OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Julia Sweeney back on stage with pal Jill in Chicago at City Winery

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-06-22T00:00:00Z 2013-07-12T16:24:17Z OFFBEAT: Julia Sweeney back on stage with pal Jill in Chicago at City WineryBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

It was in 2009 the last time I saw the wonderful, warm witted and funny Julia Sweeney perform on stage in Chicago. And it was two years prior to that time, when she last headlined in the Windy City.

All the more reason not to miss her when she kicks off the fun for the month at July for a double bill of author and comedienne Sweeney of "Saturday Night Live" paired with her pal singer-songwriter Jill Sobule together for "The Jill & Julia Show."

Their creative talent on parade for audiences mixes witty songwriting with a little bit of social commentary to play one exclusive performance at City Winery Chicago 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 3. Reserved seat tickets, ranging $22-$30, are on sale at citywinery.com/chicago/jill-sobule-julia-sweeney-7-3.html

Sweeney, the funny cherub-faced comedienne and actress who will forever be associated with her mysterious gender-lacking alter-ego "Saturday Night Live" character Pat, was here last to bring her stage monologue show "Letting Go of God" to The Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, in Chicago, where she also logged a performance of "The Jill & Julia Show" in 2009.

Sobule's first album was a widespread critical success, with hits such as the "Supermodel" tune featured on the "Clueless" soundtrack and the "I Kissed a Girl" mock music video, featuring iconic beefcake Fabio, and catapulting the single into radio success.

She since has collaborated on a variety of projects, with other writing credits including songs used on "The West Wing" and "Felicity" and the theme song for Ariana Huffington's self-help book "On Becoming Fearless." Sobule is a fearless performer, tackling issues ranging from sexuality, intimacy and abandonment to war, greed and corruption.

The fusion of Sobule's clever lyrics with Sweeney's amusing anecdotes and storytelling for this show, has already garnered appreciation by some of the best and brightest minds in the writing business, all eager to see the results when brought to life on stage before an audience.

Sweeney's previous show at Lakeshore Theatre in 2007, "Letting Go of God," examined her devout Catholic childhood and how the personal twists and turns in her life caused her to question her entire religious foundation and even the existence of God.

A film version of that show premiered on Showtime in 2009. Sweeney has had a roller coaster personal life and career, along with much success around every corner.

Just as she was ending her run as part of the cast of "Saturday Night Live" in 1993, she and her actor/writer husband Stephen Hibbert divorced. Then, in 1994, as she was completing her first big-screen movie project, "It's Pat," her brother Michael developed lymphoma and she devoted all her time to helping her family as they tried to help him through the health crisis. Just after his death, also in 1995, Sweeney was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Not only did she beat the cancer before it spread, she spent much of her time during her recovery writing about her experiences with personal tragedy and adapting the writings into a successful monologue she debuted in San Francisco in 1995 and took to Broadway that same year as a one-woman show called "God Said, Ha!" The CD version of the show earned her a Grammy nomination.

She has continued her stage work to complete two other shows, which she says completes "the trilogy for this chapter of her life." Her 2003 one-woman show "In the Family Way" described her experiences as a single parent adopting a daughter.

And while she admits she's most famous for playing "Pat" for Lorne Michaels during her "SNL" days, she also parodied a number of famous celebs including Katharine Hepburn, Ethel Merman, Jane Pauley, Lonnie Anderson, Shirley Jones, Nancy Sinatra and Naomi Judd.

Among her many "SNL" impersonations, Sweeney holds the dubious distinction of having upset then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1993 during an show opening skit.

Sweeney was portraying a then-13-year-old Chelsea Clinton seated next to Jan Hooks as an "angry" Hillary watching the late Phil Hartman as a philandering President Bill Clinton in their theater box flirting with Madonna, who was singing a Marilyn Monroe-style "Happy Birthday Mr. President" salute.

Hillary made headlines when she sent an irate letter to the head of NBC, criticizing the inclusion of Sweeney-as-Chelsea as part of the skit.

Sweeney also has a new book "If It's Not One Thing, It's Your Mother," ($26) on parenting and being parented, was just published by Simon & Schuster in April.

City Winery Chicago is a great place and there's not a bad seat in the house. It's located in the West Loop at 1200 W. Randolph St. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (312) 733-9463 or visit citywinery.com.

City Winery Chicago, a fully operational winery, restaurant with outdoor patio, concert hall and private event space, is located in the heart of the West Loop at 1200 W. Randolph, in the historic urban Fulton Market district.

The concert hall accommodates up to 300 guests, all seated at tables with complete beverage and dining service, ensuring a comfortable "listening room" experience enhanced by a state-of-the-art Meyer Sound System.

Riedel is the official and exclusive provider of glass ware, showing City Winery's commitment to enjoying quality wine in a quality vessel. American Airlines is "the official airline" and Crowne Plaza is "the official hotel" of City Winery.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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