Saturday, April 20, 2019


ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List:

15th Annual Festival is 9 AM to 3 PM and Features Model Train Layouts, Kid Crafts, CN’s Little Obie Trackless Train, Live Music and More!

I have a soft spot for Chicago's southern burb, Homewood. My grandma, aunt, uncle, and my 4 cousins lived there throughout my childhood and I have fond memories of turtle ponds, ice cream, and running barefoot down the sidewalks there. This weekend The Village of Homewood celebrates its rich rail history at the 15th Annual Homewood Rail Fest on Saturday, May 18 in the H-F Park District Auditorium, 2010 Chestnut Road, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you've got a train fan at home, it's worth the trek. You can even take the Metra there from Chicago. The Village of Homewood is a located just 25 miles south of Chicago's Loop. 

Visitors will experience numerous model train displays, a wide assortment of train collectables, kid crafts, folk railroad songs sung by MG Bailey, trackless train rides on Canadian National’s Little Obie and more. Homewood Rail Fest is free and open to the public. For more information on Homewood Rail Fest, visit or call 708-798-3000.

“This is a great festival for the whole family to experience what makes Homewood such a wonderful community.,” said Village Mayor Rich Hofeld. “The town was built around the railroad. Homewood’s Rail Fest is the perfect time for the community to come together and to have for everyone outside the community to visit us on the Metra Electric line."

The Homewood Rail Fest features intricate multiple gauge train layouts to view and kids activities including crafts and coloring train cut-outs. Kids can also participate in the railroad scavenger hunt, finding hidden items in the train layouts to receive a prize. Collectors can also view and purchase vintage train memorabilia including antique trains, model trains and items associated with the bygone days of the railroad. Homewood’s own MG Bailey is performing rail songs from yesteryear and food is available as well.

Additional rail amenities in Homewood include the Rail Watching Platform on Harwood next to the Metra station. Viewers can watch the train traffic and listen to the conductors as they maneuver on one of the eight tracks servicing Amtrak, Metra and freight trains. Visitors can also experience the Rail Park, on Park Ave north of the Metra station, featuring the newly restored Illinois Central caboose 9426. Connecting the two rail attractions is the underground pedestrian tunnel adorned with murals depicting local railroad history and murals painted by Homewood’s Girls Scouts.

Homewood Rail Fest is Saturday, May 18 in the H-F Park District Auditorium, 2010 Chestnut Rd., from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Homewood Rail Fest is free and open to the public. Homewood Rail Fest is sponsored by The Homewood Rail Committee and The Village of Homewood. For more information on Homewood Rail Fest, visit or call (708)798-3000.

The Village of Homewood is a located just 25 miles south of Chicago's Loop. Recently named the third “Best Place to Live” out of 25 U.S. communities by CNN, Homewood is also listed as one of the top most livable metro area suburbs by Nationally-Acclaimed elementary and high school districts as well as parochial schools, an award winning park district, and commuter friendly downtown with Amtrak and Metra stops and convenient exit ramps off I 80 and I­ 294 are just a few of Homewood’s amenities. Homewood takes pride in hosting over 60 outdoor festivals yearly and expanded downtown growth, including a boutique hotel and craft breweries. Homewood is acknowledge by Chicago Magazine, Chicago Tribune, WGN-TV and the Chaddick Institute/DePaul University among others as a creative community with a high standard for quality of life and an abundance of amenities for young families. For more information visit

Friday, April 19, 2019


Chicago Children’s Theatre is proud to announce the company has been awarded the 2019 National TYA Artistic Innovation Award from Theatre of Young Audiences/USA (TYA/USA), the national service organization supporting, connecting, and advocating for the field of theater for young audiences.

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2019 world premiere
X Marks the Spot

The company’s Red Kite Project for children on the autism spectrum.

Chicago Children’s Theatre has long been a favorite of ours, and it's wonderful to see them receiving well deserved fame and acclaim beyond Chicago. We are beyond fortunate to have this world class resource for young audiences right here at home. Kudos to Chicago Children’s Theatre for their stellar work in Chi, IL and beyond, creating new works and growing the next generation of empathetic, enlightened, theatre loving kids. 

“TYA/USA is thrilled to honor Chicago Children’s Theatre for the company’s profound impact in Chicago and the national TYA field,” said Jonathan Shmidt Chapman, Executive Director of TYA/USA. “At a time when TYA theaters across the country are increasingly unable to support the development of new work, Chicago Children’s Theatre continues to significantly expand the TYA canon while creating new pathways of access for underrepresented audiences. Led by Founding Artistic Director, Jacqueline Russell, Chicago Children’s Theatre has demonstrated national leadership in groundbreaking artistic vision and audience inclusivity as vanguards of our field, pushing the genre forward with their work.”

