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Glitter Guild C2E2 500 x 72.AGlitter Guild Storms Castle

Join Chicagoland’s favorite nerdlesque performers for a night of burlesque and fun at Castle Chicago’s Dome Room!  The evening features performances by the Glitter Guild cast, nerd themed drink specials, and music from Geekeasy’s DJ Aaron Ackerson.  Doors open at 8pm with performances happening throughout the evening, including appearances by:

* Red Rum!
* Paris Green!
* Ray Gunn, the Reigning King of Burlesque!
* Bazuka Joe!
* Hot Tawdry!
* Sauda Namir!
* Hazel Hellbender!
* Lola Getz!
* Katie Angel!
* Rob Racine!
* Slightly Spitfire!

* Hosted by MsPixy & Giant Martini!

VIP ticket holders will have a change to meet the Glitter Guild, take pictures and hangout with the cast and see special performances at the after-afterparty in our cozy Secret Lair beneath Castle Nightclub.

 

Burlesque Afterparty by Glitter Guild Nerdlesque

Friday, April 25, 2014, 8-10:30pm Main Stage  /  10:30pm-1am VIP Secret Lair

@ Castle Nightclub

632 N Dearborn

Show Type: Burlesque

Brown Paper Tickets ~ GLITTER GUILD Burlesque Afterparty

 

Peking Opera 500 x 72AA Night at the Peking Opera

Tianjin Peking Opera Company

By Lori Dana

The beautiful Reva and David Logan Center for the Performing Arts on The University of Chicago campus was the recent site of a performance by one of China’s national treasures. One of three major performing companies from the People’s Republic which performs a 19th Century classical form of Chinese theater known as Peking Opera, The Tianjin Peking Opera Company, presented a program of theatrical selections to a sold out crowd of students, faculty and community members.

Developed between the 18th and mid-19th centuries during China’s first Imperial Dynasty (Qin), this art form combines the melodrama and musicality of opera, the bravado of martial arts, and the precision skill of acrobatics into an exciting and highly entertaining performance. Headlined by rising young male star Ling Ke and his real-life wife Yan Hongyu, the UC performance featured excerpts from some of China’s most popular operas and plays. The first selection, A Dragon Flirts With a Phoenix, was a delightful introduction to the medium. Based on a tale of the “Naughty Emperor” (Ming Dynasty’s Zhengde), this presentation played like a romantic comedy. Aided by translations whose idiom was definitely aimed at a college crowd, the flirtations of the Emperor played by Ling Ke (travelling in disguise as a soldier) with the comely young innkeeper (Yan Hongyu) was highly entertaining. Once the western ear becomes attuned to the keening vocals of Chinese opera, it is easier to focus on the acting, which for the Emperor was focused on his facial expressions, his physical movement limited by the heavy costume and high soled shoes that denoted his social rank. Yan Hongyu’s innkeeper was so reserved as to seem wooden at first, but as she and the travelling “soldier” became more familiar, her portrayal became charmingly animated and more than slyly flirtatious. The extreme and colorful stage makeup employed on all the characters save for those who are masked, helped emphasize the actor’s facial expressions.

Peking Opera is highly symbolic in every respect. From the standardized characters (male lead, female lead, character actor and clown) and their costumes whose colors and features denote rank, to the minimal stage propping which focuses the audience on the actors; each dramatic element is steeped in centuries-old cultural symbolism. The program for the evening did a succinct but thorough job of explaining the basics, making it easy for the audience to grasp the general meaning of each piece, both visually and emotionally.

The second presentation of the evening was a favorite Chinese tale of the “outlaw hero”. Wu Song Kills the Tiger definitely appealed to the younger, video game playing members of the audience, with its spectacular display of martial arts expertise by Wang Daxing in the title role. A very expressive performance by actor Bai Xianglong (a remarkable feat, when completely enveloped in a tiger costume), added to the overall impact of the piece.

After a short intermission, the performance concluded with an excerpt from a folk tale that is well known among most Chinese, The Ghost of the Black Pot. The story chronicles the adventures of various hapless humans who come into contact with the black pot containing the cremated remains (and the restless soul) of a murdered merchant. The placement of this piece at the end of the program rather than at the beginning provided your humble reviewer with their only misgiving about the evening’s offerings. Heavy on the dialog, and light on singing and physical action that would hold the attention of a western audience not intimately familiar with the tale, The Ghost of the Black Pot made for challenging viewing at the end of an otherwise lively and visually compelling presentation.

