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SPRING THEATER PREVIEW New shows worth singing about
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2020-03-01

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Spring brings forth new life, and so, too, do Chicago area theaters with new stage productions. Take your pick between local or world premieres, both big and small. All shows in Chicago unless otherwise noted.

Aiming for New York

—Once Upon a One More Time, James M. Nederlander Theatre, running April 14-May 17: Songs popularized by pop princess Britney Spears become plot points in this Broadway-bound musical inspired by fairytale princesses. Bar hoppers who dance at Roscoe's to "Slave 4 Britney Sundays" won't want to miss seeing Spears' songs becoming Broadway canon. Details: BroadwayInChicago; 800-775-2000

—Hit Her With the Skates, Royal George Theatre Center, running March 10-June 21: The South Suburban Lynwood Roller Rink serves as inspiration for this world-premiere musical comedy that jumps between the years 1994 to 1977. American Idol alums Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young are in the cast. Details: HitHerWithTheSkates.com; 312-988-9000

—Middletown, Apollo Theater, running to March 22: Sandy Duncan ( The Hogan Family, Peter Pan ), Donny Most ( Ralph Malph from Happy Days ), Adrian Zmed ( T.J. Hooker, Grease 2 ) and multiple Jeff Award-winner Kate Buddeke each star in Dan Clancy's 2018 play that looks at two couples' long-term marriages. Details: ApolloChicago.com; 773-935-6100

—The Secret of My Success, Paramount Theatre, Aurora, running to March 29: The 1987 Michael J. Fox film gets turned into a big musical comedy. Co-creators Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen ( book ) and Michael Mahler and Alan Schmuckler ( score ) update the action to today to make it much more palatable. Details: ParamountAurora.com; 630-896-6666

Post-Broadway

—Be More Chill, Apollo Theater, running April 6-Sept. 6: The late Ned Vizzini's 2004 novel about a teenager who gets a supercomputer in his head lives on thanks to a 2015 regional musical comedy adaptation. Social media furor and loads of downloads ( particularly the song "James in The Bathroom" ) propelled the musical off-Broadway in 2018, and then to Broadway the following season. Details: ApolloChicago.com; 773-935-6100

—What the Constitution Means to Me, Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, running to April 12: Maria Dizzia ( Orange Is the New Black ) stars in Heidi Schreck's critically acclaimed play that traces four generation of women and their relationship to one of the country's founding documents. Details: BroadwayInChicago.com; 800-775-2000

—My Fair Lady, Cadillac Palace Theater, running March 24-April 12: Lincoln Center Theater's massive 2018 revival of Lerner and Loewe's 1956 Broadway classic goes out on tour. Director Bartlett Sher's revised ending led to lots of audiences arguments. Details: BroadwayInChicago.com; 800-775-2000

World premieres

—Her Honor Jane Byrne, Lookingglass Theatre, running to April 12: J. Nicole Brooks' new play looks at Chicago's first female mayor and the time she moved into the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Details: LookingglassTheatres.org; 312-337-0665

—My Dear Hussein, Silk Road Rising at Chicago Temple, running March 17-April 19: The Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s is seen through the eyes of a child in Nahal Navidar's new play. Details: SilkRoadRising.org; 312-857-1234

—Dhaba on Devon Avenue, TimeLine Theatre, running March 27-April 26: Madhuri Shekar's new Chicago drama is set at a long-standing Devon Avenue restaurant that faces foreclosure. Details: VictoryGardens.org; 773-871-3000

—Under the Tree, The New Colony at The Den Theatre, running April 1-May 3: K.L. Parker's new Texas-set drama explores what happens when a patriarch dies, and a family discovers that he led a secret life with a second family. Details: TheNewColony.org; 773-697-3830

—Welcome to Keene, New Hampshire, Strawdog Theatre at Filament Theatre, running April 16-May 30: Brian James Polak explores a small town's troubles with guns, opioids and divided political opinions. Details: Strawdog.org; 773-697-3830

—Notes & Letters, Underscore Theatre at The Understudy, running April 24-May 23: World War I puts four musically inclined Chicago friends to the test in this new musical inspired by a true story by Annabelle Revak. Details: UnderscoreTheatre.org

—Relentless, TimeLine Theatre, running May 6-June 27: Two African-America sisters are forced to deal with their late mother's past in this 1919 Philadelphia-set drama by Tyla Abercrumble. Details: TimeLineTheatre.com; 773-281-8463

—King James, Steppenwolf Theatre, running May 7-June 21: Two estranged friends argue over the impact of LeBron James' reign in Cleveland in ensemble member Rajiv Joseph's new play. Details: Steppenwolf.org; 312-335-1650

