September 25, 2017

An American In Paris at the Oriental Theater

I had heard about this charming musical ever since it premiered on Broadway to great acclaim in 2015, so it was with great anticipation that I caught this national tour version of An American In Paris.

The production has several things going for it. Ballet sequences are breath-taking as conceived by director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.  George Gershwin’s music provides the lush soundtrack for the whole show. Not only do we hear permutations of his famous An American In Paris orchestral work, but we are treated to portions of his classical Second Prelude, his Concerto in F, his Second Rhapsody and his Cuban Overture. Beloved songs like I Got Rhythm and The Man I Love are sung by cast members, but lesser known tunes like Fidgety Feet, Who Cares and Liza shed new light on Gershwin’s song catalogue.
The technical aspects of the show dazzle with creative use of screen images on the electronic back drop and moving screens. Parisian buildings, paintings and other famous sights delight the eye throughout the show. A recurring view of the river Seine is most amusing as two boats are depicted by different artistic techniques.

The plot harkens back to the basic romantic formula found in black and white movies. Three men who are friends are all in love with the same ballerina. Boy and boy and boy meet girl. Only one boy gets girl.

The action takes place in Paris right after World War II in 1945 so the frothy doings are sprinkled with references to the German Occupation, the Resistance, and the Holocaust making this a work of both light and dark.

For me the orchestral music, the dance sequences, the stage images and Craig Lucas’ snappy dialogue outshine the singing, but this is a quibble when the over-all effect of the production is to know that one has spent a delightful evening at the theater.  Broadway In Chicago will be running An American In Paris at the Oriental Theater through August 13, 2017.

http://www.broadwayinchicago.com/show/an-american-in-paris/

Chicago Paris Cabaret Connexion Kick-off Concert Sunday, July 23 at 6:30 pm at PianoForte

Headliners at PianoForte include Lynne Jordan, Claudia Hommel, Elizabeth Doyle, Kat Victoria along with Ava Logan, Cynthia Clarey, Natalja Aicardi, Ty Cooper and Barb Smith with pianist Paul Coscino.

People keep asking me what this “Connexion” is all about. In a nutshell, it is a three day conference with American and French singers in Paris. This is no mere touristic visit to the City of Light, but a meeting of vocal artists from Chicago and Paris to discuss the performance, history and future of cabaret. We hope this to be the first of annual conferences which will alternate between Chicago and Paris, our sister city.

Some of the weekend highlights will include visits to the Museum of Montmartre with its excellent collection of cabaret memorabilia, to the Sunday morning open sing-along at the Petit Bal Musette on the rue Mouffetard and to Le Lapin Agile which has been a cabaret venue since 1860.

Clinicians both French and American will present a concert on Saturday evening, September 16 at Studio Raspail; conference participants will be featured in a concert on Sunday, September 17 at l’Espace le Scribe.

Morning and afternoon sessions will be master classes and special presentations such as Kat Victoria’s show on Black female singers in Paris, Michel Trihoreau’s history of cabaret with singer-guitarist Michel Grange and Yves Bertrand’s program on singer-songwriter Marcel Legay.

The conference is not only for singers. We have some fans who will be attending the evening performances of the “Connexion” in Paris.

Cabaret fan Clyde Whitaker is flying into Paris from Thailand.

The funds we are raising in Chicago are predominantly to pay for the Paris venues and the salaries of French musicians and clinicians. Please support this musical project that strengthens the bond between Paris and Chicago. Your attendance at one of our benefit concerts, your purchase of a raffle ticket or your donation will help make this international cabaret exchange a reality. Long live cabaret in Paris and Chicago!

For more information on the Chicago concerts and the Paris Conference, please go to: http://www.chicagopariscabaretconnexion.org/index.php

Lonesome Losers of the Night at Theo Ubique

Put Theo Ubique’s excellent chamber revue, Lonesome Losers of the Night on your must-see theater list.

The songs of Jacques Brel burst onto the American scene with a Broadway revue called Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris which opened in 1968. Lyric writer and translator Arnie Johnston has taken on the task of translating Brel songs that are unfamiliar to U.S. audiences, as well as re-translating well-known Brel songs with lyrics that skew closer to the images in the original French versions.

A wonderful collaboration between Theo Ubique and Johnston began in 2006 with Songs of Love and War, the theater’s first Brel revue. This is the second go-round for Lonesome Losers which was previously produced by Theo Ubique in 2008-2009.

The new production features stunning ensemble singing, inventive choreography and blocking, a realistic set, plus the excellent music direction and piano skills of company member, Jeremy Ramey. Theo Ubique lynchpin, Fred Anzevino masterfully directs this 110 minute intermission-less revue. No words are needed as the singing actors segue from solos, duets, trios and quartet numbers. We are drawn into the drama of a seaport speakeasy as we observe the bartender, two sailors and a “girl for sale.” All four performers are skillful, but I was especially impressed with Randolph Johnson as the world-weary bartender and Jill Sesso as the provocative female of the cast.

