Marmite from the home.

  • An actor's winter of content, in Chicago for 'Pericles'

    December 3, 2014

    In the world of classical theater in Canada — a small world, for sure, but one with fervent Chicago-based fans — Ben Carlson is a big star.

  • REVIEW: 'Shining City' by Irish Theatre of Chicago

    December 3, 2014

    For all its simplicity and folksy familiarity, the word "storyteller" is a much-overused term in the arts. It's claimed by those less than committed to the art of the raconteur, the craft of the fabulist, the spinner of yarns. But of all the writers out there, none can lay stronger claim to that moniker than the Irish scribe Conor McPherson. As anyone who has experienced even a few of the many distinguished Chicago productions of the likes of "The Seafarer," "The Weir," "Port Authority," "St. Nicholas" and "Shining City" well knows, the act of the telling of tall tales is at the very core of the McPherson aesthetic.

  • REVIEW: 'Mary Poppins' at the Paramount Theatre

    December 1, 2014

    Director Rachel Rockwell's new production of Disney's "Mary Poppins" is, without question, the biggest show at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora since the start of the remarkable initiative at that theater to nix those second-rate, nonunion, bus-and-truck tours and replace them with homegrown productions of family fare, anchored by first-rank Chicago talent. Indeed, this "Mary Poppins" is one of the biggest shows I've ever seen produced by a nonprofit theater in Chicago. To say she flies through the air with the greatest of ease does not fully convey what's on offer here to help your kids' eyes pop right out of their sockets.

  • A word on being a critic, by a critic, after 'Birdman'

    November 26, 2014

    In the Alejandro Gonzalez movie "Birdman," a formidably expansive, admirably unstinting yet deeply affectionate portrait of the many layers of neuroses and insecurities common to the artist, a washed-up movie actor named Riggan Thomson finds himself doing a show on Broadway. It's a forlorn attempt to remain relevant to a cultural conversation that he worries — heck, that he knows — has left him behind. In a bar one evening, prior to the show's opening, the actor, played by Michael Keaton, runs into a nasty, fictionalized version of the theater critic from The New York Times.

  • What's on stage, holiday shows to 'Humans'

    November 25, 2014

    This weekend is the beginning of peak theatergoing season in Chicago. So let me try and walk you through some decent options for you and yours.

  • REVIEW: 'Hot Georgia Sunday' by Haven Theatre Company

    November 25, 2014

    Tank tops, shorts and sweaty sexual desire are the main currency of the aptly titled "Hot Georgia Sunday," the engaging little sleeper of a show from the rising Haven Theatre Company, staged at The Den Theatre in Wicker Park and directed by Marti Lyons, who is rapidly becoming a leading exponent of the intimate theatrical experience in Chicago.

  • REVIEW: 'A Q Brothers' Christmas Carol' at Chicago Shakespeare

    November 24, 2014

    This is just the second year for "A Q Brothers' Christmas Carol," the seasonal attraction at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, featuring Chicago's Q Brothers, whose core brand involves taking classics and updating them with hip-hop stylings and an irreverent attitude. The dudes who show up at Scrooge's place asking for money are, in this version, a jovial double-act who introduce themselves as Rahm and Ari.

  • REVIEW: 'A Christmas Carol' at the Goodman Theatre

    November 24, 2014

    Anyone who just played King Lear is ready for a little fun. So that might explain why the hard-working Larry Yando, once again starring in "A Christmas Carol" at the Goodman Theatre, seems especially eager to arrive at the end of the show, when a newly cheery Mister Scrooge, suddenly aware that our time on this planet is all too short, can charm the Cratchits, hug Fred and greatly goose up the lives of butchers and their delivery boys.

  • Celebration of Sheldon Patinkin announced

    November 24, 2014

    A celebration of the life of Sheldon Patinkin, the influential teacher and Chicago comedy pioneer, has been set for Monday, Jan. 26, it was announced Monday. The event will take place in the main theater at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

  • Review: 'The Lookingglass Alice' by Lookingglass Theatre

    November 23, 2014

    Some of us must have been "dreaming as the days go by," but the "Lookingglass Alice" is now, well, older than Alice herself.

  • REVIEW: 'The Testament of Mary' at Victory Gardens

    November 23, 2014

    As most theaters trot out their Scrooge, Schooner or George Bailey, the Victory Gardens Theater opens a difficult, sparse, austere, intense and most assuredly haunting piece that — given the graphic depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ therein — is something one more readily associates with Easter.

  • REVIEW: 'Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas!'

    November 21, 2014

    Cindy Lou Who'd believe it? The Grinch got his union card! I don't mean that Shuler Hensley, who plays the verdant old meanie on the road, is the newest member of Actors' Equity Association. Au contraire. Hensley has more Broadway credits than the Whos have Roast Beast, including a Tony Award-winning performance as Jud Fry in "Oklahoma" (that one lives with me still) and a hilarious turn as the monster in "Young Frankenstein."

  • BROADWAY REVIEW: 'A Delicate Balance' at Golden Theatre

    November 20, 2014

    NEW YORK — “But in the end how do you get hold of hollowness,” was the rhetorical question asked by the perplexed critic Walter Kerr, when Edward Albee's “A Delicate Balance” first opened on Broadway in 1966. Back then, critics and audiences had just come to grips with the scorched-earth landscapes of Samuel Beckett and the menacing minimalism of Harold Pinter, understanding these were ways to dramatize existential human despair. But the Albee of 1966 was vexing for Kerr and his peers.

  • Mike Nichols' two unforgettable years in Chicago

    November 20, 2014

    In 1955, Fred Wranovics, a bartender at the Woodlawn Tap on 55th Street in Hyde Park, bought a Hyde Park joint called the Hi-Hat Lounge. Wranovics decided he might as well add in the empty storefront next door and combine the two buildings, also on 55th. He knew that a man named David Shepherd had formed a comedy-cabaret group called The Compass Players, so named because Shepherd wanted the work of his young writer-performers "to point in whatever direction society was going."

  • REVIEW: 'Dee Snider's Rock & Roll Christmas Tale'

    November 20, 2014

    Chicagoans being nice folks for the most part, it's not unusual to sit in a theater here and feel an audience will a show to succeed. Especially in the so-called season of goodwill. Especially when it's new and blessedly Scrooge-free material. Especially when you've shown up for a hot rock 'n' roll Christmas party show in the middle of some aftershock from a polar vortex, a once-alien term that's becoming as depressingly familiar around these parts as a disabled CTA bus messing up Lake Shore Drive.

  • How 'The Humans' got a Chicago-style production

    November 19, 2014

    Monday night at the American Theater Company was one of those Chicago evenings that make putting up with snow and ice in November — not to mention buses catching fire on Lake Shore Drive — wholly worth the cost.

  • REVIEW: 'Annie' at the Cadillac Palace Theatre

    November 19, 2014

    So it's Thanksgiving week — and family and "Annie" are in town. Whaddya wanna know? I'd venture it's whether the latest bus-and-truck "Annie" delivers the full "Annie" experience.

  • Chicago review: 'The Humans' at American Theater Company

    November 18, 2014

    For all its associations with tradition and fulfillment of our need for constancy, Thanksgiving dinner often turns out to be a reminder of how much things have changed.

  • BROADWAY REVIEW: 'Side Show' at St. James Theatre

    November 17, 2014

    NEW YORK — "Come look at the freaks," goes the accusatory opening number of "Side Show," the eclectic and enticing 1997 musical from Bill Russell and Henry Krieger that looks at the struggles of conjoined twins, each eager to escape the carnival, develop careers, experience love and find themselves. It's a classic Broadway theme, as sung here by an emcee gone to seed. Most musicals (and their TV spinoffs) deal either with freaks writ large, or with ordinary people convinced that something inestimably weird resides within. We're all either looking at freaks or wishing they'd stop looking at us. Maybe both at once.

  • REVIEW: 'Iphigenia in Aulis' at Court Theatre

    November 17, 2014

    Would you kill your own daughter as a sacrifice to the gods?

  • Broadway review: 'The River,' starring Hugh Jackman

    November 16, 2014

    NEW YORK - Anyone who has had more than one lover — or been with someone who has been so lucky — has confronted the same dangerous moment.

  • Review: 'The Mousetrap' by Northlight Theatre

    November 16, 2014

    Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" has been running in London for more than 60 years now — some 25,000 performances of the whodunnit that bested all whodunits have taken place, making "The Mousetrap" by far the longest-running show in British theatrical history. All the big critics who reviewed its opening in 1952 are now dead. The show most of them dubbed mediocre has outlasted them all.

  • Should the minimum wage apply to the arts?

    November 14, 2014

    Outgoing Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has said he wants to push through an increase in the minimum wage for the state of Illinois — from the current $8.25 an hour to $10 an hour — before he leaves office. With certain significant conditions, the incoming Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he supports an increase. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is going even further — advocating for a city of Chicago minimum wage of $13 an hour by 2018.

  • REVIEW: 'Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey: Legends'

    November 13, 2014

    As an annoying pooch jumped over a llama Wednesday night at the Allstate Arena, as annoying pooches are wont to do, the llama shot its fellow llama a knowing look that truly said it all in that minimalist llama way: What the heck are we both doing here, night after night, surrounded by dogs, goats and a pair of Australian kangaroos named, we kid you not, Sydney and Melbourne? They call this a circus? It's more like some camelid version of "Waiting for Godot."

  • Why did Evanston's Next Theatre fail?

    November 12, 2014

    Terry Green, an old-timer when it comes to Chicago theater, took me to task on Facebook this week for giving short shrift to many of the early artistic glories of the Next Theatre Company, which declared itself busted on Monday — after 34 years on the edge.

  • New dinner theater set to debut in the Dells

    November 12, 2014

    As a serial theatrical and banquet entrepreneur of the old school, Anthony Tomaska has had his hits — such as the hugely profitable Chicago production of "Tony n' Tina's Wedding," which ran for more than a decade at Piper's Alley. And he's had his misses — most notably, the multispace venue known as the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, which struggled to attract shows and audiences and eventually sold out to a church.

  • After 34 years, Next Theatre has closed its doors in Evanston

    November 10, 2014

    UPDATED ... Next Theatre Company, the 34-year-old, Equity-affiliated Evanston company that premiered “Killer Joe” (Tracy Letts' first play) and Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt's hit musical “Adding Machine,” is shutting down, effective immediately. The remaining shows in its 2014-15 season have all been canceled, the productions will not be happening, and subscribers will not be getting their money back.

  • REVIEW: 'Camelot' at Drury Lane Theatre

    November 7, 2014

    Given its inexorable associations with the glamorous Kennedy White House and such formidable but distant personas as Richard Burton and Julie Andrews, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's exquisitely scored "Camelot" now usually comes with a retro patina, a stiff echo of an age long gone.

  • The Theater Loop becomes part of digitalPLUS

    November 7, 2014

    Beginning Friday, Nov. 7, The Theater Loop with Chris Jones will become part of the premium digitalPLUS tier of

  • Does a negative review qualify for the 'right to be forgotten'?

    November 7, 2014

    On Tuesday, the Washington Post printed an impassioned letter from pianist Dejan Lazic, which began like this: "Dear Madam/Sir, It is hard to believe that almost four years after this article was published in your newspaper the contents of it still appear amongst top ten topics on google (sic) search engine when one looks up my name."

  • The Theater Loop becomes part of digitalPLUS

    November 6, 2014

    Beginning Friday, Nov. 7, The Theater Loop with Chris Jones will become part of the premium digitalPLUS tier of

  • Dick Schaal, a Second City pioneer and former husband of Valerie Harper, dies at 86

    November 5, 2014

    Richard "Dick" Schaal, a pioneer at the Second City comedy theater in Chicago, the former husband of the actress Valerie Harper and a familiar face from a plethora of character roles on movies and television, including "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda," died Tuesday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home in Woodland Hills, Calif., said his only daughter, the actress Wendy Schaal. He was 86.

  • Director Martin Charnin: Latest 'Annie' looks to past

    November 5, 2014

    NEW YORK - In the fall of 2012, the world's most lucrative redheaded, pooch-loving orphan appeared again on Broadway, directed by James Lapine. Although it was never the box-office hit its producers had hoped, "Annie," starring Katie Finneran as Miss Hannigan, ran for more than 14 months, through last January. So you'd logically expect the new national tour of "Annie" that arrives in Chicago on Nov. 18 to be based on that very recent Broadway revival. That would be the usual way of doing business.

  • 'First Wives Club' finds its Broadway wives

    November 5, 2014

    The Broadway-bound show "First Wives Club The Musical" has announced who will play its leading trio of spurned spouses: Faith Prince, Christine Sherrill and Carmen Cusack.

  • Amid spotlights and hype, Nik Wallenda walks the straight and narrow in Chicago

    November 2, 2014

    A cold wire in Chicago. A black sky. A little man — so fragile, as we all are — in orange with no visible contingency plan for his uphill jaunt over a frigid river, beyond an enviable certainty about life and no apparent fear of death.

  • REVIEW: 'The Real Thing' at American Airlines Theatre

    October 30, 2014

    We're all vulnerable in love and marriage — even arty, self-aware British intellectuals who pride themselves on their carefully constructed and seemingly unimpeachable castles of wit, irony and intellectual fortitude.

  • REVIEW: 'The King and I' at the Marriott Theatre

    October 30, 2014

    A fresh and welcome wind is blowing up the Malay Peninsula — well, across the Marriott Lincolnshire golf course, at least — with the famed suburban theater's very fine new production of "The King and I," the debut at that locale of the director Nick Bowling, hitherto known for his intimate, immersive productions at Chicago's TimeLine Theatre.

  • 'Rock & Roll Christmas Tale': Dee Snider is not your average Christmas elf

    October 29, 2014

    Dee Snider, the longtime frontman of Twisted Sister, really likes his family Christmas. Over lunch the other day with Snider and Suzette Guilot-Snider, his charming wife of more than 30 years, he spoke of trips from Long Island into Manhattan with the kids to see Santa and a show, the Christmas journal he'd kept over the years as his kids grew, his love of togetherness, his feeling that there are too few Christmas shows that a whole family can enjoy together.

  • Steven Pasquale will lead Lyric's 'Carousel'

    October 29, 2014

    The Broadway actor Steven Pasquale, recently a star of "Bridges of Madison County," is to play the role of the carnival barker Billy Bigelow in Rob Ashford's upcoming Lyric Opera of Chicago production of "Carousel," the Lyric announced Wednesday.Pasquale also is known for his work on the TV series "Rescue Me" on FX.

  • Johnny Cash musical will play Mercury

    October 29, 2014

    The music of the man in black is headed to the Southport Corridor this summer as the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., plays host to a transfer of last spring's Theatre at the Center production of "Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash."

  • REVIEW: 'Strandline' at A Red Orchid Theatre

    October 28, 2014

    In the beginning of Abbie Spallen's dense 2009 drama "Strandline," now in its U.S. premiere at A Red Orchid Theatre, we learn of a man apparently drowned, off the coast of Northern Ireland.

  • REVIEW: 'The Last Ship' at the Neil Simon Theatre

    October 24, 2014

    NEW YORK — As captain of “The Last Ship,” and the one who set this mostly autobiographical and wholly original Broadway musical on its daring course, the great songwriter Sting can take solace in his fleet of lovely melodies and sanguine lyrics, from gentle waltzes to stirring, working-class booze-ups in the socially engaged tradition of Kurt Weill. And he has paid clearly heartfelt homage to the struggling place and era of his birth: the town of Wallsend in the North East of England, shipyard-dependent even as cheap labor from abroad flooded the waters. Most rock stars don't bother with home.

  • Why we link Ebola to fictional stories like 'Contagion'

    October 23, 2014

    "Health officials struggle to control the media narrative about Ebola," read a headline in the Washington, D.C., publication The Hill a few days ago. The words were atop an article arguing that careful Obama administration pronouncements about the limited threat posed to most Americans by Ebola were being drowned out by "wall-to-wall coverage of Ebola" on cable news networks.

  • REVIEW: 'Disgraced' at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway

    October 23, 2014

    NEW YORK — Ayad Akhtar's "Disgraced" — a deftly crafted, theatrically compelling dissection of the intersection of sex, ethnicity and ambition — makes an intense and mostly effective leap to Broadway. It does so as protesters surround the Metropolitan Opera production of John Adams' "The Death of Klinghoffer," furious at what they see as the work's assertion of "moral equivalence" between an elderly Jewish cruise ship passenger and the Palestinian Liberation Front hijackers who murdered him.

  • In 'Traces' and 'Falling,' artists get their own moments

    October 22, 2014

    About halfway through Second City's very moving and revealing collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago last week — you missed it, but I suspect it will be back — I found myself thinking about another fabulous show at the Broadway Playhouse in 2011. Titled "Traces," it was the work of a Montreal-based company named 7 Fingers, and it subsequently played off-Broadway. Both of these shows were memorable for much the same reason. They involved performers seizing the chance to self-actualize and break out of a box.

  • REVIEW: 'Parade' at BoHo Theatre ★★

    October 21, 2014

    It is dangerous for a critic to close his or her eyes at the theater; it usually is construed as sleepiness or disrespect. But at one point on Saturday night, I briefly rested my eyelids at "Parade," partly because I just wanted, for a moment, to be carried off again by Jason Robert Brown's music. Without visual distraction.

  • REVIEW: 'Frederick' at Chicago Children's Theatre ★★★

    October 20, 2014

    Should the mice in "Frederick," the rather sweet new musical at the Chicago Children's Theatre, ever decide to turn tail and move to Chicago, they will be ahead of the civic game.

  • REVIEW: 'Amazing Grace' at Bank of America Theatre ★★

    October 20, 2014

    One way to understand the main problem facing "Amazing Grace," the very sincere new musical with Broadway aspirations, is to imagine a version of the Academy Award-winning movie "12 Years a Slave" wherein the protagonist is not Solomon Northup, the free-born American sold into slavery, but the Brad Pitt character, the white abolitionist Samuel Bass. Should such a movie have been made?

  • REVIEW: 'Animal Farm' at Steppenwolf Theatre Company ★★★★

    October 19, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Animal Farm" from Steppenwolf Theatre Company ★★★★ A blistering new adaptation of "Animal Farm" is the best production in the Steppenwolf for Young Adults program since "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 2010.

  • REVIEW: 'The Art of Falling' by Second City and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

    October 17, 2014

    Aside from being a hugely entertaining and strikingly emotional show, "The Art of Falling," Second City's not-to-be-missed new collaboration with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, is a very significant formative moment in this city's long history of improvisation and sketch comedy, forms invented here half a century ago. It is also a supremely successful collaboration, in the true artistic sense of a word too often used to mean merely the blending of resources or brands.

  • Al Pacino and David Mamet return to Broadway

    October 16, 2014

    Al Pacino is to return to Broadway in a new play by David Mamet next fall, the New York producer Jeffrey Richards announced Thursday.

  • Billy Corgan musical will debut in Highland Park

    October 16, 2014

    Billy Corgan, frontman of The Smashing Pumpkins, is writing a 20-minute musical for The Music Theatre Company of Highland Park, the group is to officially announce Thursday afternoon. The topic? The Eleusinian Mysteries, a religious rite in Ancient Greece.

  • REVIEW: 'Ionesco Suite' by Theatre de la Ville ★★★

    October 16, 2014

    "Are you going to Ionesco?" said the French woman in the Navy Pier elevator Wednesday night, a sharp question that set me off thinking about whether Ionesco could ever really be said to be a place and, if he could, probably merited a response like "aren't we all?"

  • A daredevil in a grand public space

    October 15, 2014

    As I work in Tribune Tower on North Michigan Avenue, I have plenty of chances to pass through Pioneer Court, the privately owned public space directly south of Tribune Tower and north of the Michigan Avenue Bridge over the Chicago River. Ever since the plaza, which is owned by the Zeller Realty Group, displayed the controversial 26-foot-high Seward Johnson statue known as Forever Marilyn, it seems to have morphed into a strikingly vibrant public stage.

  • REVIEW: 'Luce' at Next Theatre ★★★

    October 14, 2014

    In the first moments of "Luce" at the Next Theatre on Sunday afternoon, I had a distinct sense of deja vu. There was actress Amy J. Carle, playing a defensive parent and confronting her son's teacher after the educator had come across disturbing material created by the young man in her class. Wait, I thought, I've seen this before. Not long ago, either.

  • The 2014 Equity Jeff Award winners are...

    October 13, 2014

    On Monday night in Oakbrook Terrace, the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee displayed a deep love for the intimate. Writers Theatre's production of August Strindberg's "The Dance of Death," a rarely produced and difficult play about the lust for power on the battlefield of marriage, emerged as a surprising big winner at the 46th annual Equity Jeff Awards in a ceremony at the Drury Lane Theatre. Director Henry Wishcamper's production won for best "large" production (despite being staged in a Glencoe theater with less than 60 seats) and its stars, Larry Yando and Shannon Cochran, walked away together with the night's two major non-musical acting awards.

