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Columnist
Drury Lane aims for show of epic proportions
By Barbara Vitello | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/17/2010 12:01 AM

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Drury Lane gets epic

Drury Lane Theatre Oak Brook promises its revival of the Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens' musical "Ragtime" - about immigrant life in America at the turn of the 20th century - will be its biggest production yet. Director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell ("Miss Saigon") helms a cast of 33 who will don Santo Loquasto's original costumes from the 1998 Tony Award-winning production. Kevin Depinet designs the set.

Previews through Sunday, March 21, at 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. The show opens Wednesday, March 24. (630) 530-0111 or drurylaneoakbrook.com.

John Mahoney in 'Life'

John Mahoney heads up the all-star class director BJ Jones has assembled for Hugh Leonard's "A Life," the next production in Northlight Theatre's 35th anniversary season. Bradley Armacost, Linda Kimbrough and Penny Slusher are among the cast members in this dark comedy set in a small Irish town.

Previews continue through March 26 at 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. The show opens March 27. (847) 673-6300 or northlight.org.

Seasonal offering

The Improv Playhouse reprises its 2009 production of "The Gathering," Josephine Raciti Forsberg's contemporary, comic dramatization of the last hour of the Last Supper in which Christ's disciples vie to take over as leader.

Through Sunday, March 27, and April 1 to 3, at Liberty Square, 735 N. Milwaukee Ave., Libertyville. (847) 968-4529 or improvplayhouse.com.

• The national tour of "Billy Elliot" continues previews at Chicago's Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre at 24 W. Randolph St. The musical features music by Elton John and book and lyrics by playwright Lee Hall, choreography by Peter Darling and direction by Stephen Daldry, who also directed the award-winning film. Along with Chicago area favorite Susie McMonagle the cast features four young dancers sharing the role of Billy including Tommy Batchelor, who performed the role on Broadway, Giuseppe Bausilio, Cesar Corrales and J.P. Viernes. The show opens Sunday, April 11, for an extended run. Tickets: (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com

• Drury Lane Oak Brook's Jim Corti ("Cabaret," "Sweet Charity," "Meet Me in St. Louis") directs Victory Gardens Theater's Chicago premiere of "The Lost Boys of Sudan," by ensemble member Lonnie Carter. Previews begin Friday, March 19, for the drama about three orphaned Sudanese teens who fled their homeland and were relocated to the United States. The show opens March 28 at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. (773) 871-3000 or victorygardens.org.

• Moving Dock Theatre Company presents a benefit performance of its 2009 production of "Unsung Stars," about the unheralded women who assisted Harvard astronomers during the late 19th century on Friday, March 19, at the Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. Tickets start at $200 for the event which begins with a 6 p.m. reception and includes a panel discussion with physicist Alan Lightman, astronomer Michael Smutko and Moving Dock artistic director Dawn Arnold. (773) 327-1572 or movingdock.org.

• The touring production of "The Wedding Singer," the musical based on the Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore film, comes to the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. Performances are at 3 and 8 p.m. (630) 896-6666 or paramountaurora.com.

• Infamous Commonwealth Theatre inaugurates its season of redemption with Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," that iconic attack on McCarthyism set during the Salem witch trials. The preview is Friday, March 19, at the Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago. The show, directed by Chris Maher, opens Saturday, March 20. (312) 458-9780 or infamouscommonwealth.org.

• "A Gulag Mouse," the winner of Babes With Blades' "Joining Sword and Pen" playwriting competition to develop new plays incorporating fighting roles for women, has its world premiere this weekend. A play about betrayal and survival, the show is set in a Siberian gulag in the post World War II Soviet Union. Previews begin Sunday, March 21, at Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland Ave., Chicago. The show opens March 26. (773) 904-0391 or babeswithblades.org.

• Family discounts are available for the Sunday, March 21, performance of "Million Dollar Quartet," a rousing jukebox musical that re-imagines an impromptu 1956 recording session at Sun Studios involving Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley. One child younger than 17 will be admitted free with each paid adult to the 6:30 p.m. performance at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. (773) 935-6100 or milliondollarquartetlive.com.

• "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's musical version of the hit animated film returns to Chicago for a brief run beginning Tuesday, March 23. Performances run through April 4, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.

• Playwright and solo artist Rohina Malik offers audiences an intimate look at Muslim women in her solo show "Unveiled" profiling five modern women who choose to remain veiled. Performances for this collaboration between 16th Street Theater and Victory Gardens Fresh Squeezed begin Wednesday, March 24, at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. (773) 871-3000 or victorygardens.org.

