By Philip Vidal
Of course, the main St. Patrick’s Day events are the dyeing of the Chicago River green and the parade on March 17. The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle® 8K race, on March 25, is a great way to work off all the Shamrock Shakes and Guinness you might have consumed. Incidentally, this year marks the 200th year that Guinness has been exported to the U.S.
When I was growing up in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish on Chicago’s North Side, our pastor, Father Thomas Byrne, would march alongside Mayor Richard M. Daley every year in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. I recently asked his son, Mayor Richard J. Daley, what the connection was, and I learned that Father Byrne and his father had grown up together. Another remembrance of St. Patrick’s Day is my one and only visit to the legendary political watering hole Fritzel’s on the northeast corner of State and Lake, where I went to join a friend’s father, a Chicago alderman, who had bellied up to the bar to escape the crowds.
Yet another way to escape the boisterous crowds is to attend an indoor event which promises that spring is just around the corner: the annual Chicago Flower & Garden Show at Navy Pier, March 14-18.
ArtDesignChicago celebrates Chicago’s rich cultural history with exhibitions and events throughout 2018. “Bill Walker: Urban Griot” at the Hyde Park Art Center through April 8, is just one of the exhibitions that is part of ArtDesignChicago. Bill Walker was one of the forefathers of Chicago’s mural movement. “Keith Haring: The Chicago Mural” is at the Chicago Cultural Center, March 3-September 2. Irving Zucker, then a Chicago Public School (CPS) teacher, met Haring in New York and persuaded him to come to Chicago in 1989 to create a monumental mural with the help of hundreds of CPS students. This exhibit displays 36 of the original panels from that mural.
Barbara Crane’s photographs are in museums and collections all over the world. Luckily, all I need to do is head to the Stephen Daiter Gallery in River North to see “Barbara Crane at Ninety: A Look at Selected Series,” an exhibition of works by Chicago-born photographer and professor emeritus of photography at The School of the Art Institute (through May 5).
March is a great month for dance in Chicago. Touring companies come to Chicago, and our own superb local dance companies perform. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is at the Auditorium Theatre, March 7-11. Three performances of “Layla and Majnun” – Mark Morris Dance Group + Silk Road Ensemble featuring Mugham vocalists Alim Qasimov & Fargana Qasimova — are at the Harris Theater, March 16-17. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is at the Auditorium Theatre March 23-24. That same weekend, Chicago’s Giordano Dance Chicago is at the Harris Theater. Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak is at the Dance Center of Columbia College, March 29-31. The 16th annual Chicago Flamenco Festival continues through March 21. Most events are at the Instituto Cervantes of Chicago. Danceworks 2018: @ Hi-Speed is March 2-11, at Northwestern University. This year’s theme is Women and Power at High Speed.
March 8 is International Women’s Day. Chicago Sinfonietta is featuring female musicians and composers throughout its 30th season, and their March concert has an international line-up. “Hear Me Roar,” conducted by Mei-Ann Chen, features works by Jennifer Higdon and Reena Esmail, as well as premieres by Dora Pejacevic and Mary Kouyoumdjian; Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville and Symphony Center Chicago, March 11 and 12.
March is also a terrific month for jazz. The 9th annual Chi-Town Jazz Festival at several locations across Chicago and Evanston is a great way to hear great jazz and support the fight against hunger, March 7-11. Chicago-born and Rockford-raised jazz singer and composer Kurt Elling plays with his quintet at The Promontory in Hyde Park on March 20 and 21. The Chicago Jazz Orchestra performs “Sophisticated Giant: A Tribute to Dexter Gordon” at the Studebaker Theater on March 25. The 3rd annual Exposure Series brings six visiting musicians (Steve Baczkowski, Tashi Dorji, Michael Foster, Molly Jones, Brandon Lopez and Luke Stewart) for solo performances. They will also pair up with local musicians, March 22-26, various venues.
Chicago’s Ikram Goldman of the eponymous temple of fashion, Ikram, joins Pink Martini as their special guest when the group returns to Symphony Center on March 16. Ikram has a magnificent voice.
The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and Phil Lesh come to the Chicago Theatre, March 10-11. “The world’s greatest Pink Floyd show – Brit Floyd Eclipse World Tour” is at the Chicago Theatre on March 23. Also bringing back the past, Sony Entertainment is set to re-introduce vinyl records this month, which confirms the adage that everything old is new again.
I am a long-time subscriber to Music of the Baroque and have heard them perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s “St. John Passion” many times. It is still a treat to hear this choral work, which will be performed at the North Shore Center for the Arts in Skokie on March 25, and at the Harris Theater on March 26.
Celebrate Leonard Bernstein’s centennial by attending Lyric Unlimited’s “Celebrating 100 Years of Bernstein,” a concert at the Lyric Opera of Chicago with a stellar cast of singers including Kate Baldwin, Susan Graham and Nathan Gunn, March 10. Lyric Unlimited also presents the Chicago premiere of “Fellow Travelers,” an opera about a gay love affair in 1950s Washington D.C. during the lavender scare of the repressive McCarthy era, at the Athenaeum Theatre, March 17-25. For a different take on the ‘50s, “A Taste of Things to Come” at the Broadway Playhouse, March 20-April 29 is billed as “a musical comedy about a group of female friends in 1950s Winnetka who trade in their cookbooks for the Kinsey Report.”
For something light and fluffy, you might try DePaul Opera Theatre production of Franz Lehar’s operetta “The Merry Widow,” March 9 and 11 at DePaul University Merle Reskin Theatre, 60 East Balbo Drive. This venue brings back memories as I saw Katherine Hepburn perform there late in her career in “A Matter of Gravity.”
In Katherine Hepburn’s day, New Haven and Philadelphia seemed to be the testing grounds for Broadway musicals. For the past several years, it has to be Chicago. The pre-Broadway world premiere of “Pretty Woman: The Musical” opens at the Oriental Theatre on March 13.
Patti LuPone co-starred with Christine Ebersole in the pre-Broadway musical “War Paint” at the Goodman Theatre in 2016. The two-time Tony winner is back in Chicago at Steppenwolf Theatre for two concerts on March 5 as part of the LookOut Series. LuPone will sing a few songs and regale her audience with a few stories about life on the Broadway stage accompanied by host and pianist Seth Rudetsky.
Continuing my theme of and fascination with Katherine Hepburn, she and Elizabeth Taylor starred in the 1959 film version of Tennessee William’s Southern Gothic tale “Suddenly, Last Summer.” Gore Vidal (no relation that I know of) wrote the screenplay. Raven Theatre will mount the stage version of “Suddenly, Last Summer” May 2-June 17, but prior to that it will stage the world premiere of Chicago playwright Philip Dawkin’s “The Gentleman Caller,” which is about the friendship between playwrights Tennessee Williams and William Inge, March 28-May 13.
A southern theme persists when The Music Box Theatre presents the National Theater Live production of Tennessee William’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on March 5. Leslie Liautaud’s “Southern Gothic” at the Windy City Playhouse and the comedy “Plantation!” at Lookingglass Theatre continue through April 22.
Leaving the South, the Chicago-centric 28th Onion City Experimental Film + Video Festival is March 8-11 at Chicago Filmmaker’ new home in an old firehouse at 5720 North Ridge that I have passed hundreds of times to and from Lake Shore Drive. The Euro-centric 21st annual Chicago European Union Film Festival is at Gene Siskel Film Center, March 9 – April 5.
March begins with the city’s 181st birthday and ends with a gift from the city to all those with cars — on April 1 the Chicago winter parking ban ends. Something to celebrate, along with the warmer weather!
Dates, times, and availability are subject to change.