Upcoming Theatre

The McAninch Arts Center (The MAC) located at the College of Dupage kicked off the holiday season with one of the most entertaining Christmas shows one could hope for. Actor/singer Craig A. Meyer, who was featured in last year’s sold out event “The Piano Men: A Tribute to Elton John and Billy Joel”, reprised his role as recording artist Elton John in a holiday event to remember, “Almost Elton John and the Rocket Band: A Very Elton Christmas”.

Meyer, whose vast array of credits include Broadway’s Meet Me in St. Louis, a national tour of Cats and Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, has also worked with both Elton John and Tim Rice on The Lion King. After the hard-working actor was approached numerous times about his likeness and his capability to sound like the legendary singer who brought us such greats as “Yellow Brick Road” and “Your Song”, Meyer formed Almost Elton John and went on to take his act around the world, giving fans another outlet to experience the excitement of an Elton John concert.

The positive response Meyer received at The MAC was proof positive that this Elton tribute act might just be one of the best around.

“Almost Elton John and the Rocket Band: A Very Elton Christmas” was divided into two sets, the first being that of Elton classics and the second a wide variety of Christmas songs.

Donned in glittery pants and high-heeled- silver boots, big sunglasses and a studded top hat, the caped singer quickly won over the crowd the first few songs in his set including “Bitch is Back”, “Philadelphia Freedom”, “Yellow Brick Road”. The first act went on to include “Crocodile Rock” and “Bennie and the Jets”. Meyer’s likeness to Elton was uncanny, but the similarity in voice even more impressive.

Throughout the show, Meyer quipped with the crowd, even delivering often misinterpreted lyrics in song. As a fan, and having seen Elton perform in Singapore, I couldn’t help but be awestruck at the way Meyer captured the essence of Elton.

As the second act began, Meyer returned to the stage, this time in a red glittered outfit, sequined Santa hat and all. Meyer again delivered. Rolling through Christmas faves that included “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “White Christmas”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, and a beautiful rendition of “Silent Night” there was no shortage of Christmas spirit in the acoustic friendly theatre. Meyer even managed to take “Jingle Bells”, a holiday song I could do without, and turn it into a fun, energetic number that bounced and was decorated with unique and enjoyable harmonies. He ended the set with his encore medley of “Another Hallelujah / O Holy Night”, a medley that was as moving as it was celebratory of the reason for the season.

Almost Elton John is an electrifying concert experience that I would recommend checking out whenever in performing in the Chicagoland area. Charismatic and able to reach his audience, Meyer is exceptional as Elton and carries along with him a talented band and back up singers that make the entire package the next best thing to the real deal. Concert dates and more information on this very fun band can be found at www.almosteltonjohn.com.

The MAC is also an impressive theater. Comfortable seating (not a bad seat in the house) and fantastic acoustics highlight this modern theater that also includes a full snack and drink bar and an art gallery to check out before or after the show. Home of the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, The MAC will also be host in December and January to “Presley, Perkins and Cash: A Million Dollar Christmas”, National Theatre Live’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” with Daniel Radcliff and Joshua McGuire, “The Nutcracker” National Theatre Live’s “Obsession” with Jude Law, “Moscow Festival Ballet: Cinderella” and famed trumpeter Chris Botti. For show dates and to see other upcoming events, visit www.atthemac.org.

 

Published in In Concert
Friday, 09 June 2017 20:27

MAC Announces 2017-2018 Season

McAninch Arts Center (MAC) located at 425 Fawell Blvd. on the campus of College of DuPage is pleased to announce its 2017-2018 Season Performance Series. Subscriptions are on sale now for an exciting selection of music, dance, theater, comedy and literary events showcasing a roster of world-class artists. Single tickets go on sale in person at the MAC Box Office Saturday, Aug. 5, beginning at 10 a.m.
 
“This season we’ve put together a very exciting and culturally intriguing array of artists and ensembles for our Performance Series. Add to that the incredible new seasons our resident companies Buffalo Theatre Ensemble and New Philharmonic have created and you have nine full months of must-see events with something for everyone,” says MAC director Diana Martinez.
 
