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

'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 producer Hershey Felder said on Thursday.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • In Bayless' 'Cascabel,' the smell of success

    July 29, 2014

    In the service of entertainment, the Goodman Theatre has hosted fog machines and movie stars, Tony winners and disco balls. But this summer, the venerable institution will present two notable new attractions: Rick Bayless and an aroma diffuser.

  • REVIEW: 'The Marvelous Marvelettes' at Black Ensemble ★★★

    July 28, 2014

    At "Motown the Musical," written and authorized by Berry Gordy and now playing its final weeks in downtown Chicago, the legendary founder of Motown Records is painted as a big-hearted patriarch who turned singers into stars. But a very different, and far less benign, picture of Gordy emerges in Reginald Williams' "The Marvelous Marvelettes," the interesting and strikingly emotional new jukebox show at the Black Ensemble Theatre and the story of Motown's first successful girl group, formed from high school kids who, in 1961, sold a million records of their signature hit, "Please, Mr. Postman."

  • Dyanne Earley, longtime Marriott artistic director, dies

    July 25, 2014

    Dyanne Earley, the longtime artistic director of the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, died on Thursday, according to her son, the actor Kevin Earley, who said his mother died in her Grayslake home, surrounded by her family and following a lung-related illness. 

  • HOT NEW FACES 2014: Here they are, 10 talents you should know

    July 23, 2014

    Still suffering the effects of the infamous polar vortex? May we present our annual list of the Hot New Faces of the Chicago stage.

  • 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.

  • 'Evil Dead: The Musical' is coming to Chicago

    July 18, 2014

    "Evil Dead: The Musical," a campy Canadian production aiming to attract the same kind of audience that once supported "The Rocky Horror Show," is to play the Broadway Playhouse in Chicago for three weeks this fall as part of a new North American tour.

  • REVIEW: 'Men Should Weep' by Griffin Theatre at Raven ★★★★

    July 18, 2014

    Ena Lemont Stewart's "Men Should Weep," the warm-hearted but unstinting story of a Scottish family enduing grinding Glaswegian poverty during the Great Depression of the 1930s, is one of those plays that few people on this side of the Atlantic have seen. Even dedicated theatergoers. A closely observed play about women desperately trying to hold their families together, "Men Should Weep" has been overlooked and marginalized.

  • iO Chicago's move is more than a new address

    July 18, 2014

    This weekend, Charna Halpern's iO Chicago makes its final exit from the scruffy strip of Clark Street bars just south of Wrigley Field. The Chicago launchpad for many a TV and Hollywood career in comedy is headed farther south to posh, new digs at 1501 N. Kingsbury St.

  • Elaine Stritch appreciation: She brought the stage with her

    July 17, 2014

    In Elaine Stritch's self-revealing, one-woman show in 2002, penned in collaboration with the critic John Lahr and aptly titled "Elaine Stritch at Liberty," the sharp-tongued Stritch described herself as "an existential problem in tights."

  • REVIEW: 'Othello' at Gift Theatre ★★★

    July 15, 2014

    Of all William Shakespeare's great tragedies, "Othello" is, without question, the most intimate. Sure, the marital action is seen in the context of a fight between Greece and the invading Cypriot army. But fundamentally, this is a tragedy of the bedroom — of trust, insecurity and personal betrayal. "Good name in man and woman," the villainous but perspicacious Iago remarks at one point, "is the immediate jewel of their souls."

  • REVIEW: 'The Beverly Hillbillies, The Musical' at Theatre at the Center ★★

    July 14, 2014

    Now come listen to a story about "The Beverly Hillbillies." Musical, that is. Real tunes. Between 1962 and 1971 — just nine seasons — CBS broadcast a whopping 274 episodes of one of the most popular sitcoms in TV history and one of the first hit shows to exploit the "stranger in a strange land" (aka fish-out-of-water) theme that would dominate network comedy for decades to follow.

  • 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 12, 2014

    Whoever thought Millennium Park would become a place for lovers?

  • July 7, 2014

    In certain, more cynical parts of Scotland, the term "Brigadoonery" applies to the cultivation of over-the-top stereotypes of Scotland that long have filled north-of-the-border purses from Edinburgh Airport to St. Andrews Links to the environs of the Brig o' Doon, the real Ayrshire bridge that's on the Robbie Burns tourist trail and from which Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe likely found the title of their richly scored Broadway musical in 1947.

  • Evanston plans to boot Next Theatre for non-payment of rent

    July 4, 2014

    Evanston's Next Theatre owes more than $76,000 in back rent for its space in the Noyes Cultural Arts Center. And its landlord, the north suburban City of Evanston, has had enough.  

  • Soccer as creeping socialism and other lowlights of the World Cup

    July 2, 2014

    All of a sudden this week, the beautiful global game of soccer joined long-distance trains and organic vegetables as bugaboos of the heat-seeking, right-wing commentariat. With new popularity comes competing narratives. Still, this one was notably weird.

  • 'First Wives Club' is Chicago's next Broadway tryout

    June 30, 2014

    A new musical version of "The First Wives Club," with a new book penned by the writer-producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, making her theatrical debut, is to be Chicago's next pre-Broadway tryout, opening in the Loop next spring and aiming for Broadway in the 2015-16 season.

  • This is an overachieving 'Spelling Bee' at Drury Lane

    June 27, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at Drury Lane Theatre ★★★ ... William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin's 2005 Broadway musical has, I swear, had a big impact on actual spelling bees.

  • Sting's former self is at the center of 'Last Ship'

    June 26, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Last Ship" at the Bank of America Theatre ★★★ ... This is a heartfelt and clearly sincere tribute to the men and women of the lost shipbuilding industry of North East England, the shadows of a restless rock star's youth.

  • In play about exes, a character goes over edge

    June 25, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Annapurna" at Profiles Theatre Alley Stage ★★½ ... Darrell W. Cox, the star of many a show these last two decades at the venerable Profiles Theatre, is the kind of Chicago actor who likes to take a deep dive into a character.

  • 'Pippin' magic in Chicago, but not for long

    June 25, 2014

    Diane Paulus' critically acclaimed, Tony Award-winning revival of Roger O. Hirson and Stephen Schwartz's "Pippin" is headed to Chicago next summer, but for a paltry two weeks.

  • 'Kinky Boots' back for another Chicago kick

    June 24, 2014

    "Kinky Boots," the Broadway musical with a score by Cyndi Lauper that had its world premiere in Chicago prior to its New York opening, is to return to the city of its birth.

  • Kokandy hits the mark with Sondheim's tricky 'Assassins'

    June 24, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Assassins" by Kokandy Productions ★★★ ... For a sense of how much a theater space can positively impact a production, check out Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins" in the Theater Three space at Theater Wit.

  • 'Exit Strategy' to add more shows in August

    June 23, 2014

    "Exit Strategy," the buzz-heavy, sold-out hit from the Jackalope Theatre Company that was scheduled to close this weekend despite turning scores of people away from sold-out shows, is to return after a brief hiatus to the Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway for a second extension of four more weeks of performances.

  • REVIEW: "Red Bull Flying Bach" at the Civic Opera House ★★½

    June 23, 2014

    One rarely reads the words "Bach" and "break dancing" in the same sentence. Then again, one rarely sees the name of a highly caffeinated beverage within the title of an event at the Civic Opera House. (What's next, Monster Mozart? Rockstar Rossini?). Still, "Red Bull Flying Bach," a summer rental of that venerable hall, proves that the music of Johann Sebastian Bach — specifically, his "Well-Tempered Clavier" collection of preludes and fugues — makes, by virtue of its regularity of form, crispness of tone and clarity of theme, a fine backdrop for the athletic popping and locking of that B-Boy crew known as Flying Steps.

  • 'Death and the Maiden': Committed but off-balance

    June 23, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Death and the Maiden" at Victory Gardens Theater ★★½ ... In 1990, the exiled writer Ariel Dorfman returned to his native Chile where, he would later write, he saw victims of torturous acts living side by side with their torturers ...

  • Cast's quick thinkers are the attraction in 'Apes'

    June 22, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Apes of Wrath" at Second City e.t.c. ★★½ ... "Apes of Wrath," the new comedy revue at the Second City e.t.c., begins with a refugee ...

  • '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

  • Bumpy ride for a satire of children's musicals

    June 18, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Orville and Wilbur Did It!" by New Colony at Signal Ensemble Theatre ★★ ... Most actors have a few horror stories from the road, especially those who have spent time in the low-budget world of traveling children's shows ...

  • 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.

  • Front and center: Tavi Gevinson joins Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin in Steppenwolf's 'This Is Our Youth'

    June 12, 2014

    A couple of weeks ago, Tavi Gevinson was presented with an ideal scenario for any 18-year-old graduating senior at Oak Park and River Forest High School (or any other): Her parents were going out of town. Gevinson these days is hanging out with her new, handsome, likable pals Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin, working on a little Broadway-bound project at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company for producer Scott Rudin, as so many high school students are wont to do in their last semester of school. Gevinson's teenage mind saw an opportunity: Parents out of town! Everyone come over! A chance to chill out and stay up! Party!

  • Chelsea early? Comedian Chelsea Handler wants talk show morning, noon and night

    June 12, 2014

    Chelsea Handler wants, in essence, to become the "House of Cards" of late-night television. "There is no real appointment viewing anymore," the comedian said in an interview with the Tribune this week. (She will be taping a TV special during a pair of live shows at the Harris Theater Friday.) "Nobody watches anything when it's on anymore. So I want to do something late-night for myself that does not have anything to do with the networks."

  • Amen! Young cast lifts spirits with 'Godspell'

    June 12, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Godspell" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire ★★½ ... "Godspell" has changed from the one you may remember from high school or college ...

  • 'Andrews Sisters' is all about the cheery songs

    June 11, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters" by Theo Ubique ★★★ ... Who were the most successful female vocalists in history? By most reasonable measures, the Andrews Sisters.

  • Kimberly Senior will direct 'Disgraced' on Broadway

    June 10, 2014

    Kimberly Senior, whose resume is filled with work in Chicago theaters of all shapes and sizes, is to make her Broadway directing debut this fall, at the helm of Ayad Akhtar’s incendiary drama "Disgraced."

  • A new Equity theater for Albany Park

    June 9, 2014

    Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood is to get a new non-profit theater fashioned, its developers say, more after a swanky lounge and bar than a traditional performance space. 

  • Mueller and 'Gentleman's Guide' take top Tonys

    June 8, 2014

    In a victory for the well-crafted, the droll and the picaresque, the sleeper and financially struggling Broadway show “A Gentleman Guide to Love & Murder” won the Tony Award on Sunday night for best new musical, beating out the very popular “Beautiful - The Carole King Musical.” Although Robert Freedman won for best book for a musical, and Darko Tresnjak took the Tony for best director (the show won four in all), no gentleman could defeat Jessie Mueller and her humble-but-transcendent Broadway performance as the young Carole King, the pop-music great who would rather have gone home than been a star.

  • Eddie Izzard brings yet more refined laughs on this trip

    June 8, 2014

    COMEDY REVIEW: "Force Majeure" at the Chicago Theatre ... Political office or not, Izzard has always been a high-end comic who revels in the level of education of those in his audience.

  • Open your eyes to a new kind of 'Carrie'

    June 6, 2014

    REVIEW: "Carrie: The Musical" by Bailiwick Chicago ★★★ ... They came to poke fun at a girl who in 1988 lent her name to one of the great almighty flops of Broadway history: "Carrie the Musical," a monument to excess ...

  • Sting on 'The Last Ship' in Chicago — and the cargo he's been carrying

    June 6, 2014

    NEW YORK — Sometime around 2004, Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, better known as Sting, a rock star with 16 Grammys and more than 100 million records sold, found himself with a severe case of writer's block. It wasn't that he stopped touring (he didn't), making money (he still made plenty) or even recording (there were albums of other people's songs and a new symphonic treatment of his past material), but he found, to his chagrin, he could not write any new songs.

  • This 'Aunt Susan' has written herself into a corner

    June 5, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Ask Aunt Susan" at the Goodman Theatre ★½ ... When, in its first few minutes, the Goodman Theatre's new show, Seth Bockley's "Ask Aunt Susan," goes after Yelp by setting up a juicy scenario wherein nefarious employees sit in restaurants all day ...

  • 'Luna Gale' heads to LA

    June 4, 2014

    The Goodman Theatre production of Rebecca Gilman's "Luna Gale," a hard-hitting new drama about issues of child custody and protective services, will be remounted at the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles.

  • Oracle and Theo Ubique at top of non-Equity Jeffs

    June 2, 2014

    Oracle Productions, a maverick Chicago theater that does not charge audiences to see its work, and Theo Ubique Theatre, a cabaret-style theater in Rogers Park, took top honors at the 41st annual Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Awards, presented Monday night at the Park West nightclub.

  • SUMMER THEATER: Sting, Bayless and a man named Jed

    May 29, 2014

    There are a lot of famous names out and about this summer: Sting, Michael Cera, Bruce Norris and Sandra Oh, just to name a few. The reason is partly a few Broadway tryouts and partly a few more new Chicago productions that seemed designed to attract out-of-town producers. But the theater season will, as always, mostly feature the work of the city's home-based theatrical professionals.

  • 'Exit Strategy' sells out entire run; adds new shows on sale Memorial Day

    May 26, 2014

    Jackalope Theatre Company's hit production of Ike Holter's "Exit Strategy," a play about the final days of a Chicago Public School slated for closure, has sold out its entire run at the Broadway Armory in Edgewater.

  • New musical is about love, relationships and what can go wrong

    May 23, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Days Like Today" at Writers Theatre ★★★ ... Alan Schmuckler, the phenomenally talented composer of "Days Like Today," is capable of lush, driving, intermittently quirky melodies ...

  • How diners become critics, and why chefs should defy them

    May 22, 2014

    If you're a furious chef, incensed by the ignorance of the bloated bloggers or the yahoos on Yelp trashing your restaurant without mercy, training or expertise, the National Restaurant Association has some official advice for you before you pull out your MacBook and respond: "Stop, Drop and Roll."

  • An effective turnaround on follow-your-dreams theme

    May 20, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Charles Ives Take Me Home" at Strawdog Theatre ★★★ ... Playwright Jessica Dickey's new play "Charles Ives Take Me Home" is principally concerned with a young woman who feels totally misunderstood by a father who disapproves of her creative dreams.

  • Gloria Estefan musical will premiere in Chicago

    May 20, 2014

    Chicago will have the world premiere of a new Broadway-bound musical based on the life and music of the superstar singer Gloria Estefan and her entrepreneurial producer husband, Emilio Estefan, it was announced Tuesday.

  • Daring concept, but 'M. Butterfly' just doesn't work

    May 19, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "M. Butterfly" at Court Theatre ★½ ... Now a quarter of a century old, the Tony Award-winning play "M. Butterfly" made the careers of David Henry Hwang, its gifted writer ...

  • 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.

  • Playing with expectations, starting with Baryshnikov himself

    May 16, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Man in a Case" at MCA Chicago ★★★ ... To say that you should go and see one of the greatest dancers of his generation, Mikhail Baryshnikov, just so you can watch him fall down a steep flight of stars sounds strange. Disingenuous, even.

  • The humbling of America: A new way of bragging in social media

    May 16, 2014

    The artist had won a prestigious award with a big cash prize. "I am truly humbled," he wrote the other day on Facebook. Well, actually, no he wasn't. No way.

  • 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.

  • Bold, beautiful 'White Snake' needs a little more bite

    May 15, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The White Snake" at the Goodman Theatre ★★½ ... As adapted into 100 minutes of visually splendiferous theater by Mary Zimmerman at the Goodman Theatre ...

  • '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.

  • Tribute to Jack Lemmon needs only to squeeze in son Chris

    May 13, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Jack Lemmon Returns" at the Royal George Theatre ★★½ ... At one point in this intriguing new show, you see a still photo from the fine 1962 movie "Days of Wine and Roses" ...

