December 5, 2019

Magic Lounge in Chicago’s Andersonville

If you want a most unusual and fun evening, call now for tickets to see a show at the Magic Lounge, in Andersonville’s SoFo neighborhood (south of Foster).
Be forewarned that weekend tickets need to be ordered weeks in advance as the venue has exploded in popularity. And rightfully so.

The exterior has no official signage but there are some poster images of magicians to mark the 5050 N. Clark Street entrance. Upon entering the vestibule, commercial washers and dryers make one question the address. Please persist for one of the machines is actually a door leading to a delightful bar with a magician doing tricks for cocktail patrons. If you are lucky enough to secure a show ticket, you will be ushered through another trick door that leads to a surprisingly spacious cabaret-style theater replete with a red-curtained stage, a theater organist, banquette and bar seating along with a petite balcony for celebratory groups. This venue is a big draw for bachelor, bachelorette and corporate parties, but you will also see local couples, small groups of friends and people of all ages out for a good time.

While waiting for the show to start, one can order nifty cocktails and very tasteful small bites and I mean that in both senses of the word. Imagine prosciutto wrapped dates with gorgonzola cheese, pork belly or beef tenderloin sliders, potato pancakes with apple mustardo and caraway yogurt, or a sausage board with cheese, peppers, caperberries and rye bread. Then again, your sweet tooth might enjoy a Katherine Anne Confection Truffle with flavors like Creme de Menthe, Hazelnut, Sea Salt Caramel, Citrus or Vegan Raspberry Champagne.

During the pre-show, a handful of magicians go from table to table giving up close sleight-of-hand displays. To set the mood, an organist plays tunes that are so square they are hip, and dons the hat of emcee to introduce both an opening act and a featured entertainer. The night we were there, both entertainers were not only adept at magic, but laugh-out-loud funny. Selected patrons are invited to the stage to participate in several of the tricks which adds to the hilarity.

What we saw was the Signature Show, but the Magic Lounge also offers David Parr’s Cabinet of Curiosities on Wednesdays, a Family Show on Sundays, Music and Magic on Mondays and Tuesdays. For an additional charge, after the Signaure Show, you can move to a smaller theater called The 654 Club behind the Blackstone Cabaret for a more intimate magic experience.

What can I say? The Magic Lounge’s offerings would be a perfect evening for anyone who wants an extraordinary experience with comedy, music, food and magic. When can I go back?

https://www.chicagomagiclounge.com/welcome/

Chicago Grind in Andersonville

A favorite coffee bar hangout in the Andersonville neighborhood is Chicago Grind, at Berwyn and Broadway, featuring coffees and teas from Metric Coffee Roasters and Benjamin Tea.

Husband and wife team, Reem and Jim Dababneh are frequently behind the cash register and food counter as they fill orders for beverages, pastries and savory food items. My favorite meal option is the vegan quinoa kale salad with nuts, cranberries and red peppers. They have even brought the “to-go” order outside when I have my dog.

The artisanal flatbread sandwiches have been top notch with gluten-free options available. Gourmet salads are another meal option, along with all sorts of enlightened treats from Maier Bakery, Alliance Patisserie and the gluten-free Defloured Bakery.

The Dababnehs are also owners of the very successful Pizzeria Aroma, just east near the Berwyn el stop. They will be moving that restaurant to another spot in the ‘hood, so I will keep you posted.

Chicago Grind is a handy spot for business meetings, lunches, breakfasts on the run or casual beverage breaks in the outdoor cafe. That is if it ever warms up enough to sit at sidewalk tables again!

http://www.chicagogrind.com/

Billy Elliot, Porchlight’s musical at the Ruth Page Center For the Arts

Have I the perfect evening out for you, that is if you like musical theater and want to hang out in Chicago’s Gold Coast.

Porchlight Theater has mounted a bang-up production of the musical, Billy Elliot at the Ruth Page Center. Based on the hit movie of the same name with music by Sir Elton John, this is perfect family or date night theater fare.

Two talented young boys alternate playing the title role (I saw both sing at Monday Night Live at Petterino’s). Jacob Kaiser was Billy the night I attended and he surely sang, acted and danced his way into the audience members hearts. Another endearing character is Iris Lieberman playing Billy’s spunky, but addled grandmother. Other stand-outs are Sean Fortunato as his gruff father and Shanesia Davis playing his outspoken dance teacher.

