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Chicago Spotlight: March 2010

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Giuseppe Bausilio, Tommy Batchelor, John Peter Viernes,
and Cesar Corrales star in Billy Elliot the Musical
(© Amy Boyle Photography)
The big event this month is the arrival of the Tony Award-winning Billy Elliot the Musical at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre, on March 18. Tommy Batchelor, Giuseppe Bausilio, Cesar Corrales, and John Peter (J.P.) Viernes alternate in the title role, with Tony nominee Emily Skinner as Mrs. Wilkinson. Based on the 2000 film of the same name, the show tells the tale of a young boy with a dream of being a dancer, and is written by Elton John (music) and Lee Hall (book and lyrics).

March treats for musical theater fans will also include six concert performances of An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (March 2-7). The musical month continues with Chess, the rock musical by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice, staged by the seemingly-unfailing Theo Ubique Theatre in the intimate No Exit Cafe (March 5-April 25 at least). Then, Beauty and the Beast returns for two-weeks at the Cadillac Palace (March 23-April 4).

Among meaty March world premieres is Trust at the Lookingglass Theatre Company (March 3-April 25), co-authored by Andy Belin and Lookingglass co-founder David Schwimmer (who also directs), based on Belin's screenplay. Then, InnateVolution Theatre Productions debuts Right as Rain by April Smallwood, at the North Lakeside Cultural Center (March 19-April 24), a tale of an adolescent torn between religious belief and his emerging gay identity. Also, Chicago Tap Theatre premieres LoveTaps at Theatre Building Chicago (March 19-28), an audience-interactive dance work described as part ballet, part romantic comedy and "all rhythm." There's also the world premiere of The Somewhat Gelatinous Blob from Beyond the Grave (and also the graves in outer space) from Corn Productions at their infamous storefront playhouse, The Cornservatory (through March 27). It should come as no surprise that this wormhole entity is a B-movie parody.

The most interesting world premiere event may be The DNA Trail: A Genealogy of Short Plays about Ancestry, Identity, and Utter Confusion produced by Silk Road Theatre Project in association with the Goodman Theatre (March 2-April 4). The seven new one-act plays are by Asian-American authors Philip Kan Gotanda, Velina Hasu Houston, David Henry Hwang, Jamil Khoury, Shishir Kurup, Lina Patel, and Elizabeth Wong.

March events also include the Chicago premieres of Canadian author George F. Walker's dark satire, Beautiful City, presented by Theater Mir at the Storefront Theater (March 4-April 3); Wild Nights with Emily, by Madeleine Olive, based on the letters of poet Emily Dickinson, and presented by Caffeine Theatre at the Lincoln Square Arts Center (March 5-April 11); Messiah on the Frigidaire, John Culbertson's comedic tale of holy images on a refrigerator door, offered by Hubris Productions at the Greenhouse (March 11-April 17); and Lonnie Carter's The Lost Boys of Sudan (March 19-April 25), presented by Victory Gardens Theater.

March is good for the classics, too, even if not treated in wholly traditional style. For example, the newly-formed State Theatre is combining two plays by Sophocles, the ancient Greek tragic author. AjaxAntigone will play at St. Peter's Episcopal Church (March 11-April 3). Expect a more standard treatment as National Pastime Theater and Clock Productions present Elmer Rice's American classic, Street Scene (March 15-April 25). Rice's naturalistic tale of New York City tenement life won a Pulitzer Prize in 1929, but its huge cast means it's rarely seen today. Also, Court Theatre offers Tony Kushner's adaptation of The Illusion, the 17th-century French "dramedy" by Pierre Corneille (March 11-April 11).

Among contemporary classics, the Gift Theatre stages One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Dale Wasserman's evergreen adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel (March 11-April 5), while Northlight Theatre presents Irish author Hugh Leonard's A Life, starring John Mahoney and an ensemble of powerful veteran actors (March 18-April 25).

One other show this month seems to fall into no set category: Point Break LIVE! is a stage adaptation of the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze extreme-sports movie, described as "a high-action, punk-rock-style theatrical experience that comes complete with excessive gunfire, swearing, chase scenes, fight choreography, football tackles, fake blood, explosions, and of course an indoor monsoon." It's presented by the New Rock Theatre for an open run (from March 19). Definitely sounds meta-theatrical.

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