  • Talking to Baryshnikov about 'Man in a Case'

    May 13, 2014

    This weekend, one of the most famous international names in dance, Mikhail Baryshnikov, returns to Chicago as the star of "Man in a Case," a performance piece built by Paul Lazar and Annie-B Parson of Big Dance Theater. It is an adaptation of two short stories by Anton Chekhov, "The Man in a Case" and "About Love." Baryshnikov spoke by phone about his latest project, which requires him to act more than dance, if the two can be so separated.

  • 'Yonkers' is deeply moving — and Neil Simon's finest

    May 12, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Lost in Yonkers" at Northlight Theatre ★★★★ ... I hadn't seen this play in years before heading to Skokie on Friday night, where the young director Devon de Mayo is making an auspicious Northlight debut.

  • Chicago hits, home again by the Commercial Collective

    May 12, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hit the Wall" ★★★★ and "5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche" ★★★ by Chicago Commercial Collective

  • Working the Streisand mall for an audience of one

    May 12, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Buyer and Cellar" at the Broadway Playhouse ★★★½ ... There are, I think, two very distinct kinds of fame. One is a mostly desirable state of being: It gets you good tables at restaurants, a feeling of accomplishment ...

  • 'Motown' spins through the songs, if not the full story

    May 8, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Motown the Musical" at the Oriental Theatre ★★½ ... In one of the most revealing lines of Berry Gordy's "Motown the Musical," the legendary founder of Motown Records gets some advice from a lawyer.

  • 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. 

  • A cautious, eloquent 'Henry V' reigns on Navy Pier

    May 8, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Henry V" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★ ... The British director Christopher Luscombe's new production of "Henry V" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ...

  • Flower children of 'Hair' live in the real world this time

    May 6, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hair" at American Theater Company ★★★½ ... "Hair," the once-revolutionary American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, has become something different.

  • REVIEW: 'Principal Principle' by Stage Left at Theater Wit ★★★½

    May 5, 2014

    UPDATE: The Stage Left production of "Principal Principle" is back July 17 to Aug. 18; more information at

  • 'Wizard of Oz': An unexpected rainbow lands in the Loop

    May 2, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Wizard of Oz" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★★ ... Danielle Wade, who carts around Toto in the new touring production of "The Wizard of Oz," was chosen by the good people of Canada ...

  • Porchlight over-achieves in 'How to Succeed'

    April 30, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" by Porchlight Music Theatre ★★★ ... Staging this 1961 musical with a small budget, a tiny orchestra and a rental at Stage 773 is far from an easy assignment.

  • Despite the years, those profane puppets still lovable

    April 29, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Avenue Q" at the Mercury Theater ★★★ ... When I first saw "Avenue Q" in New York one hot-and-hilarious August night in 2003, the actor Gary Coleman was very much alive ...

  • 2014 Tony nominations: Strange year for musicals

    April 29, 2014

    In a wildly unpredictable year for the Tony Awards, especially in the popular category of new musicals, “A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” “After Midnight,” and “Aladdin” were deemed the four nominees for the award, with “If/Then,” “Rocky,” “The Bridges of Madison County” and “Bullets Over Broadway” all knocked out of a category that often is crucial to a show's future ticket sales.

  • This is 'Sound of Music' on a grand scale, with a lovely Maria

    April 28, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Sound of Music" by the Lyric Opera ★★★½ ... The Lyric Opera of Chicago finds a sweet Alpine spot with director Marc Bruni's admirably lively new production of "The Sound of Music," a lavish yet accessible and family-oriented affair

  • Dense 'In the Garden' is in need of pruning

    April 27, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "In the Garden" at the Lookingglass Theatre ★★½ ... Early on in Sara Gmitter's "In the Garden," the worthy, promising but (ahem) still evolving history play focused on the domestic life of Charles Darwin ...

  • Harris is Hedwig — and retro-ad pitchman

    April 25, 2014

    When American Airlines was looking for a spokesman for its new Airbus A321 service from New York to Los Angeles, a route greatly favored by captains of industry, Neil Patrick Harris was an obvious choice to model a first-class journey. Handsome, famous, confident, clean-cut, charming and rich, he's an aspirational figure, someone we all would like to be sitting next to, cocktail in hand.

  • Teatro Vista's 'Bridge' makes connections

    April 25, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "A View From the Bridge" by Teatro Vista ★★★ ... Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" might not seem like an obvious choice for Teatro Vista, the venerable, Equity-affiliated company ...

  • REVIEW: "Cabaret" by the Roundabout Theatre

    April 24, 2014

    NEW YORK — Figuring little good was to come from keeping a proven production alone on the storage shelf — not with a now-bankable Alan Cumming available for hosting duties and no less than the movie star Michelle Williams ready to essay the needy Sally Bowles — the Roundabout Theatre Company has, in essence, remounted director Sam Mendes' definitively revisionist 1998 New York production of "Cabaret."

  • 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.

  • Chicago Children's Theatre to stage two world-premiere musicals

    April 23, 2014

    Chicago Children's Theatre said Wednesday that it will premiere a new musical based on Leo Lionni's book "Frederick," the story of a poetically inclined field mouse with a penchant for storytelling, even as his friends concentrate on surviving the harsh winter.  The book is well known among those with "early readers" in the house. 

  • REVIEW: 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' at the Belasco Theatre

    April 22, 2014

    NEW YORK — Born of the rubble of the Berlin Wall, marginalized, ill-used, rootless and embittered, Hedwig Schmidt surely would never have imagined her tired body would be brought to life on Broadway, no less, by a star of the magnitude of Neil Patrick Harris, a song-and-dance man of stunning charm and talent. Harris' lean-and-beautiful body reveals nary a hint of the scar tissue, the life ill-use, the artistic misadventure that long have ravaged the theatrical survivor he now encapsulates to widespread, and wholly understandable, delight at the Belasco Theatre.

  • The challenge of being the grown-up in the room

    April 21, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "If There Is I Haven't Found It Yet" at Steep Theatre ★★★½ ... Over at Steep Theatre, they might consider installing a new sign above their Berwyn Avenue storefront. "Warning," it could say, "Brits in Pain Within."

  • BROADWAY REVIEW: "Violet" at the American Airlines Theatre

    April 20, 2014

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "Violet" at the American Airlines Theatre ... You can't help worrying about "Violet." Not just the smart girl with the scar who is at the heart of the tender and haunting little musical, but the rootsy show itself.

  • REVIEW: "The Cripple of Inishmaan" at the Cort Theatre

    April 20, 2014

    NEW YORK — On the unforgiving island of Inishmaan, off Ireland's west coast, right by the Old Sod but peering out enviously in the direction of the Yanks, a young fella named Billy, who happens to suffer from a physical deformity, is not just Billy. Not in 1934. His moniker, good for all uses, is Crippled Billy, as in, "Hi, Crippled Billy." When not in the room, he's "the crippled feller."

  • Along with Colbert, the Chicago school of comedy on rise

    April 18, 2014

    For some in Chicago, the anointing of Stephen Colbert as the successor to David Letterman this month was a watershed, greatly-to-be-savored moment of total establishment dominance by the Chicago comedy school — as propagated by such venerable institutions as The Second City, iO, the Annoyance Theatre and the Chicago Improv Festival, and their various spinoffs, ensembles and gurus.

  • 'Act One' isn't the show Hart would have written

    April 17, 2014

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "Act One" in the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center ... "Inevitably," wrote Moss Hart in "Act One," his impeccable showbiz autobiography, "I shy away from the hackneyed picture of unhappy child in poor circumstances ...

  • Ray Shepardson, 1944-2014: 'Formerly of almost every theater in America'

    April 16, 2014

    When Ray Shepardson called, and he called those in a position to influence the fate of old theaters frequently, he would announce himself with a tagline: "It's Ray Shepardson, formerly of almost every theater in America."

  • 'Of Mice and Men,' and of Chris O'Dowd's Lennie

    April 16, 2014

    BROADWAY REVIEW: 'Of Mice and Men' at the Longacre Theatre ... Many in the audience for "Of Mice and Men" are coming to see James Franco. But given director Anna D. Shapiro's long history with Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble, it's perhaps not surprising ...

  • 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.

  • Cicadas buzz amid a Southern gothic ghost story

    April 15, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Cicada" by the Route 66 Theatre Company ★★½ ... We know cicadas in Chicagoland, where the so-called Northern Illinois Brood emerges in such unique numbers every 17 years, you might well need a snow shovel ...

  • 'Soul Train' is headed to Broadway

    April 15, 2014

    "Soul Train" is on track for Broadway, it was announced today.

  • In this dance-club 'Dorian,' it's hard to feel the consequences

    April 15, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Dorian' by House Theatre of Chicago ★★ ... Tommy Rapley's "Dorian," a striking, laudably ambitious but problematic riff on Oscar Wilde's scandalous 1890 novel "The Picture of Dorian Gray," moves the action to the modern era ...

  • Bruce Norris to become newest Steppenwolf ensemble member

    April 15, 2014

    The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Bruce Norris is to join the ensemble of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, the theater announced Tuesday.

  • Scenes from an unglamorous, hilarious layover

    April 14, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Mud Blue Sky" at A Red Orchid Theatre ★★★½ ... Marisa Wegrzyn's modestly scaled but exceedingly funny new play is all about a pair of flight attendants up to no good on a layover in an O'Hare-area hotel.

  • 'The Flick' wins Pulitzer Prize in drama

    April 14, 2014

    Annie Baker's "The Flick," a play about ushers in a movie theater,  has won the Pulitzer Prize in drama, announced Monday in New York.

  • 'Way West' needs a dramatic compass

    April 13, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Way West" at Steppenwolf Theatre ★★ ... In the best scene of Mona Monsour's otherwise rather frustrating new play at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company that contrasts the optimism ...

  • 'Bullets over Broadway': Musical of mobsters and old standards

    April 10, 2014

    NEW YORK — In the hands — and most certainly the wheelhouse — of the director-choreographer Susan Stroman, Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway" gets turned into a whiz-bang, retro, good time Broadway musical, replete with cheerily supersize performances, a daunting chorus that most certainly can put the requisite "Atta" in the Atta-Girls, a bevy of stock comic types and enough wit from the 1994 movie to sustain a plethora of yuks. "Remember," says Helene Yorke's hilarious Olive, the house chorine whose thespian ambitions sustain the plot but who ain't got no experience, as they say at Juilliard. "I want to play Lady Macbeth like I did in Union City. And this time not in pasties."

  • Seeing Mickey Rooney in Chicago, through Christiansen's eyes

    April 10, 2014

    Critics have their obsessions, especially in Chicago. Claudia Cassidy had Tennessee Williams. Gene Siskel had "Saturday Night Fever." Richard Christiansen had Mickey Rooney.

  • Unhappily ever after in unsparing 'Dance of Death'

    April 10, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Dance of Death" by Writers Theatre at Books on Vernon ★★★½ ... Drinking in the stunning incongruity of exiting an intensely intimate Writers Theatre production of August Strindberg's play ...

  • Your first time or 14th, gather around the barricades at Drury Lane

    April 9, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Les Miserables" at the Drury Lane Theatre ★★★ ... Once inseparable from its original Trevor Nunn production, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's "Les Miserables" now has exploded ...

  • Play about intimacy has its moments of distance

    April 9, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Great God Pan" at Next Theatre ★★½ ... In the Amy Herzog play that opened Monday night at the Next Theatre in Evanston, a journalist named Jamie is summoned to a coffee shop ...

  • Michael Cera in 'This is Our Youth' at Steppenwolf Theatre

    April 9, 2014

    "This Is Our Youth," the 1996 play by Kenneth Lonergan about affluent but disaffected college-age Manhattanites, will get a new, Chicago-to-Broadway production this summer at Steppenwolf Theatre starring Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson.

  • Too troubling a work, even for Albany Park Theatre Project

    April 8, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "God's Work" by Albany Park Theatre Project at the Goodman Theatre ... The Albany Park Theatre Project is not a typical theater for young people. Such is the level of trust among the young people from the neighborhood who perform with this company ...

  • 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.

  • 'Vanya and Sonia' coming to Goodman in spring 2015

    April 7, 2014

    The Goodman Theatre said Monday that it will stage the first Chicago production of Christopher Durang's Broadway comedy "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" during its 2014-15 subscription season. It will fill one of two vacancies on the mainstage in previous season announcements. Steve Scott will direct the Tony Award-winning show, a 2013 send-up of Anton Chekhov plays, in the spring of 2015. The other opening, likely for Goodman artistic director Robert Falls, has yet to be announced.

  • Death and dark humor in 'Realistic Joneses'

    April 6, 2014

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "The Realistic Joneses" at the Lyceum Theatre ... At some point in most marriages, perchance many points, one party will turn to the other and say something along the lines of "it just seems like we don't talk."

  • 'Noah' is controversial? Whatever floats your boat

    April 4, 2014

    "How will Noah survive the flood?" asks the voice-over on the USA Today video, in that serious-but-still-enthusiastic timbre familiar to fans of those faux breaking-news segments on "Entertainment Tonight" or "Extra." The question swirls over a visual of the raging waters sent by the Creator to wipe out errant humanity — and sent by director Darren Aronofsky to make Paramount Pictures some $44 million in the opening weekend of his movie, the No. 1 flick in America last weekend. Not so soggy.

  • Denzel doesn't fit Younger role in 'Raisin in the Sun'

    April 3, 2014

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "A Raisin in the Sun" ... Denzel Washington doubtless will bring in many people who have never seen Lorraine Hansberry's 1959 masterpiece about a Chicago family.

  • Here's the Hook: 'Starcatcher' tour seems at home

    April 3, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Peter and the Starcatcher" at the Bank of America Theatre ★★★½ ... Joey deBettencourt, who stars in the excellent national touring company of "Peter and the Starcatcher," was, just a matter of months ago ...

  • By end of the night, Cornwall might be your favorite place

    April 2, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Tristan & Yseult" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★½ ... On Sept. 14, a referendum will be held in Scotland on the matter of whether or not it should become an independent country.

  • 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.

  • 'The Book of Mormon' announces dates of return Chicago mission

    April 2, 2014

    The hit Broadway show "The Book of Mormon" has officially announced the dates of its return Chicago engagement.

  • Strained family ties still bind at Gift Theatre

    April 1, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Thinner Than Water" at Gift Theatre ★★★½ ... Nothing roils a fractured family like the serious illness of a lousy parent whom none of his offspring much likes. Few events in life, or death, spark more fights and pain.

  • 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: 'If/Then' at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

    March 31, 2014

  • Amid the depravity, a new Second City star emerges

    March 28, 2014

    REVIEW: "Depraved New World" at the Second City ★★★ ... When the cast of Mick Napier's latest Second City show, "Depraved New World," starting singing "there are voices inside my head" ...

  • Recalling the AIDS crisis through parents, partners who live on

    March 27, 2014

    What became of the parents who lost their children to AIDS 20 or 25 years ago? Most of those parents are, after all, still alive.

  • Chicago faces fly in 'Peter and the Starcatcher' tour

    March 27, 2014

    NEW YORK — Rick Elice and Roger Rees are a quintessential New York couple. So much so, in fact, that their apartment, located on Central Park West on Manhattan's Upper West Side, served as a model for the lighting design in Terrence McNally's "Mothers and Sons," which opened here this week on Broadway and is set is just such an apartment.

  • 'Mothers and Sons' a moving reflection on a changed gay America

    March 24, 2014

    BROADWAY REVIEW: A quarter century ago during the AIDS crisis, as some Americans fought for the right just to die young with dignity, angry mothers could be seen at the funerals of their sons.

  • 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.

