Ashley Wheater, Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet, proudly announces an impressive 2017-18 season including a world premiere by Joffrey Ballet Master Nicolas Blanc, the North American Premiere of Midsummer Night’s Dream by acclaimed choreographer Alexander Ekman plus Chicago Premieres by George Balanchine, Lola de Ávila and Jerome Robbins. The Joffrey Ballet kicks off its 62nd season with Lola de Ávila’s Giselle, October 18-29,followed by the return of Tony Award®-winner Christopher Wheeldon’s newly reimagined The Nutcracker, December 1-30. For its winter engagement, The Joffrey Ballet presents Modern Masters, a mixed repertoire program with four works – a World Premiere by Nicolas Blanc (untitled), the Chicago Premieres of Kammermusik No. 2 by George Balanchine and Glass Pieces by Jerome Robbins in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth plus Body of Your Dreams by Myles Thatcher, February 7-18. The Joffrey Ballet will conclude its season with Ekman’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, April 25-May 6.
All performances take place in the Joffrey’s home venue, the historic Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, in downtown Chicago at 50 East Congress Parkway. All programs throughout the season feature live music performed by the Chicago Philharmonic conducted by Scott Speck, Music Director of The Joffrey Ballet.
This season, for the first time, The Joffrey Ballet and Lyric Opera of Chicago will collaborate on a world premiere production of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s classic opera, Orphée et Eurydice directed and choreographed by internationally acclaimed Director and Chief Choreographer of The Hamburg Ballet, John Neumeier. Orphée et Eurydice will be presented at Lyric’s Civic Opera House, September 23 - October 15.
Classically trained to the highest standards, The Joffrey Ballet expresses a unique, inclusive perspective on dance, proudly embracing the diversity of America with its company, audiences, and repertoire which includes major story ballets, reconstructions of masterpieces and contemporary works. Founded by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey in 1956, guided by celebrated choreographer Gerald Arpino from 1988 until 2007, The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron.
“During my time as Artistic Director of The Joffrey Ballet, we’ve worked tirelessly to redefine ballet at the highest level,” said Ashley Wheater. “This season, we elevate this commitment with dynamic performances that celebrate joy in a time when transformative storytelling has never been more needed. We present sweeping passion in modern renditions of Giselle and Midsummer Night’s Dream; we see hope and wonder through the eyes of Chicago immigrants with the return of Christopher Wheeldon’s reimagined Nutcracker; and finally, we feel inspiration with works by modern trailblazers and legendary voices including Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine, Alexander Ekman, and Myles Thatcher.”
“Ashley Wheater’s commitment to world-class artistry and transformative experiences has ignited hope and wonder in Chicago audiences, and this season is no exception,” added Executive Director Greg Cameron. “From the youthful passion of Giselle and magical wonder of The Nutcracker to boundary- pushing masterpieces from rising talent and legendary voices, these unforgettable stories beautifully express our human condition and provide a beacon of hope and inspiration. We look forward to sharing these remarkable and moving ballet experiences with Chicago audiences in the year to come.”
About the 2017-18 Season
The Joffrey Ballet launches its 2017-18 season with the Chicago Premiere of Lola de Ávila’s visionary adaption of Giselle. Former Associate Director of the San Francisco Ballet School, de Ávila’s take on this classic Romantic-era ballet is set to composer Adolphe Adam’s original score and tells the tale of young Giselle, who discovers her lover is betrothed to another and dies of grief, only to be enlisted by the vengeful Wilis, a ghostly army of maidens who haunt the forests, dancing to death any male mortal who crosses their path. When her beloved wanders into their grasp, Giselle makes the ultimate act of love to free him from his fate.
A ballet in two acts, Giselle is presented in 10 performances only, October 18-29, 2017.
After its wildly successful world premiere in December 2016, The Joffrey Ballet will once again present its newly reimagined holiday classic The Nutcracker by Tony Award®-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. Set during Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair, Wheeldon’s turn-of-the-century tale opens as young Marie and her mother, a sculptress creating the Fair’s iconic Statue of the Republic, host a festive Christmas Eve celebration. After a surprise visit from the creator of the Chicago Columbian Exposition, the mysterious Great Impresario, Marie embarks on a whirlwind adventure with the Nutcracker Prince through a dreamlike World’s Fair. A ballet in two acts set to Tchaikovsky’s classic score, The Nutcracker also features design by an award-winning creative team including Tony Award®-nominated set and costume designer Julian Crouch, Caldecott Medal Award-winning author Brian Selznick, Obie and Drama Desk award-winning puppeteer Basil Twist, Tony Award®-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz and Tony Award®-winning projection designer Ben Pearcy.