The TYA Artistic Innovation Award honors an individual or company that has demonstrated innovation – experimentation in content or in form – in recent artistic work in TYA. In particular, TYA/USA credits Chicago Children’s Theatre’s long-standing commitment to access via its Red Kite Project, which presents live adventure experiences and a popular summer camp program for children on the autism spectrum.

In this January 2019 blog post, TYA/USA also showcased Chicago Children’s Theatre’s groundbreaking 2019 world premiere of X Marks the Spot, an all-new form of “X Tra Sensory Theater” created by Jacqueline Russell inspired by children who are visually impaired. X Marks the Spot incorporated sounds, voices, tastes, touchable, scented props and a contemporary story inspired by a Victorian novel by Edith Nesbit to create an unforgettably different live theater experience that helped children better appreciate all of their senses.

“Chicago Children’s Theatre is delighted to receive this recognition from one of our most important audiences, our TYA peers around the U.S.,” said Russell. “Creating theater that's inclusive of all of children is core to CCT's mission. If our efforts to expand inclusivity are inspiring other theaters to create innovative new programming, particularly for children from often marginalized communities, then we’re both proud and humbled that our work is having a positive impact not just on children in Chicago, but on children throughout the U.S.”

Russell will accept this year’s TYA Artistic Innovation Award on behalf of Chicago Children’s Theatre on May 9, 2019 as part of the 2019 TYA/USA National Festival & Conference, the largest gathering of theatre for young audiences professionals in North America. Over 300 artists, educators and administrators will convene at this year’s event, held at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, to experience 12 productions from around the globe, exchange current practice and discuss the future of the TYA industry. For more information, visit

Theatre for Young Audiences/USA (TYA/USA) is a national service organization whose mission is to promote the power of professional theater for young audiences through excellence, collaboration and innovation across cultural and international boundaries. The organization provides advocacy and resources in order to strengthen and diversify the field of theatre for young audiences.
For more, visit

Nelson Simmons plays Kenny in The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963, Chicago Children's current world premiere production based on the Newbery Medal-winning book by Christopher Paul Curtis, now extended through May 19. 
Photo by Charles Osgood.

About Chicago Children’s Theatre
Led by Founding Artistic Director, Jacqueline Russell, Chicago Children’s Theatre was founded in 2005 with a big idea: Chicago is the greatest theater city in the world, and it deserves a great children’s theater. Nearly 15 years later, CCT is Chicago’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families, and has established a national reputation for the production of first-rate children’s theater, with professional writing, performing, and directorial talent and high-quality design and production expertise.

Chicago Children’s Theatre has produced 20 world premieres in the last 12 years including The Selfish Giant, The Hundred Dresses, Jackie and Me, The Houdini Box, Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, Leo Lionni’s Frederick, Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure, Jabari Dreams of Freedom, The Year I Didn’t Go To School: A Homemade Circus, Manual Cinema’s Magic City, My Wonderful Birthday Suit!, Last Stop on Market Street, X Marks the Spot, The World Inside Me (with New York’s Spellbound Theatre) and The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963. These productions enjoyed successful inaugural runs in Chicago, many followed by productions at theaters across the U.S.

Chicago Children’s Theatre has garnered six NEA Art Works grants, supporting the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence. In 2017, CCT became the first theater for young audiences in the U.S. to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.

In January 2017, the company celebrated the opening of its new, permanent home, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, located at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop community. The building, formerly the Chicago Police Station for the 12th District, was repurposed into a beautiful, LEED Gold-certified, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility that now welcomes all Chicago families. CCT also continues to grow its education programs, offering classes, workshops, winter and spring break camps, and summer camps for ages 0 to 13. CCT offers free tickets to more than 5,000 low-income students each season in partnership with Chicago Public Schools.

In addition to leading Chicago Children’s Theatre’s new play development, main stage, and education programs, Jacqueline Russell is the creator of the Red Kite Project, a multi-sensory interactive theatre program tailored specifically to children with special needs. Recently, Russell created and directed an innovative production, X Marks the Spot, a multi-sensory experience inspired by her work with children with visual impairments. In 2010, she was appointed by the U.S. State Department to serve as Cultural Envoy to Canada, was awarded the 2013 “Hero of the Year Award” from the Chicago chapter of Autism Speaks, and was recently honored as one of 20 women who have shaped arts and culture in Chicago on the Kerry James Marshall mural at the Chicago Culture Center.

Chicago Children’s Theatre is led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, with Board President Eric Neveux. For more, visit

Multimillion Dollar Renovation at Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore

Lakhani Hospitality Unveils 15,000 Square Feet of Reimagined Event Space and 250 Guest Rooms

Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore Completes Multimillion Dollar Renovation

I'll be out for the unveiling the first week of May, so check back soon for my photo filled recap. I'm elated to hear about the exciting new look at the Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore. My parents frequently stay in Skokie when they visit from out of state, and it's exciting to have a contemporary, newly updated option. 

Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore is pleased to announce the completion of a comprehensive, multi-year renovation project. The property-wide transformation at 5300 West Touhy Avenue in Skokie, IL, includes an overhaul of the hotel’s 15,000 square feet of flexible banquet and meeting space, in addition to a complete revamp of the 250 guestrooms, lobby, indoor pool and public spaces.

The new, sleek and contemporary design, which carries into the 15,000 square feet of versatile and pillarless event and meeting space, caters to a variety of social events with customizable menus and packages for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, quinceaneras, fundraisers and more. The banquet and conference center can be divided into eight separate meeting spaces and is the largest ballroom on the North Shore, accommodating up to 1,000 guests.

Custom-designed, sparkling crystal chandeliers sit 14 feet high in hand-glazed gold and copper domes, enhanced by a beautiful new color palette. A state-of-the-art sound and lighting system has also been installed and is entirely customizable for any event.

“We may have a new look, but we will continue to provide the same superior service and experience that has made locals and tourists feel at home for years,” said Sheila Lakhani, Chief Operating Officer of Lakhani Hospitality, the family business that owns and operates a portfolio of multiple hotel properties throughout Chicagoland.

Additional upgrades to the 250 modern guest rooms, include 40 brand new studio suites. Providing all of the comforts of home, new room amenities include blackout shades, mobile table and task chair and a welcome nook.

Inviting earth tone colors and textiles contrast new pops of color property-wide, with Chicago-themed artwork on display throughout the hotel. 

Originally built as a Holiday Inn in the 1960s, the property has undergone multiple facelifts over the years. In 2004, the Lakhani family, also residents of Skokie, purchased the building and the neighboring 80,000 square foot Edens Tennis Club, shortly after. In 2007, the Skokie Banquet and Conference Center was built, adding 11,000 square feet of meeting space to the Holiday Inn North Shore. 

Guests visiting Chicago can enjoy the hotel’s convenient location just 12 miles from downtown Chicago.

To make a reservation at the newly renovated Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore and for more information, please call (847) 679-8900 or visit

Located just 12 miles from downtown Chicago, Holiday Inn & Suites Chicago North Shore is family owned and operated by Lakhani Hospitality. The newly-renovated 250 guest rooms, including 40 studio suites, offer modern features, providing all of the comforts of home. Meeting and banquet facilities feature 15,000 square feet of flexible space, accommodating up to 1,000 guests. Leisure travelers can enjoy the 24/7 fitness center, indoor swimming pool and on-site Bar Louie Tavern & Grill. For reservations and event information, please call (847) 679-8900 or visit  

OPENING: West Side Story at Lyric Opera of Chicago May 3 – June 2, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Corey Cott as Tony and Mikaela Bennett as Maria in
Lyric Opera’s new grand-scale coproduction of
May 3 – June 2, 2019

 Mikaela Bennett as Maria and Corey Cott as Tony in Lyric’s West Side Story. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

It's time to rumble on an epic scale, with a Sharks and Jets showdown, Lyric Opera style! I'll be out for the press opening, May 4th, with my son, so check back soon for our full review. We can't wait to catch this classic, ill fated love story, with an astonishing cast of nearly 100 artists and musicians. Don't miss this!

Lyric’s new grand-scale coproduction of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece West Side Story opens next month and features Broadway star Corey Cott as Tony and rising star Mikaela Bennett as Maria. Additional lead casting includes Brett Thiele (Riff), Amanda Castro (Anita), Manuel Stark Santos (Bernardo), and Adam Soniak (Action). Performances run May 3 – June 2, 2019 at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago. Tickets are on sale now starting at $26 and can be purchased at or by calling 312-827-5600.

With a cast of nearly 100 artists and musicians, Lyric’s coproduction brings a new energy and scale to West Side Story, which transports the story of Romeo and Juliet to the backstreets of New York and features iconic songs “Tonight,” “America,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Maria” and more. Staged by internationally acclaimed opera and theater director Francesca Zambello, the production features members of the Lyric Opera Chorus and Orchestra conducted by James Lowe.

West Side Story is a coproduction with Houston Grand Opera and Glimmerglass Festival. Zambello, who serves as the artistic director of the Glimmerglass Festival and Washington National Opera, returns to Lyric for the first time since the premiere of her production of Show Boat (2011/12) and has also directed Lyric productions of Tristan und Isolde (2008/09) and Salome (2006/07). West Side Story features the original choreography by Jerome Robbins, recreated for Lyric by Julio Monge. Set designs are by Peter J. Davison, with costumes designed by Jessica Jahn and lighting designed by Mark McCullough. Mark Grey is sound designer and Michael Black is chorus master.

