A feast of musicals to be thankful for this month

A slate of must see shows

ARTS_Hedyweiss image
Pianist Orion Weiss will play “Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major” at Orchestra Hall later this month. (Photo credit: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)

In addition to all the feasting we'll be doing on Thanksgiving in late November, get ready to feast on a menu of wonderful musicals, so many of them created by Jewish composers and lyricists. You are sure to be impressed by the formidable number of concerts on the calendar that will feature stellar classical musicians with deep Jewish roots. 

What follows is a buffet of delicious offerings: 

First, the musicals, which I've arranged in order of their opening dates. (Many of them are being produced at theaters in the suburbs.) 

* Company (Oct. 31 - Nov. 12 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre)

Never pass up a chance to see a revival of a classic Stephen Sondheim musical. The scores of his shows are simply irresistible. And Company , which won six Tony Awards in its original 1970 Broadway production--and deals with relationships in all their complexities--has one great song after another. Just think about the titles: "The Little Things You Do Together," "Sorry - Grateful," "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," "Side By Side By Side," "The Ladies Who Lunch," and "Being Alive."

For tickets, visit: BroadwayInChicago.com.

* Brigadoon (Now through Nov. 12, a Music Theater Works production at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.) 

This dreamy love story by composer Frederick Loewe (whose father was a Jewish operetta star) and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner is set in a mysterious Scottish village that only comes to life every 100 years. There, one of two male tourists from the U.S. falls in love with a girl. (Lerner and Loewe would go on to create My Fair Lady and Camelot .)  

For tickets, visit: musictheaterworks.com. 

* Cinderella (Nov. 8 - Jan. 7 at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook.)
The fairytale captured in this musical--with a beautiful score by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein--hardly needs to be explained.  

For tickets, visit: drurylanetheatre.com. 

* Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Nov. 8 -Dec. 31 at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.) This show, which opened on Broadway in 2014, is a jukebox musical that captures the early career of King--born into a Jewish family in New York in 1942--who is the most successful female songwriter of the second half of the 20th century. It features many of her greatest hits, including "You've Got a Friend," "One Fine Day," "So Far Away," "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," and "Natural Woman."  

For tickets, visit: marriotttheatre.com. 

* Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Nov. 8 - Jan. 14 at the Paramount Theater in Aurora.)
This show, with music by the Jewish composer Marc Shaiman, tracks young Charlie Bucket, a poor boy who finds a Golden Ticket in a chocolate bar that enables him to visit the magical and mysterious chocolate factory of Willy Wonka, the eccentric "Candyman." (*It should be noted that the story is based on a 1964 children's novel by the late Roald Dahl, who was an antisemite.)  

For tickets, visit paramountaurora.com. 

* She Loves Me (Nov. 17-Dec. 17 at the Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest.)
With a score by Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics), this musical is set in a 1930s European perfumery, where shop clerks Amalia and Georg have a tense relationship. They both exchange unsigned love letters via "a lonely-hearts advertisement" only to discover they are writing to each other. Bock and Harnick would go on to create the score for Fiddler on the Roof.  

For tickets, visit citadeltheatre.org. 

* Boop! The Betty Boop Musical (Nov. 19 - Dec. 24 in its pre-Broadway world premiere at Broadway in Chicago's CIBC Theatre.)
Betty Boop, the girl with a Jazz Age flapper's flair, was created by Max Fleischer, a Krakow-born Jew who immigrated to the U.S. and became a pioneer in the development of the animated cartoon. Also in the 1930s, Fleischer adapted Popeye the Sailor as a cartoon for Paramount Pictures.  

For tickets, visit BroadwayInChicago.com. 

*Just for good measure, I will mention one play-- The Lion in Winter --a 1966 work by the Jewish playwright James Goldman, who was raised in Highland Park. Set in the 12th century at Christmas time, England's King Henry II's wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine--his sworn enemy--has just been released from prison, and the King of France has arrived for a visit.  

The production will run Nov. 3 - Dec. 3 at Court Theatre.  

For tickets, visit courttheatre.org. 

Next, a look at the concerts at Orchestra Hall featuring Jewish musicians:  

* On Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2, and 3, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, will be joined by pianist Orion Weiss (no relation to this writer) playing Mozart's "Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major." Also on the program will be Mozart's "Six Germans Dances" and Brahms' "Piano Quartet No. 1" that was lavishly orchestrated by Arnold Schoenberg, an Austrian-born Jew who fled to the U.S. in 1933 to escape the rise of the Nazi regime. 

I recently spoke to the widely recorded Orion Weiss, who was raised in the Midwest and graduated from Juilliard, where Emanuel Ax was his teacher, mentor and, as he phrased it, "my hero in a way."  Weiss has played with the CSO at both Orchestra Hall and the Ravinia Festival, and described the orchestra as "having such a standard of excellence and passion, and a lot of energy." 

About Mozart he said: "He wrote 27 piano concertos, and each one becomes a favorite of mine when I'm playing it because they are all so perfectly formed, and so beautiful and inventive. This concerto No. 12 is not his grandest or biggest, and its virtuosity is a bit more understated than in several others. But it is heartfelt, with beautiful melodies and surprises, and an amazingly concise development of themes." 

Weiss noted this about his family: "My parents are very religious, and I am devoted to music. I find focus, solitude, and prayer at the piano. And I search for the deepest beauty and life in those tiny black dots on a page, written a hundred or more years ago." 

Also headed to Orchestra Hall will be:  

*The Soviet-born violinist Maxim Vengerov, who moved to Israel with his parents at the age of 16, and the Russian pianist Polina Osetinskaya--who has spoken out against her nation's attack on Ukraine. The program, on Nov. 10, will include works by Brahms, Prokofiev, and both Robert Schumann and his wife, Clara. 

*Sir Andras Schiff, the Hungarian-born Jewish pianist, now a British citizen--who is outspoken about his native country's antisemitism--will play a solo concert on Nov. 12. The program is yet to be announced. 

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


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