  • A magical Genie in Broadway's 'Aladdin,' but precious little at stake

    March 20, 2014

    BROADWAY REVIEW: Disney's "Aladdin" ... Early in "Aladdin," Disney's new Broadway-musical version of the beloved 1992 animated feature, the chipper street rat has a run-in with the authorities ...

  • TV storytelling could change our stories for good

    March 20, 2014

    When Kevin Spacey showed up at the Oscars as a presenter earlier this month, he came prepared with a very shrewd bit, adopting the persona of Frank Underwood, his character on "House of Cards. "And I sing," he drawled from the stage, to the evident delight of Jennifer Lawrence and the like, "because it's nice to be out of Washington and here with all my Hollywood friends."

  • 'Idol' talent does not a dreamcoat make

    March 19, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★ ... The alumni of "American Idol" have become fixtures of touring musical entertainment.

  • 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.

  • Play about masochism needs more of an edge

    March 18, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Venus in Fur" at the Goodman Theatre ★★½ ... The term "masochism" — the practice, should you require a definition, of deriving sexual pleasure from the feeling of pain — has its origins ...

  • Dry laughs abound in an uptight college town

    March 18, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England" at Theater Wit ★★★ ... Despite a lugubrious title that seems destined to provoke a "You're taking me to what?" response, "Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England," is, in fact, an exceedingly funny play.

  • 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.

  • With John Mahoney, a late-in-life romance surprises

    March 16, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Chapatti" by Northlight Theatre in Skokie ★★★½ ... When Dan, the traumatized Irish widower at the center of Christian O'Reilly's "Chapatti," pictures his wife in the afterlife ...

  • A satirical look inside the Kitty Kat Lounge case

    March 16, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Arguendo" by Elevator Repair Service at MCA Chicago ... In the case of Barnes v. Glen Theatre Inc., the issue at hand was whether the state of Indiana's demand that the dancers at the Glen Theatre and the Kitty Kat Lounge in South Bend, Ind., wear both pasties and G-strings ...

  • Get me rewrite! Play about a newspaper story is full of holes

    March 14, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "American Myth" by American Blues Theater ★½ ... For a play supposedly concerned with the veracity of a man, there sure is a lot that does not ring even remotely true in "American Myth."

  • 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.

  • REVIEW: 'Rocky' at Winter Garden Theatre

    March 13, 2014

    NEW YORK — Broadway's mostly doomed attempts at capturing the boundless American enthusiasm for professional sports, and the billions of associated dollars, have been handicapped by one crucial, constant failing — an inability to really depict the playing of the actual game. "Rocky," the massive theatrical spectacle that opened Thursday night at the Winter Garden Theatre, certainly is a broadly realized story told with bold punches and too much nonperiod video, and it has a reflective, low-key score that reaches too often for songs of nervousness, or of past regret, when it should also convey the red blood that courses through a fighter's veins. But there will be no question in theatergoers' minds as they leave the theater that they have experienced the thrill of a fight.

  • 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. 

  • Bailiwick makes the most of tricky musical set during slavery

    March 12, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Dessa Rose" by Bailiwick Chicago ★★★ ... Lili-Anne Brown, the artistic director of Bailiwick Chicago, has thrown a detailed, modern-dress frame around "Dessa Rose" ...

  • 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.

  • Love up close and out of balance at Theo Ubique

    March 11, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Passion" at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre ★★★ ... Every time I see "Passion," that ever-wise Stephen Sondheim-and-James Lapine affair probing the relationship between adoration and ecstasy, new things pop.

  • 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.

  • 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."

  • 'Gospel' preaches from the heart about Chicago gun violence

    March 10, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Gospel of Lovingkindness" at Victory Gardens Theater ★★★ ... At one point in Marcus Gardley's play, a father who has seen his son shot on the streets of Chicago tries to assuage his wife's grief

  • 'Breaking Bad' star Bryan Cranston gets his hooks into LBJ

    March 10, 2014

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "All the Way" at the Neil Simon Theatre ... Since the White House is, in essence, the biggest stage in the world, it's probably no surprise that Americans crave presidents who are larger than life.

  • 'Heartbeat of Home': A changed Ireland still dancing

    March 6, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Heartbeat of Home' at the Oriental Theatre ★★★ ... Outside the Dublin airport, there's a savvy sign: "Welcome home," it reads. It's both balm for the weary Irish traveler and a pitch, both comforting and savvy ...

  • 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.

  • Witty 'Seminar' is a lesson in literary ambitions

    March 4, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Seminar' by Haven Theatre ★★★½ ... If you have ever taken a writing workshop, Theresa Rebeck's slick and witheringly amusing "Seminar" is a show for you.

  • Billy Zane to star in Lyric's 'Sound of Music'

    March 4, 2014

    Billy Zane, the 48-year-old actor best known for his work in the hugely popular movies “Titanic” and “Back to the Future” will star as Captain Von Trapp in the upcoming Lyric Opera of Chicago production of “The Sound of Music.”

  • Steppenwolf plays both sides of video gaming issue

    March 3, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Leveling Up" by Steppenwolf for Young Adults ★★ ... In the moments before "Leveling Up," the new show by Deborah Zoe Laufer produced by the Steppenwolf for Young Adults program ...

  • 'Annie' headed to Chicago

    March 3, 2014

    A touring production of "Annie" will play Chicago in November, Broadway in Chicago announced Monday. 

  • Frank ponders sex, death and getting old

    March 2, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Joe Frank in Murdered by the Mind' at Steppenwolf Theatre ... Joe Frank, the monologuist, storyteller and radio artist, spoke of sex and death, futility and regret at Steppenwolf.

  • 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.

  • You've never seen a Roxie like this

    February 26, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Chicago the Musical" at the Bank of America Theatre ★★★½ ... If you have a show that has been touring for 17 years, you really need someone like Bianca Marroquin.

  • A young fighter with choices in 'Golden Boy'

    February 25, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Golden Boy" at Griffin Theatre ★★½ ... In Clifford Odets' "Golden Boy," the issue with the young fighter is that the kid is a talented violinist as well as the kind of pugilist would could make a wise guy a lot of money in the ring.

  • 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.

  • In 'Language,' love and finding the right words

    February 25, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Language Archive" at Piven Theatre ★★★½ ... So here's a thought. Imagine if you were to leave your boyfriend, girlfriend, lover or spouse tonight, an entire language would die as you walked out the door.

  • Why late-night kingdoms are tricky to pass along

    February 21, 2014

    If you watched the nervous opening monologue of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," you could not have missed this line: "I'm Jimmy Fallon. I'll be your host, for now." Hmm.

  • At Profiles Theatre, fighting for love, in the ring

    February 21, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: Profiles Theatre ★★★ ... The historic back room at 4139 N. Broadway has seen illicit activity in its day. It was once a speak-easy. But I doubt it has ever hosted cockfighting.

  • In 'Bridges' on Broadway, passions remain covered

    February 21, 2014

    NEW YORK - As Francesca, the Iowa housewife at the heart of "The Bridges of Madison County," well knows, to love one's spouse and children and yet embark on an extramarital affair is to anticipate pain. But those first few rolls in the hay? Those, at least, are supposed to be passionate.

  • 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.

  • 'Old Jews' closing at the Royal George

    February 20, 2014

    “Old Jews Telling Jokes,” the commercial production that has played for five and half months at the Royal George Theatre, has posted its closing notice, cast members were told Thursday night. The final performance will be Sunday, March 2.

  • Back in the old neighborhood, with questions buzzing

    February 19, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Buzzer" in the Goodman's Owen Theater ★★★½ ... "We are gentrifiers," declares the defiant Jackson, one of the three young urban professionals ...

  • Northlight Theatre announces 40th anniversary season

    February 19, 2014

    In the first of the major 2014-15 season announcements from Chicago’s theaters, Northlight Theatre said Wednesday that its 40th anniversary season will include a fall production of Amanda Peet’s “The Commons of Pensacola,” an off-Broadway play inspired by the Bernie Madoff scandal; a holiday production of Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit “The Mousetrap;” a winter world premiere of “White Guy on the Bus” by Bruce Graham; and the spring world premiere of a new, Chicago-based musical with book and lyrics by Jessica Thebus and music by Andre Pluess and Amanda Dehnert.

  • 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.

  • Shirley Temple was the template for a child star

    February 14, 2014

    Shirley Temple Black, who died Monday, was, as Shirley Temple, the biggest child star of them all. In the last two years of her contract with 20th Century Fox in the late 1930s, she was making $250,000 a picture, and she made four movies a year for that studio. In 1958, the Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper, shrewdly observing the relatively low top income tax rates when Temple was at her peak in the late 1930s and her parents' careful management of her trust fund, included her on a very short list of Hollywood's all-time richest women.

  • You can't see 'Woods' without the trees

    February 12, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Into the Woods" by The Hypocrites at the Mercury Theater ★★ ... Be careful the show you pick, especially if you have a heavy conceptual idea. For, as the great Mr. S. famously if sometimes inaccurately observed, no one is alone.

  • TV chef's stage shtick not always palatable

    February 10, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Edible Inevitable' at the Oriental Theatre. The 51-year-old Food Network star Alton Brown does not advocate buying organic food. Indeed, he could barely spit out the term in his multicity "Edible Inevitable" tour

  • 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 ...

  • 'Misbehavin'' ain't supposed to be polished and safe

    February 4, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Ain't Misbehavin'" at Porchlight Music Theatre ★★★ ... There is something about this production that captures the exuberant, unstinting spirit of Fats Waller and his era better than any other "Ain't Misbehavin'" I've seen.

  • 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.

  • When the best comes from very little: '12 Years a Slave' and 'Captain Phillips'

    February 3, 2014

    The two best performances I've seen on screen this year, Chiwetel Ejiofor in "12 Years a Slave" (Ejiofor should win an Academy Award on March 2) and Tom Hanks in "Captain Phillips" (Hanks, unaccountably, was not nominated for one), have one crucial thing in common. They are fundamentally reactive. These performances are not about doing anything, particularly. They are about survival. Therein resides their remarkable force.

  • Complex issues, social ambivalence in 'strangers' at Steep

    February 1, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: 'strangers, babies' at Steep Theatre ★★½ ... Steep Theatre never shies away from plays about the dark corners of the soul, the ones that fester as you go about your business ...

  • 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 ...

  • Trio of actresses set the bar high for 2014

    January 29, 2014

    The big wave of winter theater openings, many of which took place in subzero temperatures, is in a brief lull. The pace picks up again next week, but enough has come down to merit an update. This has been an especially notable couple of weeks for remarkable work by women of the Chicago theater.

  • 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.

  • Great songs but 'Funny Money' needs a flinty dose of reality

    January 27, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Mr. Chickee's Funny Money" by the Chicago Children's Theatre ★★½ ... This is the Christopher Paul Curtis story about a kid in Flint, Mich., who gets handed a piece of U.S. currency with a whole lot of zeroes and a chance to learn about what wealth means.

  • 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 new dilemma: What about mixing guns and arias?

    January 24, 2014

    Walking into the Chicago Cultural Center for a warmhearted retirement celebration last week, I was pulled up short at the double door by a set of stickers. The ones with the menacing black handgun inside a bright circle, with a line through the gun. Those signs are, of course, a response to the new Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act (430 ILCS 66/1, et. seq.), which became law last year.

  • Listen, old chum, Marriott brings 'Cabaret' to life

    January 23, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Cabaret" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire ★★★ ... One of the oft-overlooked qualities of that great John Kander and Fred Ebb masterpiece "Cabaret" is pliability. This, old chum, is a title that comes around a lot.

  • '42nd Street,' sung big, loud and proud in Aurora

    January 22, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "42nd Street" at the Paramount Theatre ★★★ ... One of the great pleasures of the artistic renaissance at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora is seeing what it can do for Chicago actors. Take Larry Adams, for example ...

  • 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.

  • Play about race in the workplace already feels dated

    January 20, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Rasheeda Speaking" by the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble ★★ ... Staged at the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble on Ridge Avenue, "Rasheeda Speaking" involves two office workers who work for a young surgeon.

  • '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.

  • On Seth, Johnny and the straight man

    January 20, 2014

    In his occasionally salacious but richly layered biography of Johnny Carson, Henry Bushkin (Carson's longtime lawyer, compadre and acolyte) describes a party in 1979, at the home of Gina and Henry Mancini. The guests included Jack Lemmon, Gene Kelly, Roger Moore, James Stewart, Michael Caine, Cary Grant and their ilk. In Bushkin's telling, and his voice is legitimized throughout this volume by his generally having been in the actual room at the time, these formidable but interchangeable egos are cowed by the mere possibility of an appearance that evening by the singular host of "The Tonight Show."

  • 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.

  • Closer than anyone to succeeding with 'Success'

    January 15, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Sweet Smell of Success" by Kokandy Productions at Theater Wit ★★★ ... The Broadway show, which starred John Lithgow and Brian D'Arcy James, went down for a number of reasons, most of which flashed back to me as I sat in the friendly confines of Theater Wit.

  • Seth Meyers talks about his plans for 'Late Night'

    January 14, 2014

    Seth Meyers, the former Chicago actor turned star of "Saturday Night Live," was in Chicago on Monday to promote his new gig: host of "Late Night" on NBC. Meyers will take over from Jimmy Fallon, who is moving up to the "Tonight Show," replacing Jay Leno. Meyers spoke in a conference room at the studios of NBC-Ch. 5.

  • A play about conflict can't just be chaos

    January 14, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "Solstice" at A Red Orchid Theatre ★★ ... The Zinnie Harris play Solstice, which had its first Chicago production at A Red Orchid Theatre on Monday night, is a stark couple of hours in the theater.

  • A lot of Garland gossip until the songs begin

    January 13, 2014

    THEATER REVIEW: "End of the Rainbow" at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre ... So was it worth driving to Milwaukee, the freeway glistening with freezing rain, to watch Chicago star Hollis Resnik wrestle with Judy Garland?

  • 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.

  • From sir, with love: Talking to Cameron Mackintosh about his new 'Phantom'

    January 12, 2014

    NEW YORK — At age 67, British producer Cameron Mackintosh — or Sir Cameron, as he is known in the United Kingdom — has been the most famous theatrical producer in the world for more than 25 years. His personal fortune has been estimated to exceed $1 billion. His support of politicians in the U.K. long has been watched; his support has been coveted since his role in the resurgence of the Labour Party in the 1990s. He has made many creative artists in the theater very rich indeed. Without the influence of his singular catalog of hit shows — "Cats," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon" being the tent poles — the American commercial theater industry probably would not exist as it currently does. For Mackintosh, who long has understood that great producing means embracing both populist material and a public persona, was the first to figure out that audiences in, say, Green Bay, Wis., would race to the theater and fight for full-price tickets to a grand theatrical extravaganza if one crucial condition was met.

  • Don't pit 'August' the movie vs. play

    January 10, 2014

    Curiously, the major reviews for "August: Osage County," the John Wells movie, have been turning into a referendum — a spectacularly ill-informed referendum, to boot — on "August: Osage County," the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tracy Letts play that premiered at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

  • 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.

  • On Broadway, it's Mueller versus marquee

    January 6, 2014

    "Things like that freak me out," says Jessie Mueller at Bond 45, a Midtown eatery where Broadway stars like to be seen. Except that Mueller, who opens Sunday in the role of Carole King in the new jukebox musical "Beautiful," doesn't have much truck with the see-and-being-seen side of the business.

  • Winter 2014 in theater: New plays and a new 'Phantom'

    January 2, 2014

    Picking a mere 10 shows from the plethora of work on offer this winter in Chicago's theaters is no easy task. Here's a mere sprinkling of the different kinds of live entertainment on offer in the city in the coming weeks, including a few shows that look especially tantalizing. The shows are listed in no particular order.

  • Theater Chicagoan of 2013: Michael Halberstam of Writers Theatre

    December 27, 2013

    Michael Halberstam, the co-founder and artistic director of Writers Theatre in Glencoe, is ambitious, likable and determined. That trifecta of qualities goes a long way toward explaining how Writers raised $23 million during 2013.