The Nutcracker is presented in 32 performances, December 1-30, 2017.
The Joffrey’s winter program, a mixed repertory program entitled Modern Masters, features a world premiere by Joffrey Ballet Master Nicolas Blanc, the Chicago Premieres of Kammermusik No. 2 by George Balanchine and in honor of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Glass Pieces by Jerome Robbins plus Body of Your Dreams by Myles Thatcher.
Kammermusik No.2, originally created for New York City Ballet in 1978 by world renowned contemporary ballet choreographer George Balanchine, broke the conventions of ballet with its exceptional use of complex structures, precision, energy and speed. Set to a score by neoclassical composer Paul Hindemith, hailed as one of the great German composers of the 20th century, this work for 12 dancers features an eight-man ensemble performing jagged lines and stylized gestures along with two couples, who present the counterpoint to the ensemble with duets set to the intricate passages for piano.
Body of Your Dreams, created by up-and-coming choreographer Myles Thatcher, is a tongue-in-cheek take on fitness which made its world premiere as part of the 2014–2015 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. A contemporary work for nine dancers, Body of Your Dreams features a series of movements expressing the highs and lows of body image woven together with inventive wit, set to a score by Dutch avant pop composer Jacob ter Veldhuis. A current dancer with San Francisco Ballet, Thatcher is known for melding contemporary sensibility with classical technique to resonate feeling and atmosphere. Thatcher made his Joffrey Ballet choreographic debut with the World Premiere of Passengers in September 2015.
Nicolas Blanc, current Ballet Master and Principal Coach for The Joffrey Ballet, will create a new work (untitled) for the company which will take audiences through five mesmerizing worlds set to an orchestral and electronic soundscape by Mason Bates, composer-in-residence at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Former Principal Dancer with San Francisco Ballet, Blanc made his choreographic debut with the Joffrey in April 2015 with the U.S. Premiere of Evenfall. Most recently, Blanc was selected to participate in the 2015 National Choreographers Initiative as well as the New York City Ballet's New York Choreographic Institute where he created Mothership, which premiered in New York City Ballet's 2016 gala.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins’ birth, the Joffrey will present the Chicago Premiere of Glass Pieces, a signature Robbins’ ballet set to three works by American minimalist composer Philip Glass. Originally premiering with New York City Ballet in 1983, Glass Pieces is a tour de force of movement and music for 42 dancers featuring urban, postmodern choreography, recurrent rhythms, shifting patterns and an energized pace to reflect the pulse of metropolitan America in the ‘80s. One of the great American choreographers of the 20th century, Robbins prolific career has made a profound contribution to the ballet world in addition to renown commercial credits as a director and choreographer for theater, movies and television including On the Town, West Side Story, The King and I, Gypsy, Peter Pan, and Fiddler on the Roof. Even after his death in 1998, his superb body of work continues to be celebrated and performed by companies worldwide. In its 62-year history, The Joffrey Ballet has presented numerous works by Jerome Robbins, including The Concert, Interplay, Moves and N.Y. Export: Op. Jazz.
Modern Masters is presented in 10 performances only, February 7–18, 2018.
Celebrated around the globe for his originality and humor, Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman brings his unique vision to the Joffrey with the North American Premiere of his Midsummer Night’s Dream, which made its world premiere with The Royal Swedish Ballet in 2015. A full-length ballet vastly different from Shakespeare’s tale, Ekman’s take on a Midsummer Night’s Dream presents a festive Scandinavian Midsummer celebration, as the border between the world of mortals and the kingdom of the supernatural becomes thinner, turning the celebration into a dreamlike fantasy. Ekman has collaborated with companies worldwide to create award-winning works that both entertain and challenge the observer, including the Chicago Premieres of Ekman’s Tulle in 2015 along with his wild and rhythmic Episode 31 which premiered on the Joffrey during the 2013 Chicago Dancing Festival. Ekman will also present the world premiere of a new work (untitled) during The Joffrey Ballet’s spring program Global Visionaries in April 2017.
Midsummer Night’s Dream is presented in 10 performances only, April 25-May 6, 2018.
