This Brooklyn rapper may be known lately for Twitter beefs and social activism, but he’s still a musician first and foremost. Recently, Kweli has focused on collaborating with other artists, including Aloe Blacc and Kaytranada on his recent 12-song LP Awful People Are Great at Parties, one of the rapper’s smartest releases yet.
Details:Metro. 9 p.m. $25. etix.com
Straight White Men
Buzzed-about playwright and provocateur Young Jean Lee has been subverting gender in New York for years, but Steppenwolf snagged her first locally produced project. Lee also directs this story about straight white men who find their privilege and dominance upended one momentous Christmas.
Details:Steppenwolf. $20–$89. steppenwolf.org
Five disks into a nine-year, nine-CD recording cycle of all Beethoven’s piano sonatas, this thoughtful pianist steps back for a recital of Schumann, the 20th- and 21st-century composer György Kurtág, Chopin, and a boatful of Brahms, including the intermezzos of opuses 118 and 119.
Details:Galvin Recital Hall at Northwestern University. 7:30 p.m. $10–$30. events.music.northwestern.edu
Professional Championship Bullriders Tour
If bull riding and barrel racing get your boots scootin’, head to the northwestern burbs for this professional rodeo, featuring champion riders in the organization’s 11th annual world tour.
Details:Sears Centre Arena. $18–$53. searscentre.com
The Scottsboro Boys
From the hit-making composer-and-lyricist team Kander and Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret) comes an exposé about nine African American teens sent to death row for a rape they didn’t commit.
Details:Porchlight Music Theatre at Stage 773. $33–$51. porchlightmusictheatre.org
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater
The contemporary company’s 20th anniversary season continues with a Valentine’s Day–themed program including premieres by Joshua Ishmon and Nicole Clarke Springer, plus some love-centric revivals. Particularly noteworthy is a reprise of 2009’s lauded Wild Is the Wind, by artistic director Kevin Iega Jeff.
Details:North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. 7:30 p.m. $22–$38. northshorecenter.org
Jackie Chan’s Long Yun Kung Fu Troupe
The 11 “warriors” in this production, which is part dance and part kung fu, are handpicked by Jackie Chan himself. Last year’s Chicago performance, only the troupe’s third U.S. appearance, dazzled sold-out crowds.
Details:Auditorium Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $33–$155. auditoriumtheatre.org
Wayang: The Art of Indonesian Puppetry
Get a crash course in ancient puppetry at this in-depth exhibit that probes the Indonesian art form wayang, which has been performed on the island of Java for more than a thousand years. A typical show might last for eight hours, using puppets made from buffalo hide, wood, and cloth to encompass mythological and political themes.
Details:Loyola University Museum of Art. $3–$9. luc.edu/luma
Lunar New Year Parade
Ring in the Year of the Rooster with colorful community floats, lion dancers, and a 90-foot-long lucky dragon.
Details:Wentworth Avenue from 24th Place to Cermak. 1 p.m. Free. ccc-foundation.org
It’s no surprise that artists like Beyoncé, Solange, and Jessie Ware turn to this British vocalist for the more haunting tracks on their records. Born Sampha Sisay, the Londoner has one of the most distinct voices in pop music, and after years of collaborations and false starts, he’ll release his long-awaited debut this month (and embark on this U.S. tour to support it).
Details:Metro. 8 p.m. $20. etix.com
Love’s Labor’s Lost
It doesn’t take long for the populace of Navarre to realize their king is a hypocrite with ruinous policies in this Shakespearean comedy. Director Marti Maraden helms a show about a government as dangerous as it is clueless.
Details:Chicago Shakespeare Theater. $20–$88. chicagoshakes.com
Don’t miss this iteration of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Stephen Sondheim’s bloody tale of for-profit cannibalism in Victorian London is a mordantly witty classic that gives barbershop music a whole new meaning.
Details:Paramount Theatre. $44–$59. paramountaurora.com
Kohler, the Wisconsin plumbing manufacturer, is known mainly for designer toilets and sinks, but its artist residency program has churned out some of the most intriguing customized pottery of the past 40 years. Take, for instance, the latest from Scott Carter, in which the local artist drenches 80 speakers in luscious black glazing, then hooks them up to customized electronics to play factory recordings that sound like musical bells.
