Friday June 22 5:11 am

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Interviews, Non-Theater Reviews, Stories, Whatever

Lyric's "I Puritani" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** It's hard to believe but "I Puritani" has not graced the Lyric Opera House stage in over two decades. This is not due to the fact that it is an unpopular work but rather one that requires the utmost from its four principal performers, commonly referred to as the "Puritani Quartet." Based on the conflicting schedules of today's major opera stars and the very short window in which these stars are in their vocal prime can make casting a bel canto masterpiece like "I Puritani" even more challenging than your traditional operas from the latter half of the 19th century. Vincenzo Bellini's final composition, which premiered in Paris in early 1835, was a smashing success. Sadly, Bellini passed away just nine months later, at the tender age of 33. He was a master of the bel canto style, who is remembered for his long, long melodic lines which prove extremely taxing for even the best trained voice. Thankfully, the Lyric Opera has assembled a glorious cast which brings this vivid opera to an eager and very appreciative audience. 3 and 1/2 SPOTLIGHTS

“She the People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing it for Themselves” scores a 10 on My Hilarity Scale!

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**** Highly Recommended **** The Second City continues to do what they do best, make people laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more, with a new all-female revue, “She the People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing it for Themselves”, which supports a longtime theory of mine – comediennes are just as funny as their male counterparts. From the first snicker to the last guffaw, this revue scores a 10 on my hilarity scale. “She the People” runs through April Fool’s Day! Get tickets soon, you’ll love it! 4 BIG Spotlights

Hubbard Street Dance - Winter Series, “An Evening of Crystal Pite”

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Last time I saw Hubbard Street Dance, I was sitting on the Harris Theatre stage looking out at the entire HSD company sitting in the seats waving at all of us on stage. What a unique experience! So I had some expectations for the HSD Winter Series, “An Evening of Crystal Pite”. HSD was back on stage; the performance was amazing – whether or not the dancers actually have joints was a subject for post-show discussion with my friend Sarah – but it just didn’t touch our hearts. 3 ½ Spotlights

"Turandot" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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***RECOMMENDED*** Giacomo Puccini's final opera, "Turandot," contains all of the elements you would expect from a grand opera. The exotic locale and legendary antiquity of Beijing. An astonishing and atmospheric score. Grandiose sets and colorful period costumes of the finest silks. Vivid and evocatively colorful orchestrations, with one of the all-time most recognizable and fervently loved arias in the entire history of opera itself. Yet all of these things do not add up to a completely satisfying whole in the current, new-to-Chicago production at the Lyric Opera House. The one key thing that it is lacking -- and it's a major component -- is passion. 3 SPOTLIGHTS

Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 provides the Background for "The Nutcracker"

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***** Highly Recommended ***** The Joffrey Ballet’s “new” version of “The Nutcracker”, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon is magnificent. By setting “The Nutcracker” against Chicago’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Wheeldon gave the city a unique gift. I am in awe! Loved everything about “The Nutcracker”. 4 BIG Spotlights!

Beatniks Babes and Boys - Lots of Holiday Laughs

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Over the weekend, I had a rare evening off, so I decided to catch Beatniks Babes and Boys, a very funny comedy/variety show and fundraiser for Beatniks on Conkey, home to Beatniks Productions and Hammond Community Theatre.

Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour is a Lot of Fun

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**** Recommended **** I have a checklist somewhere of things I’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to doing. Taking the Chicago Trolley Holiday Lights Tour turned out to be an easy and fun way to see the city lights during the holidays - and cross a couple of things off my list – Christkindlmarket and ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo. The Tour might seem a tiny bit pricey (adults $29, children $25), but bypassing the lines at for ZooLights makes it well worth the money.

"The Pearl Fishers" - Review by Jeffrey Leibham

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My friend Jeffrey Leibham reviews "The Pearl Fishers" ... ****HIGHLY RECOMMENDED**** One of the more popular and commonly presented operas, recently, at the major opera houses throughout the world has been "The Pearl Fishers" by Georges Bizet. In a new-to-Chicago production currently at the Lyric Opera you can easily see how that phenomenon came to be. Not only bolstered by a memorable version of "the Pearl Fishers duet" which many people consider to be the best tenor/baritone duet in the entire canon of operatic works but also enhanced by the bold and mesmerizing set and costume designs by the world-renowned British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, this version of "The Pearl Fishers" is thoroughly entrancing and wondrously enchanting on every level. 4 BIG SPOTLIGHTS