SunSpots: Jamaica Farewell!

Stephanie's Just Hangin' Around!


Jamaica Farewell Fared Well!


Mention Soleil's To-Dos for HALF PRICE tix to Jamaica Farewell on Mother's Day at 4pm! Email Suzanne Murphy ( to confirm your seat!

You'd usually expect a one-person show to be driven by the performer's celebrity status or local following.  Yet, Jamaican-born, Los Angeles-domiciled Debra Ehrhardt jumped on in and won the hearts of her audience on opening night!

Jamaica FarewellJamaica Farewell is based on Debra's true story of longing to escape Jamaica for America and her journey, which included love, loss, smuggling and a run for her life!  The performance got off to a late start (no worries, mon - it's Jamaican!) and it took a little while for Debra to find her groove.  Nonetheless, the story was engaging from the start!

Jamaica Farewell touches upon a lot: Jamaica's tumultuous history as a backdrop to Debra's plans to escape Jamaica; a childhood impacted by poverty, instability and a gambling, alcoholic father; a relationship with a CIA operative; and, assorted harrowing escapades.  Debra is undoubtedly a masterful storyteller, weaving together drama, suspense, intrigue and hilarity!  Regrettably, but understandably, it is likely that her tale was significantly edited to enable a one-woman performance, but the good news is that a screenplay is in process!

Written and performed by Debra Ehrhardt; directed by Joel Zwick.  Jamaica Farewell continues through May 27th at Chopin Theatre - Fridays and Saturdays, 8pm; Sundays, 4pm. $35-45.

Soleil's To-DosLetter: Mother's Day To-Dos!

Stephanie's Just Hangin' Around!


Happy Mother's Day


When it comes down to it, on Mother's Day, most moms just want to know that they're loved and appreciated.  Gifts are nice if you can afford it, but time spent with your mom or mom-figure is just as important.  Whether you're rolling in dough or squatting in squalor, you're bound to find a To-Do that's just right for your mom!  Check out some of our picks below and come on by Soleil's To-Dos for more!

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="210"]Dawoud Bey - Rudy Nimocks and Lindsay Atnip, Hyde Park, Chicago, 2012 Dawoud Bey - Rudy Nimocks and Lindsay Atnip, Hyde Park, Chicago, 2012[/caption]

Dawoud Bey: Picturing People (Opening Reception):  For the budget-minded child whose mom loves art - here's a perfect choice!  This exhibit at the Renaissance Society is a career survey of Dawoud's work.  On Sunday from 5-7pm, enjoy an Artist Talk and opening reception.  Free!  (Note that simultaneously at the Art Institute Dawoud Bey's 1979 collection "Harlem USA" is on exhibit!  You'll have an easier time with parking at the Renaissance Society exhibit though.)
Chicago Blues - Mother's Day Celebration Demetria Taylor — daughter of blues legend Eddie Taylor — makes her Old Town School debut with a fun and flashy Mother's Day set.  This performance is part of the Chicago Blues Series, which is a lead up to the Chicago Blues Festival!  6:30-8:30pm; $15.

The Marvin Gaye Story:  Black Ensemble Theater can always be relied upon for a nostalgic musical and this weekend is no exception!  Sunday, 3pm; $55-65.  The production continues through July 29th.

Dose Market - Mother's Day Edition:  For the agile mom, Dose Market allows you to get some burn while also indulging in some fabulous treats!  Every month, Dose features a wide variety of vendors that serve up the hottest in food, fashion and more.  Shop for mom on the spot!  Admission is only $8 in advance and $10 at the door, so bring the whole family along!  10am-4pm.

Mo'NiqueMo'Nique and Friends: Mother's Day Comedy Show:  Mo'Nique, an Oscar award-winning actress and one of the Original Queens of Comedy, will perform a Mother’s Day Comedy Show with her friends, Rodney Perry and Tone X.  7pm; $62-72.

Pre-Mother's Day Brunch w/ Events by Eve:  The historic Gibsons Steakhouse on the Gold Coast is the setting for this special event that includes lovely ambiance, great raffle prizes, a delicious buffet and more!!!  Reservations required.  Saturday, May 12th, 11am-2pm; $35.

Mother's Day Brunch at Zed451:  For only $29 ($16 for children), Mom can enjoy a mimosa and indulge in an unlimited sampling of a ridiculous variety of food, ranging from chicken & waffles to duck confit hash browns and citrus dusted Atlantic salmon!  Reservations required.  10am-3pm

Mother's Day Brunch at Norman's Bistro:  This bountiful buffet includes an assortment of Salads, Marinated Grilled Vegetables, Pancake Station, Omelet Station and more! Norm's Chefs will be carving Roasted Turkey, Brown Sugar Glazed Ham and Prime Rib. Reservations required.  9am-4pm; Adults, $30, Children, $15.

