BCS Spotlight

Kendall Royzen

Kendall Royzen

This past week I found myself in a movie theater with reclining seats, an overpriced large popcorn, and a two liter cup of soda all to myself. The movie was awful, but the audience more than made up for the bad comedy. With contagious laughter and witty one-liners, the audience of closet suburban comedians turned the otherwise flat movie into a Second City stage. Sometimes the audience is more entertaining than the scheduled entertainment; that was definitely the case as I ventured out with my 3-year-old-daughter to see SLEEPING BEAUTY at The Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences.

SLEEPING BEAUTY is Marc Robin's musical adaptation of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale with some variations. In a kingdom far away, the vengeful sorceress Magenta has placed a wicked curse on the beautiful Princess Amber and only a true love's kiss can unlock the spell and wake her before it is too late. Prince Hunter must battle dragons, scale mountains, and sail the dark sea to save Princess Amber. Will his journey allow him to make it in time to prove his love to his Sleeping Beauty? This captivating fairy tale creates excitement and thrill for its audience as they root for Prince Hunter and the fate of the beautiful princess!

The play was performed with the over-the-top, flamboyant, campy type of performances that can only be found in children’s theaters. Bouncing excitedly in their seats toddlers watched with wide eyes, captivated by the colorful characters and silly antics of the cast. When the cast called on the audience to help Prince Hunter, played by Garrett Lutz, or to reassure Magenta, played by Meghan Murphy, the children responded faster than they answer their parents with a sense of urgency and enthusiasm only seen before bed times. Girls and boys dressed in princess dresses, waving at fairies and hiding in fear from the dragon. They sat on their feet and stood on their seats, craning their little necks to get better looks at their favorite characters on the stage. Rare moments of silence were punctuated with adorable high-pitched “whispers” of reassurance that princess Amber was “just sleeping;” big sisters calming worried younger siblings. With such pure happiness emanating from the seats around us, it was easy to overlook the many issues with the fairy tale narrative (like how a sixteen year old girl gets married after a single kiss or that a princess who is given courage and strength from her fairies is still not smart enough to stay away from a spinning wheel). But fairy tales often impart simple wisdom to impressionable audiences, and as they get swept up in the magic and majesty of the performance it is easy to look past our adult cynicism and just enjoy the show with childlike wonder.

SLEEPING BEAUTY runs on most Wednesdays through Sundays at 10 a.m. with certain performances at 12:30 p.m. Visit MarriottTheatre.com or call 847.634.0200 for exact schedule, as show times and dates may vary. Single ticket prices are $17.23 per person. Groups of 20 or more receive a discount by calling 847.634.5909. Free parking is available at all shows. To reserve tickets, call the Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or visit www.MarriottTheatre.com<http://www.MarriottTheatre.com>.

The first time I went to the opera was in elementary school to see La Triviata. It was a school sponsored field trip that took kids to Los Angeles to see the opera, the symphony, museums, and the ballet, exposing them to the arts at an early age. Though I had no idea what was being said, or what I was really watching, I loved it, and not just because I wasn’t in class on a school day. The orchestra, the singers, the theater itself, it was all so grand for a child. Though I didn’t have the same reaction to the Lyric Opera on Friday, it was nonetheless that childhood experience that helped to shape my appreciation and love for the opera.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its 2017 season with Orphée et Eurydice. The plot centers on Orphée (Dmitry Korchak), whose singing was so beautiful that it could charm the fierce guardians of the Underworld. Encouraged by the god of love, Amour (Lauren Snouffer), Orphée travels to Hades to bring his dead wife, Eurydice (Andriana Chuchman), back to earth. This opera was a powerhouse of talent with 60 members of the Lyric Opera Chorus, 47 members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra, and 43 dancers of The Joffrey Ballet all working to put on this production; not to mention the ushers, the ticket agents, the janitors, and more, just to stage this opera with a run time of a little more than 2 hours.