 

4 STARS

(“A Night at the Peking Opera” was presented in conjunction with University of Chicago’s Envisioning China: A Festival of Art and Culture, which continues through June 2014. The festival also includes Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture, an exhibition currently running at the Smart Museum of Art, as well as a performance of M. Butterfly at the Court Theater in May.)

Envisioning China|UChicago Arts

Performer Adam Voss of Erasing the Distance

Stories of Recovery and Resilience

Stories of Recovery and Resilience, performed by Erasing The Distance

Free admission – General seating – Continuing Education Credits are available.

Skokie Public Library and Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center are proud to host an evening with Erasing the Distance, a Chicago-based non-profit arts organization that uses the power of performance to disarm stigma, spark dialogue, educate and promote healing surrounding issues of mental health. In Stories of Recovery and Resilience, five actors perform monologues about real people surviving violence, experiencing depression, and recovering from, the emotional impact of being an immigrant or refugee, and more. Following the performance there will be a Q&A with company members and Turning Point staff. Continuing Education Credits are available for Social Workers, Counselors, Psychologists and Marriage/Family Therapists.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 ~ 6:30 pm

@ Skokie Public Library

5215 Oakton, Skokie,

Show Type: Drama

 


Erasing the Distance


Skokie Public Library

 

L'Imbecile 500 x 72.AL’Imbecile

Sprouting up from the cast-off tatters and scraps of our society, L’Imbecile is (according to playwright Aaron Adair) “shamelessly stolen” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Rigoletto, which, in turn, was adapted in 1851 from Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse. But even if they were still around, Verdi and Hugo might not recognize their work when they see it: A Queen and her Fool, in a deadly dance of betrayal and revenge, play fast and loose with curses and courtly manners… with catastrophic consequences.

Presented by Babes With Blades Theatre Company

Thru - May 10, 2014

@ Rivendell Theatre

5775 N. Ridge Avenue

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 773-904-0391

L’Imbecile ~ Babes With Blades

Brown Paper Tickets ~ L’Imbecile

Depraved New WorldBy J. Scott Hill

As Chicago starts to thaw enough for the dibs chairs to go back into the basement for another year, The Second City offers up its 102nd revue, Depraved New World, now playing on the Mainstage.  Improv legend (and Founder/Artistic Director of the Annoyance Theatre) Mick Napier directs this  talented troupe to take up the arms of satire against a sea of first-world troubles.

Depraved New World confronts a wide range of contemporary issues.  There are sketches about expectant fathers and about gluten intolerance.  Both sides are played against the middle concerning the Affordable Care Act.  Feminist backlash in a post-feminist world is explored.  This may sound like a list of possible topics for a Ph.D. candidate’s dissertation in one of the social sciences, but Depraved New World manages to still be mostly populist while having some smarts — and laughs.

Depraved New World

One of The Second City’s greatest strengths has always been the assembling of the right ensemble, and the ensemble that wrote and perform Depraved New World work together like six fingers on a single, not-quite-normal hand. Steve Waltien, Emily Walker, Tawny Newsome, and Chelsea Devantez all face promising futures in sketch comedy.  John Hartman has the dorky boyish charm of Scotty McCreery with the frenetic physicality of a seven-year-old trying to burn off mega-doses of Hawaiian Punch and birthday cake.

Depraved New World

The brightest bright spot in Depraved New World was also the brightest bright spot in last year’s A Clown Car Named Desire (still playing at The Second City E.T.C. because it’s just that good), Mike Kosinski.  Whether he is distinguishing himself among other skinny white guys in a satire on diversity, or taking a self-congratulatory group of firefighters beyond the edge of mere celebration, Kosinski is the one all eyes gravitate toward.  Mike Kosinski has It.

Depraved New World is consistently funny.  This solid ensemble, led by the antics of John Hartman and Mike Kosinski, may not be groundbreaking or particularly edgy, but it will surely warm you up with laughter and kick the last of your seasonal affective disorder right in the polar vortex.

 

3 STARS

(“Depraved New World” is in OPEN RUN at The Second City Mainstage, 1616 North Wells Street. 312-337-3992.)


The Second City

 

Depraved New World production photos by Todd Rosenberg.

Venus in Fur 500 x 72.DBy J. Scott Hill

For those of us who are old enough to know what we like and don’t like in the romance department, we all have our kinks.  In America, we are so secretive about this that even I — someone who considers himself a freethinking progressive person — just referred to sex as “the romance department.”  Our pent-up Puritanical roots seem to always be showing, gray and scraggly.

