Thoughts on the 2011 Broadway in Chicago Spring Season Series

Broadway in Chicago has announced its “2011 Broadway In Chicago Spring Season Series.” Below is the listing, with my thoughts bolded below each item.

Les Misérables
February 2 – 27, 2011
Cadillac Palace Theatre
Cameron Mackintosh presents a brand new 25th anniversary production of Boublil & Schönberg’s legendary musical, LES MISÉRABLES, with glorious new staging and spectacular re-imagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. This new production has already been acclaimed by critics, fans and new audiences and is breaking box office records wherever it goes. The London Times hails the new show “a five star hit, astonishingly powerful and as good as the original.” The Western Mail says “an outstanding success.”

The Fourth Walsh and I recently bonded over drinks about our mutual love for this show. Anyone within earshot that evening would have simply marveled at our thrilling rendition of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” So, it goes without saying that we will be there at least once to see how the Jesus-haired Jean Valjean and crew are holding up after all these years.

February 15 – May 8, 2011
Broadway Playhouse
WORKING is a vital new musical based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Chicago’s own Studs Terkel. Newly adapted by Stephen Schwartz (WICKED, PIPPIN and GODSPELL), WORKING is the working man’s A CHORUS LINE. It is a musical exploration of people from all walks of life, with twenty-six songs by all-star composers Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Tony Award™ winning Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and Grammy Award™ winning James Taylor. WORKING celebrates everyday people, fills you with hope and inspiration and is the perfect musical for anyone who has ever worked a day in their lives.

Sure. The subject matter seems very Chicago friendly, and I like Schwartz’s music. And I love the description: “A working man’s A Chorus Line.” So, will there be an 11 o’clock number for a beefy construction worker to sing? “All I ever needed was some duct work, and a level, and the chance to saw for you!”

March 8 – 20, 2011
Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre
The Public Theater’s 2009 Tony-winning production of HAIR is an electric celebration on stage! This exuberant musical about a group of young Americans searching for peace and love in a turbulent time has struck a resonant chord with audiences young and old. Its ground breaking rock score paved the way for some of the greatest musicals of our time. HAIR features an extraordinary cast and dozens of unforgettable songs, including “Aquarius,” “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Good Morning, Starshine” and “Easy To Be Hard.” Its relevance is UNDENIABLE. Its energy is UNBRIDLED. Its truth is UNWAVERING. It’s HAIR, and IT’S TIME.

Some friends of mine saw this production on Broadway and raved about it. I love the movie and the score. It’s on my short list.

Merchant of Venice
March 15 – 27, 2011
Bank of America Theatre
From the acclaimed Theatre for a New Audience, the first U.S. theatre to be invited to the Royal Shakespeare Company, comes Shakespeare’s tragicomedy following command runs Off- Broadway and in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Starring Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham in his riveting portrayal of Shylock, and directed by Darko Tresnjak (former Artistic Director, Old Globe), the play has been arousing controversies for centuries with raucous and gentle comedy, tender poetry, and its struggle with mercy and justice. In this riveting update, religion, race and sexuality collide with love, family and justice and the currency of society and humanity has never been so changeable.

Shakespeare, F. Murray Abraham and Stratford-Upon-Avon? Wow. Way to class it up, BiC.

Wishful Drinking
April 5 – 17, 2011
Bank of America Theatre
WISHFUL DRINKING, Carrie Fisher’s autobiographical solo show, follows Fisher’s life. Born to celebrity parents, Fisher lands among the stars when she’s picked to play a princess in a little movie called ‘Star Wars.’ But her story isn’t all sweetness and light sabers. As a single mom, she also battles addiction, depression, mental institutions, and that awful hyperspace hairdo. It’s an incredible tale–from having her father leave her mother for Elizabeth Taylor to marrying and divorcing singer/songwriter Paul Simon, from having the father of her baby leave her for a man to waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed. Don’t miss this opportunity to see Carrie Fisher’s hit Broadway show.

I’ve always admired Carrie Fisher. And since I’ve already seen her mother’s solo show (which I’m guessing, and hoping, is the exact polar opposite of what this show will be), I feel it’s only my duty to go.