Details:Linda Warren Projects. Free. lindawarrenprojects.com
University of Chicago Folk Festival
Set aside any preconceived notions of stuffy folk fests: This lively event celebrates the spectrum of traditional music with two nights of folk, bluegrass, roots music, and zydeco. If Friday night’s bill inspires you, head back Saturday morning for a series of workshops.
Details:Mandel Hall, University of Chicago. $10–$30. uofcfolk.org
A Wonder in My Soul
Playwright Marcus Gardley and director Chay Yew tackle the Great Migration in this story of a Bronzeville nonagenarian whose memories span from the brutal Jim Crow South to the bustle of Chicago nightclubs.
Details:Victory Gardens Theater. $15–$60. victorygardens.org
Emerging Humboldt Park artist Edra Soto brings a little piece of her native Puerto Rico here by re-creating the island’s decorative fences and bus shelters. Soto’s interactive objects (you can sit in the bus shelter and read an artist-made newspaper) probe the legacies of colonialism and modernism between the United States and its territories.
Details:Sector 2337. Free. sector2337.com
Imagine waking near the scene of a massacre with no recollection of how you got there. That’s the heroine’s predicament in Mona Mansour’s psychological drama about an amnesiac photographer and a violent mystery that turns more troubling with each recovered memory.
Details:Gift Theatre. $35–$40. thegifttheatre.org
Cupid’s Undie Run
Why would people strip down to their skivvies to run a mile in the middle of February? The (ahem) brief race benefits a good cause, the Children’s Tumor Foundation, and is bookended by two hourlong parties. Because nothing makes streaking sound appealing more than an open bar.
Details:John Barleycorn. Noon. $25. cupidsundierun.org
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
For 50 years, this South African choral group has been delighting audiences with Zulu styles such as isicathamiya and mbube. Most recently, the singers appeared on David Guetta’s Lift Me Up, a move that reinforced their appeal outside the world-music bubble.
Details:Old Town School of Folk Music. 5 and 8 p.m. $43–$45. oldtownschool.org
Maximum Fun’s Very Very Fun Day
A veritable Justice League of comedy podcasts, Jesse Thorn’s production company Maximum Fun hits the road. Shows from the creators of Judge John Hodgman and Jordan, Jesse, Go! will tape fresh episodes in front of a live audience, with local pods (Nerdette, Friendshipping, and Reclaimed Soul) and comedians sharing the bill.
Details:Thalia Hall. Noon. $65–$99. thaliahallchicago.com
Neo-soul lost its cool around the same time R&B and hip-hop began blending together, but the subgenre has resurged with the likes of new-millennium superstars such as D’Angelo and Erykah Badu. Add to that list Musiq Soulchild, one of the most prominent neo-soul artists, who returned last spring after a three-year hiatus with the charming, lush, and severely underrated album Life on Earth. He appears here with Lyfe Jennings, Kindred the Family Soul, and Avery Sunshine on a tour aptly titled NuSoul Revival.
Details:Arie Crown Theater. 8:30 p.m. $52–$75. ticketmaster.com
Dances from the Heart
Romance is in the air at this evening of lovey-dovey choreography from curator John Schmitz, which spans aerial, tap, hip-hop, and more.
Details:Athenaeum Theatre. $17–$30. athenaeumtheatre.org
Ring in the Lunar New Year with this New York–based company, which each year tours the world with a brand-new production. A melting pot of Western orchestrations, ballet, and traditional Chinese dance, this dramatic spectacle exposes the West to Chinese culture.
Details:Harris Theater. $70–$180. harristheaterchicago.org
Chicago Auto Show
Near South Side
The nation’s largest auto show returns for its 109th year, with more than a million square feet of flashy auto displays. Expect manufacturers to trot out some cutting-edge concepts alongside the more polished vehicle premieres. Bring along the kids for family-friendly entertainment on February 20.
Details:McCormick Place. $7–$13. chicagoautoshow.com
See Chekhov filtered through the lens of Pulitzer-winning playwright Annie Baker (The Flick, Circle Mirror Transformation). Robert Falls directs the tale of depressives slouching toward oblivion on an isolated rural estate.