  • REVIEW: 'The Wild Party' by Bailiwick Chicago ★★★

    October 10, 2014

    One of the happier consequences of the recent uptick in the quantity and quality of off-Loop musical theater is that a very capable but often pigeonholed director and choreographer like Brenda Didier can take time away from the mainstream suburban circuit to get down and dirty with a risque title like "The Wild Party."

  • What really happened at Steppenwolf Theatre

    October 9, 2014

    The board of directors at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company engaged earlier this month in the kind of image management one associates more with politicians and major corporations than a nonprofit Chicago theater with roots in rough-hewn theatrical daring.

  • REVIEW: 'It's Only a Play' at Schoenfeld Theatre

    October 9, 2014

    NEW YORK - "Without the theater, New York is Newark," declares one of the characters in "It's Only a Play." Part sentimental confessional, part caustic farce rooted in bitterness and wholly insider theatrical baseball, this intermittently amusing, celebrity-juiced Terrence McNally comedy from 1982 has been updated, often painfully, for an age of gossip, annoying media personalities and an all-powerful critic likely to eat your precious creative baby as his late-night sushi on the train home.

  • Open letter to Redmoon: What to get right next time

    October 9, 2014

    Memo to Redmoon regarding the Great Chicago Fire Festival:

  • REVIEW: 'Sweeney Todd' by Porchlight Music Theatre ★★★

    October 8, 2014

    Like those with the misfortune to bare their necks to the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the Porchlight Music Theatre production of "Sweeney Todd" has its good and bad moments. But, to paraphrase (or bowdlerize) the Baker's Wife in "Into the Woods," if a Stephen Sondheim show were only moments, then you'd never be able to enjoy one.

  • REVIEW: 'The Cryptogram' at Profiles Theatre Alley Stage ★★½

    October 7, 2014

    The Profiles Theatre production of "The Cryptogram" features a really great performance from Aaron Lamm, a seventh-grader at Wilmette Junior High School. People tend not to believe critics when they say that a kid was really great in a show. "Oh, he's just being nice to the kid," they intuit. It's good to be nice to kids, especially those who show a commitment to the arts. But young Mr. Lamm really is excellent, which is to say that he spits out that famous Mametian dialogue, listens intently when not speaking, lives thoroughly in the moment and, it seems, feels.

  • REVIEW: 'Both Your Houses' by Remy Bumppo Theatre ★★★½

    October 7, 2014

    In 1933, the playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote a very lively drama all about Congress and pork, a drama that would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize and that now opens the season for Remy Bumppo Theatre Company.

  • REVIEW: 'At Last: A Tribute to Etta James' ★★★

    October 6, 2014

    Jackie Taylor, the maestro of the Black Ensemble Theater, has penned countless affectionate biographical tributes to recording artists. Whether it was Marvin Gaye or Dionne Warwick or Jackie Wilson, Taylor charted their highs and lows, explored but forgave their sins, heralded their legacies and brought to life their musical catalogs.

  • REVIEW: 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'

    October 6, 2014

    NEW YORK — As inciting incidents go, the unsettling event as lights rise on "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is a doozy. A dog named Wellington lies dead in the garden of its provincial English owner, stabbed by a huge garden fork.

  • REVIEW: Great Chicago Fire Festival by Redmoon

    October 5, 2014

    Anyone who has suffered the ignominy of a fire pit, a backyard full of guests and a pile of soggy wood could only empathize with Redmoon on Saturday night.

  • The making of 'Amazing Grace: The Musical,' and of the hymn

    October 3, 2014

    Despite its bucolic name, the quiet hamlet of Sandy Point Town, St. Kitts, on a friendly island in the West Indies, has a history written in blood.

  • 'Native Son' to 'Downpour,' 4 shows not to miss

    October 2, 2014

    In the great flurry of Chicago theater openings this last three weeks, two must-see shows have emerged. They are "Smokefall" at the Goodman Theatre and "Native Son" at the Court Theatre.

  • At Steppenwolf, Shapiro takes over from Martha Lavey

    October 2, 2014

    Steppenwolf Theatre Company announced at a press conference Thursday morning details of a planned, major physical expansion project, as well as an artistic and management succession.

  • REVIEW: 'Danny Casolaro Died for You' ★★½

    October 2, 2014

    On Aug. 10, 1991, a 44-year-old freelance journalist named Danny Casolaro was found dead in a West Virginia hotel room. His wrists were slashed. His death was officially a suicide.

  • REVIEW: 'The World of Extreme Happiness' in the Goodman's Owen Theatre ★★½

    September 30, 2014

    The birth of Sunny, the central character in Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig's unstinting and sardonic new play, "The World of Extreme Happiness," is celebrated by her moments-old self being stuffed in a bucket, lid slammed shut. The parental hope is that Sunny, whose outlook as a peasant girl in the People's Republic of China is anything but, will expire forthwith.

  • REVIEW: 'Bethany' at the Gift Theatre ★★★

    September 30, 2014

    Perhaps the biggest change in American society over the last 10 years is the amount of grease now to be found on the long-standing ladder leading toward middle-class stability, even as the richest one-thousandth of Americans make staggering gains in their incomes.

  • REVIEW: 'The Night Alive' at Steppenwolf Theatre ★★★

    September 30, 2014

    The question of what you will feel like when you die — and, more specifically, whether you will actually feel like you are dead — suffuses Conor McPherson's "The Night Alive." The season opener at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company is another raw and beautiful entry in this great Irish playwright's stunning ongoing series of dramatic meditations on life, loneliness and the possibility of redemption.

  • The real engine behind the arts? Teacher paychecks

    September 26, 2014

    Without artists who teach, the cultural life of Chicago would effectively cease to exist.

  • REVIEW: 'The Magic Flute' by Isango Ensemble at Navy Pier ★★★

    September 26, 2014

    The Isango Ensemble's touring production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 1791 opera "The Magic Flute" (or "Impempe Yomlingo") has been a hit in London and many other parts of the world. One understands why. This production makes the argument — with verve, passion, determination and craft — that what we might think of as canonical European opera easily can be loosened from the cultural specificity with which it's usually played and imbued with the spirit of contemporary globalism.

  • Hold the splatter: Zombie show dies on stage

    September 25, 2014

    Canada has so much to like: an excellent business climate; a compassionate health care system; some of the finest classical theater in North America; the Maple Leaf cookies they used to sell at Dominick's.

  • REVIEW: 'Evil Dead: The Musical' at the Broadway Playhouse ★

    September 25, 2014

    Canada has so much to like: an excellent business climate; a compassionate health care system; some of the finest classical theater in North America; the Maple Leaf cookies they used to sell at Dominick's.

  • REVIEW: 'Season on the Line' at House Theatre ★★★

    September 24, 2014

    What the cult Canadian TV show "Slings & Arrows" did for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival — and for resident classical theaters in general — so Shawn Pfautsch's "Season on the Line" aims to do for small Chicago theater companies.

  • Success from sorrow, and a predecessor for 'Smokefall'

    September 24, 2014

    On Monday, Noah Haidle's "Smokefall" opens on the main stage of the Goodman Theatre. If you follow theater in Chicago, you might have read something about this remarkable play about a Grand Rapids, Mich., family seen across several generations. It premiered last October in the Goodman's smaller Owen Theatre. "One of those rare new plays," I wrote at the time, "that manages both to be unstinting in its depiction of pain and dislocation yet also suffused with the hope that flows from healing and familial love."

  • REVIEW: 'The Commons of Pensacola' at Northlight Theatre ★★½

    September 23, 2014

    A potential Bernie Madoff does not lurk behind every financial planner's desk. This is just as well. Most of us working stiffs struggle enough to save rather than spend without watching our 401(k)s be subsumed into a Ponzi scheme. But experience does teach us that he was not unique: The scandal that unspooled at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in fall 2008 was another entry in that long American ledger of persons who should have known better — and who, when confronted with that which was too good to be true, preferred to go to Disneyland.

  • With Mueller lending her voice, FWD Theatre Project debuts

    September 23, 2014

    For a snapshot of what Chicago theater loves most about its new Broadway star, Jessie Mueller, you need only have been at the City Winery Monday night, when the self-effacing lead of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" gave her first local performance since winning a Tony Award last June.

  • REVIEW: 'Rest' at Victory Gardens Theater ★★½

    September 22, 2014

    The Idaho retirement community at the heart of "Rest," the new play by Samuel D. Hunter, who received a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" last week , is no place you want to spend your golden years. Granted, there are no druggies or winos, but it is hardly "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" — much closer, really, to "The Hot L Baltimore," the decrepit setting of one of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's finest hours.

  • Sheldon Patinkin, a giant of Chicago comedy and theater, dies at 79

    September 21, 2014

    Sheldon Patinkin, a crucial figure in the development of improvisational comedy in Chicago and a mentor to generations of American and Canadian comedians, as well as aspiring theatrical directors and other theater artists, died Sunday at the age of 79, his close friend Jane Nicholl Sahlins said Sunday. 

  • 'David Bowie Is' and the dangers of 'theme creep'

    September 19, 2014

    The Museum of Contemporary Art is going all out for David Bowie — some 400 objects, a gala, a Tumblr blog, a sponsorship from Louis Vuitton. This is understandable; the exhibit, organized by London's Victoria & Albert Museum, is making Chicago its only United States stop on a "David Bowie Is" world tour. If you're a serious stateside Bowie groupie, you likely are hopping a plane to Chicago, tongue dry and cash in hand. No wonder Tuesday is David Bowie Day in Chicago, courtesy of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

  • REVIEW: 'Let Me Down Easy' at American Theater Company ★★★

    September 19, 2014

    In 2013, after years of denials, the cyclist Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs. Some four years previously, Armstrong had given an interview to the actor-writer Anna Deavere Smith for her solo performance piece "Let Me Down Easy," an exploration of the end of our lives and of the fragility of the human body. In that recorded talk with Smith, an artist famous for her oral histories, Armstrong comes across as bold, defiant and forceful in his fight against cancer, a disease with a force that brings so many of us mortals to our knees.

  • REVIEW: 'Tennessee Williams' by John Lahr

    September 19, 2014

    Any biographer entering a crowded field — and the life and work of the great playwright Tennessee Williams is hardly virgin territory, given the confessional diaries, the innumerable extant letters, the documentary films, the previous analyses of his iconic American dramas — must make a case for the definitive nature of his or her work. Why would you go to the trouble of writing such a book if you didn't think there was a palpable need? Any biographer worth reading thinks he can make sense of a singular creative life better than all those other pretenders, irrespective of the graciousness of the acknowledgments.

  • REVIEW: 'King Lear' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★½

    September 18, 2014

    Barbara Gaines' raw and visceral Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of "King Lear" begins, poorly, with the titular monarch, he who hath ever but slenderly known himself, fast-forwarding through the songs of Frank Sinatra.

  • Self-awareness has its payoffs, and its limits

    September 17, 2014

    Sir Isaac Newton, the 17th-century British philosopher and mathematician, said a lot of things. But it's a pretty fair bet that, even in his wild and crazy youth, the formulator of laws of motion and universal gravitation was not given to saying "yay," even on a day when stuff for him was going really, really well.

  • REVIEW: 'The Downpour' by Route 66 Theatre Co. ★★★½

    September 16, 2014

    The best thrillers — and, believe me, playwright Caitlin Parrish's grippingly intimate new play "The Downpour" is as tense and disturbing an experience as any thriller you might find at the multiplex — are rooted in quotidian, real-life fears. You know: Contemplating marriage. Growing old. Leaving home. Leaving town. Getting laid off. Dying. Or, in this particular case, having children.

  • REVIEW: 'Cats' at the Paramount Theatre ★★★

    September 15, 2014

    When Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats" first opened in London in 1981, long before the kitty takeover of social media, I recall my teenage self marveling over a line in the newspaper advertisements of the time. "No admission," the ads would say, "while the auditorium is in motion."

  • REVIEWS: 'Isaac's Eye' ★★½ and 'Death Tax' ★★

    September 14, 2014

    This past weekend, two works by the same author opened at two leading Chicago-area theater companies, Writers Theatre in Glencoe and Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago. This would not be so unusual if the playwright was William Shakespeare or David Mamet, say, but the minifestival is of the work of Lucas Hnath, a young, smart, New York-based hipster. New to Chicago audiences, Hnath (his name is pronounced Nayth) writes in the theatrically aware, self-footnoting, anachronistic, removed and ironic style that is enjoying much popularity at present, and is the cornerstone of some upmarket graduate programs in playwriting.

  • REVIEW: 'This is Our Youth' at Cort Theatre

    September 11, 2014

    NEW YORK — In its home base of Chicago, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's studiolike production of Kenneth Lonergan's closely observed and emotionally potent “This Is Our Youth” was an intimate, immersive affair. With the audience seated on both sides of the action, the experience was akin to being present in Dennis Ziegler's mooched Upper West Side apartment in an era of morning in Ronald Reagan's America while still an edgy twilight in pre-Rudy Giuliani New York.

  • Aging seems to be a common theme this September

    September 11, 2014

    This weekend the new season of Chicago theater gets underway in earnest. If there is an unintended theme of the fall, I'd say it is that Chicago theater finds itself collectively engaged with issues dealing with the final years of our lives. If you have a gig for an actor over age 70 this fall, good luck. They're mostly all booked!

  • REVIEW: 'Since I Suppose' by One Step at a Time Like This ★★★½

    September 9, 2014

    At one point in "Since I Suppose," the new theater piece from the remarkable Australian company, One Step at a Time Like This, you find yourself alone in Daley Plaza, most likely in the middle of a workday. Look around, says the voice in your ear. Be aware of all the seats of power surrounding you. And so look you do.

  • REVIEW: 'The Game's Afoot' at the Drury Lane Theatre ★★

    September 9, 2014

    Some in the audience at the Drury Lane Theatre Thursday night thought they were going to see "Something's Afoot," the musical spoof of Agatha Christie. An easy mistake to make. In fact, the show in Oakbrook Terrace is Ken Ludwig's "The Game's Afoot," which also is a murder mystery with a satirical funny bone, but a spoof not of "Ten Little Indians" but of the life and times of the great America actor William Gillette.

  • Remembering Bernie Yvon, 50, a gloriously gifted song-and-dance man

    September 7, 2014

    Bernie Yvon was a song-and-dance man of the old school. Since he also was a disarmingly sophisticated actor — one need only have seen his Max last year in "Cabaret" or watched his younger self explore Harry Houdini in the first national tour of "Ragtime" to see that — the theater term "triple threat" also applied. The term means one who can sing, dance and act. Yvon mastered all three of those skills, and employed them night after night, in a formidable career spanning three decades of work in the Chicago theater.

  • Remembering Molly Glynn, 46, a talented actress with many roles

    September 7, 2014

    To be an actress with red hair — and Molly Glynn was so gifted — is to constantly find your name attached to adjectives like "fiery" or "feisty" after even the most minor display of independence or spunk. Glynn, who was fond of red sweaters, did not run away from such descriptors — how could she since redheads are often cast that way? But her formidable acting talents also were infinitely more subtle.

  • Deaths are felt deeply by Chicago theater family

    September 7, 2014

    For many in the Chicago theater, the day of incomprehensible tragedy Saturday began with a 7:33 a.m. Facebook post from a popular actor, Joe Foust. "I couldn't save her, I couldn't save her," he wrote. "She's gone."

  • Chicago actors Molly Glynn, Bernie Yvon die in separate accidents

    September 6, 2014

    The close-knit Chicago theater community suffered almost an unbearable loss Saturday when two of its stars, the actors Bernie Yvon and Molly Glynn, were struck down in the prime of their stage careers, both the result of accidents.

  • Broadway for fall 2014: 'Last Ship' and a boatload of big names

    September 5, 2014

    Few longtime observers consider 2013-14 a vintage year for Broadway. So weak was the overall slate that most of the new offerings were outsold by longer-lived shows from previous seasons.

  • Theater for fall 2014: Looking local, 'Airline Highway' to 'Native Son'

    September 5, 2014

    Summer exits, if it ever entered. Winter remains the newly terrifying villain in the wings. And the fall theater season is upon us. With a relatively quiet season for touring shows, the focus this season goes to Chicago's stellar collection of non-profit theaters. With the critic's usual caveat that while hope springs eternal, the proof lies defiantly in the pudding, here are 10 upcoming attractions of especially striking scope, theme and heart.

  • For Larry Yando, a full career amid the tyrants and misers

    September 5, 2014

    To play King Lear is to confront the possibility of being unloved and ill-used in your dementia-ridden old age. To play Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" is to stare into your own grave in front of a family audience. Many have played the lead in "King Lear." Many have played Ebenezer Scrooge. But it is a far more select group, probably with a membership of one, that has gone directly from one to the other at two major American theaters.

  • Roy Leonard, beloved WGN Radio personality, is dead at 83

    September 5, 2014

    Roy Leonard, a courtly, erudite New Englander who became one of Chicago radio's biggest and most durable stars, a celebrity interviewer of national stature, and a trusted and thus highly influential critic of Chicago-area arts and entertainment, died Thursday at Evanston Hospital, following a short illness according to his son, Kelly. He was 83.

  • REVIEW: 'The Whaleship Essex' by Shattered Globe ★★★

    September 4, 2014

    Not long ago, the venerable Shattered Globe Theatre Company was, like the endangered gray whale, staring extinction in the face. So to sit at Theatre Wit and watch this long-struggling but historically important Chicago theater company stage a genuine magnum opus, a full-throated adventure epic replete with a cast of 15 and enough passion and production values for you to feel a bit of the spray of the opens seas, was a rather stirring way to spend a Wednesday night.

  • Moving beyond the 'Monopoly man'

    September 3, 2014

    Opening nights in Chicago usually have their share of actors in the audience — some supporting friends, others just seeing the art they love. Nonetheless, the opening of Ron Keaton's "Churchill" at the Greenhouse Theater Center last month was unusually packed with Chicago's leading players.

  • Steppenwolf show to move to Broadway

    September 3, 2014

    The Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of "Airline Highway" by Lisa D'Amour is to move to Broadway after its Chicago engagement. Joe Mantello directs both in Chicago and New York.

  • Remade Red Lion Pub purrs

    September 2, 2014

    To be a haunted pub, you're really supposed to be an old pub. London's Viaduct Tavern, known for its poltergeist activity, has been a tavern since 1875. New York's waterfront Bridge Cafe, wherein regular patrons swear they are being watched, had a former life as a brothel and provenance in 1794. Yet Chicago's Red Lion Pub, which dates only to the culturally infamous era known as the early 1980s, still manages to show up on pretty much every listing of Chicago's most haunted bars.

  • REVIEW: 'Reasons to be Happy' by Profiles Theatre ★½

    September 1, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Reasons to be Happy" from Profiles Theatre ★½ Although more of a comedy and less raw, Neil LaBute's "Reasons to be Happy" is almost as good as "Reasons to be Pretty." Alas ...

  • iO opens with a mondo 'Armando'

    August 31, 2014

    The occasion for the celebrity infusion was the opening weekend of the new digs for the hopefully immortal iO, longtime resident of Wrigleyville but now situated on Kingsbury Street.

  • REVIEW: 'My Name Is Asher Lev' by TimeLine Theatre ★★★

    August 29, 2014

    "Be a great artist," a mentor tells a young Jewish painter who likes to draw Jesus Christ. "It is the only justification for all the pain you are about to cause."

  • TimeLine, Children's Theatre and a tale of 2 city buildings

    August 28, 2014

    In an unexpected flurry of late summer activity, it was revealed that two Chicago theater companies are eyeing new homes in buildings that once were put to use by the city of Chicago. Chicago Children's Theatre, in residence at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in the Near North neighborhood, is looking at rehabilitating the old 12th District police station at 100 S. Racine Ave., in the growing Near West Side neighborhood. Meanwhile, TimeLine Theatre, currently in residence at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ in Lakeview, is considering a move to the former Trumbull Elementary School in Andersonville. Trumbull recently was closed by Chicago Public Schools.

  • REVIEW: 'Methtacular!' at Theater Wit ★★★

    August 27, 2014

    Be it a story of sex, booze, cocaine or, in the case of the actor Steven Strafford, crystal methamphetamine, aka the most dangerous drug in the world, the challenge with any personal narrative of addiction is maintaining sympathy for the addict. Hear one more story about one more trip to the bar, or one more needle into the arm, and it's easy to start to feel like you and the teller are wallowing in a collective dance of dysfunction that you did not need to pay money to read or, especially, to watch writ large on a stage.

