Entertainment About Town

May brings flowers of bountiful music and theater

By Joseph Cunniff

Following is a look both forward and back to some of the best Chicagoland music and theater.

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA:  It promised to be one of the most intriguing programs of the year:  Maestro Riccardo Muti was to conduct music from Richard Strauss’s Intermezzo, Britten’s Piano Concerto with Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, and Schumann’s Symphony No.4.  But the maestro came down with a mild case of COVID, and the entire program changed.  Pianist Andsnes brilliantly performed a specialty of his:  conducting from the keyboard, leading and playing Mozart’s Piano Concertos No. 20 and 23 along with his Rondo for Piano in D.  Colombian-American Lina Gonzalez-Granados made her debut as the first Latin female to lead the CSO with a solid Rossini “Overture to the Barber of Seville” and a dramatic and energized Mozart “Overture to Don Giovanni.”

Karina Canellakis is a 41-year-old American conductor of Greek heritage.  Among her other honors, she has been named the first-ever female principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  She will conduct the CSO in a program including Richard Strauss’s “Ein Heldenleben” (“A Hero’s Life”); the Schumann Piano Concerto with soloist Kirill Gerstein; and opening with “Brio” by Augusta Read Thomas, a sparkling study of agility and motion.  May 19 at 7:30 p.m.; May 20 at 1:30 p.m.; May 21 at 8 p.m.; and May 22 at 3 p.m.  Call 312-294-3000.

GOODMAN THEATER:  The prestigious theater on Dearborn St. holds two theaters within its walls, the Albert and the Owen.  Each presented outstanding plays, one deeply serious and the other a comedy-with-drama.  Tyler Abercrumbie’s much-praised Relentless tells a spellbinding tale of an African-American family, spread across several generations.  Ron O.J. Parson directs a fine cast of six.  Goodnight, Oscar, by Doug Wright and directed by Lisa Peterson, proved an uproariously funny evening, with Sean Hayes fabulous as pianist- comedian Oscar Levant and Ben Rappaport as an uncannily true-to-life Jack Paar.  Both plays will continue to resound.

BROADWAY IN CHICAGO’S much-fun musical Six about the wives of Henry VIII is winning critical praise.  Through July 3 at CIBC Theater (formerly the Shubert), 18 W. Monroe.  Visit BroadwayinChicago.com.

STEPPENWOLF THEATER presents Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull,”adapted and directed by ensemble member Yasen Peyankov through June 12 in their new in-the-round Ensemble Theater.  Call  312-335-1650.

CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER presents the Bard’s rarely seen comedy about a determined woman, All’s Well That Ends Well, through May 29.  In preparation, I’m reading the play for the first time in many years (in the Folger paperback edition).  Call 312-595-5600.

WRITERS THEATER presents Athena by Gracie Gardner, described as a “fast-paced, engaging new play” about two sisters pushing each other to be the best.  Through July 10 at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe.  Call 847-242-6000.

COURT THEATER presents August Wilson’s passionate and humorous Two Trains Running May 13–June 12.  Call 773-753-4472.  Visit CourtTheatre.org.

VICTORY GARDENS presented its first live-play in two years, with a remarkable comedy-with-drama about a Jewish family, In Every Generation, written by Ali Viterbi and directed by Devon de Mayo.

THEOUBIQUE:  This was my first visit—the name is Latin for “Theater everywhere.”  It is a small space with regular seats plus a bar and some tables for cabaret-style snacks.  I had long wanted to see the classic 1959 comedy Once Upon a Mattress, music by Mary Rodgers, the daughter of Richard Rodgers.  The music is charming and most-appealing; and the young company, directed by Landree Fleming, can sing, dance and do comedy with style.  Their Godspell runs June10–July 31.  At 721 Howard St, Evanston.  Call 773-939-4101.

Joseph Cunniff is a
Chicago-based arts writer