A few of the songs may sound familiar but the lyrics will be fresh to your ears, such as Don’t Leave Me which is better known as Ne Me Quitte Pas/If You Go Away. Not all of the material is angst-laden, such as Beer, Rosa and the Song of Jacky, but neither is it a laugh riot with the second to last number being the thematically apt, Alone. Emotional depth is the raison-d’etre of this revue.

Cabaret theater like this usually flourishes in small venues such as Rogers Park’s No Exit, allowing the audience to enjoy food, and especially drink during the show. Word comes that the theater company will be moving to Evanston in the near future. Let us hope they recreate this intimate theater environment that requires no mikes and has the actors literally a breath away from their audience.

Get your Brel on before Theo Ubique’s marvelous production, Lonesome Losers of the Night closes on August 6, 2017.

http://www.theo-u.com/

Mick Archer’s Piano Bar column featuring Elizabeth Doyle in Chicago Jazz Magazine

Mick Archer has written a lovely article about my encounter with late and great jazz pianist, Marian McPartland and included some of my recollections about playing in piano bars.

http://www.chicagojazz.com/piano-bar-elizabeth-doyle

Frank Sinatra Jr., some undersung praise

One of the personalities whom I encountered at the Pump Room was Frank Sinatra Jr. who like his father enjoyed the atmosphere and food at this famous supper club.

One night when Frank Jr. was dining at the Pump Room, he introduced himself and gave me advice on how to improve the stage lighting. I found him to be friendly, gracious and helpful.

Another time, he and his big band had been rained out of a Grant Park outdoor concert so he took the whole crew for dinner at the Ambassador East eatery. A few of my musical colleagues played for him and said working with him was a good gig. He used great arrangements and knew what he wanted, having been his father’s music director and conductor starting in 1988.

Frank Jr. had a lovely voice that was similar to his father’s, but comparisons always pointed out that he did not have his dad’s magic.

He had enough of the entertainment gene however to keep singing, acting, songwriting and conducting from 1963 until his death on March 2016. Look up his bio on wikipedia to see how involved he stayed with music and tv projects until his death.

His list of performing venues was impressive too, up until the end, including the Royal Albert Hall in London and Town Hall in New York City.

I’m thinking kind thoughts about this man who sometimes found it challenging to live in the shadow of his famous father on this his birthday week.

Leonard Cohen at Chicago Theater: May 2009

<img class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-4400" src="http://www.elizabethdoylemusic viagra schweiz.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-300×168.jpg” alt=”leonard-cohen-e1474508147892″ width=”300″ height=”168″ srcset=”http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-300×168.jpg 300w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-768×431.jpg 768w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-148×83.jpg 148w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-31×17.jpg 31w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-38×21.jpg 38w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892-383×215.jpg 383w, http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/leonard-cohen-e1474508147892.jpg 873w” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” />In 2009, Leonard Cohen was touring with singer/co-songwriter Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters with a kick-ass multi-cultural band consisting of bass, Hammond B3 Accordion, 12-string, electric, pedal and steel guitars, bandurria, laud, percussion, sax, dobro, clarinet and keyboards. The band was tight and on fire.

At the Chicago Theater, I sat with fellow Cohen devotee, Dan Stetzel and we marveled at the arrangements, the musicians and back-up vocals, but most notably the electric performance from the then septuagenarian Leonard Cohen.

The concert was over 3 hours with Cohen’s energy never showing any signs of flagging. In fact, he seemed to be physically possessed by his material as he danced and gesticulated with wild abandon.

From the song Dance Me To the End of Love as the opener, through his numerous compositions, to Whither Thou Goest as the closer, this was one of the most thrilling concerts I have ever experienced. And this from a man with a voice characterized by sandpaper, whiskey and bad Tuvan throat-singing. His lyrics were at times dark, but the spirit he exuded was transcendantly positive and warmly inclusive. The prolonged ovation at the end of the show was an outpouring of love between performer and audience.

Cohen and Bob Dylan have been our poet-troubadours throughout the turbulent 60’s to the present day. Both have continued writing and touring as they climbed the decades.

Besides his large catalogue of songs, Cohen published books of poetry and two novels, The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers. We are indeed a little poorer today without the prospect of more wise and wonderful words from Canadian Leonard Cohen.

An interesting web site with much Cohen info:
http://cohencentric.com/2

Chicago Beach bar/restaurants from Oak Street to Hollywood on Lake Michigan

This is the perfect time to check out some of the park beach houses and food/bar spots.

