World premieres, national theater tours set for winter and early spring
Nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close, Chicago-area theaters continue the rebound that began last spring. Despite breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated cast and crew members late last month that forced Marriott, Paramount, Writers and Goodman theaters to suspend performances, the rally continues and winter/early spring productions remain on track.
Here's a look at a dozen pandemic-delayed premieres, revivals and Broadway tours worth seeing, with the caveat that COVID-19-related issues could affect scheduling. Also, circumstances may cause theaters to adjust vaccination requirements and masking protocols. Contact theaters for updates.
• "Gem of the Ocean" at Goodman Theatre, Jan. 22-Feb. 27. Nearly 20 years after Goodman Theatre premiered August Wilson's drama, resident director Chuck Smith (the dramaturge for the original production) directs the revival. The first installment in Wilson's century cycle documenting the African American experience in 20th century America, "Gem of the Ocean" is about a former slave's effort to help a young man redeem himself. (312) 443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org/gem.
• "Groundhog Day" at Paramount Theatre, Jan. 26-March 13. Paramount Theatre artistic director Jim Corti helms the Aurora theater's Midwest premiere of the musical adaptation of the 1993 film starring Bill Murray as a sardonic weather forecaster forced to relive Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. (630) 896-6666 or paramountaurora.com.
• "The Secret Council" at First Folio Theatre, Jan. 26-Feb. 27. First Folio premieres executive director David Rice's suspense tale inspired by Agatha Christie's sleuthing spouses Tommy and Tuppence, who, in the wake of World War I, attempt to save Great Britain from the Bolsheviks. (630) 986-8067 or firstfolio.org.
• "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Jan. 27-March 12. Mardra Thomas stars as Billie Holiday in this bio-musical set in 1959 during a cabaret performance by the blues legend who shares with the audience her triumphs and tragedies. (847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com.
• "West Side Story" at Marriott Theatre, Feb. 2-March 27. Coming a little more than two months after the death of Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics to Leonard Bernstein's music, Marriott's revival of this beloved musical comes as a timely tribute to the theatrical giant. (847) 634-0200 or marriotttheatre.com.
• "The Lady from the Sea" at Court Theatre, Feb. 2-March 6. Court Theatre presents a new translation by Richard Nelson ("The Apple Family Plays," James Joyce's The Dead") of "The Lady from the Sea," Henrik Ibsen's examination of duty in which a woman must choose between her husband and a former lover. (773) 753-4472 or courttheatre.org.
• "Hadestown" at the CIBC Theatre, March 2-13. The Greek myth about Orpheus' descent into the underworld to retrieve his lover Eurydice inspired writer/composer/lyricist Anais Mitchell's Tony Award-winning musical based on her 2010 album of the same name. Nicholas Barasch plays Orpheus opposite Morgan Siobhan Green as Eurydice. Tony Award winner Levi Kreis, who played Jerry Lee Lewis in the Apollo Theater's long-running "Million Dollar Quartet," plays Hermes in this national Broadway tour. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.
• "Wife of a Salesman" at Writers Theatre, March 3-April 3. Writers Theatre and Milwaukee Repertory Theater coproduce the premiere of Eleanor Burgess' play. Partly inspired by Arthur Miller's master work "Death of a Salesman," "Wife of a Salesman" imagines what might have occurred if Willy Loman's spouse traveled from Brooklyn to Boston to confront her husband's mistress. (847) 242-6000 or writerstheatre.org.
• "King James" at Steppenwolf Theatre, March 3-April 10. Steppenwolf presents the pandemic-delayed premiere of ensemble member Rajiv Joseph's two-hander about two men who communicate best when talking about sports, specifically basketball superstar LeBron James. Kenny Leon directs the production, which co-stars co-artistic director Glenn Davis. (312) 335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.
• "Moulin Rouge! The Musical" at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, March 19-May 14. The pandemic-delayed national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical -- adapted from Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film -- stars Elgin native Courtney Reed as Moulin Rouge chanteuse Satine and Conor Ryan as the poor writer who falls in love with her. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.
• "Intimate Apparel" at Northlight Theatre, April 14 -May 15. Shuttered after one preview in response to the pandemic, Northlight Theatre's revival of Lynn Nottage's period drama resumes performances under original director Tasia A. Jones. Mildred Marie Langford stars as Esther, a seamstress in 1905 New York City who falls in love with a man she has met only through correspondence. (847) 673-6300 or northlight.org.
• "The Year of Magical Thinking" at Remy Bumppo Theatre, April 27-June 5. Adapted from her best-selling memoir, this solo play by Joan Didion -- who died Dec. 23 at age 87 -- chronicles the writer's response to the loss of her husband in 2003 and her daughter two years later. See remybumppo.org.
Other noteworthy shows this winter and spring include: Shattered Globe Theatre's "Rasheeda Speaking" (Feb. 26-April 9); Goodman's "Goodnight Oscar" (March 12-April 17); American Blues Theater's "Fences" (date to be determined); Steppenwolf's "Seagull" (April 28-June 12); Court's "Two Trains Running" (May 13-June 12); Broadway in Chicago's "To Kill a Mockingbird" (May 17-29) and Goodman's "The Outsiders" (May 27-July 10).