Joffrey Gala Performance — April 20, 2018
For the third year in a row, The Joffrey Ballet will open its special, one-hour gala performance exclusively to Joffrey subscribers and gala donors.
Lyric Collaboration — September 23 – October 15, 2017
This season, The Joffrey Ballet and Lyric Opera of Chicago will collaborate on a world premiere production of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s classic opera Orphée et Eurydice. Based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, Orphée et Eurydice features a modern-day Orpheus, a poet whose every word communicates an overwhelming love for his late wife, Eurydice. After refusing to accept her death, he courageously journeys to the Underworld to bring her back to life but first must face Love’s challenge. Lyric Opera will present Orphée in the Paris version, containing thrilling ballet sequences that will come to life under the direction and choreography of internationally acclaimed Director and Chief Choreographer of The Hamburg Ballet, John Neumeier. Most recently, Neumeier worked with the Joffrey, upon whom he set the North American premiere of his full-length story ballet Sylvia in October 2015. Orphée et Eurydice will be presented in seven performances at Lyric’s Civic Opera House, September 23 - October 15.
Tickets and Subscriptions
Single tickets for the October, February and April performances as well as The Nutcracker will be available starting August 1, 2017. Single tickets are available at The Joffrey Ballet’s official Box Office located in the lobby of 10 East Randolph Street, by telephone at 312-386-8905, or online at joffrey.org.
Orphée et Eurydice will be presented by The Lyric Opera of Chicago at the Civic Opera House (20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago). Joffrey Ballet subscribers will receive an exclusive pre-sale opportunity with a 20% discount. Tickets can be purchased through Lyric Opera audience services at 312-827-5600.
About The Joffrey Ballet
Classically trained to the highest standards, The Joffrey Ballet expresses a unique, inclusive perspective on dance, proudly reflecting the diversity of America with its company, audiences, and repertoire which includes major story ballets, reconstructions of masterpieces, and contemporary works.
The Company’s commitment to accessibility is met through an extensive touring schedule, an innovative and highly effective education program including the much lauded Academy of Dance, Official School of The Joffrey Ballet, Community Engagement programs, and collaborations with myriad other visual and performing arts organizations.
Founded by visionary teacher Robert Joffrey in 1956, guided by celebrated choreographer Gerald Arpino from 1988 until 2007, The Joffrey Ballet continues to thrive under internationally renowned Artistic Director Ashley Wheater and Executive Director Greg Cameron.
The Joffrey Ballet is grateful for the support of 2017-2018 Season Sponsors: Abbott Fund, Alphawood Foundation Chicago, NIB Foundation, and the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation, Live Music Sponsor The Marina and Arnold Tatar Fund for Live Music, and 2017-2018 Season Partners: pamella roland and Fox Ford Lincoln, Clear Channel Airports, Chicago Athletic Clubs, JW Marriott, and Official Provider of Physical Therapy, Athletico.
For more information on The Joffrey Ballet and its programs, visit joffrey.org.
There's nothing more cloying than an evening of bad holiday theatre. Each December countless Chicago theaters put up their annual Christmas shows. Some are better than others. For a reliable standard, Joffrey Ballet's "Nutcracker" is a safe bet.
For 2016, Joffrey presents an entirely new version of the classic Tchaikovsky ballet. Conceived by English choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, this new production is sleek and tailor-made for Chicago. An interesting variation on ETA Hoffman's original Russian fairy tale. In this version, Marie is from a working class family and it's set during the construction of the Chicago World's Fair. The dance sequences in the second act are Clara's dreams of what the Columbian Exposition will hold. Wheeldon's aesthetic borrows from holiday favorites like "A Christmas Carol" and "Meet Me in St. Louis" Sets by Julian Crouch combine the classic imagery of the original and newer conventions like projections. Accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, this "Nutcracker" is a little more grown up than the pastel versions you might remember.
The talent will be of no surprise to Joffrey regulars. Dancing the part of Marie is Amanda Assucena. Her performance portrays the lead character with a more teenage curiosity about romance. Miguel Angel Blanco dances a variation of Uncle Drosselmeyer, otherwise known as the Impresario of the Fair. It's playful and a little creepy. In the dream sequence, Christine Rocas and Fabrice Calmels turn up the heat as the Arabian Dancers. Wheeldon's choreography creates quite a spectacle and the large cast sequences are magical.
