Category In the News

Hedy Weiss, WTTW

April 26, 2024

It is a very good bet that you have never seen (and might never see) anything quite like Swedish-born choreographer Alexander Ekman’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” unless you were fortunate enough to see it at its North American premiere by the Joffrey Ballet in 2018. And if you were lucky enough to catch that grand-scale, eye-popping, subtly sexy and altogether absurdly fantastical production — a celebration of the summer solstice and the Scandinavian Midsummer holiday — you are sure to want to see it again on the vast stage of the company’s home at the Lyric Opera House, where, it should be noted, the show is setting records with its large audiences.

This work is no “Swan Lake” or “Sleeping Beauty.” Nor is it Shakespeare’s play. Rather, it is a wild and crazy dream-come-to-life that is brilliantly performed by a cast of nearly 50 dancers who also happen to be extraordinary actors. Adding to the production is a guest singer — the Swedish indie rock star Anna von Hausswolff — who serves as a sort of narrator, and members of the superb Lyric Opera Orchestra playing Mikael Karlsson’s wild and wonderful score. Despite all that can be written about this work, the only true way to fully believe its fantastical, ground-breaking, playfully sexy, grand-scale, one-of-a-kind quality is to see it.

It all begins in front of the curtain as a man (the ideally expressive Dylan Gutierrez) gets into bed, pulls up a cover and goes to sleep. Then, as the curtain opens, he begins to have his wild and crazy dreams, all of which are brought vividly to life.

The stage (Ekman also designed the work’s remarkable set) is covered with an immense quantity of wheat that, in the first act, the mostly barefoot dancers thrash through, tossing it high into the air and dancing in and around it with great abandon. Leading the way throughout (and wearing shoes) is the ever elegant and compelling Victoria Jaiani. But every member of this work’s immense cast is a stand-out dancer and actor, and they connect with the audience in a remarkable way.

By the second act the wheat has been swept away, a small version of the white-framed bed hangs suspended high in a corner of the stage, and the full crowd that is celebrating the solstice gathers at a long line of tables that cross the stage and are lit by giant candelabras. All this — enhanced by Linus Fellbom’s lighting and Breughel Van Balen’s costumes — must be seen rather than described. And the cast brings the stage to life with periodic chants, sexy flirtations, verbal riffs, mischievous behavior and a sense of movement that only the most superb dancer/actors can carry off.

This is, quite simply, a one-of-a-kind production (most ideal for a mature audience), and it is far more fun to experience than to describe.

“Midsummer Night’s Dream” runs through May 5 at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive. For tickets, visit or call 312-386-8905.