News Column

Fall theater forecast Curtain rises on Broadway hits, local premieres

August 30, 2013


The fall theater forecast calls for new works and local premieres along with a sprinkling of old favorites.

In the musical category, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace pit Mary Poppins against Dolly Levi while Broadway in Chicago welcomes the return of "Wicked," which sweeps into Chicago for an extended stay.

Writers' Theatre, based in Glencoe, and Lookingglass and Victory Gardens, both in Chicago, heat things up with world-premiere productions, while Chicago's TimeLine (in cooperation the Chicago Commercial Collective and Broadway in Chicago), The Hypocrites, Court and Lifeline theaters remount favorites from past seasons.

A revival of a William Finn charmer and a new adaptation of a Jane Austen tale promise to be among the sunnier options this season. Read on for a long-range outlook.

Suburban highlights

* "Next to Normal" -- Susan Moniz stars as a wife and mother struggling with bipolar disorder in Drury Lane Theatre's regional premiere of this searing, rock-infused Pulitzer Prize-winning musical by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey.

Through Oct. 6 at 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. (630) 530- 0111 or;

* "In The Heights" -- Paramount Theatre snags the regional premiere of the hit 2008 Broadway musical chronicling several days in the lives of the residents of a largely Hispanic New York City neighborhood on the brink of transformation. Jeff Award-winner Rachel Rockwell directs the show by composer/lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Quiara Alegria Hudes.

Sept. 11-Oct. 6 at 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. (630) 896-6666 or;

* "4000 Miles" -- Mary Ann Thebus returns to Northlight Theatre to co-star with Josh Salt in Amy Herzog's dramedy, a meditation on mortality that unfolds against a reunion between an elderly woman and her aimless 21-year-old grandson. Artistic associate Kimberly Senior directs the Chicago-area premiere.

Sept. 12-Oct. 20 at 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. (847) 673-6300 or;

* "Hello, Dolly!" -- Tony Award winner Karen Ziemba trades NYC for Oakbrook Terrace to star in Drury Lane Theatre's revival of the musical about the irrepressible matchmaker who at last meets her match. Rachel Rockwell directs and choreographs the production, which stars David Lively as confirmed bachelor Horace Vandergelder, the man for whom Dolly sets her cap.

Oct. 17-Jan. 5, 2014, at 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. (630) 530-0111 or;

* "Mary Poppins" -- If any Chicago-area theater can capture the whimsy and spectacle of this hit collaboration between theater impresario Cameron Mackintosh and Walt Disney Theatricals, it's Marriott Theatre. Based on Disney's 1964 film and P.L. Travers' stories, the musical features the cheery, well-loved score by Academy Award-winning songwriters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman and book by Julian Fellowes.

Oct. 23-Jan. 5, 2014, at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. (847) 634-0200 or;

* "Port Authority" -- William Brown directs Writers Theatre's Midwest premiere of the Conor McPherson play, which unfolds as a series of interconnected monologues revealing the lives of three generations of Irish men: a young adult, a middle-aged laborer who lands his dream job and a widower.

Oct. 29-Feb. 16, 2014, at Books on Vernon, 664 Vernon Ave., Glencoe. (847) 242-6000 or;http://

Chicago standouts

* "The Color Purple" -- Mercury Theater Chicago presents the Chicago-area premiere of the musical based on Alice Walker's novel and Steven Spielberg's film about an impoverished young African- American woman who triumphs over abuse and despair. Broadway veteran Trisha Jeffrey stars as Celie in a production helmed by director L. Walter Stearns, music director Eugene Dizon and Libertyville choreographer Brenda Didier.

Through Oct. 27 at 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. (773) 325- 1700 or;

* "The Mountaintop" -- Ron OJ Parson directs Court Theatre's Chicago-area premiere of Katori Hall's Laurence Olivier Award- winning drama examining mortality and destiny. David Alan Anderson plays Martin Luther King Jr. and Lisa Beasley plays the hotel maid who interrupts his speechwriting in Court's production of the play set on the eve of King's assassination.

Sept. 5-Oct. 6 at 5535 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago. (773) 753-4472 or;

* "The Killer Angels" -- Lifeline Theatre revisits its engaging, smartly staged 2004 commission of Karen Tarjan's adaptation of Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the Battle of Gettysburg told from the soldiers who fought it. Matt Miller directs.

