Sometimes just doing my job feels like crashing a party. Forget six degrees of separation; in Chicago, if you know one well-connected person, you can pretty much get yourself invited to anything.Last week a fellow nightlife writer forwarded me a party invitation she’d received from a good-looking gay man who works at the Apparel Center. “He gets more invites to parties than anyone,” she told me. The event in question was last Thursday’s Corporate Concierge Services bash at Union Station, and since the invite urged attendees to “Experience Union Station transformed into a cutting-edge nightclub,” I thought the night sounded right up my alley.
Upon entering, my friends and I were greeted by the sounds of different instruments played by musicians peppered throughout the venue. Each was playing the same song at the same time in different spots; their output was piped into a mixing board and pumped into the hall. It was a cool effect from local company Sound Investment, which also handles music for events like the Green Tie Ball.
Basically, the night served as an open house-an opportunity for the folks behind Union Station to showcase the kind of parties it can accommodate. If you’ve ever been to an event there-like the annual pre-New Year’s bash, Eve of the Eve-you know the Great Hall is a massive venue (20,000 square feet, to be exact) conducive to large-scale parties, with a laundry list of affiliated caterers, and lighting and sound companies.
“This is one of the best-dressed parties I’ve been to in a long time-and I don’t mean the guests,” commented a fellow party crasher who knows about such things. “The movers and shakers behind the scenes did a great job with the visual displays” (meaning the decorations and such).
Sunday night I crashed a different kind of party. It was the Light Opera Works’ 2007 Spring Gala at Glenview’s North Shore Country Club. The opera crowd isn’t my usual scene, but since a family friend sits on the board, I attended the dinner to find out what the 27-year-old company has planned for this season.
The room was filled with light-opera enthusiasts, one of whom stood out especially: a lovely, 25-year-old woman from Oregon who relocated to Chicago three years ago to pursue her love of musical theater. Noelle Ferguson has performed in four shows with the company, including The Sound of Music, and gave me the four-one-one on “light opera” versus “traditional opera.”
“What we do is more musical theatre; it’s hipper than what you’d see at the Lyric Opera,” she told me. “Operetta and light opera mean the same thing, essentially.” By hipper, she means there’s more spoken dialog in light opera shows, and the material isn’t as heavy.
One of Light Opera Works’ principals, the handsome Larry Adams, was also in attendance. He’ll be starring in Kiss Me Kate June 1st through 10th. Following dinner, a live auction, and an awards presentation for honored guest Sir Andrew Davis, the musical director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, we got a sneak peek at LOW’s upcoming season, featuring vignettes from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate, Noel Crawford’s Bitter Sweet, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
About 190 people attended the black-tie benefit at $100 a head; in total, the night brought in about $50,000. While I wouldn’t call myself a light-opera buff, the evening opened my eyes to yet another option this city has to offer. It’s a far cry from my usual bar hopping, but, hey, a party’s still a party.