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CD Review: Guitarist Karadaglić trumpets his  Ravinia concerts with desert-isle Rodrigo disc

CD Review: Guitarist Karadaglić trumpets his Ravinia concerts with desert-isle Rodrigo disc

July 10, 2014 – 12:35 am | No Comment | 473 views

Review: When I chatted with the young Montenegrin classical guitar virtuoso Miloš Karadaglić last November, about an impending solo appearance at City Winery, he made a brief digression to a major project then in progress – a recordng with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the London Philharmonic Orchestra that would pair Joaquin Rodrigo’s popular “Concierto de Aranjuez” and “Fantasía para un gentilhombre.” The CD has just been released, and it is a multifaceted beauty. ★★★★★

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‘Brigadoon’ at Goodman: In musical’s bright mist, someone is lost and new meaning found

July 9, 2014 – 10:21 am | No Comment | 323 views

Clan dancers Malachi Squires (Ensemble), Rhett Guter (Harry Beaton), William Angulo (Ensemble) and Jamy Meek (Ensemble) in Goodman Theatre's 'Brigadoon.' (Liz Lauren)

Review: “Brigadoon,” by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell, at Goodman Theatre through Aug. 17. ★★★★

By Nancy Malitz

In this briskly refreshing theater season, the Windy City has performed a hat trick on behalf of the American musical. Three Chicago mainstage companies have each expertly revived a Broadway classic through a shrewd rethinking that paired careful respect for the original with sympathy for today’s audience and its contemporary state of mind in changing times.

Following Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s heart-stopping “Gypsy“ and Lyric Opera’s gorgeous “The Sound of Music“ comes Lerner and Loewe’s 1947 “Brigadoon,” which ran for 581 performances on Broadway and is now in resplendent bloom at the Goodman Theatre. Read the full story »

String trio Time for Three twists classical roots into genre-smashing concerts of discovery

July 3, 2014 – 4:16 pm | No Comment | 353 views
String trio Time for Three twists classical roots into genre-smashing concerts of discovery

Preview: The term “crossover” just doesn’t seem adequate for the super-eclectic, albeit classically rooted, string trio Time for Three, which makes its debut at Chicago’s City Winery on July 7. A different word is needed for the creative adventures and mash-ups that fire the collective imagination of violinists Nicolas Kendall and Zachary De Pue and bassist Ranaan Meyer. If there’s any road these youthful musical wanderers have not yet taken, it’s only a matter of time. They are stylistically peripatetic — with a vengeance.

Role Playing: Natalie West scaled back comedy to nail laughs, touch hearts in ‘Mud Blue Sky’

June 24, 2014 – 9:56 pm | No Comment | 446 views
Role Playing: Natalie West scaled back comedy to nail laughs, touch hearts in ‘Mud Blue Sky’

Interview: Natalie West’s portrayal of a bone-weary airline attendant in Marisa Wegrzyn’s “Mud Blue Sky” at A Red Orchid Theatre is so recognizable – who hasn’t felt exactly like that? – in its muted and dryly funny fashion that it comes as a shock to hear that she miniaturized the performance, so to speak, from a larger canvas.

‘Grounded’ at American Blues Theater: Boom! goes the rocket blast, and pilot’s life implodes

June 23, 2014 – 1:29 am | No Comment | 384 views
‘Grounded’ at American Blues Theater: Boom! goes the rocket blast, and pilot’s life implodes

Review: The pilot, a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, is a proud lone wolf, happiest up there in the wild blue yonder, at the controls of an F-16 homing in on targets in the midst of a Middle East war. Yet there’s a mentionable wrinkle. The Pilot in playwright George Brant’s monodrama “Grounded” is a woman. Gwendolyn Whiteside, the producing artistic director of American Blues Theater, suits up and steps out front to portray a human being who thinks she knows herself – only to discover her true humanity in both the sweetest and the most devastating terms. ★★★★

Lessons of Riccardo Muti’s Schubert cycle tell as CSO caps season with poetic Mahler First

June 21, 2014 – 1:18 pm | No Comment | 912 views
Lessons of Riccardo Muti’s Schubert cycle tell as CSO caps season with poetic Mahler First

Review: What Riccardo Muti has brought to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in his first four years as music director was on display June 19 as the orchestra crowned its season with a revelatory pairing of Schubert’s graceful Fifth Symphony and Mahler’s splendorous First.

Role Playing: Dave Belden, actor and violinist, adjusted pitch for ‘Charles Ives Take Me Home’

June 18, 2014 – 10:24 am | No Comment | 457 views
Role Playing: Dave Belden, actor and violinist, adjusted pitch for ‘Charles Ives Take Me Home’

Interview: When Dave Belden took on the role of a violinist whose daughter wants nothing more than to play basketball, in Jessica Dickey’s “Charles Ives Take Me Home” at Strawdog Theatre, he saw himself as perfectly suited to the part. He plays in the Chicago Sinfonietta. What he had to overcome was his notion of himself as a fundamentally nice guy.

