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:
The national tours are about to descend upon us! And yes, the world learned just yesterday that "Wicked" would be returning to Chicago once again, for the 2013 holiday season (October 30-December 21). It will be at the scene of its three and half year triumphant run during the last decade (2005-09), the Oriental Theatre, which was not the case for the show's visit in 2010-11 (it was at the Cadillac Palace). So, diehard fans will be happy.
But there are so many tours to get through before the green girl and company return again. In fact, there are seven major touring productions opening and closing here in the next eleven weeks alone! Buckle your seat beats, and your wallets, Chicago, for the buses and trucks are arriving! Let's review the proceedings, shall we?
First up, and in a non-Broadway-In-Chicago venue, is the return of "Fela!," the musical based on the life and music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Nigerian musician and political figure of the 1970s and 80s. The show is this week, February 19-23, at the Arie Crown Theater, inside the easternmost building of the McCormick Place convention center complex. Chicago area resident Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child (you saw her during the Super Bowl halftime show, didn't you?) is headlining this tour. Bill T. Jones' Tony Award-winning choreography will be on display as well.
Next up on the touring docket (and back in the fold of Broadway In Chicago we go) is the pre-Broadway engagement of the first New York revival of "Jekyll And Hyde," the early 90s pop musical that introduced Broadway to an entire generation of Miss America contestants. We will have it for two weeks (March 12-24) at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. "Rock Of Ages" star Constantine Maroulis and former Broadway "Aida" Deborah Cox (both of them with significant Los Angeles television and recording industry credits, too) are headlining this outing, directed by Jeff Calhoun and including Frank Wildhorn's first complete score to reach the Main Stem (starring his then wife and muse, Linda Eder). It reaches Broadway this time on April 5, and their pre-Broadway engagements are few in number, so we are lucky to get it! Can being a guilty pleasure strike twice?
Overlapping the run of "Jekyll And Hyde" here (March 19-30) will be the first Chicago appearance of "Priscilla Queen Of The Desert," the musical with no appositive comma in its title. But it does have over 500 costumes, and a Tony Award for those, too (echoing the Oscar for costumes that the designers won for their work on the source film). This run will be at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, so I hope they give those costumes room to breathe up there! And don't forget the score, made up of all the great disco diva anthems of the 1970s and 80s ("I Will Survive," "It's Raining Men," etc.). This show is fun and meaningful. What's the matter with that?
And then? The highlight of early spring! At least for some. It's the only pre-Broadway tryout appearance (that we know of) for the new musical "Big Fish," with a score by Andrew Lippa ("The Addams Family") and direction by Susan Stroman ("The Producers"). So, yes, the major creatives behind this show have both had Chicago pre-Broadway tryouts before. This one will be at the Oriental Theatre from April 2 through May 5 (only, we are told), and will star three pretty big names, two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz, along with two of the stars of the recent high-profile off-Broadway run of the new musical "Giant," Kate Baldwin and Bobby Steggert. As they were in the fall when "Kinky Boots" was here, the eyes of New York will be on Chicago during April. "Big Fish" is aiming to be a major player for Broadway's 2013-14 season. Will it make it to the mainstream?.... J