Oak Street Beach Food + Drink Talk about a great view of the lake, the Drake Hotel and Lake Shore Drive. You must be at the Oak Street Beach sipping a frozen margarita and munching on a chicken mole taco or a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich.

http://www.oakstreetbeach.com/

Castaways at 1603 N. Lake Shore Drive features DJs and live bands to go along with your cold brewskies, your jerk fish tacos or Castaways signature burger.
Then again, you could go fancy and order the Riva Shrimp Chopped salad or the blackened grouper sandwich.

http://www.castawayschicago.com/

Bacino’s at 248 W. Diversey, west of the Diversey Driving Range, an Italian Grill open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring Bruschetta, salads, panini, pizzas, burgers and gelato.

http://www.bacinos.com/DIVERSEY/contact.html

The Dock at Montrose Beach, at 200 W. Montrose Harbor Drive, with a liquor license, full-fledged restaurant and live music.

http://thedockatmontrosebeach.com/

Nacho Mama’s Burrito Bar at 5701 N. Lake Shore Drive, Osterman Beach House. One of the newer lakefront venues with non-alcoholic beverages like hibiscus tea, ginger beer, coconut water and, you guessed it, nachos.

http://www.nachomamasbeachbar.com/new-page/

I know there are beach bar/food businesses north and south of the ones mentioned above. Please let me know if you have any favorite spots along Lake Michigan in the city.

If/Then: Contemporary musical at Oriental Theater

You still have a couple of weeks left to see the national tour of If/Then currently playing at Chicago’s gorgeous Oriental Theater. Fans of the 2009 Broadway musical, Next To Normal will want to catch If/Then since the same composer and lyricist/book-writer, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, crafted both shows.

Jackie Burns plays Elizabeth, a role originated by Idina Menzel on Broadway. Burns sings with the same edgy belting sound for which Menzel is noted so it is no small wonder that Burns also played the role of Elphaba in Wicked after Menzel initially wowed Broadway audiences.

The production is inventive and swift-moving with a crack band in the pit. The choreography is modern and inventive. The singing actors in the cast are uniformly strong with stand-out Anthony Rapp reprising his Broadway role as Elizabeth’s nerdy activist friend. My two favorite songs were sung by Matthew Hydzik playing boyfriend/husband Josh: You Never Know in Act One and Act Two’s Hey Kid, a contemporary musical scene reminiscent of Soliloquy from Carousel.

The show’s major structural device sets it apart from other musicals but provides its major weakness as well. Throughout the show, we see Elizabeth alternate between the path taken by Liz and that taken by Beth. Several people around me were asking one another, “what’s happening now?” I observed the same confusion in Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years.

Still, if you like contemporary musical theater, this may be just the ticket. http://www.chicago-theater.com/theaters/oriental-theatre/if-then.php

Rush tickets are sometimes available for $25 before show time at the Oriental Theater box office. Hot tix is also featuring discount tickets: http://www.hottix.org/

Liz Carroll: Irish Music Fiddler and Composer

I really should be writing about Irish fiddler Liz Carroll around St. Patrick’s Day, but having just met her, I couldn’t wait until next March. She was recently honored by Lawyers for the Creative Arts and I was privileged to hear a couple of numbers demonstrating her musical prowess at a recent LCA luncheon. That woman can make the violin literally sing and dance.

Although based in Chicago, Carroll travels the world promoting Irish music through her impeccable performances and her lovely compositions.

She composed and recorded music for last spring’s Art Institute of Chicago exhibit, Ireland: Crossroad of Art and Design, 1690-1840. Check out the first recording on this link for a delightful sample of her musical work in that project.

https://soundcloud.com/liz-carroll/textiles-glassmusical-instruments-fancy-work-planxty-chas-bunworth-rose-kathleens-slip-jig

Whether playing solo or with instruments like the guitar, mandolin or harp, Liz Carroll immediately makes you think of the Irish music heard in pubs, in churches or in dance halls. I found it hard to stay in my seat at the Palmer House’s Empire Room as I tapped my toes to the infectious melodies and rhythms.

Here is another live performance of hers on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NReNvV5P0FA

Fellow creative professionals may want to check out her web site, it being one of the most comprehensive sites I have seen for covering the different aspects of one’s artistic business model.

http://www.lizcarroll.com

Don’t wait until next St. Paddy’s Day to check out her performance schedule or recordings.

John Eskola, Chicago actor/vocalist has apartment fire

John Eskola lost much of his apartment in a fire started by an electrical wiring problem. His extensive music library was the first casualty of the fire. Friends, colleagues and generous strangers have rallied to help John move to a new apartment.
Chicago firemen rescued John’s beloved cat, Vicky while they put out the fire.

A little background info on John Eskola: he is a founding member of Chicago Cabaret Professionals and Choir Director and Chief Cantor for weddings, funerals and masses at Assumption Catholic Church (River North) and throughout the Chicago area. A member of Actor’s Equity, he toured internationally as a cast member of the musical Evita, and was in The House of Martin Guerre and The Visit with Chita Rivera at the Goodman Theater.

Members of the cabaret community have been particularly generous to the John Eskola Apartment Fire Fund. For more details or to donate, go to:

https://www.youcaring.com/john-eskola-445391

If you feel so inclined, please share the link with your social media contacts. Karma, as they say, is circular.

John is sifting through his music library. Does anyone want to hear something by Noel Coward? Or possibly Smoke Gets In Your Eyes?