Duke Ellington's Greatest Hits October 6-15, 2017

October 6-15, 2017

Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston

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It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!

American composer, pianist and bandleader, Duke Ellington composed thousands of songs for stage and screen during his 50-year career. Enjoy the best of the best, including Satin Doll, Mood Indigo, Sophisticated Lady, It Don’t Mean A Thing (if it Ain’t Got That Swing), Take the “A” Train and so many others.
Ages 10 and older

Friday, October 6, 2017 at 8 pm
Saturday, October 7 at 8 pm
Sunday, October 8 at 2 pm
Wednesday, October 11 at 2 pm
Thursday, October 12 at 2 pm
Friday, October 13 at 8 pm
Saturday, October 14 at 2 & 8 pm
Sunday, October 15 at 2 pm

Tickets start at $34
Age 25 and younger 1/2 price (suitable for 10 and older)

This project is partially supported by a grant from the Evanston Arts Council, a city agency supported by the City of Evanston and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

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Or call (847) 920-5360


Musical Excerpts


Duke Ellington: a legend in many ways but one

When MUSIC THEATER WORKS presents Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits this October, Ellington will take his place alongside other Broadway legends featured in previous concerts, including George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Jule Styne.

The only trouble is, Duke Ellington never was a Broadway legend! If there was a Great American Songbook Mount Rushmore, he would claim a prominent place…but success in the musical theater was the one thing he did not achieve. Even so, we are not going to let that get in the way of what is sure to be a fabulous concert.

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the 20th century, though he preferred to call what he wrote “American music.” Indeed, his compositions blurred the boundaries between the dance hall and the concert hall, and opened a world of possibilities for generations of musicians to follow.

It is hard to overstate the influence Ellington had on virtually every aspect of American music. As a bandleader and pianist, he brought his boldly original and sophisticated brand of jazz to every corner of the country (as well as to Europe, South American, Asia and the Middle East), keeping up a grueling touring schedule for decades. In the course of a 50-year career, he gave more than 20,000 performances. He was also a ubiquitous presence on radio, reaching millions of listeners across the world.

Despite the artistic heights he attained as a composer, he never stopped being a great and beloved popular entertainer, delighting his fans as much with his suave and genial persona as with his virtual hit parade of standards including “Satin Doll,” “Sophisticated Lady” and “Mood Indigo.”

Both Broadway attempts fizzle

But success in the musical theater eluded him. He wrote two Broadway shows, neither one a hit. The first, 1946’s Beggar’s Holiday, has a fascinating pedigree. A modern American spin on John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (which also inspired Brecht and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, a piece virtually unknown at the time in America), the show boasted book and lyrics by perennial cult favorite John Latouche. It starred the Oklahoma! leading man Alfred Drake and an up-and-coming Zero Mostel, and featured a racially integrated cast, uncommon for the time.

The reviews were mixed, and Beggar’s Holiday folded after a three-month run. Ellington was not tempted to return to Broadway until 1966, when he contributed the score to Pousse-Café, which transplanted the story of the Marlene Dietrich film The Blue Angel to 1920s New Orleans. The critics were even less kind this time around, and the show closed after just three performances.

Out of sight

Why did Ellington fare so poorly on Broadway? It seems he was never willing to stay in one place long enough to master the art of writing for the theater. Instead of being a day-to-day presence on these projects, he would deliver a parcel of songs to his collaborators and then go off on tour with his band, leaving others to do the crucial and time-consuming work of shaping the finished product. Theodore Bikel, star of Pousse-Café, later recalled, “Duke Ellington was nowhere to be found either in the beginning or for any rehearsals.” Ellington was temperamentally unsuited for this very specialized creative endeavor; it was just about the only thing this genius could not do.

So Ellington was not a theater composer. No matter. That is not going to stop MUSIC THEATER WORKS from saluting his inimitable contributions to the Great American Songbook this October when the swinging sounds of Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits fill Nichols Concert Hall. He may not have conquered Broadway, but his songs conquered the world, and that is good enough for us.


Other Duke Ellington hits include


It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
Love You Madly
Just Squeeze Me
Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me
I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
I’m Beginning to See the Light
I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good

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Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits at Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works),
October 6-15, 2017, at Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston, IL.

Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits at Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works),
October 6-15, 2017, at Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston, IL.


To come


To come


To come

Duke Ellington Couple