By Philip Vidal
February is full of big events: Valentine’s Day, the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl, and Mardi Gras. Opening on Valentine’s Day is the comedy “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus LIVE!” based on John Gray’s book, at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, through March 5, (broadwayinchicago.com). What is it that Oscar Wilde said? “Men represent the triumph of mind over morals”? Thankfully we are all more evolved since Wilde penned those words, otherwise Valentine’s Day would not be as much fun.
I very much look forward to the annual “Walk the Red Carpet” event, again at a private club, on February 2. A panel of Chicago’s top film critics and columnists engage in a sometimes heated discussion about their picks for the winners of the Oscars. In that same vein, support the Gene Siskel Film Center, watch the Academy Awards and celebrate Chicago filmmakers at the “Hollywood on State: Where You’re the Star” gala on Oscar night, February 26 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, (siskelfilmcenter.org/hollywoodonstate2017).
Chicago isn’t hosting the Super Bowl, but we are hosting the 36th annual Windy City Professional Squash tournament at the University Club, February 23-March 1. I have heard of multi-purpose rooms, but the club takes this literally when they install a glass-enclosed squash court and stadium seats for spectators in the middle of the magnificent gothic-inspired dining room, Cathedral Hall, (windycityopen.com).
Last month, my editor, Judy Bross, and her husband invited me to a reading of Christopher Reid’s narrative poetry at Gruen Galleries in River North. Robert Bathurst (Sir Anthony Strallan of “Downton Abbey”) and Sarah Chalcroft performed that evening. This re-kindled an interest in poetry. “Happy Birthday Langston Hughes: A Celebration in Poetry, Prose and Song,” at The City Winery, is a star-studded affair featuring Jussie Smollett from FOX’s “Empire” to commemorate the 115th anniversary of Langston Hughes’ birth, February 1, (citywinery.com). The School of the Art Institute, the Poetry Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust are presenting a poetry reading, “Our Miss Brooks 100” at the Art Institute’s Rubloff Auditorium on February 2, (artic.edu). This event is not about the 50’s TV program “Our Miss Brooks” staring Eve Arden. The event, with readings by five African American poets, is in honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American poet to receive the Pulitzer Prize, and who spent most of her life on the South Side.
At recent gatherings and dinners, I learned that fellow guests and friends will soon abandon Chicago for Mexico, California, Florida and far flung Iran. They haven’t considered what they are missing. I have no travel plans, as there are plenty of diversions in Chicago. Just a few of the many options during the first weekend of February are: Feb 3 – Bruckner Orchestra Linz performs with Angelique Kidjo and Dennis Russell Davies at the Harris Theater, (harristheaterchicago.org); Feb 4 – Deeply Rooted Dance Theater at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie, NorthShoreCenter.org; and Feb. 4 – billed as “The Biggest Night in Chicago Music!” the Chicago Voices Gala Concert at the Civic Opera House has an impressively diverse and rich roster of local talent from alternative/indie/rock to pop/R&B/gospel, (lyricopera.org/LyricVoicesGala) or (chicagovoices.org/gala).
Something the whole family can attend and enjoy is the City of Chicago’s last Chinese New Year festivity, “11 Warriors,” performed by Jackie Chan’s Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe from Beijing, at the Auditorium Theatre on February 4, (auditoriumtheatre.org)
“Moonlight” won the Golden Globe for best film. Robert O’Hara spins a similar story in “Bootycandy,” a coming-of-age tale about a young black man growing up gay, runs February 3-April 16 at the Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park Road, WindyCityPlayhouse.com.
An intimate theater setting has been resurrected in the Studebaker Theater at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan. I look forward to seeing Chicago Opera Theater’s first world premiere, Stewart Copeland’s (co-founder and drummer of the Police) “The Invention of Morel,” at the Studebaker on February 18, 24 & 26.
