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Musical Theater in Chicago: A Complete Summer List!


In case you missed it in the "Showtune Mosh Pit" column last week, here is my full listing of musical theater shows (plus three special concert events) happening in Chicago this summer. Click on the name of each show for a link to more information. And enjoy!

American Theater Company  (Chicago)

RENT (Now through July 1) ATC and About Face Theatre bring us the Pulitzer Prize-winner, directed by MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant winner and former Columbia College Chicago faculty member David Cromer. It's a new look at a piece many of us know a little too well, directed by Jessica Redish and starring Alan Schmuckler, Derrick Trumbly and Grace Gealy.

Athenaeaum Theatre (Chicago)

Hank Williams: LOST HIGHWAY (June 8 through July 8) This musical portrait of the highly influential country-western superstar, who died in the back of a car in the middle of the night before he even reached the age of thirty, comes to Lakeview courtesy of the Filament Theatre Ensemble.

Apollo Theater (Chicago)

MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET (Open Run) Chicago's hit production about the night in 1956 when Elvis, Johnny, Jerry Lee and Carl played together in a Memphis recording studio has now outlasted the New York production it inspired. Well over three years later, crowds are still packing the Apollo to hear the hits.

Black Ensemble Theater (Chicago)

THE Marvin Gaye STORY (Now through July 19) Subtitled, "Don't Talk About My Father Because God Is My Friend," this musical biography of the late rhythm and blues star who was shot and killed by his own father on April 1, 1984 has been written and directed by BET founder and artistic director Jackie Taylor. Her repertory company of actors and instrumentalists, musicians all, do the honors in front of a fiercely loyal sequence of audiences.

Bohemian Theatre Ensemble (Chicago)

FLOYD COLLINS (June 15 through July 15) BoHo presents the landmark musical by Adam Guettel and Tina Landau at Theater Wit's facility in Lakeview, directed by Peter Marston Sullivan and musical directed by Alan Buckowiecki. A Kentucky spelunker's tragic misadventure becomes a media frenzy and a contemporary meditation on death and life.

BrightSide Theatre (Naperville)

MY WAY: A TRIBUTE TO Frank Sinatra (June 15 through July 1) The new BrightSide Theatre, on the cusp of its second season, presents its first musical, a revue of the songs of Ol' Blue Eyes, in Meiley-Swallow Hall on the campus of North Central College.

Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (Chicago)

ROCK OF AGES (June 5 through August 5) Just days before the debut of the Hollywood adaptation of this Broadway jukebox show featuring all things hair and head-band, the national tour of the Tony-nominated show set up shop for two months of fun in our neck of the woods, just steps from the tourist-friendly Magnificent Mile and featuring hit songs by Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Poison, Whitesnake and more.

Cadillac Palace Theatre (Chicago)

Kristin Chenoweth (June 16) For one night only, the Tony and Emmy-winning star of "Wicked," "Glee" and the current TV series "GCB" will reign at the Palace with a concert of songs from her most recent album as well as from her multi-faceted stage and screen career.

Circle Theatre (Oak Park)

REEFER MADNESS (July 14 through August 26) The over-the-top retelling of the classic (and classically awful) conditional/educational film of the 1930s gets a new chance to entertain and inform in the western suburbs, directed by Matt Gunnels and choreographed by Brigitte Ditmars, and with musical direction by Jon Landvick

City Lit Theater Company  (Chicago)

STATE STREET (Now through June 24) The days preceding the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 are brought to theatrical life in this original musical, concerning the misfortunes of Crosby's Opera House, one of the most celebrated flim-flam success stories of the early gilded age. A top-notch cast of young talents treads the boards at City Lit's space in the landmark Edgewater Presbyterian Church.

Drury Lane Theatre (Oakbrook Terrace)

HAIRSPRAY (Now through June 17) Directed and choreographed by Tammy Mader, and starring Lillian Castillo and Michael Aaron Lindner (with Tim Kazurinsky, Felicia P. Fields and Rod Thomas) in the 2002 megamusical about waking up to a racially segregated, hair-obsessed Baltimore.