  • REVIEW: 'Ecstasy' at Cole Theatre ★★½

    August 26, 2014

    As a first show for a new, Equity-affiliated theater in Chicago, Mike Leigh's "Ecstasy" is one tough assignment. We can deduce that the Cole Theatre ("'Victory of the People' is our rally cry") is up for a challenge. That bodes well for the future.

  • Jessie Mueller to return to Chicago. For one night only.

    August 26, 2014

    The Tony Award winning Broadway star of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" is to return home — for one night only on Sept. 22.  In her first hometown performance since winning the 2014 Tony, Jessie Mueller is to headline a concert of new musical material at the City Winery in Chicago's West Loop.

  • TimeLine plots potential move to Andersonville

    August 26, 2014

    TimeLine Theatre is planning a move from its current digs in a Lakeview church to the North Side neighborhood of Andersonville, where the well-respected nonprofit theater will potentially be part of a mixed-use redevelopment project of the former Trumbull School.

  • REVIEW: 'Trap' at The Mission in the iO Theater ★★

    August 25, 2014

    TJ Jagodowski and David Pasquesi are known nationally as masters of long-form improvisation, that made-in-Chicago art form wherein a single audience suggestion of dialogue or a situation can unspool into a 90-minute show, never to be repeated. This past weekend, TJ and Dave, to use their usual mode of address, opened a good-sized theater of their own, The Mission Theater, a semi-autonomous space inside the expansive, new iO Theater on N. Kingsbury Street. The prime-time attraction is "Trap," a new but strikingly old-school sketch comedy show featuring five men and two women and directed by Jagodowski and Pasquesi, marquee names in this town.

  • Stratford Festival announces 2015 season

    August 25, 2014

    The Stratford Festival of Canada, a popular summer destination for Midwesterners, has announced its 2015 season, themed around “eureka” moments, which it defines not unlike how Oprah Winfrey defined “Aha!” moments.

  • REVIEW: 'Stupid F***ing Bird' by Sideshow Theatre Co. ★★★½

    August 22, 2014

    At one point in "Stupid F***ing Bird," the endlessly self-aware play by Aaron Posner that will be sweet and oft-hilarious relief for anyone who has sat through way too many shattering productions of the fragile plays of Anton Chekhov, the characters, neurotics all, start to obsess about how little they mean.

  • Second City, iO raise the comedy bar for Chicago

    August 21, 2014

    Of all the sectors of the arts and entertainment industry in Chicago, none has seen anything close to the level of explosive growth in 2014 enjoyed by the institutions that make people laugh.

  • The 2014 Equity Jeff Award nominees are ...

    August 21, 2014

    The flying kilts of "Brigadoon," the immortal barricades of "Les Miserables" and, in general, the lively revivals of director-choreographer Rachel Rockwell dominate the 2014 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations, announced Thursday by the all-volunteer committee that annually honors what it considers to be the best in Chicago theater. 

  • REVIEW: 'On the Town' at the Marriott Theatre ★★½

    August 21, 2014

    Sure, the Bronx is still up and the Battery still down (or flat, in my car's case this morning), but in the last number of "On the Town," the 1944 musical created by the incomparable collective talents of Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Jerome Robbins, the character of Claire DeLoone gets very wistful.

  • Shakespeare's story, a smartphone's eyes, your experience

    August 20, 2014

    High on my list of the top Chicago shows of 2011 was "En Route," a remarkable show created by a boutique Australian theater company called One Step at a Time Like This. Due in part to its very limited capacity — the Melbourne-based company specializes in kinetic theater that plays to one moving person at a time — the show sold out fast. There were stories of politicos, donors and the like trying to clout their way into reservations, remarkable, given the reflective, avant-garde nature of the work. "En Route" was not exactly "Jersey Boys."

  • Court Theatre will host memorial service

    August 20, 2014

    Court Theatre said Tuesday that it will host a memorial service at 7 p.m. Monday in honor of its master electrician of the past two seasons, Brenton Wright. Wright, who was 27, was killed Aug. 6 in a rock-climbing accident in California. Wright worked on 25 different shows at the theater over a course of six years, years that included his time as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. The service will take place at the Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave., on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

  • Broadway in Chicago's summer concert: Sounds of the fall season

    August 19, 2014

    So many people showed up Monday night for Broadway in Chicago's annual promotional concert in Millennium Park that the gates to the Pritzker Pavilion were closed, with a capacity 11,000 people inside and at least another two or three thousand musical-theater fans either lined up around the edges of the venue or seated on the grass elsewhere in the park.

  • 'Beautiful: The Carole King Musical' will get a 12-week run in Chicago

    August 18, 2014

    The first national tour of the Broadway musical "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" is to play Chicago for 12 weeks during the 2015-16 holiday period, its New York producers announced   Monday.

  • What does mourning on Twitter mean?

    August 14, 2014

    "About seven years ago, Lauren Bacall showed up at my place for a party," the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer John Patrick Shanley tweeted Wednesday morning. "It was like having a yacht show up in your bathtub."

  • Chicago Children's Theatre eyes a new home in the West Loop

    August 13, 2014

    Chicago Children's Theatre, a non-profit, Equity-affiliated Chicago theater company that specializes in work for young audiences, is eyeing a potential new home in the West Loop, where this is still little competition in the arena of live performance.

  • REVIEW: 'Fiddler on the Roof' at Light Opera Works ★★★

    August 13, 2014

    Sometimes I feel like I've talked to Tevye as many times as Tevye has talked to God. Such is the ubiquity of "Fiddler on the Roof," a musical that, in my small profession, is as constant a presence as a judge for a lawyer, a fire for a fireman or a pesky, moralistic manager for a specialist in corporate acquisitions.

  • 'Men Are From Mars - Women Are From Venus' coming to stage

    August 12, 2014

    Broadway in Chicago said Tuesday that it has booked a touring production of "Men Are From Mars - Women Are From Venus LIVE." The one-man comedy show about gender-driven differences,  based on the best-selling 1992 book by John Gray, is to be performed by the actor Peter Story. It’s a production of St. Louis-based Emery Entertainment. The show will play the Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St., Oct. 14-19. More at

  • Martin Scorsese's daughter is in cast at Profiles Theatre

    August 12, 2014

    Domenica Cameron-Scorsese, the daughter of famed movie director Martin Scorsese and a movie and stage actress in her own right, is to perform in a storefront theater in Chicago later this month.

  • REVIEW: 'All Our Tragic' by The Hypocrites ★★★★

    August 11, 2014

    "Make no little plans" long has been the mantra of this city, a common justification for our hubristic plans for the skyline or lakefront, often trumping fiscal prudence. But between 11 o'clock in the morning and 11 at night on Sunday, a stretch of theatrical time so voluminous as to permit nothing else in the day, a small and poor Chicago theater company took Daniel Burnham's words as narrative challenge, laying out, in one colossal fully-produced endeavor, all of the great Greek stories that nursed Western civilization, all the stories that begot all our other stories, all our attempts to wrestle civilization and democracy out of our incessant natural savagery.

  • REVIEW: 'Reefer Madness' at the Mayne Stage ★★

    August 11, 2014

    The time is ripe, you'd think, for a revival of "Reefer Madness," the silly musical spoof of the 1936 exploitation-morality movie that spun the yarn that Mary Jane was lying in wait for all the clean-cut young people of America, ready to turn each and every one of 'em into degenerates, miscreants, murderers, rapists and communists, all after a single puff of the rough stuff.

  • Does word of mouth mean anything when it's bought and paid for?

    August 8, 2014

    Earlier this week an unusual email arrived in my inbox offering cold, hard cash.

  • Steppenwolf director to work with Larry David

    August 7, 2014

    Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro is to be at the helm of Larry David's upcoming Broadway production, entitled "Fish in the Dark."

  • REVIEW: 'Churchill' at the Greenhouse Theater Center

    August 6, 2014

    Winston Churchill, inarguably one of the most effective political figures of all time, had a palpable affection for the United States of America. That came in part from his being the child of an American mother in an era when those trans-Atlantic marriages ...

  • REVIEW: 'Cascabel' by Lookingglass Theatre Co. ★★★½

    August 5, 2014

    Staring at Rick Bayless chopping greens -- and, let's face it, most of the ticket buyers at "Cascabel" are paying the big bucks to stare at the famous Chicago chef en personne and eat his delicious Mexican-inspired vittles ...

  • Billie Letts, mother of Tracy Letts, dies in Oklahoma

    August 4, 2014

    Billie Letts, the mother of the Chicago playwright Tracy Letts, died on Saturday in her home state of Oklahoma, according to reports in the Tulsa World and other sources.

  • REVIEW: 'The Jungle' at Oracle Theatre ★★★

    August 4, 2014

    Back when Chicago's Union Stockyards employed more than 25,000 people, processed almost all the meat that entered the American mouth and yet did not have today's sophisticated public relations and corporate security, a young writer named Upton Sinclair ...

  • At the Den Theatre, a game-changing new space in Wicker Park

    July 31, 2014

    That which lies behind the door of 1329 N. Milwaukee Ave. is a game-changer for theater in the hip Chicago neighborhood of Wicker Park. I took myself over to that address earlier this week, curious about the new storefront space being readied for The Hypocrites' new production of "All Our Tragic."

  • Arts should be live and local, not mailed from the Met

    July 31, 2014

    In 1883, the company's first year, New York's Metropolitan Opera began to tour. These great overland voyages of ear-pleasing sopranos, colorful tenors and their trunks and accouterments, grew in scope and stature over the early years of the 20th century, quickly evolving into major events on the nascent social circuits of hinterland cities like Detroit, Minneapolis and Cleveland. The Met tours lasted for more than 100 years, before the plug finally was pulled in 1986.

  • REVIEW: 'Hamlet' by Shakespeare's Globe at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★

    July 29, 2014

    If you were to see the Shakespeare's Globe "Hamlet" in dusty South Sudan, or in the tiny nations of Tuvalu or Nauru, or on St. Kitts and Nevis (maybe both if the touchy latter island decides to execute its right to secede from its Caribbean twin), this theatrical event doubtless would seem a remarkable thing. Here is this troupe of very lively and capable British actors, all connected to the site of the first production of William Shakespeare's masterpieces, carrying a "Hamlet" on their backs to every country in the world.

  • Second City plans major expansion at Piper's Alley

    July 22, 2014

    Second City, the famed Chicago comedy theater, announced Tuesday that it has acquired the former AMC movie theater inside the Piper's Alley complex at 230 W. North Ave. Second City plans to fill the new space with “student-centered facilities,” including two theaters, classrooms, a student lounge and bar, event space and other new facilities.

  • Second City plans major expansion at Piper's Alley

    July 22, 2014

    Second City, the famed Chicago comedy theater, is to announce Tuesday that it has acquired the former AMC Loews movie theater inside the Piper's Alley complex at 230 W. North Ave.  Second City plans to fill the new space with "student-centered facilities," including two theaters, classrooms, a student lounge and bar, event space and other new facilities.

  • REVIEW: "A Small Fire" at Steep Theatre ★★½

    July 20, 2014

    Adam Bock's "A Small Fire," a melancholy off-Broadway drama from 2011 now in its first Chicago production at Steep Theatre, is only about 80 minutes long. But the changes it charts in its central character, a middle-aged woman named Emily Bridges, are massive and devastating.

  • REVIEW: 'The Qualms' from Steppenwolf Theatre Company ★★½

    July 13, 2014

    Why do married — or otherwise committed — couples go to sex parties? One obvious reason presents itself. But the characters in the new black comedy "The Qualms" — set amid a little clutch of mostly miserable middle-aged Midwestern swingers, and the latest Steppenwolf Theatre Company world premiere from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Clybourne Park" — do not so much seem fired by erotic energy as by their formidable mutual collection of crippling neuroses.

  • Millennium Park proves to be city's great uniter

    July 13, 2014

    Whoever thought Millennium Park would become a place for lovers?

  • 'Jersey Boys' logged stage time en route to big screen

    June 19, 2014

    Back in 2005, by virtue of his charm and formidable vocal range, a young actor named John Lloyd Young won one of the most coveted roles in modern Broadway history: the part of Frankie Valli in Des McAnuff's production of "Jersey Boys." Young had never been on Broadway in his life, although he'd been blessed by Valli himself. The lead singer of The Four Seasons had not been greatly involved in the writing or staging of the show (he saw it for the first time at the La Jolla Playhouse), but he was, everyone said at the time, greatly involved in picking who got to play him. By most measurable factors, Valli picked well.

  • REVIEW: "This is Our Youth" at Steppenwolf Theatre

    June 19, 2014

  • It's official: Gary Griffin returns to Broadway with 'Honeymoon in Vegas'

    June 18, 2014

    The Chicago-based director Gary Griffin is to return to Broadway in the coming season when the long-anticipated Paper Mill Playhouse production of "Honeymoon in Vegas" will transfer to Broadway. The show is based on the 1992 movie, dealing with marital shenanigans in Sin City. 

  • 'Exit Strategy' to reopen in Michigan

    June 16, 2014

    The Three Oaks Theatre Festival, a summer operation in Harbor County, Michigan that focuses on Chicago theater, has announced its slate in Three Oaks and the Lakeside Inn in Lakeside for the 2014 season.

  • REVIEW: 'Exit Strategy' by Jackalope Theatre ★★★★

    May 18, 2014

    At once poetic, political, sad, funny, timely, complex and compassionate, Ike Holter's thrilling, beautiful new play "Exit Strategy" is the story of the desperate final days of a condemned, crumbling Chicago public school dreading its upcoming prom date with the cruel bulldozers from City Hall.

  • A Red Orchid inks deals with Broadway producer

    May 15, 2014

    A Red Orchid Theatre, a longtime fixture of Chicago's Off Loop community, announced Thursday that it has established a new partnership with the New York-based Bisno Productions, aimed at transferring some A Red Orchid productions to New York under the moniker A RED ORCHID NYC.

  • 'Hit the Wall' hits a wall

    May 14, 2014

    The Chicago Commercial Collective's production of Ike Holter's "Hit the Wall" is to close May 25, it was announced late on Wednesday.

  • The Hypocrites snag a new Den

    May 8, 2014

    The Hypocrites, the longtime off-Loop theater company that has seen strong growth in its national identity, is to take up permanent residence as the anchor tenent of a new 200-seat theater in Wicker Park. 

  • Goodman Theatre announces final show in 2014-15 season

    April 23, 2014

    The Goodman Theatre has announced the final show in its 2014-15 mainstage season: it is to be a new production of the classic Amerian potboiler "The Little Foxes," written by Lillian Hellman and first staged in 1939.

  • American Theater Company announces new partnership with The Araca Group, New York producers

    April 16, 2014

    Chicago's American Theater Company said Wednesday that it has inked a new partnership designed to create an enhanced Chicago-to-New York pipeline of new American works with commercial potential.

  • 'Soul Train' is headed to Broadway

    April 15, 2014

    "Soul Train" is on track for Broadway, it was announced today.

  • REVIEW: "Our Class" by Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

    April 7, 2014

    It is easy for a journalist in a rush to describe a Nazi death camp with the country of its location. "The Polish concentration camp Auschwitz," one often reads. This is understandably infuriating to some of those with roots in those countries, who watch closely for the practice, demanding that, for example, Treblinka is referenced as "built by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II," which is exactly how it reads on Wikipedia. Anything but "the Polish camp Treblinka," with its connotations of blame, echoing down through the decades.

  • American Theater Company snags major world premiere

    April 2, 2014

    The American Theater Company will stage the world premiere of "The Humans" by Stephen Karam this fall, well in advance of its planned New York premiere at the Roundabout Theatre, the Chicago-based theater said Wednesday.

  • Hypocrites announce new season

    April 1, 2014

    "All Our Tragic," Sean Graney's attempt to turn the 32 surviving tragedies from Ancient Greece into one single, epic narrative, will form the centerpiece of the fall season of The Hypocrites, the company said on Tuesday.

  • REVIEW: "Road Show" at Chicago Shakespeare Upstairs Theater

    March 21, 2014

    In the years since Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's "Bounce" bowed at the Goodman Theatre in 2003, replete with Hal Prince, Broadway stars, press conferences and expectations to match, it has become clear to Sondheim watchers that this particular show touched an especially personal chord with the great composer. That passion could be seen in the dogged way Sondheim (who celebrates his 84th birthday this week) stuck with this late-in-life project about the picaresque, real-life adventurers / planners / designers / developers Wilson and Addison Mizner as it morphed, without getting much external love, from a show called "Wise Guys" to "Bounce" to "Road Show." It can be seen in the 113 pages Sondheim devotes to its various lyrical iterations in his assiduously detailed volume, "Look, I Made a Hat." And, of course, the sentiment has emerged from Sondheim's own mouth in many a public forum over the last couple of years. I heard it with my own ears. Several times.

  • Son brings show about Jack Lemmon to Chicago

    March 19, 2014

    Chris Lemmon, the son of the late Hollywood actor Jack Lemmon, is headed to the Royal George Theatre mainstage with a new play with music about his relationship with his legendary, Academy Award-winning father.

  • Broadway-scale 'Rent' will satisfy die-hards

    March 17, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Rent" by Paramount Theatre in Aurora ★★★½ ... I have reviewed "Rent" at least 525,600 times, or so it feels. The vast majority of them have begun with some kind of lament for Jonathan Larson, its creator, who died in 1996 at the age of 35...

  • Honest writing keeps addiction drama afloat

    March 17, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Water by the Spoonful" at Court Theatre ★★★ ... Some writers, especially those from families that don't necessarily understand the need for such a profession, curse their relatives. Others mine them for material.

  • Chicago gets new international puppet festival

    March 17, 2014

    The depth of the Chicago winter next year is to be enlivened by the coming of puppets from far and wide.

  • In shadow of 'Chicagoland,' real Chicagoans tell it like it is

    March 14, 2014

    It takes time to create a television documentary, and filmmakers Marc Levin and Mark Benjamin have said they spent much of a year amassing 1,000 hours of video to make their CNN true-crime documentary "Chicagoland." So America currently is discovering, in its family rooms, many of the 2013 horrors that Chicago is trying to forget: the brutal fight over the decision to close underperforming schools, where the rhetoric almost seemed to mirror the violence under discussion; the murder of teenager Hadiya Pendleton; the terror of kids crossing lines in a fractured gangland where the ownership of fiercely defended turfs can change with the block.

  • Larry Yando to play King Lear as part of new Chicago Shakes season

    March 13, 2014

    The veteran Chicago actor Larry Yando, best known currently for his annual turn as Ebenezer Scrooge at the Goodman Theatre, will play  King Lear  in a new production of William Shakespeare's tragedy directed by Barbara Gaines, Chicago Shakespeare Theater has announced. 

  • Fred Kaz, music director at Second City, dies at 80

    March 12, 2014

    Fred Kaz, the music director at The Second City for 24 years and a legendary personality and talent at the comedy theater, has died at the age of 80.

  • Robert Christen, who lit the way at Goodman Theatre, dies at 64

    March 10, 2014

    UPDATED MARCH 11 WITH FULL OBITUARY ... The men playing Ebenezer Scrooge changed over the years — William J. Norris, Tom Mula, Larry Yando — but not the man lighting the famous Dickensian sinner's pathway to redemption.

  • 2014 Review: Johnny Cash musical sidesteps the story in favor of the songs

    March 10, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Ring of Fire - The Music of Johnny Cash" at Theatre at the Center ★★½ ... When this jukebox musical celebrating the songs of the late, great Johnny Cash, opened on Broadway in 2006, it felt very much in the shadow of "Walk the Line."

  • Steppenwolf press rep. to head to New York

    March 5, 2014

    Jeffrey Fauver, the press representative for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, is leaving the high-profile Chicago theater at the end of the month.

  • Steppenwolf announces 2014-15 season

    March 5, 2014

    Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company will produce the world premiere of a new play by Lisa D'Amour ("Detroit"), directed by Joe Mantello, during its 2014-15 season, the theater announced Wednesday.

  • 'Annie' headed to Chicago

    March 3, 2014

    A touring production of "Annie" will play Chicago in November, Broadway in Chicago announced Monday. 

  • Paramount Theatre announces 2014-15 season in Aurora

    February 28, 2014

    The Paramount Theatre will stage a series of big-name musicals during its 2014-15 season, the historic venue announced Friday, including "Cats" (Sept. 10-Oct. 12), "Mary Poppins" (Nov. 26-Jan. 4), "The Who's Tommy" (Jan. 14-Feb. 15, 2015) and "Les Miserables" (March 18-April 26, 2015).

  • Harold Ramis and living the 'yes, and' life

    February 27, 2014

    Harold Ramis, the actor-writer-director who died last Monday, was greatly beloved. The extraordinarily voluminous outpouring of attention and affection—which extended all the way up to the "Caddyshack" fan who occupies the White House—was partly a consequence of his having been involved in several very funny, popular and accomplished movies (the likes of "Ghostbusters" and "Groundhog Day") that help people recall the happier and freer moments of their lives. In Chicago, especially, there was an intense feeling of pride and gratitude that Ramis was a mensch who had rejected Hollywood for a rooted family and creative life in the Chicago area, whence he came. But it also had a great deal to do with how Ramis, by so very many accounts, lived a "yes, and" life.