  • 'Annie Get Your Gun' requires careful aim

    December 22, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Annie Get Your Gun" at Light Opera Works ★★½ ... "Annie Get Your Gun" is one tricky target to nail. This 1946 musical with the book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields contains some of Irving Berlin's greatest songs, yet ...

  • 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.

  • 'Pageant' is passable, but think of this space's possibilities

    December 18, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Winter Pageant" at the Redmoon Theater ★★ ... For a good portion of the audience at Redmoon Theater's "Winter Pageant," the annual family show offers the first opportunity to journey to the theater company's new headquarters in Pilsen.

  • '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.

  • 'Little Prince': Aviator's tale is worth getting lost in

    December 16, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Little Prince" at the Lookingglass Theatre ★★★ ... What early aviator would have dared to claim the term without a good crash in the desert on the flying resume?

  • Fierce intellectual tug of war around the dinner table

    December 15, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Tribes" at Steppenwolf Theatre ★★★½ ... Nina Raine has made a big splash with "Tribes," now at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, an uncommonly fine play determined to explore the intersection of hearing, deafness, communication and power.

  • 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.

  • 'Wives' may be merry, but romance remains elusive

    December 13, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Merry Wives of Windsor" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★½ ... Barbara Gaines' new production has a whole heck of a lot going on all the time, including a suite of inserted musical numbers of World War II vintage ...

  • 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.

  • Mystery is a cover story for simmering class resentments

    December 10, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "An Inspector Calls" at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company ★★★ ... J.B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls" once was regarded as a thriller about a mysterious police inspector ...

  • Follow these Lizas on a holiday romp — if you can

    December 9, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "We Three Lizas" at About Face Theatre ★★½ ... Last year, About Face Theatre subtitled its premiering Christmas show with the words "a holiday bender."

  • 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.

  • 'Christmas Schooner' sails into Chicago hearts

    December 5, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Christmas Schooner" at the Mercury Theater ★★★½ ... Rolling down Southport Avenue to "The Christmas Schooner," a show I've seen more than a dozen times, the weather was pushing 60 degrees.

  • 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.

  • In Jimmy Stewart's shadow, an onstage 'Wonderful Life' finds its sweet spot

    December 3, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "It's a Wonderful Life" by American Blues Theater at the Greenhouse ★★★ ... Actor Jimmy Stewart is fused with the characters he played, and he remains a large part of why "It's a Wonderful Life" still is such a fundamental part of our Christmas.

  • 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.

  • Operetta as a circus in a garage makes for marvelous fun

    November 29, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Mikado" in the Garage at Steppenwolf Theatre ★★★★ ... Sean Graney's promenade production of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's "The Mikado" asks first what an audience might most enjoy.

  • Hilarious and heart-warming, this 'Elf' delivers

    November 27, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Elf the Musical" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★★ ... At one point in "Elf the Musical," the Christmas-themed Broadway show adapted in 2010 from the hit 2003 Will Ferrell movie, a lonely, cynical urbanite named Jovie observes ...

  • Chicago invented improv. Did Mother's invent the singles bar?

    November 27, 2013

    You can make an excellent case that improvisation, at least in the modern entertainment sense of the word, was invented on the campus of the University of Chicago on July 5, 1955, when a group called the Compass Players performed its first show. But could you make a similar case that the singles bar also was invented in Chicago, when Mother's opened its doors in 1968?

  • Katie Rich headed to 'SNL'

    November 26, 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.

  • Dickensian moments, small changes only add to annual 'Carol'

    November 25, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "A Christmas Carol" at the Goodman Theatre ★★★½ ... So there's a scene in the Goodman Theatre's annual Chicago production, wherein Ebenezer Scrooge encounters his younger self, about to throw away his one chance at love.

  • 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 ...

  • Are arts donors also arts leaders?

    November 23, 2013

    If a wealthy person writes a large check to a worthy cultural organization, does that constitute an act of leadership? It's an interesting question.

  • Cannons to clowns, Ringling Bros. circus is in fine form

    November 23, 2013

    REVIEW: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus at United Center ★★★ ... If you have a kid at home whose mouth falls open at a construction site, try the 143rd edition of the Greatest Show on Earth.

  • 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 ...

  • 'Spider-Man' to try its luck in Las Vegas

    November 18, 2013

    "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" is to close on Broadway in January, following a steep dropoff in its Broadway grosses, its producers have confirmed.

  • Two years and wars later, 'Iliad' has only deepened

    November 18, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "An Iliad" at Court Theatre ★★★★ ... The most strikingly theatrical moment in Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare's contemporary take on "An Iliad" occurs when the agonized Homeric poet ...

  • Red-nosed reindeer, check, but musicians missing

    November 18, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" at the Broadway Playhouse ★★ ... To understand why live musicians are so important to musical theater, you need only spend some time with "Rudolph," which features a cast of 24 actors but not a single musician in the building.

  • On Facebook, the new carnival of life

    November 15, 2013

    "Why do journalists prefer Twitter to Facebook?" Ezra Klein asked in a smart column this week for The Washington Post, noting that Twitter drives less than a tenth of the traffic of Facebook, which is only growing in social media dominance.

  • 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!

  • Writers Theatre to build Studio Gang-designed theater

    November 13, 2013

    At an event scheduled for Wednesday evening at the Art Institute of Chicago, Writers Theatre of Glencoe is to announce that it has raised $22 million, enough to begin construction on a new, $28 million two-theater complex for downtown Glencoe, built from the ground up and designed by renowned Chicago architect Jeanne Gang and her Studio Gang Architects.

  • Dickens' orphan tale comes alive at Strawdog

    November 12, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Great Expectations" by Strawdog Theatre Company ★★★½ ... If you're tired of the mutterings of old Ebenezer and yet still crave some of that Dickensian moral pudding, then consider the unexpected sleeper of a new show at the Strawdog Theatre.

  • 'Peacock' shows a young writer's promise

    November 12, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Peacock" by Jackalope Theatre Company ★★½ ... Calamity West — a young Chicago writer whose pen name suggests she should be slinging beers in a Deadwood saloon — is, without question, a name to watch.

  • '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.

  • Culturally, it's about time for gay marriage in Illinois

    November 8, 2013

    "Don't make me have to move, Illinois," or some paraphrase thereof, was a dominant sentiment among cultural professionals on social media Tuesday, just before the Illinois House of Representatives voted to sanction gay marriage.

  • 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.

  • Intersection of lives is anything but ordinary

    November 7, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Port Authority" at Writers Theatre in Glencoe ★★★ ... Fight or go with the flow. Not the flashiest of life's dilemmas, I suppose, but it sure comes up a lot in work and love.

  • We're ready for a return by The Rascals

    November 6, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Once Upon a Dream Starring the Rascals" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★★ ... "I've seen Felix before but I never thought I'd see all the others," said a man at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

  • 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.

  • 'After Midnight' is about the jazz, not the history

    November 3, 2013

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "After Midnight" at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre ... At the Cotton Club, the famed nighterie on the corner of 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue, the house band between 1927 and 1931 was the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

  • Heartfelt anger at inaction over AIDS

    November 3, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Normal Heart" by Timeline Theatre at Stage 773 ★★★½ ... Larry Kramer's furious drama, a study of the early years of the AIDS crisis in New York City and the unforgivable lack of public response ...

  • Blond, green and popular: 'Wicked' has aged very well

    November 3, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Wicked" at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago ★★★½ ... We all have our favorite Elphaba and Glinda. The present pair, Alison Luff and Jenn Gambatese, have different assets, but this show continues to be a favorite in the hearts of Chicagoans.

  • 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."

  • 'Mary Poppins' fails to get off the ground

    October 31, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Mary Poppins" at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire ★★ ... If Mary Poppins walked into the Marriott Theatre's production of the musical bearing her name ...

  • Pinter's 'Betrayal' ages well

    October 27, 2013

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "Betrayal" at the Barrymore Theatre ... Despite the play's reputation as an exquisite fusion of simmering menace and incontrovertible sexual desire, the haunting, richly textured Broadway revival of Harold Pinter's backward-traveling "Betrayal" ...

  • A musical of matchmaking at the Drury Lane

    October 25, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hello, Dolly!" at Drury Lane Theatre ★★½ ... The heroine of the 1964 musical is one tricky gal to play.

  • Mike Nussbaum's recital knows no (age) limits

    October 25, 2013

    If an actor is doing extraordinary work for an 89-year-old — and I don't use that adjective lightly — is it condescending to point that out?

  • 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.

  • Unexpected riches in a story about a chimp

    October 21, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Trevor" at A Red Orchid Theatre ★★★ ... If you called central casting and screamed "chimpanzee," it's unlikely anyone would come back with Larry Grimm ...

  • 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. 

  • Puppet masters pull the right strings on Navy Pier

    October 17, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Table" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★★ ... The physical elements of the spectacular attraction visiting Chicago Shakespeare Theater from the United Kingdom consists of the following: one puppet and one table.

  • 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.

  • Dark and disturbing days, set in Britain's motor city

    October 11, 2013

    REVIEW: "Motortown" at Steep Theatre ★★★½ ... Detroit might be America's Motor City, but the "Motortown" of Simon Stephens' bleak, searing, deeply disturbing play of the same name is Dagenham ...

  • 'Acidy' Cassidy, that woman from Chicago

    October 11, 2013

    This article was excerpted and adapted from "Bigger, Brighter, Louder: 150 Years of Chicago Theater as Seen by Chicago Tribune Critics" (University of Chicago Press, 2013) ... On Jan. 25, 1951, actor Robert Keane, who was playing Capt. Brackett in the first national tour ...

  • 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 22, 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 9, 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 ...

  • 'The Second City Guide to the Opera' at the Lyric ★★★

    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 ...

  • "Oklahoma" at Lyric Opera of Chicago ★★★

    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.

  • 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.

  • "The Pajama Game" by the Music Theatre Company of Highland Park ★★★

    April 30, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Pajama Game" by the Music Theatre Company of Highland Park ★★★

  • '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."

  • "The Knowledge" at Steep Theatre ★★★★

    April 29, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Knowledge" at Steep Theatre ★★★★

  • 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?

  • "Collected Stories" by American Blues Theater at the Biograph ★★★½

    April 28, 2013

    It's axiomatic that success in the business, academic or creative worlds — heck, success in life in general — comes much more easily to those who are lucky enough to have a powerful, caring mentor. It's fun to be a mentor. One feels like one has purpose. But what happens when the student outperforms the professor, the fellow eclipses the executive director? What happens when the pursuing sycophant becomes the one widely pursued and the lonely teacher finds his career on a slide?

  • "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 24, 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.

  • "Pal Joey" by Porchlight Music Theatre ★★★

    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 ...

  • 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

  • "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" at the Royal George Theatre ★★★½

    April 23, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Pianist of Willesden Lane" at the Royal George Theatre ★★★½ ... Mona Golabek's deeply stirring one-woman show at the Royal George 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.

  • "The Happiest Song Plays Last" at the Goodman Theatre ★★★½

    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.

  • 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" at the Steppenwolf Theatre ★★★

    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.

  • '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.

  • Songs, not stories, get top billing in 'Motown'

    April 14, 2013

    NEW YORK — Berry Gordy, the man who discovered Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells (and on and on), was a peerless record producer when it came to handpicking talent and building careers. But Berry Gordy, the genuinely confounding new Broadway show "Motown the Musical" reveals, is just about the worst person in the world to write the story of Berry Gordy: the founder of Motown records, a music giant he built in a Detroit house under the hubristic handmade sign "Hitsville U.S.A.," which turned out to be nothing less than the darn all-American truth.

  • "Oliver" at the Drury Lane Theatre ★★★½

    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.

  • '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.

  • "South Pacific" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire ★★★½

    April 11, 2013

    By all means enjoy her hapless attempts to shampoo a man out of her hair. But if you fall totally in love with Ensign Nellie Forbush, then you're not watching the right "South Pacific." As Oscar Hammerstein II wrote, in that disarmingly simple lyric, "You've got to be taught to hate and fear." And Nellie was very much the willing recipient of that lesson.

  • '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 ...

  • Chaos is in the eyes of the beholder at Second City

    April 8, 2013

    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 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

  • 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

  • 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."

  • "Aspects of Love" at Theo Ubique Theatre ★★★

    March 12, 2013

    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, when a touring company played the old Civic Theatre, now used by the Lyric Opera as a rehearsal space. The No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park is a far cry from that, but, under the imaginative direction of Fred Anzevino, this throbbing, late-1980s tuner becomes quite the sexy vehicle for the luminous Kelli Harrington, the actress who won the Jeff Award last year for her work in "The Light in the Piazza" at this very theater.

  • 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.

  • Cast of 'Fela!' gives its all in cavernous Arie Crown

    February 21, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Fela!" at the Arie Crown Theater ★★★ ... When Adesola Osakalumi's Fela says, "Everybody say, yeah," his exhortation has to cross an energy-sapping moat ....

  • 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.

  • Stories from Chicago's dangerous streets

    February 19, 2013

    THEATER REVIEW: "Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology" by Collaboraction Theatre Company ★★★½ ... Far and away the best Collaboraction show I've seen these past 14 years, this is indeed a call for collaborative action.

  • '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.

  • Here's David Mamet's Whole Foods problem

    February 3, 2013

    When John Mackey, the maverick co-chief executive of Whole Foods, first criticized President Barack Obama's proposed health care law in a 2009 Wall Street Journal article, there was an immediate blowback — boycott! boycott! — from the grocery chain's heavy coterie of politically liberal customers.

  • '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.

  • Getting religion by the neck in a hilarious 'Book of Mormon'

    December 20, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Book of Mormon" at the Bank of America Theatre ★★★★ ... With tickets this scarce and prices this high, you might well wonder if "The Book of Mormon" is worth your time and elevated expectations. Be not afraid, suburban pilgrim.

  • "The Book of Mormon" at the Bank of America Theatre ★★★★

    December 20, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Book of Mormon" at the Bank of America Theatre ★★★★ ... With tickets this scarce and prices this high, you might well wonder if "The Book of Mormon" is worth your time and elevated expectations. Be not afraid, suburban pilgrim.

  • 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

    "Big Fish," the Broadway musical (book by John August and music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa) based on the fantastical Tim Burton movie, has announced the dates for its pre-New York engagement in Chicago. The show, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, will play the Oriental Theatre with performances beginning April 2, with the run concluding May 5. Tickets will be on sale Feb. 4.

  • Kristin Larsen exits Remy Bumppo

    December 18, 2012

    Kristin Larsen, the longtime executive director of the non-profit Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, has resigned her position at the small Equity company, which produces at the Greenhouse Theatre Center.  She is to become executive director of Stage 773, a complex of small theater venues on Chicago's North Side.

  • Making a bet on Chicago's Italian heritage for 2013

    December 17, 2012

    Silvio Marchetti, who has silver hair and a dry sense of humor most atypical for an attache, tells a story about meeting the late Harold Washington, Mayor of Chicago, in the mid-1980s. Marchetti, who now heads up the Italian Cultural Institute in Chicago, had come from Italy and requested a mayoral audience to talk up the cultural riches of his native country.

  • Updated Rockettes show has legs

    December 16, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" at the Akoo Theatre in Rosemont ★★★ ... The superb director-choreographer Linda Haberman has turned the Rockettes into a legitimate populist dance company.

  • On New York stages, a year full of letdowns

    December 13, 2012

    The year 2012, as Queen Elizabeth II might have said, was quite the annus horribilis on Broadway. Especially after the leaves started to turn.

  • Profiles snags Neil LaBute world premiere

    December 13, 2012

    Profiles Theatre is to stage the world premiere of Neil LaBute's newly revised version of the play that spawned the movie "In the Company of Men."

