Monthly Archives: August 2018

Impressive! Meet Juan(ito) Doe at Free Street’s Storyfront (Through September 7th)

Chicago is a city of many different backgrounds. A plethora of different races and financial statuses populate the city, creating a melting pot of different individuals and cultures. While this sounds tremendous in concept, the reality is that many of these groups of people face tremendous obstacles in their day to day life. Meet Juan(ito) Doe greatly details some of the anguish that Mexican-Americans face in the city of Chicago. With such a heavy topic at hand, the cast certainly needed to bring their top performance to the fold. They certainly managed to do this, transporting each and every audience member into the world of the surrounding neighborhood.

Not only was the cast impressive in their portrayal of their characters, but the stories themselves really shed light on how diverse the Mexican-American community can be. It is easy to try to label things, as this is human nature, but the variety of characters really prove that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Mexican-American communities. The actors acted accordingly to highlight the differences between these characters. Whether the character was gay, an alcoholic, or a confused teenager, these actors were able to create something completely and utterly real. I felt like I knew these people because the way they acted was so human.

Juanita Doe

In addition to the impressive acting being displayed, the intimate setting of the Storyfront allowed the message of the story to hit home that much more. Located on the South Side of the city, this storefront faced the street and often times included said street in its performance. Being able to see the character of the area gave the audience members new insight to the trials that plagued the play’s characters. The themes of racism, gentrification, and homophobia hit home so much harder, knowing that much of the story points took place right where we were.

At the end of the day, Meet Juan(ito) Doe is an important piece of theatre for everyone. Many of us are so privileged that it is easy to overlook many of the issues that plague minority neighborhoods. This story sheds light on some of these issues, while also providing a lot of theatrical moments for a casual audience member to enjoy.

Get tickets now to Meet Juan(ito) Doe through September 7th!

Griffin Boyle

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Hilarious! Black Button Eyes Productions Presents Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier at The Athenaeum Theatre (Through September 15, 2018)

Nightmares and Nightcaps is a collection of short plays adapted from John Collier’s stories. They are like the twilight zone in that they usually contain as elements of fantasy, bizarreness, and morality. They all come together in a darkly humorous fashion.

One of the stories is about a man who wins 50 million dollars. His wife just wants to buy a house in Jacksonville, but he wants to travel the world, especially to see mysterious creatures.

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Another story is about a couple that is over consumed with thoughts of the death of the other person. They decide to spend 9/10ths of their income on insurance so that they can live with piece of mind. However, it isn’t long before this piece of mind is lost.

The entire cast is excellent. Kevin Webb is delightfully mysterious as The Dweller, aka the narrator. His performance as the seller of potions is spot on and devilishly delightful. Megan Delay (The Liar) is excellent as The Huntress. She drives a man so wild that he wants to be stuffed like one of her conquests just so he can live in her house. Kat Evans as the Bird of Paradise is absolutely hilarious.

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Get tickets now for Nightmares and Nightcaps through September 15th!

 

Cost of a ticket: $35

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It!

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Quinn Delaney

Great Voice and a Sharp Wit! Don McLean at City Winery (August 19, 2018)

At 72, Don McLean still has a great voice and a sharp wit. Also, he just released a new album titled Botanical Gardens from which he played a few songs.

Early on in the set, he plays “And I Love You So”. He told us that Elvis sang this song at every concert he did in the last years of his life. Perry Como also covered this song with great success.

 

McLean treats the audience with a fantastic rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”.  This song reached number one in the UK!

 

 

Most songs received an introduction, but he just jumped right into “American Pie”. The audience immediately perked up and joined in a giant sing-a-long. It’s a tradition at University of Illinois bars to close with this song.

 

 

When he returned for the encore, he jokes, “Now, I’ll play what you came here for.” He goes on to play his second biggest hit, “Vincent”, about Van Gogh.