  • Daughter of Marx has much on her shoulders

    February 25, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Miss Marx" by Strawdog Theatre ★★½ ... Eleanor Marx, youngest daughter of a fellow named Karl, was something of a thespian as well as a chip off the old political block.

  • Harris Theater to be closed through March 6

    February 20, 2014

    The Harris Theater said late Thursday afternoon that it will be forced to remain closed through March 6 for repairs following an electrical fire Wednesday that cost the theater its performances by the Hamburg Ballet.

  • James Franco, Leighton Meester in Chicago for extended rehearsal stay

    February 17, 2014

    James Franco is not just in Chicago for a poetry reading. The actor, who stars along with Chris O'Dowd in Anna D. Shapiro's upcoming Broadway production of "Of Mice and Men," actually is rehearsing here through the end of February, prior to the show's April opening on Broadway. Shapiro, a Northwestern University professor and Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member, was able to persuade her stars to rehearse in her home town. That's no mean feat when it comes to Broadway productions.

  • REVIEW: 'Gypsy' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★★

    February 15, 2014

    "Anybody that stays home is dead," sings Rose in the 1959 musical masterpiece "Gypsy," the story of the pushy stage mother they call "a pioneer woman without a frontier," and, for an actress of a certain age, a show that offers the rare chance to play the King Lear of the American musical theater, a woman who rages not on some storm-ravaged heath but in an empty theater, consumed by rejection and regret.

  • Go West, Young Joseph Jefferson

    February 9, 2014

    The daring men and women of the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee are pushing west.

  • Where is the DollarTree concept for the arts?

    February 7, 2014

    In Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady's clear-eyed, 2012 documentary "Detropia," which anticipated many of the things that would happen in (and to) the bankrupt Motor City in the year that followed, a union leader laments the disappearance of good, middle-class jobs in the auto industry. He speaks of the kind of hourly wage that would allow a lifetime employee to save up for a small cottage "up north" or maybe a secondhand boat for Sunday afternoons on a small lake in the thumb of Michigan.

  • Questions of science, gender and generations

    February 7, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The How and the Why" at TimeLine Theatre ★★★★ ... Elizabeth Ledo has, for all the years I've been watching her, been cast mostly in puckish roles. I'd bet she has been waiting for just the kind of realistic, honest, human, grounded, womanly role ...

  • 'Motown' to head to Motor City after six months max in Chicago

    February 6, 2014

    The national touring company of "Motown: The Musical" will exit Chicago after no more than six months and head to Detroit and elsewhere, the producers announced on Thursday. 

  • In a small town, navigating life's curves

    February 5, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Sons of the Prophet" at American Theater Company ★★½ ... In the very fine 2011 play by Stephen Karam that deals with the way that life often confounds the two words in the title ...

  • Second City to collaborate with Hubbard Street Dance

    February 4, 2014

    The Second City and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will embark on a new and distinctive collaboration this fall. A sketch-comedy show, as yet untitled but on the theme of modern dance and comedy, will be created and performed by artists in both companies.

  • 'Amazing Grace' musical to premiere in Chicago

    February 4, 2014

    "Amazing Grace," a new musical about the composer of the hymn of that name, will bow officially this fall in Chicago with performances from Oct. 9 through Nov. 2 at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.

  • 'Old Jews' off to the cabaret; Kazurinsky off to 'Wicked'

    February 3, 2014

    The long-running Chicago production of "Old Jews Telling Jokes" is moving to the Royal George cabaret space on Thursday, vacating the larger Royal George mainstage.

  • If you're ready for raw experimentation, heaven is waiting

    February 3, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hamlet is Dead. No Gravity" by Red Tape Theatre ★★★ ... This very interesting and highly intellectual piece of deconstructive Austrian experimentation posits a universe in which heaven is one big empty space.

  • On The Theater Loop, something new for opera lovers

    February 3, 2014

    With John von Rhein's four-star review of "The Barber of Seville" at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, we're adding the world of opera to The Theater Loop.

  • Amid bewitched weather, here comes the sun at House

    January 29, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Rose and the Rime" at House Theatre ★★★ ... If this hellish Chicago January proves to be a harbinger of horrors to come, all the theaters around town will all be jumping on to a growing sub-genre ...

  • Second City offers new fellowship for minority performers in sketch comedy

    January 29, 2014

    In a move that comes after NBC's "Saturday Night Live" reacted to intense pressure to hire more minority performers, Chicago's Second City says it has created a new (and tuition-free) multi-performer fellowship designed to fast-track talented minority performers through its Chicago-based system of training and cultivation.

  • After a student's death, trying to untangle the issues

    January 28, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Gidion's Knot" at Profiles Theatre Alley Stage ★★★ ... In this tense new play from emerging writer Johnna Adams, a mother shows up at her son's classroom to attend a previously scheduled parent-teacher conference.

  • Jeff Garlin headed back to Chicago

    January 28, 2014

    Jeff Garlin, the Chicago comic and improviser who found fame after his stint on the HBO show "Curb Your Enthusiasm," is headed home for a series of intimate gigs at the Zanies comedy club.

  • Jeff Carlin headed to Chicago

    January 28, 2014

    Jeff Garlin, the Chicago improvisor and comic who shot to fame after his stint on the HBO show "Curb Your Enthusiasm," is headed for a series of intimate shows at the Chicago comedy club Zanies.

  • REVIEW: "Luna Gale" at the Goodman Theatre

    January 27, 2014

    "Tragedy," the critic Eric Bentley once wrote, "is an experience of chaos." True. But not only is the chaotic the landscape of "Hamlet," "Othello" and the like, it also visits many of us on a daily basis. A waiter finds himself in the weeds. A reporter collapses under too many deadlines. An accountant finds herself buried. And a social worker, like the harried figure at the center of playwright Rebecca Gilman's excellent and intensely involving new drama "Luna Gale," finds herself wanting to do the best possible thing for the vulnerable children in her charge, but the kids just keep coming, one case after another, one more appointment to chase, one more open file to add to the pile, one more reason for a career-building, know-nothing boss to get in her face.

  • Jory's stage version of novel has wit but lacks clarity

    January 27, 2014

    "A good countenance is a letter of recommendation," wrote Henry Fielding, the author of "The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling," in 1749. It's a timeless truth understood best by those of us whose countenance is, to put it generously, mediocre.

  • Eddie Izzard coming to Chicago Theatre

    January 27, 2014

    The British comedian Eddie Izzard, known for his cross-dressing and also his highly intelligent comic material, is to return to Chicago in June. The Chicago gig is part of Izzard's "Force Majeure" world tour.

  • Drury Lane does its best with 'Frankenstein' monster

    January 24, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Young Frankenstein" at Drury Lane Theatre ★★½ ... So you have to hand it to director William Osetek and the Drury Lane Theatre. They've gone a long way toward rehabilitating Mel Brooks' musical

  • A different take on racial issues and real estate at Next Theatre

    January 22, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Luck of the Irish" at Next Theatre in Evanston ★★½ ... Had Lorraine Hansberry's Younger family from "A Raisin in the Sun" wanted to move quietly into Clybourne Park, they could have engaged in a practice that informs another play about race and real estate.

  • REVIEW: "Rasheeda Speaking" by the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

    January 20, 2014

    Although staged at the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble on Ridge Avenue, "Rasheeda Speaking" feels very much like the kind of show you would have seen at the Victory Gardens Theater during its previous artistic regime. The script, which is being seen for the first time, is by Joel Drake Johnson, a locally based, longtime Victory Gardens ensemble member. The director is Sandy Shinner, longtime associate artistic director at the Gardens. And the star is Ora Jones, an actress who appeared often at the Gardens, as she has on most of Chicago's major stages.

  • 'Guitars' has a relaxed and playful vibe

    January 20, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Seven Guitars" at Court Theatre ★★★½ ... August Wilson's plays first arrived in Chicago as they were still being written, mostly in the 1990s.

  • REVIEW: "Hedda Gabler" at Writers Theatre

    January 17, 2014

    From the first moment she opens up the case of General Gabler's famous pistols, Kate Fry's Hedda seems well aware of her name and how her story ends.

  • Reconceived 'Phantom' with a reverence for the original

    January 16, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★★ ... Cameron Mackintosh has never believed that having an address not within haunting distance of Broadway should prevent you from a big night out.

  • How and why actors' paychecks are shrinking on tour

    January 15, 2014

    Last week in New York, a group of very angry actors expressed their feelings to their union, Actors' Equity, about the collapse of salaries for the performers who tour with Broadway shows to cities like Chicago. It is not hard to see why they were angry.

  • REVIEW: 'Beautiful, the Carole King Musical' at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre

    January 12, 2014

    NEW YORK — Early in "Beautiful," the new Carole King musical on Broadway, the prodigious but perennially insecure title character is desperately trying to sell the song "It Might as Well Rain Until September" just by banging it out on the piano.

  • Broadway's 'Cinderella' to spend next Christmas in Chicago

    January 9, 2014

    The touring version of the Broadway musical "Cinderella" is to be a holiday attraction in Chicago next Christmas, playing the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., from Dec. 16 through Jan. 5, it was announced Thursday.

  • With 'Mary Poppins,' there's more to know under the umbrella

    December 20, 2013

    The story of how Walt Disney coaxed P.L. Travers, the creator of "Mary Poppins" and a soul as tough as old boots, into letting him turn her flying nanny into the star of a Disney movie featuring cheery songs by the Sherman Brothers and starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, is now being told all over the world in the new film "Saving Mr. Banks." Actually, there's a lesser-known story, perhaps more interesting, about what happened when British theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh went to see Travers in London many years after the meeting depicted in the film.

  • 'Iceman' is headed to Brooklyn; Broadway likely

    December 17, 2013

    The widely acclaimed 2012 Goodman Theatre production of "The Iceman Cometh" will be taken out of cold storage and re-ignited in 2015 in Brooklyn, including with Nathan Lane, Stephen Ouimette and Brian Dennehy.

  • Top 10 shows that live on: Best Chicago theater of 2013

    December 13, 2013

    The year in Chicago theater produced some gorgeous new plays, a stunning revival of one of the most important dramatic works ever penned by a Chicagoan and any number of intimate encounters with matters of import, not the least being the problem of gun violence in Chicago, with which Chicago's theaters wrestled throughout 2013.

  • Mercury Theater to stage 'The Addams Family,' 'Avenue Q'

    December 12, 2013

    The Mercury Theater on Southport Avenue will stage an Equity production of the Broadway musical "The Addams Family" during its 2014 calendar-year season, which the theater announced Thursday morning.

  • Royal Ballet for Auditorium Theatre's 125th anniversary

    December 9, 2013

    Chicago's Auditorium Theatre, which opened its doors in 1889, announced plans on Monday morning for its 125th-anniversary season. It includes the June 2015 return to Chicago of Britain's  Royal Ballet for the first time since 1978, and the return in the fall of 2014 of the Dance Theatre of Harlem.

  • From Sandra Bernhard, a revealing show in a little black dress

    December 6, 2013

    REVIEW: Sandra Bernhard at the MCA ★★★½ ... Finding "Sandyland" is never easy. But it's there, somewhere in Chicago, each December as a surely as a scanty Santa on Division Street.

  • BET's 'Dancesical' is a holiday show in need of story

    December 4, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Once Upon a People: A Dancesical" at Black Ensemble Theater ★★ ... This new "dancesical" at Black Ensemble Theater is a show unlike anything I've seen at this theater before.

  • Chicago Commercial Collective to tour off-Loop shows

    December 4, 2013

    The Chicago Commercial Collective, a small for-profit theater producer based in Chicago, has announced plans to market a tour of off-Loop shows around the Midwest, aiming its wares at colleges and universities.

  • Grappling with the horrific history of Iroquois Theatre fire

    December 2, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Burning Bluebeard at Theater Wit ★★★½ ... On Dec. 30, 1903, Chicago's Iroquois Theatre was destroyed by fire, killing some 600 people, many of them young children seated in a balcony.

  • Katie Rich headed to 'SNL'

    November 27, 2013

    Second City on Tuesday night said that Katie Rich will be leaving its mainstage cast. She is to become a writer for "Saturday Night Live."

  • It's official: Anna D. Shapiro to direct James Franco in 'Of Mice and Men'

    November 26, 2013

    It's been known for months that the Steppenwolf ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro was directing a new adaptation of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" with James Franco on Broadway this spring; tickets even were auctioned off at the Steppenwolf gala.

  • Dee Snider Christmas show to bow in Chicago

    November 25, 2013

    A new holiday show written by, and starring, Dee Snider, lead singer of the band Twisted Sister, is to bow at the Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut St., in Chicago in November of 2014.

  • REVIEW: 'A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder' at Walter Kerr Theatre

    November 25, 2013

    NEW YORK — Jefferson Mays, the extraordinary American actor at the core of the very witty new musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" cut his teeth doing the plays of August Strindberg with Anne Bogart. He was great in "Miss Julie" years ago in Kentucky, and he's yet better in this perfectly picaresque little piece of faux-Edwardian stuff and nonsense. Featuring a droll book by Robert L. Freedman and a chirpy score by Steven Lutvak (the two share credit for the lyrics), this show proves once again how the lovable serial killer is a type whose appeal hardly is limited to premium cable.

  • Quest story has lively step but strikes some flat notes

    November 25, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'The Dead Prince' by Strange Tree Group ★★ ... Emily Schwartz, one of Chicago's most interesting and imaginative young writers, has written a full-blown musical ...

  • HOLIDAY GUIDE 2013: Counting down 10 shows to Christmas

    November 22, 2013

    The season of good will? Already? What happened to the last year? Ah, the days may spin faster, but our On the Town guide to holiday stage entertainment is as reliable as Christmas pudding.

  • 'Macbeth' entertains, but show us your hunger, Mr. Hawke

    November 21, 2013

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "Macbeth" at Lincoln Center ... So what exactly is actor Ethan Hawke's relationship with ambition? You can throw whatever you want at the Scottish play, and the epic and guiltily entertaining new production of "Macbeth" from director Jack O'Brien is a reminder ...

  • Paul Dillon's performance worth the fare in 'Hellcab'

    November 15, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hellcab" at Profiles Theatre ★★★½ ... "Hellcab," a dark and politically incorrect play penned back before cities like Chicago were cleaned up and turned into magnets for young professionals, is a play of which I am congenitally fond.

  • 'Newsies' will be here for Christmas 2014

    November 13, 2013

    Extra! Extra!  The "Newsies" are coming to Chicago!

  • 'Big Fish' beached

    November 10, 2013

    "Big Fish," the ambitious Broadway musical based on the Tim Burton movie of the same name, has run out of line on Broadway.

  • Louie and friends make the magic happen at MCA

    November 8, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Rainpan 43: Elephant Room" at the MCA Stage ★★★ ... If Andy Kaufman and Tony Clifton ever had bothered learning magic tricks, they'd perhaps have come up with something like "Elephant Room."

  • Billy Crystal's '700 Sundays' is back on Broadway

    November 7, 2013

    Billy Crystal's autobiographical solo show "700 Sundays" is back on Broadway, performed by Crystal and directed by Des McAnuff. It will officially open Nov. 13 at the Imperial Theatre and run through Jan. 5, 2014. The show first debuted in 2004 at the Broadhurst Theatre, and won the 2005 Tony Award for Special Theatrical Event. I spoke with Crystal later that year in Long Beach, N.Y., in advance of his appearance in Chicago.

  • 2013 Equity Jeff Awards: 'Good People' and 'Sunday' are big winners

    November 5, 2013

    The Steppenwolf production of David Lindsay-Abaire's drama "Good People," and its lead actress, Mariann Mayberry, emerged triumphant at the Joseph Jefferson Awards in Oakbrook Terrace on Monday night.

  • At the Paramount, a riveting new take on a falling Saigon

    November 4, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Miss Saigon" at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora ★★★★ ... For an idea of what could be done with "Miss Saigon," the Vietnam-era musical that launched the career of Nicholas Hytner, the producer Cameron Mackintosh should head to Aurora.

  • Review: 'Song of Spider-Man' by Glen Berger

    November 3, 2013

    Glen Berger really loves Julie Taymor, his authorial collaborator on the famously fraught Broadway musical, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” a show that filled Broadway gossip columns for months (it felt like years) with tales of backstage bickering, technical malfunctions, incomprehensible artistic choices and, most disastrous of all, seriously injured actors.

  • Brothers Q to create Scrooge rap

    November 1, 2013

    The Brothers Q brand of rapping the classics has another manifestation: a Christmas show entitled "A Q Brothers' Christmas Carol."

  • Mud on its face, but ridiculous musical is no total disgrace

    October 23, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "We Will Rock You" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★ ... I needed a drink after "We Will Rock You," the Queen musical that was incoherent when I first saw it in London a decade ago ...

  • Branson's new twists

    October 22, 2013

    BRANSON, Mo. — At Charlie's Steak, Ribs & Ale, just off the famous 76 Country Boulevard in Branson, a prime cut of New York strip steak can be procured for an eye-popping $12.99, about the cost of a typical side dish at a steakhouse in New York City. And at Charlie's, your hunk of cow comes not only with your choice of potato and coleslaw but also with the song stylings of Rebecca Dawn.

  • Real boys are hard to find on this island

    October 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Lord of the Flies" by Steppenwolf for Young Adults ★★ ... William Golding's Lord of the Flies was required reading for every 12-year-old in the 1970s. At Steppenwolf, you get the sense that there were worries that this tale would be boring or remote for today's youth.

  • Warmth at center of a drama that spans generations

    October 20, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Smokefall' at the Goodman Theatre ★★★★ ... "Smokefall," the fragile, haunting, not-to-be-missed new family drama at the Goodman Theatre is one of those rare new plays ...

  • Van Zandt mashes up rock legacy with live show

    October 18, 2013

    Steven Van Zandt — the 62-year-old guitarist for the E Street Band, a political activist who famously took action in the 1980s against the Sun City resort in South Africa and a late-in-life actor who played Silvio Dante on "The Sopranos" — is, most passionately, a rock historian.

  • Harris Theater plans renovations

    October 17, 2013

    The Harris Theater for Music and Dance is to officially announce a major fundraising campaign Friday night. Dubbed “Imagine: The Campaign for Harris Theater,” the campaign aims to raise $38.8 million in support of the theater renovations, support for its resident companies, community engagement and the venue’s own presenting program, and, perhaps most notably for patrons, the installation of two additional glass elevators in the theater, along with reconfigured lobby stairwells and an expanded theater lobby. 

  • REVIEW: "The Table" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

    October 17, 2013

    FROM 2013 ... The physical elements of the current spectacular attraction visiting Chicago Shakespeare Theater from the United Kingdom consists of the following: one puppet (hollow cardboard head and cloth body) and one table (rectangular, prosaic).

  • Tracy Letts of Bucktown, headed back to Broadway

    October 16, 2013

    The Chicago-based actor, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tracy Letts is headed back to Broadway this spring, it was announced on Wednesday.

  • Opera diva Callas is back and up close at Theo Ubique

    October 14, 2013

    REVIEW: "Master Class" at Theo Ubique Theatre ★★½ ... "Master Class," the Terrence McNally play celebrating the complexity of one of the more intimidating divas of the 20th century, is now nearly two decades old.

  • Actors' Equity names new Central region head

    October 11, 2013

    The Actors' Equity union has a new leader for its Chicago office, which covers the middle third of America.

  • Angels, muses and fathers deliver in lovely 'Once'

    October 10, 2013

    REVIEW: "Once" at the Oriental Theatre ★★★★ ... "How's the heart?" asks the Da in "Once," the not-to-be-missed Broadway musical that has arrived in Chicago.

  • Newly widowed man wrestles with grief as the truth spills out

    October 8, 2013

    REVIEW: "Wrecks" at Profiles Theatre ★★★½ ... Drive past a funeral home in Chicago and you often catch a glimpse of them: big, middle-aged men uncomfortable with grief.

  • Story about sensuality fails to come alive onstage

    October 8, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The North China Lover" by Lookingglass Theatre Company ★★ ... The depiction of the erotic landscape of the mind does not come at all easily to the live theater ...

  • Jeff Awards announce special honor for comic master

    October 4, 2013

    Dale Benson, a Chicago actor whose career spans six decades, is to receive a special Joseph Jefferson Award at the November ceremony, the Jeff Awards committee said Friday.

  • 'Old Jews Telling Jokes' is as advertised — funny

    October 3, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Old Jews Telling Jokes" at the Royal George ★★★½ ... Those "Old Jews Telling Jokes" have excellent timing.