For those bored with run-of-the-mill "Nutcrackers" (a dime-a-dozen this time of year), this brand new production at The Joffrey will leave an impression. It's refreshing to see a local cultural institution take what they know works and turning it on its head. If only more of Chicago's tried and true holiday shows would take the same path, maybe we wouldn't dread them so much.
Through December 30th at Joffrey Ballet. 50 East Congress Parkway.
Everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, a timeless tale of lovers kept apart by family and society, but the power of love allows them to fight through only to meet a tragic demise. The story has been told over and over again in stories, books, movies, plays and even real life. The Joffrey Ballet kicks off its 2016-2017 season with Krzysztof Pastor’s Romeo and Juliet and proves that the story can transcend time and stands tall even without the beautiful poetry of William Shakespeare.
In this creative, three act re-imagining of the classic Romeo and Juliet, the audience travels through time as they are pulled into the gripping story of the love and loss. Starting in Italy in the 1930’s, during the rise of Mussolini and Fascism, the militaristic, strict Capulet family and the more free and relaxed Montague family encounter one another and Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time. The second act moves to the 1950’s with the rise of political terrorism and the Red Brigade, which compliments the increasing challenges that keep the true lovers apart. In the final act it is 1990 and as Berlusconi’s leadership drives increasing social divide in the country, Romeo and Juliet meet their tragic end.
The show is a multi-media story ballet and the video imagery projected on the backdrop compliments the story. The rest of the set is simple, consisting of some lightly reflective panels that add a lovely effect to indoor scenes, and a few dark pillars and benches. It allows most of your focus to be on the dancers themselves as the story unfolds. The costumes are non-traditional with no tutu’s in sight, opting instead towards more street fashion. As we progress through the three acts, the costumes evolve moving through time. One of the most creative aspects of the costuming is how the colors change across the acts, starting in a simple black and white, next to sepia tones and finally more full color, and through it all Romeo and Juliet are clad in a pale blue reflective of their innocence and lightness.
The choreography by Krzysztof Pastor is phenomenal and breathtaking. There are so many variety of styles from the rigid and powerful movements of the Capulet family, to the fun and lighthearted flow of the Montagues and of course the beautiful range of emotions that Romeo and Juliet portray, played by Rory Hohenstein and Christine Rocas. Just as Shakespeare has been praised for his ability to switch between comedy and tragedy so effortlessly, the choreography does the same with some lighthearted moments that broke the tension, even bringing about a laugh from the audience. Mercutio, played by Yoshihisa Arai, was the best representation of this comedy through dance. He brought boundless energy to the stage in an exceptional performance that made the audience all but fall in love with Mercutio.
Overall, the performances by the entire company were fantastic. Dancers moved effortlessly and in beautiful harmony with one another and with the score by Sergei Prokofiev. It was a nice break from the more traditional style of ballet yet still showcased the natural grace and amazing talent of the entire cast.
If you are a fan of the ballet, or have never seen a story ballet before, this is certainly a performance to see. The modern qualities of this show make it more accessible to those unfamiliar with ballet, and no one can argue the multitude of emotions that this performance evokes. It never ceases to amaze just how powerful the art of movement can be, and in this re-telling of the age old story of Romeo and Juliet that power is clearly evident. The show is playing at the stunning Auditorium Theater through October 23rd. Be sure to get your tickets and experience the magic of the Joffrey Ballet.
There is no better way to get in the holiday spirit than with the classic Christmas ballet, the Nutcracker. Twenty-eight years after Robert Joffrey’s original production, this is the final year that the Joffrey Ballet will perform this Nutcracker (2016 brings us the world premier of Christopher Wheeldon’s Nutcracker!). Even decades since artistic director Ashley Wheater performed in the opening night of the production, this performance retains the timeless magic of this joyous holiday tradition.
For those unfamiliar, the show takes place on Christmas Eve in the 1850s, opening with a party at the house of the mayor, his wife and his two children, Clara and Fritz. In the midst of the lively party Drosselmeyer, the somewhat eccentric godfather to Clara and Fritz, sprinkles in some excitement to the festivities with enchanted life-size dolls that dance and entertain the guests. However, it is his gift of a nutcracker for Clara, which truly ignites the magic.
After the guests have left and the family has gone to bed, Clara sneaks downstairs to gaze upon her beloved Nutcracker. She soon finds herself in the middle of a battle between the Mouse King and his army of mice and the Nutcracker, who comes to life to fight with his band of toy soldiers. With the toss of a shoe, Clara knocks down the Mouse King saving the Nutcrackers life and as means of a thank you, he takes her through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets where the many toys from under Clara’s tree come to life in enjoyable and fantastic dances.
