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Chicago Spotlight: November 2009

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Nathan Lane
(© Tristan Fuge)
Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth star in The Addams Family, at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre (November 13-January 10), playing Gomez and Morticia. Slated for Broadway in the late winter, this world premiere musical has a book by Jersey Boys authors Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. Direction and design credits are shared by Phelim McDermott and Julian Crouch, co-founders of London's Improbable Theatre Company and co-creators of Shockheaded Peter. Of particular local interest, the person who conceived the show and selected the creative forces is lead producer Stuart Oken, a veteran of Disney Theatricals. His close partner is Tony Award winner Michael Leavitt. Both have international credits but have chosen to make Chicago -- where they began their careers -- their permanent home base. The principal cast of the musical also features Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello, Kevin Chamberlin, Jackie Hoffman, Zachary James, Adam Riegler, Krysta Rodriguez, and Wesley Taylor.

Another New York-bound world premiere, Cirque de Soleil's new non-tent show, Banana Shpeel, A New Twist on Vaudeville is at the Chicago Theatre (November 19-January 3). David Shiner is the writer and director of this sure-to-be-colorful modern take on a traditional variety show. Broadway-In-Chicago offers the national tour of Young Frankenstein, with original Broadway stars Roger Bart and Shuler Hensley, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (November 3-Deceember 13).

Peter Gallagher stars in Don't Give Up On Me (November 22-December14), a two-night-per-week concert cabaret at the Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place. The run is presented courtesy of actor/pianist/writer Hershey Felder, who will be offering his three one-man shows -- George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin, and Beethoven, As I Knew Him -- at Drury Lane (November 13-December 31). There's also a new musical version of Little Women, A Play with Music -- not the Broadway failure of several years ago -- at Circle Theatre (November 6-January 24) adapted by Bob Knuth (who also directs) and Rani Blair-O'Brien.

Not to worry, there is some drama as well. TimeLine Theatre offers Martin Sherman's portrait of modern dance legend Isadora Duncan in When She Danced (November 7-December 20). Also, the New World Repertory offers Racine's Phedre in Robert Dave MacDonald's translation (November 7- December 5), even as the Lookingglass Theatre Company continues its world premiere Caribbean version of the classic tale, Fedra: Queen of Haiti (through November 15).The Goodman Theatre also offers a world premiere, High Holidays (through November 29) a dramedy by Alan Gross of Jewish life in a Chicago suburb. Gross enjoyed meteoric success in Chicago theater in the late 1970's with his hit plays Lunching, The Man in 605 and The Phone Room, and now returns "home" after 20-plus reasonably indifferent years in Hollywood.

Also of interest are several pointed interpretations of American social and cultural politics: Eclipse Theatre Company does a serious examination in offering Romulus Linney's Democracy (November 12-December 20), with its 1875 period setting (but modern meanings nonetheless), while GayCo Productions offers a lighter look with its improvisational revue, The Audacity of Nope, at Strawdog Theatre (November 8-December 5). BackStage Theatre also offers some political commentary in Wallace Shawn's sublet exploration of Fascism, Aunt Dan and Lemon, presented at the Chopin Theatre (November 20-December 20).

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