A few of the highlights of MAC’s 2017-2018 Performance Series include “Tuesdays with Morrie” starring “M*A*S*H” star Jamie Farr (Sept. 30); “LIV ON,” an exciting new project by Grammy Award-winner Olivia Newton-John, with Nashville based singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman & Canadian pop singer-songwriter Amy Sky (Oct. 14); “Take Me to the River LIVE: a Memphis Soul and Rhythm & Blues Revue” featuring Grammy Award-winners William Bell, Charlie Musselwhite and Bobby Rush (Nov. 5); a talk by PBS celebrity chef and acclaimed author Lidia Bastianich (Nov. 9), the Chicago premiere of a new show by tap dance legend Savion Glover (Nov. 26) and concerts by Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and composer Chris Botti (Jan. 20), “¡Cubanismo!” featuring Cuban jazz great Jesús Alemañy with his all-star orchestra (Feb. 18), and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, Rosanne Cash (April 14).
 
New Philharmonic opens its 2017-2018 Season with “Mahler 5” featuring Mahler’s most famous work, (Sept. 23-24). Then, four guest vocalists and the 100 voices of the Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra Chorus join New Philharmonic and Maestro Muspratt for three performances of “The Best of Broadway: Rodgers & Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber” (Oct. 21 and Oct. 22). For the holidays, audiences will have the opportunity to once again enjoy Von Heidecke Chicago Festival Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” with Tchaikovsky’s beloved score performed live by New Philharmonic (Dec. 16-17). Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center alumnus Corey Crider (baritone) joins New Philharmonic for three celebratory New Year’s Eve Concert performances (Dec. 31) and January brings Giuseppe Verdi’s popular opera “La Traviata” (Jan. 27-28) starring critically acclaimed soprano Emily Birsan as Violetta. “Beethoven: Five Piano Concertos – One Pianist” New Philharmonic’s final concert of the season will be a rare opportunity to experience all five of Beethoven’s piano concertos in a single three-hour concert program (April 7-8).
 
Buffalo Theatre Ensemble’s 2017-2018 three-play season will open with the Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning play “The 39 Steps,” by John Buchan and adapted by Patrick Barlow from Alfred Hitchcock’s popular film, directed by BTE ensemble member, Kurt Naebig (Sept. 7-Oct. 8). Then BTE opens 2018 with the thought provoking play “Time Stands Still” by Donald Margulies, directed by BTE artistic director Connie Canaday Howard (Feb. 1-March 4). The romantic comedy/drama “Outside Mullingar” by John Patrick Shanley, directed by Steve Scott completes the season. (May 3 - June 3). All performances take place in the Playhouse Theatre.
 
Other programming at the MAC includes the return of encore broadcasts of the critically acclaimed National Theatre Live film series, Sept 14-March 8 (see schedule attached), plus the return of the popular Global Flicks free international film series, educational SchoolStage performances for pre-school through high school age students, more than 30 College performances in music, dance and theater, seven exhibitions of visual art at the Cleve Carney Art Gallery and new this year—a series of National Geographic Live events.  Additional details will be announced at a later date.
 
Select 2017-2018 events will be accompanied by a free pre or post-performance MAC Chat, providing the opportunity to engage with artists and learn more about their work; and for many shows theatergoers can enhance their evening by adding on a “VIP Experience,” a private pre-show cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception followed by coffee and dessert at intermission. Parking for MAC events is always free.
 
Subscriptions are on sale now. To subscribe by purchasing tickets to three or more shows, call the MAC Box Office at 630.942.4000. Single tickets go on sale to the public in person at the MAC Box Office Saturday, Aug. 5 at 10 a.m.; online at AtTheMAC.org Sunday, Aug. 6 at 12 a.m..  by phone at 630.942.4000 on Sunday, Aug. 6 beginning at 12 p.m. and A chronological listing of shows follows the release.
 
In advance of the 2017-2018 season, the MAC presents its 2017 Lakeside Pavilion Free Outdoor Summer Series. Programming runs July 6-Aug. 11 and includes a Friday evening Pop Music Series, a Thursday evening Jazz Concert Series and Thursday evening Family Movie Series. For updates and more information, visit AtTheMAC.org.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Jazz legend Ramsey Lewis can take the melody of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and turn it into a work of art. After watching and listening to him, I am sure of this. Eighty-years-old, he has the musical energy of a much younger man. He also brought to MacIninch Art Center a very talented group of musicians. 

 

First up was Henry Johnson on guitar. The first thing I thought of was Wes Montgomery. For those of you not familiar with Montgomery’s style, Wes mostly played with just his thumb on his right hand. Henry switched between that and a pick which he must have held in his palm while using his thumb. Johnson’s other influences include Kenny Burrell and George Benson. As a fledgling jazz guitar player myself, I found him to be a tasty player and learned a lot watching him play.

