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Celebrating Too Hot To Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah    
The reinvention of Handel's Messiah reaches a major milestone and continues to uplift its varied observers 
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  IT has become one of Chicago’s favorite annual events, bringing together people from all walks of life to celebrate and enjoy the incredible musicians and voices that have reshaped Handel’s Messiah with a soul-stirring interpretation that observers have enthusiastically embraced wholeheartedly.
   The Auditorium Theatre’s presentation of Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah––featuring the phenomenal voices of Rodrick Dixon, Alfreda Burke and Karen Marie Richardson––represented Chicago's 15th anniversary of presenting the spirited makeover of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, an original work created in 1741 and given a contemporary twist that kicks off the new year with exhilarating performances to commemorate the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "I was here for the first-ever production of Too Hot at the Auditorium, and even then, I knew that this performance would keep people coming back to the theatre year after year," says Rich Regan, Auditorium Theatre CEO. "Too Hot has built a dedicated audience in Chicago, and it is inspiring to see people from all across the city come together to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision and witness the unifying impact that the performing arts can have. We are honored to present this show to Chicago for the 15th year."
   While Dixon, Burke and Richardson were the featured performers, not to be overlooked is the diverse, 100-person choir––a collection of singers from throughout Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana––all of whom believe that the power of music can unite and inspire people. Performing under the baton of conductor Suzanne Mallare Acton, the choir was complemented by other major music makers, including a vibrant orchestra, a rousing jazz combo and the amazing talent of famed Detroit pianist Alvin Waddles, known for his unique and entertaining cadenzas. They all combined to put a jazz, gospel, blues and rock twist on Handel’s classic oratorio.
   Too Hot to Handel, which highlights the kind of diversity that Dr. King promoted, was designed to capture the spirit and message of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize-winner.  
   Handel’s extraordinary oratorio was composed with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible. It was first performed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1742 and has become one of the most frequently performed choral works in Western music. The piece was first reimaged in 1993 when daring composers Bob Christianson and Gary Anderson presented the reinvented Messiah at Lincoln Center in New York. Since then the celebrated work has moved the souls of millions in several cities across the nation.
   During the past 15 years in Chicago, Too Hot to Handel has firmly established itself as a highly anticipated, must-attend event and, coincidentally, this year celebrates its 15-year milestone at the same time the Auditorium Theatre is celebrating its 130th anniversary.
Award-winning tenor Rodrick Dixon returned to perform during Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz Gospel Messiah at the Auditorium Theatre. 
Soprano Alfreda Burke (left) and alto Karen Marie Richardson also were featured soloists at Too Hot to Handel, which was conducted (below) by Suzanne Mallare Acton. Pianist Alvin Waddles' amazing talents (bottom) also were highlighted during the anniversary event.
–– Walter Leavy