The spun-sugar story of a wealthy woman who pretends to be engaged in order to escape her fortune-hunting suitors, "Countess Maritza" is a gem of a romantic operetta. Its creator, Hungarian composer Emmerich Kalman, crammed it full of Strauss-quality waltzes, czardas, even some lighthearted vaudevillian novelty numbers. Opening Saturday in an authoritative staging for Light Opera Works by Hegyi Arpad Jutocsa, artistic director of the National Theater Miskolc from Hungary, this 1926 confection can be seen as a precursor of the modern American musical, reflecting an old-world aristocracy moving into a jazz present.
"Countess Maritza" runs through June 10 at Northwestern University's Cahn Auditorium.
"Ten Percent of Molly Snyder," Steppenwolf Theatre Company: Opening Sunday, this new work by Richard Strand features Amy Warren and Troy West in the tale of a woman whose life goes awry after she visits the Department of Motor Vehicles to fix a typo on her license. It seems that she ends up bureaucratically dead, as everyone she encounters keeps telling her. Edward Sobel directs the complications. Also at Steppenwolf is Monday night's TRAFFIC presentation. This month's offering features Steppenwolf ensemble members Robert Breuler, Frank Galati, Tim Hopper, Martha Lavey, John Mahoney, Jeff Perry, Rondi Reed and Jim True-Frost performing original writings by Chicagoland teens. It's accompanied by music composed and performed by Orbert Davis and student musicians from MusicAlive!
"A Thousand Clowns," Shubert Theatre: Beginning Tuesday, this Broadway-bound revival of Herb Gardner's romantic comedy classic features film star Tom Selleck in a 1960s counterculture tale of a nonconformist hero. This crusader believes that "you have to own your days and name them, each one of them, every one of them, or else the years go right by and none of them belong to you." Accordingly, he will raise Nick, his 12-year-old nephew who has been placed in his custody, in his own maverick way. But two social workers have another agenda for Nick. Will freedom trump bureaucracy or will the nephew help his uncle to grow up?
"Santa Claus Is Coming Out," Bailiwick Repertory: Opening the theater's annual summerlong, gay-themed Pride Series on Friday, Jeffrey Solomon's comedy reveals what happens when a TV tabloid "outs" Santa Claus as gay. The farce examines the question of whether impressionable American youth should be exposed to positive gay role models. Also opening this week are the Pride presentations "Mother/Son," which returns to Bailiwick's boards Saturday to reprise Jeffrey Solomon's much-praised duo portrait of the mother of a gay man and the son who helps her to grow up fast, and "Prism," opening Sunday to present Diann Russell's representative love story, a chronicle of the gay activist movement.
"Dynamite Divas (The History & Music of Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, Nancy Wilson, Gladys Knight & Aretha Franklin)," Black Ensemble Theatre: Opening Sunday, this celebration of five of the most popular and influential black female singers who began in the 1960s and remain famous today will combine blues, jazz, R&B and rock. The uplifting show traces their common experiences in the music business and as mothers.
"The Government Inspector," Terrapin Theatre at Athenaeum Theatre: Nikolai Gogol's merry 19th Century satire spins the story of a town convulsed by the arrival of a government snoop who turns out to be an intriguing imposter. It opens Sunday in a staging by Brad Nelson Winters (based on Adrian Mitchell's adaptation).
"Being Beautiful," Chicago Theatre Company: Continuing through June 24, this world premiere musical by McKinley Johnson and Stephanie Newsom examines a family's struggle to forgive across three decades, from the early 1940s to 1970.
"Actual Theatre," WNEP Theater: Opening Friday, Bare, an improvisational, Colorado-based duo, explores the real relationship of two friends through fictional characters. Also opening, on Thursday, at WNEP Theater is "When We Were Superstars,"a 90-minute black comedy about two child stars who are left behind by their more successful partner, Sarah Jessica Parker.
"Acis and Galatea," Chicago Opera Theater at Athenaeum Theatre: Opening Wednesday in a staging by Mark Lamos, George Frideric Handel's delightful light opera from 1718 depicts the story of the love of Acis and Galatea, an unassuming shepherd and an enchanting goddess.
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