There wasn’t much to this opera lyric-wise. There are many repetitious lines to accompany the score, but very little substance despite being such an enthralling mythological story line. What made this opera worth seeing was the Joffrey Ballet. Their performance was one of the best I have seen from the company. They added movement and beauty to the opera, bringing visual clarity to the mythical worlds of Hades and Elysium. Overall, it was a spectacular engagement of the fine arts. A performance that should be enjoyed by the masses.

Unfortunately, the opera is inherently old and doesn’t attract the masses. It’s target audience is old. The theater it performs in is old. The Lyric Opera is currently fundraising in order to renovate its theater, but it hasn’t had much luck. Tickets prices are exorbitant and the people who can afford to go are old. Like any passing of the guard, the opera needs to focus on reaching out to the next generation of opera-lovers, otherwise their primary patrons will be gone within the next decade or so with few people left to appreciate, or afford, the opera. And that’s why exposure at a young age is so vital. You’ll be hard pressed to find many millennials who say “I love the opera” or even “I’m going to the opera!” Just in my immediate circle of friends and co-workers, very few people had even seen the opera. What the Lyrics Opera should do is work with local school districts; bus kids in from all area of the city and the surrounding area to see performances throughout their season. They should offer discount nights in order to attract new audiences, or play the show live in the park for discounted tickets or free; anything to increase opera’s fan base and expose the art to different audiences the most important of those being youths. I was lucky as a child to have had the opportunity to see the opera, and I’ve been lucky to have gotten to see shows as an adult. I only hope the Lyric Opera of Chicago does community outreach like this, or increases its outreach or I fear, like Eurydice, it will die, only there might not be an Orphée around to save it.

Remaining performance dates for Orphée et Eurydice are Oct. 12th and 15th at 2pm. For tickets and information call (312) 827-5600 or go to lyricopera.org/orphee.

On a recent Throwback Thursday, a suggested playlist popped up on Spotify that caught my attention, “Oldies but Goodies.” I started the playlist enthusiastically, not having the ability to pre-screen the mix. The first song to play was Sisqo's "Thong Song." At that moment, I wasn't quite sure what offended me more, that a song from my middle school days was considered an oldie by some younger-than-me-millennial, or that Sisqo would be in a category of "Oldies but Goodies." An oldie evokes ideas of classics, songs that withstand the test of time and musical fads. Songs, bands, singers, and songwriters that make "Greatest Songs of All Time" lists by the most reputable industry minds. "Oldies but Goodies" are timeless, and the best example of this happened only one short week ago at Ravinia with The Temptations and The Beach Boys.

No better groups epitomize Golden Oldies than The Temptations and The Beach Boys. Together they represent an incredible era of music from the 50, the 60s, and 70s from the pop-like rhythm and blues of Motown to the surf sound with electric guitars and vocal harmonies. Both musical styles were on full display Sunday night at Ravinia.

The Temptations performed with the gusto of men half their age. Their glee was palpable as they breezed through their dancing arrangements in perfect unison to their major hits like "Ain't to proud to beg," "Papa was a rolling stone" and their anthem "My Girl." Accompanied by a big band and master of ceremony, the group moved seamlessly from song to song not breaking for more than a breath or a drink of water. For 45 minutes straight the five men put on a show that is simply unseen in today's music. They were charismatic and engaging, their vocals and showmanship from another era. Unfortunately, their performance was lost on the audience in the pavilion seats. With tickets running as high $150/seat you'd expect those spending the money to see the group up close would be eager to see them, sing with them, dance with them. On the contrary, the pavilion guests appeared by bored, almost inconvenienced when they were asked to get up and sing and dance along. It seemed like they were there more for nostalgia; not present as fans of the music or the musical legends, but in remembrance of a bygone era and in mourning for youth. The seats were lost on those that tried to buy their time back.