Details:Goodman Theatre. $10–$42. goodmantheatre.org
Possibly the most hummable of all operas, Bizet’s Carmen seduces audiences with its fatalistic tragedy and slinky melodies. The basic story: Carmen—a mezzo-soprano, unusual for a leading lady—hooks, ruins, and discards poor Don José. The first cast, singing all this month’s performances, pairs Ekaterina Gubanova as the vamp with Joseph Calleja as Don José.
Details:Civic Opera House. $17–$349. lyricopera.org
The Orchid Show
In the dreariest month of the year, the Botanic Garden’s massive orchid display is truly a sight for sore eyes. See (and smell) more than 10,000 of the delicate flowers in bloom, and take home a mini orchid from the weekend marketplace.
Details:Chicago Botanic Garden. $8–$12. chicagobotanic.org
The Subject Is Chicago: People, Places and Possibilities
One artist per ward: That’s the conceit of this group exhibit of 50 artists, selected to represent “the broadest possible cross-section of Chicago artists.”
Details:Chicago Cultural Center. Free. cityofchicago.org
Choreographer Merce Cunningham kept fabulous friends through the 1960s, including Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, who turned paintings into set designs for Cunningham’s ballets. This massive retrospective honors the man who captivated audiences with his random dance technique, in which a computer algorithm dictates dancers’ movements.
Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $7–$12. mcachicago.org
A Modern Day Shaman’s Hybrid Devices, Power Objects, and Cure Books
Chicago artist Rhonda Wheatley’s so-called power objects are meant to heal the traumas of daily life. In her sculptures, which are meant to convey the power of transformation, minerals and other artifacts are tacked onto found objects, such as bronze hands. Wheatley’s breakthrough new series is saturated with vitality and metaphor.
Details:Hyde Park Art Center. Free. hydeparkart.org
The sprawling new-music fest returns for its second go-round. This year’s lineup features the oddball ensemble Mocrep—whose work is as much theater as music—the Morton Feldman Chamber Players, and the fierce Quince Vocal Ensemble. It ends, like any good party, at the bar, with Ensemble Dal Niente’s program Hard Music, Hard Liquor.
Details:Various locations. Free–$40. frequencyseries.com
This Vancouver duo tore through the mid-aughts indie bubble with a raucous debut, Post-Nothing. Full of anthemic, heartland-punk tunes (think Springsteen meets the Clash), the album was a departure from the era’s trend toward delicacy. The pair returns in 2017 after five years of radio silence, bearing a new album, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, and headlining a tour.
Details:Vic Theatre. 8 p.m. $25. ticketfly.com
Joffrey Ballet of Chicago
In the program Game Changers, the Joffrey highlights three “it” boys of ballet: Justin Peck, whose zodiac-inspired Year of the Rabbit is set to an electronic score by Sufjan Stevens; Wayne McGregor, who remounts his Royal Ballet piece Infra; and Christopher Wheeldon, whose 2007 Fool’s Paradise rounds out the edgy engagement.
Details:Auditorium Theatre. $34–$159. joffrey.org
This Swedish singer’s tunes are every bit as infectious as those of her Top 40 peers, but she’s got loads more to sing about than love. Last year’s sophomore album, Lady Wood, may not have as many radio-friendly singles, like “Talking Body,” but its autobiographical substance makes it every bit as digestible.
Details:House of Blues. 6:30 p.m. $30–$35. ticketmaster.com
Ralph Coburn was one of the first artists to let gallerists decide the arrangement in which his works were hung at shows. Here, the Boston abstractionist gets some overdue recognition for his freeform displays—which the gallery will rearrange over the course of the exhibit.
Details:Arts Club of Chicago. Free. artsclubchicago.org
Few art forms have come to define entire civilizations as broadly as classicism. Think sculpted Greek nudes and Corinthian columns, which later fueled the Italian Renaissance and have been deployed to build empires. This surprising exhibition turns a fresh eye on the 2,000-year-old style by revealing the politics, dogma, and secrets that civilizations have hidden beneath the guise of traditional art.
Details:Smart Museum. Free. smartmuseum.uchicago.edu
Chicago Public League Boys Basketball Final Four
The best of Chicago’s public high school teams do battle in this always hotly contested affair.
