I’m totally stoked about the recent 2010-2011 season announcements. There’s some really amazing stuff in store across the board — and so much to cover! For our collective sanity, I’ll scope it down to the single most exciting planned productions from the top four fanciest Chicago theatres.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company:
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? | December 2, 2010 – February 6, 2011
By Edward Albee
Directed by Pam MacKinnon
Featuring ensemble members Tracy Letts and Amy Morton
On the campus of a small New England college, George and Martha invite a new professor and his wife home for a nightcap. As the cocktails flow, the young couple finds themselves caught in the crossfire of a savage marital war where the combatants attack the self deceptions they forged for their own survival. Ensemble members Tracy Letts and Amy Morton face off as one of theatre’s most notoriously dysfunctional couples in Albee’s hilarious and harrowing masterpiece.
Why I’m stoked: A Letts and Morton throwdown? I’m so there. And I’ve already offered our two sofa beds to a pair of major Morton/Letts fans who, mere moments after Steppenwolf announced its season, were already planning their sojourns to the Windy City.
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess | May 12, 2011 – June 19, 2011
By George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, and Ira Gershwin
Directed by Charles Newell
Music Direction by Doug Peck
Artistic Consultant: Ron OJ Parson
Porgy and Bess remains George Gershwin’s magnum opus, with an unforgettable score that includes songs (“Summertime,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So”) later recorded by popular musicians from Billie Holiday to Ella Fitzgerald. Coming off their 2008 Jeff Award-winning production of Caroline, or Change, Charles Newell and Doug Peck come face-to-face with one of the greatest—and most controversial—pieces of American music theater ever created. Often denounced as a racially insensitive portrayal of black southerners, Newell and Peck, in collaboration with Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson and an all-African-American cast, will present a thoughtful, never-before-seen retelling of Gershwin and Heyward’s “folk opera” Porgy and Bess, a classic but contested piece of American theater history.
Why I’m stoked: Court did amazing things with Caroline, or Change in 2008 — thanks to Doug Peck, Charles Newell…and E. Faye Butler. And Butler wasn’t shy in admitting her desire to participate in this production when I saw her cabaret act last November (after ripping through a hot, bluesy arrangement of “Summertime,” she looked over at Newell, who was sitting in the audience, and said, “Those are my 16 bars, Charles.”) Fingers crossed!
Candide | Begins September 2010
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Book Adapted from Voltaire by Hugh Wheeler
New adaptations from Voltaire by Mary Zimmerman
Lyrics by Richard Wilbur
Additional lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, John Latouche, Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker and Leonard Bernstein
Directed by Mary Zimmerman
Tony Award and MacArthur “Genius” Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman’s breathtaking new production of Candide is the theatrical event of the season. In addition to the music of Leonard Bernstein, Candide features contributions from the greatest lyricists of the 20th century, from Richard Wilbur to Stephen Sondheim. In this racy musical satire, naive Candide is banished for romancing the Baron’s daughter, only to be plagued by a series of absurd hardships that challenge his optimistic outlook of life and love.
Why I’m stoked: Candide is a puzzle of a piece. Gorgeous score, mess of a book. And, in the many fruitless attempts to “fix” its problems, there are more versions of the show floating around than there are wigs in JLo’s closet. I’ve yet to see a production that really works — or, for that matter, a show directed by Mary Zimmerman (I know, right?). Maybe she has a vision and staging solution to make this show finally come together?
Peter Pan | Begins October 20, 2010
Adapted for the Stage by Amanda Dehnert
From the books by J.M. Barrie
Directed by Amanda Dehnert
We’ll start by igniting your childhood imaginations with the timeless story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Amanda Dehnert, a nationally-known director with singular vision, will direct her original adaptation of Peter Pan, based on the books by J.M. Barrie. Bombastic, playful, and darkly comic, Dehnert’s adaptation brings innovative theatricality, aerial arts, and a soulful understanding of yearning and regret to this legendary adventure of pirates, fairies and fantasy.
Why I’m stoked: I adore the story of Peter Pan. And we all know how I feel about the aerial arts. Lookingglass, I’m sure, will bring new depth and excitement to this classic story.