COREY COTT (Tony), a graduate of Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, received critical acclaim on Broadway for his performance in the Tony Award-winning musical Bandstand. He made his Broadway debut as Jack Kelly in Disney’s Newsies for two years, followed by the revival of Gigi starring opposite Vanessa Hudgens. On television, he appeared opposite Christina Ricci in the Amazon series Z: The Beginning of Everything and co-starred alongside Hattie Morahan in the BBC/PBS miniseries My Mother and Other Strangers. He can also be seen in a recurring role on The Good Fight (CBS All Access). Other credits include The Interestings (Amazon pilot), Madam Secretary, Public Morals, Law and Order: SVU, and recently completed filming a role in the new Fox pilot, Filthy Rich. A native of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, Mr. Cott previously starred in Ms. Zambello’s staging of West Side Story in Concert with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, conducted by Steven Reineke. He recently made his Carnegie Hall debut singing with the New York Pops.

MIKAELA BENNETT (Maria) is a graduate of the Juilliard School and is celebrated as a singer and actress for her work on stage and in the concert hall. In 2019 she was honored with a Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists. On stage, she made her professional debut starring as Penelope/The Golden Apple at City Center Encores! She originated the role of Norma/Renascence in Dick Scanlan and Carmel Dean’s new musical in New York City, and at the Prototype Festival she originated the title role/Acquanetta in a new opera composed by Michael Gordon. In the concert hall she has made her debuts with some of the world’s leading orchestras, including the John Wilson Orchestra (as Maria/West Side Story, concert performance at the BBC Proms), the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Slatkin, the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and both the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic under Michael Tilson Thomas. She has also appeared as a soloist at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall.

AMANDA CASTRO (Anita) has previously appeared in West Side Story as both Anita (Atlanta Opera, Glimmerglass Festival) and Consuelo (Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Houston Grand Opera). Castro has appeared widely in America and also abroad (London, Germany, South Africa). A California Institute of the Arts alumna, she was a principal dancer of the renowned Brooklyn-based company Urban Bush Women for four years. In the Run the Night competition at New York’s Highline Ballroom, she won in 2016 and placed second in 2017 with Soles of Duende, her all-female percussive trio. Other New York credits include a recently completed year-long creative residency with Soles of Duende at Dixon Place Theatre; assisting choreographer Nick Kenkel at BC Beat; working as a model and movement specialist in New York Fashion Week; and dancing at Radio City Music Hall for the Ellie Awards. Castro was dance captain at Geva eater (Rochester, New York) for In the Heights. Choreography credits include the American Dance Awards, several works for Urban Bush Women, and multiple set pieces for Northeast competition studios.

BRETT THIELE (Riff) has appeared in multiple Broadway productions including Escape to Margaritaville, Miss Saigon, and Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. A native of New Orleans, Thiele has appeared off-Broadway in Clueless, The Musical at the New Group. Regionally, he has appeared as Tulsa/Gypsy at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, The First Wives Club at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, Follies at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and as Dakin/The History Boys at the Uptown Players in Dallas. His previous West Side Story performances include Riff with the St. Petersburg Opera Company and Action at the Asolo Theatre in Florida.

MANUEL STARK SANTOS (Bernardo) previously played this role at Ogunquit Playhouse. He has also portrayed Chino at New York’s Palace Theatre and Riff at Carnegie Hall. Santos has appeared on Broadway as Kassim/Aladdin (subsequently on the production’s first national tour), Bonfils/Gigi, and S. Uperman/On the Town. In New York he has also been seen at the Public LAB (Venice: A New Musical), City Center Encores! (Do I Hear a Waltz, Little Me, Applause, Irma La Douce, The Most Happy Fella), Paper Mill Playhouse (Paul San Marco/A Chorus Line), New York Music Theater Festival (Rio), Houston’s Theater Under the Stars (Disney’s When You Wish), Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre (world premiere of Bull Durham), and Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (Ren/Footloose). He was also seen in 14 episodes of the NBC television series Smash.

ADAM SONIAK (Action, u/s Riff) comes to Lyric following the national tour of the American-premiere production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies. No stranger to West Side Story, he has played Riff at Casa Mañana and the Westchester Broadway Theatre, as well as in major cities across Europe with the international touring company. Regionally, he has appeared at Paper Mill Playhouse (The Sound of Music) Walnut Street Theatre (Saturday Night Fever), and Riverside Theatre (Hello, Dolly!). To honor this production, Soniak has made a donation to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

About Lyric Opera of Chicago
Lyric Opera of Chicago’s mission is to express and promote the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to Chicago and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form.

Founded in 1954, Lyric is dedicated to producing and performing consistently thrilling, entertaining, and thought-provoking opera with a balanced repertoire of core classics, lesser-known masterpieces, and new works; to creating an innovative and wide-ranging program of community engagement and educational activities; and to developing exceptional emerging operatic talent.

Under the leadership of general director, president & CEO Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric strives to become The Great North American Opera Company for the 21st century: a globally significant arts organization embodying the core values of excellence, relevance, and fiscal responsibility.