  • Roxane, you've lost that loving feeling

    October 2, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Cyrano de Bergerac" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★ ... Edmond Rostand's masterful "Cyrano de Bergerac" is, by a long, hairy nose, one of the great theatrical protuberances of all time ...

  • Stars come out for Bernie Sahlins

    October 1, 2013

    The iconoclastic movie star Bill Murray is always on the guest list for events celebrating anniversaries and the like at The Second City. But the famously unpredictable actor invariably does not show up. On Monday night, though, there was Murray on Navy Pier, singing with his fellow alumni of the famed comedy troop. Murray had come to Chicago to honor Bernie Sahlins, the man who gave him his first important job.

  • Songs soar, story stumbles in musical set in Theresienstadt

    September 27, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Signs of Life" at the Biograph Theater ★★½ ... There are "Signs of Life" in the ambitious new commercial musical of that title, a celebration of the courage, talents and collective will to live of the Jewish residents of the Nazi-controlled ghetto Theresienstadt.

  • Broadway 'Romeo and Juliet' has flashy sets, a kiss and Orlando Bloom's hair

    September 26, 2013

    In the first few minutes of David Leveaux's modern-dress revival of "Romeo and Juliet," which opened on Broadway this month and that put me in mind of one of David Copperfield's extravaganzas, we are treated to the swoosh of gas jets, the flight of a dove, the clang of a huge bell and the appearance of movie star Orlando Bloom, dressed as if for a fashion shoot, on a designer motorcycle.

  • Shadows and memories in 'Glass Menagerie' on Broadway

    September 26, 2013

    NEW YORK — We humans are strange creatures, forever craving reinvention and yet unable to prevent our pasts from dancing around in our heads. No poet or playwright ever understood that better than Tennessee Williams, a writer who traded one life he hated for another that he had forged for himself, only to find the shadows of what he'd left behind still raging and roaring in his skull. And in no play did Williams reveal himself more fully than in "The Glass Menagerie," a fragile, simple, beautiful creation of the 1940s that has finally come into its own in a new century, finally freed for good from its long, weary fight against the strictures of realism and the imperative of earnest optimism.

  • Echoes of race and history from the days of Pullman rail

    September 24, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Pullman Porter Blues" at the Goodman Theatre ★★★ ... The immaculately turned out heroes of playwright Cheryl L. West's new "play with music" at the Goodman Theatre, "Pullman Porter Blues," are headed out of town ...

  • Broadway in Chicago adds spring shows

    September 24, 2013

    Broadway in Chicago has announced several new bookings for the upcoming season, most of which are reprise engagements of popular touring attractions, although some are new productions.

  • Black Ensemble honors music of Curtis Mayfield

    September 24, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "It's All-Right to Have a Good Time: The Story of Curtis Mayfield" at Black Ensemble Theater ★★½ ... Jackie Taylor's "Curtis Mayfield Story" most certainly does honor the music of the man some called the black Bob Dylan ...

  • Grandparent bonding without the warm fuzziness

    September 23, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "4000 Miles" at Northlight Theatre in Skokie ★★★½ ... Amy Herzog's refreshingly caustic but deeply compassionate "4000 Miles" might just be the play for you.

  • Joan Allen on a roll through the years

    September 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Wheel" by Steppenwolf Theatre Company ★★★½ ... Tina Landau, never one to shy from either a formative challenge or the dramatization of human brutality, is wrestling into some kind of theatrical cohesion and obeisance on the Steppenwolf stage.

  • New tour of 'Evita' to entice this show's many fans

    September 20, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Evita" at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago ★★½ ... In 1978, before the merger of show business and politics, it was still possible to build a show on the shocking premise that a working-class actress could seduce an entire nation.

  • Sting sails to Chicago for pre-Broadway tryout of 'The Last Ship'

    September 19, 2013

    Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, better known as Sting, will tryout his new Broadway musical in Chicago this June, confirming previously published expectations. "The Last Ship," as the show is known, will be drawn from the singer's childhood experiences in and around the English city of Newscastle-Upon-Tyne and will play the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago from June 10 to July 13.

  • Looking for trouble in a war zone in '9 Circles'

    September 18, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "9 Circles" by Sideshow Theatre Company at the Storefront ★★★ ... In times of military need, recruiting standards change.

  • Woditsch remains the key ingredient in play about Julia Child

    September 18, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "To Master the Art" at the Broadway Playhouse ★★★ ... Thursday night's Magnificent Mile opening of the TimeLine Theatre Company's production of "To Master the Art" was, for a number of reasons, quite the celebratory brioche.

  • 'Book of Mormon' coming back to Chicago in 2014-15

    September 18, 2013

    "The Book of Mormon," which ends its Chicago engagement at the Bank of America Theatre on Oct. 6 after 43 weeks and 344 performances, is coming back to Chicago, likely during the fall or winter of 2014. The dates and the length of the return engagement have not yet been announced.

  • Fine acting, but staging a war is hell

    September 17, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Killer Angels" at Lifeline Theatre ★★½ ... To survey the Gettysburg Battlefield is to feel the weight of history in an unusually intense way.

  • Steppenwolf to honor 'August' movie stars

    September 17, 2013

    Steppenwolf Theatre Company anounced Wednesday that its annual Women in the Arts benefit luncheon will this year honor the actresses Juliette Lewis, Margo Martindale and Julianne Nicholson.  All three appear in the upcoming movie version of "August: Osage County."

  • Remarkable, truthful 'In the Heights' springs up in Aurora

    September 16, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "In the Heights" at Paramount Theatre in Aurora ★★★½ ... Washington Heights, you might think, is a long way from Aurora ...

  • Vision of what speech foretold

    September 16, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Mountaintop" at Court Theatre ★★★ Katori Hall's `Mountaintop' fills in the space between Martin Luther King Jr.'s last speech, death ...

  • PigPen's 'Old Moon' slowly casts its spell

    September 13, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Old Man and The Old Moon" at Writers Theatre in Glencoe ★★★ ... PigPen Theatre Co. is certainly riding a forceful wave with this ensemble-forged piece of theatrical storytelling ...

  • In Branson, changing the rules of the live game

    September 13, 2013

    BRANSON, Mo. — Known simply as "Six," the Knudsen Brothers (Barry, Kevin, Lynn, Jak, Owen and Curtis) have a wholesome variety show out here on Highway 76, wherein they use only their own voices to create a plethora of sounds. As the needs of a number dictate, these talented, hugely popular siblings can variously sound like an entire symphony orchestra, a classic-rock band, heavily percussive rappers or old-time gospel singers. Over Labor Day weekend, I caught their likable act. The joint was packed. Their fans were intense. Who knew?

  • 'Buyer & Cellar,' starring Michael Urie, to play Chicago

    September 11, 2013

    The Off-Broadway comedy "Buyer & Cellar," starring Michael Urie, is headed to Chicago. The limited engagement begins Apr. 29 at Broadway in Chicago's Broadway Playhouse and plays through June 8. 

  • At Signal Ensemble, the men and women beyond the conflict

    September 10, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "This is War" by Signal Ensemble Theatre ★★★ ... On the face of it, the Signal Ensemble Theatre production of "This Is War" ...

  • Bailiwick announces 2013-14 season. Again.

    September 10, 2013

    “Carrie,” one of Broadway's most infamous flops, is making its first appearance in Chicago. The campy musical, recently revived off-Broadway where it flopped again, will be the summer production of Bailiwick Chicago at the Richard Christiansen Theatre at the Biograph Theatre.

  • In House Theatre's rich, fantastical world, what is going on?

    September 9, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Crownless King" by House Theatre of Chicago at the Chopin ★★½ ... In the realm of high fantasy, complexity is a badge of honor ...

  • REVIEW: 'Hank Williams: Lost Highway' by American Blues Theater at the Greenhouse ★★★½

    September 6, 2013

  • 2013 Fall Guide: Which Broadway shows will kill?

    September 5, 2013

    John Grisham has written novels, short stories, books for children and nonfiction works, and in all of the above, he has done very nicely for himself. The first printings of his signature thrillers have typically sold in the millions (7 million people bought "The Firm"), and more than 250 million of his books are in print all over the world. Those are the kind of numbers that make a Broadway producer salivate (well, the ones that are human). And that explains the intense interest in the fortunes of "A Time to Kill" on Broadway this fall.

  • 2013 Fall Guide: Kimberly Senior's slate is jam-packed from here to Broadway

    September 5, 2013

    After 19 years directing in area theaters large and small, you'd hardly call Kimberly Senior any kind of sudden success. Still, it's hard to think of another Chicago director with a remotely comparable 2013-14 dance card. Senior has one show lined up after another, from Evanston to Broadway.

  • 2013 Fall Guide: The ideal man to play Mayfield? How about his successor?

    September 5, 2013

    The temperature outside the doors of the Black Ensemble Theatre was 96 degrees. In the lobby inside, Reginald Torian was the epitome of old-school cool: pressed linen pants, two-tone shoes, gold sunglasses. Visible perspiration would have been unthinkable. As sweaty visitors arrived, Torian reclined on a chaise and raised an eyebrow of gentle disapproval. His resounding, unhurried baritone had a wry tone and a timbre that felt as if it had just emerged from a refrigerator, chilled out and ready for prime time.

  • 2013 Fall Guide: Coming soon to a stage near you

    September 5, 2013

    The fall theater season of 2013 is already very much underway. From the scores of intriguing possibilities, here are 10 Chicago shows, opening between now and the holidays, that sound especially juicy. They're listed in alphabetical order; date ranges include preview performances.

  • 'Beverly Hillbillies' musical to premiere in Munster

    September 5, 2013

    Theatre at the Center, the Equity company, in Munster, Ind., said Thursday it will stage the world premiere of a new musical based on the TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies." 

  • Brother act is not enough for a show

    September 4, 2013

    "Double Trouble" is the name of a blues rock band from Austin, Tex., an Elvis Presley flick, a 1980s TV sitcom starring twins, a movie wherein other twins try to break up a crime ring, an unrelated Australian TV series, and a 2001 stage musical featuring a pair of brothers who are tasked with writing a hit song for a major motion picture during the golden years of Hollywood.

  • Asking, once again, why 'Wicked' is a hit

    September 4, 2013

    There will come a day when regional theaters — and then colleges and even high schools — will be fighting over the rights to "Wicked." But there is no evidence that day is coming any time soon.

  • The nominees for the 2013 Equity Jeff Awards are...

    September 3, 2013

    The all-volunteer Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee released its slate of nominations Wednesday for the Equity wing of its long-running recognition program honoring what it sees as the best in Chicago theater, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater emerged as the most honored theater of the year. 

  • If you're going to show these scars, you need a reason

    August 30, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'In God's Hat' at Profiles Theatre ★★ ... When you ask an audience to spend some quality time with a horrific type of person ¿ like the white supremacist of "In God's Hat," the fall opener at the Profiles Theatre ...

  • THEATER REVIEW: "A Raisin in the Sun" at Timeline Theatre ★★★★

    August 30, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "A Raisin in the Sun" at Timeline Theatre ★★★★ ...Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" is, surely, the greatest Chicago play. It ripples with the complexities of all that is Chicago ...

  • Mormonism, Illinois have surprising history

    August 29, 2013

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has, when you think about it, been a remarkably good sport when it comes to "The Book of Mormon."

  • Bernie Sahlins tribute on Navy Pier

    August 28, 2013

    Chicago Shakespeare Theater and The Second City are joining forces to stage a public tribute to Bernie Sahlins, the late co-founder of The Second City. The event, to contain performances and speeches, is slated to take place 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30 on Navy Pier.

  • THEATER REVIEW: "The Color Purple" at the Mercury Theater ★★★

    August 27, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Color Purple" at the Mercury Theater ★★★ ... There's a thrilling wall of harmonic sound from a mostly Equity company of African-American actors that flows out in great emotional waves in the first made-in-Chicago production of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple."

  • Deeply moving musical will make its mark at Drury Lane

    August 24, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Next to Normal" at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace ★★★★ ... There really is no better moment for a production of "Next to Normal" than the end of August ...

  • Memo to museums: Don't give away those glass cases

    August 23, 2013

    Emily Graslie, the first chief curiosity correspondent at the Field Museum, has been furiously filing YouTube videos about precisely what goes on behind those grand doors. As Steve Johnson reported in the Tribune this week, the 24-year-old known for her work on a YouTube channel called The Brain Scoop — and now apparently relishing her formidable task of popularizing hard-core Field Museum scientists — already has brought her fans productions on the order of "How to Be an Insect" and "Octopus Sex."

  • Paul Simon shows up at Second City, improvises

    August 23, 2013

    The legendary singer Paul Simon showed up unannounced Thursday at the Second City mainstage in Chicago and then, as is traditional for visiting celebrities, took to the stage during the post-show improv set.

  • '9 to 5' almost works -- for a time

    August 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: '9 to 5, The Musical' at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire ★★½ ... I'm wholly in the tank for the great Dolly Parton, but having now seen three different attempts to make a decent show ...

  • New Regal Theater has a buyer

    August 21, 2013

    The New Regal Theater, a historic landmark on Chicago’s South Side and in the past one of the city’s most important centers for African-American entertainment, has a pending contract,   spokesman Greg Hernandez for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation confirmed Wednesday.

  • Shakespearean mashup has Sean Graney's light touch

    August 21, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "12 Nights" by The Hypocrites at the Chopin Theater ★★½ ... For Sean Graney's "12 Nights," he not only slices and dices Shakespeare's text, but adds in bits from "Apolonius and Silla" and still finds time for a rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

  • Difficult Dunn lays most of it on the line

    August 20, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Mythical Proportions" by Nora Dunn at Theater Wit ★★★ ... The ubertext of her funny but strikingly poignant one-woman show, which comes with a powerful undercurrent of melancholy and is quite different from what many of her fans will expect ...

  • Stratford Festival announces 2014 season

    August 20, 2013

    The Stratford Festival of Canada announced its 2014 season Tuesday.

  • The outdoors gives Miller's 1947 drama new sharpness

    August 19, 2013

    Arthur Miller's "All My Sons," the remarkable 1947 drama that both understands the flaws of ordinary little men and howls with moral outrage at their consequences, usually plays out on AstroTurf, under a fake theatrical sun. 

  • Laughter flies in 'The Birds'

    August 16, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Birds" by Hell in a Handbag in Berger Park ★★★ ... The opening shtick of "The Birds," surely one of the funniest camp parodies in off-Loop history, involves an actress playing Peggy Robertson, Alfred Hitchcock's assistant.

  • Marriott 'Poppins' has its Mary

    August 16, 2013

    The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire said Friday that it has found its lead for its upcoming production of "Mary Poppins," directed by Gary Griffin.

  • The Gary Griffin 'Gypsy' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater has its star

    August 15, 2013

    In any revival of "Gypsy," the most interesting moment is the announcement of who is playing Rose.

  • More Michael Shannon for Chicago

    August 15, 2013

    Michael Shannon, a star of "Man of Steel" and many a Chicago storefront, has added an encore in Chicago.

  • This 'Cabaret' has host with the most

    August 12, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Cabaret' at Light Opera Works ★★★½ ... A few sharp intakes of breath could be heard at Cahn Auditorium on Sunday afternoon when Rudy Hogenmiller made his first entrance ...

  • Jessie Mueller lands role of Carole King on Broadway

    August 12, 2013

    Jessie Mueller, the Chicago actress turned Broadway star, has plucked one of the major plums on the Great White Way.

  • Dramas seem tailor made for screen, and that's problematic

    August 11, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: First Look Repertory of New Work at Steppenwolf Theatre Company ... One of the downsides of our ascendant era of writerly TV drama ¿ wherein networks are constantly luring away playwrights with big checks ...

  • Drury Lane has its Dolly

    August 9, 2013

    The Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace has cast the Broadway veteran Karen Ziemba as Dolly Levi in its upcoming production of "Hello, Dolly!"

  • A mantra for the revenue-chasing times: Put it on a certificate

    August 9, 2013

    On vacation with my family in a dusty town in off-season Central America last week, I found myself walking past a deserted restaurant with no more than about three tables. The owner appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

  • Our Top 10 new faces ... and where you'll see them next

    August 8, 2013

    Introducing our Top 10 Hot New Faces of Chicago Theater. We have improvisers and comedians, singers and storytellers and impeccably trained actors aplenty. We think you're looking here at some soon-to-be-famous faces. Either way, once the heat of summer dies down, they're on track to warm up your coming season of Chicago theater and comedy.

  • 'Flashdance' struggles to deliver that feeling

    August 7, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Flashdance - The Musical' at Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★ ... The story of sexy Alex Owens, who wields blowtorches by day and gyrates by night in her underwear to the song stylings of Irene Cara, fits more easily than most movies into the stage-musical format.

  • Second City, Onion delay live show

    August 6, 2013

    The Onion and Second City, both based in Chicago, have delayed their joint theatrical enterprise, "The Onion Live," which was to have toured nationally to theaters this fall.

  • Tig Notaro books last-minute gig at Second City

    August 5, 2013

    Tig Notaro, a comedian known for her appearances on "This American Life" and "Conan," has booked a one-night-only show at Second City's UP comedy club on Wednesday night.

  • Stratford Festival: Where serious theatergoers have their fun

    August 2, 2013

    STRATFORD, Ontario — William Shakespeare, patron saint of the venerable Stratford Festival of Canada, is an unimpeachable source on most matters: love, leadership, the meaning of life. But when it came to the House of Tudor, his personal ethics policy took a dive. The Bard knew who was buttering his toast and thus, despite his fascination with matters historical, he was careful never to embarrass the dynasty with an unflattering dramatic reference. He did not even write directly about Elizabeth I until after the famous monarch was dead — and even then, in "Henry VIII," he gushed.

  • Generosity abounds in simmering performance

    July 28, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Slowgirl' in the Upstairs Theatre at Steppenwolf ★★★ ... The character played by William Petersen in Greg Pierce's "Slowgirl" ¿ the brief, small-scaled, gently paced and modestly affecting summer drama ...

  • Dennis Farina and his fellows, Chicago men all

    July 28, 2013

    At the end of 2011, a poster featuring a group of square-jawed characters in dark suits, legs slightly apart, started appearing in bus shelters around Chicago. The men — the group was all white men — looked like they might have gathered for a retirement party for one of their number. A police offer, perhaps. Maybe a military man. Perchance a Chicago alderman or former mayor.

  • Modern Medea a seamstress in Pilsen

    July 23, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Mojada' at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater ★★★½ ... Aside from living in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen, Sandra Delgado's Medea has other differences from the infamously exotic, erotic and murderous Euripidean figure ...

  • Shorter 'Shrek' is still long on talent

    July 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Shrek The Musical' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★½ ... Has Rachel Rockwell, a director known for instilling heart into her shows ...

  • A mother's moving search for answers

    July 20, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Fallow' at Steep Theatre Company ★★½ ... As titles for plays go, "Fallow" isn't the best choice, given its dangerously soporific implications.

  • 'Houdini' is back, more entrancing than ever

    July 17, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Death and Harry Houdini' by House Theatre of Chicago ★★★★ ... There's a moment in "Death and Harry Houdini," the dazzling House Theatre of Chicago show that has returned for an encore engagement this summer ...

  • Steppenwolf Theatre producer heads to Redmoon

    July 17, 2013

    In a shuffling of artistic staffs, Rebecca Rugg, recently a producer at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, is heading to Redmoon Theater, where she'll work on that recently re-energized company's Great Chicago Fire Festival.

  • A Red Orchid announces new season

    July 17, 2013

    Chicago's A Red Orchid Theatre has announced its new season, composed of three shows not seen before in Chicago.

  • Story of wartime death, secrets raises the right questions

    July 16, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'The Casuals' by Jackalope Theatre Company ★★★½ ... You don't likely know the playwriting duo of Chance Bone and Andrew Burden Swanson. But there's enough to "The Casuals" to merit your attention.

  • They've got the Bee Gees songs, but not the story

    July 15, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Australian Bee Gees Show" at the Broadway Playhouse ★★ ... Taking on a town known more for demolishing disco than giving it a feverish embrace takes some Aussie chutzpah.

  • A big-name guest on the Vegas high wire

    July 15, 2013

    Lookingglass Theatre ensemble member Tony Hernandez, currently appearing in “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip, had an unusual bit of audience participation on Thursday night, when Neil Patrick Harris took to his shoulders.

  • Nick Offerman to perform at Chicago Theatre

    July 15, 2013

    Nick Offerman, the former off-Loop actor who went on to play Ron Swanson on the NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation," now apparently is a big-enough name to headline the Chicago Theatre.

