World premiere musicals highlight suburban theater scene in 2015

Editor's note: Rhett Guter will choreograph Drury Lane Theatre's production of "West Side Story."

The 2015 Chicago-area theater forecast calls for world-premiere musicals with Broadway aspirations, new dramas from acclaimed playwrights and updated versions of old favorites.

Among the world-premiere musicals scheduled this year are several partly inspired by films, including "Beaches," which will play at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.

The 40th anniversary season at Northlight Theatre in Skokie continues with the world premiere of a new play by Bruce Graham, while Goodman Theatre in Chicago celebrates 90 seasons with a world-premiere commission from Pulitzer Prize finalist Kristoffer Diaz.

Here's a preview of the 2015 suburban theater scene. For an early look at some of the must-see shows in Chicago this year, check out Friday's Time out! section.

• Drury Lane Theatre begins the year with a long overdue revival of one of the American theater's stellar works, "West Side Story" (Jan. 15-March 22), with book by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a flawless score by Leonard Bernstein that embraces the breadth of American music. Rachel Rockwell directs and choreographs.

Drury Lane also snagged the rights to the regional premieres of Broadway favorites "Billy Elliot" (April 10-June 7), inspired by the 2000 movie, and "Peter and the Starcatcher" (Aug. 27-Oct. 18), from the Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson prequel to "Peter Pan."

Drury Lane also announced that "Beaches," the new, Broadway-bound musical inspired by Iris Rainer Dart's novel and the 1988 film starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, will play the theater from June 24-Aug. 16.

100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. (630) 530-8300 or

• Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, marks its 40th season with a revival of "La Cage aux Folles" (Jan. 28-March 29) and the world premiere of "October Sky" (Aug. 19-Oct. 18). By composer/lyricist Michael Mahler and writer Aaron Thielen and produced in cooperation with Universal Stage Productions, it's based on the film about a West Virginia teen inspired by Sputnik's launch to reach for the stars. (847) 634-0200 or

• Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, presents the world premiere of "Shining Lives: A Musical" (May 8-June 14), adapted by writer/director/lyricist Jessica Thebus and composers Andre Pluess and Amanda Dehnert from the Melanie Marnich play "These Shining Lives." It's about real-life tragedies that befell a young woman who, during the 1920s, earned good salaries hand-painting watch faces with radium.

Also at Northlight, the world premiere of "White Guy on a Bus" (Jan. 23-March 1), the play about the unlikely friendship between a successful white businessman and a struggling African American single mother written by Bruce Graham ("The Outgoing Tide"). (847) 673-6300 or

• Aurora's grand Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., is just the venue for the regional premiere of the explosive "The Who's Tommy" (Jan. 14-Feb. 15), directed by artistic director Jim Corti. (630) 896-6666 or

• Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, which continues to struggle financially, welcomes the return of Griffin Theatre's family-friendly "Frindle" (Feb. 4-13).

The Arlington Heights theater at 111 W. Campbell St. announced a new series in partnership with former "Jersey Boy" Michael Ingersoll. "Artists Lounge Live" features musical theater veterans Eric Gutman, Sara Jean Ford and Heidi Kettenring in concert on Feb. 12, April 16 and June 11, respectively. (847) 577-2121 or

"Jersey Boy" Michael Ingersoll is teaming with the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights to present "Artists Lounge Live," featuring musical theater veterans like Eric Gutman, Sara Jean Ford and Heidi Kettenring in concert on three dates this year. Courtesy of Steppin' Out
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