Kimberly Katz

Kimberly Katz

Monday, 15 September 2014 00:00

Lookingglass' Death Tax Raises Good Questions

Death Tax by playwright Lucas Hnath is about a wealthy 70-something woman who believes that her daughter is paying off her nurse to kill her before the New Year's death tax kicks in thereby reducing her inheritance significantly. When the play opens, Maxine, played ferociously if not sympathetically by Tony Award winner, Deanna Dunnagan states a truism that I found touching, about the fact that people who have money late in life are "preserved" while those that do not have money are not "preserved."

Dunnagan is absolutely riveting, and beautiful to look at. Even her hand gestures resemble those of a ballerina, very sparing and graceful.

I had hoped that the play would demonstrate more of the very real danger to senior citizens who find themselves deteriorating physically and mentally due to subpar care because of their financial situations, as this happens every day in this country and indeed many elder citizen's deaths are hastened for financial reasons. Unfortunately, Maxine's delusions and combative personality which are common in patients with dementia are treated as the main problem instead of the system of health care in this country that often pits patients and family against the nursing home or hospital in a race to save money or make money off the dying person.

There are several great, rapid fire speeches in the play for all four actors, and Louise Lamson as her hapless estranged daughter, and J. Nicole Brooks, as the nurse Maxine attempts to bribe into her loyalty do a great job delivering them in a way that makes the audience constantly ask themselves, "What would I do in that situation?'”

Hnath is a popular young writer at the moment with two plays in production at once, but in this play he misses the mark when he chooses to make Maxine the villain of the piece. However, there is not enough warmth either in the characters or the staging that cause you to really care much what happens to each character. Instead we are asked to believe that a nurse and her supervisor would easily accept large bribes from an obviously paranoid and overmedicated patient without thinking they would be caught. 

Overall this was still a compelling, quickly moving piece of theatre that raises many important questions about how aging Americans are placed at the mercy of their relatives and caregivers at the very time they need support the most.

Death Tax is playing at Lookingglass Theatre through October 12th. You can find out more about tickets and other dhow information at www.lookingglasstheatre.org.  

"On the Town" with music by Leonard Bernstein; book and lyrics by Tony-winning writing partners Betty Comden and Adolph Green is about to be staged on Broadway but the Marriott Lincolnshire has beat Broadway to the punch with this thoroughly entertaining and beautifully staged rendition which has never before been staged in Chicago.

Three young sailors arrive in New York City with just one night, 24 hours to have fun and find love hopefully in the arms of one young lady named "Miss Turnstiles" for the month of June. "On the Town" really captures the frantic energy of youth and love, when every hour of your life, indeed every minute counts desperately to you as life calls you to return to work, or other duties forcing you to leave your hopes and dreams behind. 

The two young leads, Max Clayton & Alison Jantzie are both very, very talented young dancers and singers.  Alison Jantzie is lovely and is absolutely delightful in her role as "Miss Turnstiles" a struggling actress who is bullied into burlesque dancing as a way to stay afloat in the big city.

Marya Grandy and Johanna McKenzie Miller were perfectly cast as the other two female leads. Grandy and Miller are both mature actresses with great voices and superb comic timing which held the whole show together and gave it real belly laughs and heart as well.

Alex Sanchez’s choreography and director David H. Bell use the intimate space at Marriott Theatre to their full advantage filling the stage with 22 dancers and some of the most exciting and even classically erotic ballet and modern dance numbers I have seen in a long time. 

Nancy Missimi’s period costumes are so much fun to watch on the dancers. I absolutely love this period of fashion especially for the women Thomas M. Ryan’s brightly light New York City  set caught my eye even before I entered the theatre and utilizes a turntable effect to show cabs driving through the city and other action in a fun and exciting way visually.

I highly recommend seeing "On the Town" while it is here in Chicago. "On the Town” is a funny, and romantic way to end the summer and remind yourself that life goes by fast, you have to get out "On the Town" once in a while to really celebrate it!

“On the Town” is playing at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through October 12th. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

We look forward to the TBS Just for Laughs Festival every year to get a week long dose of great comedy from dynamite Chicago locals and some of the best headliners in the business.