Joffrey’s Nutcracker downplays the traditional romance between Clara and the Nutcracker prince, fortifying the role of Drosselmeyer as the catalyst and guide of Clara’s journey to the Kingdom of Sweets. Performed by Michael Smith, Drosselmeyer is a technically strong role but at times, it felt overpowering for my taste, making the role of Clara more infantile and taking away from the romance between Clara and the Nutcracker Prince.
Another split from tradition was the introduction of male dancers into the Land of Snow and Waltz of the Flowers scenes, however these deviations I found truly fantastic. The combination of beautiful partnering, endless falling snow and the graceful choreography expertly performed by the snowflakes (ladies) and snow winds (men) transports the audience on their mystical journey with Clara through the land of snow. In the Waltz of the Flowers in the second act, again the partnering added an interesting dimension, as did the constant tossing of fluttering flower petals beautifully worked into the choreography.
Overall, the dancers exhibited a wonderful balance of grace and precision creating flowing lines that perfectly complimented the Tchaikovsky score. The company members were fantastic, performing in perfect unison with a look of joy on their face making everything look effortless as a good ballet should. There were many young performers in the show as well who steal the scene with their cuteness! In the Kingdom of Sweets, each piece was accompanied by a tiny tot dressed in character sitting with Clara to watch the dance unfold. As someone who performed in the Nutcracker a number of times as a kid, I enjoyed this element of the show, as I am sure every aspiring ballerina in the audience did as well.
My favorite pieces by far were the Coffee from Arabia pas de deux, where Dara Holmes captivated us with her flexibility and elegant lines and the Grand Pas De Deux by the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Nutcracker Prince. Instantly entranced by the sparkle of the Sugar Plum Fairy costume, I was continually captivated as Amanda Assucena and Alberto Velasquez brilliantly performed the most iconic piece from the show.
The Nutcracker runs at the Auditorium Theater through December 27th. Buy your tickets now! Take your children, take your parents, take your date or take them all for a magical performance that will truly put you in the holiday spirit.
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.
Chicagoans 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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
“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!
In celebration of Roosevelt University’s 70th anniversary, the Auditorium Theatre brings in two iconic stage and television veterans for its one night performance of “An Evening with the Roosevelts”. Ed Asner, known mostly for his portrayal of “Lou Grant” on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and much more recently as “Santa Claus” in the holiday hit Elf, takes on the role of Franklin Roosevelt while Loretta Swit, identified mostly as “Margaret ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan” in the 1970’s breakout hit M.A.S.H. plays Eleanor Roosevelt.
The one evening performance is broken down into two plays – the first has Asner portraying the former President in “FDR” followed by Swit as the famous First Lady in “Eleanor”. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Asner touches on his battle with polio, his running for governor then president and the attack on Pearl Harbor that forced America into the second World War. Wondering beforehand if Asner would be a good fit as FDR, I left with mixed feelings. Asner’s gruff and forward delivery along with a very visible dedication to the role seemed to work well enough to make one eventually get past the obvious disparity in appearance. Still as spunky as ever, the eighty-five years young Asner can be a fireball when called upon and he also generates a fair share of laughs from the crowd. His intensity is admirable, his emotional capacity impressive and his timing still impeccable. Hobbling around the set with a pair of canes, Asner also adds a physical dynamic that is as believable as the lines he delivers. Unfortunately, as good as Asner is, the material and formatting come off a bit lackluster. Slow-paced and a lack of redeeming values and poignant realizations leave this show less than memorable outside of Asner’s passionate performance.
Loretta Swit can also be a pleasure to watch as she portrays Eleanor Roosevelt in her compliment to Asner’s “FDR”, but the same holds true as far as her show’s lack of engaging material and its tendency to drift back and forth. The Emmy-Winning actress’ one-woman show starts after the death of Franklin Roosevelt. “Eleanor” begins when President Truman asks her to head the American delegation to the newly created United Nations. Eleanor ponders the offer for some time before accepting the offer, realizing the massive potential such a position could have on women’s rights. We also learn about FDR’s affair and the conflict within herself on whether to leave him or not. Swit is charming and graceful as the First Lady but she is also no nonsense when need be.
