AR Gurney's "Love Letters" at the Steel Beam Theatre

Give your valentine a romantic evening to cherish at the Steel Beam Theatre’s special staging of the bittersweet and endearing "Love Letters", with my dear friend Jay Cook  who is gay, as the very proper Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and SBT Founder Donna Steele as the rebellious free spumy friend Melissa Gardner. They met on Valentine’s Day in 2nd grade, and the spark between them began. Separated by the capricious hand of fate, but continued their relationship through written correspondence, they realizing way too late that they were soul mates. 

Tickets include champagne, Fine Chocolates and Hors’ d’Oeuvres. Tickets are at $35. Friday, February 10 at 8 p.m. Saturday, February 11 at 5 p.m.+8 p.m. For tickets call 630.587.8521 or visit www.SteelBeamTheatre.com
La Cage Aux Folles: An Enjoyable Illusion
Wednesday, December 21rd, 2011.

by David Cohen

The 1978 French-Italian film adaptation of the 1973 play La Cage aux Folles by Jean Poiret, won over the hearts of millions all over the world. In the most positive way, the film portrait a tender, touchy of a real relationship of an openly gay couple Renato Baldi, the manager of a Saint-Tropez drag entertainment nightclub, and his lover Albin Mougeotte the star attraction named Zaza. The madness and the complications all begin when Renato’s real son announced his intention to marry his fiancée, and brings her and her ultra-conservative parents to meet his “not so typical family.”

In the film, the chemistry between the gay couple was magical, and so believable making this film to remained the #1 spot for foreign film released in the United States forever. Unlike the film production of La Cage aux Folles, the stage production version by Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein does not have the energy or the impact of the French film that I love so much. Regardless, the show manages to deliver a funny, sad, and insightful perspective of a real long-term gay relationship with all the highs and lows.

George Hamilton in the role of Georges is way too stiff, and doesn’t have what it takes to play this role. He is too old for this part, and he is lacking the charisma that his character needs. His voice is too flat and monotonous. Unfortunately, you need more than just a name to be good in this role. You need to be able to project, have some “Joie de vivre” and to be convincing as Georges. He is a total casting mismatched to Christopher Sieber in the role of his “wife” Albin.

With his extraordinary acting ability and impressive commanding voice range, Sieber is the savior of this production. He is hilarious, and gives Zaza all the jesters a “Drag Queen Diva” should posses. He is the one who brings the show to life, and he is the anchor of every sense. Sieber ignites the stage with his own fire, energized all the other drag queens, and give “La Cage” the essence of what that show should be. After all, there aren’t many actors who could do justice to this role .

For the mainstream audience the costumes, the dancing, the dirty talk, the heavy-duty make up, the high heels and beautiful thin legs that every woman would kill for  is nothing but a joyful mystery. As an openly gay guy who traveled the world extensively I was blessed to see some of the best drag shows in the world. “La Cage” could have been a total winner if the producers would have been more careful by choosing the right actors that would have make you wonder if they are men or women.  After all, a drag show is always fun, even if it doesn’t have the best talent.

The music of “La Cage” will always be inspiring and will always be a draw. The music is simply great and enjoyable.  Overall, “La cage” is a fun show, and it is a good choice for the holiday spirit. At the end, you will leave the show with a smile on your face, and that is not an illusion!

The show will run through January 1, 2012, at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. Tickets at $32-$100. Call 800-775-200 or visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.


Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Premieres Three Pieces at the Harris
Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

by David Cohen

The internationally acclaimed Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (ASFB) returns to the Harris Theater for one night only, Tuesday, May 24 at 7:30 p.m. A leader in the next generation of American contemporary ballet, the company will present a highly anticipated, exhilarating program of three contemporary dances exemplifying its commitment to groundbreaking work by world-renowned choreographers;  Jirí Kylián’s Stamping GroundJorma Elo’s Red Sweet and Nicolo Fonte’s Where We Left Off.

