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Chicago Spotlight: June 2008

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Sean Allan Krill and Nancy Voigts in The Comedy of Errors
(© Liz Lauren)
The May announcement that Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier had won the 2008 Regional Theater Tony Award means Chicago now has four Regional Theater Tony recipients, more than any other city, and none of them is resting on its laurels. Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) continues its lively The Comedy of Errors (through June 29) on its mainstage, set in a London film studio during World War II. Upstairs in CST's studio theater, the company unfolds a new rap version of Much Ado About Nothing, retitled Funk It Up About Nothin' (June 25-August 3). The show is created by brothers GQ and JQ, the young men who created The Bombitty of Errors, a Chicago and Off-Broadway success.

As for Chicago's other Regional Theater Tony winners, Steppenwolf Theatre Company (1985 winner) should earn several more Tonys at the 2008 ceremonies on June 15, as Steppenwolf's production of Tracy Letts' August: Osage County received seven nominations, and has already won a number of other awards including the Pulitzer. Meanwhile, Steppenwolf is preparing the world premiere of Letts' newest play, Superior Donuts (June 19-August 17). Unlike the large-cast August, the play is a small drama set in Chicago's run-down Uptown neighborhood.

The Goodman Theatre (1992 Regional Tony) offers a June world premiere by Chicago-based writer Brett Neveu, Gas for Less (through June 22). The Goodman also is reviving the sparkling "Fats" Waller musical revue, Ain't Misbehavin', to close the 2007-2008 subscription season, June 21-July 27.

The Victory Gardens Theater (2001 Regional Tony) winds up its subscription season with a world premiere by one of its most popular playwrights, James Sherman, author of the Chicago and Off-Broadway hit Beau Jest. Sherman's new comedy is Relatively Close, presented at Victory Gardens' Biograph Theater (June 16-July 12).

June musical fare begins with the Frank Wildhorn/Leslie Bricusse Jekyll and Hyde, presented by Bohemian Theatre Ensemble at Theatre Building Chicago (June 3-July 20). Light Opera Works tunes up next with the stage version of Lerner and Loewe's Gigi, complete with a lush full orchestra, at Evanston's Cahn Auditorium (June 6-15). Then, the Danny Kaye biographical musical, The Kid from Brooklyn, opens at the Mercury Theater (June 7-August 24); it features many of the specialty musical numbers written for Kaye by his wife, Sylvia Fine. Additional musical selections include The Full Monty at the Village Players (Oak Park, June 8-July 13), and a revival by Black Ensemble Theater of its wildly-successful revue from last year, Those Sensational Soulful '60's (June 8-August 31).

Bailiwick Repertory celebrates Gay Pride Month with Bathhouse The Musical (June 11-22), about looking for love in all the wrong places. Woody Guthrie's American Song is presented by Blind Faith Theatre at Victory Gardens Greenhouse (June 14-July 20), while the Off-Broadway hit, Gutenberg! The Musical! arrives at the Royal George Theatre (June 19-July 27). This little show concerns a backers' audition for the worst musical ever written, an epic about the invention of movable type. Finally, The Journeymen offer Jonathan Larson's tick, tick...BOOM! in the intimate Berger Park Coach House on Lake Michigan (June 26-August 2).

Among June non-musicals: The Lion in Winter at the always-estimable Writers Theatre (Glencoe, through August 3); a revival by Lookingglass Theatre Company of its Nelson Algren tribute, For Keeps and a Single Day, at the Museum of Contemporary Art (June 4-29); the world premiere of Marry Me, You Idiot! at the always satirical and frequently scatological Annoyance Productions (June 6-August 29); a revival -- after many years -- of William J. Norris' terrific costume swashbuckler, Bloody Bess: A Tale of Piracy and Revenge, by BackStage Theatre at the Storefront Theatre (June 13-July 20); Sam Shepard's True West at Redtwist Theatre (June 13-July 13); Noel Coward's fluffy Hay Fever, presented by Circle Theatre (June 20-August 24) which has a knack for period plays; the late Scott McPherson's 'Til the Fat Lady Sings, a dark comedy about America's grieving habits presented by Citadel Theatre at Victory Gardens Greenhouse (June5-30); and The Mysterious Elephant, an original work by the Strange Tree Group, presented at the Chopin Theatre (June 19-July 19).

There are two outdoor productions of Much Ado About Nothing as the summer season commences. The Festival Theatre presents Much Ado at the lovely Austin Gardens in the Oak Park Historic District (June 11-July 19), followed by a gender-switching version presented in various Chicago parks by GroundUp Theatre (June 21-August 10).

Finally, the circus is coming to town, twice! For the third year, Navy Pier's Skyline Stage will host Cirque Shanghai in an all-new show, Gold (June 4-September 1), offering several weekly matinees and modest ticket prices. And Cirque de Soleil makes its biennial appearance at the United Center with Kooza (June 16-August 3).

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