SunSpots: Flipping Out for Xtreme Trampolines!

Stephanie's Just Hangin' Around!


Jumping for Joy at Xtreme Trampolines - Where a Kid (or an Adult) Can be a Kid!


Xtreme Trampolines has been on my mind since Tracye Dee shared her blog post, Who's Got Next, several months ago.  So, when Groupon offered a 2-for-1 deal earlier this year, I jumped on it!  Today,  my cohorts and I jumped on it . . . and tonight I soak in bath salts . . .

We visited the Buffalo Grove location because I was told it was newer.  They have two trampoline areas based on age - each with 10 or 11 "lanes" with 3 trampolines and 2 "walls" each.  There are also two age-based trampoline dodgeball areas and one trampoline foam pit area where flips can be practiced. (They really need an additional area for that.) While I saw a sign about pinball machines and other games, we spent our entire time moving from one area to another.

Xtreme TrampolineFree-styling on the regular trampolines was a real blast, as was jumping across the trampoline grids.  It never got too crowded, but when it came close, we just moved to a different trampoline area.  The boys loved, and did not tire of, dodgeball.  The soft, foam balls made this a safe activity for all ages.  With only four trampolines, the foam pit area should really be doubled.  However, the kids (and this adult!) were good about lining up and sharing the trampolines.

Me In BlackOkay, speaking of this adult, I was probably only one of three adults jumping.  I really don't know whether I or the kids had more fun because I truly had a ball!  Weekends are peak time for kids, however, both Xtreme locations are open until 10 or 11pm (well past most kids' bedtimes) on Monday through Thursday.  They recommend that you go barefoot for better traction, so whip out your pumice store beforehand if necessary! Amazingly, at the end of our visit, the bottoms of my feet were remarkably clean!

Jumping is great exercise!  In fact, you can burn up to 1,000 calories per hour in the aerobics class on Tuesdays at 7pm in Buffalo Grove, Tuesdays at Thursdays at 7pm in Carol Stream.  The cost is only $8 per class or $60 for 10 classes!  They also have birthday packages at both the Buffalo Grove and Carol Stream locations.  (The members of my crew were contemplating their birthday parties before we could even get out the door!)

The cost is $11/12 per person for the first hour and $6/7 for each additional hour (although we were there for well over three hours, with no apparent time monitoring).  Xtreme Trampolines has locations in Carol Stream and Buffalo Grove (which is newer).

Click the image below to view the Flipping Out video!
View more photos!

Xtreme Trampolines


SunSpots: Alvin Ailey Returns to Chicago!

Stephanie's Just Hangin' Around!


Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Returns with New Works and a New Artistic Director

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AADT) has returned to Chicago under the direction of Robert Battle in his first season as Artistic Director!  He has some serious shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of only Judith Jamison and Alvin Ailey himself.  Judging by the opening night performance, he's off to a great start!

[caption id="attachment_1074" align="alignright" width="200"]Arden Court Linda Celeste Sims and Kirven J. Boyd. Photo by Paul Kolnik[/caption]

The program began with "Arden Court," choreographed by Paul Taylor and the first of his works to be performed by AADT.  The piece seemingly opens conservatively with much pomp and circumstance, thanks to the rich, baroque music by William Boyce.  The dancers were nimble, spry and tightly in synch as they took full advantage of the entire stage. However, the piece takes a delightfully romantic, yet playful, turn with a couple of duets.  In the first duet, a playful sprite, Alicia Graf Mack, drives the more serious Antonio Douthit to distraction as she dances all about him and on him!  In the next duet, roles are reversed as Kirven J. Boyd seeks the attention of Linda Celeste Sims with varied, playful antics.  Battle shared that when he initially saw the piece, he was attracted to the piece because of the huge image of the rose projected on the backdrop of the stage, which was the choreographer's attempt to impress his mother - a lover of roses!