Sept. 6-Oct. 27 at 6912 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago. (773) 761- 4477 or;

* "To Master the Art" -- The Chicago Commercial Collective remounts TimeLine Theatre's hit 2010 commission by William Brown and Doug Frew. Set in 1950s Paris, the play chronicles the romance between master chef Julia Child and her husband, Paul, from the time Julia first learned to cook French cuisine to the accusations about her husband's alleged Communism. Karen Janes Woditsch and Craig Spidle reprise their roles as Julia and Paul. Brown directs.

Beginning Sept. 10 at The Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago. (800) 775-2000 or;

* "The Wheel" -- Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Joan Allen returns for the first time in 22 years to star in the company's U.S. premiere of Zinnie Harris' sprawling drama. Set in 19th-century Spain, it centers on a woman who during wartime becomes the guardian of a young girl who has some unique powers. Tina Landau directs.

Sept. 12-Nov. 10 at 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago. (312) 335-1650 or;

* "Pullman Porter Blues"-- Three generations of African-American men -- all of them Pullman Train porters -- consider their past challenges and uncertain futures in Cheryl L. West's drama, which she sets against the backdrop of the historic title heavyweight bout between Joe Lewis and James Braddock. Chuck Smith directs.

Sept. 14-Oct. 20 at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. (312) 443-3800 or;

* "Cyrano de Bergerac" -- Henry Groener ("The Madness of George III") stars as the soldier/scholar with the outsize nose in love with a beautiful woman who is infatuated with a handsome but shallow cadet. Chicago Shakespeare Theater's revival of the Edmond Rostand classic reunites Groener with fellow Joseph Jefferson Award winner Penny Metropulos.

Sept. 24-Nov. 10 at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. (312) 595-5600 or;

* "Northanger Abbey" -- Remy Bumppo, a company with a particular affinity for British drama, presents the U.S. premiere of Tim Luscombe's adaptation of the Jane Austen novel about a high- spirited 17-year-old "in training for a heroine" who imagines real life to be like the Gothic novels she devours.

Oct. 2-Nov. 10 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. (773) 404-7336 or;http://

* "North China Lover" -- Lookingglass Theatre Company opens its season with the world premiere of director/adapter Heidi Stillman's drama inspired by Marguerite Duras' memoir of her affair at age 14 with an older Chinese man in 1930s Indochina.

Oct. 6-Nov. 10 at Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. (312) 337-0665 or;http://

* "Once" -- Broadway in Chicago presents last year's Tony Award winner, a charming tale about a Dublin street musician who is about to give up music for good, until he meets a young woman who changes his mind.

Oct. 9-27 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. (800) 775-2000 or;.

* "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" -- Griffin Theatre, a company especially adept at adapting young-adult novels for the stage, tackles William Finn's charming, tuneful, coming-of- age show about precocious, angst-ridden adolescents vying for a chance to compete in the National Spelling Bee.

Oct. 26-Dec. 15 at Theater Wit, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. (773) 769-2228 or;

* "Wicked" -- The blockbuster musical by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, based on the book by Gregory Maguire about the young witches of Oz, returns in a production commemorating the 10th anniversary of its Broadway debut. This should be among the hottest tickets for fall. The Chicago production broke box office records during its initial 3 1/2-year run here, which concluded in 2009.

Oct. 30-Dec. 21 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. (800) 775-2000 or;http://

* "Appropriate" -- Victory Gardens Theater and the Actors Theater of Louisville co-produce the world premiere of Branden Jacobs- Jenkins' drama about estranged siblings returning to their Arkansas home to uncover some unsettling truths. Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Gary Griffin directs.

Nov. 8-Dec. 8 at The Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. (773) 871-3000 or;

* "An Iliad" -- Court Theatre remounts Lisa Peterson's and Denis O'Hare's 2011 adaptation of Homer's epic in which a poet (2011 Jeff Award winner Timothy Edward Kane) ruminates on the bloodshed and loss that results over the course of several millennia of war.

Nov. 13-Dec. 8 at 5535 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago. (773) 753-4472 or;

* "Mikado" -- The Hypocrites remount their hit show about a wandering minstrel and his lady love inspired by the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Directed and adapted by Hypocrites founder Sean Graney.

Nov. 14-Dec. 29 at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., Chicago. (773) 278-1500 or;

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