Sunday, January 19, 2014


Last call.   One show remains, today (Sunday) at 3pm,  for the 9th annual performance of “Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah”.   I had the chance to catch it last night with my 12 year old son and highly recommend it. Collaboration, community and creativity combine in this impressive annual celebration in a truly inspiring way.  

We were blown away by the talent, energy and enthusiasm in this unique production.   I don't think we've ever seen such a fast piano medley and the soloists were fantastic.   

The large screen was invaluable for close ups and clever crossfades on the musicians and choir during the performance, and the short video on the process & history that preceded the show, was fascinating.   The diverse cast was a treat, and it's great to see Detroit and Chicago collaborating on creating something beautiful, instead of our usual sports rivalries, where we good naturedly love to hate them.

We were also awed by the "quilts" made by Chicago area school children with their wishes for the future... ending violence in their neighborhoods, helping people, feeding the hungry, curing cancer, playing pro-sports, becoming infamous on YouTube...  Our best hopes for the future are enlightening and teaching the children.   We've come a long way since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down for promoting peace and tolerance.  Yet Chicago still remains sadly segregated.   

Our family is raising urban children in the Chicago Public Schools because we want them to be color blind and grow up with friends and classmates of all different races, religions, colors, and economic classes.  We want our children to consider others by their actions & words, not the color of their skin.  We want them to believe in the possibility of peace and justice.  This annual production is a joyful step toward peace and the power of music.

More Than 200 Musicians and Vocalists With Soloists Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke and Karen Marie Richardson, Pay Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, presents the 9th annual “Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah,” January 18 and 19. Chicago favorites Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke and Karen Marie Richardson join more than 200 of Chicago’s finest musicians and vocalists, under the direction of Bill Fraher and Suzanne Mallare Acton, for two public performances only―filling the historic landmark theater with the joyous sounds and exuberance of this All-American reinvention of Handel’s “Messiah.” Tickets ($25 – $68) are on sale now and available online at, by calling (800) 982-2787 or at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office (50 E Congress Pkwy). 

“This show provides our community with a truly unique way to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, not only because of Dr. King’s deep love of gospel and jazz music but the way in which it represents Chicago’s diversity in both performers and audience members,” said Executive Director Brett Batterson. “It’s incredible to see an entire audience brought to their feet with such vigor and excitement. It is a true celebration of music, and of a man so important to United States history.”

“Handel’s indelible, indestructible tunes remain, but rhythmically the “Messiah” takes flight in ways that the great composer never could have anticipated.” (Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich). Mixing gospel and jazz stylings, “Too Hot” brings music lovers of all genres to their feet while embracing the music brought to life onstage by more than 200 musicians from both Chicago as well as Detroit―including 150 voices from the citywide “Too Hot” Choir under the direction of Old St. Patrick’s Church music director Bill Fraher, and a 50-piece symphony orchestra and jazz ensemble under the baton of conductor Suzanne Mallare Acton. This collaboration between cities fuses both Chicago and Detroit sounds together, enhancing the camaraderie on stage and in the theatre. Powerhouse vocalists Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke and Karen Marie Richardson lead the group through the incredible music that fills the Auditorium Theatre bringing an entire audience together in order to remember a man whose indelible mark on the world will forever live on. The show is enhanced through a large LED screen that will capture both the performers and audience members during the concert. Video enhancements made possible through the generosity of William and Shelley Farley.

In tandem with “Too Hot to Handel,” the Auditorium’s Department of Creative Engagement utilizes innovative programming to engage Chicago students in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and the power of music and community. For the 5th consecutive year, the Auditorium invites Chicago Public School students, grades 3-12, to write an original poem celebrating Dr. King's vision of the “beloved community.”  

Exelon is the Presenting Sponsor of “Too Hot to Handel.” JPMorgan Chase Foundation is the “Too Hot to Handel” Educational Outreach Partner. “Too Hot” video enhancements are made possible through the generosity of William and Shelley Farley.  Additional support is provided by Friends of “Too Hot to Handel.”  The Auditorium Theatre’s student matinee series is sponsored by The Private Bank and The Robert Thomas Bobins Foundation.  Additional media support provided by “Chicago Jazz Magazine” and “N’Digo.”

Performance Schedule and Ticket Information

Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah” performs at the Auditorium Theatre:
Friday, Jan. 17, 2014 at 11 a.m. (one hour Student Matinee Performance*) 
Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. 
Sunday, Jan. 19, 214 at 3 p.m.** 

Tickets to the Jan. 19 and 20 performances are $25 - $68, available online at, by calling (800) 982-2787 or in-person at the Auditorium’s Box Office (50 E Congress Pkwy).

*The Friday, Jan. 17 student matinee is available to elementary through high school student groups of 10 or more people. Group tickets are $10 each and available by calling 
(312) 341-2357. 

**A free Q&A with “Too Hot to Handel” artists immediately follows the Sunday afternoon performance. 


About the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University

The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, located at 50 E Congress Pkwy, is an Illinois, not-for-profit organization committed to presenting the finest in international, cultural, community and educational programming to Chicago, and to the continued restoration and preservation of the National Historic Landmark Auditorium Theatre. The Auditorium Theatre is generously supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the NIB Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council and the Palmer House Hilton. For more information about programming, volunteer and donor opportunities or theatre tours, call (312) 341 – 2310 or visit  

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