Edging into summer with music, theater, and more

Shows that highlight Jewish life

Hedy June 2024 image
Tiffany Topol plays the iconic Carole King in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, playing currently at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. (Photo credit: Amy Nelson)

When writing about the month of June, it's all but impossible not to start singing a song from  Carousel , one of the many enduring hit musicals by lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe, both of whom were Jewish. As that brilliant pair of mid-20th century Broadway masters proclaimed: "June is bustin' out all over/ All over the meadow and the hill./ Buds're bustin' outa bushes/ And the rompin' river pushes/ Every little wheel that wheels beside a mill."

Of course, we do not live along the New England coastline where  Carousel  is set, but Chicago area stages are bustin' out this June with the work of a wide array of Jewish artists:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil  premieres   at Goodman Theatre

It began as a best-selling (mostly non-fiction) book by John Berendt set in Savannah in the 1980s, and it then became a film directed by Clint Eastwood. Now,  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil  has been turned into a musical, with a score by Jason Robert Brown, a Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist who was born into a Jewish family in New York. Among Brown's many credits is  Parade , the 1998 musical based on the real life story of Leo Frank-the Jewish factory manager in Georgia who, in 1913, was falsely accused of raping and killing a 13-year old female employee, jailed, and lynched.

Midnight  will have its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre this month, and will spin the story of a socially prominent antiques dealer in Savannah who, in the 1980s, was charged with murdering a local male prostitute, who happened to be his lover.

For tickets to this decidedly adult musical-running from June 25-Aug. 4-visit GoodmanTheatre.org or call 312-443-3800.

Sondheim at Theo Ubique

The Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, in Evanston, is winding up its homage to Stephen Sondheim this season with a production of his  A Little Night Music . The 1977 musical is a sophisticated romantic comedy based on Ingmar Bergman's film  Smiles of a Summer Night.

The show comes on the heels of Theo's productions of  Assassins , as well the  Sondheim Tribute Revue , a cleverly constructed homage to the many different musicals by this late, great composer/lyricist. Sondheim, who died in 2021 at the age of 91, left a legacy of highly varied and sophisticated musical theater gems.

At the center of  A Little Night Music , set in Sweden around 1900, are Desiree Armfeldt and Fredrick Egerman. Desiree is a once successful actress who is no longer in her prime. Fredrick is a successful, middle-aged lawyer with whom Desiree once had an affair, now widowed but re-married, to a virginal young woman. Along the way there also are many wonderful Sondheim songs, including "Send in the Clowns," "A Weekend in the Country," "The Miller's Son," and "The Glamorous Life."

For tickets, visit theo-u.com or call 773-939-4101. Note: You can order drinks and/or dinner at Theo before each performance.

Carole King musical comes to Paramount Theatre Stage

Now 82, Carole King- who wrote or co-wrote 118 pop hits, and has recorded 25 solo albums- grew up in a Jewish family in Brooklyn and attended Queens College. It was there that King met, then married Gerry Goffin, the fellow student with whom she wrote such hits as "Loco-Motion" and "Up on the Roof." 

But that was only the beginning. King would go on to compose and perform such classics as "You've Got a Friend," "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," "I Feel the Earth Move," and "So Far Away." She is the only member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted in two categories--once as a songwriter (1990) and once as a performer (2021).

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical   captures both King's professional and personal life. The show ran on Broadway from 2014 to 2019, and has had many subsequent productions. It is playing now through June 16 at the beautiful Paramount Theatre in Aurora.

For tickets, visit paramountaurora.com or call 630-886-6666.
Lahav Shani at Symphony Center

The 35-year old Israeli-born conductor and pianist Lahav Shani has been named the next chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. He will lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in works by Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky, along with a "Piano Concerto" by the contemporary composer Mason Bates that will feature the outstanding pianist Daniil Trifonov.

For tickets to the Symphony Center concert , running June 20-23, visit cso.org or call 312-294-3000.

Exhibit about the 'Kindertransport' showing at Holocaust Museum

There is the new exhibit,  Kindertransport - Rescuing Children on the Brink of War  -  running now through Nov. 17 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum. It captures what is described as "the astonishing rescue effort that, in only nine months, brought thousands of unaccompanied children from Nazi Europe to the United Kingdom."

To learn more, visit ilholocaustmuseum.org or call 847-967-4800.

Hedy Weiss, a longtime Chicago arts critic, was the Theater and Dance Critic for the  Chicago Sun-Times  from 1984 to 2018, and currently writes for WTTW-TV's website and contributes to  the Chicago Tonight  program. 




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