Next to Normal
April 26 – May 8, 2011
Bank of America Theatre
From the director of Rent comes the most talked about new show on Broadway, NEXT TO NORMAL, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and three 2009 Tony Awards including Best Score. Alice Ripley who received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, will reprise her acclaimed performance in Chicago. Having been chosen as “one of the year’s ten best” by major critics around the country, NEXT TO NORMAL is an emotional powerhouse of a musical with a thrilling contemporary score about a family trying to take care of themselves and each other. The New York Times calls NEXT TO NORMAL “a brave, breathtaking musical. A work of muscular grace and power. It is much more than a feel-good musical; it is a feel-everything musical.” Rolling Stone raves, “It is the best musical of the season – by a mile. It’ll pin you to your seat.”

It’s a rare thing (unfortunately) when original Tony-winning actress tours with the same show for which she was honored. I mean, that wasn’t the case back in the era of Merman and Martin, but today? Notsomuch. The last time I recall this happening was when Cherry Jones toured with Doubt. It’ll be a thrill to finally see Alice Ripley live and (hopefully) up close, recreating the role that earned her every major New York theatre award in 2009. (As a friend told me who’d seen it in NYC, “Sit in the front row so you can see her crazy faces!”) That, and the show is supposedly good. I mean, it won the Pulitzer.

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, Spring Awakening and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast are also included in the 2011 season as “off season specials.” More info here >

19 thoughts on “Thoughts on the 2011 Broadway in Chicago Spring Season Series

  1. Thanks for the link. It’s true, I do love Hair. I’ve always loved the music and the history and culture of the 1960s. Hopefully they’ll keep the audience participation at the end.

    I was in the the third row on the left for Next to Normal and yeah, you can see the pain on Alice Ripley’s face, the torment her character is going through. Definitely sit close if you can.

    I’m also a big fan of Les Miserables. I saw a touring production in Syracuse a long time ago and was hooked. It’s one of those scores you can listen to from beginning to end and get the whole story. It’s so epic.

    1. Your blog posts about this revival of “Hair” have made me look forward to this tour, Esther!

      I’ve seen Les Miz a few times over the years — saw the first National Tour when I was 11, which starred Hollis Resnik as Fantine, Victoria Clark as Mme Ternardier, and Melissa Errico as Cosette. I also caught it in London — and the original Eponine, Francis Rufelle, happened to rejoin the cast. A pleasant surprise!

  2. Les Miserables is one of my favorite shows, too — I never get tired of it. I’m glad you’ll get to see your girl Alice Ripley live & up close.

  3. Take my hand
    And lead me to salvation
    Take my love
    For love is everlasting
    And remember
    The truth that once was spoken
    To love another person
    Is to see the face of God.

    1. Who are you (we) kidding? We’re more along the lines of “Lovey Ladies.” As you said: come Feb., whores at the Palace!

      1. Lovely ladies
        Waiting for a bite
        Waiting for the customers
        Who only come at night
        Lovely ladies
        Ready for the call
        Standing up or lying down
        Or any way at all
        Bargain prices up against the wall

        Once again, I anticipate YOU, as always, will be way out in front and I’ll be trolling in the back.

  4. This is a good line-up. I am seeing the 25th anniversary new Les Miz next month, so I can’t wait to report back. The live cast album of that cast is marvelous, easily the best “singing” Les Miz cast overall, and the orchestrations are great. If I am not mistaken it will be the same cast touring the US. You know how I feel about Next to Normal, I can’t wait for you to see it..And Alice plays crazy really well!

  5. PS regarding Hair, I couldn’t say that I liked it. Thought it was/is hugely overrated, but the American-Idolish vocals happening on stage and the over the top riffing makes it a little bit better.

  6. I saw HAIR in Central Park in 2008 and it was stunning. I hope the revival works in a larger theatre, as the personal connection with the cast is very important to the show. But as long as they do it with the same passion as I saw, it will be very moving.

    I’m interested that they’re importing the “Merchant”, but the BiC audience may not really warm to it–it’s pretty far outside the usual fare there. And the theatre’s at least four times the size of Chicago Shakes. I fear lots of empty seats.

    I have similar fear for Carrie Fisher–though I’m sure it’s a good show, one-person shows in a space that size are not a great idea. I imagine she may be touring as much because one actor is cheap as anything.

    1. Good points, Zev. It’s a pretty sophisticated season, as far as BiC seasons go. Not much for the kiddies, aside from dragging BatB back.

  7. (Confession: Hair as a whole makes me roll my eyes, because I’m cynical and can’t help thinking things like “You just graduated with a BFA in Musical Theatre – Shut up and stop telling me to love everyone!”)

    THAT SAID – I am absolutely there for Wishful Drinking and Next to Normal. I don’t think I could be more in love with Carrie Fisher, and come on – it’s Ripley. Bring on the crazy.

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