Here and There

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I’m not really ready to let the summer go just yet (although I could definitely live without the sweat baths I take nearly every week while interminably waiting in the ORD taxi line to get home on travel-frenzied Thursday late nights).  But I’ve already began to plan my theater schedule for the upcoming six to eight weeks as Chicago theater companies unveil their fall seasons; I’m also taking several trips during this time period to see some of the more hotly-anticipated productions in other theater-mad cities like ours.  My plate will be quite full, but what a satisfying, bountiful harvest it will contain!

Surprisingly, Chicago in the early fall will be packed with must-see musicals (a genre that, to me, isn’t really our theater scene’s forte).  I’ve fully recovered from the trauma inflicted in the spring by the trainwreck that was The True Story of the Johnstown Flood, the single worst play I’ve seen this year, so I’ll be traipsing back to the Goodman’s Albert Theater for Mary Zimmerman’s sure-to-be-fresh take on Leonard Bernstein’s fantastic Candide (per Chicago Theatre Addict’s interview with musical director Doug Peck, the script will be developed through the rehearsal process with the actors, which include refugees from Broadway’s Rock of Ages, Geoff Packard and Lauren Molina) – in my opinion, one of the most exquisite musical theater scores of all time (previews begin on September 17).  I’ll be traipsing back as well, no Metra-railing to be exact, to Glencoe, site of a top-notch A Streetcar Named Desire,  for Writer’s Theatre’s production of another classic musical, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s She Loves Me (begins September 14), directed by Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and starring a slew of Chicago’s top-notch actors, including Kevin Gudahl, Heidi Kettenring, and Jessie Mueller.  Between Candide’s “Glitter and Be Gay” and She Loves Me’s “Vanilla Ice Cream”, I’ll be trilling like Barbara Cook in no time! (Cook originated these two plays’ female lead roles on Broadway in the 1950s).

Since I’ve added Barbara Cook to my personality, I will be the perfect audience member for Court Theatre’s it’s-so-insane-it-can-only-be-good approach to Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors (begins September 16) , directed by Chicago theater MVP and The Hypocrites’ Artistic Director Sean Graney, in which six actors will be performing all of the play’s 24 characters, including two sets of twins.  Interesting.  There will be one actor per character in Timeline Theatre Company’ s Frost/Nixon (begins August 17), although Nixon may have more conflicting sides to him than a crisscrossing parallelogram.  Lou Contey directs the Chicago premiere of Peter Morgan’s multi-awarded play, and some really interesting actors are in it (including one of my favorites, the always terrific Matthew Brumlow, essaying the play’s conscience, Jim Reston).  On the other hand, an all-ensemble cast, including Laurie Metcalf and Kevin Anderson, headline Steppenwolf Theater’s world premiere of Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit (begins September 9), directed by ensemble member Austin Pendleton.  I’m not really sure what it’s about, but it all starts off with a barbecue.  Hmmm.

I’m off to Minneapolis later this month to see the pre-Broadway production of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s The Scottsboro Boys at the Guthrie Theater, written before Ebb’s death in 2004, which was highly-acclaimed during its off-Broadway premiere at the Vineyard Theater earlier this year.  Susan Stroman is directing this musical about the trial of nine African-American teenagers in the rape of two white women in 1930s Alabama.  Although most of the Guthrie cast will be re-creating their roles in New York this fall, John Cullum, who will play the Interlocutor on Broadway, isn’t appearing in the Guthrie production.

Thanks to my day-job, I’ve been flying to New York City every few weeks, so I’m able to catch some shows in between the client meetings.  I’m breathlessly anticipating the Broadway mounting of Kneehigh Theatre’s Brief Encounter, a dazzling combination of live performance and the original film, previously seen at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn and Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theater.  Friend of From The Ledge,  Steve on Broadway,  selected this play as number one on his best of 2009 theater list.  I’m breathless, as well as a little apprehensive, to see what Dutch director Ivo van Hove has up his sleeve in his revisiting of Lillian Hellmann’s The Little Foxes at the New York Theater Workshop.  The last time I was at NYTW was for van Hove’s crazy-ass The Misanthrope, where tomatoes and a pecan pie were stuffed down the lead actor’s crotch (in addition, garbage was strewn all over the stage- New York City garbage, yes, kinda gross, but kinda fascinating as well).  I wonder what kind of crotch-stuffing and garbage-hauling will happen this time around?!

I’ll be in Washington DC in mid-September and I’ll be catching the beginning of the US tour of the UK’s acclaimed Tricyle Theater Company’s mammoth, ambitious take on the fraught political and socio-cultural history of Afghanistan, The Great Game:  Afghanistan, at the Shakespeare Theater Company.  This collection of 12 half-hour plays from different writers runs a total of six hours and sent the UK theater critics in a passionate, ecstatic tizzy last year.  I’m also planning to see Signature Theater’s revival of Chess, Tim Rice and ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson’s musicalization of a chess match.  Signature Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer is directing and Broadway actors Euan Morton and Jill Paice are starring; early previews are generating tremendous buzz.

I’ll be writing about all of these shows, so stay tuned!

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2 Responses to “Here and There”

  1. Esther Says:

    I was lucky enough to see Laurie Metcalf on Broadway in the short-lived Brighton Beach Memoirs revival and she was amazing. It was my first time seeing her on stage. She took a role – the Jewish mother – that could easily have degenerated into caricature and imbued it with such warmth and depth. The whole cast was great but she was magnificent.

    I’m hoping to get back to New York in the fall and I definitely want to see Brief Encounter, among many others!

  2. francis Says:

    Hi Esther! Laurie Metcalf is an amazing actress. I saw her the last time she performed at Steppenwolf, where she is an original ensemble member, in the 2004 season’s “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune”, and she was terrific! I’m so excited she’s back for a world premiere this year.

    One other NYC production I forgot to include in my list is “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” which I was trying to see at the Public during it’s multiple-extensions run (foiled by sold out houses and inflexible travel schedules once again!). It starts previews on September 20 at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th Street.

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