To learn more about Lyric’s next season, go to You can also join the conversation with @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Based on a conception of JEROME ROBBINS Book by ARTHUR LAURENTS
Original production directed and choreographed by JEROME ROBBINS
This production is a coproduction of Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, and Glimmerglass Festival.

Lyric premiere of Bernstein’s West Side Story generously made possible by Lead Sponsor The Negaunee Foundation and cosponsors an Anonymous Donor, Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin, Robert S. and Susan E. Morrison, Mrs. Herbert A. Vance and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance, and Northern Trust. Major in-kind audio support provided by Shure Incorporated.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar


Production photos by my all time favorite theatre photographer, the incomparable Joe Mazza!

Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Adaptation of Herman Melville’s American Epic to be Conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya and Directed by Kristine McIntyre 

“Moby-Dick” is sung in English (with English supertitles) and 
runs 2 hours and 40 minutes.

ChiIL Mama will be out to review on the 25th, so check back soon for our full recap. Chicago Opera Theater (COT) caps its 2018/2019 season with the Chicago premiere of “Moby-Dick,” an epic adaptation of Herman Melville’s 1851 classic “Moby-Dick; or, The Whale” at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance (205 E. Randolph Street) Thursday, April 25 and Sunday, April 28. The production is co-produced by Utah Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, San Jose Opera and Gran Teatre del Liceu.

This grand American epic, featuring music by Jake Heggie and a libretto by Gene Scheer arrives in Chicago on the heels of critically acclaimed performances in Utah, Pittsburgh and San Jose. The production is conducted by Staley Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya and directed by Kristine McIntyre. The design team includes David Jaques (Lighting), Erhard Rom (Sets) and Jessica Jahn (Costumes.) 

“‘Moby-Dick’ is a stunning work of extraordinarily powerful music and gripping storytelling,” said Yankovskaya. “Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer have drawn from the most compelling and dramatic passages of Melville’s epic, crafting a deft adaptation that has thrilled audiences across the globe. We’re proud to be bringing this important American opera to Chicago audiences for the first time.”

The opera focuses on the perilous adventures of the whaling ship Pequod, as Captain Ahab gathers a crew on his quest for revenge on the legendary whale that cost him a leg. Featuring a cast of more than 50 singers, including acclaimed American tenor Richard Cox as Captain Ahab and Russian-American baritone Aleksey Bogdanov as Starbuck, the spectacular production was hailed as “a stunning achievement… imposing, monumental, goose bump-inducing orchestral and choral writing” by Opera Today and “a modern masterpiece” by OperaWire. Other principal singers include Vince Wallace (Queequeg), Andrew Bidlack (Greenhorn), Summer Hassan (Pip), Aaron Short (Flask), Christopher Magiera (Captain Gardiner) and David Govertsen (Stubb). The chorus features more than 30 male voices. For more information on the cast, click here.

“Moby-Dick” will be performed Thursday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 25 at 3 p.m.  at the Harris Theatre for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Street. Tickets, which range in price from $45-$145, are available now on the Chicago Opera Theater website or by calling (312) 704-8420.


About Chicago Opera Theater
Chicago Opera Theater (COT) is a nationally recognized opera company based in Chicago, now in its 46th season. COT expands the tradition of opera as a living art form, with an emphasis on Chicago premieres, including new contemporary operas for a 21st century audience.

In addition to its programmed mainstage season, COT is devoted to the development and production of new opera in the United States through the Vanguard Initiative, launched in the Spring of 2018. The Vanguard Initiative mentors emerging opera composers, invests time and talent in new opera at various stages of the creative process and presents the Living Opera Series to showcase new and developing work.

Since its founding in 1973 by Alan Stone, COT has staged more than 125 operas, including over 65 Chicago premieres and more than 35 operas by American composers.

COT is led by Stefan Edlis and Gael Neeson General Director Ashley Magnus and Orli and Bill Staley Music Director Lidiya Yankovskaya. As of fall 2018, Maestro Yankovskaya is the only woman with the title Music Director at any of the top 50 opera companies in the United States. COT currently performs at the Studebaker Theater (Michigan & Congress) and the Harris Theater for Music & Dance (Michigan & Randolph).

For more information on the Chicago Opera Theater and its programs please visit

Production photos by my all time favorite theatre photographer, the incomparable Joe Mazza!

Thursday, April 11, 2019



Love, Chaos, & Dinner Premieres in Chicago in July
In Brand New Venue in Chicago Theatre District
Performances Begin July 18

Teatro ZinZanni is delighted to announce tickets for the premiere of Love, Chaos, & Dinner, the critically acclaimed show combining the best of cirque, cabaret, spectacle, live music, comedy and fine dining, will go on sale to the public on Friday, April 12.  Presented by Randolph Entertainment, performances begin July 18 at The Spiegeltent ZaZou, a Belgian mirror tent filled with historic touches, located on the 14th floor in the newly opened Cambria Hotel Chicago Loop-Theatre District (32 W. Randolph St.). Tickets will be available for performances July 18 through September 29, 2019.  

