By Thomas Connors | July 1, 2015 | Culture
Soak up the season with our top 10 Chicago cultural happenings, from stage spectacles to outdoor festivals.
In a city that cherishes the warmth of the season like no other, summer is easily the most exciting time of year to enjoy cultural displays both indoors and out. Where to start? Right here, with this tantalizing top 10.
10. Beaches, the 1988 film starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, drawn from Iris Rainer Dart’s novel, was a buddy movie of the sensitive stripe. The story of lifelong friends from opposite sides of the tracks, it had it all: a love triangle, recriminations, and tragedy. Now, the three-hanky hit gets top-shelf musical treatment at Drury Lane Theatre, in a pre-Broadway production led by Million Dollar Quartet director Eric Schaeffer. June 24-August 16, Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook, 630-530-8300
9. Kindle may have kicked books to the curb, but it certainly hasn’t killed them—not if the Newberry Book Fair is any indication. True, the inventory of this very popular event wouldn’t be as extensive if folks weren’t emptying their shelves in favor of downloads, but as the number of bibliophiles trawling the tens of thousands of books here proves, ink and paper’s got some life left in it yet. July 23-26, The Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton St., 312-943-9090
8. Faith, hope, and charity are central ingredients in Heidi Schreck’s Grand Concourse, a tight little drama set in a Bronx soup kitchen, where the well-intentioned workers struggle to sate the hunger in their own lives as they dish up sustenance for the disadvantaged. Veteran ensemble members Francis Guinan, Mariann Mayberry, and Tim Hopper star in this Steppenwolf production. July 2-August 30, Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., 312-335-1650
7. Now in it's 10th year, the Pitchfork Music Festival has come a long way since the summer of 2005, when folks gathered for a new event called Intonation. A celebration of all things alt and hip-hop, the Union Park event is a big-league player (and a much more intimate alternative to the circus of Lollapalooza), chock-a-block with acts that draw avid listeners from everywhere. This year’s lineup includes Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, and Chance the Rapper. July 17-19, Union Park, 1501 W. Randolph St.
6. Jazz great, musical ambassador, and lifelong Chicagoan Ramsey Lewis has covered a lot of territory since he released his first album in 1956, and he’s not done yet. The indefatigable octogenarian steps out with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia to perform his new piano concerto, commissioned expressly for this, his CSO debut. August 8, Ravinia, 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park, 847-266-5100
5. New York may be the dance capital of the world, but the dance world comes to the Windy City when the Chicago Dancing Festival kicks into gear. The event has showcased 71 companies since its inception nine years ago, offering eager audiences a bit of everything. This year’s edition— with performances at the Harris Theater, Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and the Museum of Contemporary Art—includes the Joffrey Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, plus debut appearances by the Miami City Ballet and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. August 25-29
4. How's this for a musical smorgasbord? A number from The Lion King, a sexy bit from Cabaret, a little something by way of Dirty Dancing… And that’s just for starters. The Broadway in Chicago Summer Concert—an all-out celebration of the best in musical theater presented in Millennium Park—features selections from over a dozen shows. And it’s free. August 17, Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St.
3. It’s a far cry from s’mores around a campfire or a barbershop quartet on the bandstand, but the Chicago Air & Water Show is as traditional as anything else summer serves up. This two-day event turns the lake and the sky above it into a great stage for derring-do, rescue demos, and precision formations. Prime viewing is at North Avenue Beach, from Fullerton to Oak Street. August 15–16
2. The big top hasn’t been the same since Cirque du Soleil set up shop. And next to Madonna, no act in show business has reinvented itself as often and as thoroughly. The Canadian operation is at it again with its latest spectacle, Kurios–Cabinet of Curiosities. A fantastical narrative articulated with beguiling images and heart-stopping stunts, the show casts its spell at the United Center. August 6-September 20, United Center, 1901 W. Madison St.; 877-924-7783
1. Can it be that The Grateful Dead have been around for half a century, and it’s been 20 years since they rocked Soldier Field? Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir are back at the stadium with Fare Thee Well: Celebrating 50 Years of Grateful Dead. Joining the original members are guitarist Trey Anastasio of Phish, pianist Bruce Hornsby, and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti. July 3-5, Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Dr.
photography by U.S. Navy blUe aNgelS
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