 

Joshua Ramos was on bass. He switched between upright bass and a five string electric through the set. Ramos got some serious applause from his solos. He played with the fluency most lead guitar players might envy. Having said that, he stayed in the pocket when he needed to do so.

 

On drums was Charles Heath. Heath is an amazing jazz drummer, switching from sticks to brushes depending on the song.  I found out he started playing drums at an early age and I am not surprised. He started working as a musician at the age of fourteen and earned a degree in music at Shaw University. His list of playing credits is quite long.

 

Then, of course you have Mr. Lewis, “the great performer”. Ramsey certainly lives up to the title. Though understandably a bit slow walking across the stage, it did not reflect his musical energy. He took Pop melodies to new heights. The Beatles’ “Here There and Everywhere” was my personal favorite. Another Beatles song he did amazing things to was “Hard Day’s Night”. Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City” was very nice as well. I didn’t hear too many songs that one would consider jazz standards, except possibly his own compositions. Lewis did have a few hits in his heyday, most jazz musicians cannot claim that. The ability to take a familiar melody and turn it into something greater is truly an art. I overheard someone say how he never played one of the songs the same way twice. The jazz musical mind just seems to work like that. Lewis did not give you a heavily rehearsed, boring performance. It showed the listener how music can be spontaneous and structured at the same time.

 

The art of jazz is not as popular as it once was in America. You could tell this from the crowd. The average age was at least sixty, if I had to estimate. Personally, I find it so refreshing to see great musicians actually perform without the use of gimmicks. The raw energy of the performance was the key on this particular Saturday night. 

 

If you have any interest in seeing real music played the way it was supposed to be played, go see it now before all the classic players are all gone. At eighty-years-old, Ramsey won’t be around forever. The music will live forever, but the performers will not. I don’t want to sound like a cynic, but I think a lot of this is lost in music today. Go support music being played by real musicians like The Ramsey Lewis Quartet. Good music elevates you mind, body and soul to new heights. 

 

In the end, I found the performance inspirational and highly rewarding. The reward was an emotional sense of elevation. Music is the ultimate escape. For one hour and forty-five minutes I had no problems in my life. Even after coming back to reality, I felt better. I wish to thank “the great performer” for this. Ramsey Lewis is simply amazing and it was great to see and of course hear him.

 

Ramsey Lewis Quartet

March 12, 2016-7:30 PM

MacIninch Art Center

College Of DuPage

Glen Ellyn, IL

 

Published in In Concert

Five time Grammy Award winner Robert Cray brought his band into Glen Ellyn, IL to play some Blues. Roberts’s career spans forty years. The Robert Cray Band made its debut in 1980 and some of his members has lasted almost since the band began. Richard Cousins on bass has been with him as long as I can remember. Dover Weinberg is on Hammond Organ and keys and Les Falconer completes the line up on drums.

 

Cray is just as amazing at the age of 62 as he ever was. Such a sweet, yet powerful voice. His guitar playing is nothing short of spectacular. No gimmicks from this Master of the Stratocaster. Cray goes straight into the amp (with a wireless system) and plays The Blues the way they are meant to be played. However, he is a bit more sophisticated than his predecessors.

 

He opened up strong and finished strong, leaving you wanting more. Part of this may be that it was a very short set. An hour and fifteen minutes was great but I would have liked a little more. That seemed to be the general consensus from the crowd, although they were more than satisfied with the performance. 

 

Cray’s band was so tight and in the pocket. The kind of groove this band lays down only comes from experience…no other way. You couldn’t help clapping or tapping your foot the whole time. Cray really has his own voice musically to the point it is not very easy to compare him directly with other Blues artists. A few people yelled out “Muddy Waters” and “Howlin’ Wolf” which I didn’t really understand but Robert took it just fine. Great to have a sense of humor about things like that. The man is constantly smiling. He really seemed relaxed and at peace, not an artist chasing demons. 

 

The Robert Cray Band proves you can play the Blues and keep it sounding fresh. They groove without playing a bunch of twelve bar shuffles with one sounding like another. Cray was relaxed, the band was relaxed and the audience was relaxed. I don’t mean that in a bad way. He had the attention of everyone in the room. Once again, my only real complaint would be the length of the show. He was the epitome of leaving you wanting more. Satisfied, yet still hungry. The show was over in ten minutes. At least that’s how it felt to me. My hands hurt from clapping along. There should have been a dance floor.

 

Robert Cray Band

Belushi Performance Hall

McAninch Arts Center

College Of DuPage

 

Published in In Concert

 

 

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