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Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7

Two countries, three generations, 22 turbulent years—and a dynamic soundtrack ranging from Syd Barrett to The Plastic People of the Universe to U2—are at the heart of Rock ’n’ Roll, a sweeping and passionate drama about love, music and revolution from Academy Award and four-time Tony Award-winner Tom Stoppard. For the play’s Chicago premiere at Goodman Theatre, Artistic Director Robert Falls taps director Charles Newell, whose reputation for directing acclaimEd Stoppard productions precedes him. Newell’s cast of 12 is led by Stephen Yoakam and Chicago favorites Timothy Edward Kane and Mary Beth Fisher, who explore the unique intersection of politics and art against the background of John Culbert’s rock concert-inspired set design—complete with a floor resembling the cover art of Barrett’s solo album, Madcap Laughs. Rock ’n’ Roll will be performed in the Albert Theatre May 2 – June 7, 2009. Tickets are $25 – $75. A complete performance schedule including dates, times and ticket prices appears at the end of this release. PricewaterhouseCoopers is the Corporate Sponsor Partner for Rock ’n’ Roll.

“Of all the productions on Broadway last season, none captured the imagination quite like Rock ’n’ Roll,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls. “I’m thrilled to produce this inventive, joyous celebration of freedom and the power of music at the Goodman—and to welcome Chicago’s foremost Stoppard interpreter, Charlie Newell, to the Goodman to direct.”

Charles Newell has been the “restlessly intelligent artistic director” (Chicago Tribune) of Court Theatre for 15 years, where he has directed more than 30 productions. He made his Chicago directorial debut in 1993 with The Triumph of Love, which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production. Directorial credits at Court include Caroline, or Change; The Wild Duck; Titus Andronicus; Uncle Vanya; Man of La Mancha; Hamlet; and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, Travesties (twice) and The Invention of Love. Newell has also directed at the Guthrie Theater (The History Cycle, Cymbeline); Arena Stage; John Houseman's The Acting Company; the California and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals; The Juilliard School; and New York University.

“Rock ’n’ Roll is a fascinating, complex journey that is at once highly emotional and intellectual,” said Newell, who jokes that his affection for and extensive collection of Frank Zappa recordings were the real reasons he was chosen to direct Rock ’n’ Roll. “Tom Stoppard masterfully weaves together Czech politics, Sappho poetry and early rock ’n’ roll—and its transformative power in politics. It’s an exhilarating night in the theater that makes its audience think and feel very deeply—leaving the theater basking in the high notes of Mick Jagger!”

Direct from a critically-acclaimed run on Broadway and in London's West End, Rock ’n’ Roll was hailed among critics as “triumphant... arguably Stoppard’s finest play” (The New York Times); and “exhilarating, touching and remarkable! Stoppard’s most heartening statement in years, a play in which we happily groove to the guitar licks of history.” (The Washington Post)  It's August 1968, just after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, as Russian tanks roll into Prague under Alexander Dub?ek. The play begins at Max Morrow’s (Stephen Yoakam) home in Cambridge, England, and in various locations in Prague. Eleanor (Mary Beth Fisher), Max’s wife, has lost a breast to cancer, and their 16-year-old daughter Esme (Mattie Hawkinson) is beginning to embrace hippie culture.  Despite increasing Soviet aggression, Max defends his idealistic faith; his Czech protégé Jan (Timothy Edward Kane), who lives for rock music, defends Dub?ek as a reform Communist. Jan returns to Czechoslovakia, where rock music is censored, and he defends a local band called The Plastic People of the Universe; his dissident actions eventually land him in prison. Meanwhile, Esme joins a commune, marries a journalist named Nigel (Thom Cox) and has a daughter. Still suffering from cancer, Eleanor gives a private tutorial to Jan’s old flame, Lenka (Amy J. Carle), while Max looks on—and Eleanor orders Lenka to keep her hands off Max until after she has died. Twenty years later, Jan, now working in a bakery in Prague, despairs for the future of Czech culture, which has been so long suppressed by censorship. By the Velvet Revolution of 1989 under Václav Havel, the tanks are rolling out, the Stones are rolling in and idealism has hit the wall. The family and friends unite in the Morrows’ garden, where old arguments re-emerge and transgressions are forgiven. At the end, love remains—and so does rock ’n’ roll.

Tom Stoppard's work was last seen at the Goodman with a production of Arcadia directed by Michael Maggio (1995/1996). His plays include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Jumpers, The Real Inspector Hound, Travesties, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Dirty Linen, Night and Day, The Real Thing, Artist Descending a Staircase, Hapgood, Arcadia, The Invention of Love and, most recently, his trilogy The Coast of Utopia at Lincoln Center, which earned seven Tony Awards. His other plays include Indian Ink and After Magritte. Translations and adaptations include Undiscovered Country (Schnitzler), On the Razzle (Nestroy), Rough Crossing (Molnar), Henry IV (Pirandello) and Heroes (Sibleyras). Screenplays as writer and co-writer include Brazil, Empire of the Sun, Enigma and Shakespeare in Love, which earned him an Oscar and a BAFTA award. He directed his own screenplay of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which won the Golden Lion and the Venice Film Festival.

Photos by Michael Brosilow

Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7
Charles Newell, Mary Beth Fisher, Mattie Hawkinson, William Collins and Stephen Yoakam

Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7
Mattie Hawkinson

Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7
Stephen Yoakam

Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7
Mattie Hawkison, Stephen Yoakam and Timothy Edward Kane

Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7
Mary Beth Fisher

Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7
Stephen Yoakam

Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7
Charles Newell

Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7
Timothy Edward Kane

Photo Flash: Tom Stoppard's ROCK 'N' Roll Comes To Albert Theatre 5/2 - 6/7
Charles Newell and Timothy Edward Kane


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