In the Goodman Theatre’s current production, Venus in Fur, masochism is explored.  The title Venus in Fur is borrowed from a novel of the same name by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, for whom masochism is named.  The play begins with Thomas, the adapter/director of a new play based on Masoch’s novel, fed up with auditioning actresses for the lead, Vanda.  Then, who walks in after all other auditioners have long gone but an actress named Vanda who just happens to show up in a bondage-y outfit with a carpetbag full of appropriate costume pieces.  Thomas ends up reading with her.  Hijinx ensue.

Venus in Fur 500 x 72.C

Director Joanie Schultz has taken her hand to masochism in Venus in Fur in much the same careful and non-judgmental way she did to morbid obesity in The Whale last year at Victory Gardens. Schultz is a brilliant young director who has proven herself many times around Chicago and elsewhere. Schultz is that rare young director whose talent is already mature enough that her directorial vision and art are not impeded by the chore of staying true to the script, in both letter and spirit.

Schultz’s labor is surely eased by her talented cast. Rufus Collins, as Thomas, has one of the more daunting tasks that an actor can face: he has to play someone who is not an actor who, at times, is attempting to act.  For any actor to appear convincing in a role in one moment and then to play that character as convincingly inept at playing a role in the next moment is a daunting and continuous chess game; Collins handles this better than many others could.

Venus in Fur 500 x 72.B

Amanda Drinkall, who plays Vanda, is faced with a similarly Herculean labor: to play an actor who is convincing in a difficult part, then to play the same actor when not acting, eventually to play one persona splashing over into the other.  Still, Drinkall demonstrates more than just breathtaking range here. This is one of the most simultaneously subtle and grandiose performances in recent memory, and an early contender for one of the year’s best.

Venus in Fur 500 x 72.A

Venus in Fur is funny and sexy and tame enough to titillate an American audience without scandalizing very many. David Ives’s play makes a big deal out of the difference between “ambivalence” and “ambiguity.” There is a purposeful ambiguity here, and not the ambiguity the audience is fed along the way about whether Vanda is an actor or a persistent fan or maybe even a goddess.  The purposeful, and somewhat vexing, ambiguity here is whether the scene is supposed to be read as real: is the audience watching a play about an audition, or is the audience watching a play about two lovers role-playing an audition?  No doubt most audience members will make up their minds one way or the other, but the lack of definitive resolution on this point detracts somewhat from the pleasure of it all — and pleasure is what Venus in Fur is all about.

 

3 STARS

(“Venus in Furruns through April 13 at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago. 312-443-3800)

Venus in Fur ~ Goodman Theatre

Venus in Fur production photos by Liz Lauren.

CouchSurferz 500 x 72.AWeb Sitcom “CouchSurferz” Premieres in Chicago

A hilarious web series starring local comedy legends, Tim Stoltenberg and Mark Piebenga, premieres April 10 in Chicago.

CHICAGO, IL (MARCH 10, 2014) — “CouchSurferz,” a web sitcom and stage show series, will premiere April 10th starring Second City Touring Company veterans Tim Stoltenberg and Mark Piebenga as two Chicago roommates navigating their way through a series of unwelcome house guests. Each hilarious episode of this six-part series introduces a new idiotic house guest, the first being TJ Jagodowski of the famed “TJ & Dave” improv comedy show.

Premiering to the public at Second City’s DeMaat Theatre in Chicago, IL., the night will include a live screening of the first episode, and an improv show by Stoltenberg and Piebanga. The following day, the episode will appear online at www.couchsurferz.com. Each week’s Thursday stage show will feature the guest star of the subsequent episode, through May 15, 2014.

CouchSurferz” was created in Chicago, IL. by Writer/Creator Jack Thurston Farrell and Producer Greg Dixon. Please visit www.couchsurferz.com for episode premieres and cast bios, or like facebook.com/couchsurferz for more updates.

Thursdays. April 10 – May 15, 2014 – 10:30 pm

@ The Second City, DeMaat Theatre

1608 N. Wells St., Chicago

Show Type: Web Series Screening / Improv

Box Office: (312) 337- 3992.

Ring of Fire  500 x 72.ABy J. Scott Hill

America’s love affair with Johnny Cash lasted for about the last sixty years of his life, and will no doubt continue forward into perpetuity.  While Cash was most often categorized as a country artist, he was attendant to the birth of Rock and Roll at Sun Studios in Memphis in 1955.  Cash led a complicated and interesting life, which would make great subject matter for a musical featuring his incredible music. Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash is not that show.

Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, currently playing at Theatre at the Center, is not really a musical at all, but rather a showcase of Johnny Cash’s music — music almost exclusively from the first third of his long and successful career.  While the program notes claim that the setting of this show is “Johnny Cash’s life (1932-2003),” the dates that the included songs were released run mostly between 1955 and 1975.  This show is less appropriate at a musical theatre venue than it would be running in a theatre in Branson, at Dollywood, or at Opryland.

Ring of Fire  500 x 72.01

The talented cast of singers and musicians in Theatre at the Center’s production Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash does a pretty good job with Cash’s early catalog.  The role of Johnny Cash himself is split between a Young Johnny played by Michael Monroe Goodman (who spent two years with Million Dollar Quartet at the Apollo), and a more mature height-of-fame Johnny played by Kent M. Lewis.  Mercifully, neither performer tries to pull off a full-blown Johnny Cash impersonation; both actors instead focus on just a handful of Johnny Cash’s physical and vocal mannerisms — enough to convey the spirit of the Man in Black without resorting to caricature.

Cory Goodrich, who plays June Carter Cash, is an amazing singer, particularly of selections from musicals and the Great American Songbook.  June Carter Cash, by her own admission, was not an amazing singer; she was a so-so yet diligent singer for whom comedy came far more naturally than music.  June was the clown of the Carter Family (incidentally, she studied acting with both Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner).  Cory Goodrich does what she can with this part, but she is just too technically skilled a singer to convincingly stoop to June Carter Cash’s vocal style.

Ring of Fire  500 x 72.02

Multi-instrumentalist and Musical Director Malcolm Ruhl adds richness to the sound of many numbers with his work on the bass fiddle and resonator guitar.  His six-string acoustic guitar work and vocal performance on “Delia’s Gone” is a highlight of the show.

Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash is full of solid interpretations of some of Johnny Cash’s classic songs.  The glaring absence of songs recorded after 1975 or so — most notably, “Hurt,” “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” or any of the other tracks Johnny Cash did with producer Rick Rubin in the 1990s and 2000s — leaves the audience wanting more, but not in that good way performers strive for.  The talented singer-musicians are given very little story here upon which to exercise their acting chops.  The narrative thread is ultimately threadbare, little more than a series of segues.  The performers deserve better.  Johnny Cash deserves better.

 

 

2-1/2 STARS

 

(“Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash runs through March 30 at Theatre At The Center, 1040 Ridge Rd., Munster, Indiana. 219-836-3255.)

Theater at the Center

Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash production photos by Michael Brosilow.

* Visit Theatre In Chicago for more information on this show. Ring Of Fire – The Music Of Johnny Cash – Theatre At The Center – Play Detail – Theatre In Chicago

 

Rusalka  500 x 72.05Lyric Opera of Chicago

Rusalka

By Antonín Dvořák

By Lori Dana

Czech composer Antonín Dvořák was a musical revolutionary. One of a handful of maverick European composers who ushered in the 20th Century with a distinctly modern orchestral style, Dvořák is not the first composer who comes to mind when we think of opera. Although he composed ten operas during his lifetime, only one, Rusalka, is part of the modern opera repertoire. Fairly successful in its time, Rusalka has been infrequently produced today. What notoriety it has achieved is largely due to the efforts of Lyric creative consultant Renneé Fleming, for whom Rusalka was a career watershed. Dvořák’s dark and sensuous tale was the vehicle that catapulted her to opera super stardom.

Rusalka  500 x 72.01

Lyric Opera’s dazzling new production of Rusalka turns the spotlight on each fascinating aspect of the Czech master’s modern folk tale in turn: brilliant choreography, compelling production design, and visionary direction are just the beginning. Incredible depth of casting down to the smallest supporting role, and a powerful orchestral performance that brings every facet of Dvořák’s masterful instrumentation into focus, are at the heart of Lyric’s Rusalka.

Rusalka  500 x 72.02

Famous for the synthesis of Czech and other Slavic idioms both musical and literary in his compositions, Dvořák chose the tale of a water nymph that falls in love with a human prince as the basis for Rusalka. The libretto, written by Czech poet Jaroslav Kvapil, matches the tone of Dvořák’s music perfectly: achingly romantic, but with a dark and brooding perspective always hovering at the perimeter of the narrative. For their part, the Lyric production team has envisioned the story’s idyllic wood as the backwater of a post-Industrial wasteland, setting the tale in the Victorian era, its Golden Age opulence concealing dark Gothic overtones. Outfitted with a distinctly contemporary steam punk aesthetic, set designer John Macfarlane and costume designer Moritz Junge connect Gothic with Goth, Industrial Age with Post-Industrial apocalypse. These are visuals that a young contemporary audience can connect with, combined with the costume drama that traditional operagoers crave.