So when it was cancelled this year, we figured it might be nice to catch the one group of TBS comics on tour from the critically bashed TV show Sullivan and Son, where the whole gang was performing at Improv in Schaumburg. Atwww.BuzzNews.netwe are always hoping to show our support and possibly feature individual comics who might be talented but underutilized on their current project. 

Unfortunately, it was a huge waste of a night.  The entire set was nearly identical to last year’s Park West set at The TBS Festival. Right down to the closing "skit" where a female audience member gets a lap dance from the comics and some hapless audience members. Come on guys, how many huge and potentially comedic topical events have occurred in the last year? Yet, not one of you had written anything new, not one.

The normally smooth, funny and pleasant Steve Byrne had some awful aggressive rant in his material about his wife. Roy Woody Jr. went on and on about getting a "blowjob from a woman in a Walgreens' parking lot" until even his fellow cast members onstage were telling him to move on. Ahmed Ahmed gave his little bit of covert sexism to the night by apparently stealing one of John Leguizamo's funny transvestite voices AGAIN to portray women in his life who refuse to pick up the check.

Owen Benjamin, whom I can only describe as the "Master of Mediocrity" was so completely forgettable and bland that I couldn't roll my eyes hard enough to express the "blech" feeling his tired routine was causing. Benjamin proudly calls his vanilla brand of comedy "broad". Bill Cosby was broad, the late great Robin Williams was "broad", and unfortunately Owen Benjamin's comedy is just plain "shallow".

I feel sorry for the actually talented women on the TV show, including wonderful, adorable Christine Ebersole, Vivian Bang and tartly funny Jodi Long. 

If you are one of the few beer guzzling, simple minded fans of this show, which tries but fails miserably to recapture ANY of the warmth and edginess of 'Cheers" and "All in the Family",  I still recommend that you not take the time or spend the money to see these guys live.

I was eager to see the show but felt really bad as I settled into my seat for the opening night of GODSPELL at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Pain was shooting through my legs, and my mind was overwhelmed after yet another day of wrangling with difficult business decisions. But by the time I left the theatre I genuinely felt uplifted and renewed by the youthful and fresh energy and the heartfelt message of hope in Jesus that poured out of this production.

The cast could have, and maybe should have, been cast older; except for two token adults most of the cast seemed straight out of high school or college. Their voices were fantastic in the way singers on American Idol are, but as soon as they formed the Tower of Babel as 9 to 5 city workers dressed in black and grey, I thought what do these kids know about how hard the workplace is?  Later during the heavier scenes regarding Jesus’ scourging and crucifixion I thought, what do these kids know about loss? Though one thing this young cast did have was talent – and plenty of it.

Brian Bohr played the role of Jesus.  I was at first shocked and taken aback by a Jesus who resembled a 22 year old, baby-faced, California surfer kid wearing a sky blue preppy polo shirt. But Bohr’s rich, smooth voice and determined lightheartedness eventually won me over. Although I was surprised by Bohr's youthful appearance and super clean cut costume and looks, I grew to enjoy his interpretation of the role because it reflected on just how very strong and happy Jesus must have been during his early ministry before he was attacked and weighed down with betrayal.

Samantha Pauly had the most dynamic voice of the women and did a great job with the humor and tone of “Turn Back O Man”. At the same time, Devin DeSantis who had more of the hippy, wildman look I would have expected from Jesus, also had a great rich voice and made a very sympathetic Judas. The numbers were exciting and colorful, especially “O Bless the Lord My Soul” where golden hula hoops were incorporated into the dance choreography and “Light of the World” that really had the audience toe tapping and nodding their heads to the beat.  

As always I thoroughly enjoyed the use of the intimate space at The Marriott Theatre and all of the colorful ways the entire theatre was decorated with multicolored plastic drinking cups sticking out of fence walls like a rainbow. I noticed that most of the audience seemed to feel the same way, as more people were laughing and chatting after the show rather than stretching and yawning on a weeknight and rushing to get home.

Overall this is a great production that is perfectly suited for everyone. Even the crucifixion scene was exceptionally light and non-violent as Jesus is tied up and crucified with blue and white silks suspended from the ceiling.  I especially recommend this as a children’s theatre production for parents who want to take their children to an adult theatre piece with a great message about Jesus and the Gospel of John and Luke that will be very clean and cheerful all the way through.