Another intimate setting… A private club in a beautifully restored McKim, Mead and White 1890’s mansion on Bellevue is the venue for a cabaret performance featuring vocalist Pamela Fernandez and her accompanist/arranger Thomas Gunther, followed by dinner on February 11. I was invited by my friend Barbara Wing, who is co-chair of the event, along with Heide Ralli.
Chicago has one of the most vibrant theatre scenes in the country. Take advantage of that during Chicago Theatre Week 2017, February 9-19. Tickets at $15 and $30 are available to 120+ shows around the city, (chicagotheatreweek.com)
I was blown away by the Museum of Contemporary Art’s David Bowie exhibit a few years ago, so I look forward to their next major retrospective, “Merce Cunningham: Common Time.” This is a multi-disciplinary exhibit showing how choreographer Merce Cunningham partnered with major artists, musicians and fashion designers, such as Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, John Cage, Brian Eno, and Rei Kawakuba, to create sets, music and costumes for his modern dance company. The exhibit runs February 11 to April 30, (mcachicago.org). There are many programs related to this exhibit, but the one I am most looking forward to is when Ballet de Lorraine makes its Chicago debut performing two Merce Cunningham pieces on Feb 18-19, (mcachicago.org).
I know next to nothing about Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica, so am I anxious to learn more about him at an Art Institute Sustaining Fellows lecture and lunch on February 7. The Art Institute’s exhibition, “Helio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium,” is the first U.S. retrospective of this artist and runs February 18-May 7, (artic.edu).
When I was growing up, I wanted to become an architect, so Lincoln Logs and Legos were among my favorite toys. So it would be a pleasure to see “Brick by Brick,” the Legos exhibit that the Museum of Science and Industry developed, before it closes on February 28. I especially want to see the replicas of the Golden Gate Bridge and Colosseum, (msichicago.org). And there is “The Lego Batman Movie” scheduled for a February 10 release date. Ironically, although I visit my relatives in Guenzburg, Germany, I have never been to the Legoland that is there.
I cannot wait to see the purebred pooches prance around the ring during the 141st annual Westminster Dog Show, which airs February 13 and 14, (www.westminsterkennelclub.org).
Is artisanal cider the new craft beer? Cider Summit Chicago at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom features ciders from around the world, February 11, (www.cidersummit.com). If you prefer wine, the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute hosts their 8th annual “Uncorked: A Case for Wine” at Venue One, 1034 W. Randolph Street, (artic.edu/uncorked). Always a fun event.
We all need a few laughs in our lives. Chicago native, Kathy Griffin, performs at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts on February 18, (www.northshorecenter.org).
There were a host of festivities around Chicago last year for the 30th anniversary of the movie “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off”. Now it’s Aurora’s turn. February marks the 25th anniversary of the release of “Wayne’s World,” the film with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey as Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, respectively, hosting a cable show out of Wayne’s basement in Aurora. The festivities, appropriately featured as “Party On! 25 Years of Wayne’s World,” start February 3 and culminate on July 4 when fans will try to establish a world record for the largest number of people headbanging to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” at Aurora’s RiverEdge Park. Imagine that.
February ends with Mardi Gras. Though I love New Orleans, I will not be there to attend the Rex or Comus Balls because of an ill-timed apartment renovation, but I do plan to have a New Orleans inspired dinner at home with a King cake to finish the meal. And to get in the Mardi Gras spirit, I will head straight to the Chicago Botanical Garden in Glencoe for “The Orchid Show,” for some heat and humidity during our dry and cold winter, February 11-March 26, (www.chicagobotanic.org). I might also go to Elmhurst College for their 50th annual Jazz Festival, February 23-26, (www.elmhurst.edu/jazzfestival). While there, I will certainly see “Kings and Queens, Pinball, Imagists and Chicago” at the Elmhurst Art Museum, (www.elmhurstartmuseum.org). Where else can you see vintage Chicago arcade machines alongside the works of Chicago Imagists such as Ed Paschke, Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson? In its own way, the proximity of the two makes sense.