At American Blues Theater's annual gala tonight, artistic director Gwendolyn Whiteside is set to announce four productions for the theater's upcoming 28th season, a larger slate than it's had in recent years. It opens in September with a new production of Randal Myler and Mark Harelik's Hank Williams: Lost Highway, which was just seen last summer ; ABT's will be directed by Damon Kiely at the Greenhouse Theater Center. It's followed by the company's annual holiday-season, radio-play edition of It's a Wonderful Life, also at the Greenhouse and helmed by Marty Higginbotham.
In February, Steve Scott will direct a new work by Christina Gorman titled American Myth, examining ethics in academia. And in June, ABT presents the Chicago premiere of George Brant's Grounded, a one-woman piece about a fighter pilot whose pregnancy gets her reassigned to piloting drones. A director for the latter show has yet to be determined.
The Goodman Theatre has released details about its 2013–14 season, a slate of nine full productions—eight as part of the subscription season, along with the 36th annual A Christmas Carol, newly helmed by artistic associate Henry Wishcamper—plus the New Stages series of works in development. The season includes three world premieres (two born out of previous New Stages lineups) and two Goodman commissions.
In the larger Albert Theatre space, the season will open in September with the Chicago premiere of Pullman Porter Blues, a piece centered on the 1937 championship bout between Joe Louis and James Braddock as well as three generations of African-American train porters. The play, by Cheryl L. West and directed by Chuck Smith, is infused with classic blues numbers. Wishcamper's Christmas Carol follows for the holiday season.
In January, artistic director Robert Falls directs a new work by Rebecca Gilman titled Luna Gale, about a social worker handling a tricky case. Next, Joanie Schultz helms the Chicago premiere of David Ives's lauded two-hander Venus in Fur in March and April.
Mary Zimmerman, who's currently working on her own version of Disney's The Jungle Book to debut at the Goodman this summer, will write and direct a new take on the Chinese fable The White Snake to open in May. The late-summer slot will go to the previously announced and newly revised revival of the Lerner and Loewe musical Brigadoon, to be directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell.
In the fall, the smaller Owen Theatre space will feature Smokefall, a world premiere by Noah Haidle in a co-production with South Coast Repertory directed by Anne Kauffman, followed in December by the New Stages series. Buzzer, a dark comedy about race and gentrification from Tracey Scott Wilson (The Good Negro), will have its Chicago premiere there in February, to be directed by Jessica Thebus. Seth Bockley's Ask Aunt Susan, a Goodman commission about a female advice columnist who's actually a twentysomething man, will premiere in the Owen in May, directed by Wishcamper.
Perhaps taking a page from the notebook of Steppenwolf Theatre Company, which has made a habit of naming a theme for its recent lineups, the Goodman is calling this its "DREAM" Season. Tickets for subscriptions and groups are on sale now; individual tickets will go on sale in August.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company has added a production to this summer's programming: Greg Pierce's Slowgirl, to star ensemble member William Petersen with the fast-rising young actor Rae Gray.
Gray will play a New England teenager who, following a terrible accident, absconds to the Costa Rican retreat owned by her uncle, played by Petersen, to wait out the aftermath. Pierce's play premiered last summer at New York's Lincoln Center Theater as part of its LCT3 new-work initiative, where it received admiring reviews.
Steppenwolf ensemble member Randall Arney will helm the production in the Upstairs Theatre, running July 18–August 25. Tickets go on sale May 3.
Skokie's Northlight Theatre has revealed three of the five productions that will make up its 2013–14 season, including a Neil Simon revival, a Chicago premiere by rising playwright Amy Herzog and a world premiere by Irish playwright Christian O'Reilly to star John Mahoney.
The season will open in September with Herzog's 4000 Miles, about a young man's relationship with his grandmother. The production will follow closely on the heels of another Chicago premiere by Herzog, whose Belleville occupies the summer slot at Steppenwolf.
Mahoney will star in O'Reilly's Chapatti, opening in March, as a lonely dog owner who finds a late-life romance with a cat lady. Following in May is a revival of Simon's Pulitzer winner, Lost in Yonkers, making this two consecutive seasons with a Simon play for Northlight, which mounted his The Odd Couple last fall. Productions for the two remaining slots in the season will be announced soon, the theater says.
American Theater Company has extended its acclaimed revised version of PJ Paparelli and Stephen Karam's columbinus by three weeks, through April 7, the theater announced tonight.
