Eric Petersen stars in Shrek the Musical
(Photo courtesy of the company)
Eric Petersen stars in Shrek the Musical
(Photo courtesy of the company)
The first national company of Shrek the Musical launches its tour, presented by Broadway In Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (July 13-September 5). The cast stars Eric Petersen in the title role, with Haven Burton as Princess Fiona and Alan Mingo, Jr. as Donkey.

Bailiwick Chicago, currently presenting Fucking Men by 2010 Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro at Stage 773, offers a second July production with the Elton John-Tim Rice musical Aida, presented at the American Theater Company (July 1-August 1). This is the first production of Aida in Chicago since the original pre-Broadway tryout. Scott Ferguson directs, with choreography by Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre notables Gary Abbott and Kevin Iega Jeff.

Other musical highlights include the world premiere of That Sordid Little Story, a story-within-a-story bluegrass musical by Andrew Hobgood, Ashley Wolfe and Henry Riggs, presented by The New Colony at The Viaduct (July 7-August 7), and the steamy Once on This Island at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (through August 29).

The drama calendar in July is dominated by two world premieres: A Parallelogram at Steppenwolf Theatre (July 1-August 29) and A Guide for the Perplexed at Victory Gardens Theater (July 9-August 15). The former is by edgy author Bruce Norris and concerns faith and a woman who believes she can "dial up" the future. The Victory Gardens show is by Playwrights Ensemble member Joel Drake Johnson and concerns a newly-released petty criminal who reluctantly starts a fresh life with his sister's family, and stars Kevin Anderson and Francis Guinan, both "on loan" from the Steppenwolf Ensemble.

Among July classics are Arthur Miller's semi-autobiographical After the Fall, presented by Eclipse Theatre at The Greenhouse (July 8-August 22), directed by Steve Scott; Shakespeare's evergreen Twelfth Night, given a multi-cultural outdoor staging by First Folio Theatre at the Mayslake Forest Preserve (July 7-August 8); Phillip Barry's comedy-of-manners The Philadelphia Story, offered by Circle Theatre (July 14-September 5); Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, offered in Austin Gardens by the Oak Park Festival (July 19-August 21) and The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, presented at the Evanston Arts Depot by a new company, Two Pence Shakespeare (July 15-August 21).

Surely it's a special month when two world premiere adaptations of The Emperor's New Clothes open. Up first is an adult version by Keely Haddad-Null that is the centerpiece of Naked July: Art Stripped Down, a month-long festival at National Pastime Theatre (July 2-Aug. 1). A family-friendly musical version of The Emperor's New Clothes is offered by Chicago Shakespeare Theater (through August 29) with a musical score by Alan Schmuckler and book by David Holstein.

There's a double bill of Ted Shine comedies, Herbert III and Contribution, at eta Creative Arts Foundation (July 1-August 22), completing eta's season of plays about African-American men all directed by African-American women. Then, master puppeteer Blair Thomas presents three short solo pieces based on writings by Garcia Lorca, Wallace Stevens and the jazz song "St. James Infirmary," under the collective title Hard Headed Heart, at Victory Gardens (July 8-August 8).

Also, a trio of world premieres at small Off-Loop theaters: Randall Coburn's Hesperia at the Right Brain Project (July 15-August 14); The League of Awesome, by Carrie Feuerstein and Matt Engle, about superheroines and The Hardy Boys, staged by Factory Theatre at Prop Theatre (July 9--August 21); and Dental Society Midwinter Meeting, by Laura Jacqmin at Chicago Dramatists (July 16-August 7). Finally, esteemed young American author Sarah Ruhl returns to the Piven Theatre Workshop where she enjoyed her earliest writing successes to team again with director Jessica Thebus for Late: A Cowboy Song (July 24-August 29).