To see two such famously polished actors perform such important roles from our great American History is still novelty enough despite the not so engrossing scripts. Plus, each show contains plenty of factual tidbits that may be unknown to some, making this special event a great history lesson – or refresher, as well.
The Auditorium Theatre has plenty lined up right around the corner with scheduled performances by Damien Rice, Lila Downs, Chicago Rhythm Fest and The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg. THE NFL Draft will also be taking place at the Auditorium Theatre beginning April 30th, making its first appearance in Chicago in just over fifty years. For more Auditorium event information visit http://www.auditoriumtheatre.org/.
Continuing its 125th Anniversary celebration, the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University adds two, one-night-only performances to its momentous season. On Friday, April 10, 2015, “An Evening with the Roosevelts” celebrates Roosevelt University’s 70th Anniversary. The star-studded evening features Ed Asner performing his one-man show, “FDR” as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Loretta Swit performing her one-woman show, “Eleanor” as Eleanor Roosevelt. The excitement continues on Sunday, May 31 when Grammy and Academy Award®-winning musician A.R. Rahman makes his Auditorium debut as part of a multi-city North American Tour. “JBL PresentsA.R Rahman: The Intimate Concert Tour” features a range of material from his illustrious career spanning two decades.
“The momentum of our spectacular 125th Anniversary Season is not slowing down as we bring new and diverse performances to our historic landmark stage,” said Auditorium Theatre Executive Director Brett Batterson. “We are delighted to help celebrate Roosevelt University’s 70th Anniversary with the special performance of “An Evening with the Roosevelts” starring the incomparable Ed Asner and Loretta Swit. We are equally excited to welcome the internationally renowned talent of A.R. Rahman to our stage. His list of musical accomplishments is unmatched in modern music and his live shows always leave his fans breathless.”
“An Evening with the Roosevelts”
Founded in 1945, Roosevelt University will celebrate its 70th Anniversary with a special performance and gala dinner on April 10. “An Evening with the Roosevelts” features two, one-act performances by stars Ed Asner, who portrays Franklin Roosevelt and Loretta Swit taking on the persona of Eleanor Roosevelt. Asner, recognized for many roles, including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Lou Grant,” “Elf” and “The Good Wife,” depicts the former president’s achievements that propelled the country through difficult times in World War II and The Great Depression. Asner’s emotional performance also touches upon Roosevelt’s struggles with his declining health and polio. Swit, who starred as Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the TV show “M*A*S*H,” spotlights the difficulties that Eleanor Roosevelt experienced in her marriage, as well as her accomplishments as a human rights advocate and First Lady.
Helping to raise funds for student scholarships, the star-studded evening will also feature a special dinner prior to the performance where Roosevelt President Chuck Middleton and FDR’s granddaughters, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and Nina Roosevelt Gibson (Honorary Chairs of the evening) will be in attendance. Gala dinner Co-Chairs include Roosevelt Trustee Marsha Goldstein (My Kind of Town) and Michael Goldstein; Roosevelt Trustee George Lofton (Lofton & Associate, LLC) and Felecia Lofton; Roosevelt Trustee Alvin Dinwiddie (Loop Capital Markets) and Helen Ashford; and Roosevelt Trustee and Alum Al Golin (Golin Communications) and Alumna June Golin.
Program Schedule and Ticket Information
“An Evening with the Roosevelts”
Friday, April 10, 2015 | 7:30 p.m.
A one-time performance by the touring Argentinian group, "Tango Buenos Aires" was as invigorating as it was eloquently graceful! Presented in the stunning, historical Auditorium Theater in Chicago's downtown, the theatre interior rivaled the beauty of the dancers. Built in 1889, and acquired by Roosevelt University some years ago, the theatre hosts a wide array of traveling shows from all over the world. Exquisitely gilded and brilliantly lit, the theatre holds over three thousand in its audience and commands a high standing among Chicago's illustrious theatres, with First Lady Michelle Obama residing as honorary chair.
The performance itself was rich in tradition as spinning couples traced the floor in group dances which were not only reminiscent of the history of the Spanish tango, but hinted at a worldwide similarity in communal expression through dance. The dances themselves paid homage to that legendary Argentinian lady Eva Peron, featuring the ballad "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," from the musical based on her life, and following her progression from young girl through her singular political career.