Fox Valley Repertory (St. Charles)

SOME ENCHANTED EVENING: THE SONGS OF RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN (May 31 through July 22) The Kane County Pheasant Run Resort plays host to a remount of last summer's Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre production of a revue of R&H standards. What's not to love?

Goodman Theatre (Chicago)

CROWNS (June 30 through August 5) Good Lord, yes. Chicago legends E. Faye Butler and Felicia P. Fields join with rising star Alexis Rogers, Broadway veteran Pauletta Washington and more for playwright and director ReGina Taylor's musical about the ways and words of black church women in the South. Rumor has it that the production is hoping to have legs--eastbound, if you catch my drift.

Hell In A Handbag Productions (Chicago)

SEXY BABY (Now through June 23) Newly extended is the first Jeff-recommended show from this formerly subversive troupe of gender-bending satirists, now positively mainstream with success in their original parody of the child beauty pageant industry. David Cerda and Scott Lamberty head the hilarity at the Mary's Attic performance space, with direction by Derek Czaplewski.

Light Opera Works (Evanston)

CAMELOT (June 1 through June 10) The great, if troubled, Lerner and Loewe musical that came to epitomize the Kennedy presidency makes an appearance for one brief, shining moment (well, seven performances) at Cahn Auditorium, starring Nick Sandys and Jennie Sophia and Light Opera Works' signature full orchestra.

MAN OF LA MANCHA (August 11 through 26) One of the first off-Broadway musicals to make an impact both there and on Broadway returns to vivid life at Cahn Auditorium with its original, haunting orchestrations, starring legendary Chicago star James Harms in one of his career-defining roles.

Lookingglass Theatre Ensemble (Chicago)

EASTLAND (June 6 through July 29) One of the nation's deadliest maritime disasters, and one bordering on the forgotten, comes to life again in a new musical by a team of Lookingglass regular collaborators. Amanda Dehnert directs this folk musical by Andre Pleuss and Ben Sussman ("Winesburg, Ohio"), with a script by Lookingglass artistic director Andrew White. The S.S. Eastland, moored in the Chicago river, listed so severely on July 24, 1915, that over 800 people died, just yards from shore.

Marriott Theatre (Lincolnshire)

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE (Now through June 10) Gilbert and Sullivan's immortal music theatre masterpiece, set on the remote coast of southwest England and finding its humor in both Victorian London and the post-modern parody of the post-Watergate America, stars Drama Desk nominee and Marriott Theatre legacy Kevin Earley, with Ross Lehman and Alene Robertson in roles they were born to play. Dominic Missimi directs.

HERO (June 20 through August 19) A new musical from the pen of Chicago writers and theatrical polymaths Aaron Thielen and Michael Mahler gets a full, mainstage mounting from the major Marriott. Where are the heroes a young comic-book writer dreams about, and needs? David H. Bell helms, with musical direction by Ryan T. Nelson.

DREAMGIRLS (August 22 through October 28) Just before summer turns to fall, the Marriott brings us the first big-budget local staging of this legendary show in many a year. But who, who, who is slated to play Effie Melody White? We still don't know. And I am telling you she had better be good!

Metropolis Performing Arts Center (Arlington Heights)

MARRIED ALIVE! (Now through June 17) This musical comedy by local favorites Sean Grennan and Leah Okimoto was directed by the very busy Stacey Flaster, starring Katie Siri, David Hathaway, Jerry Mills and Elizabeth Haley. I think there's a young couple and an older couple, or as the publicity materials put it, the show goes "from Niagara to Viagra." Gotta love that!

Northlight Theatre (Skokie)

[TITLE OF SHOW] (Now through June 10) In the Chicago premiere of this Broadway fanboy/fangirl favorite, two guys try to write a musical about themselves, and succeed, with the help of two lady friends. Peter Amster directed, and Doug Peck musical directed, a starry local cast of four.

Oriental Theatre (Chicago)

RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES (June 26-July 1) Making a return appearance to Chicago this summer is this theatrical recreation of a Beatles concert, which has been playing somewhere longer than the actual Liverpudlians were together. That in itself is something.

