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The Top Five Things to Do in Chicago This Week

Chicago Musical Theater Festival, Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk: First Flight, Grant Park Music Fest, Jazzin’ at the Shedd, and Kindred the Family Soul

TAKE FLIGHT Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk: First Flight runs through this weekend at the United Center.   Photo: Errisson Lawrence © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

The Five

Don’t-miss picks for Wednesday, August 3 through August 9, 2016

1 Chicago Musical Theater Festival

Musical: Fourteen plays by mostly Chicago composers and lyricists command the stage during this two-week showcase of new musicals. Companies including Kokandy Productions and Bailiwick Chicago cover topics from megastalkers to cancer, and the musical styles are just as varied. You never know: The next Hamilton could be lurking here.
8/9–28. $20. Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln. cmtf.org

2 Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk: First Flight

Circus:The behemoth Canadian circus built by scrappy buskers returns with a show inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar. Expect eye-popping visuals, contortionists, world music, and beyond-belief acrobatics in Cirque’s take on the mythical planet Pandora.
8/3–7. $34–$150. United Center, 1901 W. Madison. cirquedusoleil.com

3 Grant Park Music Fest

Classical:Not a summer passes without a few ambitious premieres from Chicago’s most forward-facing classical ensemble, the Grant Park Orchestra. Here, it debuts The Cosmic Garden in Bloom, the latest of several pieces by composer Michael Gandolfi based on artworks at Scotland’s Garden of Cosmic Speculation. The orchestra and chorus also present Mozart’s Mass in C Minor.
8/5–6. $25–$89. Millennium Park. grantparkmusicfestival.com

4 Jazzin’ at the Shedd

Jazz:The Shedd Aquarium’s outdoor Wednesday cocktail hour continues with performances by Pamela Fernandez and Thomas Gunther’s Spicy Jazz Adventure, Brent Kimbrough & Company, and Bill Boris. Exhibits are open to guests, as are gorgeous evening views from the lakefront terrace.
8/3–31. $18–$23. Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Drive. sheddaquarium.org

5 Kindred the Family Soul

R&B:After a break in 2015, this husband-and-wife duo resurfaced in the spring with “All My People,” an uplifting R&B cut practically made for backyard barbecues. Their music can skew lovey-dovey for the uninitiated, but their shamelessly optimistic outlook is the right antidote for today’s often-sleazy contemporary R&B. Kindred’s sixth studio album, Legacy, drops just in time for this two-night stand.
8/4–5 at 8. $20–$35. The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park. promontorychicago.com

What I’m Doing This Weekend

Stacey Magiera
Stacey Magiera Photo: Courtesy of Stacey Magiera

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals: Stacey Magiera, acrobat and company member of Cirque du Soleil, performing Toruk: First Flight from Wednesday, August 3, through Sunday, August 7.

“I come to Chicago several times per year—to see family and friends, and to perform—but it’s been a few years since I’ve lived here full time. I graduated from UIC in 2006 and moved to San Diego to join a circus the next year. This is actually my first performance in Chicago since I joined Cirque du Soleil, and it’s a very different sort of show—I’m really excited about it.

“First Flight is, unlike other Cirque shows, very story-based, told through acrobatics, puppetry, kites, and projections. It’s been a fun challenge to figure out how to do a narrative with acrobatics, and to learn all of the unique rigs that were built for this show—I’ll be climbing vines, spinning poles, and balancing on a giant, rotating skeleton, to name a few tricks. I’m looking forward to debuting it with so many familiar faces in the audience.

“So much has changed in the city since I lived here that most of my go-tos are places that don’t change a lot. I’ll have to go to Lou Malnati’s for a sausage, mushroom, and onion deep dish—it’s just not the same outside of Chicago. I’ll also go by Portillo’s at some point for a hot dog. I still have a lot of friends here, and we usually do all the big stuff when I come back to town: we’ll go down to Navy Pier for some fireworks or walk around Millennium Park.

“I’ll be pretty much tied up with the training, rehearsals, and performances this weekend, but on Saturday I’m going up to the Signature Room at the John Hancock Center. Somehow, in all the years I lived here, I never made it up there. I’ll also be barbecuing with the rest of the cast—when you spend as much time together as we do, you build up a pretty strong bond. We all tend to stick together outside of the ring.”—As told to John Hardberger

Freebie of the Week

Chicago Hot Dog Fest

Festival:Toast the noble red-hot at this annual festival, scored by local bands, including the always-funky JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Hear historians mull the lineage of encased meats, find out whether a hot dog can be considered a sandwich, and try getting to the bottom of what goes into a bratwurst.
8/5–7. Free. Stockton and LaSalle. chicagohotdogfest.com

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