  • 'Michael Jackson ONE' in Las Vegas: Cirque du Soleil refinds its way

    July 13, 2013

    LAS VEGAS - On June 29, the top executives of the Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil were here at the theater inside the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, sitting alongside the likes of Justin Bieber, Spike Lee and Neil Patrick Harris, celebrating the opening of "Michael Jackson ONE," the latest Cirque creation, designed as an evocation of the music and spirit of the late King of Pop.

  • No more fuel for 'Smokey Joe's'

    July 12, 2013

    The commercial transfer of the Theo Ubique Theatre Company production of "Smokey Joe's Cafe" has posted its closing notice. The rock 'n' roll revue is closing at the Royal George Theatre's cabaret space on July 21; it has been playing there since March.

  • Baryshnikov, Elevator Repair Service coming to MCA

    July 9, 2013

    Mikhail Baryshnikov, Elevator Repair Service and Sandra Bernhard are all to be part of an expanded MCA Stage program during the 2013-14 season at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. 

  • For Shannon and Van Swearingen, you can bet it's personal

    July 9, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Simpatico' at A Red Orchid Theatre ★★★½ ... Anyone walking in off the street just to see General Zod up close is likely to be bemused and perhaps confounded by Sam Shepard's "Simpatico," a bizarre and byzantine drama even by Shepardian standards.

  • Casts announced for 'Next to Normal' and 'The Color Purple'

    July 9, 2013

    The Broadway and Chicago actress Susie McMonagle is to star in the upcoming Drury Lane Theatre  production of "Next to Normal," the theater has announced.

  • John Lithgow heads to Skokie

    July 8, 2013

    The actor John Lithgow is bringing his solo show, "Stories by Heart," to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie for a one-night stand on Nov. 1.

  • 'Belleville' ★★★½

    July 7, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Belleville' at Steppenwolf Theatre ★★★½ ... Amy Herzog's play begins with a young American in Paris arriving home in the middle of the day to find her husband, the husband she thought was at work as a junior physician ...

  • Surviving the mind of a survivalist

    July 4, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'The Burden of Not Having a Tail' at Sideshow Theatre Company ★★ ... Among life's tribulations, you might not consider your lack of a distinct appendage to your torso to be at the top of the list. But for the character of Woman in Carrie Barrett's unusual new play ...

  • Steep Theatre announces 2013-14 season

    July 2, 2013

    Steep Theatre, the respected storefront operation on Chicago's North Side with a niche consisting of new work from the United Kingdom, said Tuesday that it will stage the American premiere of a new work, "Motortown," by the highly regarded British playwright Simon Stephens.

  • Hot Tix moves into Block 37

    July 2, 2013

    Hot Tix, the half-price ticketing operation run by the League of Chicago Theatres, is to open a new location inside the Block Thirty Seven mall, otherwise known as The Shops at 108 N. State.

  • Chicago Shakes to present 'The Table,' puppet show for adults

    July 2, 2013

    Chicago Shakespeare Theater said Tuesday that it will present "The Table," an adult-oriented puppet show informed by Bunraku puppetry and created by the British company Blind Summit Theatre.

  • 'The Jungle Book' at the Goodman Theatre ★★½

    July 1, 2013

    In the very last scene of Mary Zimmerman's production of "The Jungle Book," when Mowgli the lost man-cub is safely back with his own people and his adventures with Bagheera, King Louie and Baloo have receded in his memory, a little visual trick brings one of his old pals back reaching for his heart. You get a sudden lump in your throat — the craving for the lost loves and adventures of childhood that has sustained the Walt Disney Co. for decades.

  • 'Big Lake Big City' at the Lookingglass Theatre ★★½

    June 30, 2013

    “Big Lake Big City,” a wildly ambitious and staggeringly unwieldy new Keith Huff comedic pot-boiler set in a town near you, features such famous Chicago attractions as a county morgue wherein pathologists play golf with severed heads, a couple caught in flagrante delicto in a crummy Lincoln Avenue motel and then burned to a crisp, a precious talking head that resides as sculpture in a Lake Point Tower condo and narrates these entire proceedings, and a construction worker who uses a baseball cap to cover up the titanium screwdriver that someone has helpfully planted in his skull. And if, like me, you are a fan of the helpfully named East of Edens diner at 6350 N. Cicero Ave., well, let's just say that particular eatery-with-a-past will never quite seem the same again after time spent in the company of this bit of nouveau Midwestern pulp fiction.

  • 'Tartuffe' at Court Theatre ★★★

    June 30, 2013

    Charles Newell's conception for his new Court Theatre production of Moliere's "Tartuffe" took some guts. The deluded family at the heart of this famous 17th century French comedy has been cast as an affluent, African-American household that lives in Kenwood, the South Side neighborhood now famous for being the home of President Barack Obama and his wife and daughters. We watch Orgon, the otherwise upstanding patriarch of this group played by the great A.C. Smith, being taken in blindly by the title character, a Caucasian religious hypocrite, even though the slime ball actually is trying to seduce Orgon's brilliant wife after having already persuaded him to hand over his daughter for an early marriage.

  • The fine art of making art pay: Bernie Sahlins alongside McCormick, Ray Kroc

    June 28, 2013

    So what did Bernie Sahlins, who died June 16, have in common with such fellow Chicagoans as Cyrus McCormick, Ray Kroc, Gustavus Swift, George Pullman, Potter Palmer, Wallace C. Abbott and Aaron Montgomery Ward?

  • In Piccolo Teatro's 'Inner Voices,' a simple man in a complicated world

    June 26, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Inner Voices' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★½ ... No theater in the world has done more for Italian drama than the Piccolo Teatro di Milano ...

  • At the Field Museum, an unclear map to Dante's circles of hell

    June 26, 2013

    PERFORMANCE REVIEW: "Divina Natura" by Marco Nereo Rotelli at the Field Museum ... Chicago should light up more of its signature buildings, even on nights when the Blackhawks are not winning the Stanley Cup.

  • Robert Falls to direct at New Group

    June 24, 2013

    Goodman Theatre artistic director Robert Falls is to helm playwright Beth Henley's play "The Jacksonian" at the New Group in the fall, the New York-based theater company said Monday.

  • 'Ghost The Musical' coming to Chicago

    June 24, 2013

    The touring production of "Ghost The Musical," a show that did reasonably well in London's West End and then came and went quickly on Broadway after being savaged by critics, is coming to Chicago.

  • 'A Clown Car Named Desire' ★★★★

    June 23, 2013

    "I see people out front," observes the sad-eyed man at the Second City e.t.c., "just crying."

  • Tom Hanks performs at Second City

    June 23, 2013

    The Saturday night crowd at The Second City got to see a performer not on the usual bill: Tom Hanks.

  • 'Boeing-Boeing' at Drury Lane Theatre ★★½

    June 21, 2013

    A hilarious relic, the cheerfully sexist French farce "Boeing-Boeing" involves a Paris-based lothario who concocts a scheme to live with three gorgeous stewardesses from three of the finer international carriers, just by keeping a close eye on the airline schedules.

  • James Gandolfini, killing them softly

    June 21, 2013

    The 12-million viewers who tuned into the final episode of "The Sopranos" in 2007 thought there was a good chance Tony Soprano would get whacked. There was an irrefutable logic to such a denouement: the mob boss had cheated death so many times; the HBO show was done; its brilliant creator, David Chase, was a stickler for classical dramatic theory; and somehow gutting the sole protagonist like a Jacobean-Jersey tragic hero was, really, the only satisfying way to end. We all knew that.

  • Dramatists Guild headed to Chicago

    June 20, 2013

    The Dramatists Guild of America, the trade organization for playwrights, is to hold its annual conference in Chicago in August, bringing to town such theatrical luminaries as (among others) Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Gretchen Cryer, Carol Hall, Winnie Holzman, David Ives, Lisa Kron, Bobby Lopez, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Marsha Norman, Theresa Rebeck, Stephen Schwartz, Jeff Sweet, John Weidman, George C. Wolfe, and Charlayne Woodard.

  • 'Buddy' can't conquer cliches

    June 20, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Buddy" at Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★ ...Since "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" dates all the way to 1989, it hardly seems fair to complain about the hackneyed way in which it tells the story of the late, great rock star with the thick glasses.

  • 'Mine' at the Gift Theatre ★★★½

    June 18, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Mine," the very arresting and intensely personal new play by Laura Marks at the Gift Theatre, begins with a young woman having a baby at home.

  • 'Rudolph' introduces Milwaukee kids' theater

    June 18, 2013

    The holiday attraction at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place will be a show with origins at First Stage, an Equity children's theater in Milwaukee.

  • Stars of today and yesteryear brighten Just for Laughs

    June 18, 2013

    The TBS Just for Laughs comedy festival has wrapped for another summer in Chicago, having played out in venues changing from the Chicago Theatre to Stage 773. Here are reviews from select shows over the weekend; check back Tuesday for a report on Bill Maher. (Find more at

  • 'The Pride' set in a moment of seismic social change

    June 18, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: About Face has turned to a richly complex and beautifully wrought British play, Alexi Kaye Campbell's "The Pride," to explore this moment of seismic social change.

  • Writers' Theatre releases seasonal casting

    June 17, 2013

    Writers Theatre in Glecoe has announced some of its seasonal casting for 2013-14.

  • Just for Laughs: Bill Maher knows his audience

    June 17, 2013

    The last time Bill Maher headlined at the Chicago Theatre, he had Ann Coulter along for, forgive me, balance. That, it felt, was a rivalry born in mutual expediency, a mock political debate for the 2009 Speaker Series. Just as Coulter's conservative bona fides have always been open to question — the extremes always being more lucrative for the provocateur — so was Maher's apparent antagonism toward her. More alike than either of them would have cared to admit, this odd couple surely were headed out together for a post-show drink to spend some of the suckers' cash, leaving everyone behind to scream at each other across the aisle.

  • 'Ain't No Crying the Blues (In the Memory of Howlin' Wolf)' ★★★

    June 17, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "I need some ladies up here," declared Howlin' Wolf, as channeled through Rick Stone, at Black Ensemble Theatre on Sunday.

  • 'Peter and the Starcatcher' in Chicago next spring

    June 17, 2013

    The national tour of the Broadway hit "Peter and the Starcatcher," a prequel to "Peter Pan" aimed mostly at adults, will stop through Chicago for two weeks next April at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.

  • 'A Cole Porter Songbook' at Theo Ubique Theatre Company ★★★½

    June 14, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: Vocal quality really matters at the Theo Ubique Theatre Company, the shabby-chic venue for small musicals in Rogers Park, so it's no surprise ...

  • 'The Jungle Book' at Goodman Theatre: When Mary met Walt (and Rudyard)

    June 14, 2013

    Rudyard Kipling hated Chicago. "It holds rather more than a million of people with bodies, and stands on the same sort of soil as Calcutta," wrote the man whom George Orwell dubbed "the prophet of British imperialism in its expansionist phase," following a visit to Chicago in the 1880s. "Having seen it, I urgently desire never to see it again. It is inhabited by savages. Its water is the water of the Hooghly, and its air is dirt."

  • 'West Side Story': Young cast in story of young love

    June 12, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'West Side Story' at the Oriental Theatre ★★★ ... Four years now have passed since the great Arthur Laurents directed "West Side Story" in its last Broadway revival ...

  • 'The Three Musketeers' at Lifeline Theatre ★★½

    June 11, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: Before you can mouth "all for one and one for all," the blades start flying in Lifeline Theatre's modern-dress, school's-out-for-summer adaptation ...

  • 2013 Tony Awards: A strong Chicago accent again

    June 10, 2013

    On a stunning Tony Awards night for Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, whose revival of “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” proved triumphant in more categories than expected, “Matilda,” the spunky, imported, heavily favored girl-power musical, could not kick the ebullient musical comedy of drag queens and shoes, “Kinky Boots,” off the runway.

  • An art to solving Detroit's debt

    June 6, 2013

    Late last month, the Detroit Free Press ran a major article on a problem that seems unthinkable: the likelihood of the precious artworks in the Detroit Institute of the Arts being sold to help pay the crippling debts of the City of Detroit.

  • JUST FOR LAUGHS: Talking to Seth Meyers + A guide to the fest

    June 6, 2013

    "I've spent my formative years at 'Saturday Night Live' doing 'Weekend Update' while sitting behind a desk," said Seth Meyers in a recent interview. "But in my new job, I think there might be a bit of standing up."

  • How TV shapes the Tony Awards, plus our predictions

    June 6, 2013

    Ever since the first national TV broadcast in 1967 of the Tony Awards, then its 21st year, a delicate dance has been tapped out between the handing out of trophies for artistic theatrical worthiness and the entertainment of the ever-fickle folks at home.

  • 'Motown the Musical' to kick off tour in Chicago

    June 6, 2013

    It's signed, sealed and soon to be delivered: "Motown the Musical" is to kick off its first national tour in Chicago next spring, with a 12-week engagement at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., from April 22 to July 13, 2014.

  • A difficult musical spins its web at BoHo Theatre

    June 5, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' by BoHo Theatre ★★½ ... The tragic drama of Luis Alberto Molina, a homosexual window dresser imprisoned for allegedly corrupting a minor, seemed very progressive ...

  • REVIEW: 'The Second City Guide to the Opera' at the Lyric Opera

    June 3, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: No Second City revue of the last 54 years has been held in more gorgeous surroundings ...

  • 2013 Non-Equity Jeffs: Circle, Den, Theo Ubique take top honors

    June 3, 2013

    The Circle Theatre production of "When the Rain Stops Falling," a prismatic drama by Andrew Bovell set in Australia, and "Smokey Joe's Cafe," a rocking musical revue of the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, emerged as the big winners at Monday night's Non-Equity Jeff Awards, each winning multiple awards including, respectively, best production of a play and best production of a revue.

  • REVIEW: 'The Glass Menagerie' by Mary-Arrchie Theatre ★★★★

    June 2, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: The Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company's experimental production of "The Glass Menagerie" is one of the great Chicago storefront re-interpretations of a classic, really just as unstinting, innovative and revealing as David Cromer's "Our Town."

  • 'The Liar' at Writers' Theatre in Glencoe ★★★

    May 31, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: Hot on the heels of "The School for Lies," a freewheeling Moliere adaptation by David Ives at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, comes "The Liar."

  • Debate rages over Piven's plan to fix up Noyes Center

    May 31, 2013

    If you were to inventory the cultural assets of Evanston, you'd start with Northwestern University and then, very quickly, would get to the Piven Theatre Workshop. There is the famous, and famously complex, Piven family itself: Joyce Piven, now 83, and the late Byrne Piven, who for decades taught North Shore teenagers, including their own children Jeremy (the star of HBO's "Entourage" and "Mr. Selfridge" on PBS) and Shira (an actress turned Hollywood director who is married to Adam McKay, the movie director and co-founder of "Funny or Die"). There are the illustrious movie-star alumni: John and Joan Cusack, Aidan Quinn, Lili Taylor. And then there are the many former Piven students who are lawyers or businesspeople by profession, but who spent their formative years learning to speak, emote and self-actualize in a Piven class and who now are resource-rich and powerful and who remain profoundly grateful for their eduction.

  • 'Cirque Shanghai: Dragon's Thunder' on the Skyline Stage at Navy Pier ★★★

    May 30, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: So here's an indication of how far China has come: The last motorcycle rider in the Globe of Death is a woman.

  • 'Stella & Lou' headed to Galway, without its star

    May 29, 2013

    The Northlight Theatre's production of Bruce Graham's "Stella & Lou" is headed to the Galway Arts Festival in Ireland this summer, Northlight said on Wednesday. But Rhea Perlman, who is starring in the show in Skokie, will not be going to the Emerald Isle.

  • 'Homecoming 1972' at Chicago Dramatists ★★½

    May 27, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: Chicago Dramatists looks at the problems of returning from Vietnam, albeit through the prism of re-entering a small town in service of the values of so-called "Minnesota nice."

  • Seth Meyers and the rise of the Chicago writer-performer

    May 25, 2013

    Back in 1999 — a gut-wrenching 14 years ago — a theater just north of Wrigley Field was filled on weekend nights with the nervous laughter of people on dates. "Pick-Ups and Hiccups" (a title with admirable descriptive prowess), was a hugely popular sketch-comedy show that poked fun at the absurdity of the mating ritual, a time-honored way to attract a crowd. The show was the work of a couple of wildly disparate writer-performers.

  • 'Reverb' at Redtwist Theatre ★★★½

    May 24, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: Jonathan Berry's blistering production of "Reverb," the first Chicago outing for a rock-fused play that feels like it was written for the city's storefront aesthetic ...

  • Summer 2013: 10 theater shows for a sunny Chicago

    May 22, 2013

    Here are 10 of what might well turn out of be the hottest shows of an essential Chicago summer. And after the kind of springs we get, aren't they all essential?

  • Theo Ubique to stage Sondheim's 'Passion'

    May 21, 2013

    Theo Ubique Theatre, the small Chicago company known for its intimate productions of musicals, will stage Stephen Sondheim's "Passion" as part of its 2013-14 season, the Rogers Park company has announced.

  • First Folio announces new season

    May 21, 2013

    First Folio Theatre, the classically-oriented Equity theater in residence at the Mayslake Estate in Oak Brook, has announced its 2013-14 season.

  • 'The Electric Baby' at Rivendell Theatre ★★

    May 21, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: Stefanie Zadravec's "The Electric Baby" is an especially fragile piece.

  • Profiles shows it knows its LaBute

    May 20, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: Say what you will about the Profiles Theatre in Chicago, this company knows how to nail the juicy plays of Neil LaBute.

  • 'The Misanthrope' at Court Theatre ★★

    May 19, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: There is so much going on inside Charles Newell's eye-popping production in "The Misanthrope" that it is not at all easy to know where to start.

  • Taking on Hitler, and our perceptions

    May 17, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Ganesh Versus the Third Reich' by Back to Back Theatre at the MCA Stage ★★★★ ... Back to Back is a theater group comprising almost entirely actors perceived to be intellectually disabled. Such an endeavor can paralyze a critic ¿ this one, anyway.

  • It's official: 'Book of Mormon' exits Chicago Oct. 6

    May 16, 2013

    "The Book of Mormon" will play its last Chicago performance Oct. 6, the show's producers officially announced on Thursday, confirming a fall departure that long had been evident.

  • Stage 773 snags big 'Just for Laughs' booking

    May 16, 2013

     TBS Just for Laughs Chicago said Thursday that it plans to stage most of its smaller shows for its  June 11-16 comedy festival at one venue: Stage 773 at 1225 W. Belmont Ave. on the North Side.

  • Nora Dunn in 'Boeing-Boeing'; 'Les Miz' in Western 'burbs

    May 16, 2013

    The former "Saturday Night Live" star Nora Dunn is to star in the upcoming production of the Broadway farce "Boeing-Boeing" at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.

  • Once on the bus, you don't have a chance

    May 16, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Roadkill,' presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★★ ... A plain-looking bus full of theater-goers pulled up to an ordinary Chicago street corner on Tuesday night and a couple of Nigerian women jumped on board.

  • Steppenwolf starting construction on education center

    May 15, 2013

    The Steppenwolf Theatre Company is about to post "pardon our dust" notices in its lobbies.

  • 'Ivywild' by the Hypocrites at the Chopin Theatre ★★

    May 14, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: As historic types, Chicago aldermen do not lack for color.

  • Equity celebrates 100th birthday in Chicago

    May 14, 2013

    Actors' Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers, kicked off a series of 100th birthday parties with a bash Monday night at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.

  • Wisdom, beer flow freely in Northlight's 'Stella and Lou'

    May 12, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Stella and Lou' at Northlight Theatre ★★★

  • Afghanistan arms take a twisting trail

    May 10, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Blood and Gifts" at TimeLine Theatre ★★½ ... Far from a great game, the British and American involvement in Afghanistan has been more of a case of sustained blowback.

  • Lyric's passion must extend to musical theater

    May 10, 2013

    In 2008, New York's Lincoln Center revived a Broadway warhorse: "South Pacific." At the beginning of the overture in the Vivian Beaumont Theater, the lip of Michael Yeargan's setting, which had the outline of a tropical island, began to move backward, as waves ebb upon a shore. As it receded, hordes of musicians were revealed, all playing the glorious music of Richard Rodgers. You could see tears in people's eyes. As the Russian formalists used to put it, the familiar was made strange, and the strange made intensely familiar.

  • Steppenwolf gala nets $1.1 million

    May 9, 2013

    The Steppenwolf Theatre Company said Thursday it raised $1.1 million at its annual gala last Saturday — for its artistic, educational and community programming.

  • A new theater festival set for Three Oaks, Michigan

    May 9, 2013

    A new summer enterprise, the Three Oaks Theatre Festival, aims to bring single-performance engagements of hit Chicago theater productions to to this small Michigan town, known for its artistic community and close connection to Chicago.