London Aisle: At Shakespeare’s Globe, bloody revenge served au naturel in ‘Titus Andronicus’

June 17, 2014 – 12:20 am | No Comment | 307 views
London Aisle: At Shakespeare’s Globe, bloody revenge served au naturel in ‘Titus Andronicus’

Review: To watch a production by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on its home turf, an open-air replica of the Bard’s original playhouse, is to sense the Elizabethan theater as a living, breathing – not to mention grunting and sweating – organism. Amid the swarming actors, you’re on top of the action; or make that, in the recent instance of that spectacle of maim and slaughter “Titus Andronicus,” the mayhem. ★★★★

Under new director, American Players Theatre shows changed outlook with Mamet opener

June 14, 2014 – 8:07 am | No Comment | 403 views
Under new director, American Players Theatre shows changed outlook with Mamet opener

Preview: As if running up a banner announcing its annexation of the New World – where, of course, it is located – the classically oriented American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis., opens its 2014 summer with a new commitment to Americana, leading off with no less bracing a representative than David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.”

Leading CSO toward finale of Schubert cycle, Muti imparts mastery of Viennese tradition

June 12, 2014 – 11:10 am | No Comment | 639 views
Leading CSO toward finale of Schubert cycle, Muti imparts mastery of Viennese tradition

Interview: Conductor Riccardo Muti’s final two weeks of the season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra also bring the consummation of his season-long cycle of Schubert’s symphonies. From his perspective “in the middle of the river,” as Muti puts the ongoing project, the CSO is absorbing the style and finesse of his reference ensemble: the Vienna Philharmonic.

Role Playing: Joseph Wiens starts at full throttle to convey alienation of ‘Look Back in Anger’

June 9, 2014 – 8:17 am | No Comment | 605 views
Role Playing: Joseph Wiens starts at full throttle to convey alienation of ‘Look Back in Anger’

Interview: The first thing Joseph Wiens had to overcome in achieving his electric performance in John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger” at Redtwist Theatre was the sheer volume of lines. Well, that and what he calls the “mishmash” of British accents. And of course the machine-gun speed at which Osborne’s teeming language had to be delivered – intelligibly.

Off-beat coupling of works by Ullmann and Orff casts vibrant light on opera as intimate theater

June 6, 2014 – 9:36 am | No Comment | 459 views
Off-beat coupling of works by Ullmann and Orff casts vibrant light on opera as intimate theater

Review: When opera is really working as theater, you tend to forget you’re listening to sung speech as you lose yourself in drama’s thrall. That’s precisely the effect in Chicago Opera Theatre’s potent evening of one-act rarities: Viktor Ullmann’s darkly surreal “The Emperor of Atlantis” and Carl Orff’s wry parable “The Clever One.” ★★★★

Jazz premiere, youth band lead ‘Truth to Power’ and Prokofiev is spotlighted by Feltsman, CSO

June 2, 2014 – 5:09 pm | No Comment | 585 views
Jazz premiere, youth band lead ‘Truth to Power’ and Prokofiev is spotlighted by Feltsman, CSO

Review: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s “Truth to Power” festival swung fully into celebratory mode, with a jazz premiere and music of Prokofiev taking center stage, in a series of four diverse concerts at Orchestra Hall over a long weekend May 29-June 1.

Alex in wonderland: Minding Streisand’s mall proves trip into loopy luxury in ‘Buyer & Cellar’

June 2, 2014 – 10:51 am | No Comment | 634 views
Alex in wonderland: Minding Streisand’s mall proves trip into loopy luxury in ‘Buyer & Cellar’

Review: At last it’s summer, the season for ice-cream cones and books with fun as their chief nutritional value. It’s also prime for a Broadway in Chicago show on this fancifully ridiculous premise — that Barbra Streisand, who has designed a “shopping mall” in the basement of her own home, drives a hard bargain to purchase a doll, which she already owns, from the fella she has hired to tend the shops. And he says No. ★★★

‘Juno’ at TimeLine: Good effort can’t redeem Blitzstein’s tepid musical on O’Casey classic

June 1, 2014 – 5:25 pm | No Comment | 622 views
‘Juno’ at TimeLine: Good effort can’t redeem Blitzstein’s tepid musical on O’Casey classic

Review: Sean O’Casey’s colorful play “Juno and the Paycock,” about a poor family’s bit of luck in strife-torn Ireland, has enjoyed unstinting popularity since its premiere in 1924. But when Marc Blitzstein turned it into a musical in 1959, the show flopped and has never recovered. TimeLine Theatre’s ambitious revival demonstrates why. Review:

