Happy New Year. Been off the grid? Let's get you caught up with various prospects and developments in Chicago theater.
The last couple of weeks of 2012 produced a slew of fascinating developments. A little production titled "The Book of Mormon" opened at the
The other sold-out show in Chicago is the Mary-Arrchie Theatre's magnificent production of "The Glass Menagerie." After saying at first that the show, directed by and starring Hans Fleischmann, could not be extended due to the actors' schedules, the venerable fringe theater changed its mind and added performances through Feb. 17. It promptly sold out all tickets to those new shows (and, to its credit, Mary-Arrchie did not raise its ticket prices). So will there be a further extension? Mary-Arrchie has yet to say. But something must happen with this magnificent little production.
So what new spaces are we going to see in 2013? If all goes well, Griffin Theatre will open its new venue in
One space appears to be coming back to life. After first announcing that it planned to mothball the Arie Crown Theater (2301 S. Lake Shore Drive), the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority rented out the facility to the touring production of "Fela!" (This latest visit of the Broadway hit, which now features Michelle Williams, is not a Broadway in Chicago booking; performances are Feb. 19-23, and tickets are available at ticketmaster.com and the Arie Crown box office.) I've long been of the view that, since its renovations, the Arie Crown is a far better space for shows than many people think. One has to deal with the surroundings, which aren't exactly urbane and user-friendly, but the theater itself is a quite decent place to see a big musical. I'm glad it's back.
As was the case in 2012, the commercial scene is relatively quiet. With the Mercury Theater now turning to self-production, "Million Dollar Quartet" showing no signs whatsoever of closing at the
One hopes the Chicago Commercial Collective, very quiet of late, will announce more shows in coming weeks, per its previously announced mandate to create commercial transfers of worthy productions of Chicago shows. There is also plenty of room for more shows downtown — one hopes that the Broadway Playhouse, which has been busy, can boost the quality of its productions.
One 2013 project has already exceeded expectations: The Second City's sketch-and-music driven collaboration with the Lyric Opera of Chicago (which I haven't seen) proved far more popular than expected, and producers have announced an extended run at the Lyric, following the regular opera season. This project might also have legs in other cities where opera companies are looking to educate audiences and shed any sense of a stuffy image.
You should also keep your eye on the new collaboration between StarKid Productions, which has a fiercely loyal and massive following among its youthful target demographic, and Second City, which now will house regular productions by the group known for its Internet musicals. That could turn into something big.
In Chicago, of course, you just never know. Which is why every new year comes with the whiff of anticipation. There's new talk of the long-rumored arrival of Teatro ZinZanni, the Seattle-based circus/dinner/vaudeville outfit, which has been looking for years to set up a permanent operation somewhere in or near downtown Chicago. That would give us another resident show aimed at visitors, which would be a very good thing as the city builds its bill of cultural fare.