Details:Jones Convocation Center at Chicago State University. Semifinals, Feb. 17 at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Finals, Feb. 19 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets at the door.
Run the Jewels
Brash, brainy, and confrontational, these two New York rappers are more vital now than ever. Emcees Killer Mike and El-P first made a splash with their 2013 debut; the 2014 follow-up was lauded as one of the best records of the year. Catch them at this intimate club gig before they undoubtedly return to the festival circuit this summer.
Details:Aragon Ballroom. 8 p.m. $31. ticketmaster.com
The Seven Last Words of Christ
Last year, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Riccardo Muti, planned to conduct a small-ensemble Lenten performance of Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ, a piece where the instruments almost literally weep out Jesus’s crucifixion utterances. (Scores exist where the words are written in beside the instrumental parts.) Then Muti hurt his hip and had to cancel, but he rehashed the idea this year, even though it isn’t yet Lent.
Details:Holy Name Cathedral. 7:30 p.m. $75. cso.org
There’s never an admission cost for Quest Theatre performances, making them one of the best entertainment values in the city. Here, the company takes on the musical tale of lovers from opposite sides of a fence.
Details:Quest Theatre Ensemble at Blue Theatre. Free. questensemble.org
Sex, betrayal, and the newspaper biz propel David Auburn’s Cold War–era tale about a journalist in an imbroglio with the Beltway elite.
Details:American Blues Theater at Greenhouse Theater Center. $19–$49. americanbluestheater.com
It gets harder each year for Kathy Griffin to claim D-list status with a straight face. She’s one of only three women to win the Grammy for best comedy album, and she holds the Guinness World Record for standup specials written and starred in (20). Her Celebrity Run-In tour rolls into Skokie to help celebrate the North Shore Center’s 20th season.
Details:North Shore Performing Arts Center. 6 p.m. $63–$89. northshorecenter.org
Something of a comedy Renaissance man during the ’90s and aughts, David Adkins (a.k.a. Sinbad) has appeared in everything from Good Burger to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Standup, however, remains his bread and butter, as evidenced by his classic HBO specials, which hold up stunningly well some 20-odd years later.
Details:Chicago Theatre. 8 p.m. $33–$60. ticketmaster.com
Ballet de Lorraine
Based at the Centre Chorégraphique National in northeastern France, Ballet de Lorraine presents two signature works by Merce Cunningham on its first-ever U.S. tour. Rounding out the program is Petter Jacobsson and Thomas Caley’s Untitled Partner #3, a dance and film installation navigating Freud’s model of the psyche.
Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $30. mcachicago.org
The Invention of Morel
Flush with a MacArthur grant and separate seven-figure gift, Chicago Opera Theater made its very first commission this season, in tandem with music director Andreas Mitisek’s other gig, Long Beach Opera. The new work is based on a fantastical novella by the 20th-century writer Adolfo Bioy Casares, a fellow traveler of Jorge Luis Borges. The composer? Stewart Copeland, drummer of the Police.
Details:Studebaker Theater. $39–$125. chicagooperatheater.org
Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium
This Brazilian artist’s installations are like abstract playgrounds. Try on his geometric designer clothes, walk through sand, interact with living parrots, shoot pool, or simply lounge in a hammock. Oiticica’s art, which emerged during Brazil’s military dictatorship, invites viewers to rebel against the status quo.
Details:Art Institute of Chicago. $14–$25. artic.edu
Despite attaining legend status with Parliament Funkadelic, the Prime Minister of Funk has kept his act fresh through collaborations with younger artists (Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus among them). Expect an array of instrumentalists, colorful costumes, and a whole lot of boogying from Clinton’s Mardi Gras Madness tour.
Details:Thalia Hall. 8 p.m. $38–$58. ticketweb.com
Hearing stage names like the Trickster, the Manipulator, and the Anti-Conjurer, you’d be forgiven for thinking this Broadway-based magic show was a superhero blockbuster. Traditional tricks get high-tech updates in the fast-paced affair, sprinkled with feats of deduction, sharpshooting, and escape artistry.
Details:Broadway in Chicago at Oriental Theatre. $42–$77. ticketmaster.com
Seemingly dead set on playing every major venue in the city, the local indie rockers book four nights at the regal downtown theater. Expect cuts from their latest LP, Schmilco: a low-key, lyrics-driven record perfectly suited to the rapt (if sedentary) crowd this venue draws.