Role Playing: Shane Kenyon touches charisma and hurt of lovable loser in Steep’s ‘If There Is’

May 29, 2014 – 10:59 am | No Comment | 553 views
Role Playing: Shane Kenyon touches charisma and hurt of lovable loser in Steep’s ‘If There Is’

Interview: Into the life of overweight, lonely, sullen teenager Anna, in Nick Payne’s play “If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet,” bursts her similarly miserable but emotionally supercharged uncle Terry. He’s an instantly appealing guy who, says actor Shane Kenyon, has invested a lifetime of energy in “running away from growing up and accepting responsibility.”

‘Charles Ives Take Me Home’ at Strawdog: Tune is familiar but dad, daughter can’t harmonize

May 28, 2014 – 1:58 pm | No Comment | 631 views
‘Charles Ives Take Me Home’ at Strawdog: Tune is familiar but dad, daughter can’t harmonize

Review: John Starr has enjoyed a successful career as a classical violinist, but he feels like he’s living between bookends of alienation. He never shared his father’s zeal for sports, and now his daughter is determined to make basketball her life. In Jessica Dickey’s radiant play “Charles Ives Take Me Home,” brought warmly to life at Strawdog Theatre, it is a headstrong, pragmatic and philosophical composer – in spirit anyway – who guides a father and daughter toward common ground in their disparate passions. ★★★★

‘M. Butterfly’ at Court Theatre: Amorous fantasy blurs truth and tests the limits of plausibility

May 27, 2014 – 3:42 pm | No Comment | 424 views
‘M. Butterfly’ at Court Theatre: Amorous fantasy blurs truth and tests the limits of plausibility

Review: Rene Gallimard is a shy functionary in Beijing’s French diplomatic corps who falls head over heels for a Peking Opera artist performing “Madama Butterfly.” He soon begins a 20-year love affair with the man he believes to be a woman, and falls into a classic honeypot lure for spy recruitment. ★★

Van Zweden, CSO plumb Shostakovich Seventh to kick off festival on theme of ‘Truth to Power’

May 24, 2014 – 1:32 pm | No Comment | 620 views
Van Zweden, CSO plumb Shostakovich Seventh  to kick off festival on theme of ‘Truth to Power’

Feature review: With a ringing affirmation of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, conductor Jaap van Zweden and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have plunged into a multifaceted festival celebrating three great 20th-century composers whose music sprang from personal and political tumult. In all, the festival, dubbed “Truth to Power” and devoted to music of Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergei Prokofiev and Benjamin Britten, features 14 performances of seven different concert programs across 18 days.

‘Henry V’ at Chicago Shakespeare: Noble production, except His Majesty is missing

May 23, 2014 – 10:51 pm | No Comment | 503 views
‘Henry V’ at Chicago Shakespeare: Noble production, except His Majesty is missing

Review: Chicago Shakespeare’s vivacious production of “Henry V” poses something of a paradox: Much of its energy emanates from the youthful presence of Canadian import Harry Judge as the king – and what is least remarkable about this show is Judge’s surface-skimming account of the embattled monarch. ★★★

‘Look Back in Anger’ at Redtwist: Bitterness nurtured as mode of life in post-war England

May 21, 2014 – 11:09 pm | No Comment | 610 views
‘Look Back in Anger’ at Redtwist: Bitterness nurtured as mode of life in post-war England

Review : Jimmy Porter is a bright but very angry young working-class Englishman who has grown to adulthood in the decade following the end of World War II. While he has married somewhat above his social grade, his life is going nowhere. In John Osborne’s searing 1956 play “Look Back in Anger,” Jimmy consecrates his sharp wit and tireless energy to a seething, circular rant. Jonathan Berry directs an electric production at Redtwist Theatre, where Joseph Wiens lends volcanic Jimmy all the brilliance and sadness of a man in existential warp, spiritually homeless in a world that has lost its meaning. ★★★★

Raven Theatre’s sharp image of ‘Vieux Carré’ evokes turning point for playwright Williams

May 18, 2014 – 11:42 pm | No Comment | 738 views
Raven Theatre’s sharp image of ‘Vieux Carré’  evokes turning point for playwright Williams

Review: Raven Theatre’s very fine production of Tennessee Williams’ “Vieux Carré” bespeaks that lyrical playwright in the long, sad twilight of his creative career and, indeed, his life. It is a look back into the predawn of Williams’ emergence as an important voice, a play filled with rich characters of meager means, and the lean, fierce eloquence of this account directed by Cody Estle gets it wonderfully right. ★★★★