“As we celebrate our 15th anniversary season, it was important for us to stop in Chicago” said Jean-Philippe Malaty the company director. “We were so well received here four years ago, we thrilled to be here again and share our new work with the warm Chicago audience.”

With a distinguished level of maturity and impressive technical ability, ASFB will present three pieces showcased by it’s ten brilliant dancers. The repetoire will include  the company’s signature piece Red Sweet, premiered in 2008 in Santa Fe, and choreograh by Jorma Elo one of the most sought-after choreographers in the United States and Europe. Music by Vivaldi.

A rarely seen piece,  Stamping Ground is the work of one of the world’s foremost living famous master choreographer Jiri KyliánStamping Ground is the third piece commisioned from Kylián to be added to the company’s repertoire. Music by Carlos Chavez.

Where We Left Off, is the 8th piece ASFB commissioned from choreographer Nicolo Fonte. The piece premiered in 2011 in Aspen, CO. with music by Philip Glass.

Tikets are available at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph Dr. Cost: $32-$72 (handling fees extra). For tickets or more information, visit harristheaterchicago.org or call 312.334.7777.

Photos by Rosalie O’Connor. Top L: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancers Billy Cannon, Emily Proctor and Joseph Watson in “Stamping Ground.” Top R: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet dancers Sam Chittenden and Nolan McGahan DeMarco in “Where We Left Off.” Bottom: Billy Cannon, Sam Chittenden, Katherine Bolanos, Katie Dehler Aspen Santa Fe Ballet performs “Red Sweet.”


WHITE NOISE: Is It For Real?
Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Last night, PINK invited some of our readers to see White Noise at Royal George produced by Whoopi Goldberg.
Here are some comments about the show. 

Finally, someone got the guts to convey hate into edgy musical. This production is more than life, it’s a mark in history. With an outstanding cast White Noise is remarkable, even for those who can’t diegest it. It’s a must. It makes us thing, wonder and questioned life. It’s one of the best shows I have ever seen. Bravo!–David

A powerful message full of truths about what hate can breed. Difficult to digest but, a necessary message to our society. Great job to the cast. The performance was spectacular! It’s a must see show! Did PINK send you to the show? Comment on our page tell us what you thought! - Al

Thanks again for the tickets-John and I went today and we enjoyed it.  I am not surprised to hear that is closing early – it is kind of a hard sell of a show to a mainstream audience.  I was actually shocked a couple of times at some of the songs but the shock quickly disappeared.  I actually thought the songs were pretty good and I was surprised to see who was in it-the girl Eva used to be on  Bold and the Beautiful and the sister Eve I met in NYC when she was in Rock of Ages-I have a picture with her on my facebook page.  Overall I thought it was enjoyable-thanks for the tickets!! –David Roberts

WHITE NOISE: “Live Broadcast” Concert From The Theatrical Stage in Celebration Of  Final Week In Chicago Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Monday, May 9th, 2011 

White Noise, the provocative and powerhouse new musical produced by Whoopi Goldberg playing at The Royal George, announces a first time event from the theatrical stage—-a live broadcast concert on Wednesday, May 11 at 3:00pm(CST) featuring cast commentary and six musical numbers from the show, including the show-stopping “Mondays Suck,” “Hip Hop Country,” pop/hip hop tuners “Welcome to Eden,” “Life, Liberty & Happiness,” and “W.T.F.”, and the newly added romantic ballad “Fireworks.” Theatre-lovers and music-aficionados can screen the event at www.whitenoisemusical.com/live. This live event is provided in conjunction with Ustream, the world’s largest live streaming broadcaster that receives over 60 million unique visitors/month.

This trailblazing concert celebrates the final performances of White Noise, which, in preparation for its next stage of development will play its final performance in Chicago on Sunday, May 15, 2011.  Says Director/Choreographer Sergio Trujillo, “Our time in  Chicago  has been remarkable. White Noise is the type of show that redefines our ideas of what musical theatre is, and what it can do. We look forward to our next steps and we thank our Chicago audiences for the role they have have played in the development of White Noise.”