• Eclipse Theatre Company begins a season devoted to Arthur Miller with "Resurrection Blues," Miller's 2002 drama about an American production company televising the execution of a Third World rebel leader. Artistic director Nathaniel Swift directs the production which begins previews Thursday, March 25, at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The show opens March 28. (773) 404-7336 or eclipsetheatre.com.

• Millennium Park's "In the Works" series showcasing in-development plays presents Arlene Malinowski's autobiographical, one-woman show "Aiming for Sainthood." The play is written and performed by Malinowski, who incorporates voice and sign language to tell her story of growing up a hearing child of deaf parents. Performances run Thursday, March 25 through Saturday, March 27, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph St., Chicago. (312) 742-8497 or millenniumpark.org.

• National Pastime Theater revives Elmer Rice's "Street Scene" depicting the struggles of immigrants in the early part of the 20th century as observed from the stoop of a New York City brownstone. Laurence Bryan and Keely Haddad-Null direct the show which begins previews Friday, March 19, at 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago. The show opens March 26. (773) 724-1554 or npt2.com.

• Russia's Maly Drama Theatre's acclaimed production of Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya" runs through Sunday, March 21, at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre as part of CST's World's Stage Series. The play will be performed in Russian with projected English translation at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand Ave., Chicago. (312) 595-5678 and chicagoshakes.com.

• Theatre Seven's Chicago premiere of "Mimesophobia," Carlos Murillo's dark comedy about screenwriters turning one's family tragedy into a box office hit continues through April 4 at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago. (773) 853-3158 or theatreseven.org.

• Noble Fool has extended its production of Tom Dudzick's family comedy "Over the Tavern." The show runs through April 3 at the Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles. (630) 584-6342 or noblefool.org.

• Writers' Theatre has extended its Noel Coward revue "Oh, Coward!" for the fourth time, making it the Glencoe company's longest-running production. The show runs through May 16 at Books on Vernon, 664 Vernon Ave., Glencoe. (847) 242-6000 or writerstheatre.org.

• Redtwist Theatre has extended once again its acclaimed production of Martin McDonagh's "The Pillowman." It runs through April 18 at 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago. (773) 728-7529 or redtwist.org.

• A Red Orchid Theatre has extended its production of Mike Leigh's drama "Abigail's Party" through April 25 at 1531 N. Wells St., Chicago. (312) 943-8722 or aredorchidtheatre.org.

• "Glitter in the Gutter," a comedy about how success upends the relationship between drag queens, has been extended to April 1, at the Annoyance Theatre, 4830 N. Broadway, Chicago. (773) 561-4665 or theannoyance.com.

• Barrel of Moneys has added 2 p.m. Sunday matinees of its show, "That's Weird, Grandma," featuring songs and sketches written by Chicago public schoolchildren. The show runs through April 4 at the Neo Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago. (312) 409-1954 or barrelofmonkeys.org.

• Chicago's Silk Road Theatre Project, in conjunction with San Francisco's Golden Thread Productions and New York's Lark Play Development Center, seeks submissions of in-development plays from Middle Eastern writers as part of Middle East America: A National New Plays Initiative. Middle East America will award the playwright submitting the winning entry a $10,000 commission to develop the work. The application deadline is June 15. The winner will be announced in December. For information and application guidelines, see middleeastamerica.org.

• Adventure Stage Chicago, a company specializing in family-friendly productions, has established its first artistic ensemble comprised of 11 actors, designers, directors, teachers and writers. It includes Metropolis Performing Arts Centre veterans Sarah Rose Graber and Allison Latta. Next up at Adventure Stage, the Midwest premiere of the pirate musical, "The Ghosts of Treasure Island" beginning previews April 10. (773) 342-4141 or adventurestage.org.

• Caffeine Theatre, Dog and Pony Theatre Company, New Leaf Theatre, Steep Theatre and Theatre Seven of Chicago are finalists for Broadway in Chicago's 2010 Emerging Theater Award. Established in 2007, the award recognizes new theater companies that have demonstrated artistic excellence and fiscal responsibility. Member companies of the League of Chicago Theatres vote on the winner which will be announced in April. The winning theater receives $5,000, consultation services from Broadway in Chicago experts and advertising support from two Chicago publications.