Rusalka  500 x 72.03

We know we are in for something new from Rusalka‘s very first scene, as wood nymphs in the form of soot-smeared street urchins, engage in lewd shenanigans beneath a gigantic full moon. Their cavorting awakens the water goblin Vodnik (Eric Owens) who, rising from the steaming lake at center stage, attempts to capture one of the randy creatures for himself. Owens, whom we found disappointing in Lyric’s 2010 production of Hercules, has gone on to critical successes as Sarastro in The Magic Flute and as Alberich in Das Rheingold, both at the Metropolitan Opera. Here, he shows those best colors, his rich voice lending gravity and pathos to Vodnik, who also happens to be Rusalka‘s father. When she finally appears, the lovely water nymph stands in stark contrast to the band of woodland ragamuffins. Gliding onto the scene in the palest of blue gowns, soprano Ana María Martinez shows remarkable grace and stunning physical acting skills as she bobs gently up and down in a watery choreography while singing a flawless aria. (In fact, she very rarely sings standing up in this role. It is a tribute to her tremendous vocal talent that she sings beautifully from so many different physical positions, including lying down.)

Rusalka  500 x 72.06

Rusalka has fallen in love with a handsome prince (Brandon Jovanovich) who comes often to swim in the lake. Jovanovich, with his sweet, clear tenor and devastating good looks is perfectly cast as the romantic object of Rusalka‘s very human desires. The nymph decries the fact that because she is made of water, the prince is unaware of her presence and cannot feel her embrace. She begs Vodnik to help her become a human being, not only so she can experience her prince’s love, but so that she will have a human soul that lives on after death. He tells her to seek the counsel of the witch Ježibaba (Jill Grove). As Rusalka conjures the sorceress, Ježibaba is preceded by her familiars: three ravens in tailcoats and top hats who flap and flop their way down from the top of an abandoned concrete tower and onto the stage, looking oddly like the 1940′s cartoon crows Heckle and Jeckle. Ježibaba is all gypsy mystic, layered with flounces, bracelets, and beads and full of warnings of dire consequences. There is a price for Rusalka‘s transformation: she will lose her ability to speak, and if she fails to capture the prince’s heart, they will both lose their mortal souls to eternal damnation.

Rusalka  500 x 72.04

As one might suspect, this tale cannot have a happy ending. Although in the beginning he woos her ardently and spirits her away to his mansion for an expedient wedding, the prince soon tires of Rusalka‘s muteness, which he interprets as reticence. He drifts back toward a former love, a glittering foreign princess (Ekaterina Gubanova) who eventually rejects him. Rusalka collapses in despair at the sight of them together, but not before Martinez deliver the wrenching aria “O marno to je.” No longer the dreamy romantic, Martinez’s Rusalka is torn apart, not a mythical being but not fully human, her heart shattered and spirit broken. As Vodnik appears to curse the prince, Rusalka tries to retreat to her watery home, but finds that she cannot.  She and the prince are inextricably bound for eternity.

Rusalka  500 x 72.08

A cautionary tale on many levels, Rusalka reflects the composer’s strong Catholic perspectives on commitment and spiritual honesty, as well as modern director David McVicar’s unique take on the seedy underpinnings of material success. In addition to the countryside, wasted by industrial excess, the first glimpse we get of the prince’s environment is not the gilded ballroom with its gigantic fireplace and herd of mounted deer heads. It is the filthy underground kitchen; walls covered with greasy soot and blood from the gigantic beef carcasses that dominate the scene from their ceiling hooks.  Here the kitchen boy (cheekily portrayed by mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack in a trouser role) and the gamekeeper (Philip Horst) worry about the strange creature their master is about to marry. Being true to one’s nature, personally and in terms of the environment, are strong underlying themes here.

Rusalka  500 x 72.07

Framing it all is Antonín Dvořák’s beautiful music, magnificently and powerfully delivered by the Lyric Opera Orchestra, with music director Sir Andrew Davis at the helm. Rarely will you hear an opera in which the orchestra is treated to so many stunning star turns, and as always the musicians of Lyric more than meet our highest expectations. Rusalka may be the least known of Lyric Opera’s offerings this season, but it may well be its crowning creative achievement. In the past, opportunities to experience this jewel of the Slavic repertoire have been few and far between. This Rusalka could very well change that for good.