Described as the “Kit Kat Klub on acid,” Teatro ZinZanni brings to Chicago an international cast of extraordinary entertainers for its highly anticipated premiere engagement.  Love, Chaos & Dinner features the master of madcap improv Frank Ferrante, cabaret star Lady Rizo, and acclaimed Chicago natives aerial trapeze act Duo Rose. The company will also feature entertainment from comedians Joe De Paul and Tim Tyler, hoop aerialist Elena Gatilova, Parisian acrobat Domitil Aillot, and the body juggling Anastasini Brothers. Teatro ZinZanni’s founder Norm Langill will direct the production.  The menu will be designed by Chicago’s own Debbie Sharpe – The Goddess in The Goddess and Grocer.

About Teatro ZinZanni
Teatro ZinZanni was founded in 1998 launching a wholly original new form of entertainment combining a unique fusion of cirque, comedy, cabaret, spectacle, and live music while serving up a multi-course feast.  Inspired by the great cabarets of Europe, a team of creative artists and theatre professionals who have been working together for over 40 years created Teatro ZinZanni. Led by Founder Norm Langill, Teatro ZinZanni has featured celebrated artists from the worlds of cirque, clowning, cabaret, music, aerial arts, magic, and illusion.  Performers over the years have included internationally recognized names like Joan Baez and Ann Wilson.  The Chicago engagement is presented in the Spiegeltent ZaZou on the 14th floor in the newly opened Cambria Hotel Chicago Loop located in the Theatre District.  The previously forgotten space was discovered in 2017 during the renovation of the Cambria Hotel when dropped ceilings were removed revealing the original grand space within the 1926 historic building.  For more information, visit

About Randolph Entertainment
Randolph Entertainment is a partnership of some 25 people who share in the vision of bringing an extraordinary experience to Chicago. A group of mostly Chicago based individuals; the partnership is committed to being a good neighbor and contributor to Chicago’s vibrant cultural community. Stanley Feig, a veteran of the entertainment industry with a career spanning several decades, manages the partnership. 

About Debbie Sharpe
Two parts rock n’ roll, one part Chicago, and one sassy Aussie Debbie Sharpe is The Goddess in The Goddess and Grocer.  The Goddess got her background in rock n’ roll catering, traveling the globe and feeding some of the most influential musicians of our time including The Rolling Stones, Madonna, U2 and Fleetwood Mac. Instantly falling in love with Chicago, she got off the Paul McCartney tour bus and laid down roots in the Wicker Park – Bucktown neighborhood in 1990. Serving a colorful, globally inspired menu of creative sandwiches, vibrant salads, mix-and-match square meals, and gourmet pantry items, she opened The Goddess and Grocer in 2004 and it was an instant hit.  At The Goddess and Grocer, we believe in the power of community, the influence of music, and most of all, we believe great food brings people together.

Love, Chaos, and Dinner
Enter a realm where reality and dreams converge; an experience unlike any other! Teatro ZinZanni is a whirlwind of international cirque, comedy and cabaret served with a multi-course feast.  Described as the “Kit Kat Klub on acid,” the fast-paced action unfolds around, above and alongside guests as world-class acrobats, musicians, divas, illusionists, madmen, and aerialists fill our intimate Spiegeltent ZaZou, a unique jewel box mirror tent. Teatro ZinZanni’s signature blend of Love, Chaos & Dinner has played to sold out audiences in Seattle and San Francisco. Don’t miss the show The New York Times calls, “A feast for the senses” and the “city’s hottest ticket!”

Spiegeltent ZaZou
The Cambria Hotel Chicago Loop-Theatre District
32 W. Randolph St.

Individual tickets, which include a four-course meal, go on-sale Friday, April 12, range in price from $99 - $189 and are available at  Tickets will be available for performances July 18 through September 29, 2019.  For groups of 10 or more, call Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710 or email  For more information about the show, visit

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

REVIEW: THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE at Filament Theatre Through May 26, 2019

ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List
Based on book by Kate DiCamillo
Adapted by Dwayne Hartford
Directed by Kathryn Walsh

All production photos by Christian Libonati

Through May 26, 2019

Sensory-friendly performance on Sunday, April 28th

Guest Review
by kimberly robb baker

The Filament Theatre’s production of Edward Tulane is as epic a journey in emotions, time, and place as one could hope to experience in 75 minutes. The play, adapted by Dwayne Harford, is based on Kate DiCamillo’s bestselling book of a self-involved porcelain bunny—from the best dollmaker in Paris, if you please. He is loved by the girl Abilene, played by Mariah Copeland, but he neither appreciates nor returns her love.

