Jonathan's round-up of the latest on Broadway and beyond
We hear that Chicago’s-own Jessie Mueller, soon to make her Broadway debut as the romantic lead in a major revision/revival of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, has been moonlighting from rehearsals in spectacular fashion. To wit: she’s been doing a nightclub act with Harry Connick, Jr. at the swank Rainbow Room atop 30 Rockefeller Center. Actually, it’s more like an extension of rehearsals, as Jessie plays a 1940’s nightclub chanteuse in the show, and her leading man is, in fact, Connick. So it’s just another case of life imitating art. The show goes into previews Nov. 12 and opens Dec. 11 at the St. James Theatre. Proud Mama and Papa, the highly-regarded acting couple Roger Mueller and Jill Shellabarger, already have booked their tickets to NYC for the opening. Roger and Jill are friends of many years, and Jessie’s grandmother, the stylish and handsome Ruth Mueller, has become a more recent friend.
Chicago Cabaret Professionals, having just completed a spectacular gala at Park West, now is planning its annual Merry Melodies holiday shows at Davenport’s, Dec. 5 & 6, which will feature a different line-up of Chicago’s diverse cabaret talent each evening. Each solo or duel spot is limited to two songs, so Merry Melodies will offer an ever-changing vista of holiday-themed musical entertainment.
If you’re reading this late, you may be too late. Little-known fact: on the 25th of each month, Broadway In Chicago offers a limited supply of $25 tickets for several of its touring Broadway shows. The shows offered today are Mary Poppins (at the Cadillac Palace through Nov. 6) and Ann (Holland Taylor’s tribute to late Texas governor Ann Richards), at the Bank of American Theatre Nov. 13-Dec. 4. The only catch: you can only access the tix through Broadway In Chicago’s Facebook page. They call the promo “$25 on the 25th.”
We missed it by a few days, but The Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport) celebrated its 100th birthday with a public party on Oct. 11. This gem, lovingly restored over a period of years by the late Fred Solari, opened in 1911 as a recreational center for St. Alphonsus Church (of which it remains a part), serving the mostly German immigrant community of the day. The building featured a 1000 seat theater for German opera, a gymnasium, bowling alleys, and music and meeting rooms. Over the years, meeting rooms gave way to classrooms and the theater became a temporary church in the early 1950's after a devastating fire damaged the St. Alphonsus sanctuary. Today the Athenaeum is once again fulfilling its original purpose as a theater as the classrooms have been renovated as three studio theaters and offices for various non-profit cultural organizations. Check out website for the current productions.
And next Wednesday is the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Chicago Theatre, designed in 1921 in florid French baroque style by the architect brothers George and Cornelius Rapp. The 3400-seat house, originally home to the greatest vaudeville headliners, was a crown jewel of the Balaban and Katz theater chain, and continued to offer a live stage show and a hit movie into the 1960’s before shuttering and falling into decay. It’s the place where, as a boy, I first saw Louis Armstrong live during one of the stage shows. The house was lavishly restored in the 1980’s.
For Light Opera Works, the bricks-and-mortar story is neither an old theatre nor a new one. In the first major change to its physical set-up in years, Light Opera Works (LOW) has acquired new administrative and rehearsal headquarters that take its offices from Evanston to Wilmette and give the company its first proper rehearsal space that isn’t begged or rented on-the-cheap. The new HQ for the 31 year-old company will be the former Duxler Tire Center at 516 4th Street, a half-block from the Linden CTA Purple Line stop. An advantageous five-year lease will allow LOW to hold rehearsals for the first time in a suitably spacious facility, with a sprung dance floor, that replicates the company’s performance space, Northwestern University’s Cahn Auditorium. The new rehearsal center will be rented to other theater companies, dance instructors and fitness classes when not in use by LOW. It also means there’s a new box office phone number for patrons: (847) 920-5360. Web address remains the same: The next Light Opera Works show is The Secret Garden, Dec. 26-Jan. 1.