  • Robert Sickinger, pioneer of Chicago theater, dies at 86

    May 9, 2013

    Robert Sickinger, a pivotal figure in the development of Chicago's off-Loop theater scene, died Thursday morning at his home in Delray Beach, Fla. Sickinger was 86. His daughter, Erika, said her father died from natural causes.

  • A fast-paced, entertaining 'Henry VIII'

    May 9, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Henry VIII" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★ 1/2 ... William Shakespeare and his company were not the first artistic entity to suck up to their funders ...

  • Sex is in the air in Signal Ensemble's show

    May 8, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Lascivious Something" by Signal Ensemble ★★★ ... Since sexy is a subjective adjective, I should note that playwright Sheila Callaghan's 2010 play, "Lascivious Something," is not some kind of peep show.

  • ATC to produce 'Hair,' but no fall show

    May 8, 2013

    American Theater Company will stage the musical "Hair" and Stephen Karam's play "Sons of the Prophet" during the 2013-14 season, but those will be the only two new, full productions on offer to Chicago subscribers.

  • Russell Brand added to Just for Laughs

    May 8, 2013

    The TBS Just for Laughs Comedy Festival has added Russell Brand to its list of headliners. The British comedian will play the Chicago Theatre on June 12.

  • Commercial musical 'Signs of Life' coming to Biograph

    May 8, 2013

    The peak fall weeks at the Biograph Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., won't be occupied by a Victory Gardens Theater production, but a small commercial musical  set during the era of the Holocaust and concerning a ghetto and concentration camp located in what is now the Czech Republic, Theresienstadt, which the Nazis used for propaganda purposes by showcasing the cultural life therein.

  • For Rich Cotovsky, a special Jeff

    May 7, 2013

    Rich Cotovsky, the veteran artistic director of the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company on Chicago's North Side, is to receive a special Joseph Jefferson Award at the upcoming award ceremony, the volunteer organization announced Tuesday.

  • "By the Way, Meet Vera Stark" at the Goodman Theatre ★★

    May 6, 2013

    In the first part of "By the Way, Meet Vera Stark," the new play by the formidable, Pulitzer Prize-winning scribe Lynn Nottage, a couple of African-American actresses in 1933 Hollywood are perusing a screenplay. No surprise to these women, it is to be one of those Southern plantation epics — the story of a tragically beautiful octoroon who falls in love with a white merchant. The two women share a cynical laugh about the movie studio's creative bankruptcy and inept racism, and then they get to the meat of the conundrum. One points out that the character breakdown includes slaves. Her friend perks up.

  • Grand staging for 'Oklahoma' in the hands of Lyric Opera

    May 5, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Oklahoma" at Lyric Opera of Chicago ★★★ ... Early in "Oklahoma!" the 1943 masterpiece by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II now at the Lyric Opera of Chicago ...

  • For this inmate, Beckett's plays unlocked the door

    May 3, 2013

    On Wednesday night at Stage 773, the 79-year-old actor Rick Cluchey observed that the plays of Samuel Beckett are all really about incarceration. Well, people will tell you that Beckett plays are all really about all kinds of things. But this particular assertion landed with unusual force, given that Cluchey, who grew up in Chicago and has been brought back to its theater under the auspices of the Shattered Globe Theatre, spent 11 years, 9 months and 14 days of his life in the San Quentin State Prison in California.

  • Teachers need not fear the truth

    May 3, 2013

    With all the distrust and conflict surrounding the Chicago Public Schools' list of school closings and the rancorous debates over class sizes and public pensions in the state of Illinois, it's no surprise that the organizations that represent teachers have amped up their public-relations campaigns. Teachers cannot afford to let themselves be demonized as self-interested political figures. Not in the current climate. In all debates surrounding public education, the cultivation of public sympathy is crucial.

  • May 1, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Rabbit" by Stage Left at Theater Wit ★★★ ... I smell a niche at Theater Wit, the multispace venue just a few blocks from the bars and eateries of Wrigleyville.

  • "The Lake Effect" at Silk Road Rising ★★½

    May 1, 2013

    Rajiv Joseph is best known for "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo," a formatively ambitious Pulitzer Prize finalist that starred Robin Williams on Broadway. By contrast with a work that ranges across Iraq and features the narration of a tiger, "The Lake Effect," the new Joseph drama at Silk Road Rising in Chicago is a one-set, three-character, conventionally structured, I-never-knew-my-father drama that never leaves a little Indian restaurant in Cleveland.

  • 'Pajama Game' a labor of love with a conscience

    April 30, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Pajama Game" by the Music Theatre Company of Highland Park ★★★

  • Tony Awards: Steppenwolf, Tracy Letts lead Chicago nominations

    April 30, 2013

    Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company had a very good New York morning Tuesday with three of its ensemble members scoring 2013 Tony nominations: Tracy Letts and Amy Morton for their work in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," also a Tony nominee for Best Revival of a Play, and Laurie Metcalf, honored for her intense leading performance in Sharr White's "The Other Place."

  • Raw drama on teaching gets top marks in realism

    April 29, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Knowledge" at Steep Theatre ★★★★

  • "Ploughed Under: An American Songbook" at House Theatre of Chicago ★★

    April 29, 2013

  • Signal Ensemble announces new season

    April 29, 2013

    Signal Ensemble Theatre has announced its 2013-14 season, including the United States premiere of a new play by the well-regarded Canadian writer Hannah Moscovitch.

  • Line between mentorship and rivalry blurs in whip-smart 'Stories'

    April 28, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Collected Stories" by American Blues Theater at the Biograph ★★★½ ... It's fun to be a mentor. One feels like one has purpose. But what happens when the student outperforms the professor?

  • "Yellow Moon" at Writers' Theatre in Glencoe ★★

    April 26, 2013

    Like several theater artists with connections to bonnie Scotland, David Greig seems to have the golden ticket of the moment. This thrilling scribe — perchance you saw his grand piece "The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart" last fall at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater — also has written the book to the much-anticipated new musical version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which begins previews in London in a couple of weeks.

  • Broadway review: 'Pippin' pulls off a theatrical high-wire act

    April 25, 2013

    NEW YORK — There are shows that revive aging material through revisionism. And there are productions that prefer to celebrate the pull of nostalgia, especially when the songs are great. "Pippin," the brilliant Diane Paulus revival of the fantastically playful musical by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson, with a special place in the theater-loving hearts of many, somehow combines the best of those two approaches, at once re-energizing this 40-year-old musical with freshness, vitality and eye-popping exuberance without ever making it feel like the crucial sweetness and naivete of the piece has been undermined or exploited.

  • Broadway-style glory shines in 'Anything Goes'

    April 25, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Anything Goes" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★★★ ... Sentimental? So shoot me. For that is pretty much the experience ...

  • Broadway: Bette Midler serves up Hollywood dish in 'I'll Eat You Last'

    April 25, 2013

    NEW YORK — Almost none of us would have been invited to one of the famous parties at Sue Mengers' swishy pad in "The Hills of Beverly." Those networking opportunities — wherein Faye Dunaway could get cast in "Chinatown" between appetizer and desert, or the genial director William Friedkin could be leaned upon, on a client's behalf, over cocktails — were reserved for those greater mortals of the firmament. The "twinklies," the Hollywood superagent Mengers liked to call them. Of course, gossip never has been constrained by social class. But at chez Sue, the rich twinklies of the 1970s and '80s dished with the cold dishes.

  • Heat rises at Porchlight in this most Chicago of musicals

    April 24, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Pal Joey" by Porchlight Music Theatre ★★★ ... You only had to be sitting in Stage 733 on Monday night, watching the terrific Susie McMonagle warble the ballad ...

  • Andre de Shields to star in Goodman 'Jungle Book'

    April 24, 2013

    The Goodman Theatre said Wednesday that Andre de Shields, a growing presence on the Chicago theater scene, would be part of the ensemble cast of Mary Zimmerman's "The Jungle Book" this spring. He'll play King Louie. The show, which uses the beloved Sherman Brothers score, is being produced in cooperation with Disney Theatricals.

  • Annoyance Theatre on the move

    April 24, 2013

    The Annoyance Theatre, a venerable Chicago comedy theater, is on the move. Jennifer Estlin, the theater's owner and executive producer, said Wednesday that it will exit its Uptown digs on the same block of North Broadway as the Uptown Theatre and move to 851 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.

  • 'Just For Laughs' lineup set for June in Chicago

    April 24, 2013

    Bill Maher, Seth Meyers and Bob Newhart are among the old school-new school headliners of TBS Just for Laughs Chicago, the Chicago franchise of the Montreal-based comedy festival. It's slated for June 11-16 at various venues around the city, including the Chicago Theatre (175 N. State St.), The Vic (3145 N. Sheffield Ave.) and Park West (322 W. Armitage Ave.). Most of the headliners are at the Chicago Theatre

  • 'Pianist' is a stirring case of art preserving life

    April 23, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" at the Royal George Theatre ★★★½ ... Mona Golabek's deeply stirring new one-woman show at the Royal George Theatre ...

  • Rinne Groff, Amy Herzog plays at Next Theatre

    April 23, 2013

    Evanston's Next Theatre has announced its 2013-14 season: the company's 33rd year.

  • Two more for Northlight season

    April 23, 2013

    Northlight Theatre will produce the Midwest premiere of "Detroit '67," the Skokie-based theater said on Tuesday. Penned by Dominique Morisseau and set in the Motor City during the Motown era, the show will be directed at Northlight by Ron OJ Parson and is slated to open in November.

  • Profiles has weighty 2013-14 season

    April 23, 2013

    At a time when many other Chicago have reduced the number of new shows in their seasons, Profiles Theatre has bucked the trend by announcing six plays, five of which are Midwest premieres, as part of its 2013-14 season.

  • Play based on a life becomes a story that touches all

    April 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Happiest Song Plays Last" at the Goodman Theatre ★★★½ ... "Write about your own life" says many a writing teacher.

  • Alice, painfully through the looking glass

    April 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Still Alice" at the Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago ★★½ ... The new show at the Lookingglass Theatre is based on the novel by Lisa Genova about the emotionally devastating subject of early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

  • Chicago Children's Theatre announces 2013-14 slate

    April 22, 2013

    The Chicago Children's Theatre will reprise its production of the Broadway musical "A Year with Frog and Toad" as part of a 2013-14 season made up of just one major new production.

  • Porchlight announces 2013-14 season

    April 21, 2013

    Porchlight Music Theatre, the small Equity company specializing in "Chicago-style" musicals, has announced its 2013-14 season with a distinctly retro flare.

  • Swimming in father's stories in 'Big Fish'

    April 21, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Big Fish" at the Oriental Theatre ★★★ ... Time surely is ripe for an American family musical, at once fantastical and emotional.

  • A show without title, words or clothing

    April 19, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Untitled Feminist Show" by Young Jean Lee's Theater Company at the MCA Stage ★★★½

  • Steve Jobs' approach a lesson for Broadway's 'Motown'

    April 19, 2013

    In 2011, Nick Bilton of The New York Times asked Walter Isaacson, the biographer of Steve Jobs, an interesting question: "Did he try to control what you wrote in the book?"

  • New artistic director at About Face

    April 18, 2013

    Chicago's About Face Theatre has hired Andrew Volkoff, who spend five years as associate artistic director of the Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts, as its new artistic director.

  • This 'American Idiot' a little too eager to please

    April 17, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "American Idiot" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★½

  • 'Superman' delays 'Simpatico'

    April 17, 2013

    A Red Orchid Theatre’s staging of Sam Shepard's “Simpatico,” which is to star longtime collaborators Michael Shannon and Guy Van Swearingen, has been pushed back several weeks. Instead of beginning performances on June 13, the show now will open on July 8 in a production by the director Dado.

  • 'Whale' a devastating play about a man too big to move through life

    April 16, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Whale" at Victory Gardens Theater ★★★★ ... Charlie is the dying, pathetic, 600-pound man stuck on the couch in the middle of Samuel D. Hunter's beautifully devastating drama.

  • A shaky production for a play about an architect as artist

    April 15, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "In a Garden" at A Red Orchid Theatre ★★ ... There are architects who make perfectly decent livings designing buildings that never get built.

  • Chicago-premiering 'Disgraced' wins drama Pulitzer

    April 15, 2013

    The play "Disgraced," penned by Ayad Akhtar, has won the Pulitzer Prize in drama.

  • 'Head of Passes': A family's trials, inspired by Job

    April 15, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Head of Passes" at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ★★★ ... Despite his humility and regard for God's rules, Old Job has a rough time in his book.

  • 'Oliver' wins with youth

    April 13, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Oliver" at the Drury Lane Theatre ★★★½ ... Where you have kids working like this, of course, you have a gifted director. And so it is with Rachel Rockwell.

  • 'Hit the Wall' to close in New York

    April 12, 2013

    "Hit the Wall," the show about the Stonewall Riots that began with the emergent Chicago theater company called The Inconvenience, is to end its run at the Barrow Street Theatre earlier than its Off-Broadway had producers hoped.

  • For British artists, no fond remembrances of Margaret Thatcher

    April 11, 2013

    You might recall the Elvis Costello lyric in "Tramp the Dirt Down," referencing Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister who died Monday: "I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down."

  • Broadway review: No holding back 'Matilda,' the best family musical in years

    April 11, 2013

    NEW YORK - No smart kid likes condescension. And any halfway clever mum or dad quickly figures out that the way to get a willful child, and they must all be willful, to love something is to pretend that they really should not like it all. That is, to a great extent, a manifestation of the gospel according to Roald Dahl, the cunning British literary satirist who disguised his moral lessons on the importance of education, books and human kindness within a delicious, kid-friendly embrace of bad behavior and anti-establishment trickery.

  • 'Carefully taught' truth sets this 'South Pacific' apart

    April 11, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "South Pacific" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire ★★★½ ... By all means enjoy her hapless attempts to shampoo a man out of her hair.

  • Grieving family will pull you in

    April 10, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "A Permanent Image" by LiveWire Chicago at the Storefront Theater ★★★½ ... Samuel Hunter's "A Permanent Image" is by no means the first play to tell the story of adult siblings ...

  • Chaos is in the eyes of the beholder

    April 8, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Let Them Eat Chaos" at Second City ★★★ ... Ross Bryant, the decidedly thrilling newcomer to the mainstage cast, has a haircut that looks like someone took a big mixing bowl ...

  • The circus comes flamboyantly to town at Mercury Theater

    April 5, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Barnum" at the Mercury Theater ★★★ ... "Barnum," the 1980 musical about that great showman Phineas Taylor Barnum, is very rarely produced in Chicago.

  • Nora Ephron, Roger Ebert: Because they could not stop for death

    April 4, 2013

    There is something very unusual about Nora Ephron's bio in the Playbill for her new play, "Lucky Guy," a piece about famed tabloid newspaperman Mike McAlary, which opened Monday night on Broadway and stars Tom Hanks. The little sketch of Ephron, stuck in the usual spot, starts out conventionally enough, listing her screenwriting credits (such as "This Is My Life," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Michael"), her first Broadway play ("Imaginary Friends" in 2002) and her journalistic bona fides, including youthful years spent in the newsroom of the New York Post, back when a deliciously stewing scoop could be savored, and marinated in the barroom, all the way until the next morning when the suckers could finally catch up. The bio tells of best-sellers and a new collection of essays, "The Most of Nora Ephron," due out this fall.

  • 'Kinky Boots' is a great fit for Broadway

    April 4, 2013

    BROADWAY REVIEW: ''Kinky Boots" at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre ... Even as the U.S. Supreme Court debates what is marriage, the sentimental and hugely enjoyable new Broadway musical "Kinky Boots" is debating the nature of manhood, with a fabulous twist.

  • All of the talent, half the caper in 'Catch Me'

    April 3, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Catch Me If You Can" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★½ ... Stephen Anthony, the baby-faced star of Troika Entertainment's production ...

  • Court Theatre announces 2013-14 season

    April 3, 2013

    Court Theatre, the longstanding Equity company in residence at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park, will stage the Chicago premiere of Katori Hall's Broadway play about Martin Luther King, Jr.,  "The Mountaintop," as part of its 2013-14 season, along with Quiara Alegria Hudes' "Water by the Spoonful," the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

  • Classmates and teacher, grieving for a student

    April 2, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Dream of the Burning Boy" at Profiles Theatre ★★½ ... Most big high schools are not unfamiliar with students dying.

  • Putting Chicago's violence on the table

    March 31, 2013

    CLAVERING, England — In this rural Essex village stands The Cricketers, the once-quiet pub that launched the career of British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who first cooked in his parents' kitchen. Trevor and Sally Oliver's place has grown with their son's huge fame and influence: Autographed copies of his new book are available behind the bar, and the pub proudly notes that its vegetables are supplied by Jamie Oliver's organic garden, which is nearby.

  • Chicago catches a 'Big Fish'

    March 25, 2013

    NEW YORK — A man in a Manhattan rehearsal room asks a young boy a question: "No soccer game this week?" A look crosses the kid's face. You can read love, loneliness, contempt. "It's not soccer season anymore, Dad."

  • Filial search, through the murk

    March 25, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Pedro Paramo" by Teatro Buendia of Havana and the Goodman Theatre ★★½

  • Tragic rap? 'Othello' is the Q Brothers' best yet

    March 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Othello: The Remix" is Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★½ ... Even for fans for such prior endeavors as "The Bomb-itty of Errors," a hip-hop version of "Othello" sounded like a stretch

  • Tragic rap? 'Othello' is the Q Brothers' best work yet

    March 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Othello: The Remix" is Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★½ ... Even for fans for such prior endeavors as "The Bomb-itty of Errors," a hip-hop version of "Othello" sounded like a stretch

  • Marriott 'Hero' headed to Florida

    March 21, 2013

    "Hero," the new musical about a struggling comic-book artist that premiered at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, is to get a second production at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida.

  • Personal stories and a shiny red paint job in 'Hardbody'

    March 21, 2013

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "Hands on a Hardbody" ... Despite the salacious title, the hardbody at the core of the newest Broadway musical has no pulse. It's a big, shiny, red Nissan truck.

  • No sparkle in Broadway's 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'

    March 20, 2013

    NEW YORK — Early in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," the new Richard Greenberg adaptation of the 1958 Truman Capote novella, Emilia Clarke's Holly Golightly climbs into bed with Fred, our narrator, played here by Cory Michael Smith. She passes out fast. And Fred is probably gay. Nonetheless, the presence of this beautiful, available young woman in his bed is a signature moment for this young gentleman from Louisiana.

  • Hershey Felder to open new Royal George show

    March 19, 2013

    Hershey Felder, currently appearing in "An American Story" at the Royal George Theatre, will adapt, direct and produce the next production at that venue. But he will not perform. The pianist-actress Mona Golabek is the solo star.

  • Lifeline announces new season

    March 19, 2013

    Lifeline Theatre, a venerable Off-Loop theater on Chicago's North Side, has announced its 2013-14 season.

  • Falls makes no half 'Measures'

    March 18, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Measure for Measure" at the Goodman Theatre ★★★½ ... Director Robert Falls' arresting, audacious, intensely stimulating, mostly nihilistic and highly amusing production ...

  • Calculations on the edge of sanity in this eye-opening 'Proof'

    March 18, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Proof" at Court Theatre ★★★★ ... You may well think you have seen David Auburn's "Proof," the story of a Hyde Park woman grieving for the mathematically brilliant father who has left her bereft.

  • 'Pirates' heads to Kentucky

    March 18, 2013

    The Hypocrites' cheeky production of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," a two-time hit in Chicago and also at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass, has added another regional notch to its belt.

  • Heavy satire, but 'Stones' a touch too light

    March 17, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Stones In His Pockets" at Northlight Theatre ★★½ ... Told by a pair of young Irishmen appearing as "40-quid-a-day" extras in a Hollywood movie ...

  • All Hyde, all night in this over-the-top pre-Broadway revival

    March 15, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Jekyll & Hyde" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★ ... Frank Wildhorn's "Jekyll & Hyde" was never a subtle night of theater. More of a guilty, sexy pleasure, really.

  • Writers' Theatre season includes 'Gabler'

    March 13, 2013

    Kate Fry will star as Henrik Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" as part of the 2013-14 season at Writers' Theatre Chicago. Kimberly Senior will direct the new production of the famously passionate drama for a January opening.

  • More shows announced by TimeLine

    March 12, 2013

    Chicago's TimeLine Theatre has announced it will produce Lorraine Hansberry's classic Chicago play, "A Raisin in the Sun" (directed by Ron OJ Parson), and the Marc Blitzstein musical "Juno," based on Sean O'Casey's "Juno and the Paycock."

  • Andrew Lloyd Webber seduces on small stage

    March 12, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Aspects of Love" at Theo Ubique Theatre ★★★ ... The last time you could see a significant production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Aspects of Love" in Chicago was more than 20 years ago.