Additionally, ATC says its planned revival of Hair, to be revised with the involvement of author James Rado, will be postponed from this spring to spring 2014. In its place, the company will stage a limited-run remount of Karam's Speech and Debate, which first played ATC in 2008. ATC ensemble member Sadieh Rifai will reprise her role, to be joined by Will Allan; two more cast members remain to be announced. Speech and Debate will run May 13–June 10.
You know that moment when you’re at a gay orgy and you realize you’re the ugliest person in the room? Okay, me neither, but a character (played by Brett Mannes) in pH Production’s new musical sketch comedy show Same Sex, Different Gays has been there, and he can sing all about it.
Same Sex, Different Gays, directed by Beverlee Bailey, is a sharp new show dressed in rainbow-flag flair. Sketches like “Are You a Virgin?” (which challenges notions of lesbian sexuality) and “Bitter & Numb” (about dating pessimists) prove that gay humor can be more than just a punch line. Brad Kemp wrote the music, and the best song is about one-night stands, like taking a guy home and him not being, um, "properly prepared." With some changes it could inspire Katy Perry's next big hit.
A couple of the sketches were a little too let’s-all-get-gay-married-and-stop-being-bitter for the OkCupid cynic in me, but with the recent gay marriage bill passed by the Illinois Senate (on Valentine's Day, no less), these were timely and relevant. The show's point of view on relationships is strongest when it's most subtle. For example, in the sketch "At First," a lesbian couple, stuck in the daily routine of marriage, tell their child what their relationship was like when they first met. It's a very real situation many couples confront.
While the material is gay-themed, most of the sketches deal with relationship issues. Here's a little secret: Queer couples have problems similar to their hetero counterparts', just with a little more glitter. That is to say, you don’t have to be part of the LGBT community to like this show or get the jokes—well, most of them.
Same Sex Different Gays plays Saturdays at 9:30pm through Mar. 30 at pH Comedy Theater.
Earlier this month, Broadway in Chicago hosted a preview event for, the new musical opening in April for a pre-Broadway tryout at the Oriental Theatre. Following remarks by director Susan Stroman, stars Norbert Leo Butz and Kate Baldwin performed "Time Stops," a number from Andrew Lippa's score. Watch the video below. (The music stars at about three minutes in.)
Crime noir isn’t the easiest genre to capture on stage, but the Den Theatre does admirable work with Don Nigro’s City of Dreadful Night, a quickly paced thriller in which everyone has something to hide. Justine C. Turner delivers a sultry performance as Anna, a femme fatale who lures two men into her web of deception that stretches back to before World War II. Turner got her first taste of theater as a child, and she began performing when her family moved to Oak Park. She became acquainted with Chicago theater as an undergraduate at Columbia College, and since graduating has gone on to become an ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre. Turner speaks to us about classic femme fatales, how noir is like Shakespeare, and why the genre still resonates with contemporary audiences.
IN>TIME Performance Festival cofounder Mark Jeffery knows how to draw attention. The U.K. native, SAIC assistant professor and performance artist spoke to another TOC editor just days before our interview. “It was the weirdest thing, I was taking my class to record sound in the Haymarket location,” he tells me. “These guys appeared from nowhere and I was like, “Who the hell are you?” (For more on that, click here.) He talks about his humble beginnings, and the future of Chicago’s growing multi-venue, multi-performer biennial arts fest.
After occupying multiple spaces in Pilsen for its first three years, the Chicago Fringe Festival is relocating to Jefferson Park for its 2013 iteration. The fest will set its lineup at a lottery party at the neighborhood's Gale Street Inn (4914 N Milwaukee Ave) on Saturday, March 2, beginning at 1:30pm.
When the first Chicago Fringe was in, organizers announced their intention to move the fest to a different neighborhood each year, but the festival ended up remaining in Pilsen until now. The Chicago Fringe Festival presents works by approximately 50 performance groups over the first two weeks of September.
CFF executive director Vinnie Lacey cites the success of the Gift Theatre and, more recently, in Jefferson Park and Portage Park. In a statement, 45th Ward Ald. John Arena welcomed the Fringe Festival, saying, "Coupled with the transportation access for visitors from Chicago and the suburbs means this year’s Festival will be a great success. I want to thank the organizers of the Festival for adding another reason why people should visit Jefferson Park."
Actor and Saturday Night Live alum Nora Dunn will premiere a new solo show, Mythical Proportions, at Theater Wit in August, the theater says. The piece includes monologues performed in character as well as personal stories Dunn tells as herself, some drawn from her Chicago childhood. Performances are scheduled to begin August 16; a complete schedule and ticket prices will be released in March.