White Noise pulls back the curtain at a major record label where a top-selling producer stirs up an explosive cocktail of shock and spin with a splash of controversy to package talented artists into blockbuster stars. Steadily baited by the lure of mainstream fame and power, two diametrically opposed groups—“White Noise,” an irresistible pop band that churns out catchy tunes of coded rhetoric and “Bloodbrothas,” the hip-hop-turned-gangsta rap duo—meet at the top of the charts and collide with consequenceInspired by real life, White Noise is a timely and cautionary tale that challenges conventional notions of free speech, media and the power of pop culture.

White Noise features a book by Matte O’Brien and music and lyrics by Robert Morris, Steven Morris and Joe Shane. White Noise,was originally conceived by Ryan J. Davis, has a story and characters by Joe Drymala.  The production features musical direction by Jesse Vargas, set design by Robert Brill, costumes by Paul Tazewell, lights by Jason Lyons, sound by Garth Helm,and multi-media design by Raj Kapoor.

The Final performance schedule is** Live Stream Concert, www.whitenoisemusical.com/live ** Wednesday 5/11 at 3:00pm • Wednesday 5/11 at 7:30pm, Thursday 5/12 at 7:30pm, Friday 5/13 at 8:00pm • Saturday 5/14, at 5:00pm and 8:00pm • Sunday 5/15 at 2:00pm and 5:00pm

Tickets available at the Royal George,  1641 N. Halsted Street, or by phone (312) 988-9000, or online at www.whitenoisemusical.com.   Student Rush tickets are available at the Royal George box office for $20. Must be purchased in-person with a student I.D.


photos: from L to R: Domingo as Otello, Ricardo Muti. and at the Metropolitan Opera NYC.
From Chicago to New York: Riccardo Muti to Lead Verdi’s Otello 
Friday, April 1st, 2011

Riccardo Muti returns to Chicago April 7, 9, and 12, to lead Verdi’s penultimate operatic masterpiece Otello, in a concert version with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Joining Muti and the CSO are the Chicago Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Duain Wolfe, and the Chicago Children’s Choir, under the direction of Josephine Lee.

Making their CSO debuts in the roles of Otello, Desdemona, Iago, and Emilia, are tenor Aleksandrs Antonenkosoprano Krassimira Stoyanovabaritone Nicola Alaimo, and mezzo-soprano Barbara Di Castri. Also making CSO debuts are tenorJuan Francisco Gatell as Cassio, tenor Michael Spyres as Roderigo, and bass Paolo Battaglia as Montano. Bass Eric Owens sings the role of Lodovico.

Based on Shakespeare’s tragic play, Othello, this opera is one of Verdi’s last and was nearly never written, since the composer had gone into retirement following the success of Aida. But librettist Arrigo Boito and Verdi’s publisher convinced the composer to write the opera, and Otello received its premiere at La Scala in Milan in 1887. Riccardo Muti is widely known as one of today’s foremost interpreters of Verdi’s work, and has led numerous performances from the great composer’s catalogue in some of the world’s most important venues, including La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera, the Salzburg Festival, and others.

Following the performances at Symphony Center, the CSO travels to New York’s famed Carnegie Hall for three performances with Maestro Muti—the Orchestra’s first concerts outside of Chicago with him since becoming music director. Both the Chicago Symphony Chorus and Chicago Children’s Choir join Muti and the CSO onFridayApril 15 at 8 p.m. for its only New York performance of Otello.

In addition to Otello, Muti also leads an additional program on FridayApril 8, at 1:30 p.m., of Cherubini’s Overture in G Major, a work by another of Maestro Muti’s favorite Italian composers. Liszt’s Les préludes follows, and the program concludes with Shostakovich’s mighty Fifth Symphony.

