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Chicago Spotlight: February 2007

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Steve Best in Assassins
(© Porchlight Music Theatre)
There may be a chill in the air but there seems to be a song in every heart, as Chicago theaters go musical-crazy this month. One of the very best and most creative small musical troupes in town, Porchlight Music Theatre offers up a double-header of political tuners. First, Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Assassins (through March 11), followed a week later by the world premiere of The Teapot Scandals (February 7-March 10), a 1920's-style show about the 1923 oil well scandal that clouded the presidency of Warren G. Harding, with book, music and lyrics are by Jon Steinhagen. Both shows will run in repertory at Theatre Building Chicago.

Next up is an independent production of Buddy (beginning February 3) at the Mercury Theatre. This story of pioneer rocker Buddy Holly has been seen in Chicago previously in two productions. The same night, Noble Fool Theatre opens the recent Off-Broadway hit The Musical of Musicals - The Musical! (February 3-April 21), at their Far West Suburban home in St. Charles, the Pheasant Run Resort and Spa.

On Sunday, February 4, Next Theatre will open the world premiere of a chamber musical version of The Adding Machine (February 5-25), based on the 1920's expressionist drama by Elmer Rice. The composer is Joshua Schmidt, and the librettists are Schmidt and Next artistic director Jason Loewith. The intimate American Theatre Company will present the classic Broadway musical Oklahoma! (February 6-March 4) with a cast of just 12 and a four-piece Country & Western band.

The next musical opening is one that may draw quite a crowd: Grease, at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (February 21-April 22). With all the hoopla over You're the One that I Want on TV, many people may not know that Grease began its life very modestly as a Chicago Off-Loop theater production way back in 1970, when the local theater industry was very much in its infancy.

February's musical offerings come to a close with a rarely-seen show, Mack and Mabel by Jerry Herman. The story of silent movie comedy genius Mack Sennett and his leading lady, Mabel Normand is being staged by Circle Theatre (February 28-April 7), which has a reputation for polishing the gold in musicals often regarded as tarnished.

There are, of course, many, many non-musical shows opening as well: First and foremost is a revival of Harold Pinter's Betrayal at Steppenwolf (through May 27), featuring company stalwarts Amy Morton and Tracy Letts. Also on tap are John Guare's Landscape of the Body at the Artistic Home (February 11-March 18), the world premiere of Jeffrey Sweet's Court Martial at Fort Devens at Victory Gardens Theater (February 12-March 11) and Simon Gray's erudite comedy Otherwise Engaged in two productions, at Actors Workshop (January 26-March 4) and at Steep Theatre (February 15-March 24).

Other worthy choices include Marie Irene Fornes' Mud by The Hypocrites at Theatre Building Chicago (February 18-April 8), Bertolt Brecht's rarely-produced Edward II at the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (February 23-April 1), Conor McPherson's The Weir at Signal Ensemble Theatre (February 24-March 24), and the world premiere of Black Caesar, by David Barr III, at Pegasus Players (February 26-April 1), loosely based on the history of the Chicago Defender newspaper.

And for camp value, if little else, don't forget former Dynasty stars Linda Evans and Joan Collins in the national tour of James Kirkwood's Legends! at the LaSalle Bank Theatre (February 20-March 4).

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