Sometimes words fall short while pictures and videos do a much better job of describing the beauty that is a performance by the Joffrey Ballet. Luckily, Joffrey is good at putting up videos on YouTube and great pictures by Cheryl Mann are available also.
“I worked hard to get where I am! Let’s switch now!”
“Hey ladies, are you going to do the Freaky Friday switch here at JC Penny?”
This was the crazy start to a completely improvised scene in the third act of Together at Last. It only gets funnier from there when other actors join as Mr. JC Penny and another as a former sweater! This cast has very good improv chops.
Everyone from the cast of the pandemic interrupted Do You Believe in Madness? returns in this show except for Andrew Knox, who is replaced by Evan Mills. The newcomer fits right in and shines in a scene playing the son explaining parts of his life to his out of touch father, played excellently by Adam Schreck. Asia Martin is very funny on the fly and had everyone laughing as she stalks her son. Jordan Savusa is a hilarious breakout talent that completely commanded the room when he took the mic for an improvised standup set about not being to find a banjo teacher in his home state of Hawaii. Mary Catherine Curran is great, especially as the old lady in the JC Penny scene. Lastly, Sarah Dell’Amico is hilarious and cracks everyone up in the joyful getting divorced song. The cast is so talented that at least one of them will surely be called up to be on TV soon. Catch them now while you still can in Old Town!
Cost of a ticket: $34 – $84 (depending on the day)
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It +
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother
Andrew McMahon loves to play live and he is so happy to be on stage again. He was last in Chicagoland for a drive-in show at Boomer’s Stadium in Schaumburg on October 2-4, 2020. He also played Chicago’s Riot Fest in 2015.
This is the Three Pianos tour where McMahon tells many of the stories behind the songs. The name of the tour is in reference to the three pianos he has toured with over his career. The one on stage tonight is the third one.
To introduce the second song, “Ohio”, he talks about how his family moved from Ohio to Southern California when he was a kid. “Everything’s going to be better on the west coast” he sings. This was a big event in his childhood.
He tells a few stories about an ex-girlfriend that he just refers to as a green-eyed girl. The songs about her are “She Paints Me Blue” and “The Mixed Tape”.
McMahon talks about connecting with his wife, Kelly, and his quest to date her. He wrote “Walking By” for her and played it for her younger sister first. Looking back, he says, this was a bit awkward. But after a few weeks, they became a couple, so it worked out.
Andrew talks about getting the amazing call from Disney and being asked to write a song for Pete’s Dragon. He collaborates with Lindsey Stirling and together they create “Something Wild”. She also played Chicago this year back in August. See our review here.
For the finale, he brings out the openers: Zac Clark, who was in Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness as the keyboard player for 10 years, and Annika Bennett, who had never toured before. Together, they all play “La La Lie” in a great happy conclusion to the night.
Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theatre is celebrating their 45th anniversary with this performance tonight. Also, this is the first show to take place at the Auditorium Theatre since the pandemic shutdown. The evening consisted of 2 acts, each consisting of multiple performances. The performances beautifully highlighted the various components of flamenco along with many other dance styles. They consisted of music, dance, and storytelling. The evening also included a special dedication to the late and beloved founder of Ensemble Español, Dame Libby Komaiko. Below you will find a sample of tonight’s performances.
Pasion Oculta (Hidden Passion)
Music: “Requiem for a Tower” and “Palladio” by Escala
This modern piece portrays the hidden passions of love and desire set to modern music. Film fans may recognize the first musical choice as the theme from Requiem From a Dream. It’s a hauntingly beautiful track that fits in well with the intense dancing here.
Music: Maurice Ravel’s Bolero (1928)
This song is a very popular choice for dance companies to use. It was used by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre on this same stage in March 2017. It was also used by Hubbard Street Chicago in June 2018. The song starts off playful and fun with a driving beat that lends itself well to dancing. From there, it slowly builds to a dramatic conclusion. The dancers tonight expertly match the song and transition along with it in their intensity.
Catch them next on December 18th at their Holiday Concert at Northeastern Illinois University.
The Contumacious Pig is hosting a big influencer night. They have a special menu planned for the big event. But right from the get go, things start to go wrong. The pig they have does not have a USDA sticker and the health inspector has just shown up. The soup tastes very bland. The chef is acting very strangely. The problems just keep piling up.
The plot is a comical farce like The Doppelgänger (an international farce). However, in this case, the action just isn’t that funny. The jokes are just too easy. Also, part of the issue is multiple conversations happening at the same time. In their production of Southern Gothic, this wasn’t an issue because the conversations were taking place in different rooms. However, in this case there is only one room and it’s difficult to focus on any one conversation.
On the other hand, the food designed by Rick Bayless is excellent. It was even more food than expected. While their website says six bite-size tastings, in truth, four of them are much larger than bite size. I’d say have only half a meal or less before coming to the show. In addition, there are three wine and cocktail pairings designed by Lanie Bayless. All this is enough to justify half the price of the ticket.
Cost of a ticket: $110 PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother
Rodrigo y Gabriela are doing a “By Request” tour. Anyone can complete the poll on their website here: https://www.rodgab.com/by-request-poll. The result of this poll is a few songs from each album.
Early on they play Diablo Rojo and their talent is instantly on display. Their fingers are in a blur as they rapid fire the rocking notes of this song. This 2006 song still holds on to it’s power.
