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Chicago Spotlight: April 2011

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Douglas Sills, Eric Morris, Emily Padgett, Mackenzie Mauzy,
and Patrick Murney rehearse White Noise
(Courtesy of the company)
April is the month Whoopi Goldberg comes to Chicago, not to perform but as lead producer of a new musical with New York ambitions, White Noise, which marks the directing debut of Broadway choreographer Sergio Trujillo. The show, which has had several developmental workshops since 2006, is shaking down now at the 450-seat Royal George Theatre (April 1-June 5). Based on fact, it tells the story of two charming, attractive rocker sisters whose songs contain coded racist lyrics. An amoral producer -- played by Tony nominee Douglas Sills -- promotes them to stardom.

April musicals also include Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along at Music Theatre Company in Highland Park (April 7-May 1), and 42nd Street at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (April 1-May 29) with choreography by Tammy Mader.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company launches the month with a major new production of the late Lanford Wilson's best-known play, The Hot L Baltimore (through May 29), directed by Tina Landau. Steppenwolf's association with Wilson began over 30 years ago and has included the 1985 world premiere of Burn This among other Wilson works.

Other notable American plays represented this month are Edward Albee's The Goat or, Who Is Sylvia? at Remy Bumppo Theatre (through May 8), the final show for founding artistic director James Bohnen, who is semi-retiring; Julie Hebert's Tree at Victory Gardens Theater (through May 1); Adam Rapp's drama The Metal Children at Next Theatre (April 7-May 8); Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's The Front Page, at TimeLine Theatre ( April 12-June 12); and Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias at the St. Sebastian Players (April 29-May 22).

It's a heavy month for classics as well, many in new adaptations. Consider: The Voodoo Chalk Circle, based on Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle, presented by State Theatre of Chicago at The Viaduct (April 8-May 1); Macchiavelli's cynical comedy The Mandrake, directed by Steve Scott at A Red Orchid Theatre (April 8-May 21); Shaw's ever-pertinent Arms and the Man, staged by ShawChicago at the Cultural Center Studio Theater (April 16-May 15); and Shaw's Heartbreak House, directed by the estimable William Brown at Writers' Theatre (April 19-June 26).

Among even more classics is Sarah Ruhl's version of Eurydice, offered by Filament Theatre Ensemble in rotation with Orpheus: Featuring DJ Puzzle as Fate, a new take on Greek legend by Filament artistic director Omen Sade. Both are presented at a new venue, the Lacuna Artists Lofts (April 20-May 29). Also in rotation, are Woyzeck in a new version by director Sean Graney, and the world premiere of Sylvan Oswald's thematically-connected Pony. The two are staged by The Hypocrites and About Face Theatre at Chopin Theatre (April 10-May 22).

Among April world premieres, the most notable may be El Nogalar, a comedy by important Latina author Tanya Saracho, which marks the fourth co-production between the very large Goodman Theatre and the small Teatro Vista (at the Goodman, through April 24). The play is also the official launch of a three-year partnership between the two companies aimed at developing new Latino drama. Also of special interest, City Lit Theatre Company is staging The Copperhead, a 1918 play by the almost-forgotten American dramatist Augustus Thomas (April 8-May 15). The production launches a five-year City Lit project to honor the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (1861-1865), and its still-potent ramifications to our nation. The play is set in Illinois, appropriately, and dramatizes the passions raised by the Civil War within one family, spanning 40 years.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater unintentionally celebrates the 191st anniversary of the death of King George III with a lavish staging of Alan Bennett's The Madness of George III, putting a cast of 24 on stage (April 13-June 12). Taking a break from musicals with which he's so often associated, multiple Tony Award nominee Harry Groener plays King George.

Finally, what's the second city without The Second City? The famous improvisational comedy theater opens its 99th revue on April 10, The South Side of Heaven.

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