THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
It's finally here! After two full years of waiting, prompting the creation of one of the most popular and speculative message threads ever on BroadwayWorld's Chicago Message Board, the national tour of "Next To Normal" has arrived in Chicago! For this week and next, the Bank of America Theatre on Monroe Street is "feel-everything central" for this Pultizer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical about love, loss, modern families and mental illness. Folks are now saying that Alice Ripley's multi-award-winning performance as Diana is "legendary," and nobody who's seen it disagrees. And make no mistake about it--Ripley's appearance here is a rare kind of appearance, indeed. The last time a star toured to Chicago in the show for which they previously won the Tony Award (not counting pre-Broadway tryouts, or Elaine Stritch's 2003 visit in the one-woman Best Special Theatrical Event "Elaine Stritch: At Liberty) seems to have been ... wait for it, wait for it ... Carol Channing in "Hello, Dolly!" ... in 1994! She was great, but (obviously) that was not the original production of the show. And that was 17 years ago. Seriously. I went back that far and nothing else rang a bell. Am I wrong? Help me out. Just how rare is Ripley's appearance here? "Next To Normal!!!"
Next to Normal: Official Touring Production
Alice Ripley is playing Stage 773 on her off night, next Monday, May 2, 2011. Her concert, "Daily Practice: The Acoustic Sessions," is at 7:30 pm, and will feature songs from her latest solo album. Apparently, she likes to sing classic rock to keep her voice in shape, and she's letting fans in on the action. Wonder if she'll stop by Sidetrack afterwards, to catch a first-hand glimpse of the Mosh Pit? I doubt it, but I can dream, can't I? It's not that far, you know....
Now Playing at Stage 773
Ripley is not the only performer from the N2N tour who will be performing in a different venue next Monday. Emma Hunton, who plays Diana's daughter Natalie in the show (and gets to sing the awesome song "Superboy And The Invisible Girl"), is in the line-up for a benefit concert May 2nd at 8:00 in the Struble Theatre of Northwestern University's Theatre And Interpretation Center on the Evanston campus. Adam Kantor (from the last cast of "Rent" on Broadway) is also among those performing. It's a benefit for Kantor's charity, Broadway In South Africa. Sounds cool.
NEXT TO NORMAL's Emma Hunton to Perform at Northwestern
And "Next To Normal" will not be the only national tour in town for the week of May 3-8! "Spring Awakening" makes its return appearance to our town, playing the Ford Center For The Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre that week. Remember, whereas N2N won three Tony Awards, SA won eight! If you missed it on it first (quick) stop here 18 months ago, you won't want to miss it. Back in 2006-7, it gave the world Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele (original last name, Sarfati) and John Gallagher, Jr., didn't it? What talents will inhabit their roles for us in 2011?
Chicago Spring Awakening 2011 | Broadway in Chicago
And Alice Ripley's concert isn't the only thing exciting happening around Stage 773, either. As Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago prepared "The King And I" for its press opening this weekend (the show will run through June 5th), the company announced its selection of a new artistic director, filling the shoes of "King and I" director L. Walter Stearns after his departure to the Mercury Theatre after 12 years. Their choice is veteran actor and director Michael Weber, currently appearing in "42nd Street" at the Marriott Theatre and the former artistic director of Munster, Indiana's Theater At The Center (1998-2004). He also appeared in the Patti LuPone concert stagings of "Gypsy" and "Annie Get Your Gun" at the Ravinia Festival--that's enough credentials right there, don't you agree? Seriously, I have heard nothing but good things about this appointment. How about you?