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Sweetly sing a song of spring
by Jonathan Abarbanel

This article shared 2832 times since Wed Apr 15, 2009
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Curtains. Photo by Johnny Knight

It's the season when orioles, finches, warblers and other colorful songbirds return to the North and set up shop for the season. However, they'll have competition from the greatest concentration of musicals in recent memory. One can substitute the song of a lad or lady for the song of a lark. In order of their opening dates, consider the following shows.

—Mary Poppins, Cadillac Palace Theatre, through July 12. The national tour of this London and Broadway hit starts in Chicago and—lucky us!—we have original Broadway stars Ashley Brown and Gavin Lee as Mary and Bert. It isn't quite the same as the movie, but most of your favorite songs remain intact along with some new ones and a darker take on Supernanny Mary ( closer to the original books ) . There are spectacular dance numbers and flying sequences.

—Curtains!, Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook Terrace, through May 17. Community favorite William Brown stages the first post-Broadway production of this musical murder mystery, the final collaboration between John Kander and Fred Ebb before Ebb's death in 2004. While the audience in Oakbrook Terrace remains decidedly geriatric ( They're nearly as old as me! ) , the theater's next-generation executive producer no longer is. Oakbrook Terrace is doing bigger, better-looking and better-sounding shows that make the trip worthwhile.

—Rod Blagojevich Super Star, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Second City, through May 3. What started as a Second City joke—well, Rod is a joke and he's the only one who doesn't get it—became a Second City show that's now transferring to Chicago Shakes at Navy Pier for a six-week run. It's being done cabaret-style ( which means drinks ) in the smaller upstairs theater.

—Scientology! The ( Unauthorized ) Musical, Annoyance Productions, through May 22 ( Fridays only ) . Scientologists believe that aliens visited Earth something like 75 million years ago, and Annoyance uses that belief as the basis for a "what-if-aliens-came-to-Earth today" world-premiere musical that makes fun of Scientology ( can you imagine? ) and perhaps Tom Cruise, too. Annoyance not only has its own bar, but it's two doors down from Crew. Personally, we've always found chief Annoyance Mick Napier akin to an alien being.

—Cartoon, Chemically Imbalanced Theatre, through May 10. It's an original musical featuring come-to-life characters from the worlds of classic film animation as well as cutting-edge anime. We don't know what they're going to do, but we hope it's dirty.

—Hedwig and the Angry Inch, American Theater Company in association with About Face, at American Theater Company, through May 17. This near-legendary musical about a gay, transie, glam, German punk-rock star was botched nearly as badly as Hedwig's surgery when it first was produced in Chicago ( following its great Off-Broadway success ) . Presumably, the ATC and About Face folks know how to do things right.

—Storefront Theatre Musical, Corn Productions at the Cornservatory, through May 16. They say that this world premiere tuner is a parody of both Disney's High School Musical and Off-Loop theater. We can't imagine how one possibly could make fun of either institution, especially with great dramatic actor Steve Hickson involved in dressing up the show, or wearing a dress in the show, or something like that—as long as there are lots of cute boys and girls, right? That's what high school and Off-Loop Theater are about, right?

—A Chorus Line, Ford Center/Oriental Theatre, through May 3. Rent leaves and A Chorus Line comes in, another stop on the national tour of the most recent Broadway revival of this legendary show which, yes, has a gay subplot and lots and lots of sequins and spangles, of course, but not until the very end. Meanwhile, such songs as "Tits and Ass" and "What I Did for Love" have become anthems for Broadway queens.

—Urinetown, the Musical, Merle Reskin Theatre, through April 26. Two Chicago boys created this multiple Tony Award winner about an evil town where you must pay to pee ( we hear Todd Stroger is getting ideas and Richie Daley wants to lease public lavs to a private corporation ) . It has a wonderful score and a saucy book both of which pay homage to the clichés of musical comedy while freshening them at the same time. Sharp director Dexter Bullard helms this production, presented downtown by the DePaul University Theatre School.

—Bad Guys in Suits, Hobo Junction at the Apollo Studio, through May 29. It's an updated version of Hobo's 2007 hit about four 1930s Chicago gangsters. What'cha need to know? There are these guys. They wear suits. They're mobbed up. They sing. Bad guys in suits are OK, but not guys in bad suits. The show will feature original music by The Panda Feathers, a gypsy jazz band, and that's nice.

—La Clemenza di Tito, Chicago Opera Theater at the Harris Theater, through May 1. The silly plot is impossible to follow, but the music is mature Mozart ( not that he had much maturity, dying at 35 ) . Chicago Opera Theater always provides stellar, youthful casts, outstanding musical values and frequently intriguing productions that freshen-up the Baroque repertory. La Clemenza di Tito is set in ancient Rome, with a scene at the Coliseum, so there could be glimpses of muscled guards and gladiators. It wouldn't be the first time at COT.

This article shared 2832 times since Wed Apr 15, 2009
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