GODSPELL is playing at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire though August 10th. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.marriotttheatre.com

If you have any fondness for tales of the golden era of Hollywood, and in particular the work of  the beloved movie star comedian, Jack Lemmon, you will thoroughly enjoy this moving and entertaining one man show starring Jack’s son, Chris Lemmon.

Writer and director, Hershey Felder had a similar solid hit  last year with "The Pianist of Willesden Lane” in which a daughter tells the story of her mother surviving the Holocaust.  Jack Lemmon Returns script was originally based on a memoir by Chris Lemmon titled, A Twist of Lemmon. Felder took the book, added some wonderful music and had Chris do the entire piece, not as himself- but as Jack, which makes this piece especially unique and enjoyable. All of the monologues flow beautifully into each other along with the music and never before seen photographs projected above the stage to create a touching, and funny progression that is very polished and theatrically satisfying.

There is no hash slinging ala “Mommie Dearest”, but Chris acknowledges Jack’s two decade long struggle with alcohol addiction. A telling moment about Jack’s narcissism is when “Jack” describes the thrill of winning his first Oscar for Mister Roberts and realizing after a few hours of celebration that he had literally left his wife behind, sitting all alone in the auditorium, which signaled the end of his marriage to Chris’s mother and actress, Cynthia Stone.

Lemmon has wonderful stage presence, as himself and as his dad, Jack. I was unaware that both he and his father were such gifted pianists. Jack introduced Chris to music, who later earned a degree in classical piano and composition. Chris recalls how after his parents divorced, while he was only two, Jack would make time to visit him almost everyday at his beach side home to play piano together. Chris says that although his new stepmother did not really welcome his presence, Jack was still  “a little bit in love with his mother” and he remained his father’s beloved “hotshot” son without interruption.

The one piece of video in the show was of French Actor/Director and Mime Jean-Louis Barrault's performance in the silent film Children of Paradise, which Jack Lemmon studied intensively. It shows how ahead of his time Jean-Louis Barrault’s expressive hand gestures were - like a series of poetically powerful  hand mudras, which were able to make people laugh and cry at the same time.

Lemmon Returns

Chris does an amazing job of recreating young Jack’s many complicated trademark mannerisms, comical stuttering and gracefully manic hand gestures. He also does some fantastic impersonations of the friends in Jack’s start studded life like James Cagney, Billy Wilder, Jerry Lewis, Gregory Peck and even Marilyn Monroe.

Chris Lemmon grew up near Marilyn Monroe and relates a great story of how he snuck into her yard once while she was surrounded by secret servicemen during a tryst with JFK.  The armed men tried to remove him but Marilyn stopped them and said “No! That’s Jack Lemmon’s son! “

The ninety minutes flowed so quickly and intensely that I wanted it to go on longer and pack in even more star recollections. Chris said afterwards that he and Felder had a rough time cutting the piece down to this exact running time especially when it came to cutting a section about Jack’s great friendship with actress Shirley Maclaine. He further explained that an intermission or even three extra minutes could stop the pace of this one man show in its tracks.

There is a real market for this special piece. After the show I felt like I had experienced a visit with real Hollywood royalty in both Jack and Chris and wanted to see Jack Lemmon’s movies again, and read Chris Lemmon’s biography with this new perspective.

At 59 Chris Lemmon is the perfect age to play his father as a young man and into old age when Jack died of cancer at the age of 76.

 Chris’s stage version of his beloved father is more than an impersonation. Because of Chris’s skill and because Chris Lemmon is “blood”, his remarkable performance borders on actually “channeling” his late father’s huge spirit.  It is truly exciting and haunting to watch. At times I felt I was actually witnessing Jack Lemmon joyfully “stepping into” his son’s face and body.  After congratulating Chris and meeting his lovely wife and daughters at the end of the night, we hugged goodbye and I told him how much I loved his dad. I could have sworn I saw Jack Lemmon himself with his broad smile winking at me over Chris’s shoulder.