Paramount Theatre (Aurora)

ROUTE 66 (Now through August 19) A high-octane cast of Chicago's best actor-singer-instrumentalists, headed by Courtney Crouse and Robert Deason, inhabit the car-songs of the 1960s in this jukebox show at the Paramount Theatre's newly-discovered second-stage space, right across Route 66 (or something just like it) in the Copley Theater. They've hit a nerve, or at least a gas tank, with the Kane County crowds.

Porchlight Music Theatre (Chicago)

TICK, TICK...BOOM! (Now through June 10) Jonathan Larson's pre-"Rent" days are both theatricalized and cannibalized in this show about a young musical theater writer on the cusp of turning 30, struggling to follow his dreams when his girlfriend and his best buddy aren't so sure it will all work out. Adrian Aguilar, Jenny Guse and Bear Bellinger sing their hearts out for you, and for Larson, at Stage 773.

Pritzker Pavillion (Chicago)

BROADWAY IN CHICAGO SUMMER CONCERT (August 6) Millennium Park will ring with the sounds of Broadway at this annual event, which this year is rumored to feature "The Book Of Mormon," "Sister Act," "Les Miserables" and songs from the world premiere pre-Broadway tryout of Cyndi Lauper's "Kinky Boots," among others.  Janet Davies will host. And it's free! Just try to get there way before the 6:15 start time.

Ravinia Festival (Highland Park)

Idina Menzel (July 8) At 5:00 pm on a Sunday in July, the "Wicked" Tony winner will make her Chicago-area solo debut (accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, no less). I understand there are very few pavilion seats left, so hurry to hear the "Rent" and "Glee" star, a PBS pledge-drive veteran and one of the Signature Sounds of her Broadway generation.

Real Clear Productions (Chicago)

FAME: THE MUSICAL (July 14 through July 22) The off-Broadway musical about New York's legendary performing arts high school, celebrated in two films and a television series, comes to Chicago's Ruth Page Center for the Arts in a production directed by Joe Marabotti and choreographed by Alana Stephens. Who's gonna live forever?

Stage 773 (Chicago)

PREDATOR: THE MUSICAL (June 14 through July 7) Courtesy of Roundhouse Productions, Chicago's Stage 773 will see a return of the original musical adaptation of the 1987 action film of the same name, written by Will Bulka, William Stobb and Dave Krump. I quote, "This is the first ever heavy-artillery action musical to hit the Chicago stage." End quote.

Theater At The Center (Munster)

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (July 12 through August 19) The perennially popular early musical by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman brings a blood-thirsty plant back to ravenous life, directed by Munster house favorite Stacey Flaster ("Jesus Christ Superstar"). Suddenly, somewhere that's green, Seymour?

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (Chicago)

THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (Now through July 14) This acclaimed intimate production of the remarkable musical by Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas, that first moved to Broadway in 2005 from the Goodman Theatre, has acquired the cache of "must see" at the No Exit Café in Rogers Park. Look for it to be much-honored by the Jeff Award voters, and see it to understand why (and why its run keeps getting extended).

TIME AFTER TIME: THE SONGS OF Jule Styne (June 10-July 29) Once planned to follow "Piazza" into the No Exit Café, this revue directed by David Heimann (with arrangements and musical direction by Aaron Benham) will now play in rep with it. "Gypsy," "Funny Girl," "Bells Are Ringing" and more flowed from the fingers of this master of the mid-century Broadway sound.

Tommy Gun's Garage (Chicago)

TOMMY GUN'S GARAGE (Open Run) It's easy (speakeasy?) to forget about "Tommy Gun's Garage," that South Loop tourist attraction featuring the Roaring Twenties and the music, alcohol and gunplay that characterize it in the minds of our tourists. I almost always forget it's there! But it's been open and presenting an interactive musical comedy/dining experience for patrons since 1987--a full quarter-century--and that's surely something to list, if not to celebrate.

Writers' Theatre (Glencoe)

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC (Now through July 22) A universally acclaimed new production of Stephen Sondheim's perennial early-summer "Send in the Clowns" crowd-pleaser, with Tony winner Deanna Dunegan ("August: Osage County") as Madame Armfeldt, directed by William Brown and conducted by Valerie Maze.

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From This Author Paul W. Thompson

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