Published: December 23, 2019

"Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah" Celebrates 15 Years!

Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah celebrates 15 years in Chicago in 2020! The show was first performed at the Auditorium Theatre in 2006 and has been inspiring performers and audience members alike since it first arrived in our city.

Fifteen people (in honor of 15 years of Too Hot) told us what the production means to them and what keeps them coming back year after year!

Rodrick Dixon and Alfreda Burke (Too Hot to Handel soloists):

“This exhilarating take on Handel’s Messiah unites people and uplifts and ignites hope. You are never the same as you experience Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea of ’beloved community’ both onstage and in the audience. We are also thankful that Too Hot has been live-streamed to correctional facilities for four years. The spirit and collective efforts of the people make Too Hot to Handel phenomenal.”

Jacquelynn Scales (Program assistant, Harmony, Hope & Healing, a community group that attends Too Hot annually through the Auditorium’s ADMIT ONE program):

Too Hot is a work that has a feeling to it. The songs were delivered with such conviction, strength, and hope in these modern times and this frequency on which we are traveling. The instruments are played with thunder and the singers give lightning, and the energy is high throughout the show.”

Suzanne Mallare Acton (Too Hot conductor):

“From the first time I experienced Too Hot in New York some 20 years ago, it soon became an integral part of my musical life. The work is a masterful combination of musical styles, and a perfect vehicle to showcase the diverse talent we have in this city. In an era with so much divisiveness, through our music, we unite in a community celebration, and as a Filipino-American female, I am proud and thankful for the opportunity to be at the helm. In the words of Dr. King: ‘We will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.’

The Allstate Team (Too Hot Educational Outreach Sponsor):

Too Hot is terrific entertainment that inspires and educates while celebrating the diversity of its audience and our city. Best of all, it brings forth Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of the ’beloved community,’ a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human beings. Allstate is proud to support programs like those offered by the Auditorium Theatre that empower future generations to make a difference in their communities, proving that good starts young — and it starts now.”

Sean Mallory (Too Hot choir member):

“There are so many things about the Too Hot experience that have become a tradition in my life as I reunite with people who have become my choir family each year. In celebrating Dr. King’s life and legacy, singing this piece draws so many people from different backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences, but for two hours, all minds are on one accord. When everyone dances and sings along to the ‘Hallelujah!’ chorus, I think of that as the highest form of praise and it chokes me up every time.”

Peggy and Dave Radelet (Members of Friends of Too Hot, a group that supports the production financially):

“Music drew us to Too Hot to Handel. Its powerful, uplifting, pulsating rhythms made our hearts soar. The soloists’ voices and cadence set our souls aflame. But we’ve grown to love Too Hot because it has inspired a loving, dynamic community to which we now belong. ‘Hotties’ aren’t just audience members who return yearly to witness a performance of Handel’s Messiah on steroids. We’re a diverse and enlightened family; an eclectic people who celebrate what’s best about humanity: love, acceptance, inclusion, hope, and redemption.”

Jackie Roberson (Too Hot choir member):

Too Hot binds us all together regardless of our backgrounds and who we are. It speaks every language and truly portrays the dream that Dr. King had of us all coming together as one, not seeing race, color, creed, or origin. I love the sense of community that is felt. That energy gives you life and reminds you that the world is a better place because we can make a difference, if only for that one moment in time.”

Alvin Waddles (Too Hot pianist):

“My family and my faith are both very important to me and the Too Hot experience embodies both of those passions. Each year when we gather it’s like a family reunion – the joy and fellowship are palpable and encouraging. I also love working with talented instrumentalists and singers and the level of talent on stage for Too Hot is astounding. We listen to each other, feed off of one another’s energy, and, together, create a unique experience that is always new and inspiring.”

Kathy Bliss (Auditorium Theatre staff):

“Why do I look forward to attending Too Hot to Handel this year, even though I’ve seen it more than 30 times? Because the production is never the same. While the rich text and powerful yet unconventional score are my comforting constants, the experience is always different. When the joyful ’Hallelujah!’ chorus signals the journey is coming to an end, there is a renewed hope knowing you have been enlightened, and at that moment when all is good, you want to hold on to that feeling.”

Bill Fraher (Too Hot choir director):

Too Hot is so important to me because the music and the program brings together so many different kinds of people in an organic way. We are joined together around the music and all differences fade into the background. And I so enjoy the many different kinds of music in Too Hot — from gospel to spiritual to funk or island music. I love the performers, from the soloists to the jazz combo to the orchestra to the choir to the maestro. I love the energy of all those people on the stage. And I love the audience and the interaction between the stage and the theatre. There is a back and forth, an energy between the two feeding off one another.”

Linetta Taylor (Too Hot Ambassador and choir member):

Too Hot speaks to my spirit, resonates to my soul, and my entire being. It gives me wings to soar in a world that sometimes can weigh one down. It has been the way I start each new year for the past 11 years. I love that it brings people of all denominations, races, creeds and walks of life together. Whether it is on the stage or in the audience when the music starts, we all become one.”

Karen Marie Richardson (Too Hot soloist):

Too Hot is important for me because it is an amazingly creative way not only to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but also a way to tell a story that has transcended time using different musical genres. For me, I pour my life experience into the stories and allow it to color my storytelling depending on how I understand the words, and that will always be different each season. Therefore, the understanding of the listener will change each season.”

Chris Dorsey (Auditorium Theatre staff):

“You can take many great things from Too Hot, but what I love the most is the diversity of the singers, musicians, and the audience! Individuals from all walks of life, coming together under one roof (well, golden arches) to have a great time and enjoy the same thing: ‘triumphant music’! It gives us a glimpse of how and what the world should be!”

"Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah"

This “exuberant, jazz-gospel makeover” (Chicago Tribune) of Handel’s classic "Messiah" cel...