Dance

Kendall Royzen

Kendall Royzen

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

When guests visit Chicago we want to show them the best of our city. But sometimes it's our guests that bring the best to us. That is the case for The Royal Ballet as they return to the Windy City to perform their critically acclaimed "Don Quixote" at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre. 

RoyalBallet DonQuixote 01Chicagoans donned their best for the ballet's premiere night as though they were in the presence of royalty. There was not a single pair of jeans or flip flops present (thank you, Chicago). Perhaps it was because The Royal Ballet is Great Britain's most prestigious ballet company performing for kings and queens, as well as mere commoners, since 1931. The company has produced some of the greatest figures in ballet history to include the incredible Margot Fonteyn and Antoinette Sibley. Led by its director, Kevin O'Hare, The Royal Ballet is currently on a three city tour of the US with "Don Quixote," making stops in Chicago, New York, and Washington D.C."The Royal Ballet hasn't visited Chicago since 1978 so with this ballet, we plan to showcase the depth of the dancers' talent led by our world-class roster of principals," said O'Hare. And what a showcase it was.

Royal Ballet Prinipal Guest Artist Carlos Acosta's production of "Don Quixote" was created especially for The Royal Ballet, filled with flirtation, fun, humor, and love. The story follows the adventures of a bumbling knight Don Quixote, accompanied by his ever-faithful squire Sancho Panza, as he embarks on a quest for his dream woman. Along the way, he stumbles upon the lovers Kitri and Basilio. Kitri's father wants her to marry the wealthy Gamache, a rich, foppish nobleman. A journey ensues as the lovers try to escape those plans while Don Quixote tries to right the wrongs in the world on his quest.

The story of Don Quixote is a difficult one to bring to the stage. The Don himself is the focus of the story, but the smaller characters' stories and lives are at center stage for the majority of the ballet. The Royal Ballet's principal leads with Acosta as Basilio and Marianela Nunez as Kitri were spectacular. They were flirty and coy with one another but epitomized a ballet's pas de deux. They had grace, strength, beauty, and unity. The same could not be said for some of the other soloists and leads. Many of Kitri's friends were out of sync with one another, as well as some of the matadors. The Royal Ballet is a large company, and many acts often had thirty or more dancers on stage. When someone was slightly off or behind the music your eyes were drawn in a negative way to those people, detering from the incredible duets and soloists. Regardless of any small timing issues, Acosta, both in the production and the leading artist role, put on an impressive and magnificent ballet. From flirting flamengo dancers and dashing matadors to gypsies and dryads, "Don Quixote" is a beautiful and epic journey.

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Having never seen "Don Quixote" nor read the story (forgive me literature gods), I can say that the ballet was a beautiful ballet. The sets provided the perfect backdrop to the dancers accompanied by a live orchestra. The gorgeous theatre provided the perfect stage for a magical evening. For those still not convinced that ballet can be enjoyable should make it their mission to see "Don Quixote" and right the wrongs of not experiencing this amazing art. Have the best adventure at the ballet tonight.

The Royal Ballet is concluding the Auditorium Theatre's 125th Anniversary International Dance Series performing "Don Quixote" through Sunday June 21st. Tickets ($32-$137) are on sale now and available online at AuditoriumTheatre.org or at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office (50 E Congress Pkwy).

I know about as much Russian as a non-native speaker needs. I know how to say hello and goodbye (Preevyet and Da sveedaneeya). I know how to say thank you (Spaseeba), I even know how to say my little monkey (moya malen'kaya obez'yana) though that doesn’t come in handy too often. Just today I learned the Russian word for amazing (Izumitel'nij). But in Russian and English “amazing” falls short of describing the exceptional performance of “Up & Down” by the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg.

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“Up & Down” is a story set amidst the roaring 20’s. A young psychiatrist falls in love with one of his mental patients who, as it turns out, is a fabulously wealthy socialite. They are wed and soon he is swept up into the money-fueled glitz and glamour that made the 20’s so spectacular. He wrestles with his desire to love and cure his new wife, the enticement of the sensuous social scene, and being the honorable psychiatrist performing his life’s work. Ultimately he succumbs to the pleasures and temptations of the times and it becomes his undoing.

