Entertainment About Town

April brings showers of fine music and theater

By Joseph Cunniff

Following is a look both forward and back to some outstanding Chicago and theater.

ORCHESTRA HALL:  No doubt, Hector Berlioz is one of the most original of all composers:  when Orchestra Hall was built, in 1909, his name was originally planned to join those of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner on the façade of the building.  But it was thought that his music was too wild, and his name was replaced by that of Schubert!

Any time the Chicago Symphony Orchestra plays the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, it is an event; Sir Georg Solti’s thrilling 1972 recording is a famous example.  When the CSO recently played it under conductor Paavo Jarvi, it was hair-raising indeed.  Jarvi began with a brilliant Berlioz “Roman Carnival” overture, and then the young British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor joined the proceeding for Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2, which, while it might have been warmed up a degree or two, still showed him to be among the fine pianists of his generation.

And speaking of pianists, the Symphony Center Piano Series spotlighted young George Li, who began with a superlative Schumann “Arabeske” and “Fantasy in C.”  Then Li dug into Moments from a Beijing Opera by Qigang Chen, who was born in Shanghai and became a French citizen.  This proved a fascinating mixture of East and West.  Li closed with a dazzling exploration of myriad feelings in Chopin’s “Twenty-Four Preludes,” showing him to be an extraordinary talent.

April CSO highlights include Riccardo Muti leading a new concerto for double bass by Jessie Montgomery and Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony April 28, 30 and May 3.  Call 312-294-3000.

LYRIC OPERA presented Puccini’s beloved Tosca with Michelle Bradley making her Lyric debut in the title role and Russell Thomas as her lover Mario:  together they made a formidable couple.  Conductor Eun Sun Kim also debuted and had the orchestra sounding rich and dramatic, yet beautifully detailed and never drowning out the singers.  An able cast including Argentinian baritone Fabian Veloz as Scarpia performed well with Luisa Muller’s direction, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s classic sets, and Duane Schuler’s fabulous final act lighting.  Tosca plays through April 10.  Call 312-827-5600.

BROADWAY IN CHICAGO lights up the classic downtown theaters with the hilarious The Play That Goes Wrong through May 29; The Prom April 19–24; Moulin Rouge! through May 14; Jersey Boys May 3–8; and Six—The Musical through July 3.  Visit broadwayinchicago.com.

CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER presents the story of a determined woman in All’s Well That Ends Well April 22–May 29. Call 312-595-5600.

STEPPENWOLF THEATER presents the enormously entertaining and well-acted King James through April 10.  Written by Rajiv Joseph and directed by Kenny Leon, the comedy stars Glenn Davis and Chris Perfetti.  The subjects include loneliness, friendship, sports, Cleveland and Lebron James.  The lively music of DJ Khloe Janel sand the eye-filling Todd Rosenthal add richly.  Steppenwolf will also present an adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull in their new in-the-round theater April 28–June 12.  Visit Steppenwolf.org.  Call 312-335-1650.

GOODMAN THEATER follows their hits Gem of the Ocean and The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci with Goodnight, Oscar, starring Sean Hayes.  It is 1958, and Jack Paar has a hit late night show.  His guest is pianist, actor and comedian Oscar Levant, and anything can happen!  Written by Doug Wright and directed by Lisa Peterson.  Through April 17.  Visit GoodmanTheater.org.  Call 312-443-3800.

A RED ORCHID THEATER presents Los Hermanos by Exal Iraheta, a story of two fleeing brothers sequestered in a Texas state park.  April 21–June 12 at Red Orchid Theater, 1531 N. Wells.

Joseph Cunniff is a
Chicago-based arts writer.

Visit aredorchidtheatre.org.