Highlighting the evening was a dance performed solely by the men, who became a part of the music through the rhythmic use of the boleador, a slingshot-like tool reminiscent of a lasso. The boleador is a tool traditionally put to use in Argentina to help in rounding up cattle. However in this instance, the men held one in each hand and swung them around quickly in the manner of a jump rope. As the end of the boleador reached the floor, the resultant tapping was masterfully used to create rhythms even as the boleador span around the men in dexterous patterns amazing to behold.
A beautiful event, rich in culture and refreshingly artistic, Tango Buenos Aires is an experience to remember!
Music enters our mind in a way that takes us over. It enters our ears; touches our soul with the melodies and rhythms that just brings everything to life. Toes will tap, heads will bob, and feelings of joy come over us in so many ways. The Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University (50 E. Congress Parkway) was the setting for musical enjoyment. Bela Fleck and Chick Corea took the stage for an amazing night of live music and left everyone in awe.
On Saturday, April 5, 2014, the combined thirty-five time Grammy winners, Chick Corea and Bela Fleck performed as a musical duo. No other musicians were needed. It was two musicians, a Yamaha grand piano, a Deering banjo, and an audience full of appreciative and loving fans. The elegant performance is some of the most incredible musicianship ever seen. Just amazing musical gestures throughout the entire night with not one bad note played.
The setting for the evening was a one hundred twenty-five year old building that may have never sounded better. Since 1889, the names of great composers have been on the walls on both sides of the stage. Looking at some of the musical names of superiority; Haydn, Beethoven, Rossini, and Schumann it makes you wonder when you will see Corea and Fleck’s names on the wall of a theater as well. They are more than deserving of such an honor.
They opened the show with a piece called “Senorita.” They played in unison and complimented each other well as they began the song. First the piano would hold the rhythm while the banjo was played in a flamenco style. Then the piano would take over and do intricate runs of musical notes to please the ears.
“Joban Dna Nopia” is a tremendous piece from the album Enchantment. As they introduced the song, Bela jokingly commented that he “finally figured out” the title of the song. It’s an anagram for banjo and piano which was all that was needed for a clever laugh. The bouncy piano started out the song and the banjo pizzicato came in. Gentle stabs at the piano with the graceful banjo combined for the romantic cadences within the song. The subtle sounds could not be any better or written with more intelligence.
These two virtuosos just started this tour to display their elegant compositions. They played the title track from the album Enchantment as well. Everyone should have access to this wonderful music. The music is nutrition for the soul and provides great warmth within.
Mr. Corea talked about meeting Stevie Wonder and they conversed about playing standards. Stevie asked him, “Why don’t you play one of my standards?” As he continued the humorous story it was an introduction to just that. The song “Overjoyed” was covered by Chick and Bela in such a fantastic arrangement paying homage to a fellow musician and friend. As Stevie is an incredible arranger it seemed this piece was meant for this group of concert goers to see and hear. It was a perfect selection to perform and done with great passion.
Fleck played a couple of songs that he named after family members. “Juno” was written “in honor of his newborn son” and is just a sweet song rejoicing life and the love for his child. The refined-rhythmic patterns were tastefully written and arranged in honor of the boy.
“Abigail’s Waltz” was written by Bela for his stunning wife, Abigail Washburn, who is a successful banjo player as well. He introduced the song and described first meeting her. Washburn was from Evanston, Illinois and her family ran the Rainbo Roller Rink that was at 4812 N Clark St. The musical piece was a pleasure to hear in celebration of his love for her.
Toward the end of the show, Corea brought out a camera to take a few snapshots. He first took a picture of the crowd. He then turned around taking a picture of himself with the audience behind him. This guy is not just a great musician; he has a sense of humor for miles.
The show closer was “Spectacle.” Bela said they needed to count it off to enter the song. “It will be a four count as three is too few and five is too many. We will come in on the seven.” The fans got a laugh from his joke as they proceeded to close the show. Fleck tossed a bottle to the end of the stage for someone in the front row. He then asked if anyone wanted a piano. Many hands were raised of course.
Everyone within the theater had a memorable time. The musical display took over everyone’s heart in such a quiet setting that you could hear every note played with intimacy. The onlookers were very polite and respectful letting Chick and Bela perform.
Bela Fleck and Chick Corea were flawless as they performed to a packed house. Their abilities shined throughout the evening, amazing everyone, and touching the musical souls within. After the show ended, people dispersed into the streets grinning from ear to ear. This is a night that will be remembered for a long time to come. It was an evening of music that truly deserved to be seen and brag about being at for years.