The cast is augmented with young dancers, some who are making their theatrical debuts. If you have any fledgling dancers in your home, you may want to consider taking them to Billy Elliot in lieu of The Nutcracker. Their dance sequences are tutu cute. Excuse me, I just couldn’t resist the pun.

I parked at the public LAZ lot next to Hotel Indigo at 1250 N. Dearborn Street. The Ruth Page Center validated my ticket rendering the parking $12 for 6 hours.

You may consider having a light bite at the Three Arts Club Cafe in the Restoration Hardware store at 1300 N. Dearborn Street. Just be forewarned that they don’t take reservations and their kitchen closes at 8 pm most nights, with a 6 pm closing on Sundays.

The theater, parking and cafe are on the same street just blocks apart so the six hour parking window is just right.

Billy Elliot has been extended to December 31, 2017.
I can’t think of a more uplifting Chicago production to see this holiday season.

https://porchlightmusictheatre.org

http://3artsclubcafe.com/food/

http://www.ruthpage.org/

Davis Theater in Chicago’s Lincoln Square

I had heard that the Davis Theater in Lincoln Square had undergone a recent facelift but I was pleasantly surprised at how successfully the old theater was transformed. The lobby is welcoming with a display of old movie paraphernalia, a cheery concessions stand and reclining chairs with cup holders in the three different viewing rooms. Art deco touches, both new and vintage are found throughout building and the renovators uncovered the original vaulted ceiling in the main 300-seat auditorium. The sound system appeared to be much improved also, plus a wireless mike system was installed for film events and corporate rentals of the space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The addition of Carbon Arc, a bar/restaurant that is attached to the movie lobby is the biggest change. You can take food into your movie using a tray that snaps into the back of the seat in front of you. Think of an airline meal experience but with more leg room, a cushier seat and more sophisticated meal selections.

Even the bathrooms got a design redo with graphic wallpaper and a clean silver, black and white palette.

Thanks for this loving restoration go to theater owner Tom Fencl, the designers of Analogous Company, Kennedy Mann Architecture and the National Park Service which lent money on behalf of this historic landmark building. Kudos for not just tearing the building down but finding a way to modernize the operation while not destroying its connection to the past.

Non-chain movie houses and bookstores have a chance of survival if they become social venues for their communities. Davis Theater is now a lovely destination in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

https://www.davistheater.com/

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/

Three Arts Club Cafe in the Restoration Hardware store

I fondly remember giving a concert in the old Three Arts Club in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Built in 1914 to house women involved in music, painting and theater, the brick building was the architectural work of the storied Holabird & Roche firm. With sadness, I heard that the club had been sold to developers in 2007.

Much to my relief, Restoration Hardware has created a five-story emporium that has left many of the architectural details intact. The courtyard houses a delightful restaurant called the Three Arts Cafe which kept the old fountain and features an all-weather glass ceiling that allows diners to be bathed in sunlight.

The food is as impressive as the setting with a curated menu including “seasonal ingredient-driven” recipes. The shaved vegetable salad was beautiful to look at and to eat with brightly colored root vegetables and baby greens dressed with finely chopped pecans and cider vinaigrette. For sheer gluttony, I ordered a side of bacon which was the thick-cut kind found in British cuisine. My luncheon partner ordered a bacon club sandwich which she endorsed by eating every morsel.

The menu is small but there are several items that entice me to make return visits such as the Truffled Grilled Cheese sandwich, the slow roasted chicken with garlic confit and the house-made chocolate chip cookies served warm out of the oven.

After lunch, we strolled the five floors of rooms decorated with Restoration Hardware furniture, lighting fixtures, accessories, bedding and even some articles of clothing. The top floor has two outdoor terraces which must be divine in the warmer months. The main floor has a Three Arts Club Pantry that sells scrumptious looking donuts and hot beverages.

A visit to this historic building is like a mini-vacation with excellent food and drink sampled before or after one peruses the five floors of tastefully decorated display rooms. I’m wondering if they would let me move in?

3artsclubcafe.com