Chicago’s art, music, TV and more in 2014
It seems like we just said goodbye to 2013, but time stands still for no one including the arts and pop culture.
So here’s a look at some entertainment highlights coming down the pike in 2014:
“Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture” (Feb. 13-June 15, Smart Museum of Art, smartmuseum.uchicago.edu): With more than 80 rarely seen objects on loan from major museums across the United States, this vibrant exhibition explores the central place that opera and theater held in Chinese social life during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is part of Envisioning China, a five-month festival at the University of Chicago, with more than 40 events and exhibitions.
Christopher Wool (Feb. 23-May 11, Art Institute of Chicago, artic.edu): In a career that began in the 1980s and has transported the Chicago native to the forefront of contemporary art, Wool has confronted the possibilities and limits of painting by exploring the medium from inside and outside. Organized by New York’s Guggenheim Museum, this comprehensive survey includes paintings, photographs and works on paper.
“Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938” (June 24-Oct. 13, Art Institute of Chicago, artic.edu): Rene Magritte made surrealism fun and, as a result, became one of the most popular artists of the 20th century. This splashy show features more than 80 paintings, collages, drawings and other works from his breakthrough years, including some of his best-known visual puns and quirky juxtapositions.
“David Bowie Is” (Sept. 23-Jan. 4, 2015, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, mcachicago.org): The iconic name says it all. With more than 300 objects, this exhibition will cover all aspects of this transformative musician’s career and explore his influence on art, design and contemporary culture. The MCA is the only American venue for this touring show, and leaders expect it to be the biggest-drawing exhibition in the museum’s history.
Jaume Plensa (summer; dates to be determined, Richard Gray Gallery, richardgraygallery.com): This year marks the 10th anniversary of the unveiling of Plensa’s crowd-pleasing “Crown Fountain” in Millennium Park. The Gray Gallery, which represents the internationally known Spanish artist, will celebrate the milestone with a solo exhibition coinciding with a tentatively scheduled presentation of Plensa’s outdoor sculpture in the park.
— Kyle MacMillan
CLASSICAL MUSIC OR OPERA
A full re-creation of Duke Ellington’s little-known, unfinished 1960s-’70s “street operetta” “Queenie Pie,” based on the life of black beauty products entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, stands out, the latest adventurous offering of Chicago Opera Theater (chicagooperatheater.org) with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, Feb. 15-March 5.
The tiny but accomplished Haymarket Opera Company (haymarketopera.org) has rapidly shown that Baroque opera has appeal beyond a niche audience. Two late 17th century settings by French composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier of Greek mythic stories, “Acteon” and “Le Jugement de Pan” make up the double bill at the Mayne Stage in Chicago’s Rogers Park community, March 7-8.
Grand opera plays its part, too, this winter as Lyric Opera of Chicago (lyricopera.org) presents its first staging of Antonin Dvorak’s romantic fable “Rusalka” Feb. 22-March 16, and showcases one of the current greatest and most communicative singers, American mezzo Joyce DiDonato in Wolfgange Amadeus Mozart’s late “La clemenza di Tito” closing the season March 5-23.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (cso.org): Music director Riccardo Muti follows an unusual CSO tour itinerary to Spain’s Canary Islands, Luxembourg and Essen, Germany, with a series of concerts featuring all eight Franz Schubert symphonies as well as his little-performed “Mass in A-Flat Major” throughout the season. And as a part of an examination of political-related works, guest conductor Jaap van Zweden will include important works of Benjamin Britten in the British composer’s centennial anniversary year.
The University of Chicago Presents series (chicagopresents.uchicago.edu) has string offerings across classical chamber, early and contemporary music and jazz over six months including the Pacifica Quartet with clarinet Anthony McGill, Third Coast Percussion, eighth blackbird, the Venice Baroque Orchestra with countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, Patricia Barber, Dick Hyman and Bill Charlap. Symphony Center Presents highlights include pianist Emanuel Ax and friends in programs of Johannes Brahms and commissioned works and Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes in an all-Ludwig van Beethoven recital in March.
— Andrew Patner
“Venus in Fur” (March 8-April 13 at the Goodman Theatre, goodmantheatre.org): David Ives’ sexy two-person drama is about the power play between a theater director and the actress who auditions for his latest work, a contemporary riff on the 1870 novella by Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Gifted Chicago director Joanie Schultz will stage this play, which — not surprisingly — has become one of the most produced works on the regional circuit, and already has been filmed by Roman Polanski.