The Beach Boys' set, in contrast to the rhythm of Motown, played with the same ease of an ocean at sunset, each song getting its play and lazily meeting the next. "Good Vibrations" had plenty of time to crash across the lawn seats before the group started "Sloop John B" or "God Only Knows." I rode the sound waves out to the lawn to meet up with friends and stretch my legs from the pavilion seats. Perhaps it was the extra space and freedom of the lawn seats, or perhaps just The Beach Boys themselves, but people were up, dancing and belting out every word. Beach balls by the dozens were hit from fan group to fan group, smiling and laughing even when some were smacked into heads, or in my case, my wine. The evening really captured the surf sound, listening to wavy-like music against a setting summer sun with a cold drink and good friends. This vibe still couldn't penetrate the pavilion seats, and having left my seat I couldn't return until there was a designated break in the music set. Though the group took at least 4-5 minutes to get from song to song there wasn't enough time to get people to their seat. But watching the audience I was reminded of The Beach Boys' earliest days, performing in matching short-sleeved button up shirts, slouchy with their hands in their pockets. Most guests sat the same way, slouchy, hands in their pockets and grimaces on their face. I spent the rest of the show on the lawn hitting beach balls, drinking wine, and crooning along to "Kokomo."

You can classify Sisqo as an oldie to appeal to older millennials and get clicks on trendy music apps, but true oldies (songs and bands) live across generations, draw thousands of fans to a suburban music venue, and can be enjoyed by kids young and old. Those are the only songs that can be considered Oldies But Goodies, even if the goodies can't be enjoyed by the people who are now "oldies." Ravinia has shows that extend through September, see what they have to offer at www.ravinia.org.



Friday, 26 May 2017 03:55

Review: Strawdog's "The Night Season"

A small theatre resides on the most unlikely of streets in Chicago. Just steps from the Howard Red Line stop sits the Factory theatre, with only fifty seats in its small storefront property, this little powerhouse has produced original work for nearly 25 years. Adding to its catalog of work is The Night Season by Rebecca Lenkiewwicz and currently performed by the cast of the Strawdog Theatre Company.

When the tiny, seaside hometown of W.B. Yeats gets occupied by an English film crew making his biopic, the Kennedy's figure giving lodging to the lead actor will put a few extra coins in their pockets. They do get plenty of change, and not just Euros, as the family's three sisters and their delusional grandmother all decide it's time to stop letting life pass them by. The mother who ran away, the father who can barely leave the house, a big pile of pent-up desire, it all gets confronted in this skewed romantic comedy.

At times, The Night Season relies too heavily on stereotypes; the drunk Irish father, the senile old grandmother, the romance between a sister and the visiting actor. But one can overlook these unoriginal plot points for witty one liners expertly delivered by the superb cast of Strawdog. Two performers in particular carried the show and commanded attention whenever they were on stage, particularly together. The grandmother, Lily, played by Janice O’Neill, and the middle daughter Rose, played by Michaela Petro. These two characters epitomized the central theme of the play, that they cannot let life pass them by. Both literally and figuratively embrace the English actor played by John Eastman and it becomes clear that Lily and Rose are mirror images of one another, separated by generations but seeing themselves in each other. Both share the same blunt, crass, forceful passion for life and love, and it is through the actor that they discover their similarities and deep understandings of what each woman wants and needs in their lives. Were the play to focus solely on these two characters it would have made for an even better theatre experience.

Overall, The Night Season is funny, honest, and holds its own amidst the incredible theatre in Chicago. The cast of Strawdog Theatre Company is well worth the CTA ride to Roger’s Park to see their plays at Factory Theater. Before Spring leads to Summer, see The Night Season this season. The Night Season runs through June 24th at Factory Theater. Tickets and more can be found at www.thefactorytheater.com.

 

 

In 2003, a little show called One Tree Hill hit the WB and its theme some “I Don't Want to Be” was quickly burned onto mix CDs by denim mini skirt, tie-belt, fedora wearing teen in the country. That theme song was sung by Gavin Degraw who stirred up a bit of early 2000 nostalgia as he performed at Ravinia with The Fray on June 25th.