  • Felder makes his way back to that fateful day at Ford's Theatre

    March 11, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "An American Story for Actor and Orchestra" by Hershey Felder at the Royal George Theatre ★★½

  • Cirque du Soleil passing on Chicago this summer

    March 11, 2013

    For the past two decades, a touring show from Cirque du Soleil has typically arrived in Chicago every other year. The most recent production was "Ovo" in 2011, performed in the parking lot at the United Center.

  • Rhea Perlman of 'Cheers' to star in Northlight show

    March 11, 2013

    Rhea Perlman, the actress best known for playing Carla on the NBC comedy "Cheers," is to star in a show at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie this spring.

  • New York's 'Hit the Wall' feels a little boxed in

    March 11, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hit the Wall" plays off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theatre ... Barrow Street is so close to the Stonewall Inn, where gay Americans famously fought back in 1969, you could carry over your Stella without the beer losing any of its bubbles.

  • Tevye reigns in rich 'Fiddler on the Roof'

    March 10, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora ★★★½

  • Gary Griffin to stage Sondheim at Chicago Shakespeare next season

    March 10, 2013

    Stephen Sondheim's "Road Show" is coming back to Chicago, where it once was "Bounce." And it'll share a season on Navy Pier with "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Henry V," "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Gypsy."

  • Paramount announces 2013-14 season in Aurora

    March 7, 2013

    The Paramount Theatre in Aurora has announced its 2013-14 season of four self-produced musicals.

  • At Steppenwolf, another way of looking at youth violence

    March 5, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "How Long Will I Cry?: Voices of Youth Violence" by Steppenwolf for Young Adults ★★½

  • Joan Allen, Bruce Norris premiere at Steppenwolf next season

    March 5, 2013

    The Steppenwolf Theatre Company has announced its 2013-14 season, a slate that features the first  stage appearance by ensemble member Joan Allen in more than 20 years  as well as a number of new works — several from lesser-known playwrights.

  • Victory Gardens announces smaller season, Sandra Oh

    March 4, 2013

    Citing the need for financial responsibility and a desire to conserve resources for the 40th anniversary season, Victory Gardens Theater artistic director Chay Yew announced Monday that the venerable non-profit will have a 2013-14 subscription season of just three shows.

  • New Colony asks, how much a disguise is a bear suit?

    March 4, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Bear Suit of Happiness" by New Colony at the Dank Haus ★★★ ... Had Evan Linder not already penned a Chicago-and-New York hit titled "5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche," you might say he'd come up with an unusual title.

  • Heavy themes make this 'Cinderella' too slippery

    March 3, 2013

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella" plays at the Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway. Call 212-239-6262 or visit

  • 'She Kills Monsters' conjures D&D cool

    March 3, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: Garage Rep at the Steppenwolf Garage Theatre ... You'd easily think that "She Kills Monsters" was entirely created by Buzz22 Chicago.

  • When jokes go too far

    March 1, 2013

    Oscar hosts are supposed to be irreverent and edgy, otherwise they are instantly accused of boring us silly. So Seth MacFarlane must have been surprised by the rolling backlash from his performance at last week's Academy Awards.

  • American Blues announces new season

    February 28, 2013

    American Blues Theater, the ensemble-based company now in residence at the Grenhouse Theatre Center on Chicago's North Side, has announced its 2013-14 season.

  • 'Everything Is Illuminated': A complex work on Next's stage

    February 27, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Everything Is Illuminated" by Next Theatre at Noyes Cultural Center ★★★½ ... You've doubtless pondered the role that chance plays in life. Who wins, who loses, who lives, who dies.

  • Goodman Theatre announces 2013-14 season including 'Venus in Fur' and new Rebecca Gilman drama

    February 27, 2013

    The Goodman Theatre announced its 2013-14 season Wednesday, a slate that includes a new play by Rebecca Gilman, a blues-infused Cheryl L. West drama about Pullman porters, Mary Zimmerman's "The White Snake" and the Chicago premiere of the sexy David Ives drama from Broadway, "Venus in Fur."

  • Dystopian tale of divided cities at Lifeline

    February 26, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The City & The City" at Lifeline Theatre ★★½ ... Although there surely is a whodunit element to this dramatic adaptation of the novel by China Mieville ...

  • William Petersen to return to Steppenwolf stage

    February 26, 2013

    William Petersen, the actor with longtime roots on the Chicago stage, is to appear this summer at the Steppenwolf Theatre in a two-person show about a teenager and her reculsive uncle in Costa Rica.

  • Geek love at Theater Wit

    February 26, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Completeness:" at Theater Wit ★★★ ... Most heroes do not win their loves by teasing them with the possibility of a really hot data-mining algorithm.

  • Story set in Appalachia has hard time getting anywhere

    February 26, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "25 Saints" by Pine Box Theater at the Greenhouse ★½ ... It takes Danny Goldring to liven up "25 Saints."

  • Finding racial harmony in song at BET

    February 25, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "From Doo Wop to Hip Hop at Black Ensemble Theater" ★★★

  • Northlight Theatre adds new shows

    February 25, 2013

    Northlight Theatre is announcing part of its 2013-14 season, including a new production of Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers," the Chicago-area premiere of "4000 Miles" by Amy Herzog and a new Irish drama that will star John Mahoney.  

  • Remy Bumppo announces 2013-14 slate

    February 25, 2013

    Chicago's Remy Bumppo Theatre Company has announced its 2013-14 season.

  • Violence, Chicago and its storytellers

    February 25, 2013

    A decade or so ago, executive and philanthropist John H. Bryan Jr., the former CEO of Sara Lee Corp., raised a broad swath of the roughly $475 million needed for Millennium Park, the biggest and most successful cultural project in Chicago since the Columbian Exposition. He did so by putting together a coalition of donors, many of whom lived and worked in the suburbs.

  • Molusi's voyage in 'Cadre' is set in years after apartheid

    February 20, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Cadre" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★½ ... The voice of Nelson Mandela crackles through much of "Cadre," the interesting new work-in-progress created by the South African writer-director Omphile Molusi.

  • Nora Dunn to premiere one-woman show in Chicago

    February 20, 2013

    Nora Dunn, a prominant former cast member of "Saturday Night Live," is to premiere a new one-woman show at Theater Wit in Chicago this summer.

  • REVIEW: "Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology" by Collaboraction Theatre Company

    February 19, 2013

    For once, the Collaboraction Theatre Company has justified its name.

  • 'Les Miserables' headed back to Broadway

    February 19, 2013

    The new touring production of "Les Miserables," which was a huge hit in Chicago this fall, is headed back to Broadway, producer Cameron Mackintosh announced Tuesday.

  • A reprise run for Julia Child play 'To Master the Art'

    February 19, 2013

    "To Master the Art," William Brown and Doug Frew's biographical drama about the life and work of the famed culinary icon Julia Child, is to have a reprise commercial engagement at the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago this fall.

  • 'Wicked' coming back to Chicago in the fall

    February 17, 2013

    The Broadway musical "Wicked," which ran for more than three-and-a-half years in a dedicated Chicago production from 2005 to 2009, is making another return visit to the city that so embraced it. "Wicked" will have  a hefty, eight-week engagement this fall.

  • Mike Tyson's truths, live on stage

    February 16, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★★

  • Why sex onstage rarely works

    February 16, 2013

    After I pointed out that the Goodman Theatre production of Christopher Shinn's "Teddy Ferrara" contains a goodly amount of onstage groping, poking and unbuttoning, a fevered member of the Twitterati made a rather stinging observation.

  • 'Julius Caesar' a fine modern tragedy

    February 15, 2013

    Jonathan Munby's visually thrilling, exciting and richly wrought production of "Julius Caesar" — which opened Wednesday night and features everything from a flash mob to a hot-dog stand to soldiers rappelling from the rafters of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater —comes to life with celebrants milling around some granite-clad capitol or another.

  • Mike Tyson brings his one-man show to Chicago

    February 14, 2013

    Not long ago, in a shopping mall, I ran into Mike Tyson.

  • Redmoon Theater headed to Pilsen

    February 14, 2013

    Redmoon Theater, the 23-year-old Chicago performance, spectacle and party-creation company, said Thursday that it is vacating its longtime “Redmoon Central” headquarters in the West Loop and heading to Pilsen.

  • Mercury 'Barnum' gets a P.T. Barnum

    February 13, 2013

    Gene Weygandt will star as P.T. Barnum in the Mercury Theater's upcoming production of the musical "Barnum," the Mercury has announced. Also starring: Cory Goodrich and Summer Naomi Smart.

  • At Lookingglass, a tiger tale set in Iraq

    February 12, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" by Lookingglass Theatre at Water Tower Water Works ★★½

  • 'Old Jews' to tell jokes at Royal George

    February 12, 2013

    "Old Jews Telling Jokes," the off-Broadway celebration of Jewish comedy penned by the president of Random House Studio and the former public editor of the New York Times, is to have a dedicated commercial Chicago production this fall at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St.

  • Shinn's 'Teddy Ferrara' stuck on campus

    February 11, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Teddy Ferrara" at the Goodman Theatre ★★

  • When art finds truth

    February 8, 2013

    You could tell the people from the Columbine community by how they reacted to the many gunshots in the show. Their whole bodies would flinch. And then they would breathe out deeply, compose themselves, maybe put an arm around the person in the next seat and re-engage, as if determined to get through the telling of this terrible, but now familiar, American story of students being shot dead in a place of learning.

  • 'Columbinus' a rare portrayal of an increasingly common tragedy

    February 7, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Columbinus" at American Theater Company ★★★★

  • 'Lady Day' a potent portrait of Billie Holiday

    February 6, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" by Porchlight Music Theatre ★★★ ... Billie Holiday was many things ¿ songwriter, vocalist, poet ...

  • Jonathan Munby's 'Caesar' is more about the mob

    February 6, 2013

    "We're inventing a Rome," said Jonathan Munby over lunch recently, "that looks and feels like contemporary Washington."

  • Play about India call center never makes a connection

    February 5, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Disconnect" at the Victory Gardens Theater ★ ... "Disconnect," the aptly named new play by Anupama Chandrasekhar, is set in a collection agency in Chennai, India.

  • Rockwell to direct 'Shrek' on Navy Pier

    February 5, 2013

    "Shrek The Musical" is to be Chicago Shakespeare Theater's summer musical on Navy Pier, and Rachel Rockwell is to direct.

  • 'Sunset Boulevard' is where dreams go to fade

    February 4, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: Sunset Boulevard at Drury Lane Theatre ★★½ ... Never the subtlest of mega-musicals, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard" at least comes with a resident cynic.

  • A bit too tame a party for the likes of Pinter

    February 4, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Birthday Party" at Steppenwolf Theatre ★★½ ... Can "The Birthday Party" be celebrated in a wide-open space? It depends, surely, on the intent of the event.

  • 'Glass Menagerie' will move to Theater Wit

    February 1, 2013

    The hit Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company production of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" is coming back in the late spring.

  • She must live in Neverland — Cathy Rigby's 'Peter Pan' hasn't aged a day

    February 1, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Peter Pan" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★★ ... Having played Peter Pan now for (gasp) 40 years ...

  • Her Sweet Charity lights up stage but stumbles with the songs

    January 31, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Sweet Charity" at Writers' Theatre ★★★ ... Tiffany Topol has about everything you could possibly ask from a Charity.

  • 'Minsk, 2011' finds sexual heat in totalitarian chill

    January 31, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Minsk 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker" by the Belarus Free Theatre at Chicago Shakespeare ★★★★

  • Rachel Rockwell to make her Goodman debut with 'Brigadoon'

    January 30, 2013

    Rachel Rockwell, the Chicago director whose career has flourished at such musical theaters as the Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace and the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, is to make her Goodman Theatre debut in the summer of 2014.

  • A war veteran comes home to a strange world

    January 30, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Luther" at Steep Theatre in Chicago ★★ ... An intensely conceptual play like "Luther" relies on an audience buying its central metaphor.

  • Life in magic, echoed in a story at House Theatre

    January 28, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Magnificents" at House Theatre Chicago ★★½

  • Master and slaves, no longer bonded

    January 27, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Whipping Man" by Northlight Theatre ★★★½ ... One could never accuse Northlight Theatre of a lack of eclecticism in its programming.

  • Sex and objectification in travels between East and West

    January 25, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West" at TimeLine Theatre ★★★

  • Zigzagging along the Chicago Cultural Mile

    January 25, 2013

    At first glance, the Chicago Cultural Mile ("Where Culture & Commerce Meet") resembles nothing so much as a gerrymandered congressional district.

  • Lookingglass adds ensemble members

    January 24, 2013

    Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre anounced Thursday that is has added two of its longtime collaborators, Anthony Fleming III and Kevin Douglas, to its ensemble of artists. Both have acted frequently at the theater, across many years. The Lookingglass ensemble, still dominated by founders of, and early arrivials at, the 25-year-old company, which performs in the Water Tower Water Works on Michigan Avenue, now numbers 24.

  • David Cromer to return to Chicago stage in 'Normal Heart'

    January 23, 2013

    David Cromer, the longtime Chicago director whose New York career was launched after his production of “Our Town” (starring himself as Stage Manager) is returning to Chicago to act in a play for the first time in five years.

  • Searching for a father in Depression-era Michigan

    January 23, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Bud, Not Buddy" by the Chicago Children's Theatre ★★½ ... If anyone calls the hero of Christopher Paul Curtis' Depression-era novel by the name of Buddy, not Bud, the 10-year-old orphan gets upset.

  • A family's well-kept secrets unspool in the desert

    January 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Other Desert Cities" at the Goodman Theatre ★★★ ... Any writer knows the temptation of using one's family for material.

  • Lingering in a life at the coffee shop

    January 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Aliens" at A Red Orchid Theatre ★★★ ... Annie Baker's sweet and beautiful little play "The Aliens" is playing for the first time in Chicago at A Red Orchid Theatre.

  • 'Other Place' holds the most intense work of Laurie Metcalf's career

    January 21, 2013

    NEW YORK — Here on W. 47th Street, in a fascinating play about early-onset dementia, or maybe it's brain cancer, or maybe it's just some non-specific traumatic disorder that flowed from the loss of a daughter, the Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Laurie Metcalf is doing perhaps the most terrifyingly intense acting work of her formidable career, playing about the most unreliable narrator you could expect to meet in a theater.

  • Classy songs without the silky sentiment

    January 21, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "A Grand Night for Singing" at the Mercury Theater ★★★ ... A new era began at the Mercury Theater Sunday afternoon.

  • Love story is main attraction in 'Music Man'

    January 21, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Music Man" at the Paramount Theatre ★★★½ ... You'd be surprised how many productions of "The Music Man" unleash those "Seventy Six Trombones" without forging a connection between Harold Hill and Marian.

  • Burning questions linger for ex-flames in 'Skylight'

    January 20, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Skylight" at Court Theatre ★★★ ... When old lovers get together - perchance you know whereof I speak - a variety of dangerous impulses float through the air.

  • When our heroes are revealed to be flawed ...

    January 18, 2013

    In the movie "Flight," for which Denzel Washington scored an Oscar nomination, a brilliant pilot successfully lands a catastrophically damaged plane, saving scores of lives, even though this captain was high as he sat behind the throttle. To some degree, John Gatins' Academy Award-nominated screenplay is a dark and complex riff on the Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger story, the so-called miracle on the Hudson emergency landing that saved an entire plane of people in 2009.

  • Author of 'Patent Leather Shoes' dies

    January 17, 2013

    John R. Powers, the author of the made-in-Chicago hit “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” and a nostalgist who helped thousands laugh at their complex memories of rigorous parochial schooling, died early Thursday morning. He was 67.

  • 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' on Broadway: Johansson's heat is only half the story

    January 17, 2013

    NEW YORK — As Tennessee Williams understood better than almost any other scribe who ever stared down a typewriter, anger and need are not the same thing. In a lousy marriage — such as the one between Margaret and Brick in Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" — the two get conflated, of course, as anyone who has screamed at a partner in frustration from some unmet desire well knows. But like most of Williams' struggling souls, Maggie isn't annoyed in the way one gets annoyed, say, when one's deal isn't honored or one's plane is overbooked. She and her handsome, athletic hubby are both trapped in a hot mess of pain, unable to mutually twist their bodies in a way that might bring at least one of them some relief.

  • Authentic portrayal of wartime Britain has power all its own

    January 15, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Flare Path" by Griffin Theatre Company at Theater Wit ★★★½ ... Director Robin Witt's lovely production of "Flare Path" is a single-set drama that take places over a single night in a hotel on the edge of a wartime Lincolnshire airfield

  • 'Side Effects' remains stuck in the bedroom

    January 13, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Side Effects May Include ..." at the Greenhouse Theater Center ★★

  • Less traditional take on the flower girl

    January 11, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Pygmalion" by the Stage Left Theatre and BoHo Theatre ★★½ ... When watching "Pygmalion," it's never easy to get "My Fair Lady" our of your head.

  • It's official: 'Hit the Wall' goes off-Broadway

    January 10, 2013

    The long-expected, official annnouncement has arrived: "Hit the Wall," a new drama about the Stonewall riots penned by the young Chicago playwright Ike Holter, is headed to the Barrow Street Theatre in New York. Barrow Street has produced many Chicago hits, including David Cromer's version of Thronton Wilder's "Our Town."  

  • 'Faith Healer' extends

    January 10, 2013

    The Den Theatre's hit production of Brian Friel's "Faith Healer" announced Thursday that it will extend for two additional weeks through Feb. 3. Many performances of the three-character drama, a reprise of a production first seen in Chicago many years ago, have sold out.

  • Hershey Felder plans Lincoln show

    January 8, 2013

    Hershey Felder, the piano-playing solo performer with a formidable following in Chicago, is returning to the mainstage of the Royal George Theatre with a new show based not on a classical composer, but on the last hours of Abraham Lincoln. And this time, Felder is playing with an orchestra.

  • Brand new way to look at love and addiction

    January 7, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Motherf***er With the Hat" at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company ★★★

  • Winter theater 2013: 10 shows for the cold, from classic 'Caesar' to 'Other Desert Cities'

    January 4, 2013

    With Scrooge back under wraps, it's time for the 2013 winter theater season to begin in earnest. There's an especially strong slate of classical works opening between now and the end of March, but the offerings also are as diverse as ever. Among the many intriguing, cold-weather possibilities, here are 10 shows (in alphabetical order) with particular interest and promise.

  • Our town was Wilder's town too

    December 28, 2012

    New biography sheds light on Thornton Wilder, the influence of his childhood and his love of Chicago

  • Rachel Rockwell brings out the best in child actors

    December 27, 2012

    For Chicago stage director Rachel Rockwell, 2012 began with the brood of Capt. von Trapp and ended with the little orphan girls of "Annie."

  • Singing aside, Light Opera Works' 'Oliver' is wanting

    December 23, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Oliver" at Light Opera Works, ★★ ... The key to the showcase kid numbers is to let the kids be kids.

  • Williams' masterpiece rendered in all its fragile beauty

    December 23, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Glass Menagerie" at Mary-Arrchie Theatre ★★★★ ... To open up "The Glass Menagerie" in Chicago is to awaken the ghosts of history.

  • 'Faith Healer': An intimate, matured return

    December 21, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Faith Healer" at Den Theatre ★★★ ... This play is an intensely reflective, and literate, way to end 2012.

  • 'Book of Mormon' rakes in $1.493 million

    December 20, 2012

    "The Book of Mormon" pulled down a whopping $1,493,961 in its first full week of sold-out performances at the Bank of America Theatre, breaking the house record for that Loop venue.

  • 2012 REVIEW: Getting religion by the neck in 'Book of Mormon'

    December 20, 2012

    Most of the audience flocking to “The Book of Mormon,” which officially descended on Chicago Wednesday night like satirical manna from some warped “South Park” heaven, are looking for amusement and escape. They'll surely find salvation from the rough old world in this new production of the deliciously over-eager 2011 Broadway hit, newly crafted for Chicago with a clutch of utterly committed, fresh-faced, faux-Mormon lads.

  • Review: Getting religion by the neck in a hilarious 'Book of Mormon'

    December 20, 2012

    Most of the audience flocking to “The Book of Mormon,” which officially descended on Chicago Wednesday night like satirical manna from some warped “South Park” heaven, are looking for amusement and escape. They'll surely find salvation from the rough old world in this new production of the deliciously over-eager 2011 Broadway hit, newly crafted for Chicago with a clutch of utterly committed, fresh-faced, faux-Mormon lads.

  • Simple storytelling comes fully alive in 'War Horse'

    December 20, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "War Horse" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★★★ ... Joey, the stunning puppet horse whose flanks appear to breathe, pulse and sweat before your eyes, seemed to fill the entire stage.

  • 'Big Fish' announces Chicago dates

    December 18, 2012