Broadway in Chicago is set to announce tomorrow its full 2013 fall subscription season, to include appearances by the musical Once, winner of eight 2012 Tony Awards, as well as a touring production based on the recently closed 2012 revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita.
Also on the docket are Elf the Musical, a Broadway success in recent holiday season engagements; the stage adaptation of the 1983 film Flashdance; a new touring production of the 1989 biomusical Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story; and,, a remount of TimeLine Theatre Company's To Master the Art.
So-called off-season specials, sold separately from the subscription season, include the return of Wicked (also) as well as Emerald City Theatre's production of The Cat in the Hat and a brief touring stop of We Will Rock You, the Queen jukeboxer that's a long-running hit in London.
I'd call it a minor disappointment that the intimate Once, a major hit based on the 2006 Irish indie film, is staying just three weeks and in a theater more than twice the size of its Broadway house. But withpresumably continuing into the fall—it's currently on sale through September 8, but it's telling that none of the nine shows I mentioned above are scheduled for the Bank of America Theatre—and Wicked taking up the Oriental Theatre for eight weeks, perhaps a longer sitdown for Once wasn't in the cards. Subscriptions go on sale March 22; complete dates and venues are after the jump.
, TimeLine Theatre Company's 2010 play about the celebrated cookbook author Julia Child, will return in a new production at Broadway in Chicago's Broadway Playhouse this fall.
The Chicago Commercial Collective will present the remount, which will again be directed by William Brown and will star Karen Janes Woditsch as Jula Child and Craig Spidle as her husband, Paul. To Master the Art will play what's being called a limited engagement beginning September 10th.
Wicked, the musical phenomenon prequel to The Wizard of Oz that enjoyed a nearly four-year run at the Oriental Theatre from 2005 to 2009, will return for an eight-week engagement this fall, Broadway in Chicago says. An onsale date for individual tickets is yet to be announced.
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked imagines a pre-Dorothy backstory for the Wicked Witch of the West, Glinda the Good and several other characters familiar from L. Frank Baum's original and the 1939 MGM film.
The show has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman; though it lost the 2004 Tony Awards for best musical, book and score to Avenue Q, Wicked has gone on to set box office records in a number of cities. The new stop by one of Wicked's touring companies will hit Chicago October 30–December 21, coinciding with the ten-year anniversary of the musical's Broadway production, which opened October 30, 2003 and is still running.
One of Wicked's lead producers, Marc Platt, is also the father of Ben Platt, who's starring as Elder Cunningham in the Chicago production of The Book of Mormon at the Bank of America Theatre, a few blocks south of the Oriental.
You can’t go wrong closing with Sinatra. There’s a case to be made, however, for Stanton Welch. Joffrey’s “American Legends,” a four-piece program, now running through Feb 24 at the Auditorium Theatre, concludes with Twyla Tharp’s popular Nine Sinatra Songs, but Welch’s Son of Chamber Symphony is the real treat of the evening.
Stepping into the persona of a legendary celebrity is hard enough for an actor, but add in the unique vocals of Billie Holiday and it becomes an even bigger challenge. Alexis J. Rogers gives a stunning performance as the jazz songstress in Porchlight Music Theatre’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, beautifully recreating Holiday’s gritty vocals and exposing the emotional vulnerability of the singer in the months before her death. Born and raised on the South Side, Rogers began performing during her high school years at Kenwood Academy, where she appeared as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance. For undergrad, she set her mind on Howard University in Washington, D.C., and it was the only school she applied to. She was accepted and received a musical theater B.F.A., working on the East Coast for a bit before heading back to Chicago, where she’s become a standout performer in both traditional plays and musical theater. Rogers speaks to us about how she got into Holiday’s character, Holiday’s connection to present-day celebrities, and the advantages of being a diverse performer.
Sweet Charity is the type of dance-heavy musical that's a tight fit for Writers’ Theatre’s intimate Glencoe space, but Michael Halberstam’s revival is a dazzling success that doesn’t shy from the darker elements of the script. As Oscar Lindquist, the anxious everyman who finds the girl of his dreams in a broken elevator, Jarrod Zimmerman gives a performance that beautifully transitions from puppy love to engagement uncertainty. Raised in Marysville, Ohio, Zimmerman began performing in community theater as a child, the son of two fans of the arts who were fully supportive of their son pursuing a career as a performer. Zimmerman wanted to become a computer scientist after high school, but his parents convinced him that it was probably not a life he would enjoy. He studied theater at Northwestern University, and has since become a fixture on the Chicago stage, particularly in musicals. Zimmerman tells us about working with Writers’, the difficulty of performing a musical in a smaller space, and the ways in which he and Oscar are alike.
