Dr. Phillips Center For the Performing Arts

***** (5 stars)

What an amazing new theatre, and such a breath of fresh air after all those years at the Bob Carr.

Things they got right:

Great acoustics! The most important thing.
Excellent sight lines
Enough restrooms (if you go up a flight from the ground floor)
Enough bars

Things that need work:

Parking lot is far away, and requires walking right across the passenger unloading lanes in front.
No warning flashing lights for the start of act 2.
Champagne from a solo cup doesn’t cut it.

The building itself is quite attractive, and although it shouldn’t have been placed right downtown (the egos at city hall notwithstanding) it is a great addition to the city.

Dr. Phillips Center For the Performing Arts
445 S. Magnolia Ave.
Orlando, FL 32801
(844) 513-2014

Bristol Renaissance Faire


***** (5 stars)

Having grown up in Southern California in the 1970s, I thought I knew what a Renaissance Faire was: a collection of tents and small booths set up temporarily on sprawling farmland.

Bristol Renaissance Faire is something completely different, and closer to an entire theme park than a temporary attraction.

Scattered beneath giant shade trees, and wandering its was over gentle hills, through glens and at one point even across a pond, the fair is comprised of more than 100 permanent structures, each uniquely themed as a period building.

Many attendees wear costumes, and fantasy attire is almost as popular as period dress, however most people just wear regular clothes, so you don’t need to feel self-conscious if you don’t look like a fairy.

Handicrafts and food, in many cases themed to the era (not sure about the medieval french fries) make for a delightful day.

Note that lines to get into the parking area can be VERY long, so plan to arrive early in the day, especially if it’s hot.

This is definitely a must-visit annual attraction.

Bristol Renaissance Faire
12550 120th Ave
Kenosha, WI 53141
(847) 395-7773

Chopin Theatre

***** (5 stars)

This is a funky, eclectic space with an upstairs reception and bar, and then a larger parlor in the basement, all a preview to a basement theatre that’s low on frills but very professional.  The show we saw had excellent talent and first rate stagecraft. Definitely a good (and surprising) place to see some creative theatre.

Chopin Theatre
1543 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
(773) 278-1500

Metropolis Performing Arts Centre

***** (5 stars)

This is a superb performance space. The stage is a semi circle, somewhat between a conventional proscenium setup and a thrust stage. The seats are pretty narrow, but comfortable. The show we saw was The Last Five Years, a fairly rare musical. The two leads were excellent, and the male lead belongs on Broadway. The six piece orchestra handled the complex show with great aplomb. I’ve seen the show four times, and this was by far the best production I’ve encountered. In fact, imaginative directing made this better than the Broadway version. Despite being a very long trip from my home, I’ll definitely return when they produce another show of interest to me.

Metropolis Performing Arts Centre
111 W Campbell St
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
(847) 577-5982

Winter Park Playhouse

***** (5 stars)

There aren’t many small professional theaters left, so it’s great to see this one thriving. The shows are very professional, with live music and talented performers, and since there are only a few rows, there are no bad seats.

It’s particularly nice that there is a comfortable lounge and bar with piano music for hanging out before the show, and the founders are always there to greet guests and make sure everyone has a nice time.

Definitely one of the best theatrical experiences in Central Florida.

Winter Park Playhouse
711 Orange Ave
Winter Park, FL 32789
(407) 645-0145


***** (5 stars)

There’s a reason why SPACE is the artist’s favorite venue. Time and again they say how special it is, with a sounds studio for practice and recording, a lovely green room for before the show, amazing acoustics, and a caring staff. As spectators we derive a benefit from these same things, because the artists are always at the top of their game as a result.

I’ve seen at least a dozen shows here, and the sound has been great for every one. The cocktail table seating can get a bit crowded, but it’s nice to have table service and a place to put your drink.

You can also take a drink and a pizza in with you if you order one at the Union Pizza company out front, and they have a more extensive list of beers. Or have dinner first, and then go back for the show.

Great venue!

1245 Chicago Ave
Evanston, IL 60202
(847) 492-8860

Ravinia Festival

*** (3 stars)

A wonderful concert venue with nice restaurants and great ambience both inside and out.

Unfortunately the audio upgrades made in 2013 have rendered the rock concert audio unlistenably loud. Even with earplugs, the sound in the pavilion is unbearable. Because the quiet numbers sound fine, it is quite clear that driving the subs to absurd levels is what has muddled everything up. This ruined all eight concert we attended during the summer, and in one, where our seats were in the front to the side we were driven from our seats.

In contrast, the classical concerts, which are largely unamplified, sound great.

Ravinia Festival
200 Ravinia Park Rd
Highland Park, IL 60035
(847) 266-5000