  • 'Fela!' returns to Chicago; Arie Crown returns as tour venue

    December 13, 2012

    "Fela!," the Broadway musical about the Nigerian Afrobeat icon Fela Kuti, is returning to Chicago for a week in February. Yet more surprisingly, the Arie Crown Theater, which has been on ice of late, once again has a Broadway-style show within the bowels of McCormick Place.

  • Canadian couple drive modern twist on Moliere farce

    December 13, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The School for Lies" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★ ... 'Tis the season for sucking up at company holiday parties. Or, as Frank, the central character in David Ives' "The School for Lies" would put it, this is prime time, baby.

  • A cast change at 'Book of Mormon'

    December 12, 2012

    Syesha Mercado, a finalist on the "American Idol" talent show, has taken over the featured role of Nabulungi in the Chicago production of "The Book of Mormon," representatives of the show have confirmed.

  • Team Starkid to produce show at Second City

    December 12, 2012

    Team Starkid, the hugely popular performance company known for its internet-based musical parodies and for its popular live tours, is to produce a new prime-time show at Chicago's Second City.

  • Chicago actress Elana Ernst Silverstein, 29

    December 11, 2012

    While most of her friends at Highland Park High School were still thinking of where they were going to study, Elana Ernst Silverstein already was booking the national tour of one of Broadway's biggest hits: "Mamma Mia!". And she had a bright future on the Chicago-area stage.

  • 'Book of Mormon' announces day-of-show ticket drawing

    December 11, 2012

    The much-anticipated Chicago company of the hit Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon" has its first preview performance tonight at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.

  • Following Garlin to some interesting places — because why not?

    December 7, 2012

    COMEDY REVIEW: Jeff Garlin in "Closer Than I Appear" at the Steppenwolf Theatre ★★★ ... The comedian Jeff Garlin is never happy unless he starts his prepared material at the time his show was scheduled to end.

  • I'm dreaming of a Rosemont Christmas

    December 7, 2012

    They were lighting the tree the other night at Rockefeller Center in New York. Streets were crowded with revelers headed out for a skate on the famous ice rink, where for $300 during the holidays you can propose marriage to a soundtrack, and a potential bride, of your own choosing. Many folks were headed down to Radio City Music Hall, where the Rockettes were starring, for the 85th year, in their Radio City Christmas Spectacular. It was the kind of quintessential (and well-branded) urban vista that explains why the streets of New York are crowded with foreign visitors and why hotels there cost a fortune in December.

  • 'Grinch': It's a stretch for this seasonal favorite

    December 6, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: 'Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas' at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★½ ... So what maketh an excellent Grinch?

  • New Mamet play toast on Broadway

    December 5, 2012

    David Mamet has found himself confronting something unfamiliar: a Broadway flop.

  • Just try to follow the Lizas on this weird seasonal trip

    December 4, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "We Three Lizas" by About Face Theatre in the Steppenwolf Garage ★★ ... Sitting in some bemusement in the Steppenwolf Garage, I found myself wondering if I'd ever seen a Christmas cabaret show where I had absolutely no idea what was going on.

  • Downtown 'Cinderella' still needs a story

    December 4, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Cinderella" at the Broadway Playhouse ★½ ... With some saying a variant of her story dates all the way to antiquity, Cinderella has long resided in the public domain.

  • Strawdog changes artistic director

    December 4, 2012

    Strawdog Theatre Company, a long-lived storefront operation on Chiicago's North Side, has announced a change in artistic director.

  • Pish-Tush, this 'Mikado' is a glorious circus

    December 3, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Mikado" by The Hypocrites ★★★★ For its outrageously enjoyable and inclusive new take on "The Mikado," The Hypocrites upped the ante.

  • 'Spank' a bottom-feeder of overripe erotica

    December 3, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Spank: The Fifty Shades Parody" at the Royal George Theatre ★ ... When E.L. James' smutty "Fifty Shades of Grey" first became red-hot, its publication was a huge boon.

  • Onstage, 'Singin' in the Rain' doesn't hold water

    December 2, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Singin' in the Rain" at the Drury Lane Theatre ★★ ... You certainly could not accuse Kyle DeSantis of failing to deliver the wet stuff, as required for the title number.

  • Ready or not Chicago, 'The Book of Mormon'

    November 30, 2012

    CULVER CITY, Calif. — It's 4:30 p.m. on a warm November Monday in a nondescript building in Culver City. Trey Parker is pacing around the writers room at the so-called South Park Studios — which, once you're inside, feels like a cross between a frenetic, high-tech work space and a deluxe rec room with toys, couches and candy — as his best friend and creative partner, Matt Stone, leans back in his chair, ever the relaxed, ruminative, inquisitive counterweight to Parker's perpetually coiled spring.

  • 'Dead Accounts' on Broadway: Reality's in short supply in this mystery

    November 29, 2012

    NEW YORK — At this juncture in what must at times be a very surreal life, Katie Holmes, a tabloid staple and yet a favorite daughter of Toledo, Ohio, now finds herself on Broadway in a play by Theresa Rebeck, playing a lower-middle-class character who grew up and remained single in another city in the Buckeye State. It's impossible to watch Holmes — who somehow has retained an air of fresh-faced Midwestern guilelessness — without wondering how she actually feels playing lonely but lovable Lorna of Cincinnati, who is what Holmes perhaps might have become had life taken a very different turn. Would she have been happy?

  • In the office of The Director, let the dance begin

    November 29, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Letters" at Writers' Theatre at Books on Vernon in Glencoe ★★★½ ... Great actors are able to show you the gamut of human emotions without ever saying a word.

  • Mike Tyson bringing his Broadway show to Chicago

    November 27, 2012

    Iron Mike is taking it on the road. Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight champion, will bring his Broadway solo show, "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth"  to the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., for a three-night stand from Feb. 15-17.

  • Overloaded production sinks this love story

    November 27, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Failure: A Love Story" at the Victory Gardens Theater ★★ ... Philip Dawkins, a hugely talented Chicago writer, has penned a Chicago tale full of emotional riches.

  • Shaw comedy has distinct need for speed

    November 26, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "You Never Can Tell" by Remy Bumppo Theatre Company ★★½ ... This is indeed a pleasant, even a mock-farcical, piece, both akin to and a response to Oscar Wilde.

  • Tomorrow looking bright for 'Annie'

    November 25, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Annie" at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora ★★★½ ... Grand singing, grand setting make for a family-friendly holiday chestnut in Aurora.

  • Holiday Guide 2012: Chris Jones' Top 10 shows for the season

    November 21, 2012

    Chicago has a plethora of holiday shows each and every year — and I’ll be reviewing enough of them over the next couple of weeks to put Rudolph in rehab. But based on many years of seasonal theater-going, here are 10 of our potential favorites for 2012. We’re restricting our choices to specifically seasonal fare — so no “Book of Mormon” or “War Horse.” And certainly no “50 Shades! The Musical.” It’s Christmas time.

  • War veteran battles her demons back at home

    November 21, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter" at Next Theatre ★★★ ... Few shows that open the week of Thanksgiving are as suffused with melancholy as the sardonically titled "Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter."

  • Well-intended 'Gifts' fails to beguile

    November 20, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Gifts of the Magi" by Porchlight Music Theatre ★★ ... Little holiday musicals are golden at this time of year. And Mark St. Germain and Randy Courts' adaptation of the much-loved O. Henry story has many of the elements off-Loop theaters most desire.

  • Circle exits burbs for a wandering city life

    November 19, 2012

    Circle Theatre, a fixture in the Western suburbs for nearly three decades, announced Monday night that it is giving up its rented space in Oak Park and joining the happy band of itinerant, non-Equity theater companies in Chicago.

  • Romp through world of Hogwarts won't disappoint the true Potter-heads

    November 19, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience" at the Broadway Playhouse and Harris Theater ★★½ ... Here's an opportunity for Potter lovers to spend a little time with like-minded individuals and generally celebrate their love of Hogwarts.

  • Gaps in story keep 'The Dead' from ascending

    November 18, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "James Joyce's The Dead" at Court Theatre ★★½ ... Been invited to any good holiday parties yet? I don¿t mean office demi-celebrations or networking opportunities or stop-by-for-a-second obligations. I talk of true gatherings.

  • This 'Les Miz' is not to be missed

    November 18, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Les Miserables" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre ★★★★ ... Even by intermission it was clear that the show seemed uncommonly raw, unusually emotional, strikingly intense, and the singing, well, it just seemed unusually expeditious in its journey to one's gut.

  • Belarus Free Theatre ... and a show in an apartment

    November 18, 2012

    Chicago Shakespeare Theatre announced Sunday night the shows it will present in the first half of 2013, as part of its World Stages series of global work, much presented in partnership with the British booker and producer Richard Jordan Productions.

  • 'Mormon' is more than just easy laughs

    November 15, 2012

    When Joseph Smith Jr. published The Book of Mormon in 1830, he likely wasn't expecting that an outrageously profane musical that purloined his golden title would dominate the 2011 Tony Awards. Then again, he probably wasn't anticipating "South Park" either. We talked on the phone with Matt Stone, "South Park" co-creator and co-author of the Broadway hit "The Book of Mormon," about the show expected to walk away next Sunday with more Tony Awards than Kenny McCormick had resurrections.

  • Broadway review: Mormons, missionaries and music

    November 15, 2012

    If any show could make the case that you can have fun with absolutely anything in the oft-painful run of human experience — AIDS, genocide, genital mutilation, poverty, religion, "The Lion King" — then that show is "The Book of Mormon," the shrewd, remarkably well-crafted and wholly hilarious new Broadway musical from the creators of "South Park" and the composer of "Avenue Q."

  • Never mind the story; just watch their feet fly

    November 15, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "My One and Only" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire ★★½ ... "'S Wonderful ... 'S Marvelous," goes the promotional tag line for the current Marriott Theatre production.

  • Fresh, fun 'Sister Act' whips up disco inferno

    November 15, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Sister Act" at the Auditorium Theatre ★★★ ... Well, sing hallelujah for a new, fresh, first-class Equity tour.

  • Now with a huge cast, 'Hellcab' still an iconic trip through Chicago

    November 14, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hellcab" by Profiles Theatre ★★★½ ... "Hellcab" is playwright Will Kern's black comedy about a hellish winter day in the life of a cipherlike Chicago cabby.

  • 'Singin' in the Rain' postpones opening due to injury

    November 14, 2012

    The Drury Lane Oakbrook has postponed Thursday's opening night of its production of "Singin' in the Rain," due to a knee injury to Sean Palmer, the star of director Bill Jenkins' production.

  • There are rewards to be mined in 'Burnt Part Boys'

    November 13, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Burnt Part Boys" by the Griffin Theatre at Theater Wit ★★★

  • It's no mystery, 'Drood' cast has an infectious good time

    November 13, 2012

    NEW YORK — There are 400 possible permutations of endings for Rupert Holmes' "The Mystery of Edwin Drood," the overachieving 1985 musical that was popular for a decade or so, but then seemed pretty much to vanish inside the opium pipe of Princess Puffer, one of its colorful, show-within-a-show characters, as created by the great Charles Dickens in his unfinished 1870 novel. Inconveniently, Dickens died before revealing the murderer.

  • Gary Griffin to direct at Humana Festival

    November 12, 2012

    Gary Griffin with direct a new play called "Appropriate" at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and then at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago in the fall.

  • 'Odd Couple': Midlife crisis tale ages gracefully

    November 12, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Odd Couple" at Northlight Theatre ★★★ ... The bar for what qualified as "odd" in 1965, we so easily forget, was not so high. A couple of unrelated men living together qualified.

  • Riverfront Theater to come down until spring

    November 9, 2012

    The Riverfront Theater, the Chicago Tribune Media Group's tented venue located at the newspaper's printing plant, is closing down until the spring.

  • Chicago is mostly banished at Obama party

    November 9, 2012

    "Hello, Chicago," said the city's newly elected hometown president, speaking to ecstatic Grant Park celebrants four years ago this week amid a backdrop of iconic Midwestern skyscrapers, shimmering in red, white and blue. After Barack Obama's victory rally in 2008, huge crowds of jubilant Chicagoans streamed up Michigan Avenue on an impossibly balmy night. For those of us watching their progression from the sidewalk outside Tribune Tower, the tug of history being made was acute. It felt like something had shifted in the very foundation of Chicago, which suddenly seemed like the center of the new political world. Already there had been speculation as to how a city would have to make some serious adjustments.

  • 'Book of Mormon' announces Chicago cast, including James Vincent Meredith

    November 8, 2012

    NEW YORK — The Chicago cast of the satirical musical "The Book of Mormon" will feature Nic Rouleau, the current star of the Broadway company, in the central role of Elder Price, along with Ben Platt (known for his work in the movie “Pitch Perfect) as his sidekick Elder Cunningham, its producers announced here Thursday.

  • Broadway review: Miscasting and hard knocks pull the life out of 'Annie'

    November 8, 2012

    NEW YORK — Director James Lapine's much-anticipated revival of "Annie," which opened here Thursday night, was supposed to freshen up (and apply some new grit) to the famous red-headed orphan with the pooch and the parent problem.

  • Chicago Shakespeare to stage 'Dickens' Women'

    November 8, 2012

    Chicago Shakespeare Theater said Thursday that it has added a production to its World's Stage series of international touring productions.

  • In 'Potter' and 'Spank,' tapping the potential of parodies

    November 7, 2012

    One morning on a trip to Las Vegas, I was swimming in the pool. I looked up from the water and was startled to see that almost every woman in every lounger was reading exactly the same book: "Fifty Shades of Grey," the 2011 erotic novel by the British author E L James. Granted, this was Las Vegas. Still, "Fifty Shades of Grey" has sold more than 40 million copies. When it set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time, guess whom it knocked off that lucrative throne?

  • Opinions on life and death get their moments at Den Theatre

    November 5, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Quality of Life" at The Den Theatre ★★★ ... Sometimes in the theater, you're hit with a sudden awareness of what lies ahead. Something like that happened to me Sunday at the Den Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue.

  • Kevin Bellie exits Circle, to freelance direct

    November 5, 2012

    Kevin Bellie, the longtime artistic director at the Circle Theatre, is exiting his post. 

  • Light Opera Works announces 2013 slate

    November 5, 2012

    The Evanston-based Light Opera Works has announced its 2013 season of shows.

  • Ringling Bros.' 'Dragons' is one of circus' best

    November 4, 2012

    REVIEW: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ★★★½ ... As annual editions of the Greatest Show on Earth go (and I've seen about 20 of them), "Dragons," the 142nd, is one of the best.

  • Jim fixed nothing: Growing up in 1970s England with Jimmy Savile

    November 4, 2012

    In 1971, when I was 8 years old and growing up in Rochdale in the North of England, I'd occasionally get to ride in the front seat of my parent's Hillman Imp. “Clunk Click,” my dad would say, “Every Trip.” I'd laugh at that. And he'd help me buckle up, even though it was legally optional.

  • A view of Occupy Wall Street, Disney and the desert through eyes of Mike Daisey

    November 2, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Mike Daisey: American Utopias" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago ★★½ ... Mike Daisey is a keen cultural observer with a ruthless streak.

  • George Wendt has bypass surgery in Chicago, comes out laughing

    November 1, 2012

    George Wendt, the Second City alumnus and beloved TV star known for playing Norm on "Cheers," underwent successful coronary bypass surgery at a Chicago-area hospital Thursday.

  • Jeff Garlin returning to Steppenwolf

    November 1, 2012

    Jeff Garlin, the Chicago comedian turned star of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" is returning to do a series of solo shows at the Steppenwolf Theatre.

