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The Art of Clowning

Chicago Spotlight: April 2009

It's a Jolly Holiday with Mary

By Chicago
Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee in Mary Poppins
(© Joan Marcus)
Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee in Mary Poppins
(© Joan Marcus)
Chicago is going gaga for musicals in April. Broadway In Chicago is having a particularly active spring season, with the national tour of Mary Poppins rehearsing and opening in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (already extended through July 12) and featuring its two original Broadway stars, Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee. Other Broadway In Chicago shows are the farewell tour of Rent (with original stars Adam Pascal and Chicago-bred Anthony Rapp) at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre (through April 12), followed by a return visit of A Chorus Line (April 14-May 3).

The always-worthy Porchlight Music Theatre has put up the Sondheim/Weidman Pacific Overtures at Theatre Building Chicago (through May 2), while Chicago Shakespeare Theater invited The Second City to its Navy Pier digs for a six-week run of Rod Blagojevich Superstar (through May 3), a definitely satirical musical based on the seemingly-endless circus of Illinois politics.

The other big musical offering of the month is the regional premiere -- and very first post-Broadway production -- of Curtains!, the final John Kander-Fred Ebb musical collaboration. Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace Theatre snagged the performance rights before the official national tour of the musical murder mystery goes out. Under the direction of the always-capable William J. Brown, Curtains! plays through May 17.

There's also a lot of musical theater action taking place in smaller Off-Loop venues. An astonishing postage-stamp-sized production of Evita is being presented by Theo Ubique Theatre at the No Exit Cafe (and old 1960's style coffee house) through April 19. Annoyance Productions has an original satirical show, Scientology! The (Unauthorized) Musical (April 3-May 22), which wonders if the Scientological belief in ancient aliens just might possibly be true. Almost as if to answer, Chemically Imbalanced Comedy, another gaggle of satirical wags, opens Cartoon the same night (through May 10), their musical version of, well, cartoon characters come-to-life, from classic animation to anime.

American Theater Company, in association with About Face Theatre, presents the trannie glam rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, created by former Chicagoan John Cameron Mitchell, at the American Theater Company (April 9-May 17). Corn Productions takes an original musical swipe at both Off-Loop Theater and Disney's High School Musical with Storefront Theatre Musical, playing at The Cornservatory (April 11-May 16).

Next up is a musical created by two more former Chicagoans: Urinetown. The multiple Tony Award winner will be presented by the DePaul University Theatre School at their downtown Merle Reskin Theatre (April 17-26), directed by Dexter Bullard. Coming close to closing a merry musical April, Hobo Junction presents another world premier tuner, Bad Guys in Suits, at the Apollo Theater Studio (April 17-May 29). Finally, Chicago Opera Theater opens its 2009 season with a Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito at the Harris Music and Dance Theater (April 18-May 1). One almost always can rely on top-flight musical values at Chicago Opera Theater, with rising young international singers and stimulating production concepts (often highly visual and sensual).

Non-musical offerings this month include the world premiere of Naomi Iizuka's Ghostwritten (Goodman Theatre, April 4-May 3), Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize winner Driving Miss Daisy (Village Players Theatre, April 3-19), Signal Ensemble's staging of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Chopin Theatre, April 13-May 16), William Gibson's classic play, The Miracle Worker (Lincoln Square Theater, April 18-May 17), Alan Bennett's Tony and Olivier Award-winning drama, The History Boys (TimeLine Theatre, April 22-June 21), Steep Theatre Company's Chicago premiere of Jez Butterworth's Parlour Song (April 2-May 9), and the Steppenwolf for Young Adults production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men (April 21-May 10).


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