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updated: 9/15/2017 1:54 PM

Theater events: Northlight stages comedy-with-music 'Legend of Georgia McBride'

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  • Nate Santana, left, and Sean Blake co-star in Northlight Theatre's production of "The Legend of Georgia McBride."

    Nate Santana, left, and Sean Blake co-star in Northlight Theatre's production of "The Legend of Georgia McBride."
    Courtesy of Northlight Theatre

 
 

We are family

A cash-strapped Elvis impersonator discovers a new way of making money after a drag show takes over the Florida bar where he performs in "The Legend of Georgia McBride." This comedy with music about outsiders who together create a family is by Matthew Lopez ("The Whipping Man"). Artistic associate and literary manager Lauren Shouse directs Northlight Theatre's production. Previews begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. The show opens Sept. 22. $30-$81. (847) 673-6300 or northlight.org.

Dystopian drama

Stage Left Theatre opens its 35th season with the Chicago-area premiere of "Building the Wall," a dystopian drama by Robert Schenkkan ("All the Way," "The Kentucky Cycle," "Hacksaw Ridge") set after a terrorist attack has resulted in the imposition of martial law. The two-hander stars Kanomé Jones as a professor interviewing a former private prison guard (Tony Bozzuto) facing a possible a death sentence for atrocities he committed against prisoners, who are mostly immigrants and Muslims rounded up after the terrorist attack. Stage Left co-artistic director Amy Szerlong directs. Previews begin at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, at The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. The show opens Sept. 21. $22-$32. (773) 935-6875 or stagelefttheatre.com.

What happy ending?

Not everyone gets a happy ending. Composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim makes that clear in "Into the Woods," a riff on the lives of Grimm Brothers characters -- including Cinderella, the baker and his wife and Jack of beanstalk fame -- after the fairy tale ends. The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre revives the musical under resident director Robin M. Hughes. Previews begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, at 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. The show opens Sept. 29. $35, $40. (847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com.

Other theater events

"Open Season," by playwright/actor Adithi Chandrashekar is the inaugural production of The Gift Theatre's new play development initiative titled 4802.
"Open Season," by playwright/actor Adithi Chandrashekar is the inaugural production of The Gift Theatre's new play development initiative titled 4802. - Courtesy of Joe Mazza/Brave Lux and Max Lollar

• The Gift Theatre opens its season with the first play developed through 4802, the company's new play initiative. Written and performed by Adithi Chandrashekar, "Open Season" is about a sheriff, recently returned from maternity leave, who comes upon a badly injured deer she has to put down. The show runs Friday through Sunday, Sept. 15-17, at 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. (773) 283-7071 or thegifttheatre.org.

• Previews begin Saturday, Sept. 15, for Theo Ubique's production of "A New Brain," a semi-autobiographical musical by composer/lyricist William Finn and writer James Lapine. Fred Anzevino directs the show about an aspiring composer diagnosed with a brain tumor who worries he will die without sharing the songs he has within him. The revival opens Monday, Sept. 18, at No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago. (800) 595-4849 or theo-u.com.

• Chicago Shakespeare Theater opens its main stage season with an all-female production of William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew." Set during the early 20th century, director Barbara Gaines' examination of power, love and politics involves a group of suffragettes performing their version of the comedy. Second City writer Ron West, who collaborated with Gaines on 2008's award-winning "The Comedy of Errors," provides additional dialogue. Performances begin Saturday, Sept. 16, at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. The show opens Sept. 27. (312) 595-5600 or chicagoshakes.com.

• Performances begin Saturday, Sept. 16, at 2933 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, for Emerald City Theatre's "Mother Goose's Garden," an interactive theater piece with music for children up to 5 years old. (773) 529-2690 or emeraldcitytheatre.com.

• Pride Films & Plays' new monthly variety show Pac the House premieres Sunday, Sept. 17, at 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago. Among the artists performing that day are hip-hop artist King Reza, actor/comedian Scott Duff, cabaret performer Maureen SanDiego and improv team Lady Crush among others. (800) 737-0984 or pridefilmsandplays.com.

• Child's Play Touring Theatre hosts its annual benefit from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 18, at the Irish American Heritage Center, 4626 N. Knox Ave., Chicago. The event titled "Think, Write, Act Peace," includes music, performances, appetizers and a silent auction. Proceeds go toward bringing anti-violence programs to schools and community organizations. (773) 235-8911 or cptt.org.

• Gary Griffin returns to Victory Gardens Theater to direct the regional premiere of "Fun Home," the musical by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron based on Alison Bechdel's graphic novel about coming out and coming to terms with her closeted father. Previews begin Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The show opens Sept. 27. (773) 871-3000 or victorygardens.org.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater inaugurates its new space, The Yard, with James Thierree's "The Toad Knew," presented as part of CST's World's Stage series.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater inaugurates its new space, The Yard, with James Thierree's "The Toad Knew," presented as part of CST's World's Stage series. - Courtesy of Richard Haughton

• Chicago Shakespeare Theater inaugurates its newest theater The Yard with director/creator James Thierrée's "The Toad Knew," which runs from Tuesday, Sept. 19, through Sept. 23 at 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. The theater piece, part of CST's World's Stage Series, examines the love between siblings through dance, music and circus arts. (312) 595-5600 or chicagoshakes.com.

Matthew C. Yee, left, plays Frog and Andy Nagraj plays Toad in the Chicago Children's Theatre production of "A Year with Frog and Toad."
Matthew C. Yee, left, plays Frog and Andy Nagraj plays Toad in the Chicago Children's Theatre production of "A Year with Frog and Toad." - Courtesy of Chicago Children's Theatre

• Chicago Children's Theatre opens its 12th season with a re-imagined version of "A Year With Frog and Toad," a musical by Robert and Willie Reale based on Arnold Lobel's children's books. The musical chronicles the friendship between gregarious Frog and his grumpy friend Toad. Previews begin Tuesday, Sept. 19, at the company's new home at The Station, 100 S. Racine, Chicago. The show opens Sept. 23. (872) 222-9555 or chicagochildrenstheatre.org.

