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Chicago Spotlight: May 2008

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A scene from Shout! The Mod Musical
(© Rubino West Photography)
May is chockablock with musical attractions: I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change at Noble Fool Theatricals at the Pheasant Run Resort (May 1-July 19); Shout! The Mod Musical at Drury Lane Water Tower Place (May 8-June 22); The Musical of Musicals: The Musical at the Metropolis Centre in Arlington Heights (May 15-June 21); and the Dennis DeYoung version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Bailiwick Repertory (May 8-July 6). Also, the touring company of Avenue Q stops briefly at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (May 21-June 7) while yet another production of Nunsense takes the Marriott Theatre stage (May 14-July 13); ditto, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace (May 22-July 27).

For more original fare, one might be better off catching Northwestern University's 77th annual Waa-Mu Show, Skylines, at Cahn Auditorium on the Evanston campus (May 2-11). This famous and lavish student musical variety show boasts among its alumni the likes of Sheldon Harnick, Paul Lynde, Cloris Leachman, Tony Randall, Charlotte Rae, McClean Stevenson, Warren Beatty, Nancy Dussault, Garry Marshall, Ann-Margret, Karen Black, Frank Galati, Shelley Long, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Mullally, Brian d'Arcy James and Heather Headley. Who knows what future stars are in this year's edition?

May certainly has its share of silliness beginning with Mark Nadler's New York-bound one person show, Russian on the Side, a memoir of great Broadway composers, on the Royal George mainstage (April 30-June 15). Soon after, Raven Theatre mounts Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23rd Floor (May 4-June 28) and Chicago Shakespeare Theater opens a radical The Comedy of Errors (through June 29), set in London's Shepperton film studios during World War II. The Second City etc (the famous troupe's junior company) comes in next with a new revue, Campaign Supernova, or How Many Democrats Does It Take to Lose an Election (beginning May 8). Finally, Chicago's resident LGBT sketch comedy troupe, GayCo, remounts and updates its first hit show, Whitney Houston, We Have a Problem at the Center on Halsted (through May 25).

Seldom-seen classics are also in abundance, including Luigi Pirandello's Henry IV, by Halcyon Theatre at the Peter Jones Gallery (May 3-June 7); a world premiere adaptation (by Terry McCabe, who also directs) of Mark Twain's last major work, Pudd'n Head Wilson, at City Lit Theatre (May 2-June 15); also Ibsen's somber late masterpiece, The Master Builder, receives a rare staging by Building Stage (May 11-June 14). In a slightly more contemporary vein are Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, offered by the Artistic Home at Live Bait Theatre (May 15-June 29) and Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey, staged by Shattered Globe at Victory Gardens Greenhouse (May 15-July 5).

A number of works this month speak to African-American themes and history, among them She Calls Up the Sun staged by MPAACT at Victory Gardens Greenhouse (through June 1); Checkmates at ETA Creative Arts Foundation (through June 8); the harrowing The Ballad of Emmett Till at the Goodman Theatre (May 5-June 1); Emily Mann's docu-drama Greensboro: A Requiem at the Off-Loop Steep Theatre (May 8-June 14); and Leslie Lee's The First Breeze of Summer at Court Theatre (May 15-June 15).

May also has several shows that are, well, sui generis. For example, Tony Award nominee Howard Witt appears in a one-person show about blacklisted author Dalton Trumbo, written and directed by Trumbo's son. The show, Trumbo, plays only 10 off-night performances at Timeline Theatre (May 4-June 2). Or consider Lipstick Traces, a gallery installation/performance work drawn from journalist Greil Marcus' 1980's punk-rock memoirs, presented by the Pavement Group at AV-aerie Gallery (May 9-June 1). Or The Mark of Zorro, a new adaptation of the original 1919 Zorro novel, told with flying horses and Spanish dance and music at Lifeline Theatre (May 2-June 22).

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