Details:Chicago Theatre. $50–$85. ticketmaster.com
Ivan the Terrible
Two great Sergeis, the composer Prokofiev and the filmmaker Eisenstein, collaborated on a 1944 movie called Ivan the Terrible, a period piece about the notorious tsar. Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra here play Prokofiev’s score live, with vocal support from the Symphony Chorus and the Chicago Children’s Chorus, and narration from Gérard Depardieu. The film screens without the orchestra at 7:30 p.m. on February 19.
Details: Symphony Center. $34–$222. cso.org
American String Quartet with Salman Rushdie
Rushdie, a spinner of verbal tangles, reads aloud from his 2008 novel The Enchantress of Florence in this new piece for string quartet and him, by the film composer Paul Cantelon. Rushdie also programmed a favorite piece for American String Quartet: Beethoven’s op. 130, appended with its historically informed last chapter, the Grosse Fuge, op. 133.
Details:Mandel Hall, University of Chicago. 7:30 p.m. $5–$35. chicagopresents.uchicago.edu
Brian Brooks and Wendy Whelan
Brooks’s second appearance as the Harris Theater’s resident choreographer yields Some of a Thousand Words, a series of duets and solos created with ballet legend Wendy Whelan. After Whelan’s 2015 evening of contemporary duets (including one with Brooks) drew rave reviews, this one-night-only extension of her Restless Creature project is a must-see.
Details:Harris Theater. 7:30 p.m. $35–$125. harristheaterchicago.org
Christian Van Horn
The single biggest trend in local classical programming over the past five years has been the vocal recital. The Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago deserves the diva’s share of the credit, peppering its schedule with “lieder lounges,” such as this one with Christian Van Horn. The bass-baritone’s sensitive voice has made itself heard often in Chicago recently, twice both this season and last at Lyric and at Beyond the Aria, another recital series.
Details:Logan Center for the Arts. 7 p.m. $15–$35. caichicago.org
Kings and Queens: Pinball, Imagists and Chicago
For the past half century, most of the world’s pinball machines were made on Chicago’s North Side and debuted at a now-shuttered amusement park in Lake View. This exhibit claims that although the flashy colors, absurd characters, and ultraflat canvases of the games inspired a generation of Chicago imagists, including Ed Paschke, Roger Brown, and Jim Nutt—all known as avid pinballers—the graphic artists who created them have been forgotten. Toast the latter at this hands-on display.
Details:Elmhurst Art Museum. $8. elmhurstartmuseum.org
By the end of February, the days will be growing longer again—but there’s still plenty of darkness to be found at this beer bash: Your ticket gets you eight samples from an array of stouts, porters, black ales, and black IPAs—full pours are, of course, also available—plus a bag of tokens for the house arcade games.
Details:Emporium Arcade Bar. Noon. $30–$40. hardcorecraftbeer.com
Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge
In 2014, this experimental duo released Avalon, a debut marked by an extraordinarily strange blend of folk, bluegrass, and jazz. Despite its wonkiness, critics embraced the pair’s one-of-a-kind sound. Their live shows—equally innovative—should prove compelling enough for even the most finicky music fans.
Details:Old Town School of Folk Music. 7 p.m. $22–$24. oldtownschool.org
Harmony & Invention
Vivaldi, a deft violinist, composed more than 230 concertos for the instrument. Several focus on nature—not only the famous Four Seasons but also La Tempesta di Mare, a piece played here by Gina DiBello, Music of the Baroque’s new concertmaster.
Details:North Shore Center, Skokie (Feb. 26); Harris Theater (Feb. 27). $27–$75. baroque.org
The hunky baritone Mariusz Kwiecień and the winsome soprano Ana María Martínez, whose characters failed to build a beautiful and loving relationship in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Lyric two seasons ago, face similar fumbles in Tchaikovsky’s rendering of Pushkin’s epic poem. Kwiecień’s Onegin and Martínez’s Tatiana fall for each other, just not at the same time, but they sing some transporting music along the way.
Details:Civic Opera House. $17–$349. lyricopera.org