Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah

This weekend the Auditorium Theatre will be filled with the sounds of a soulful, joyful reinvention of Handel's Messiah, but it's not your grandfather's Messiah! Too Hot to Handel: the Jazz-Gospel Messiah is the beloved oratorio reworked into an all-American musical celebration. Drawing on jazz, gospel, bebop, blues and other musical influences, Too Hot to Handel is a joyous musical experience. Soloists Rodrick Dixon, Victor Trent Cook and Alfreda Burke are joined by an orchestra, jazz combo and 150-voice choir, all under the baton of Suzanne Mallare Acton.

Too Hot to Handel is quickly becoming one of Chicago's favorite annual events. Too Hot to Handel has continued to garner critical and popular acclaim since its 2006 Chicago debut. "A prediction: Too Hot to Handel will be playing annually at the Auditorium Theatre for as long as that edifice is standing…[the production] is well on its way toward becoming a civic tradition," says Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune.

"Ingeniously re-imagined to embrace black musical tradition, the aptly named Too Hot to Handel proved that even the most revered classical masterpieces can be taught to swing," Reich raved in a 2007 review of the production

This year's production features two members of Three Mo' Tenors, the dynamic tenor trio Cook, Dixon & Young: Rodrick Dixon and Victor Trent Cook. In addition to appearing with Rodrick Dixon and Thomas Young in their 2005 PBS "Great Performances" Special "Cook, Dixon & Young in Concert: Volume One," Victor Trent Cook has starred on Broadway in "St. Louis Woman" opposite Vanessa Williams and received a Tony Award nomination for his performance in "Smokey Joe's Café." More recently, Cook was seen touring with "Cinderella" starring Eartha Kitt. Cook has appeared as a soloist at The White House, John F. Kennedy Center, Avery Fisher Hall and Boston Symphony Hall.

Dixon has performed several roles with the Lyric Opera of Chicago and appeared in Broadway's "Ragtime," as well as the revival of "Show Boat" at the Auditorium Theatre. In 2009 Dixon will make his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut performing the role of Oedipus in Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex," conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and directed by Peter Sellars.

Dixon also has toured nationally with his wife, soprano Alfreda Burke. Burke's credits include debuts with the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia under Erich Kunzel, the CSO's Symphony Center Inaugural Festival, Chicago Opera Theater, Grant Park Music Festival, and "Show Boat" at the Kennedy Center and the Auditorium Theatre. Burke is on the voice faculty of Wheaton College Conservatory and Chicago State University.

Tickets range in price from $30 to $65. 6-seat boxes are available for $192 ($32 per ticket), a savings of 20% off regular ticket prices. Enter promo code TOOHOT at Single tickets and the box seat promotion are available at, by calling (312) 902-1500 or visiting the Auditorium Box Office at 50 E. Congress Parkway.

For tickets and more information, visit

Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz Gospel Messiah
Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Auditorium Theatre
(312) 902-1500


Victor Trent Cook is a native New Yorker, Brooklyn born. Victor began singing at the age of three in his home church, "The House Of David." Upon discovery of his unique talent he was enrolled in the Brooklyn Boys Chorus School of Musical Training, under the direction of James McCarthy. Mr. McCarthy took immediate notice of Victor's talent and in less than two-weeks he was promoted from training choir status to concert choir status! The concert choir enabled Victor to travel throughout the United States and Rome, where Victor sang for the Pope. He then was selected to sing the "Boy Alto Solo" in Leonard Bernstein's "Chichester Psalms" with the New York Philharmonic, directed by Zubin Mehta. As Victor's first professional endeavor this marked his career debut. Victor's journey continued with his singing as "Boy Soprano Soloist" with renowned conductors such as James Levine and Seiji Ozawa, and his performing in the world's most famous venues, such as The White House, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, and the John F. Kennedy Center.

Victor was discovered by a New York commercial agent, which led to work in commercials for Victor and later led to his introduction to theatrical mogul Joseph Papp. Papp embraced Victor's abilities and opened the door for him to appear in numerous Off-Broadway productions, including - to name a few - The Haggahdah, Romance in Hard Times, Little Mighty, Moby Dick, and Joseph and the...Dreamcoat. Victor eventually went from Off-Broadway to his first Broadway production, Don't Get God Started, for which he received rave reviews. Soon thereafter he was telephoned by Sam Harris (previous star search champion) who suggested Victor compete on television's new talent show "Star Search!" So, after graduating from the renowned High School of Music and Arts, Victor journeyed to Los Angeles and "Star Search!" He went on to compete 10 consecutive times and his repeated wins led him to gain the title of the Star Search's 1998, "$100,000 Male Vocal Champion!"

The exposure caused Victor to be approached by various record labels and he ultimately signed with CBS Records. While recording his CBS Records debut he performed throughout Europe and Japan, where he starred in such renowned shows as Body and Soul and Harlem Symphony. Next, having acquired a thirst for television, Victor decided to come back to the States to try his luck on the small screen. He won roles on various soaps, including All My Children. Victor also made guest and feature appearances on such hit shows as The Days & Nights Of Molly Dodd, The Arsenio Hall Show, and more recently the Today Show and The Rosie O'Donnell Show. Victor also made room for the big screen, appearing in two feature films, Hangin' with the Homeboys and Starlight.

Victor's film projects were New York based, which kept Broadway's temptation close. In fact, Victor ended up again on The Great White Way! This time starring in such hits as St. Louis Woman, opposite Vanessa Williams, and also in Smokey Joe's Café, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.

Most recently, Victor has been seen touring with Cinderella, starring Eartha Kitt as well as touring, recording and performing as part of the well known ensemble the Three Mo' Tenors, which also features Rodrick Dixon and Thomas Young.

These are just a sampling of Victor's many achievements and credits. If you were to ask some of Victor's co-stars and peers, such as Patti Labelle, Gladys Night, Lou Rawls, Ashford and Simpson, Betty Buckley, Tony Randall, Jennifer Holliday and Bette Midler, they would unequivocally agree that Victor Cook is a great voice and a talent to be reckoned with.

Victor is still going strong with his "triple threat" pursuits - singing, acting, dancing - which enables him to continue to bless us, his audience, just as he has been blessed with these remarkable gifts!

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