'Too Hot To Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah'

January 10, 2011 10:02:09 AM PST
''Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah'' returns to Chicago's National Historic Landmark Auditorium Theatre for a special tribute to the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

For two public performances only, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 16 at 3 p.m., ATRU will be filled with the joyous sounds and exuberance of this jazz and gospel, All-American reinvention of Handel's "Messiah." Tickets are on sale now, priced from $30 - $69 and available online at ticketmaster.com/auditorium, by calling (800) 982-2787 or at the ATRU Box Office (50 E. Congress Parkway).

Since its 2006 Chicago debut at ATRU, "Too Hot to Handel" has continued to grow in popularity each year. Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune raves, "Ingeniously reimagined 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."

Tenor Rodrick Dixon and Soprano Alfreda Burke will reprise their critically hailed performances for the sixth consecutive year, and they will once again be joined by Alto Karen Marie Richardson, who last year replaced countertenor Victor Trent Cook and electrified audiences with her performance. All three soloists this year make their homes in Chicago.

"The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University is proud to support the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through one of the jazziest, most swinging 'Messiahs' that our audience will ever hear," said Batterson. "We are also excited that up-and-coming musical star Karen Marie Richardson returns to join 'Too Hot' veterans Rodrick Dixon and Alfreda Burke for an all-Chicago cast of soloists."

"Too Hot to Handel" shapes George Frederic Handel's beloved "Messiah" masterpiece into an active listening experience. Joining the soloists on stage are 200 additional musicians, including 150 voices of the city-wide Too Hot Choir (under the direction of Old St. Patrick's Church's Bill Fraher); a 50-piece symphony orchestra and a jazz ensemble under the baton of Conductor Suzanne Mallare Acton.

It was the sense of excitement in the "Hallelujah Chorus" that prompted Conductor Marin Alsop to suggest giving Handel's "Messiah" a new twist. "Too Hot To Handel" grew from an idea to fruition in the hands of Alsop's colleagues, Composers Gary Anderson and Bob Christianson, who originally created this jazz-gospel adaptation in 1992. Since then, this soulful work has uplifted audiences in cities throughout the United States.

Rodrick 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 made 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 has also worked in recordings, music video, television, radio, film and commercials.

Karen Marie Richardson has worked as a singer for more than 20 years, and has been featured in many musicals including "Ain't Misbehavin'," "Respect: A Musical Journey of Women" as well as ATRU's critically acclaimed summer 2009 presentation of "The Mistress Cycle." A graduate of Millikin University, Richardson was a runner up in "Showtime At the Apollo On Tour" and is also an active composer who frequently performs original material.

Performance Schedule and Ticket Information

"Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah" performs at the Auditorium Theatre:

Friday, Jan. 14, 2011 at 11 a.m. (one hour Student Matinee Performance ) Saturday, Jan. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 16 at 3 p.m. (Family Series Performance )

Tickets to the Jan. 15 and 16 performances are $30 - $69, available online at ticketmaster.com, by calling (800) 982-2787 or in-person at ATRU's Box Office (50 E. Congress Parkway).

The Friday, Jan. 14 student matinee is available only to elementary through high school student groups of 10 or more people. Group tickets are $10 each and available by calling (312) 431-2357. The student matinee performance is generously supported by The Robert Thomas Bobins Foundation and The PrivateBank.

A free QandA with "Too Hot to Handel" artists immediately follows the Sunday afternoon Family Series performance.

Auditorium Theatre 2010-2011 Subscriptions and Groups

Subscriptions for the Auditorium Theatre's 2010-2011 season, discounted tickets for groups of 10 or more, and single tickets are now on sale. For more information or to purchase a subscription or group tickets call (312) 431-2357 or visit auditoriumtheatre.org.

2010-2011 season subscription packages available include:

2010-2011 International Dance Series - Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, The State Ballet Theatre of Russia in "Swan Lake," River North Chicago Dance Company, Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg in "Don Quixote, or Fantasies of a Madman" and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. (Add-on available: "Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah," the Auditorium's popular annual musical celebration of Dr. King's life and legacy.)

Family Series - Patrons may choose at least 2 from the following: Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba (Friday, October 29 at 8 p.m.); "Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah" (Sunday, January 16 at 3 p.m.); The State Ballet Theatre of Russia in "Swan Lake" (Saturday, February 5 at 2 p.m.) or Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (Saturday, May 21 at 2 p.m.).

Flex Package - Choose at least two shows from all offerings. Flex Package price starts as low as $54 for two performances. Subscribers receive a 10 percent discount for two shows, 15 percent for three shows, 20 percent for four shows, and 25 percent for five or more shows. About the Auditorium Theatre's Family Series

ATRU's Family Series is designed specifically to awaken children's interest in live performance and plant the seed for developing an appreciation of the arts. This unique opportunity allows patrons to receive a free children's subscription with the purchase of any full-price adult subscription package. This special offer expires on Friday, February 4, 2011.

This year's Family Series encompasses an eclectic mix of dance and music offerings, and includes Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, "Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah," The State Ballet Theatre of Russia in "Swan Lake" and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Patrons may choose at least two of the aforementioned shows. Each family performance is followed by a question and answer session with members of the shows' artistic teams. This interactive experience can dramatically change the impact of the performing arts on its viewers, and with the involvement of families it can also empower youth to express themselves.