12 theater productions worth seeing this fall
After a leisurely summer, Chicago-area theater companies come roaring back in September with revivals of well-loved musicals alongside new plays including several local premieres.
One revisits a Broadway scandal. A solo show examines a widow's grief. A play with music reflects the passion of young artists and the desperation of a fading star. And the second annual Destinos festival celebrates Latino theater.
Here are 12 productions worth checking out this fall in the order they open.
Charity Hope Valentine, a dancer for hire with a kind heart and bad taste in men, returns as the titular "Sweet Charity" in Marriott Theatre's revival of the swinging, 1960s musical by composer Cy Coleman, lyricist Dorothy Fields and book writer Neil Simon. Alex Sanchez directs the tuner, which is based on Federico Fellini's 1957 film "Nights of Cabiria."
Info: Sept. 5-Oct. 28 at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. $50-$60. (847) 634-0200 or marriotttheatre.com.
'Little Shop of Horrors'
Luckless floral shop employee Seymour Krelborn discovers no good deed goes unpunished when the sickly plant he tends transforms into a man-eating monster that threatens Seymour's beloved colleague Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors." Drury Lane Theatre revives the 1982 horror musical by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, which was inspired by Roger Corman's darkly comic 1960 film.
Info: Sept. 6-Oct. 28 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. $45-$65. (630) 530-0111 or drurylanetheatre.com.
Premiering in Chicago this fall, in advance of its Broadway opening, is the musical adaptation of "Tootsie," the 1982 film starring Dustin Hoffman as temperamental actor Michael Dorsey who dresses up as a woman to land a soap opera role that turns him into a feminist role model. Composer/lyricist David Yazbeck ("The Band's Visit") and writer Robert Horn say they've updated the original story -- a double-edged sword in feminist terms -- to the present.
'Curve of Departure'
Mike Nussbaum, who at 94 is the oldest actor still working on stage according to Actors' Equity Association, returns to Skokie's Northlight Theatre for "Curve of Departure." Nussbaum plays the patriarch in Rachel Bonds' comedy about a family -- described as a "ragtag group of humans" -- who gather at a New Mexico motel for a funeral. Artistic director BJ Jones directs.
Info: Sept. 13-Oct. 21 at Northlight Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. $30-$88. (847) 673-6300 or northlight.org.
'A Chorus Line'
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre's bold main-stage selection over the past couple of years has paid off commercially and critically with revivals of "Avenue Q," "Peter and the Starcatcher," "Hair," and "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead." Now comes one of the theater's most ambitious offerings: "A Chorus Line," Marvin Hamlisch and Edward Kleban's behind-the-scenes look at professional dancers auditioning for coveted chorus spots in a Broadway musical. A demanding show requiring a large cast of first-rate dancers, "A Chorus Line" is a high-risk, high-reward proposition for the Arlington Heights company.
Info: Sept. 20-Nov. 3 at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. $35-$40. (847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com.
Pulitzer Prize winner and Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Bruce Norris rehearses the premiere of his new play, "Downstate."
- Courtesy of Joel Moorman
Steppenwolf Theatre opens its 43rd season with the premiere of "Downstate," by Pulitzer Prize-winning ensemble member Bruce Norris in partnership with the National Theatre of Great Britain. The story centers around four men convicted of sexually abusing minors who share a group home in downstate Illinois and a now-adult victim who shows up at their door to confront his abuser.
Info: Sept. 20-Nov. 11 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago. $20-$99. (312) 335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.
Scarlett Strallen plays actress turned royal mistress Nell Gwynn opposite Timothy Edward Kane's King Charles II in Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of "Nell Gwynn."
- Courtesy of Jeff Sciortino
Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents the North American premiere of Jessica Swale's Olivier Award-winning comedy "Nell Gwynn," with original director Christopher Luscombe and Scarlett Strallen, who starred in the London and Broadway productions. Strallen plays the titular character, who went from orange seller to leading lady of the Restoration Era stage and eventually to mistress of King Charles II (Timothy Edward Kane).
Info: Sept. 20-Nov. 4 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. $48-$88. (312) 595-5600 or chicagoshakes.com.
Destinos -- The Chicago International Latino Theater Festival
Theater artists from around the world converge on Chicago in September for the second annual "Destinos" festival celebrating Latino theater. Organized and curated by the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, Destinos performances take place at venues throughout the city. Local participants include Teatro Vista and UrbanTheater. International ensembles include: Colombia's Circolombia, Mexico's Los Colochos Teatro and Costa Rico's Teatro Abya Yala among others.
Info: Sept. 20-Nov. 4 at various Chicago theaters. Ticket prices were not available at press time. (312) 631-3112 or clata.org.
Award-winning director Gary Griffin ("Hand to God," "Fun Home," "The Color Purple") returns to Victory Gardens Theater to helm the Chicago-area premiere of "Indecent," Paula Vogel's 2017 Tony Award-winning play about the 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch's play "God of Vengeance," which was shuttered after six weeks for being morally offensive.
Info: Sept. 21-Nov. 4 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. $15-$77. (773) 871-3000 or victorygardens.org.
Bree Jacobs, left, Rashada Dawan and Blair Robertson appear in a revival of the musical "Caroline, or Change" presented by Firebrand Theatre in cooperation with TimeLine Theatre Company.
- Courtesy of Rob Riddle/Ghost Light Headshots
'Caroline, or Change'
Firebrand Theatre, in association with TimeLine Theatre Company, launches its season with a revival of "Caroline, or Change" a moving examination of race and class by composer Jeanine Tesori and writer/lyricist Tony Kushner. Set in 1963 Louisiana, Kushner's semi-autobiographical tale centers on the relationship between Caroline, an African-American maid working for a Jewish family, and Noah, a needy young boy grieving the loss of his mother.
Info: Sept. 21-Oct. 28 at The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. $25-$45. See firebrandtheatre.org.
Playwright/performer Dael Orlandersmith premieres her new work, "Lady in Denmark," at Goodman Theatre this fall.
'Lady in Denmark'
Writer/performer and Goodman Theatre artistic associate Dael Orlandersmith returns to the theater to premiere her latest work "Lady in Denmark," a meditation on marriage and mortality about a Danish-American widow who uses Billie Holiday's music to assuage her grief. Victory Gardens Theater artistic director Chay Yew, who helmed Goodman's New Stages reading of "Lady in Denmark" in 2015, directs Linda Gehringer, who stars in the one-woman show.
Info: Oct. 19-Nov. 18 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Ticket prices were not available at press time. (312) 443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org.
TimeLine Theatre ensemble member Janet Ulrich Brooks plays Maria Callas in "Master Class," Terrence McNally's 1995 examination of the celebrated diva in the waning days of her career as she puts Julliard students through their paces during a series of master classes. TimeLine associate artistic director Nick Bowling directs. Doug Peck serves as music director.
Info: Oct. 19-Dec. 9 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. $27.50-$56.50. (773) 327-5252 or timelinetheatre.com.