“Gypsy” (Feb. 6-March 23) and “Road Show” (March 13-May 4 at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, chicagoshakes.com): This overlapping bill is a bonanza for Stephen Sondheim fans, featuring one of his earliest Broadway musical triumphs (the “Gypsy” lyrics), along with his most recent show (a much-revised tale about the wildly entrepreneurial Mizner brothers). Sondheim aficionado Gary Griffin will direct both shows.
“Seven Guitars” (Jan. 9-Feb. 9 at Court Theatre, courttheatre.org): This is the impassioned 1940s-era chapter in August Wilson’s 10-play cycle about black life in the 20th century. Set in a Pittsburgh tenement’s back yard, the play’s six characters mourn the missing seventh — Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, a blues guitarist who died with fame and celebrity beyond his reach. Ron OJ Parson, a Wilson aficionado who has had three hits during 2013 (“The Mountaintop,” “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Detroit ’67”), will direct.
“Tom Jones” (Jan. 17-Feb. 23 at Northlight Theatre, northlight.org): Henry Fielding’s 18th century novel, about an irresistible scamp with a weakness for women and a propensity for getting into mischief, has been adapted for the stage by Jon Jory. William Brown (“To Master the Art”) will direct. Even if you can’t forget a young Albert Finney eating and seducing his way through the classic film version, the stage show should be great bawdy fun.
“The Last Ship” (June 10-July 13 at Bank of America Theatre, broadwayinchicago.com): Making its pre-Broadway debut in Chicago, this musical that features the first Broadway score penned by Sting, spins the quasi-autobiographical story of a man who grows up in a shipbuilding town in northern England, heads off to seek a different future, and then makes a full circle home. Sting’s recent recording of many of the songs written for the show is beyond rapturous and might well strike terror in the actors who have to sing them on stage.
— Hedy Weiss
Savion Glover’s STePZ (Jan. 24 at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, harristheaterchicago.org): Tony Award-winning tap sensation Savion Glover is celebrated for bringing “tap dance to sound, and sound to dance.” He and his ensemble will riff on the music of Dmitri Shostakovich to Prince, fusing the “hoofer” style with all the complexities of jazz phrasing, improvisation, “construction and deconstruction.”
Kyle Abraham: “The Radio Show” (Feb. 20-23 at the MCA, mcachicago.org): A 2013 recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, choreographer Kyle Abraham is a product of the hip-hop culture of 1970s Pittsburgh. In “The Radio Show,” he and his Abraham.in.Motion company reflect on two seminal events — the abrupt closing of a favorite radio station and the slow communication breakdown as a family member suffers from Alzheimer’s and aphasia. It’s all set to a mix of classic soul, hip-hop, rhythm and blues , call-in radio excerpts and experimental music.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (March 13-16 at the Harris Theater, harristheaterchicago.org): For decades, Hubbard Street has performed the work of Jiri Kylian, one of the masters of modern dance. In the company’s inaugural repertory program devoted to a single choreographer, it will perform four Kylian pieces: The all-male “Sarabande” (to music by Johann Sebastian Bach), the all-female “Falling Angels” (to a section of Steve Reich’s “Drumming”), the brilliant classic of swordplay and eroticism “Petite Mort” (to the music of Mozart), and “27’52”,” an enigmatic work to a score that mixes music and multilingual text.
Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan (March 14 and 16 at the Auditorium Theatre, auditoriumtheatre.org): In “Songs of the Wanderers,” choreographer Lin Hwai-min, who transforms ancient rites into hypnotic dance theater, conjures a visually stunning ode to the spiritual pilgrimage as inspired by Hermann Hesse’s novel “Siddhartha.” The piece, set to Georgian folk songs, is a blend of Eastern and Western dance styles.
Ballet Preljocaj in “Blanche Neige” (May 2-4 at the Harris Theater, harristheaterchicago.org): For its first visit to Chicago, choreographer Angelin Preljocaj’s acclaimed company from the Provence region of France will bring his contemporary take on the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale “Snow White.” This full-length story ballet features the music of Gustav Mahler, acrobatic wall-climbing and “devilishly sexy” costumes by haute couturier Jean Paul Gaultier.
