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‘The Who & The What’ at Victory Gardens:  It’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ meets ‘Other Desert Cities’

‘The Who & The What’ at Victory Gardens: It’s ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ meets ‘Other Desert Cities’

June 25, 2015 – 10:22 pm | No Comment | 114 views

Review: Ayad Akhtar’s third play, “The Who & The What,” which now occupies the stage at Victory Gardens, shares with its masterly predecessors — “Disgraced” and “The Invisible Hand” — the core issue of conflict between Muslim heritage and mainstream American culture. But this time, Akhtar’s work verges on ethnic sitcom. ★★

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‘Moby Dick’ at Lookingglass: A man’s obsessive drive to annihilate a whale surges to electric life

June 22, 2015 – 7:45 pm | No Comment | 165 views

First mate Starbuck (Kareem Bandealy) has an uneasy relationship with his maniacal Captain Ahab.(Christopher Donahue). (Liz Lauren)“Moby Dick,” adapted by David Catlin from the novel by Herman Melville, at Lookingglasss Theatre through Aug. 28. ★★★★★

By Lawrence B. Johnson

Translating a great novel into a successful stage work is hardly a mere matter of reformulation. They are different beasts, novel and play: It isn’t enough to make the one familiar again as the other, iconic characters now costumed before us flitting in and out of scenes together, speaking lines that resonate deeply in our collective consciousness. It is rare to find a novel fine-tuned to the idiom of drama.

All the more marvelous, then, is David Catlin’s imaginative, poetic, indeed galvanic adaptation of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” for Lookingglass Theatre.

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CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Classic art of Jaboulet’s new Chapelle mistress

June 20, 2015 – 1:46 pm | One Comment | 272 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Classic art of Jaboulet’s new Chapelle mistress

Tasting Report: Since my earliest forays into French wines, the brightest stars in my firmament have consistently included the patrician Hermitage La Chapelle produced by Paul Jaboulet Aîné in France’s Northern Rhône Valley. So it was little short of enchanting to step back through time at a vertical tasting of this great expression of Syrah at a recent Chicago seminar sponsored by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony salute the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup win with a rousing ‘Chelsea Dagger.’

June 19, 2015 – 3:16 pm | No Comment | 269 views
Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony salute the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup win with a rousing ‘Chelsea Dagger.’

Video: The Blackhawks’ victory parade ended a block away from Symphony Center in downtown Chicago, but Riccardo Muti was still in the mood to celebrate.

Grant Park Orchestra, led by ‘goalie’ Kalmar, heats up Beethoven to kick off festive summer

June 18, 2015 – 5:40 pm | No Comment | 420 views
Grant Park Orchestra, led by ‘goalie’ Kalmar, heats up Beethoven to kick off festive summer

Review: Chicago’s getting everything right at the beginning of this summer season. The day after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, the weather was picnic perfect at Millennium Park, where the free Grant Park Music Festival got underway. Thousands laid down their blankets on the great lawn at Pritzker Pavilion. Even the curse of the overture “Drip” – rained out two seasons running – was finally broken. Check out our top festival picks.

New York Aisle: Philharmonic tops off season with rare bounty of Honegger’s ‘Joan of Arc’

June 16, 2015 – 9:33 am | No Comment | 344 views
New York Aisle: Philharmonic tops off season with rare bounty of Honegger’s ‘Joan of Arc’

Review: From his earliest days as music director of the New York Philharmonic, Alan Gilbert has indulged New York audiences with an end-of-the-season extravaganza, This year’s offering was Honegger’s dramatic oratorio “Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher,” a work rarely performed if only because of the magnitude of forces, starting with adult chorus, children’s chorus, 11 sung roles, and two lead actors.

From al fresco staging of Williams’ ‘Streetcar,’ American Players promise summer of surprises

June 12, 2015 – 12:23 am | No Comment | 286 views
From al fresco staging of Williams’ ‘Streetcar,’  American Players promise summer of surprises

Review: In her second summer as artistic director of American Players Theatre, Brenda Devita can claim her fingerprints alone on the scheme of eight widely ranging plays that will run in repertory well into the autumn. And DeVita embraces that authorship with pride, starting with the company’s first go at Tennessee Williams’ monumental tragedy “A Streetcar Named Desire.” “We’re taking it outdoors,” she says, referring to the starry-domed 1,148-seat Up-the-Hill Theatre.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Aged Burgundian glory from three négociants

June 10, 2015 – 12:08 am | No Comment | 221 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Aged Burgundian glory from three négociants

Mulling Wine: By chance or perhaps my natural gravitation, I just completed a sort of hat trick – meal accompaniments from three of my favorite Burgundy producers, all of whom fall into the somewhat misunderstood category of négociants.

