Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Chicago Theater

M.J. The Musical Hits Chicago

“M.J.: The Musical” Hits Chicago

While taking in “Tommy: The Rock Opera” on my birthday, I became aware that “M.J.: The Musical” would be opening soon at the Niederlander Theater (formerly the Oriental Theater) on Aug. 1st and running only until September 3rd.

I had seen the New York City lead in the play on the Tony awards, and I thought it looked like something that would be very high energy and enjoyable. (It was nominated for 6 Tonys).

So, a quick trip to Chicago ensued.

The trip in put us in traffic for Soldier Field. There was a big soccer game between two European teams, Chelsea and Dortmund.

Also, Lollapalooza was scheduled to kick off on August 3rd in Grant Park, with Billie Eilish singing at 7:30 p.m. Many streets were closed for Lolla.

I secured tickets to the musical online and it said we were in Row B to the right side of the stage in the Orchestra section. It turned out that Row B was actually the first row and the musicians were playing almost directly beneath us, which means that we had an unobstructed view and our seats actually vibrated to the beat and pulse of all of the Michael Jackson hits through the years.

Several different actors portrayed the young and teen-aged and adult Michael Jackson and the play sketched his life as though a film crew were trying to document the preparations for the “Dangerous” tour.


All of the actors were fantastic. It sometimes became a wee bit confusing to have multiple actors playing the same role and to have one actor portraying two parts simultaneously. For instance, the very talented actress playing Michael Jackson’s mother held down a couple of roles, as did the burly gentleman portraying Joseph Johnson, who had a great voice.

The traffic in Chicago was absolutely horrific and, when we came out of the theater after the play, it took the better part of half an hour for the Lyft driver (Jose) to make his way to the theater for pick-up. Cabs were few and far between.

It was a wonderful uplifting play, if slanted to highlight only the positive P.R. of Michael Jackson.

Man with Butcher Knife Takes Hostage in Downtown Chicago and is Shot and Killed by Police

Chicago-TheaterAs I was driving in to Chicago today, about 1 p.m., the WLS team reported that a 6’ 7” inch male in his fifties had been shot and killed by Chicago police in the downtown theater district, near the Chicago Theater at State and Randolph Streets. The WLS team was agog that the shooting took place less than 50 yards from their offices.

Two Channel 7 photographers were outside smoking and, as a result, ended up as witnesses to the entire event. (“Thank God people still smoke!” said one on-air talking head.)

The man who was shot was described as “an over-aggressive panhandler” who was apparently using a large butcher knife to make his point. This caused understandable stress for the streets, which were full at the time, as it was the lunch hour. Because it was the lunch hour and the original Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) flagship store and a Border’s bookstore are nearby, there were a number of people in the street who witnessed the incident.

Pepper spray was initially used on the man, but it did nothing. The man with the knife took an older gentleman hostage and, in preliminary reports, the radio people said that he was pulled from the man and then held the knife to the throat of a woman, who was described as “curled in the fetal position against the curb” before she was taken away by ambulance. I watched the news later in the day, and there was no mention of a female hostage, but the fact that a man with a butcher knife was menacing people in broad daylight in one of the busiest parts of town went unquestioned.
The real kicker to the story is that 5 to 10 shots were fired, and one of them hit an officer who, fortunately, was wearing a bulletproof vest, so that he sustained only minor injuries. (A local police official said the bullet did not penetrate the vest and the worst the injured 11-year veteran officer might have suffered would be bruised ribs and a bruise at the site of the shot.) The two officers firing their weapons had a combined total of 27 years of experience on the force, and the commanding officer conducting the news conference on the 6 p.m. news, when asked why the officers did not use tasers, said the policemen did not have tasers with them and, “We had a man who was trying to murder someone right in front of officers,” which the officer seemed to be saying justified shooting the panhandler up to ten times.

Anthony Porse, a young African-American bystander who was interviewed by the WGN newscasters on the 6 o’clock news said, “I never saw anything like this happen in broad daylight.” (near State and Lake). Bobby Polk, another eyewitness interviewed said that he heard four shots and vouched for the fact that the officers told the man with the knife to put down his weapon and release the hostage three separate times.

I will not be shopping at Macy’s downtown store in the foreseeable future.

Bill Maher Appears at Chicago Theater on July 25, 2008

Bill MaherBill Maher, the acerbic comic whose “Politically Incorrect” television show launched a thousand controversies, played the Chicago Theater for one night only on Friday, July 25th and delighted a sold-out crowd.

Where to begin with an analysis of Maher’s ability to offend with his cynicism? He aimed many barbs at politicians, of course…even Illinois’ own Barack Obama, although, this night, he did end his stand-up routine with the comment, “Thanks for the candidate.”

Poor John McCain received the butt of the ribbing, with age-related comments that I won’t repeat, as they were pretty much what was to be expected. What was not expected was Maher’s criticism of some of Obama’s votes, and his follow-up comment, “I don’t make this stuff up, Folks. I just report it.”

In the middle of the show, Archer Midland-Daniels was mentioned, and a loud shout of support rose from a crowd member, whom Maher then crucified, expressing a great deal of dislike for the giant corporation. He also came down hard on corn. Yes, corn. He doesn’t like corn, apparently, whether it is as an alternative fuel or a foodstuff. He just does not like corn. What can I say? Take it up with Maher.

About the time that he was ragging on corn and farmers (whom he criticized as the biggest welfare queens) and all corn-related topics, someone heckled him from the midwestern crowd filling all the seats this night. Maher looked calmly into the crowd, found the heckler and said, “Now, that really didn’t add anything to the show, did it?” very calmly, as though this happens to him all the time. Cool.

I used to go to a chat room online called “Hollywood Café” and some of Maher’s writers were not glowing in their praise of him. However, his riff on religion and marriage, both topics he has addressed on his show (to say he is “a confirmed bachelor” is putting it mildly) were familiar and funny.

We were 3 rows from the top of this many-tiered palace of entertainment. I had just made a trip to the restrooms located in the bowels of the theater, which were another 3 to 5 flights of stairs. By the time I had climbed from the basement to 3 rows from the top, I needed oxygen. I don’t think I was alone. I could almost touch the Indian mural on the ceiling and the chandelier near it. Maher looked like a speck onstage, wearing what appeared to be a tan tee shirt with some sort of logo that I would have needed binoculars to make out.

His voice, however, rang out loud and clear, as did his lampooning of everything from gas prices to the demise of George W. Bush (let’s understate his comments and say that he is not a big Bush supporter), to why his married friends’ wives don’t like him hanging around, reminding their husbands of what they are missing.

It was vintage Maher on his one stop in the Windy City, and, Democrat or Republican, Christian, Jew or Muslim, there was enough material in his act to offend everyone at least once, and all of it was funny.

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