• Relying on personal experience, Matthew Bodett examines mental illness, specifically schizophrenia, in his one-man show "Edge/Sharp Mined" at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19, at Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted St., Chicago. The performance is part of Steppenwolf's LookOut Series. (312) 335-1650 or steppenwolf.org/lookout.

• Goodman Theatre's 14th annual New Stages Festival featuring staged readings of works in progress begins Wednesday, Sept. 20, at 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Featured plays include Ike Holter's "Lottery Day," Bess Wohl's "Continuity" and Rebecca Gilman's "Twilight Bowl." The fest also includes sneak peeks at works-in-progress. Among them is Christina Anderson's "How to Catch Creation," "Eden Prairie, 1971" by Naperville's Mat Smart, Mikhael Tara Garver's "POSTNATION," "The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona" by Jose Rivera and David Cale's "We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time." Tickets are free, but reservations are required. In other Goodman news, the theater announced its 2017-2018 Playwrights Unit, including a yearlong residency in partnership with Chicago Dramatists. The residency concludes in summer 2018 with a staged reading of each play. This season's playwrights are Sam Collier, Ricardo Gamboa, Isaac Gomez, Kristin Idaszak and Nigel O'Hearn. (312) 443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org./newstagesfestival.

• Windy City Playhouse concludes its third season with "Becky Shaw," about a woman whose matchmaking efforts to fix up her best friend with her husband's co-worker go awry. Previews begin Thursday, Sept. 21, at 3014 N. Irving Park Road, Chicago. The show, directed by Scott Weinstein, opens Sept. 28. (773) 891-8985 or windycityplayhouse.com.

• Previews begin Thursday, Sept. 21, for Pride Films and Plays' production of "Perfect Arrangement," Topher Payne's Cold War-set drama about two U.S. State Department employees "charged with identifying sexual deviants within their ranks." As it turns out, both Bob and Norma are gay and married to each other's partners in an attempt to cover up their homosexuality. Derek Van Barham directs the production, which opens Sept. 24 at 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago. (800) 737-0984 or pridefilmsandplays.com.

• Performances continue for MCL Chicago's production of "Rookie of the Year: The Musical," the stage adaptation of the 1993 film about a 12-year-old Little Leaguer who breaks his arm during a game. After it heals, he discovers he has astonishing pitching skills, which the Chicago Cubs tap for their championship run. Performances continue Thursdays through Oct. 26 at 3110 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago. See mclchicago.com.

• The house improv team at the Improv Playhouse, 735 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville, puts a Disney-style spin on its family-friendly improv show at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 30. (847) 968-4529 or improvplayhouse.com.

• Theatre-Hikes' production of "The Complete History of America (abridged)" continues at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 24 at the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Route 53, Lisle. The interactive production lasts about two hours and covers approximately two miles. (630) 725-2066 or mortonarb.org or theatre-hikes.org.

• Writers Theatre has extended its premiere of "Trevor, the Musical," based on the Academy Award-winning film about a 13-year-old boy discovering his sexuality. Performances run through Oct. 8 at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. (847) 242-6000 or writerstheatre.org.

• Northlight Theatre recently unveiled plans for its proposed new home in the 1700 block of Sherman Avenue, Evanston. The early concept calls for a 350-seat main stage, a 120-seat studio space, an outdoor terrace bar, an indoor lounge and rehearsal/educational spaces. Northlight, which was founded in Evanston in 1974, currently produces at Skokie's North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. Evanston and the theater have not yet finalized the terms of the proposed relocation.

• The Greenhouse Theater Center recently announced the formation of its new MC-10 Playwrights Ensemble consisting of midcareer, Chicago-based writers who will create works for the Greenhouse stages. Beginning in the 2018-2019 season, the Greenhouse will produce one play per year by MC-10 playwrights. They include: Thomas Bradshaw, Philip Dawkins, Sandra Delgado, Lydia Diamond, Zayd Dohrn, Rebecca Gilman, Brett Neveu, Julie Marie Myatt, Tanya Palmer and Laura Schellhardt. In other Greenhouse news, the theater established The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program, a training program in arts criticism for young people ages 16 to 20 founded in cooperation with Rescripted and The Chicago Inclusion Project. The 10-week program includes workshops, lectures and one-on-one editing sessions with mentors. Applications are being accepted through Sept. 22 at rescripted.org. For more information, email thekey.chicago@gmail.com.

• In other Chicago-area theater news, Shá Norman, a member of Barrel of Monkeys since 2012, has been named its new program director. Megan Carney, a founding director of About Face Theatre -- who has served for the last six years as director of the Gender and Sexuality Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago -- will succeed Andrew Volkoff as the company's new artistic director. In a prepared statement, Carney said she looks forward to collaborating with her AFT colleagues. "Together we're going to champion new play development, support fresh LGBTQIA+ voices, center the work of education and expand our circle of partnerships," she said.

• Eta Creative Arts Foundation and the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation have teamed up to bring theater to Chicago children and encourage reading. The Live Theatre Initiative for Families will launch with "The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves," a play with music by Nora Brooks Blakely based on a work by her mother, Illinois poet laureate Gwendolyn Brooks. Chicago students will be encouraged to read the book and attend an eta performance of the play, which begins previews Oct. 15 at 7558 S. South Chicago Ave., Chicago. (773) 752-3955 or etacreativearts.org.

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