Role Playing: Francis Guinan embraces conflict of father who fled from grim truth in ‘The Herd’

June 9, 2015 – 5:26 pm | No Comment | 389 views
Role Playing: Francis Guinan embraces conflict of father who fled from grim truth in ‘The Herd’

Interview: The alienated, indeed despised husband and father Francis Guinan portrays in Rory Kinnear’s marvelous first play “The Herd,” at Steppenwolf Theatre, elicits deeply ambivalent feelings, and not just from the audience. Guinan admits he also sees the guy in decidedly conflicted terms.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Burgundy-style Pinot Noir from an Oregon star

May 27, 2015 – 3:35 pm | No Comment | 501 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Burgundy-style Pinot Noir from an Oregon star

Tasting Report: Since its founding in 1989, Domaine Serene in Oregon’s Willamette Valley has emerged as one of the top producers of Pinot Noir in a region famous for that wine. In a horizontal tasting with friends of four different Domaine Serene bottlings from the 2011 vintage, it became readily apparent why this house continues to enjoy such high esteem.

Role Playing: Sophia Menendian reached back (but not far) as plucky Armenian refugee of 15

May 26, 2015 – 6:03 am | No Comment | 590 views
Role Playing: Sophia Menendian reached back  (but not far) as plucky Armenian refugee of 15

Interview: The most disarming, lovable character I’ve seen on a Chicago stage this season has to be 15-year-old Seta, refugee of the Armenian genocide and mail-order bride in Richard Kalinoski’s “Beast on the Moon,” played with big-eyed, open-hearted exuberance by Sophia Menendian, who’s all of 20. She says she captured Seta’s buoyancy by recalling her own unbridled spirit as an adolescent.

CSO’s ‘French Reveries and Passions’: Spirit and imagination set crown on a dream festival

May 24, 2015 – 12:09 am | No Comment | 835 views
CSO’s ‘French Reveries and Passions’: Spirit and imagination set crown on a dream festival

Festival Review: It’s that time of the year when orchestras change their pace, kick back a bit and come a-bloom with new ideas in the spirit of the warming clime. Thus the New York Philharmonic celebrates its 50th season of Concerts in the Parks, the Cincinnati Symphony’s May Festival gets underway, the Boston Symphony is deep into its Pops concerts. But the place to be this season is in the Windy City, where the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is midway through an extravagant multidimensional festival “French Reveries & Passions.”

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: A new Spanish horizon for old-vine Garnacha

May 23, 2015 – 12:11 am | One Comment | 555 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  A new Spanish horizon for old-vine Garnacha

Tasting Report: With the dramatic emergence of Spanish wines in recent years, Grenache has gained familiarity in its Spanish robes as Garnacha – which might lead one to assume that the “two” grapes are one and the same. Indeed they are, and yet there’s a world of difference between them. That became clear during a Chicago seminar last week presented by Spanish producers of Garnacha from Cariñena, a small appellation long overshadowed by the likes of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

Role Playing: Lindsey Gavel’s distressed Masha, in ‘Three Sisters,’ began with a touch of cheer

May 21, 2015 – 7:01 am | No Comment | 493 views
Role Playing: Lindsey Gavel’s distressed Masha, in ‘Three Sisters,’ began with a touch of cheer

Interview: Lindsey Gavel knew, heading into her performance as Chekhov’s unhappily married Masha in “Three Sisters” with The Hypocrites, that sorrow-on-sleeve was not the way she wanted to go with it. She decided instead to put a happy face on Masha’s heavy heart – and created a nuanced portrait of a woman caught between her longing for real love and the empty reality of her life.