Gabriela says one song is a tribute to Santana and then the following one is a tribute to David Gilmor of Pink Floyd. These are just some of their influences that have helped them create their signature sound.
They truly make the most of their acoustic guitars. Often they play the body of the guitar like a drum. At times it seems like they are playing six instruments at once.
Gabriela describes the process of creating their song, “The Pirate That Should Not Be”, for the Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides soundtrack. She said Hans Zimmerman asked for something Irish and Metal. This is right in their wheelhouse as they started their career with eight years in Dublin, Ireland before moving to Mexico City.
Rodrigo says that since they have been playing Chicago for so many years, it now feels like home. He loves all the vegan restaurants. He recalls that they first played The Hideout and then many festivals (such as Lollapalooza in 2007).
They also talked often about a new album that they created during the pandemic shutdown. They hope for it to be released in the spring.
Carbon Leaf are a very fun band to see live. Their songs are great sing to along with. Take “Life Less Ordinary”, which they play mid way through their set. “Live a life less ordinary, live a life extraordinary with me!” It’s a joyous tune that is so catchy.
Even though they have been playing as a band since 1992, they still enjoy making music together. They have a very strong 90’s sound. The band is from Richmond, VA, the same city that Dave Matthews Band started in.
On this night, they use a lighting setup usually used in larger theatres like the Vic Theatre or the Aragon Ballroom. It gives the concert a bigger feel than the usually intimate vibe of the City Winery. Also, when the lights pointed directly at the audience, it is quite blinding.
Another great song that they play is “Let Your Troubles Roll By”. “When all of your tears dry, let your troubles roll by!” sings the entire audience joyfully. The lead singer uses a tin whistle, which looks like a large recorder. This adds an Irish sound to their music that suits them well. The lead guitarist also plays multiple instruments including the mandolin and the hurdy-gurdy, which is also known as the wheel fiddle.
Cost of a ticket: $40 PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It + Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother Follow us on Facebook!
Two women who met in prison meet up after they are both released. They both don’t have any family to turn to, so they turn to teach other. They slowly reveal details to each other about their past, mixing truth with lies. In this process, a close friendship is formed that in some ways mirrors a mother and daughter relationship.
This play, written by Chloë Moss, won the 2009 Susan Smith Blackburn prize. On their website it says, “The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, established in 1978, is given annually to recognize women who have written works of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theatre.” Shortly afterwards, it was produced off Broadway starring Edie Falco (The Sopranos, Nurse Jackie).
The acting in this production is fantastic. Aila Ayilam Peck is excellent as Marie just trying to get by in her rough situation. Linda Reiter (The Realistic Joneses) is great as Lorraine, trying to put her life back together. They build off each other’s energy and the relationship they build is strong. It truly shows in the climatic moments as the emotions pour out of them. Off Loop theatre is back!
Cost of a ticket: $45
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother
The Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival usually takes place over two weekends at the end of September at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. This year, the festival is a bit downsized due to Covid and is just one weekend. Eight dance groups perform this year. Here is a selection of the best performances:
Choreography, technology, prop design, costumes, and performance by: Christopher Knowlton
Music: Jack Rose
In this piece, Christopher Knowlton places a record on a turntable. A video screen behind him shows the record spinning along with two computer animated dancers on top of the record. As he dances, motion capture technology translates his movements to the dancers. It’s a very cool idea, but on this night, it doesn’t work very well. The digital dancers often disappear or fly all over the place. However, with some work, this could be a great piece.
In this dance, the performers use wooden boards shaped into a quarter of a circle. This is much different than the silks hanging from the ceiling that this company usually uses. However , like the ariel series, the curveboards require immense discipline and percision. The result is a compilation of beautifully synchronized movement filled with synergy among the dancers.
The dancing in this piece is majestic and graceful. Joshua Blake Carter’s choreography expertly matches the music by Gui Boratto. This group consistently brings a top grade quality performance to this festival and this year’s professional display is no exception.
In the opening act, you learn that nuclear plants across the country are exploding and causing widespread illness and a heavy blow to civilization. For the second act, which takes place seven years later, the group is traveling the country recreating episodes of television, such as The Simpsons, including the commericals. Lastly, in the third act, which takes place 75 years later, the performance becomes a full on psychedelic musical.
In the email audiences receive after purchasing tickets, the theatre recommends watching the “Cape Feare” episode from season 5 of The Simpsons. However, I would recommend exactly the opposite. The first act of this play is mainly them recalling the plot and dialogue of this episode. If you had just seen the episode, the jokes won’t be funny the second time you hear them. Instead, I would only recommend watching other episodes of the show to get familiar with the characters. On the other hand, it may be useful to watch the film, Cape Fear, the understand the movie references.
Jonah D. Winston has an impressive on stage presence across all the roles he plays. The rest of the cast includes Leslie Ann Sheppard, Eileen Doan, Andrew Jessop, Tina Munoz Pandya, Ana Silva, Will Wilhelm, and Daniel Desmarais. On this night, Derek Self and Trey DeLuna played the parts normally play Andrew Jessop.
The costumes for this production may be the best part. In the second act, they have very funny home made costumes. Then, in the third act, they up the ante and go all out. Props to the costume designers, Mara Blumenfeld and Meika Van Der Ploeg.