On SaturdayApril 16 at 7:30 p.m., Muti and the Orchestra perform the all-Berlioz program that opened the 2010/11 season in Chicago: Symphonie fantastique and its lesser-known sequel, Lélio, with Gérard Depardieu as narrator. The final Carnegie Hall date—Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m.—repeats the program of Cherubini’s Overture in G Major, Liszt’s Les préludes, and Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony.

Over the course of his extraordinary career, Riccardo Muti has conducted the most prominent orchestras in the world, from the Berlin Philharmonic to the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic to the Orchestre National de France. Maestro Muti made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in July 1973. His appointment as the CSO’s tenth music director was announced in May 2008, and in September 2010, he assumed the post for a five-year contract. Maestro Muti and the CSO’s first recording together—Verdi’s Messa da Requiem—on the CSO Resound label was awarded two Grammy awards, marking Muti’s first such honor. In March 2011, Riccardo Muti was selected as the second-ever winner of the Birgit Nilsson Prize, awarded by the Birgit Nilsson Foundation every two or three years to a singer or conductor who has had a significant impact in the classical field.

For more information  and to purchase tickets visit www.cso.org

Source: press release by CSO.

Posted on November 22, 2010
by David Cohen

With an amazing all American team this production of A Masked Ball at the Chicago Lyric Opera is a winner.  The set design and costumes are traditionally dressed the way intended by its composer Giuseppe Verdi, A Masked Ball is an opera-goer dream come true!

With a powerful voice, tenor Frank Lopardo sings the role of Gustavo the King, who is in love with his best friend’s wife Amelia. American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky stunningly singing the role of Amelia is the audience’s delight. She remarkably captivates the audience with her pain, agony and her passionate love to the king.

Desperately trying to end her love and feelings to the king, Amelia turns to a sorceress-fortune teller Ulrica for help — but too late!  In her Lyric debut Stephanie Blythe as Ulrica is outstanding. She is for sure someone we need to watch in the future.  She is simply a perfect match for this roll.

Korean-American soprano Kathleen Kim is delightful choice for the roll of Oscar.  Her stature and playful presence as the court page is fresh and dynamic and only add to her angelic voice.

In preparation for the ball–what a perfect set of glitz and glamour for the holiday season, the secret gets out. Every body knows about the love triangle.  Baritone Mark Delvan as the devastated husband Renato, takes his revenge at the Ball­!

While listening to the ‘teco io sto’ duet ‘ma se m’e forza perferti’ aria sang by Lopardo and ‘eri tu’ sang by Delvan, I have realized that I‘m witnessing one of the most remarkable moments in opera history.

Directed by Renata Scotto, who previously sang the role of Amelia side Pavaroty in the 80′s, is the eyes and the hart behind the seances. With her skills and experience, she delivers one of the best productions I have ever seen at the Lyric, and  transfer every element in this production into a brilliant masterpiece. BRAVO! There are only three words left for me to say, GO SEE IT! For more information visit www.lyricopera.org.

by David Cohen

Carmen, playing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, tells the story of the seductive gypsy and her two lovers, Don Jose and a matador.

What could make a man cheat on his fiancée, drive his mother to tears, and ditch a good job? One woman -- Carmen! She’s the sex-bomb, gypsy seductress who loves them and leaves them — tossing egos and hearts in the dust.

Iowa-born mezzo-soprano, Katharine Goeldner who plays the role of Carmen, replaced Kate Aldrich who had to withdraw from what was to be her debut due to side effects of pregnancy.

There is no question in my mind that Ms. Goeldner has a good voice and stage presence, but unfortunately as Carmen, you have to be dramatically and vocally convincing as the gypsy temptress something Goeldner is not. Being seductive, passionate, young and beautiful, is what Carmen is all about. That’s what the audience expect to see on stage–femme fatal.