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Audience members might liken Eifman’s “Up & Down” to Baz Luhrmann’s version of The Great Gatsby. The set was bright and sleek, art-deco inspired and neon-powered. The dancers danced the Charleston and the tango to Gershwin’s jazzy score. Everything leant itself to immersing the company and audience into the 1920's providing the perfect backdrop for Eifman’s story. As Eifman himself said of “Up & Down, “This ballet is both a tragic and bright chronicle of a person’s spiritual death—the story about how a dream of happiness turns into a disaster, and an externally beautiful and carefree life flowing to the rhythms of jazz, into a nightmare. I want audiences to feel all of the emotions of these characters and become just as immersed in the characters’ lives as the dancers are.”

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Eifman is often referred to as one of the leading choreographers in the world and it is easy to see why. His style is classic yet edgy, flowing yet jagged, smooth yet striking. He doesn’t force the audience to know the difference between a jeté and a relevé. His style of storytelling is easy to follow and understand, not an ounce of pretentiousness or far reaching concepts to be found. His dancers are afforded the room to convey charm, humor, lust, pain, and even madness. Despite criticism of the American debut of “Up & Down,” I found the ballet to be captivating. This was the ballet to turn new audiences onto the ballet; the story had loonies, beer drinkers, figments of a mind manifested as an evil twin, lust and love, glamour, humor, silent movie stars, evil investors, and a twist ending. What more could you want? “Up & Down” was also the perfect ballet to celebrate the Auditorium Theatre’s 125th year. It personified the timelessness of the ballet while pushing the art form into the modern world.

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“Up & Down” might have come and gone, but should you find yourself in the same city as this St. Petersburg Ballet Company, grab and friend and say “da-vai!” Let’s go to the ballet!

 

The Houston Ballet might not have shown us the world (shining, shimmering, splendid), but they did present the city of Chicago with an incredible production of “Aladdin” filled with the same sorcery, riches, splendor, magic, love, and romance as we’ve come to expect from the heartwarming tale of an impoverished young ne'er-do-well who becomes part of a whirlwind adventure.

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The Houston Ballet made its debut at the Auditorium Theatre with celebrated English choreographer David Bintley's ballet "Aladdin." The ballet was originally created for the New National Ballet of Japan in Tokyo in 2008, and the Windy City was only the fourth city to experience the performance, sharing the magic carpet ride with such cities as Tokyo and London. Most people will know the story of Aladdin from the popular 1992 Disney movie of the same name. However, the Houston Ballet's "Aladdin" follows the more traditional story of Aladdin from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights). There’s no singing genie or clever monkey named Abu, but there was no need for it in this breathtaking production.

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The caliber of talent that took the stage this past weekend would leave the staunchest of critics in awe. From the background dancers to the principle dancers, everyone commanded the audience’s attention with a technique and grace that prove why the Houston Ballet is a world renowned. The moment the curtains rose, the dancers instantly transported us to old Arabia. Set against spectacular scenery created by the English designer Dick Bird and coupled with an exceptional original score by Carl Davis and performed by the Chicago Philharmonic, the audience was immediately under the spell of Aladdin’s magic.

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While there were many highlights throughout the 2 ½ hour performance, one of the standouts had to be the cave of wonders. When the evil sorcerer convinces Aladdin to enter the cave and retrieve the magic oil lamp, Aladdin is met with jewels and riches beyond his imagination. The jewels onyx, pearls, gold and silver, sapphire, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds were all brought to life by dancers, making the riches literally dance before Aladdin’s eyes. The audience watched on, as mystified and entranced as the young peasant boy himself. Equally impressive were the comings and goings of the genie throughout the performance; whether he hovered in midair or vanished and appeared in a cloud of smoke, the genie entered with power and pizazz that would make Robin Williams himself proud. In one scene at the royal court, when the genie transforms Aladdin from rags to princely attire, the scene erupts into a frenzied dance with the genie, jewels, slaves, and courtesans. The high energy, fast moving dance was so synchronized you’d think one person was controlling the dozens of dancers on stage. It was graceful, powerful, magical, and was the definitive mark that this ballet is here to stay.

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Who doesn’t love the story of Aladdin? It’s a rags to riches story that has stood the test of time. The Houston Ballet’s production of “Aladdin” is nothing short of spectacular. Folks young and old gave the performance a standing ovation and were captivated for the entire duration of the performance. The sheer talent and pageantry of the ballet was a welcome change to Chicago and the Auditorium Theater. I hope more shows like this breeze through the Windy City for Chicagoans to experience. So the next time “Aladdin” flies into Chicago on its magic carpet, be sure you jump on and enjoy the ride.

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