 

Ravinia was packed to the brim to see the piano playing artists. Every seat in the Pavilion was taken, with swarms of people crowding over the railing to try and catch a view of the stage. I wouldn't have thought the headliners would have drawn such a large crowd with lawn seats running at $40 apiece and the heat climbing to just over 90 degrees at sunset. But with every grassy nook taken by late twenty, early thirty-somethings casually sipping drinks while they weren’t legally allowed to drink when the artists first debuted, I found myself pleasantly surprised. 

 

Gavin Degraw opened the evening, playing some of my own favorites from his many albums including “Chariot,” “I’m in Love with a Girl,” “Not Over You,” and his most notable “I Don't Want to Be.” His set played for nearly an hour and a half and he could have played until the gates closed without argument from the audience. The Fray didn't play as long. In fact, their set had more covers than originals. “How to Save a Life,” the band’s second single and the song that propelled them to worldwide fame in 2005, was the only song that seemed to resonate with the crowd. The only other song that the audience seemed to know of theirs was “Over My Head,” and without many other top 40 Billboard topping songs to note, The Fray paled in comparison to Degraw’s soulful set. But the pairing between the singer-songwriter and American rock band went together like red wine and cheese. Both of the artist’s songs were tailor-made for dramatic TV moments. The next time the duo come to Ravinia their sets should be accompanied by a large movie screen with TV clips from early 2000 shows. Think The Fray providing theme music to dramatic scenes on Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy, Gavin Degraw playing over sappy moments on One Tree Hill, The OC, Gilmore Girls. It would probably draw double the audience and it would certainly double the Y2K nostalgia.

 

Ravinia is just getting their summer season going and has an incredible line-up with shows through September that span dozens of interests, musical eras, and genres. Visit www.ravinia.org for schedule and tickets.

 

There is an expectation when one sees a play that they will be taken on a journey. Audiences want to get lost in a story line, lose all sense of time enjoy the escapism. When an audience is reminded that they are watching a play, however, and that play goes on seemingly for ages, it ceases to become escapism and becomes a classroom lecture. “Arcadia” is just such a play. Written by Tom Stoppard, it is not an easy play to describe in brief. It confusedly intertwines the past and present with multiple story lines following intellectual theories that verge on the point of being arrogant and difficult to grasp in a play like setting.

 

The play bounces between the early 1800's and the present day in a stately manor in England. At the core of play, the present day is trying to uncover what took place at the manor in the 1800's. In the past, a gifted 13-year-old girl, Thomasina, delves into deep theoretical analysis of higher mathematics and physics, jotting down her theories and equations, unknowingly for the future to see. Paralleling that story line is her tutor, Septimus, who cheats with the wife of a visiting poet while pinning for the master of the manor’s wife, and who was somehow-possibly-connected to the famous Romantic poet, Byron. Flash forward to the present day where an academic hopes to uncover if the tutor, Septimus, might have had some involvement with the death of that visiting poet, and that his possible connection to Byron might mean that Byron was involved in this death as well. But wait! There’s more! Paralleling that story line in the present day, one of the family members of the estate combs through old hunting logs and notes to see that the young girl, Thomasina might have been a genius on the brink of an intellectual breakthrough, and seeks to dive deeply into her notes to potentially uncover her genius and the work during her young and short life.

 

Underneath all of these story lines is the running theme of “Arcadia,” named for a pair of 17th century paintings that picture shepherds around a tomb with the words “Et in Arcadia ego” on it. The incorrect Latin phrase translates to “Here I am in Arcadia” but it’s more accurate translation is “Even in Arcadia, here I am” the “I” being death. Stoppard is quoted by his biographer as saying he “wanted the presence of death in the title.” Spoiler alert, death does happen and is one of the core subplots, a sort of “who-done-it,” but it is just another element to this complicated play. Another reach for the “intellectual stimulation.”