South Korean tenor Lee Younghoon who plays the role of Don José is the nicest surprise of this production. Lee, who is making his Lyric debut in these performances, is truly believable as the murderous stalker in the final act. His good looks and powerful voice just made Carmen less convincing. There’s something terribly wrong when it is Don José and not Carmen, steals the show. His great voice range rises to any occasion, beautifully noticed when he sings his flower song in act two. He also proves that he can sing and act.

With a powerful soprano, Cuban-American Elaine Alvarez, who plays Micaëla, was a delight to the ears. I also enjoyed Kyle Ketelsen who plays the matador Escamillo. This Iowa native baritone has a great voice and sexy stage presence. Watch his upcoming career.

All the supportive roles from soprano Jennifer Jakob, mezzo Emily Fons, baritone Paul Scholten and tenor René Barbera, they are all very impressive in their parts.

But it’s the music that takes center stage. Without a doubt, it’s the music that make us come back again and again, to watch the most loved opera ever written.

For more information about shows in October 2010 or March 2011, visit www.lyricopera.org.
by David Cohen

Today, as we celebrate 20 years of Artistic Director Judith Jamison’s remarkable vision and the artistry of 30 extraordinary dancers, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, America’s Cultural Ambassador to the World, continues to celebrate the African American cultural experience and to preserve and enrich the American modern dance tradition. Regarded as one of the world’s premier modern dance companies, The New York Times declares that “Ailey’s phenomenal popularity is unmatched by any other company.”
    “Dancing Spirit,” a new work by choreographer Ronald K. Brown, pays tribute to Judith Jamison’s profound influence to the world of dance. Set to music by Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis and War Brown’s evocative choreography utilizes movement from Cuba, Brazil and the United States to conjure dancing spirits who embody Jamison’s elegance, vision, dignity and generosity.
    The “Best Of 20 Years” program features highlights from popular ballets Judith Jamison has brought to or revived in the Ailey repertory, representing a wide range of styles and voices that have contributed to the Ailey canon. The program includes selections from Talley Beatty’s “The Stack-Up” (1982); Ronald K. Brown’s “Grace” (1999); Lar Lubovitch’s “North Star” (1987); Alonzo King’s “Following the Subtle Current Upstream” (2000), Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s “Shelter” (1992); Ulysses Dove’s “Bad Blood” (1984); Donald McKayle’s “Rainbow Round My Shoulder” (1959); Garth Fagan’s “Jukebox for Alvin” (1993); Redha’s “Lettres d’Amour” (1998); Hans van Manen’s “Polish Pieces” (1996); Billy Wilson’s “The Winter in Lisbon” (1992) and Donald Byrd’s “Dance at the Gym” (1991).
    “Love Stories,” is Judith Jamison‘s dynamic collaboration with hip-hop pioneer Rennie Harris and modern dance maverick Robert Battle. The piece was inspired by the Akan word “Sankofa,” which means “go back” (Sanko) and “take” (fa).
    In “Among Us (Private Spaces: Public Places),” characters from all walks of life come together in Judith Jamison’s new collection of vignettes examining the joys and complications of human relationships. Original jazz compositions by musical iconoclast Eric Lewis and costumes by award-winning designer Paul Tazewell were inspired by a series of Jamison’s own drawings that depict these characters’ ordinary and sometimes extraordinary lives.
    The finale of each program is “Revelations,” Alvin Ailey’s most significant cultural masterpiece. Ailey’s inspiration for creating “Revelations” came from a variety of sources: memories of attending Baptist services in Texas as a child, interest in Brueghal’s paintings, Oriental Theater and his acquaintances with James Baldwin and Langston Hughes. Using African American traditional spirituals, this suite fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. Since its premiere in 1960, more people around the world have seen this modern dance classic than any other work.

Wednesday, March 24 through Sunday, March 28, 2010. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater tickets are now on sale, and range in price from $30 – $85. For tickets, visit the Auditorium TheatER Box Office at 50 E. Congress Parkway; call Ticketmaster at (800) 982-ARTS (2787); or log on to ticketmaster.com/auditorium.