Hershey Felder said after the show that they brought “ Jack Lemmon Returns” to Chicago first because of all the cities in the U.S., Chicago is the only city that truly welcomes new theatre and longs for it’s success, instead of sitting arms crossed in judgment.

Do not miss your chance to see this remarkable and beautifully written and directed piece of theatre while it is running here at The Royal George Theatre, which is being performed through June 8th. Visit http://www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com/ for more info.

I just saw Kevin Costner and his great band Modern West perform at The Arcada Theatre near Chicago and was blown away by their polished and expansive sound and by how much they have grown as a band over the years. Kevin Costner’s spectacular presence as a front man, singer and bandleader has reached new heights.

I have seen the band perform only twice before several years ago at The House of Blues in Chicago and the Northern Lights Theatre in Milwaukee and both times felt the band was already hitting all the right notes. Now they are even better. Kevin Costner and Modern West are very poised and professional as a group. The band comes with great original western rock flavors and superbly skilled musicianship which includes founding members John Coinman, bassist Blair Forward and a sparing, tight ensemble, including Teddy Morgan and Park Chisolm on guitar, Larry Cobb on drums, complete with a soulful, laidback fiddle played by Jason Mowery.

And now after traveling the world and performing to sold out venues with upwards of 40,000 people, Kevin Costner and Modern West have elevated their songwriting and playing style in such a way as to be forever removed from those lists of actor’s bands that have come and gone. Modern West is a legitimate western rock band – and a very good one.

Kevin Costner and Modern West’s vocal harmonies are not just precise, they are touching and moving. The fiddle, bass and guitars are sweet and low, almost a subtext to the lyrics, very pure and emotional. Larry Cobb’s fantastic drumming can be thunderous and pulsating or warm with a gentle finesse when needed. I just love it. Cobb holds down and rocks the beat old school style and his work really pushes the sound into true rock and roll.

I got the full VIP treatment. I was able to “check under the hood” of the band during the sound check and hang out with them and Kevin backstage to relax, share a glass of wine, and “check the oil” of the band as friends and mates. The Modern West vehicle passes inspection with flying colors.

Kevin Costner’s voice and stage presence as a musician have grown over the past nine years to the point where I can honestly compare him to great singer/songwriters in the vein of Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, and Kenny Chesney. Kevin’s voice fits perfectly with the band’s style of music. Costner has created his own little niche vocally and thematically. The lyrics are also crucial, and I was tremendously moved by several of the new songs.

There are several songs, which have radio hit and/or soundtrack success written all over them.  Two of them being the timeless, classic sound of “Let Me Be the One”, of which Costner sang as a duet with daughter Lily and “Never Losing You.”

 “Never Losing You” just soars with true emotion: 

“I believe that you and me are bound together,

 Through the past and now forever,

…Never losing you, never losing me.

 -And I know, I’ve always loved,

I know, I’ve always loved,

 I know, I’ve always loved,

 And I know, I’ve always loved …you.”

The lyrics are such profound, yet simple poetry, and the hook, the melody and chorus together just brought tears to my eyes, literally, rolling down my face. “Never Losing You” as sung by Costner, so honestly, so hopefully, was a heartrending performance I will never forget. It is more than a love song; it is an anthem, a hymn.  The song “Never Losing You” is surely destined to be the outstanding love theme in one of Costner’s future projects.

On this tour, Kevin’s daughter Lily opens for him and sings one song with the whole band. Lily is beautiful enough to model, but smart enough and talented enough to write and sing her own music. Lily Costner has a unique and lovely lilt to her voice. If I were a folk/country A& R person, I would be fighting to sign her.


                                                          photo by Ken Payne - Kevin Costner and John Coinman during sound check at Arcada Theater

Kevin Costner is a true performer, from head to toe. Costner really does it all, he has had phenomenal success as a writer, director, and producer of everything from film to TV and now as a singer/songwriter and bandleader.  Kevin works consistently with a slow, persistent rhythm and casual determination that belie the massive maelstrom of information and details milling around in his brain.