— Hedy Weiss
“Sherlock” resurfaces: It feels like Miley Cyrus was still the title character from TV show “Hannah Montana” last time “Sherlock” was on television. The PBS/BBC co-production starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular consulting detective and Martin Freeman as his trusty sidekick finally returns for season three Jan. 19. Season two ended with Sherlock supposedly plummeting to his death, so I can’t wait to see how the super sleuth gets out of this one. It’s about time the game’s afoot.
“Breaking Bad” withdrawal?: “Better Call Saul.” Naperville native Bob Odenkirk reprises his role as criminal lawyer Saul Goodman in AMC’s “Breaking Bad” spin-off, which could turn out to be the best or worst idea ever. The indisputable evidence is that the shady criminal lawyer turned out to be the most entertaining attorney to ever hang his shingle out in a strip mall. It’ll be good to have him back — and even better if some “Breaking Bad” alums drop by for cameos.
Sets and the city: It’s always fun seeing Chicago represented on the small screen, so 2014 is shaping up to be a lot of fun. Four new scripted series filmed in the city are slated to debut in the coming weeks. “Chicago Fire” spin-off “Chicago PD” bows Jan. 8 on NBC-TV (Channel 5), which has another Chicago-based midseason series, “Crisis,” that is shot in Chicago but set around Washington, D.C. ABC-TV (Channel 7) will play “Mind Games” March 11, and the sole comedy of the bunch, Denis Leary’s “Sirens,” sounds off with two back-to-back episodes March 6 on the USA Network.
Welcome back, Jack: It’s about time: Terrorism’s formidable foe, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), resurfaces on Fox this summer in “24: Live Another Day.” Four years have passed since Jack went on the run and, blimey, he’s been hiding out in Britain. Billed as a limited-event series, the 12-episode season will take place over a dozen hours, which is plenty of time for Bauer to breathlessly save the world.
Late-night shake-up: Come February, let the games begin — and I’m not talking about the Winter Olympics, although I’m pumped up about that, too. The late-night landscape will change as Jay Leno hangs it up (again) and Jimmy Fallon takes over “The Tonight Show” to compete head to head with ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and CBS-TV (Channel 2)’s David Letterman. Feb. 24 also marks the arrival of new blood in the form of “Saturday Night Live” fixture Seth Meyers, the gifted Northwestern University grad inheriting NBC’s “Late Night” desk from Fallon.
— Lori Rackl
Patty Griffin (Jan. 31 at Metro, metrochicago.com): Patti Griffin’s career has spanned many incarnations, but the constant has been her powerful voice and gospel and folk underpinnings. She sidestepped her own music to record and tour as a member of Band of Joy, the Robert Plant roots music project. Now with “American Kid” (New West), an album that ended up on many 10-best albums in 2013, she is back to her own songs and playing this intimate rock show.
Neutral Milk Hotel (Feb. 6-7 at the Riviera, rivieratheatre.com): Tickets vanished within minutes after they were released for this reunion-comeback show of the psychedelic pop band. The band’s sleeper 1998 release “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” remains a rediscovered classic for its haunting mix of folk, pop and gospel. For many, this will be the first opportunity to hear those songs live, plus get a chance to glimpse reclusive singer Jeff Mangum.
The Sonics (Feb. 27 at Double Door, doubledoor.com): “Garage rock” is tossed around for revivalists, but here’s the deal. From Tacoma, Wash., the Sonics was among that first wave of hard rock bands making cheap, loud and primal recordings that had an impact on American punk and grunge. Most of the original lineup reunited recently, resulting in an EP. Having caught the band’s set at the Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans in October, I can attest age has not softened the band’s sound. Get ready to be blasted.
John Prine with Iris Dement (March 14 at Symphony Center, cso.org): The beloved Chicago-born songwriting legend returns following a medical scare involving his throat. Besides an assured survey of his best-known classics (“Sam Stone,” “Hello in There,” “Paradise”), this show also will feature his frequent duet partner, the gospel-soul singer Iris DeMent.
St. Vincent (April 5 at the Riviera, rivieratheatre.com): For the last two years, guitarist-songwriter Annie Clark has toured with David Byrne. That primed things for this new outing featuring songs from an album released in February. If the new electro-rock single “Birth in Reverse” is any indicator, the groove gets heavy.
— Mark Guarino