Posted inArts & Culture

Grand Hotel

GRAND HOTEL, Circle Theatre. The music may sweeten and the lyrics trivialize Vicki Baum’s novel and play (source of the classic 1932 film, with Garbo, Joan Crawford, and the Barrymores). Still, the Robert Wright-George Forrest musical adaptation preserves the desperation of Baum’s frightened folk, who define themselves by their escapes. Set in pre-Depression Berlin in […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Lori Belilove

Lori Belilove Behind all the cliches of the modern dancer–faux-classical gossamer garb, real classical music, thrown-back head, childishly lifted arms, skipping and leaping–was a real dancer, Isadora Duncan. And she was a revolutionary. But though the free rhythms and forms she brought to dance might be considered an outgrowth of American freethinking, she was never […]

Posted inNews & Politics

The Straight Dope

I just read your column about Circus Peanuts [December 26]. In all seriousness, I happen to like Circus Peanuts. I really do. I’m not kidding. Just thought you should know that there was someone in the world who actually likes the things. –Brian, via the Internet I wholeheartedly (and proudly) love Circus Peanuts! Can’t keep […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Flirting With Disaster

Goodbye Stranger Steppenwolf Theatre Company By Adam Langer The most tragic thing about Glad–the protagonist of Carrie Luft’s picaresque satire of late-20th-century hipster culture–is that I can’t remember ever meeting anyone quite like him. As he wanders, naive and huggable as a modern-day Candide or slacker Forrest Gump, in a haze of blissful ignorance through […]

Posted inMusic

Anthony Molinaro

ANTHONY MOLINARO Last year, 25-year-old Chicago native Anthony Molinaro became the first pianist in five years to win the prestigious Naumburg competition for young classical musicians–one of whose sweetest rewards is guaranteed concert dates across the country. The cornerstone of Molinaro’s talent, based on tapes I’ve heard and on what his former mentor Ursula Oppens […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Days of the Week

Friday 1/30 – Thursday 2/5 JANUARY By Cara Jepsen 30 FRIDAY Anyone who’s lived in a garden apartment knows firsthand that the earth maintains a constant temperature of 53 de-grees just below its surface. But if you were to heavily insulate the apartment and add a few humans, their bodies would act like miniradiators and […]

Posted inFilm

The Last Angel of History

The Last Angel of History I’ve never seen anything quite like this 1996 video by John Akomfrah, a 45-minute meditation on black consciousness whose dense, almost chaotic weave of images and ideas offers space travel and science fiction as metaphors for the experience of the African diaspora. Interviews with musicians and writers alternate with an […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Morphone Johnny

Morphine Johnny, at Voltaire. Perhaps because stand-up gigs in this city seem tougher and tougher to get, Second City-trained actor Jeff Ahern has taken his 30 minutes of material to Voltaire’s basement. I’m not sure what his show’s title refers to, but if it means Johnny Carson on drugs, it’s a pretty apt description of […]

Posted inMusic

Jerry Gonzalez & the Fort Apache Band

JERRY GONZALEZ & THE FORT APACHE BAND One could easily overlook the accomplishments of trumpeter, percussionist, and bandleader Jerry Gonzalez in Latin jazz’s current bull market, but Gonzalez was capitalizing on commonalities between jazz and various Latin musics long before the category was on every jazz journalist’s lips. As far back as 1980, on Ya […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Anna Lucasta

ANNA LUCASTA, Fleetwood-Jordain Theatre. Like most community-theater productions, Fleetwood-Jordain’s Anna Lucasta requires a high tolerance for amateur-itis: dropped cues, swallowed lines, indiscriminate blocking, interminable scene changes. Phillip Edward VanLear’s staging of Philip Yordan’s classic drama of the gold-hearted prostitute trying to make good–immortalized in the 1958 Eartha Kitt-Sammy Davis Jr. film, as well as in […]

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Handsome Family

HANDSOME FAMILY On their third and latest CD, Through the Trees (Carrot Top), Chicago’s Handsome Family emerge as space cowboys in the best sense: anchored by the sparest of electronic beats, shorn of all but the simplest instrumentation, their homespun ballads seem as arid and limitless as a desert. When drummer Mike Werner left the […]

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Behind the Broken Words

Behind the Broken Words Thank heaven for guys like Roscoe Lee Browne and Anthony Zerbe. Two of America’s finest dramatic actors, they make a comfortable living playing character roles in movies and TV shows–but their love of their craft and pleasure in offbeat projects regularly takes them on the road too, so audiences can savor […]

Posted inMusic

Jeff Newell

JEFF NEWELL Alto saxophonist Jeff Newell is a strong player, but he doesn’t swagger in the manner of Charlie Parker or Phil Woods, and his tone doesn’t pin the listener’s ears back like David Sanborn’s or Arthur Blythe’s. Newell’s power comes from deep under the surface, anchoring his somewhat introspective solos, which ebb and flow […]

Posted inMusic


KLEZMATICS In 1992 clarinetist Don Byron, who performed last week at the MCA, released a tribute to 1950s klezmer parodist Mickey Katz. Byron’s covers were expertly authentic and executed by topflight jazzers, but it was probably the combination of his own hip persona and the humor in Katz’s tunes that helped drum up renewed public […]