[caption id="attachment_1077" align="alignleft" width="200"]Ghrai DeVore and Kiven J. Boyd Ghrai DeVore and Kiven J. Boyd.     Photo by Paul Kolnik[/caption]

Intermission has never been so much fun, thanks to "Minus 16" (so don't stay away too long)!  This AADT premiere of Ohad Naharin's piece includes some fantastic music - a little Dean Martin, some techno and even cha-cha.  Battle says that, with this piece, AADT "[expands] the Ailey repertory with a work unlike any other we have done. . . . It has an edge and offers surprising new experiences for the company and our audience."  (However, that is truly an understatement!)  "Minus 16" uses Naharin's acclaimed ""Gaga" method to break down old habits and make room for new movement and new experience." It presents an eclectic array of dance and music that is outstanding from beginning - strike that: pre-beginning - to end and is guaranteed to leave you on your feet!

[caption id="attachment_1082" align="alignright" width="200"]Revelations Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims. Photo by Christopher Duggan[/caption]

The performance concluded with the AADT classic, "Revelations" (which, for the first time, almost felt anti-climatic).  "Fix Me, Jesus" is as powerful and moving as ever with with Glenn Allen Sims providing seen, yet unseen, support for Linda Celeste Sims. (Glenn and Linda met when he joined the Company in 1997 (the year after her).  They have been married for over a decade and have become known over the years for their moving performances of “Fix Me, Jesus.”)  Another standout performance is by Antonio Douthit in "I Wanna be Ready," in which he demonstrates incredible, power, grace, athleticism and emotion.

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater continues at Auditorium Theatre through Sunday, April 15th.  If you're already a fan, show your love by wearing red on Friday and at the Saturday evening performance. ;=)  Ticket prices are $30-90.


Congratulations to Miaisha, Phyllis and Felicia, each of whom won a pair of Level 2 tickets from Soleil's To-Dos!

Phylicia Rashad to Direct at Goodman Theatre

Phylicia Rashad Phylicia Rashad


Immediate Family Tickets On Sale April 23, 2012


Paul Boskind, Ruth Hendel and Stephen Hendel, by special arrangement with the Goodman Theatre, and in association with About Face Theatre, announce Immediate Family, a new American play by Paul Oakley Stovall, directed by two-time Emmy nominee and Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad.

In the Bryant family’s Hyde Park home, keeping a secret is next to impossible . . .  When the entire clan comes together for the first time in more than five years, family secrets are exposed in a hilarious, emotional family reunion.  Evy can’t understand why her younger brothers are so mysterious and distant; Jesse is afraid to be true to himself and honest with his family; and no one can understand why Tony is so eager to get married.  Modern Family meets All in the Family as these siblings try to bridge their differences with a little help from God, card games and their Immediate Family.

Paul Oakley Stovall Paul Oakley Stovall

“We are thrilled to produce this new play by Paul Oakley Stovall in his hometown.  Chicago has a vibrant, dynamic theater scene, making the development process and production of this new American play a perfect match for this theater community and its audiences.  We look forward to introducing Paul’s hilarious and poignant script, with Phylicia’s vision for the production, to Chicago audiences,” says producer Paul Boskind.

Producer Ruth Hendel adds, “The play touches on so many universal topics—family, love, relationships, religion.  Its themes are timely, political and relevant to our society today.  We think that people will be talking about the production and its subject matter long after the curtain goes down.”

Cynda WilliamsImmediate Family features an all-Chicago cast, including Shane'sia Davis (Evy), J. Nicole Brooks (Nina), Patrick Sarb (Kristian), Phillip James Brannon (Jesse), Kamal Angelo Bolden (Tony), and Cynda Williams (Ronnie). 

Playwright Paul Oakley Stovall, a Chicago native, is an Artistic Associate at Dog and Pony and About Face Theatre in Chicago.  Paul currently serves as a White House Advance Associate for the Obama administration.  Immediate Family was earlier produced under the title As Much As You Can at Dog and Pony Theatre Company at New York's International Fringe Festival, and at Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles.  The play, which received a 2009 GLAAD Media Award nomination has been in development and is being produced under its new title.  As an actor, Paul was most recently seen in Christopher McElroen’s World Premiere production of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man at Court Theatre.

Playwright Paul Oakley Stovall says, "This play has been coming out of me for almost ten years now and I'm ecstatic to have it take another step forward in my hometown and at the Goodman especially, which in many ways, is like home to me as well. Having Phylicia Rashad on board as director is, to my mind, the perfect addition to the mix.  The characters in this play are all trying to hold their heads just a little higher, to find themselves and their place in the family; and Phylicia brings discipline, dignity, and determination to everything she does."

Tickets for the limited engagement will be on sale April 23, and are available through Goodman Theatre box office, 170 N. Dearborn St., by phone at 312.443.3800, or visit
Page 1 ... 4 5 6 7 8 ... 16 Next 5 Entries »