The Auditorium Theatre announced its schedule today for the 2013 Movement + Music Festival, beginning February 28 and running through dates in June. The five-month-long fest pairs Chicago dance and music artists for a series of world-premiere performances and collaborations.
Among the dance offerings: Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center’s Bryant Ballet, DanceWorks Chicago, Full Effect Entertainment Theatrical Dance Company, Joel Hall Dancers, Kalapriya Dance Company, Kuumba Lynx, Mexican Dance Ensemble and Thodos Dance Chicago.
A panel will select five stand-out pieces from the groups above, as part of the culminating Music + Movement Showcase, which will also include Giordano Dance Chicago and Luna Negra Dance Theater.
Havana Blue, a collaboration between River North Dance Chicago and Orbert Davis’s Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, premieres April 13, taking inspiration from the shared Cuban/Afro-Caribbean roots of RivNo artistic director Frank Chaves and CJP director Davis. Commissioned by the Auditorium Theatre, the piece uses an original score composed by CJP.
Performances take place at the Auditorium’s Katten/Landau Studio (435 S Wabash Ave, fourth floor) and the Landmark Stage (50 E Congress Pkwy). A $99 pass allows entry for every performance. The fest continues with a series of free community shows in June at select locations around the city; dates and times TBD.
Tickets and more details available at auditoriumtheatre.org/musicandmovement or by calling 800-982-2787. Or, purchase tickets in person at the Auditorium Box Office (50 E Congress Pkwy).
There were tears of joy at the conclusion of Hamburg Ballet’s Chicago debut last night, mostly from company director/choreographer John Neumeier. The audience showed its appreciation with a standing ovation. It was a memorable homecoming for the Midwest native who’s been based in Europe for more than 40 years. For it, he brought his much-anticipated story-ballet Nijinsky, playing two nights at the Harris Theater.
Neumeier has described Vaslav Nijinsky as the first super star of the 20th century. It’s evident, based on this performance, that his admiration for the dance-great runs deeper than casual fascination. Neumeier, one of the world’s most extensive collectors of Nijinsky memorabilia, sets out to convey a man whose influence was (and still is) significant to the evolution of ballet. A famous and tragic story, Nijinsky’s legend is one of obsession, polarization and glamour: He was bisexual, genetically predisposed to schizophrenia, stirred controversy with unconventional work and ultimately institutionalized. Sounds built for Hollywood. (And it was. See Herbert Ross’s biopic Nijinsky.) In this case, Neumeier’s “present-tense” vision is more than admirable; it’s larger-than-life.
Nijinsky opens on January 19, 1919 at the Suvretta House Hotel in Switzerland, the place of the famed dancer's last public performance. An adoring crowd gathers in the hotel lobby, anticipating his entrance. When he arrives (an inspired performance from Alexandre Riabko), the descent into madness begins. A modernized contemporary solo—by current standards engaging—nearly frightens the public; they’re not sure whether to clap or leave the room. The mood shifts from reverence to confusion.
The piece centralizes on Riabko’s Nijinsky figure, though other iterations appear from different ballets—Spectre de la Rose, L’Après-midi d’un faune, Scheherazade. It’s a retrospective of the past, looking back on his life and his creations. The story becomes more complex with the addition of Ballets Russes founder, and Nijinsky’s one-time lover, Serge Diaghilev (Carsten Jung). A riveting duet between Riabko and Jung makes no subtle commentary on the duo’s scandalous relationship. There’s also reference to Nijinsky’s wife Romola and his sister Bronislava. These interactions drive the first half of the performance, undoubtedly the more fanciful of the two acts.
The conflict heightens in the second act: the advent of World War I, Romola’s infidelity. The one distraction: a series of overly literal screeching meant to invoke “madness.” In two and a half hours, Neumeier’s delicate and violent portrait fluxes between extremes. Extravagant costumes and beautiful set designs, are met with often-busy choreography, meant to mimic the title character’s schizophrenic mind. The ballet’s comprehensive construction, though, is quite lucid.
Catch the final performance of Nijinsky tonight at the Harris Theater at 7:30pm.