  • Victory Gardens to stage new version of 'Medea,' set in Pilsen

    November 1, 2012

    Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago said Thursday that it plans to end its current season with the world premiere of "Mojada," a new adaptation of the classical Greek tragedy "Medea" set in modern-day Pilsen.  It's the work of Luis Alfaro, the author of last summer's well-received "Oedipus el Rey."

  • Come for the roller derby, stay for portrait of a small town

    October 31, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Down & Derby" by The New Colony ★★★ ... "Are you here for the roller derby," she asked a clutch of suitably intimidated new arrivals, "or for church?"

  • Found in a basket, but she can't stay there

    October 30, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Bulrusher" by Congo Square Theatre Company ★★½ ... Bulrusher (played by the excellent Ericka Ratcliff) is the title character in Eisa Davis' play of the same name.

  • 'Faith Healer' to be remounted

    October 30, 2012

    A huge hit 17 years ago at both the Turnaround and Steppenwolf Theatres, the Chicago production of Brian Friel's Irish drama "Faith Healer" is to be remounted in December, replete with its original director, JR Sullivan, and the original cast of Brad Armacost, Lia D. Mortensen and Si Osborne.

  • George Wendt is hospitalized, out of 'Odd Couple'

    October 30, 2012

    George Wendt is leaving the cast of "The Odd Couple" for medical reasons.

  • A new season at Black Ensemble Theatre

    October 29, 2012

    The Black Ensemble Theatre has announced its 2013 season. The reprise-heavy slate, titled "Treasures and Tributes," will feature restaging of some of the musical company's most popular hits of the last two decades, including "Doo Wop Shop" (opening Feb. 10), "Howlin' at the Moon (The Story of Howlin' Wolf)" (opening July 28, starring Rick Stone once again) and "Chicago's Golden Soul" (opening Oct. 20).

  • Mike Birbiglia, for now, is our everyman

    October 26, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: Mike Birbiglia's "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" at the Biograph ★★★ ... Mike Birbiglia outlines, in essence, three strikes against marriage.

  • Lessons learned from the presidential debates

    October 26, 2012

    Precisely how much the four televised debates really influenced the 2012 presidential election remains to be seen on Nov. 6; rhetorical and presentational advantage often can prove temporary in the face of the actual issues important to all Americans reasserting themselves in the voters' heads. But, given the recent movements in the polls, it seems reasonable to assert that the four debates, taken together, caused a significant shift in the race and that their huge potential influence was missed or minimized by most of the commentators anticipating them.

  • Bonnie Metzgar to exit About Face

    October 25, 2012

    Bonnie Metzgar, the artistic director of Chicago's About Face Theatre, said Thursday that she plans to leave the theater next June, at the end of the 2012-13 season. "It's an organic time for there to be a leadership transition," Metzgar said in an interview Thursday. Although itinerent, About Face Theatre has long been one of Chicago's leading gay-and-lesbian companies.

  • Jan Kallish leaving Victory Gardens

    October 25, 2012

    A Chicago theater that has seen a lot of staff turnover is going through more: Jan Kallish, the executive director of the Victory Gardens Theater, said Thursday that she is leaving the theater company, which operates at the Biograph Theatre in Lincoln Park. Chay Yew is the artistic director.

  • Difficult choice to see assassins as people

    October 24, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Assassins" at the Viaduct Theatre ★★ ... With a score by Stephen Sondheim and a book by John Weidman, the musical "Assassins" presents a rogue's gallery of presidential assassins, or would-be assassins, from John Wilkes Booth to John Hinckley Jr.

  • Goodman announces 'Desert Cities' casting; cancels a 'Sweet Bird'

    October 24, 2012

    The Goodman Theatre has announced casting for its upcoming production of "Other Desert Cities," directed by Jon Robin Baitz. Tracy Michelle Arnold will play Brooke Wyeth (the role originated on Broadway by Rachel Griffiths); the Tony Award-winning Deanna Dunagan ("August: Osage County" at Steppenwolf) will play Polly Wyeth; John Hoogenakker ("The Iceman Cometh) will play Trip Wyeth; Linda Kimbrough will play Silda Grauman; and Chelcie Ross (who played Conrad Hilton on "Mad Men") will play Lyman Wyeth.

  • Chicago actors get to knock the stuffing out of 'Opponent'

    October 23, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Opponent" at A Red Orchid Theatre ★★★½ ... "The Opponent" is one of those darn good, only-possible-in-Chicago kind of shows.

  • Royal George Theatre to get 'Fifty Shades of Grey' parody

    October 23, 2012

    The venerable Royal George Theatre is getting a “Spank.” That's the unofficial stage-musical parody of the hit erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” by the British author E.L. James, which is headed to the Royal George mainstage, later this fall.

  • A tricky maze of dividing right from wrong

    October 22, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Book Thief" by Steppenwolf for Young Adults ★★★

  • 'I Love Lucy' to return after 'Potter'

    October 22, 2012

    "I Love Lucy Live On Stage" will return to the Broadway Playhouse following the run of "Potted Potter," Broadway in Chicago said on Monday. The Chicago cast will continue to feature Sirena Irwin as Lucy, Bill Mendieta, Curtis Pettyjohn and Joanna Daniels.

  • 'Million Dollar Quartet' headed to Las Vegas; 'Pump Boys' to Broadway

    October 22, 2012

    "Million Dollar Quartet," the Broadway jukebox musical developed in Chicago, where it still runs after more than four years, is now headed to a sit-down engagement in Las Vegas.

  • Vietnam War story 'Wasteland' reveals a lot about today

    October 21, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Wasteland" at TimeLine Theatre ★★★

  • 'Trainspotting' makes the leap to American Midwest

    October 20, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Trainspotting USA" at Theater Wit ★★½ ... So can Sick Boy, Spud, Franco and the other characters of Irvine Welsh's book be moved en masse to Kansas City, USA?

  • Second City parts company with president

    October 19, 2012

    Diana Martinez, the president of The Second City, is leaving the company, the Chicago-based theater and training center said Friday. Martinez had been enployed there since 2009, president since Sept. 2010.

  • New artistic directors for Theatre on the Lake

    October 18, 2012

    Theater on the Lake, the summer theater operation of the Chicago Park District located at the corner of Fullerton Ave. and Lake Shore Drive, has announced the joint artistic directors for its 2013 season: Halena Kays, artistic director of The Hypocrites, and Joanie Schultz, a local freelancer.

  • Stephen Colbert to support Lookingglass Theatre

    October 18, 2012

    Stephen Colbert is headed to Chicago in support of his old Northwestern University college buddies. The satirist is the headlining host of "Gglassquerade," an annual benefit for the Lookingglass Theatre Company at the Four Seasons Hotel. He's never attended before.

  • 'Kinky Boots' kicks up its colorful heels in pre-Broadway premiere

    October 17, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Kinky Boots" at Bank of America Theatre in Chicago ★★★½ ... A warm, likable, brassy, sentimental, big-hearted and modestly scaled Broadway musical.

  • 'Iceman Cometh,' 'Follies' big Jeff Award winners

    October 15, 2012

    Two of the most accomplished productions in the history of Chicago theater — "Follies" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and "The Iceman Cometh" at the Goodman Theatre — shared top honors at the Joseph Jefferson Awards, presented Monday night at the packed Drury Lane Theatre. The six Jeffs for "Iceman" (including a best-director Jeff for Robert Falls and a best-supporting actor nod for Brian Dennehy, even though this was a role far bigger than most leads) ended the Goodman's recent drought at the annual awards honoring the best Equity-affiliated Chicago theater.

  • Broadway review: 'Grace' at its best when it has faith in its characters

    October 15, 2012

    NEW YORK — When Craig Wright's offbeat play "Grace" was produced at the Northlight Theatre in Skokie in 2006, the central problem was one that befalls many contemporary dramas seemingly about conservative Christians. The central characters, Steve and Sara, a couple striving to create a chain of Christian motels in ethically swampy Florida even as their marriage falls apart, did not seem sufficiently real. They felt like easy targets.

  • Chicago-style 'Virginia Woolf' cuts deep on Broadway

    October 15, 2012

    NEW YORK - In an unusual throwback to how Broadway operated when Edward Albee's booze-soaked George and Martha first prowled the boards in 1962, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's naturalistic, emotionally intense, Chicago-style take on “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opened here in one fell swoop Saturday night with critics, celebrities and Steppenwolf supporters all showing up together in the Booth Theatre for a Broadway transfer that came nearly two years after Pam MacKinnon's production originated in Chicago. The evening — chosen because it was 50 years to the day since the play's Broadway debut — concluded with the masterwork's 84-year-old author taking the stage with the original Steppenwolf cast: Amy Morton, Madison Dirks, Carrie Coon and, most notably, Tracy Letts, offering the performance that dominates this production and who, aptly enough, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, just like Albee.

  • Oh Harold, we never get to know you

    October 14, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Chicago Children's Theatre ★★ ... Most of the great books for young children are based on the very simplest of ideas.

  • At Strawdog, the gamers are too close for comfort

    October 12, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom" at Strawdog Theatre ★★ ... So what if the teenager zapping digital zombies in the bedroom upstairs right now actually went out marauding through your neighborhood?

  • A Naked Juice for the arts?

    October 12, 2012

    When the Royal Winnipeg Ballet arrives in Chicago on Nov. 2, it will play at a hall that has been one of Chicago's crown jewels since its construction in 1889: Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Theatre. But if you read the official announcements from the presenter, you'll notice that the name of the venue has been quietly but relentless adjusted over the last couple of seasons: The Canadians officially will be dancing at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Or ATRU for short.

  • 'Black Watch' makes triumphant return to Chicago

    October 11, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Black Watch" by the National Theatre of Scotland in the Broadway Armory ★★★★

  • A sexy 19th-century president needs no amping up

    October 10, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" by Bailiwick Chicago Theater ★★ ... The seventh president of the United States set some traps.

  • At BET, a tuneful show with new names to know

    October 9, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "One Name Only" at the Black Ensemble Theatre ★★★ ... Associate director Rueben Echoles finally has been handed the keys to the Cadillac.

  • A tale of two transfers

    October 9, 2012

    The widely admired Circle Theatre production of the moving Australian drama "When the Rain Stops Falling"  (penned by Andrew Bovell) is moving from Oak Park to Chicago. John Gawlik's production will reopen in January at the Greenhouse Theatre Center on Chicago with its original cast and crew intact.

  • Little respite from young men's wounds

    October 8, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Black n Blue Boys / Broken Men" at the Goodman Theatre ★★★

  • In pair of dramatic twin sisters, 'Doubt' wins out

    October 7, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Doubt" ★★★½ and "Agnes of God" ★★ at American Theater Company

  • Trio of plays about war doesn't connect

    October 6, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Making Noise Quietly" at Steep Theatre ★★ ... This play is about the consequences of war, although none of these beautifully written works is set on a battlefield.

  • A New York state of mind

    October 5, 2012

    NEW YORK — Wandering through the darkened auditorium of Broadway's Cort Theatre here on a recent Saturday morning felt a lot like a tour of Chicago's off-Loop theater.

  • Hypocrites score very big gig

    October 4, 2012

    The Hypocrites production of Sean Graney's adaptation of "The Pirates of Penzance" has landed on the mainstage of the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass.

  • Report: former Second City actress sells show to NBC

    October 4, 2012

    According to a report today on, the former Second City and i.O. actress Stephnie Weir has sold a show to NBC. According to the website, Weir's project is called "Leisure Club" and deals with a group of baby boomers in a retirement community who "revert back to the archetypes they were in high school."

  • In 'Sunday in the Park with George,' love and work are no walk in the park

    October 4, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Sunday in the Park with George" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★★ ... "Perhaps if you had remained still," says George, the distracted artist, to the woman he loves.

  • 'Kinky Boots' director wins Abbott Award

    October 2, 2012

    Jerry Mitchell, currently in Chicago directing the out-of-town tryout of the musical "Kinky Boots," is the winner of the 2013 "Mr. Abbott" Award, an honor named after the late George Abbott and dispensed in honor of Mitchell's 30-year career, mostly as a choreographer but more recently as director as well.

  • Nelsan Ellis directs an intense, musical story of Memphis blues

    October 1, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hoodoo Love" by The Collective Theatre ★★★½ ... Company co-founder Nelsan Ellis, currently best known for playing Lafayette on HBO's vampire-themed "True Blood," is clearly a stage director with striking commitment and potential.

  • Music Theatre Company to stage 'Pajama Game'

    October 1, 2012

    The Music Theatre Company of Highland Park will stage a full production of the musical "The Pajama Game" next spring.  Jess McLeod will direct, with choreography by Jessica Redish.

  • 'Metamorphoses' even more potent with age at Lookingglass

    September 30, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Metamorphoses" by Lookingglass Theatre Company ★★★★ ... But the show that opened Saturday night at the Lookingglass is directed by its creator, returning for the first time in a decade to the work that made her subsequent national career.

  • Smokin' revue does right by rock classics

    September 30, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Smokey Joe's Cafe" from Theo Ubique Cabaret ★★★

  • Cyndi Lauper working out the kinks in 'Kinky Boots'

    September 27, 2012

    NEW YORK - The New 42nd Street Studios, where many Broadway musicals rehearse, are full of drama. Once at this very address, a hung-over Billy Joel spilled coffee all over a furious Twyla Tharp's sacred dance floor. And if, some warm September Saturday, you find yourself sharing an elevator with a couple of chatty dancers confounded by the ability of glitter to hold persistently to the body after at least three showers, well it's just another ordinary day at this particular theater factory, where hoofers kvetch on every floor. Hey, when you're playing a drag queen eight shows a week, clingy glitter is a very real issue.

  • Raise your glass to 'Prudencia Hart'

    September 27, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart" in the Upstairs Theater at Chicago Shakespeare ★★★½ ... I don't think I've ever heard a performer request "desultory applause."

  • Hard to care about this self-aware, show-business Shakespeare

    September 27, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Equivocation" at Victory Gardens Theater ★★ ... In the first scene of playwright Bill Cain's smug overachiever of a comedy, you feel like you're watching some trendy self-aware sitcom.

  • Turning the tables on Tennessee Williams' story of fading beauty

    September 24, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Sweet Bird of Youth" at the Goodman Theater ★★★½ ... Tennessee Williams' fleet of fragile, fading beauties contains many traps for long-beautiful actresses.

  • Lizards slither toward an Albee marriage

    September 24, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Seascape" at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company ★★★

  • A cordial, bumpy tribute in 'Woody Sez'

    September 24, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Woody Sez" at Northlight Theatre ★★★ ... The show at Northlight Theatre is about the folksy radical always "singing for the plain folks and getting in trouble with the rich folks."

  • 'Ann' gets Broadway berth

    September 24, 2012

    "Ann," the dramatic tribute to the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards by actress Holland Taylor, has announced dates for Broadway this season. 

  • Steppenwolf builds raw, aggressive 'Good People'

    September 23, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Good People" at Steppenwolf Theatre ★★★★ ... No wonder Margaret, a proud Southie who has a disabled kid at home and years of struggle behind her, is angry.

  • Is there a poet in the house? Mitt Romney and conservative poetry

    September 21, 2012

    On Thursday, the Poetry Foundation, in association with the Poetry Society of America, is hosting a timely event in Chicago titled "Red, White & Blue: Poets on Politics." It's part of a national series being held in several American cities, with a stated aim of exploring the role of "politics in the literary landscape."

  • 'I Love Lucy Live on Stage' only a warm facsimile

    September 20, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "I Love Lucy Live On Stage" at the Broadway Playhouse ★★ ... About halfway through "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined," an edition (season three, episode 13) of CBS' "I Love Lucy" show, Ethel Mertz goes up on her lines.

  • Jimmy Smits headed to Steppenwolf stage

    September 19, 2012

    Jimmy Smits, known for his TV work on "L.A. Law," "NYPD Blue," and "The West Wing" is headed to the stage of the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.