 

Cost of a ticket: $75

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half-Price

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Quinn Delaney

 

Exceptional! Dance for Life 2018 featuring The Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and more at the Auditorium Theatre (August 18, 2018)

Dance for Life is a fantastic event that brings together the best Chicago dance companies and the best dance audience. The proceeds go to the Dancers’ Fund, which provides financial assistance to dance community professionals in their time of need due to a medical issue. It’s a celebration of the dance community and its ability to care for its own. Here is a selection of some of the best performances:

Chicago Dance Crash – Freshly Served (2018) – Structured by Jessica Deahr

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This performance is intense. It’s a structured freestyle. Thus, the dancers improvise within time and space restrictions and feed off the energy of the music and the audience. It doesn’t take long before everyone is clapping and the break dancing energy rises. On multiple occasions, the dancers pull of impressive feats that are met with gasps from the crowd. It’s modern and it’s fresh and it fits in perfectly on this night.

 

Giordano Dance Chicago – Tossed Around (2017) – Choreography: Ray Mercer

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Before the performance, Nan Giordano is honored with a type of lifetime achievement award, a new thing this year. She humbly accepts as she thanks the Chicago dance community for all the help.

The performance begins with all the dancers sitting in chairs in a circle facing the center. They begin tossing each other around and moving about like a crazy game of musical chairs / duck duck goose. The movement is intoxicating and showcases the talents of this great company.

The Joffrey Ballet – Body of Your Dreams (2016) – Choreography: Myles Thatcher

12_Body of Your Dreams_The Joffrey Ballet_Photo by Cheryl Mann

The music for this piece uses a bunch of infomercials about fitness programs cut and pasted together in an electronic sounding piece. The dancers are wearing outfits that are a mix of workout clothes and tight ballet outfits while performing a mix of those two styles of movement. While at first it seems to be a form of pop art and fun look at exercise, it turns into a critical look at the current fitness industry. Within the Modern Masters program by The Joffrey back in February, it seemed a bit out of place, but it fits very well into tonight’s show.

 

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre – Excerpts from Between Us (2016) – Choreography by Sherry Zunker

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In this piece, the dancers are joined by live musicians on stage playing a soprano sax and a violin. The musicians are involved in the choreography as they move across the stage. At one point, it even seems like the sax player is a snake charmer controlling the dancers with his music.  It’s a very interesting mix of musicians and dancers that really shows how closely they interact.

 

Hanna Brictson and Dancers – My Darling (2017) – Choreography – Hanna Brictson

41 dancers take the stage wearing all red with white suspenders as “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers begins to play. They all move in unison in perfect sync with the music in the largest group of the night. When the song reaches a climax, so does the dancing. It’s a perfect match that is met with thunderous applause at its conclusion.

 

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago – The 40s (1978) – Choreography: Lou Conte

The 40s displays the joy in America after World War II ended.  “Opus Number One”, as performed by Ralph Burns, starts and the full company dances happily out on to the stage with jazz hands waving. The song has that big band feel and swing is incorporated into the piece with a lot of twirls. Alicia Delgadillo stands out displaying a big ball of energy and enthusiasm. Lou Conte, the founder of Hubbard Street Dance, has remounted this piece expertly and it exhibits the best of this troupe. What a joyful way to end the night!

Quinn Delaney

 

Cost of a ticket: $75

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

New Rating Scale!

Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

 

Impactful! Old Sol House Show in Bloomington, Indiana (8/15/2018)

It is easy to forget the beauty of the house show. As a society, we tend to gravitate towards these high-flying, grandiose events, but often times that production value does not amount to a better show. Sure, a house show may not be privy to many of the advantages that come in the areas of staging and sound, but the close quartered nature of the environment gives a house show performance a new layer: this layer is character. Highly produced shows tend to create a disconnect between the audience and the performers. No matter how honorable and respectable a group may be, the traditional stage is certainly set up to make the performers appear as larger than life. Venues want the performers to appear extraordinary and one could even argue superior. In the case of a house show, all of this context is thrown out the window. The humble atmosphere of the basement and level playing field of the stage lets the audience know that the musicians they are about to witness are humans, and that is more than ok. And in the case of a group as emotional and melodic as Old Sol, it is certainly a plus.