 

Cliff notes would have a tough time summarizing this play. The play has witty, smart, and biting dialogue, well delivered by an articulate and charismatic cast. But look away, or miss a line and you might miss an introduction to a key character, or their relation to the other characters, or their purpose of being in the play at all. If not for the clothing change and syntax you might get lost in which time period you are in. The audience is obligated to follow along with every line and process all the information rapidly in order to keep pace with this play. With a run time of 2 hour 55 minute and only a brief 15 minute intermission that is a tall order for an audience, and even tougher story to convey for the actors. But the new multi-million dollar Writer’s Theater wants just that, for the audience and actors to meet as one, to journey together and become fully immersed with the story. The immaculate theater is nestled in the cozy tree lined streets of downtown Glencoe, and will be a wonderful location for future high-quality theatrical productions on the North Shore.

 

Overall, “Arcadia” would be better as a novel, where a reader can pause to examine the characters, read internal monologues and gain an understanding of the characters’ motivations and thoughts. It would be easier to follow the time changes and carefully consider the many complex theories being presented and explored. I think the length of such a book would rival a Tolstoy novel, though nothing would be lost to the wings. A play that requires such rapt and intense concentration from an audience for such a long duration makes it unapproachable to someone looking to get lost in a story. Watching “Arcadia” audiences do get lost, but for all the wrong reasons. “Arcadia” runs through May 1st. Tickets are available at http://www.writerstheatre.org.

 

Truth should be at the heart of every good drama piece. Truth, honesty, a bit of realism, something that makes the audience connect with the story, or the characters. Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons playing at Northlight Theatre in Skokie attempts to reach a truthful depth, but leaves audiences shrugging with indifference wondering what exactly to take away from the play.

 

Nearly twenty years after her son’s AIDS related death, Katharine (Cindy Gold) pays an unexpected visit to the New York apartment of his former partner, Cal (Jeff Parker), who is now married to another man and has a young child. Over the course of the play Katharine and Cal exchange stories, sass, and sarcasm as they awkwardly interact and attempt to reconcile. Katharine remains judgmental and curt throughout her visit to the apartment, portraying the stereotypical conservative, old fashioned, bitter woman well. Cal, on the other hand, attempts to be gracious and overtly friendly in the face of this judgmental woman. Things heat up when we meet Cal’s partner Will (Benjamin Sprunger) and their son Bud (Ben Miller). Katharine’s disdain for the household and the situation is apparent but predictable as are the interactions with the two men. The remainder of the play is both forced and at time self-righteous and does nothing to move the needle on the many themes it attempts to tackle.

 

At the heart of the play is a conservative, judgmental woman “challenged’ to accept that her son was gay and that a same-sex couple is raising a child. This theme might have been provocative ten years earlier, but now is played out. Mothers and Sons also touches on homosexuality, AIDS, same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, loss of a child, loss of a husband, and tries its best to address all of them within the 90 minute run time. There are so many themes that we forget that the son was the driving force that brought this woman to this apartment. He is used more as a prop, much like the journal that was hardly mentioned - though we come to find was the reason for Katharine’s visit. What’s more is the themes and how the play chooses to address them are not profound or thought provoking. Nothing is said that the audience doesn’t already know, or even what the characters don’t already know, which borders on the preachy versus clever. And these themes don’t do anything to change the characters or bring them closer together. At one point, Will’s character is so offended that he asks Katharine to leave, though she stays, shares a self-indulgent “woe-is-me” story that highlights her selfishness more, and suddenly Cal is embracing her as if he understands her after all these years. This sentiment is entirely lost on the audience. Will, the character who was ready to throw the woman out, is suddenly calm, cool, and collected. The young boy offers cookies and milk to everyone, refers to this strange woman as grandma and they all sit around and all but sing Kumbaya. And that is where the play ends. 