 Always working, always creating, Costner and Modern West wrote several of the songs, which were included in the award winning, hugely successful “Hatfield’s and McCoy’s” TV miniseries soundtrack.It would be reverse discrimination not to mention Costner’s current film release, just to prove to music folk that his band is the real thing. “Draft Day” by Ivan Reitman,  a fellow Jew whom I adore, also gave audiences another fun, solid and compelling piece of filmmaking. Kevin Costner carried “Draft Day” on his broad shoulders with a shark-like intensity and grace reminiscent of Cary Grant.

I compare the pleasure of true performance to the fun of riding a bike. Performing as an actor in TV and film is like getting to peddle your bike three times and then stopping. Peddle, peddle-stop. Peddle, peddle, stop.  Wait around with your bike for three hours then peddle three times more and stop. There is no feedback from an appreciative live audience - no applause.

Acting for the stage, when it becomes possible, is somewhat better in terms of actual minutes of performance time, like riding your bike for a good hour here and there, but still you may not be riding your bike, it is usually someone else’ words and ideas you are expressing. 

Performing original music with a band is getting to ride your bike for as long as you want and going wherever you want to go. You can trick your bike out with sparklers, you can sticker it with tears and lightning bolts, and you can pop a wheelie. In other words, you are performing with all of your own heart, soul and body for as long as you want on any given night.

Kevin Costner knows this about performing and along with his longtime friend and songwriting partner John Coinman, has wisely and lovingly built a bike to his own exacting specifications. Modern West is a vehicle, if you will, that gives him and his band mates carte blanch to experience the joy and satisfaction of true performance whenever and wherever he has time to play.

Kevin has got that rock swagger going on now when he performs with the band. The musicality of movement is in his body. It is an essential element of healthy performance for any front man hoping to perform rock music.  Costner’s tanned face, arms and trademark long legs, are full, healthy and muscular. It’s funny because as we all chowed down on healthy broiled chicken and steamed broccoli backstage, guitarist/lyricist John Coinman confided that they all have to push Kevin to eat his vegetables!  John said Kevin doesn’t work out per say but can still hit a ball like a pro. Whatever Kevin is doing, it’s keeping him in great shape.

Kevin Costner is a legend for good reason; his extensive body of superior, quality projects has blessed our culture for many generations all around the globe and that makes him a national treasure.  Each night that you as an audience member choose to spend with him, to actually look him in the eye, in the flesh - not a shadow of lights and illusion on the big screen – is unique and will not occur again. 

Look, there’s an old saying I love that’s still true today – “You can’t fake the funk!” You can hire a bunch of studio musicians, you can tweak your voice in the studio, but if the music is not good you can’t just pretend that it is. Kevin Costner and Modern West are the real McCoy.

For tour dates and more information on Kevin Costner and Modern West, visit http://kevincostnermodernwest.com/.



If you've never seen Cats before, or if like me you have seen Cats many times over the years, this is the production of Cats you should make the effort to take your whole family to enjoy. This production was skillfully and joyfully directed and choreographed by Marc Robin. Robin does a fantastic job of bringing Cats, the second longest-running musical in Broadway history to life.

The Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre is hands down one of the best venues to see musical Theatre in the Chicago area. The space is cozy and houses an intimately sized ‘Theatre in the round’ and director Robin uses every single inch of the space to bring the mystifying and heartwarming movement of real cats to life. I was completely enamored by the way cast members mingled with the audience throughout the show just as cats mingle and cuddle and caress us at home. By leaving some groupings of seats empty and allowing the performers to perch and watch the goings on from the carpeted aisles at our feet and even in our laps occasionally, we got to feel both part of the show and as though the performers had truly become the graceful and mystical creatures they were portraying.

The dancing and choreography is spectacularly playful and impressive. This production really captures the magical quality of cats. If dogs reflect the qualities in human beings that are childlike and innocent throughout life, then cats surely reflect human beings when they reach maturity and progress into old age. The variety of cats portrayed from plump, round and lazy to skinny, aged and falling apart really help humans identify themselves as loveable, and salvageable even with all their odd foibles, scars and matted fur.

The enchanting and complex lyrics of Cats are all based on poetry, the enchanting poems of T.S. Eliot. The “Jellicle Songs” introduces the audience to the wonderful cast of cat characters who are about to attend the mystical tradition of a cats-only “Jellicle Ball”. At this magnificent dancing cat ball held in the middle of night by the light of a full moon, their elder cat, Old Deuteronomy selects one worthy cat to be re-born.

