One thing is for sure: 2017 was an amazing year in Chicago for live entertainment. So, with apologies, before we get to the 2017 list, there are a few points to clarify and some other highlights to tell you about.
For example, one could spend several hundreds of hours attending theatre, concerts and dance in Chicago and never discover the thrill of a first-time singer at Monday Night Live at Petterino’s or the rich vibes heard every night at Scott Stegman's hot new Winter’s Jazz Club in Streeterville, celebrating their 1st anniversary this fall.
Friends treated us to a terrific summer evening showing of Lord of the Rings with the CSO and a live chorus of voices at Ravania. And, there was the night Bernadette Peters sung only to me at the Auditorium Theatre. Unforgettable.
Our program schedule this year included an insightful, and extremely popular, podcast with actor Randall Newsome during the run of Goodman’s Ah Wilderness!. The always hilarious Ed Kross talked about commercial television and Tom Dreesen imparted text book advice for stand-up comics.
We even caught up with author Steve Hamilton as he was launching the second book in his popular Nick Mason series. Watch for the major motion picture soon.
In truth, we were moved by so many theatrical productions that one section of our 2017 list is devoted solely to theatrical productions - let's call it: PicksInSix Plus. You will find that our 2017 Top Ten Highlights focus on brilliant moments, interesting conversations, rousing performances and the people and places we discovered along the way.
This is a great opportunity to say thank you for the support and contributions of the public relations firms, arts service organizations, photographers and other media professionals we have worked with this year to help insure that the Conversations podcasts and PicksInSix reviews are balanced, engaging and entertaining. The keen insights and background in the promotional materials, extraordinary production images and videos, and the coordination with so many interesting professionals to talk with about a wide-range of topics are all appreciated.
And our thanks to the many artists, musicians, vocalists, dancers, directors, musicians, arts professionals, theatre companies and institutions for countless hours of superb entertainment that helps to make Chicago a truly vibrant cultural center... and to YOU for coming along on the journey and supporting the arts!
If you read carefully, there are recommendations for 2018, places you might want to put on your personal list and scores of talented people to watch for. There may even be some unexplored podcasts in our archive that you will consider downloading now and taking along on your next adventure.
Launching our review platform PicksInSix(sm) and migrating our Conversations with Ed Tracy podcasts to Libsyn, iTunes and Stitcher in addition to publishing the De Usuris blog were personal goals that I am very proud of accomplishing in 2017. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook and share our stories with your friends. There is much more to come!
Happy Listening! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year!
The 2017 List, in random order:
ELLA & LENA - Joan Curto, E. Faye Butler, Rich Daniels and friends celebrated the centennials of both Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne and it was perfect! Producer Curto joined a top-flight array of Chicago talent - Paul Marinaro, E. Faye Butler, Beckie Menzie, Tom Michael, Tammy McCann, Sophie Grimm - with Rich Daniels and The City Lights Orchestra at the Auditorium Theatre on November 18. All we can say is 'WOW!' In advance, we had a terrific conversation with Rich Daniels.
RICH DANIELS PODCAST ARCHIVE Photos|Jennifer Girard
ANGELA INGERSOLL gave a show-stopping performance at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles on October 10th. You will be able to see for yourself in 2018. Producer/husband and former Jersey Boy Michael Ingersoll recorded the concert for PBS. Have your DVR at the ready and watch for any future opportunity to see Angela Ingersoll. In the meantime, our February conversation is on the website.
PODCAST WEBSITE Photos|Amy Boyle Photography
IMERMAN ANGELS CEO Ben Bornstein, a three-time cancer survivor, leads an amazing organization that is dedicated to providing one-to-one mentor angels to cancer survivors, pairing by age and a spectrum of over 160 cancer types, to make this life-saving experience unique and personal. A moving and informative conversation. #Survivor
FIREBRAND THEATRE - We like beginnings and 2017 introduced us to a new, professional musical theatre company in Chicago committed to the mission of "employing and empowering women by expanding their opportunities on and off the stage." This is the right idea at precisely the right time. You can still see the critically-acclaimed inaugural production of LIZZIE at the Den Theater, but don't hesitate. The show is nearly sold-out. Our conversation with co-founder Harmony France this summer tells it all. PODCAST PICKSINSIX
JAMES EARL JONES II - If you missed the Jeff award-winning production of Porchlight Music Theatre's SCOTTSBORO BOYS, watch this video and listen to our poignant conversation with the amazing James Earl Jones II, one of Chicago's most vesatile and busiest actors. 'Go Back Home' video courtesy of Porchlight Music Theatre. PODCAST VIDEO
JEANNIE TANNER's new album Words and Music debuted in Chicago at City Winery earlier this year. The 2-disc album features twelve of Chicago's finest vocalists including Paul Marinaro, Tammy McCann, Elaine Dame, Typhanie Monique, Rose Colella, Abigail Riccards and others performing Tanner's extraordinary original material. The concert was out of this world! WEBSITE BUY THE CD
ROBERT SIMS joined the conversation to talk about the mid-20th century African-American performers who have provided the inspiration for his successful career as one of America's foremost lyric baritones and the legacy he is passing forward with the spirituals he performs in concert venues all over the world. PODCAST WEBSITE
FUN HOME Two of our top individual performances of the year were rendered in one show - FUN HOME at Victory Gardens Theater. In the touching role of Medium Allsion, the power-packed Hannah Starr delivered, particularly in "Changing My Major." Rob Lindley soared in the role of Bruce and the show-stopping "Edges of the World." PICKSINSIX Photos|Liz Lauren
THE NUTCRACKER – Joffrey Ballet Chicago returns with Christopher Wheeldon’s production at the Auditorium Theater. It is Ashley Wheater's 10th Anniversary at Joffrey and we spoke to him about his career and what is ahead for the company. PODCAST Photo|Cheryl Mann