Edward is a gift from Abilene’s mysterious grandmother, Pellegrina, portrayed with a really creepy, nonchalant scariness by Juanita Andersen. She sees his nature and, perhaps, is instrumental in instigating his life-altering fall from a ship.

From the bottom of the sea, Edward begins to think on things. The adventures he has, people he meets, and love he experiences are deeply touching—and surprising given that Edward cannot move or speak.

Enter his alter-ego, voiced by Nik Kmiecik in words and a very sweet mandolin, allow us to very actively witness Edward’s transformation.

Alejandro Tey plays Abilene’s father. He, Andersen, and Copeland bring to life a diverse cast of characters, from old fisher-people to hobos to farm owners and workers and more. The cast is extraordinary, as individuals embodying several very different people and as a group. They were so present with each other and true to each character they played, that I would have felt seemingly the entire range of human emotion had the play happened in a black box with a single spotlight.

The production, however, was imaginative and beautiful. From set to lighting to props—and the interplay of all those elements with each other and the cast—a charming world was created and the audience, adult and child, was enraptured from start to finish. Expect twists and turns, tears of sorrow and joy, and a deeper understanding of love with all its risks.

Bonus: One nine-year-old in our party is now excited to read the book!

Kimberly Robb Baker is a Chicago based writer, blogger, consultant, story teller, and mother. You can find her worky stuff here: and her artsy fartsy stuff here:

Bring a favorite stuffed animal or doll!
Edward Tulane tells the story of a beloved toy rabbit and his extraordinary adventures.  But we know Edward isn’t the only toy with stories to tell! We invite you to bring a favorite stuffed companion to share in our “Pop Up Museum” -- a show-and-tell environment where audience members can share their childhood treasures.  Audience members of all ages are invited to participate (Yes, grown-ups, we mean you too!).

Read the book!
Filament’s stage version of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a very faithful adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s beautiful novel.  Get an advance look at the characters and story by purchasing the book in advance, or checking it out at your local library.  If your family prefers surprises, reading the book after seeing the show is a great way to extend the experience! The book will be available at the theater for patrons who make an on-site donation of $20 or more.

About the play
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane contains moments of peril, including loss and death. If you have questions about the content and whether it is right for your child, please email us at The show runs 75 minutes without an intermission.

If you have any questions about your journey to Filament Theatre, we encourage you to view our Plan Your Visit page on our website.

I had a chance to catch this stellar story a few years back at Chicago Children's Theatre and it's truly a treat to see this family friendly favorite come to life on stage. We're so excited Filament Theatre's mounting this production this spring. 

Filament Theatre brings to the stage The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, now playing through May 26 at Filament Theatre, 4041 N Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago. Based on Newbery Award winner Kate DiCamillo’s best selling book, adaptor Dwayne Harford has crafted the beloved story for the stage. Director Kathryn Walsh returns to Filament Theatre to bring new life into what the Chicago Tribune calls “the most charming of narratives.” Single tickets are currently available at

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane will feature Nik Kmiecik as the Musician voicing the inner thoughts of Edward Tulane with Juanita Andersen, Mariah Copeland, and Filament Resident Artist Alejandro Tey filling out the rest of the characters. Kathryn Incardona and Laila Sauer will understudy.

The cast of Filament Theatre’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (top, l to r): Juanita Andersen, Mariah Copeland (bottom, l to r): Nik Kmiecik, Alejandro Tey.

The production team for Edward Tulane includes direction by Kathryn Walsh, original music by Filament Resident Artist Timothy McNulty, costume design by Filament Resident Artist Noël Huntzinger, set design by Sarah Watkins, sound design by Matthew Chapman, lighting design by Jessica Carson, stage management by Sarah Collogne and Emma Franklin, with production assistance from Danny Kapinos, Cat Perez and Auden Granger. 

In the words of one young Filament patron, the story of Edward Tulane is “happy, then sad, then all mixed up.” Edward Tulane is an expensive toy rabbit made of china. He is loved by a little girl named Abilene, but Edward has no interest in anyone other than himself. On an ocean voyage, Edward is accidentally thrown overboard and sinks to the bottom of the sea. So begins his journey—a journey over which he has no control, for he is a toy rabbit. He can neither move nor speak. As years pass by, Edward meets many different people in many different situations. Through this miraculous journey, Edward learns what it is to love, what it is to lose that love, and how to find the courage to love again.

Produced by special arrangement with The Dramatic Publishing Company, Inc., Woodstock, Illinois. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane was originally commissioned, developed and produced at Childsplay in Tempe, Ariz. David P. Saar, artistic director; Steve Martin, managing director. 

For more information including age recommendations, visit

Accessible Performances: 
Filament Theatre offers a sensory-friendly performance of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane on Sunday, April 28 @1pm. This performance is reserved specifically for families who have at least one member with special needs. Tickets are now available.

