On the morning of Feb. 14, Chicago’s florists will ring up roses, chocolate shops will run out of stock and singer Shelley MacArthur will warm up her pipes for a benefit performance that’s shaping up to be a hotter ticket than same-day tables at Next. Presented by the Joffrey Ballet, “What Is This Thing Called Love” is an all-inclusive evening of food, drink and entertainment from the acclaimed cabaret songstress, taking place at the Murphy Auditorium.
For the past six years, MacArthur — a classically trained chanteuse who has performed at Lincoln Center and Ravinia — has put on winter cabaret shows for the hometown ballet company. “This year, it just so happens that Valentine’s Day is on a Thursday, so the co-chairs and I thought it would be the perfect time to celebrate a night of love and romance with friends and family, and of course, our beloved Joffrey,” MacArthur says.
The co-chairs and Joffrey donors in question — Melissa Babcock, Renee Crown, Martha Higgins, Jerrilyn M. Hoffmann, Whitney Lasky, Traci Mansur, Shauna Montgomery, Maria Smithburg and Kimberly White — are some of the city’s most active philanthropists, and comprise a world-class brain trust of party-planning expertise. Along with the rest of the women’s board, as well as the ballet’s artistic director, Ashley Wheater, and executive director, Christopher Clinton Conway, the group pulled out all the stops, tapping the best in the business to craft a memorable night.
First, they brought in sought-after decorator Bill Heffernan to create a turn-of-the-century romantic paradise. The decor will be “lush and theatrical, with red roses galore and a fleck of gold,” Heffernan says. Next, they recruited top chef Charlie Trotter, who is stepping out of retirement to dish up gourmet hors d’oeuvres. His creations will be accompanied by a raw bar, Vosges truffles, chocolate-covered strawberries and French pastries, plus free-flowing Champagne and a high-end open bar. The menu’s details are being closely guarded; likewise, the performance will unfold with delicious surprises. But, one thing is clear: MacArthur will bare her whole heart in every note she belts out.
“The songs for ‘What is This Thing Called Love’ have been a journey through my personal life of love,” says MacArthur, who is married to former Fruit of the Loom CEO Bill Farley. (The couple has three sons: Liam Farley, Scott MacArthur and actor Hayes MacArthur, who is married to actress Ali Larter.) “This show explores love: finding love, the loss of love, the joy of love, the pain of love, the love of singing, the love of Broadway. It’s an accumulation of my life journey.”
Joining MacArthur onstage will be husband-wife opera singers Rodrick Dixon and Alfreda Burke, Rich Danielsand the 33-piece City Lights Orchestra, choir performers and a number of other special guests. As for MacArthur’s set list? The vocalist is remaining tight-lipped. “Come see the show to find out!” MacArthur says.
Tickets: $100, $350 or $500. Murphy Auditorium, 50 E. Erie. Visit Joffrey.org/love or call (312) 386-8921.
The Sun-Times is the media sponsor of this event.
Story by Jenny Berg