 

Isn’t that truth? That in a matter of a single awkward visit, a selfish, self-loathing, gay-hating conservative becomes accepting of gay marriage, same-sex parenting, and her son’s death? And that her son’s former partner who felt the cold sting and shun of this woman would be so moved as to invite her into his home and his family? It isn’t truth. It’s trite and contrived. Call me a cynic, a millennial, jaded, what have you. The truth might be that people like Katharine still exist in the world, but would someone really be swayed in such a short amount of time? Was it out of sheer loneliness on her part and pity on his end that these two characters accepted one another and will move forward? Mothers and Sons did not offer us this depth, so it’s hardly worthy of such deep analysis.

 

Truthfully, there isn’t much one could take away from Mothers and Sons. You could reach and say it was a profound dialogue about how the definition of family continually changes and evolves. You could speculate that people in mourning can come together to find comfort and support in one another. But Mothers and Sons does nothing to challenge the audience or the characters, or create a worthwhile dialogue in today’s world.

 

Directed by Steve Scott, Mothers and Sons runs through February 27th. Tickets are available at http://www.northlight.org/.

 

Santana’s Corazón Tour blew through Chicago as quickly as a summer storm. But for two all-too-brief nights, Santana lit up the Pavilion stage at Ravinia to a sold out crowd of dancing, drinking, smoking, nostalgic concert-goers.

 

For many in the audience, Ravinia was the perfect venue, paying homage to their first time seeing Santana play Woodstock in 1969. Baby boomers swayed and rhumbaed in any space they could find amidst the sold out crowd, unashamed to don twinkling cowboy hats, smoke a joint, and down a glass of cheap merlot. They sang every lyric, grabbed any passerby to salsa with, and threw peace signs to the friendly Ravinia security guards. On the other end of the audience spectrum were young millennials who were introduced to Santana during his resurgence to popularity in the late 1990s, most likely with Santana’s 1999 album Supernatural that included such #TBT favorites as Smooth: https://youtu.be/6Whgn_iE5uc and one of my personal favorite songs, Maria Maria: https://youtu.be/nPLV7lGbmT4. There was not a single person seated in the Pavilion or on the lawn when Maria Maria played. People of every age, race, and gender danced together to the sounds of the guitar, played by the living legend, Carlos Santana.

 

In the unlikely event you have lived under a rock for the past few decades, Santana first became famous in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band, Santana. The Mexican-American musician pioneered the unique blend of rock and Latin American music that continues to rocks heads, and hips, to this day. He has won 3 Latin Grammy Awards and 10 Grammy Awards, eight alone at the 42nd annual Grammys in 2000. In 2003 Rolling Stone magazine listed Santana as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time, keeping company with other greats such as Keith Richards, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix. Santana’s latest album, Corazón, proves that he can still throw down with the best of them in the biz and was born to play the guitar. Ravinia audiences were also treated to a special family event when Santana’s son, Salvador Santana, took the stage to play a brief set, proving that talent and dedication to craft runs in the family.

 

 

Ravinia and Santana to together like salt and margaritas. The cool summer night perfectly complimented the cool blend of guitar, timbales and congas. The next time Santana blows through Chicago don’t miss your chance to see him live, and be sure to give the man your heart, make it real or else forget about it.

Martinis are best served chilled. Perhaps that is why the Chicago weather decided to turn on the chill for the July 1st arrival of Pink Martini to Ravinia. As the sun set and the temperature dropped, the musical group from Oregon heated up the stage with their signature worldly sound.

