First and foremost, the national tour of The Color Purple comes to the Cadillac Palace Theatre for at least six months, featuring Jeanette I. Bayardelle as Celie, Michelle Williams as Shug, LaToya London as Nettie, and native Chicagoan Felicia P. Fields re-creating her Tony Award nominated performance as Sophia (previews begin April 17).
Pop singer-songwriter Melissa Manchester performs in the new musical Hats!, about a group of 50-something women; she's also one of the show's many composers, who also include Kathie Lee Gifford and Pam Tillis. (Royal George Theatre, April 29-June 10).
For other musical fare, Porchlight Music Theatre serves up a much-anticipated production of Ragtime at Theatre Building Chicago (April 9-May 27): the New York company of Forbidden Broadway: Special Victims Unit comes to the Royal George Theatre (April 15-July 1); and the Stephen Sondheim-Bert Shevelove tuner The Frogs makes its long-delayed Chicago debut in the Truman College swimming pool, as produced by Pegasus Players (April 30-June 3).
Elsewhere around town, the offerings range from the sublime to the ridiculous. ShawChicago mounts Caesar and Cleopatra at the Chicago Cultural Center (April 15-May 7); New Millennium Theatre Company offers up Danger Zone: The Making of a Top Gun Musical at National Pastime Theatre (through May 5), a parody about turning the Tom Cruise movie into a Broadway show; Noah Haidle's very dark comedy Mr. Marmalade is presented by Dog & Pony Theatre at the Storefront Theatre (April 5-May 5) even as Chemically Imbalanced Comedy continues its regional premiere of the same play at the Cornservatory (through April 29).
Speaking of double doses, Anton Chekhov's The Seagull can be seen in a traditional staging at Raven Theatre (through May 27) and in a radically updated modern urban version by GroundUp Theatre Company at Angel Island (April 14-May 13). Meanwhile The Goodman Theatre and Teatro Vista offers the world premiere of Jose Rivera's Massacre (Sing to Your Children) at the Goodman (through April 22) while greasy joan & company presents Rivera's Sueno at the Athenaeum Theatre (April 14-May 20).
Our monthly quotient of Shakespeare comes in two productions opening on The Bard's 443rd birthday, April 23. There's Hamlet in a hardscrabble and intimate production by the small Off-Loop Signal Ensemble (through May 26), and an all-out lavish staging of Shakespeare's sour romance, Troilus and Cressida, part of Chicago Shakespeare Theater's 20th anniversary season (through June 24).
As for world premieres, consider Douglas Post's political drama Cynical Weathers presented by Victory Gardens (Biograph, April 6-May 13), young British author Gareth Davies' Basket Case at the Gorilla Tango Theatre (April 15-May 13); two new one-acts by Jenny Magnus and Beau O'Reilly, Room and Truck on a Roll, staged by Curious Theatre Branch at the Prop Theatre (April 19-June 10); Poker Night at the White House, the Neo-Futurists' new comedy about a corrupt Republican presidential administration in the pocket of Big Oil (April 21-May 26); and an original stage adaptation of Gidget (yeah, the 1950's surfer babe) at City Lit Theatre (April 23-June 3).
Other noteworthy offerings include the still-popular melodrama Angel Street at First Folio Theatre (April 7-May 6); Jan de Hartog's The Fourposter staged by the Citadel Theatre at the Gorton Center in Lake Forest (April 12-May 6); a revisionist version of The Diary of Anne Frank at Steppenwolf Theatre Company (April 14-June 10); Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at Piccolo Theatre in Evanston (April 20-May 26); and Garcia Lorca's Yerma by Halcyon Theatre Company at the Steep Theatre (April 21-May 13).