  • A play about porn poses some challenges

    September 18, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Dirty" at the Gift Theatre ★★½ ... Plays about pornography have much the same problem as plays about sports. You can stage plenty of scenes of pregame conversation, but you're stymied when it comes to showing the game itself.

  • Former 'PerformInk' publisher gets into the theater management biz

    September 18, 2012

    Carrie Kaufman, 49, the former editor and publisher of the now-defunct show business trade paper "PerformInk," is to be the new general manager of the Porchlight Music Theatre, the Chicago company said Tuesday.

  • Young faces, veteran performers meet on '42nd Street'

    September 17, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "42nd Street" at Theatre at the Center ★★★ ... Old school is what you get. Pullinsi is faithful to 1933, staging a much tackier version of "Pretty Lady."

  • 'Jitney' is music in the hands of Court Theatre cast

    September 17, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Jitney" at Court Theatre ★★★½ ... They've got a kind of blues symphony going on at the Court Theatre.

  • Eclipse announces 2013 playwright

    September 17, 2012

    Eclipse Theatre said Monday that it will stage three plays by the British scribe Alan Ayckbourn during the 2013 season. Eclipse is unique among Chicago theaters in that it dedicates entire seasons to a single playwright.

  • A spare, articulate take on 'Hamlet'

    September 17, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hamlet" at Writers' Theatre in Glencoe ★★★ ... An audience member walking into "Hamlet" today comes with so many preconceptions, it's hard for him or her to separate previous conceits from the darn play.

  • Disco balls, meet the crystal chandeliers

    September 14, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Xanadu" at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace ★★½ ... The disco balls of "Xanadu," surely the only musical in history to embrace the line "woman don't harsh my mellow," have invaded the Drury Lane.

  • A version of David Foster Wallace's life

    September 14, 2012

    When the great English poet Philip Larkin worked at the University of Hull, he liked to say that the need to change trains in Doncaster meant most journalists, academics and other London irritants didn't bother to harass him.

  • What would Neva Boyd think?

    September 14, 2012

    In Chicago, last week was for the playing of games.

  • 'Unspeakable,' the Richard Pryor show, is off

    September 13, 2012

    "Unspeakable," the new biographical show about the late comedian Richard Pryor slated for the Royal George Theatre in Chicago next month, has been cancelled.

  • Julie Shannon, composer of 'Christmas Schooner,' is dead at 71

    September 12, 2012

    Julie Shannon, a resident of Glenview and the composer and lyricist of the beloved Chicago holiday musical “The Christmas Schooner,” died Wednesday from cancer, said John Reeger, her longtime friend and collaborator. Also a former schoolteacher in the Deerfield public schools, Shannon was 71.

  • 'Iphigenia 2.0' is a shrill and shallow 80 minutes

    September 12, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Iphigenia 2.0" at Next Theatre ★½ ... At one crucial juncture, Agamemnon finds himself in an awkward conversation with his wife, Clytemnestra, a tough cookie who has not taken kindly to her husband's notion that he murder his own daughter.

  • Broadway in Chicago adds 'Jekyll & Hyde,' 'Anything Goes'

    September 12, 2012

    Broadway in Chicago said Wednesday that is has booked the touring productions of Frank Wildhorn's "Jekyll & Hyde" and the Broadway revival of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" for its spring season, adding to several previously announced shows.

  • Curacao, and bring the kids

    September 11, 2012

    CURACAO — The Jones family never likes a vacation to come to an end, especially when work has squeezed it to a mere five days. So, unsurprisingly, we arrived at the very last minute at Halo International Airport in Curacao for our sadly premature flight home. Returning our car, filled with sand and shells imported by two beach-happy kids, had required lengthy, fee-avoiding apologies to a frowning Budget agent.

  • Hit floating 'Pirates' to return

    September 11, 2012

    The innovative aquatic production of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance," as performed on the Tall Ship Windy, is coming back for an  encore weekend this fall.

  • It's the dawn of a big, new, fantastical world at House Theatre

    September 10, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Iron Stag King" at House Theatre of Chicago ★★★ ... The program comes replete with a hand-drawn map of a fantastical land, not so different, really, from the maps of J.R.R. Tolkien.

  • Simplistic 'Chaplin' silences the magic of the Little Tramp

    September 10, 2012

    BROADWAY REVIEW: "Chaplin" at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre ... You might think that the trickiest and most daunting thing about a stage musical about Chaplin would be trying to replicate the actual, famous comedy sequences.

  • With 'Good People,' a look at class in American culture

    September 7, 2012

    British playwrights love writing about class. American scribes prefer to probe relationships.

  • Diane Lane embraces age and 'Youth'

    September 7, 2012

    When Diane Lane first arrived at the Goodman Theatre to begin rehearsals for David Cromer's much-anticipated fall production of Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth," someone handed the famous actress — star of such movies as "Rumble Fish," "Unfaithful" and "Secretariat," and one of Hollywood's great beauties — a poster for her approval. It did not receive the desired response.

  • Fall Theater 2012: The Top 10 shows to see

    September 7, 2012

    Of the scores of shows slated to open in Chicago this busier-than-ever fall season, here are ten marquee attractions that suggest particular promise. They're listed in alphabetical order; opening dates include preview performances.

  • Fall Theater 2012: Broadway highlights include 'Annie,' 'Glengarry,' 'Virginia Woolf'

    September 7, 2012

    So who's more in tune with the times? Boozy Martha, Katie Holmes or Little Orphan Annie?

  • Problem with 'Hands' is it's hard to be in a room with this guy

    September 7, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Illegal Use of Hands" at the American Blues Theater ★★ ... Roy is the central character in "Illegal Use of Hands," the new play by James Still from the American Blues Theater in Chicago.

  • 'La Soiree' returning to Riverfront Theatre

    September 6, 2012

    The adult circus "La Soiree," which did reasonably well this past summer at the Riverfront Theatre, is returning for an encore engagement during the upcoming holiday season.

  • Chicago reels in a pre-Broadway 'Big Fish'

    September 6, 2012

    "Big Fish," the new Broadway musical based on the 1998 novel "Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions" by Daniel Wallace and a 2003 movie penned by John August and directed by Tim Burton, will have its pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago in the spring.

  • Plumbing depths of bittersweet freedom in 'After'

    September 6, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "After" at Profiles Theatre ★★½ ... Monty, the central character in "After," is fresh out of prison, but he's no convicted felon.

  • 'Class Act' a moving tale of a little-known lyricist

    September 6, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "A Class Act" by Porchlight Music Theatre at Theater Wit ★★★½

  • Hollis Resnik feels force of habit

    September 4, 2012

    Hollis Resnik, the longtime Chicago actress, has been cast as Mother Superior in the first national tour of the Broadway musical "Sister Act," it was announced Tuesday.

  • At TimeLine Theatre, 'Variations' a potent point of departure

    August 31, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "33 Variations" at TimeLine Theatre in Chicago ★★★ ... Frequently in life, the variations are better than the original waltz.

  • All the kitchen's a stage: Why Chicago breeds great restaurants and theater companies

    August 30, 2012

    Over the past 25 years or so, two surging art forms have elevated cultural Chicago on the global stage: theater and fine dining. Is this coincidence or correlation?

  • Fall Theater 2012: Some new works worth a risk

    August 30, 2012

    Chicago is, above all, known as a tryout town, an experimental city, a boundary crosser. It's world-premiere central, a Midwestern citadel of new and daring works of live performance.

  • 'Dreamgirls' offers life, trauma and anthems for after Labor Day

    August 30, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Dreamgirls" at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire ★★★ ... If you've overdosed on sunscreen, the arrival of the ice-cool "Dreamgirls" is a fine way to kick off the fall theatrical season.

  • 'A Steady Rain' to have short Midwest tour

    August 28, 2012

    The Chicago Commercial Collective is taking its act on the road.

  • A rough night in Waco at Signal Ensemble

    August 28, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Princes of Waco" at the Signal Ensemble Theatre ★½ ... The princes in "Princes of Waco" drawl around their scrub kingdom so sl-ow-ly, it's about all you can do to not steal a truck from outside and drive it through all the pauses.

  • To the classic story of King of Crete, add a 'What if?'

    August 27, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Idomeneus" by the Sideshow Theatre Company ★★★ ... You're forgiven if you know not Idomeneus, a figure from mythology who lacks the star wattage of your Agamemnon or your Oedipus.

  • Goodman Theatre adds artistic associate

    August 27, 2012

    The rising stage director Henry Wishcamper has become a member of the Goodman's artistic collective. These artistic associates are closely involved with the life of Chicago's biggest non-profit theater.

  • Aidy Bryant exits Second City e.t.c. cast

    August 27, 2012

    Aidy Bryant, one of the cast members of the Second City e.t.c. revue, "We're All In This Together," had her last show at Second City at Sunday night.

  • Theatre at Center announces 2013 season

    August 27, 2012

    Theatre at the Center, the Equity-affiliated theater in Munster, Ind., has announced its 2013 season. The calendar year begins with the first Chicago-area production of "The Fox on the Fairway," the latest from farceur Ken Ludwig, and continues in the spring with "What A Glorious Feeling," the Jay Berkow musical about the making of the movie "Singin' in the Rain."

  • Sorrow at the dinner table in Profiles' 'Sweet and Sad'

    August 27, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Sweet and Sad" at Profiles Theatre ★★★ ... Does talking in such detail about the lost soul help with or merely amplify the pain?

  • Lessons from the Olympics: Republicans and Democrats should allow us space to dream at conventions

    August 24, 2012

    With the start of the Republican National Convention in Tampa Fla., on Monday, that once-every-four-years feast of political stagecraft is upon us. These conventions (the Democratic Party meets in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 3-6) have their nominative functions, of course, but they're really elaborate theatrical presentations with the aim of seduction and persuasion.

  • 'Sex in the City' star to headline 'Singin' in the Rain'

    August 24, 2012

    Sean Palmer, who played the character of Marcus on HBO's "Sex and the City" will star in the Drury Lane Oakbrook production of "Singin' in the Rain," which begins in November.

  • 'True Blood' star to direct show in Chicago

    August 23, 2012

    Nelsan Ellis, best known for playing Lafayette on HBO's "True Blood," is to direct an off-Loop show in Chicago.

  • Two Jeff nominations more

    August 22, 2012

    The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee said Wednesday that it had omitted a category of nominees in its Tuesday announcement of the 2012 Joseph Jefferson Awards.

  • 'The Book of Mormon' releases more Chicago tickets

    August 22, 2012

    "The Book of Mormon"  is releasing another 12-week block of tickets for its Chicago engagement.  The new tickets, which go on sale Sept. 21, cover performances through June 2.

  • Graney's adaptation is a trip to Poe's gothic 'House of Usher'

    August 21, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Fall of the House of Usher" by the Hypocrites ★★½ ... Although best known as a director, Sean Graney actually is becoming a most intriguing (and admirably prolific) adapter of classic literary works from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Edgar Allan Poe.

  • Theo Ubique to stage 'Aspects of Love'

    August 21, 2012

    The Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, which operates in the No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park, said Tuesday it will stage Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Aspects of Love" as part of its 2012-13 season. Fred Anzevino's production will open March 11.

  • Spreading its wings, Steep to move 'Moment' to Theater Wit

    August 21, 2012

    For the first time in its history, Steep Theatre is to move one of its hit productions from its own home to a larger venue.

  • A very full load of nominees for this year's Equity Jeff Awards

    August 21, 2012

    Apparently confronted by a plethora of riches in the past season of Chicago theater, the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee offered up not the traditional four or five nominees one finds at the Tony Awards, for instance, but a bevy of nominees for its annual awards. In the case of best Equity production in Chicago last year, the committee came up a whopping 18 nominees, divided between "large" and "midsized" companies. And that doesn't even include the musicals.

  • This older, wiser Quixote makes stirring connection

    August 12, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Man of La Mancha" by Light Opera Works ★★★½ ... So what do you want from your Don Quixote? The standard model at regional light-opera companies is a virile traveling baritone.

  • 'Great American Trailer Park Musical' is a little out of tune with the times

    August 10, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" at Theater Wit ★★½ ... At one point in this campy off-Broadway spoof, a crazed ex-boyfriend shows up at the Armadillo Acres Trailer Park and waves a gun around.

  • Marriott to produce 'Mary Poppins' as part of 2013 season

    August 9, 2012

    The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire has announced its 2013 season of shows.  The slate begins in January with the revue “Now & Forever: The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” (which contains songs from Lloyd Webber’s biggest hits, including “The Phantom of the Opera”) and continues in April with “South Pacific.”

  • Annoyance Theatre celebrates 25 years

    August 9, 2012

    It's time, dear reader, to raise a glass to Mick Napier, improv queen Susan Messing, wild Joe Bill, hard-toiling Jennifer Estlin, restless Mark Sutton and the Annoyance Theatre, which have, improbably, survived together for 25 years.

  • Teatro Vista announces new artistic director

    August 9, 2012

    Ricardo Gutierrez, a longtime actor and director in Chicago, is to take over as artistic director of Teatro Vista, one of Chicago's leading Latino theater companies, in March.

  • Steppenwolf announces Garage Rep companies

    August 8, 2012

    Bailiwick Chicago, Buzz22 Chicago and Theatre Seven of Chicago will have all shows in the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's annual Garage Rep Rep repertory series, slated to begin in February.

  • 'Freud's Last Session' to hang in through fall

    August 8, 2012

    The Chicago production of Mark St. Germain's "Freud's Last Session," which had been expected to close at the end of the summer, is to play through Nov. 11 at the Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport Ave., producer Carolyn Rossi Copeland said Wednesday.

  • Chicago Shakespeare Theater announces 'Sunday in the Park,' Moliere stars

    August 8, 2012

    Jason Danieley, who appeared on Broadway in "Candide," "Curtains" and as a replacement cast member in "Next to Normal," will star in Gary Griffin's upcoming Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of "Sunday in the Park with George." His co-star will be Carmen Cusack, who has appeared as Elphaba in the touring production of "Wicked."

  • What you should see at Stratford Shakespeare Festival

    August 7, 2012

    STRATFORD, ONTARIO — It's not easy for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to accommodate the beautiful mess. Its costs and budgets are massive, its theaters imposing — in its current configuration, Tanya Moiseiwitsch's famous Festival Theatre still has more than 1,800 seats — and the weight of auspicious history hangs heavy. Shows must run, in repertory, for up to four months and play well to the theater's passionate group of supporters, many of whom are retirees who journey here from Toronto, Detroit and, in their many thousands, from Chicago, taking in as many as eight different shows in a week, debating what they see fiercely in seminars and on the terraces of bed-and-breakfasts.

  • Marvin Hamlisch dies at 68

    August 7, 2012

    Marvin Hamlisch, the composer of "A Chorus Line" and a prolific Broadway and Hollywood figure known for his accessible, toe-tapping melodies, thick glasses, love of silky strings and ebullient if nerdy personality, died Tuesday in Los Angeles at the age of 68. Jason Lee, a family spokesman, announced the death and referenced a brief illness, but gave no other details of the cause of death.

  • National pride, unexpectedly, in 'Henry V' at Stratford Shakespeare Festival

    August 6, 2012

    STRATFORD, ONTARIO — Of all of William Shakespeare's plays, "Henry V" is the drama most often interpreted as patriotically British. In the 1944 film version, Laurence Olivier used the young king's inspiring St. Crispin's Day speech, with its soaring rhetoric hailing "we few, we happy few, we band of brothers," to inspire his countrymen to fight not against the French forces in the play but against their real-life Nazi foes. But, in this of all summers, when the Union Jack is flying across London hailing the remarkable achievements of British athletes, and when film director Danny Boyle unveiled a new and inclusive celebration of English history as the stunning opener to the Olympic Games, you just don't expect the gigantic flag that the audacious Des McAnuff unfurls at the end of "Henry V," his last Shakespeare production as artistic director of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

  • From Christopher Plummer at Stratford Shakespeare Festival, 'A Word or Two'

    August 3, 2012

    STRATFORD, Ontario — At the age of 82 and with his acting chops and handsome looks singularly unscathed, Christopher Plummer has earned the right to talk of death. If a man can fight back so many of its familiar ravages, you think, he must be a decent guide to handling the inevitable arrival of a compulsory invitation to Hamlet's "undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns."