 

4 STARS PLUS

(“Rusalka,” presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago, runs through March 16 at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive. 312-332-2244)

Lyric Opera of Chicago

Rusalka production photos by Todd Rosenberg Photography / Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Barber of Seville  500 x 72103Lyric Opera of Chicago

The Barber of Seville

By Gioachino Rossini

By Lori Dana

Of all the great Italian operas, Rossini’s romantic comedy, The Barber of Seville, is perhaps the most universally loved. The story of a devil-may-care matchmaker and meddler, even the most indifferent among us knows Figaro! Figaro! Figaro!  Lyric Opera’s brilliantly conceived new production employs a heady combination of bold aesthetic, breathtaking musicianship, and deft direction to give this old favorite just the right amount of contemporary flair.
Barber of Seville  500 x 72109
Led by the incomparable Nathan Gunn in the role of Figaro, the cast of stellar singer/actors includes the lovely Isabel Leonard in her Lyric debut as Rosina, along with Alek Shrader (whom Lyric audiences hailed as Tamino in 2012′s The Magic Flute) as Almaviva, and audience favorite Kyle Ketelson as Don Basilio. The plot is simple: Count Almaviva has fallen deeply in love with the beautiful Rosina, and she loves him. The problem is, she has a guardian, the crotchety old Dr. Bartolo (hilariously played by Alessandro Corbelli), who also has romantic plans for her. Enter The Fixer: the dashing barber Figaro, who has a plan to get the young lovers together. This is where the fun really begins!
Barber of Seville vert 500 x 7212
Gunn’s Figaro is overflowing with sexy joie de vivre, and his big baritone is in top form. He and the orchestra conversed with perfect ease, wowing the opening night audience, a packed house in the face of a major January snowstorm.  Under the baton of young Rossini specialist Michele Mariotti, the Lyric Opera Orchestra was more than up to the task, performing with incomparable precision and joyous passion. After an opening scene in which his voice sounded tight, Shrader really opened up in his first scene with Gunn, his vocal style imbuing Almaviva with just the right amount of youthful uncertainty, and giving the audience their first taste of the witty and facile sung dialog that gives this Barber a delightfully sly, tongue-in-cheek quality. Tall and lithe, with a dramatic, waist-length sweep of black hair, Leonard’s sweet demeanor and velvety mezzo create the compelling combination of feigned innocence and sultry temptation that makes Rosina irresistible to the young count.
Barber of Seville vert 500 x 7211
This season, Lyric casts have shown greater depth in the supporting roles, employing more experienced artists and showcasing developing talent in smaller parts. Ketelson plays Don Basilio with a kind of quirky energy, and as the overbearing guardian, Corbelli is alternately fusty and infatuated. Ryan Opera Center member Tracy Cantin makes a strong comic appearance as Berta. Improved casting, a noticeable ramp-up in production values and progressive direction choices make this season the first in which general director Anthony Freud’s world-class vision for Lyric Opera is most evident on the stage. Tony award-winning director-choreographer Rob Ashford, makes his Lyric debut with The Barber of Seville, treating his audience to a fresh interpretation and a most charming aesthetic. Characterized by the evocative use of iron scrollwork framing the stage, set designer Scott Pask informs each scene with detail: a balcony railing, a crowning dome, a background colonnade. The use of a revolving stage combined with silhouetted dancers forms a beautiful carousel that moves the audience from one scene to the next. Brought into sharp focus by the use of brilliantly colored lighting, the sets are the perfect foil for Catherine Zubers’ gorgeous, creamy colored costuming. The entire effect is one of gaiety and charm that sets just the right updated tone for Barber. This production is tip-top, a consistently clever and insightful interpretation, right down to the contemporary language of the supertitles and hilarious choreography that brings the humor full circle via the superb Lyric Opera men’s chorus. By the time we reach the happy conclusion in a flurry of rose petals, Gunn’s Figaro has us all in the palm of his hand, and the harsh weather outside the walls of the Opera House seems very far away indeed. A triumph.

 

4 STARS PLUS

(“The Barber of Seville,” presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago, runs through February 28 at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive. 312-332-2244)

Lyric Opera of Chicago

The Barber of Seville production photos by Dan Rest / Lyric Opera of Chicago.

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