Filament Theatre, 4041 N Milwaukee Ave in Chicago

Previews: Saturday, March 30 @ 3:30pm; Sunday, March 31 @ 3:30pm; and Saturday April 6 @ 1pm.
Press performances: Saturday, April 6 @ 3:30pm & Sunday, April 7 @ 3:30pm
Regular run: Saturday, April 13 - May 26, 2019
Curtain Times: Saturday @ 1pm & 3:30pm; Sunday @ 3:30pm.

Tickets: Previews: $16. Regular run $16 for children, $19.50 for adults, $18 for seniors. All ticket fees included in price. Tickets are available at For questions call the Filament office at (773) 270-1660.

About the Artists:
Kate DiCamillo (Author) Kate DiCamillo’s writing journey has truly been a remarkable one. She grew up in Florida and moved to Minnesota in her 20s, where homesickness and bitter winter led her to write. Since then, the best-selling author has explored settings as varied as medieval castles, a magician’s theatre and the bustling streets of Memphis, while continuing to enjoy great success. No matter where her books are set, their themes of hope and belief amid impossible circumstances and their messages of shared humanity and connectedness have resonated with readers of all ages around the world. Born in Philadelphia and raised in the South, DiCamillo now lives in Minneapolis.

Dwayne Hartford (Playwright) Dwane Hartford is the artistic director at Childsplay in Tempe, Ariz., where all of his plays for young audiences have premiered. Hartford has had six plays published by Dramatic Publishing. He won the AATE distinguished Play award for Eric and Elliot in 2005 and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane in 2018. The Imaginators was produced and aired on KAET TV, Phoenix PBS affiliate. His adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities was part of New York University’s New Plays for Young Audiences Workshop and has been performanced at Seattle Children's Theatre; People’s Light and Theatre in Malvern, Penn.; and Wheelock Family Theatre in Boston. The Bully Pulpit is included in the anthology The Bully Plays and is being produced in schools and communities around the country. His other published plays include The Color of the Stars and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which has been professionally produced all over the country, including Imagination Stage in Bethesda, Md.; Dallas Children’s Theater; Chicago Children’s Theatre; and South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif. Harford lived in Phoenix with his dog, Henry, He is originally from Maine and received his bachelor’s in fine arts from the Boston Conservatory. 

About Filament Theatre:
Filament Theatre creates immersive and site-specific theatre that inspires, empowers, and activates young people and their communities. Filament envisions a future in which the leaders of tomorrow approach others with radical empathy, serving as ambassadors for their communities and stewards of the Earth. 

The company’s staff is comprised of Julie Ritchey (Artistic Director) and Christian Libonati (Managing Director).

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is supported in part by the Stephanie Cutter Group. Filament Theatre’s full season of programs is supported in part by the Alphawood Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Saints, and Wintrust Community Banks. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

For additional information visit 

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING: Tribeca Film Festival Winner, DIANE Opens At Music Box Theatre April 12, 2019

Winner – Best Narrative Feature
2018 Tribeca Film Festival

Writer/Director Kent Jones’s DIANE opens on April 12, 2019 (Please Note: This date is one week earlier than originally announced) at Music Box Theatre, located at 3733 North Southport Ave. Check back soon for our full review. Click HERE for tickets and further information.

“Raw, real and quietly affecting.” — The Hollywood Reporter

“Anchored by a fantastic performance by Mary Kay Place” —

About DIANE:
For Diane (Mary Kay Place), everyone else comes first. Generous but with little patience for self-pity, she spends her days checking in on sick friends, volunteering at her local soup kitchen, and trying valiantly to save her troubled, drug-addicted adult son (Jake Lacy) from himself. But beneath her relentless routine of self-sacrifice, Diane is fighting a desperate internal battle, haunted by a past she can't forget, one that threatens to tear her increasingly chaotic world apart. Built around an extraordinarily fearless performance from Mary Kay Place, this narrative debut from writer/director Kent Jones is a profound, beautifully human portrait of a woman rifling through the wreckage of her life in search of redemption.

Pricing & Scheduling:
Tickets are $11 ($7 for Music Box Members).
Become a member:

About Music Box Theatre:
For the last two decades, the Music Box Theatre has been the premier venue in Chicago for independent and foreign films. It currently has the largest theater space operated full time in the city. The Music Box Theatre is independently owned and operated by the Southport Music Box Corporation. SMBC, through its Music Box Films division, also distributes foreign and independent films in the theatrical, DVD, and television markets throughout the United States.

Follow the Music Box Theatre on Facebook, Twitter (@musicboxtheatre), and Instagram (@musicboxchicago)
Music Box Theatre | 3733 N. Southport Ave. | Chicago, IL 60613 | 773-871-6604 (showtimes)

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