January 17, 2013
More than a decade ago, vocalist Rodrick Dixon traveled to Lincoln Center in New York to sing a piece of music he couldn't get out of his head. He then decided he had to persuade someone to stage it in Chicago.
This weekend, "Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah" returns to the Auditorium Theatre for the eighth annual edition, a testament to Dixon's vision and, more important, to the enduring value of the work.
Though classical purists may scoff at a version of Handel's oratorio ¿Messiah¿ transformed through jazz, blues and gospel techniques, its appeal is unmistakable once singer Dixon, Alfreda Burke (his wife) and Karen Marie Richardson take the stage -- joined by a small army of jazz musicians, strings and massive choir. Handel's indelible, indestructible tunes remain, but rhythmically the piece takes flight in ways that the great composer never could have anticipated.
7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway; $30-$74; 800-982-2787 or ticketmaster.com/auditorium