Pink Martini is a ten-piece globe-trotting ensemble from Portland, Oregon that plays a kind of world cocktail music, often accompanying full symphony orchestras, playing latin, jazz, and classical pop. It’s the kind of music you’d hear in a 1950’s style bar or a French or Spanish café. Ravinia provided the perfect background for the musical group though the cold summer night brought out a small, but enthusiastic, crowd. Guests on the lawn danced, sang, and toasted to the group as lead vocalist China Forbes belted out some of their most well-known hits including “Sympathique,” “Amado Mio,” “Donde Estas Yolanda?” and “Ich Dich Liebe.” Pink Martini would have had a larger audience were it not for the exceedingly long opener and headliner.

pink martiniII

The Von Trapps opened for Aimee Mann and Pink Martini. While the opener was a perfect pairing to Pink Martini the other headliner was more like a bitter shot to swallow before a sweet chaser. The Von Trapps is a musical quartet that are direct descendants of the Trapp Family Singers (made famous by The Sound of Music). They hold true to their family legacy offering up sweet harmonies and a similar worldly sound to their touring partner. Songs like “Storm,” and “Kuroneko No Tango” have calming and catchy tones everyone can enjoy. Aimee Mann, however, played a tediously long set that did nothing to warm the chilly crowd. Her songs blended together like a sad, bland drink. At one point, lawn guests packed up their bags and left in droves as the set dragged on for nearly an hour. No song was particularly memorable or enjoyable to listen to. The remainder of the tour should really cut out the middle “Mann” and stick to the coupling of The Von Trapps and Pink Martini.

the von trapps

Under normal circumstances, Ravinia would have been the perfect venue for the Portland musical group. But the evening proved too cold and the musical roadblocks too long for audiences to truly enjoy Pink Martini and the evening. Hopefully the next time the musical group comes to Chicago they can serve up their signature sound to enthusiastic, and warm, audiences. Audiences can still see amazing acts this summer at Ravinia; for tickets, show schedules, and more information visit www.ravinia.org.

There’s something magical about Ravinia. It’s a sprawling open-air venue with lush green lawn nestled amidst tall shady trees. As the sun goes down, dozens of candles flicker to life as the audience members settle into their blankets and lawn chairs to be serenaded by their favorite musical artists under a (sometimes) starry Chicagoland sky.

Ravinia

To North Shore folks, Ravinia is synonymous with summertime. It is the oldest outdoor music festival in the US holding concerts from June to September. For traditional concert goers there are pavilion seats with rows of covered seats sloping back from the main stage. The preferred seats are the lawn seats that allow you to sit anywhere you can see grass. The most experienced Ravinia patron will lay out dozens of blankets, or create a lawn-chair circle, break out picnic baskets filled with three course meals and plenty of wine (not the mention their own wine glasses). The venue is indeed a BYOB and you’re allowed to bring your own food, but this is not a concert venue to get drunk and rage. This is a recline-sip-your-drink-enjoy-the-music kind of venue. Because no matter where you sit on the lawn you are treated to amazing sound quality of the band or concert you are seeing.

Ravinia offers some of the best line ups over the course of each summer and this year is no different. This past week brought the iconic 1970’s band The Doobie Brothers back to Chicago. The band brought baby boomers, Gen Xers, and aspiring teenage hipsters to the venue, it was a multi-generation engagement. But truthfully, none of those guests seemed overly impressed with the performance. The opening set, performed by Lara Johnston, was lackluster. Her voice hardly carried across the lawn despite the speakers. Now perhaps it was the chilly June weather, or perhaps people didn’t need a relatively unknown opener to open for one of their favorite bands, but there was some heat missing from this summer show. Johnston did nothing to warm up the crowd. It took her entire set and nearly four songs into the headliner’s set for the crowd to show any sign of life. It wasn’t until “Black Water” that people finally got up to dance, sing along, and really start to enjoy the show. The Doobie Brothers played all of their classics “Listen to the Music,” “What a Fool Believes,” “Black Water,” “Give Me the Beat Boys,” and “China Grove,” but the night was a far cry from the carefree summer days of their youth.

doobie brothers

The Doobie Brothers provide the ideal soundtrack for long road trips and summer nights and on most occasions Ravinia would be the perfect venue for them to perform. This time around, however, the audience was asking the band to give them a beat but unfortunately it didn’t free our souls, just our nostalgia. For Ravinia tickets, remaining summer schedule, and more information visit: www.ravinia.org

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