Local premieres

—Judy and Liza—Once in a Lifetime, Greenhouse Theater Center, running March 5-April 5: Nancy Hays and Alexa Castelvecchi pay tribute to the 1964 London Palladium Theatre mother-daughter concert that paired Judy Garland with an 18-year-old Liza Minnelli. Details: GreenhouseTheater.org; 773-404-7336

—Teenage Dick, Theater Wit, running March 6-April 19: Mike Lew's 2018 off-Broadway comedy modernizes Shakespeare's Richard III to a U.S. high school where an outcast teen with cerebral palsy runs for class president. Details: TheaterWit.org; 773-975-8150

—Hundred Days, Kokandy Productions at Chopin Theatre, running March 6-April 12: The Bengsons and Sarah Gancher's 2017 off-Broadway musical questions what you would do if you found out that you only had 100 days left to live. Details: KokandyProductions.com

—School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, Goodman Theatre, running March 7-April 12: Jocelyn Bioh won rave reviews for her 2017 off-Broadway comedy set at an exclusive Ghana boarding school. Sparks fly when two students set their sights on entering the Miss Universe pageant. Details: GoodmanTheatre.org; 312-443-3800

—The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington, Steppenwolf Theatre, running April 2-May 17: James IJames ( currently represented at TimeLine Theatre with Kill Move Paradise ) examines America's ugly history with slavery via a death-bed "trial" of the "Mother of America." The cast features Saturday Night Live alumna Nora Dunn. Details: Steppenwolf.org; 312-335-1650

—Freaky Friday, Porchlight Music Theatre, running April 10-May 24: Mary Rodgers' oft-adapted novel about a mother and teenage daughter who switch bodies gets to sing in a musical comedy adaptation. It features a contemporary script by Bridget Carpenter and a score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey ( Next to Normal, If/Then ). Details: PorchlightMusicTheatre.org; 773-777-9884

—American Mariachi, Teatro Vista and Goodman Theatre, running April 25-May 31: Two sisters are inspired to create an all-female mariachi band in this music-infused drama by José Cruz Gonzalez. Details: GoodmanTheatre.org; 312-443-3800

Opera matters

—Two Remain, Chicago Fringe Opera at Stage 773, running March 28-April 4: Two Holocaust survivors, one Jewish and the other gay, look back on their lives in this chamber opera by composer Jake Heggie ( Dead Man Walking, Three Decembers ) and librettist Gene Scheer ( Moby-Dick, Cold Mountain ). Details: ChicagoFringeOpera.com; 773-327-5252

—The Ring Cycle, Lyric Opera of Chicago, April 4-May 3: British director David Pountney's approach to Wagner's massive four-opera Norse mythology epic is finally realized with three full cycles and two extra performances of G�tterd�mmerung ( Twilight of the Gods ). Details: LyricOpera.org; 312-827-5600

—Soldier Songs, Chicago Opera Theater at Museum of Contemporary Art, running May 14-17: Baritone Nathan Gunn stars in composer David T. Little and filmmaker Bill Morrison's one-man opera that draws from interviews with veterans of five wars. Details: ChicagoOperaTheater.org; 312-704-8414

Musical revivals of LGBTQ interest

—Grey Gardens, Theo Ubique Cabaret, running March 6-April 26: Drag queen Jinx Monsoon helped to popularize the 1975 film documentary about Jacqueline Kennedy's eccentric aunt and cousin via a winning Snatch Game performance on RuPaul's Drag Race. But Little Edie and Big Edie were also transformed into musical characters via an acclaimed 2006 musical adaption by songwriters Scott Frankel and Michael Korie ( War Paint ) and playwright Doug Wright ( I Am My Own Wife ). Details: Theo-U.com; 773-347-1109

—Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Mercury Theater, running March 20-June 28: Three drag queens tour across Australia in a wonky bus in this stage musical adaptation of the beloved 1994 film. Details: MercuryTheaterChicago.com; 773-325-1700

—Kiss Me, Kate, Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire, running March 25-May 17: Marvel at the brilliance of Cole Porter's clever songs in his hit 1948 Broadway musical about the backstage shenanigans of a troupe performing Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Details: MarriottTheatre.com; 847-634-0200

—Evita, Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace, running April 10-June 14: Fascist diva worship never looked so much fun as in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Tony Award-winning pop opera inspired by the controversial 20th century Argentine first lady Eva Peron. Details: DruryLaneTheatre.com; 630-530-0111

—Kinky Boots, Paramount Theatre, Aurora, running April 29-June 14: An inspiring drag queen comes to the rescue of a failing shoe factory in Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein's Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of the 2005 British film. Paramount produces the first homegrown production since its 2012 Chicago tryout. Details: ParamountAurora.com; 630-896-6666


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