The hit song, “Memory” is sung by Grizabella, the chosen cat. It is essential that this song, which is the catharsis and climax of Cats, is sung by a mature vocal performer whose voice really soars and Heidi Kettenring (with six Jeff nominations, Man of Steel) really knocked it out of the park with her vocally rich and moving rendition in this production.

There is a universal appeal to this show, which has maintained its second position in popularity on Broadway for 23 years between Phantom of the Opera and Chicago. “Cats” makes you feel good about being who you are no matter what odd type of cat you have matured into when you attend the “Jellicle Ball”.

Cats and their mysterious, unpredictable feline natures are often identified with the female human, and sometimes in negative ways like the terms ‘catty’, ‘cat fight” or the myth that black cats bring bad luck.  In a way, “Cats” has a wonderful underlying feminist message to embrace the female, the changeable, and the vulnerable in our psyches.

 “Cats” the musical, with its challenging dance numbers throws all those negative myths right out the window and reminds us to embrace the marvelous grace, the ballet of acrobatics, that cats hypnotize us with and not to fear it.

Kudos to EACH of the talented dancers in this production, and also to set designer Thomas M. Ryan, and costume designer, Nancy Missimi, for bringing the exciting, loveable and playful nature of actual cats to life so fully in this production.

“Cats” is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through May 25th. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

What an honor and delight to see Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater return to the historic Auditorium Theater during its 125 Anniversary year with our First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama serving as Honorary Chair for the 2014-2015 season!

Chicago is not only the groundbreaking company’s home; the Auditorium Theater is host to the longest run of domestic performances by Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater outside of New York city.

The program changes each night of the run except for the performance of Ailey’s seminal work “Revelations”. I have seen “Revelations” in the past and it never fails to deeply move me and inspire great hope.

“Revelations” truly does “explore the emotions of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul”. Ailey uses classic songs like “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” and “Sinner Man” to paint with his superbly trained dancers many expressive and poignant pictures of hopelessness leading to deliverance in the African American tradition.

The program I viewed also featured the refreshingly modern “Chroma” and “Four Corners” which stunningly portrayed the four Archangels guarding the four corners of the earth, holding in their angelic hands the four winds.  It was breathtaking and beautifully performed.

I highly recommend seeing as many of the different nights of dance Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater bestows upon its beloved Chicago audiences. The spectacular strength and beauty of Ailey’s dancers as directed by Robert Battle since 2011 will be a great source of inspiration and joy to all the members of your family, especially little girls and boys who dream of dancing with this exceptional troupe one day.

Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater will be performing at the Auditorium Theater (50 East Congress Way, Chicago) through March 9th. For tickets and/or more information, visit http://www.alvinailey.org.  

Watching the talented, all female cast of The Odd Couple flesh out Neil Simon’s comedy was a refreshing treat.  What a pleasure it was to see so many mature, funny women on one stage at one time. The Odd Couple is currently playing at Greenhouse Theatre on Lincoln Ave.

Kudos to director and producer, Robert Bills, for choosing this hilarious and female friendly 1985 adaptation by Neil Simon of his original “Odd Couple” written in 1965 about men. Even with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre History, I was not aware that this play by Simon existed. I recently saw the original by a fine all-star cast at Northlight Theatre and felt that joke for joke, Simon’s female version had more laughs and comedic insights into the difficulties of divorce and the value of real friendship than the all male version we are so accustomed to seeing.

Jeff Citation winning actress, Elaine Carlson, as Florence/Felix Unger was believable and sympathetic, as her character slowly and painfully broke free from her tightly wound ball of nervous tics and OCD inspired cleaning habits. 

The two roles of Florence’s first double date after separation still played by men in the female version were much funnier than the bland/ blonde female dates as written in the original.

Cesar Jaime as “Jesus” and Diagoberto Soto as “Manolo” deadpanned and dropped their few scenes onto the audience like little comedy bombs each one detonating with precision laughter.

I love Neil Simon comedies when they are done well and I highly recommend seeing this rare production of one of his finest, little known comedy masterpieces.