  • Milwaukee Rep retools artistic relationships

    August 2, 2012

    The Milwuaukee Repertory Theatre announced Thursday that it has created a new large group of more loosely affiliated associate artists, essentially replacements for what was one of the last remaining resident companies of actors in America but nonetheless including the actors who were part of that group. 

  • Heat wilts the leaves but can't compromise the Shakespeare in Spring Green

    August 1, 2012

    SPRING GREEN, Wis. -- The heat of this broiling summer has taken a toll on this verdant corner of southwest Wisconsin, about three hours from Chicago, and not just on the field crops and the bounty at the local farmers markets, which seem less juicy than in prior seasons. At least the volumnes at Spring Green's Arcadia Books, the arty new bookstore run by former Chicago-based director James Bohnen, haven't yet wilted on the shelves.

  • The show is the weak link in well-intended Shakespeare in the Parks

    July 30, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Taming of the Shrew" by Shakespeare in the Parks ★★ ... Here is a Shakespearean production from a first-class company designed to remove two of the most formidable barriers to unleashing the Bard on all Chicagoans.

  • Rachel Rockwell to stage 'Oliver' as part of new Drury Lane season

    July 30, 2012

    The Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace said Monday that it will stage the British classic "Oliver," the Broadway farce "Boeing-Boeing," the contemporary musical "Next to Normal," the redoubtable "Hello, Dolly!" and the Mel Brooks spoof "Young Frankenstein" as part of its 2013-14 season.

  • 'Potted Potter' coming to Chicago

    July 30, 2012

    A hit Harry Potter parody written and performed by two former BBC TV hosts, is coming to Chicago.

  • Warts and all: Real stories of real people can be tough to tell

    July 27, 2012

    You should brace yourself for the Joe Paterno Story. Hollywood is quiet now, if not so much in deference to the convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky's victims as to the fear of being perceived as premature and insensitive. But you can be sure they're all quietly thinking about it. The story of the great, powerful, bookish and surely hubristic Penn State football coach, seemingly brought down in his twilight years by a fatal decision to put the burnishing of his own mythology over the protection of innocents, is just too close to Greek tragedy to be resisted. One can even anticipate the final moments, as his statue is removed from the front of Beaver Stadium by jackhammers.

  • Isaiah Washington to be in cast of Richard Pryor show in Chicago

    July 26, 2012

    A commercial show — with Broadway aspirations — inspired by the life and work of the late comedian Richard Pryor is to be staged this fall at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago, with the TV and movie actor Isaiah Washington in a leading role.

  • On the block, Joseph Jefferson III

    July 25, 2012

    The famed John Singer Sargent portrait of the actor Joseph Jefferson III, currently owned by the financially strapped Players Club of New York, is on the block, New York Post columnist Michael Riedel reports today. According to Riedel, the painting is expected to raise more than $1 million.

  • Pinter's hit men, as viewed from above

    July 24, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Dumb Waiter" by TUTA Theatre Chicago ★★★ ... At the appointed moment, you climb some tight stairs to what seems like a blank, two-sided corridor located nowhere in particular.

  • A view on the Catskills, from the outside looking in

    July 23, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The American Plan" by The Artistic Home at Stage 773 ★★½ ... The glory days of the resorts in the Catskills are familiar objects of nostalgia.

  • Adult 'Soiree' blends the risque and the remarkable

    July 23, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "La Soiree" at the Riverfront Theater ★★★½ ... The acts certainly are bizarre, but they're also intensely skilled and creative.

  • Chicago Cultural Plan must lose loftiness, go for grit

    July 21, 2012

    If half of the recommendations in the draft of the Chicago Cultural Plan — heck, even 5 percent of the recommendations — were implemented, Chicago would become an artistic nirvana without global peer.

  • Art, music and wisdom, learned a nickel at a time

    July 20, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Nickel History: The Nation of Heat" at Steppenwolf Garage Theatre ★★★ ... Over the last three years, Tony Fitzpatrick, the burly, slightly intimidating Irishman, and Stan Klein, his slighter, shyer Jewish sidekick, have become a part of summer.

  • The 10 new talents you should know in Chicago theater

    July 19, 2012

    The humidity is rising. The barometer's getting low. And according to our sources, the Chicago theater is the place to go.

  • Stratford Festival announces 2013 season, with Dennehy on board

    July 17, 2012

    The Stratford Festival of Canada has announced its 2013 season, its first under new artistic (and former executive) director Antonio Cimolino.

  • ComedySportz Chicago hosts world championship

    July 17, 2012

    ComedySportz, the popular entertainment franchise that stages improv games within a competitive framework, is holding its world championship in Chicago, beginning Wednesday. According to the company, more than 170 comedians attached to franchises from the Quad-Cities to Manchester, England, are in the improv capital to play a series of games (or shows) at the Athenaeum Theatre on Chicago's North Side.

  • She's baa-ck! Audrey II escapes across the Indiana border

    July 16, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Little Shop of Horrors" at Theatre at the Center ★★★ ... Few shows at Northwest Indiana's Theatre at the Center feature a member of the original New York cast.

  • Artistic change at TUTA

    July 16, 2012

    Zeljko Djukic, the artistic leader of TUTA Theatre Chicago, is hanging up his decade-long position as artistic director, effective Sept. 1.

  • In riveting new Irish drama, a 'Moment' to confront the past

    July 15, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Moment" at Steep Theatre ★★★★ ... The gripping, authentic new family drama at Steep Theatre, where nobody moved so much as a muscle for two hours on Friday night, is the work of Deirdre Kinahan.

  • Gags take the spotlight in '39 Steps'

    July 13, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The 39 Steps" at the Drury Lane Theatre ★★½ ... David New's production of this spoof, wherein four actors play scores of different roles, could write the instruction manual on every last one of those roles.

  • Can the arts help curtail the killing?

    July 13, 2012

    On Monday night, following a weekend that saw 17 people shot in Chicago and with the memories of the shootings of 7-year-old Heaven Sutton and 10-year-old Kitanna Peterson fresh on everyone's minds, Scott Pelley of the CBS Evening News asked Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel why the Chicago murder rate was up by 38 percent.

  • Goodman fills in missing Falls show

    July 11, 2012

    Robert Falls will direct William Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" as part of the Goodman Theatre's 2012-13 season, the Goodman announced on Wedndesday.

  • 'A Steady Rain,' back on patrol of Chicago's gritty streets

    July 11, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "A Steady Rain" at Chicago Dramatists ★★★ ... The first time Peter DeFaria and Randy Steinmeyer played two struggling Chicago cops in Keith Huff's heart-thumping drama "A Steady Rain," the air was thick with possibility.

  • Diane Lane to star in Goodman's 'Sweet Bird of Youth'

    July 11, 2012

    Director David Cromer's production of Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth" at the Goodman Theatre next season has its star: Diane Lane.

  • Oedipus tragedy comes fully alive in South Central Los Angeles

    July 10, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Oedipus el Rey" at the Victory Gardens Theater ★★★★ ... It's been some 2,500 years since old Sophocles injected the horrific story of Oedipus the King into the cultural gumbo of human civilization.

  • Wearing it proudly: Regina Taylor's new production of "Crowns" has more of a story

    July 9, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Crowns" at the Goodman Theatre ★★★ ... Regina Taylor's "Crowns," a huge hit on the regional-theater circuit a decade or so ago but never a Broadway musical, has been reconceived as a Chicago story with roots in Englewood.

  • Beautifully honest 'Beauty and the Beast' on Navy Pier

    July 9, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Beauty and the Beast" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater ★★★½ ... Few things are as pleasurable as sitting in a theater alongside those whose expectations are being well and truly exceeded.

  • Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' connected only by gloom

    July 8, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Three Sisters" at Steppenwolf Theatre ★★½ ... A model facade of a lovely house - lights burning brightly in the little windows but located, alas, in a dull provincial town - now hangs high over the Steppenwolf Theatre stage.

  • Best arts venues aren't set in stone: It's the shows inside that count

    July 6, 2012

    When it comes to show business — and all admission-charging cultural attractions are, whether they like to admit it or not, in the business of show — people don't keep coming back to see a building. Their return, or the lack thereof, will always depend on what's going on inside.

  • Meandering 'Gacy Play' buries the big question

    July 3, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "The Gacy Play" by Sideshow Theatre Company at Theater Wit ★★½ ... Serial killers tend to be loners. Not so John Wayne Gacy.

  • New faces with real acting chops at Second City e.t.c.

    June 30, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "We're All in This Room Together" at Second City e.t.c. ★★★ ... Tawny Newsome is a reminder that trained theater actors, as distinct from those who merely wish to be funny, are the cornerstone of sketch comedy.

  • No Broadway production for 'Iceman Cometh,' Goodman says

    June 29, 2012

    "The Iceman Cometh" is not going to Broadway, at least not during the upcoming season, the Goodman Theatre concluded Friday.

  • 'Kinky Boots' announces full cast

    June 28, 2012

    "Kinky Boots," the new Broadway musical written by Harvey Fierstein with music by Cyndi Lauper,  has announced its full cast. The show tries out this fall in Chicago.

  • At the Marriott, the score is the 'Hero'

    June 28, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Hero" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire ★★★ ... Such a gift might not imply superhero status, but, like kryptonite, it is not to be squandered.

  • An answer to a mystery: What happened to Theatre Building money?

    June 27, 2012

    An answer to a long-standing mystery finally was forthcoming today: What would the organization known as Chicago Muse do with the remaining proceeds from the sale of the Theatre Building Chicago, located at 1225 W. Belmont Ave., to Lukaba Productions?

  • A new season at City Lit, including stage version of 'Peyton Place'

    June 27, 2012

    City Lit, the long-standing company that specializies in literary adaptations, has announced its 2012-13 season.

  • Cyndi Lauper to headline for Broadway in Chicago

    June 27, 2012

    Broadway in Chicago's annual concert hyping its upcoming shows has a headliner this year of note: Cyndi Lauper.

  • A new season at First Folio

    June 27, 2012

    First Folio Theatre, the Equity company based in Oak Brook, has announced its 2012-13 season.

  • 'Priscilla' and 'Catch Me If You Can' coming to Chicago

    June 25, 2012

    Broadway in Chicago said Monday that it has booked the new touring productions of "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" and "Catch Me If You Can" as part of its 2012-13 season.

  • Mary-Arrchie to stage Austin Pendleton's 'Uncle Bob' next season

    June 22, 2012

    The venerable off-Loop operation known as a the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company has announced its 27th season.

  • House Theatre to stage start of 'new trilogy' as part of 2012-13 season

    June 19, 2012

    The House Theatre of Chicago, in residence at the Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park, will kick off its 2012-13 season with "The Iron Stag King: part one," the beginning of a new trilogy by Chris Matthews and Nathan Allen ("The Sparrow") wherein a "young man seeks to unite his realm in peace." Allen said that the new show is a fusion of Arthurian and Norse mythology with "uniquely American themes." Performances begin on Aug. 31.

  • For Bruce Norris, a unique triple

    June 19, 2012

    No other play before Bruce Norris' "Clybourne Park"has won the Tony Award for best play, the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Olivier Award (the British equivalent of the Tony Awards) for best new play. So says Arvid S. Sponberg, a professor of English at Valparaiso University in Indiana.

  • A new date for Kristin Chenoweth

    June 19, 2012

    Jam Theatricals has announced a new date for its Kristin Chenoweth concert, canceled at the eleventh hour Saturday, due to the star's illness.

  • The Vince Vaughn bro show wraps up an impressive almost-festival at TBS Just for Laughs

    June 18, 2012

    If you find yourself pulled out of the audience at a comedy show and dragged up on stage like a performing seal, the most you can generally expect is flop sweat, a T-shirt and a Polaroid. Not when Vince Vaughn is running things. Nope, when Ward Boss Vaughn and his testosterone are in town, you get 500 bucks in cash, pulled without effort from Vaughn's well-tailored and well-prepared pocket, as if he were a reincarnated Midwestern Sinatra, tipping the valet while running the entire City of Chicago.

  • Urgency unclear in a musical about a man trapped in a cave

    June 18, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Floyd Collins" by Boho Theatre ★★ ... The potent Adam Guettel and Tina Landau musical "Floyd Collins" is all about a young and unlucky 1920s Kentucky spelunker who finds himself trapped down a hole.

  • Silverman leads cult of personalities at TBS Just for Laughs Chicago

    June 18, 2012

    Sarah Silverman, you're such a scold. At the Chicago Theatre late Saturday night, the unfiltered comedian was confronted with so many tweeters, texters and compulsive amateur photographers as she hosted her marquee show at the TBS Just for Laughs comedy festival, she felt the need to deliver numerous sermons on How to Watch A Live Performance. "Look at you," she snarled, venomously, to one seemingly oblivious dude in the front row, "eating popcorn like you're watching a movie and not a real person TWO FEET IN FRONT OF YOU. Is this the respect that dance gets? Is that what they do to Brian Dennehy at 'The Iceman Cometh'?"

  • 'Eastland' at Lookingglass: Chicago ship disaster no longer an unsung tragedy

    June 17, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Eastland: The Musical" at Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Tower Water Works ★★★ ... There's just a small plaque by the Chicago River. On occasion, you can see a tourist squinting at the story and looking in disbelief at the waterway.

  • Kristin Chenoweth cancels sold-out Chicago concert

    June 16, 2012

    The Broadway and TV star Kristin Chenoweth has canceled her concert scheduled for Saturday night at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in downtown Chicago.

  • Profiles to stage Richard Nelson drama

    June 15, 2012

    Chicago's Profiles Theatre Company says it has changed the first show of its upcoming season. In place of the previously announced "Blood From a Stone" by Tommy Nohilly, Profiles now will stage the Midwest prremiere of "Sweet and Sad" by Richard Nelson, a drama about a family reflecting on the impact of September 11, 2001.

  • 'Songs of Jule Styne,' like they're meant to be heard

    June 13, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Time After Time: The Songs of Jule Styne" by the Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre ★★★½ ... A few days after mopping up most of the non-Equity Jeff Awards, Theo Ubique opens another truly stellar show.

  • Puppets behaving badly in 'Stuffed and Unstrung'

    June 13, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Stuffed and Unstrung" at the Bank of America Theatre ★★★ ... You'd think that in the presence of puppets - near Muppets, really - audiences would behave themselves, if only in deference to their innocent childhoods.

  • It's the Booth for 'Woolf'

    June 13, 2012

    When it comes to the Broadway transfer of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," opening in October, the one missing piece has been filled in: the name of the theater.

  • 'State Street' does things not done on Broadway

    June 13, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "State Street" at City Lit ★★ ... It's hardly news that small Chicago theaters are undaunted by big projects, but the latest endeavor at City Lit is as noteworthy as it is frustrating. It's a two-act musical set in the rollicking environs of 19th century Chicago.

  • There's a 'First Time' for everything

    June 12, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "My First Time" at the Greenhouse Theatre Center ★★½ ... So how was your first time? If your first impulse on reading that question was "none of your business" or "I don't care to remember," you might not want to spend your cash on this show.

  • Truth fails to make an entrance in comic 'Exit, Pursued by a Bear'

    June 12, 2012

    THEATER REVIEW: "Exit, Pursued by a Bear" by Theatre Seven of Chicago ★½ ... There's a long and noble theatrical tradition of the revenge tragedy - brooding souls plotting a way to right some perceived wrong and filling up an evening by trying to figure out what to do.