‘Side Man’ at American Blues Theater: Honey pours from a trumpet, bile from a bitter wife

May 18, 2015 – 10:36 pm | No Comment | 570 views
‘Side Man’ at American Blues Theater: Honey pours from a trumpet, bile from a bitter wife

Review: Everything that is so remarkable, so rich and treasurable, about Chicago’s far-flung storefront theater scene is embodied in American Blues Theater’s resonant and poignant production of Warren Leight’s “Side Man.” Eloquently directed by Jonathan Berry, this model of tight, smart ensemble acting is well worth adjusting the calendar to catch, but it runs only until May 24 and will not be extended. ★★★★★

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: The pleasures (and alluring price) of Chablis

May 18, 2015 – 10:35 pm | No Comment | 389 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  The pleasures (and alluring price) of Chablis

Tasting Report: Somewhat to the northwest of the heart of what we think of as Burgundy – that is, the glorious Côte-d’Or with its world-famous Pinot Noir and Chardonnay — lies the appellation of Chablis. Technically, Chablis is part of Burgundy, though it’s more like an island. Or perhaps an unfavored stepchild. But for wine lovers, especially devotees of Chardonnay, Chablis is a discovery-in-waiting.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: It’s Chicago-sur-Rhône at Robert Parker soirée

May 15, 2015 – 11:43 am | No Comment | 632 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: It’s Chicago-sur-Rhône at Robert Parker soirée

Mulling Wine: Wines of the Rhône Valley in southeastern France – and others modeled after them from sundry parts of the world – will be spotlighted, explained and, not least, savored in a series of “master” tastings followed by dinner May 23 at Chicago’s Park Hyatt Hotel. The public event is being presented by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

Versatile ‘Jersey Boys’ actress knows Chicago, and some crazy quick-change parts in musical

May 14, 2015 – 3:47 pm | No Comment | 501 views
Versatile ‘Jersey Boys’ actress knows Chicago, and some crazy quick-change parts in musical

Interview: New Orleans native Leslie Rochette, who plays – among a lightning paced scramble of other roles – Frankie Valli’s daughter Francine in the tour production of “Jersey Boys” currently at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, seems to have found a second home in Chicago. Knowing the richness of Chicago’s theater scene, Rochette made a bee-line for Columbia College to study theater, graduating in 2008. When the first national tour of “Jersey Boys” hit Chicago in 2012, Rochette was in the ensemble, and now she’s back as one of three women in the cast who all fill multiple parts.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Grgich revisits crowning of Chardonnay king

May 12, 2015 – 2:02 pm | One Comment | 671 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Grgich revisits crowning of Chardonnay king

Mulling Wine: In an epochal Chicago event 35 years ago, Miljenko Grgich’s 1977 Napa Valley Chardonnay, the first he’d produced under his own name, beat out 220 other Chardonnays from all points on the compass (yes, including France) in the largest single-varietal blind tasting ever held up to that time. Last week, Grgich’s daughter Violet and other representatives of Grigich Hills Estate returned to Chicago for a small commemorative tasting of their library Chardonnays and three from the 2012 vintage.

Piano wizardry rules as Chinese star Lang Lang mixes Chopin, calendar’s worth of Tchaikovsky

May 11, 2015 – 11:56 am | No Comment | 456 views
Piano wizardry rules as Chinese star Lang Lang  mixes Chopin, calendar’s worth of Tchaikovsky

Review: Pianist Lang Lang’s recital May 9 at the Civic Opera House was, at its best, a display of brilliance of a high order. Taken end to end, it was also a curious affair. To say this lionized, still infectiously youthful Chinese pianist – he turns 33 on June 14 — is a technical wizard may be understatement. Lang Lang is one demonic virtuoso for whom the most daunting technical demands seem more like expressive opportunities than hazards of execution.

Ravel opera rarity (an armchair sings) injects pure fantasy, great fun into CSO French fest

May 9, 2015 – 3:34 pm | No Comment | 519 views
Ravel opera rarity (an armchair sings) injects pure fantasy, great fun into CSO French fest

Review: It isn’t every Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert that ends with the conductor leading a gaggle of children across the stage like the pied piper. But there he was, Esa-Pekka Salonen, smiling ear to ear, a little child’s hand in his, marching the Anima-Young Singers of Greater Chicago into view for their ovation after a deliciously witty performance of Ravel’s one-act opera “L’enfant et les sortilèges,” an evident if unexpected hit at the CSO’s “French Reveries and Passions” festival.

CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL: Like a parade of tall ships, Antinori fleet sails in

May 7, 2015 – 10:25 pm | No Comment | 319 views
CHICAGO WINE JOURNAL:  Like a parade of tall ships, Antinori fleet sails in

Tasting Report: For a wine buff, it was an evening of almost silly delight: A tasting of wine after great wine from the astonishing portfolio of Italian producer Marchesi Antinori, an array that extended from Brunello di Montalcino to Super Tuscans the likes of Guado al Tasso, Tignanello and Solaia.