The Odd Couple (female version) is playing through November 10th and tickets are $28. For more information visit www.greenhousetheatre.org.  

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet is the name of a small but powerful dance company whose company of dancers come from, you guessed it, both Aspen and Santa Fe.

I was thoroughly impressed with the skills and passion of ASFB’s young, and fierce company. The quality of their technique and the choreography of the three pieces presented absolutely rivals that of the bigger, more established companies we are accustomed to seeing here in Chicago. This specific performance took place at The Harris Theater

The three works never before seen in Chicago were, “Over Glow” by Jorma Elo, “Beautiful Mistake” by Cayetano Soto, and “Last” by Alejandro Cerrudo (resident choreographer for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago).

Though I enjoyed them all, “Over Glow” by Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo, really stood out for me as a piece of modern ballet choreography with the most stunning images and subtle messages about human relationships that I have seen in many, many years.

“Over Glow” was set to music by Mendelssohn and Beethoven, yet the dancers were clothed in the simplest modern sea green and pale blue frocks designed beautifully by Nete Joseph.  The women were all in short, modern, sea green, silk dresses and the men, shirtless with pale blue pants set against a bright golden cyclorama that looked like the sun coming up over a western plain.

“Over Glow” begins with six dancers in newly forming couples. Each couple had their own style of meeting and courting.  They couples appear to be awakening each other from a still sleep with the simplest of hand gestures, tiny finger movements that cause their new partner to spark and come to life. The dancers rise up and spin or dance and walk for and with each in the most beautiful organic ways.

Sometimes the couples tease each other and send each other off in the wrong direction, only to pull their partner back in with the most delicate and gentle “kick” or stroke from their partner’s hand or foot.

The brilliance of Jorma Elo’s choreography is how he manages to convey almost an electronic, modern feel to these courtship movements, yet never renders them cold or unfeeling.  The movements imply that the physical awakening occurring between each of these couples is an automatic response of their nervous systems, yet wholly original, naturally beautiful and unique to each of the couples as they occur.

Elo’s stunning and uplifting choreography is both modern and classical, organic and futuristic, almost robotic, at the same time which gives one a marvelous sense of clean, yet vigorous romanticism.

At one point in “Over Glow”, one of the female dancers winds down, or collapses and her male partner falls to the floor and touchingly nudges her lifeless body with his head but cannot reawaken her. Then two of the female dancers come and begin the delicate hand gestures, the finger wiggles, to restart her engine and she does get up and becomes a leader for all of the couples who come back to life fully and dance again as a unified group.

I was absolutely delighted and riveted by this piece and by the passionate technique of all of the dancers in Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Company, which I can only describe as meaty, satisfying and fully engaging to ballet aficionados. ASFB’s dancers are young and few in number and I expect great performances will continuously flow from this carefully selected group.

I highly recommend seeing Aspen Santa Fe Ballet while they are here in Chicago and would actively seek out their performances on tour in the future. For more on this wonderful dance company, visit  http://www.aspensantafeballet.com/.

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The Mystery of Love and Sex Today's Modern Family

18 April 2017 in Theatre in Review

Following the lives of Charlotte and Jonny, The Mystery of Love and Sex cleverly explores a variety of subjects including…

Strangest Things! The Musical A Good Idea, But...

15 April 2017 in Theatre in Review

If you’ve followed Netflix’s big 2016 hit Stranger Things, this play will make all kinds of sense. You’ll get the…

Haven Theatre Company Presents "We're Gonna Die" at the Den Theatre

14 April 2017 in Upcoming Shows

Haven Theatre Company announces We’re Gonna Die, the final production in its fourth season, written by Young Jean Lee and…

After Six Months of Wedded Bliss, Tony N’ Tina's Wedding Chicago Announces New Cast Members Joining the “Family”

14 April 2017 in Upcoming Theatre

After hosting over 10,000 wedding crashers since opening in September 2016, one of Chicago’s longest-running smash-hit shows, Tony n’ Tina’s…

Ravinia 2017 Chronological Listing of Events

14 April 2017 in In Concert

For ticket information, visit Ravinia.org or call 847-266-5100. The complete 2017 season schedule follows. Note that artists and programs are…


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