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The band put on an incredible show as they furiously paced through their setlist. Comprising mostly of new songs, the setlist may have been foreign to much of the audience, but that did not stop the basement from erupting in contagious head bobbing and dancing. This energy the crowd held was surely not due to coincidence. The band’s music holds a lot of momentum and is ultimately almost impossible for the listener to deny.

To finish up the set, the band played their two biggest cuts entitled “Mondaze” and “Getting Comfortable”. These familiar tunes were a very welcome capping off to an already impactful set. As the crowd sang along, you could feel the electricity in the room. Everyone there was having a wonderful and emotional time. One that was a credit to the band, but certainly also a credit to the space.

Griffin Boyle

Reggae Rock! Slightly Stoopid and Stick Figure at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island (August 12, 2018)

Launched in Duxbury, Massachusetts, Stick Figure showcases the talents of multi-instrumentalist and producer Scott Woodruff. Stick Figure’s music has a unique style that creatively blends upbeat roots reggae with the reverberating echoes of dub. Often referred to as the “one man band,” Scott single-handedly created 4 full length albums from 2006-2012 (a fifth album, “Reprise Sessions,” was recorded with a full band and released in 2010), and has sold over 30,000 albums worldwide. Each of Stick Figure’s songs are created by recording instruments individually, layering tracks on top of one another in unison.

 

The Huntington Bank Pavilion  is packed tonight for some reggae rock.  Stick Figure takes the stage and the crowd is soon transported to a tropical beach.  They play Breathe and everyone sways back and forth to the music. This California band knows how to set a groove and keep it going.  They leave the stage with the audience wanting more.

Slightly Stoopid know how to keep a party going. They bring their San Diego SoCal vibe wherever they go, and tonight they’re rocking Chicago. With the temperature hovering right around 80 degrees during their night time show and 12th Street Beach just beyond the venue’s fences, it feels just like California.

Here are the Top 5 Moments:

  1. They opened with “Schools Out” by Alice Cooper since it is the School’s Out For Summer tour.
  2. Kyle, the lead singer, kept giving praise to Chicago. “We’ve been coming here for 17 years and we love it!” Chicagoans returned the love with continuous cheers and dancing along for the entire 2 hour plus set.
  3. The horns were on fire tonight. It was a highlight every time they took the lead on a song.
  4. They played Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels” in tribute the late great singer
  5. Closer to the Sun” – This is such a great tune!

Quinn Delaney

A Perfect Night! Whitney at Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (8/12/18)

There is nothing quite like the Chicago skyline. Chicago’s architectural goldmine makes everything just feel bigger. Having this as the backdrop for your concert certainly raises the gravity of the performance for the artist. So given these circumstances, the people of Chicago were expecting something great when Whitney, a hometown act, hit the stage. Lucky for them, they were treated with a performance that was chalked full of high effort and crisp execution. 

 

 

The hometown band has come a long way from merely being the “opening band” at a show. In the past two years, the band’s popularity has skyrocketed due to their familiar and authentic sounding tunes. This authenticity tends to disappear when artists grow bigger, but you could see the look of amazement and honor on lead singer and drummer Julien Ehrlich. He didn’t appear arrogant or hot-headed, but instead, he proclaimed many times that this opportunity was a dream come true for the band. They certainly capitalized on this dream-like opportunity by providing a moving performance. The groovy, yet punchy “Golden Days” had the crowd dancing throughout and even singing a little bit. “Light Upon The Lake” brought a more laid-back feel to the show, but ultimately left the listeners satisfied with its infectious guitar line and its fulfilling string section. Lastly, “No Woman” brought everyone together in glee like few songs can. The songs somber mood takes a brisk turn in its second half turning into an utterly triumphant piece of music. It is nearly impossible not to bob your heads to those guitar solos and trumpet lines. The piece was certainly a high note for the show and ultimately a great way to end the night. 

 

 

At the end of the day, hanging out in Millennium Park is bound to be a good time regardless, but when you get the chance to experience the park while listening to a group like Whitney you are in for a treat. The fun, summer music the group so expertly crafts conveys very well why Chicago nights like this are truly perfect. 

 

 Griffin Boyle