Scores of shows are opening in Chicago this fall. Here are 10 productions to anticipate with particular relish.
Just a few weeks after the opening of the Broadway transfer of the Kennedy Center revival, Chicago director Gary Griffin stages his own much-anticipated revival of the iconic 1971 musical by James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim for Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This story of former showgirls who meet on the eve of the demolition of their old stomping grounds contains some of the best songs ever written for the American stage, and it offers a singularly profound exploration of the intersection of determined survival and bitter regret. Griffin's production will be one of the largest in the history of Chicago Shakespeare Theater; hence the shorter-than-usual run. Oct. 4-Nov. 6, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier; $55-$60; 312-595-5600; chicagoshakes.com
Stephen Schwartz is having a busy fall. Along with working on the Broadway revival of "Godspell," Schwartz is in town this weekend and working with the Northlight Theatre on a newly developed piece called "Snapshots." David Stern has created a jukebox musical where the jukebox is filled entirely with the work of one composer. Schwartz's songs from the likes of "Pippin" and "The Baker's Wife" provide the backdrop for the new story of a marriage at a crossroads. Through Nov. 23, Northlight Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie; $25-$65; 847-673-6300; northlight.org
In John Logan's pulsing play — a hit in both London and New York — the great but famously misanthropic painter Mark Rothko is forced by an idealistic young assistant to be true to his ideals, rather than just cashing the check from the Four Seasons Restaurant that wants to turn his brooding works of abstract impressionism into decoration for the dining room. In London, this felt like one of the most exciting plays about art ever staged. Now Goodman Artistic Director Robert Falls — who has more than a touch of the Rothko about him — gets to put his own stamp on this fiery battle among artists, their patrons and their demons. Through Oct. 23, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.; $25-$84; 312-443-3800; goodmantheatre.org
Denis O'Hare is known to fans of "True Blood" as the vampire king of Mississippi, but this former Chicago actor and co-writer Lisa Peterson have turned the Homeric account of the Trojan War, the mother of all bloody conflicts, into a play that can be performed by one actor. At the Court Theatre, Artistic Director Charles Newell is offering this enviable showcase to Timothy Edward Kane, a skilled performer who would seem more than ready. Nov. 10-Dec. 11 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave.; $40-$60; 773-752-4472; courttheatre.org
'The Amish Project'
In the fall of 2006 in Nickel Mines, Pa., an armed man walked into an Amish schoolhouse and opened fire on a dozen girls, killing five children. In the days that followed, America bore witness to the sight of the grieving Amish, many of whom had clearly come to a new realization of the impossibility of keeping external violence from the doors of their close-knit community. In this new project at American Theater Company, writer Jessica Dickey, who spent time with the Amish, explores this harrowed event. The show is performed by Sadieh Rifai. Sept. 23-Oct. 23 at American Theater Company, 1909 W. Byron St.; $35-$40; 773-409-4125; atcweb.org
'The Doyle & Debbie Show'
This affectionate, 90-minute spoof of country music and its culture (the score includes "Whine, Whine, Twang, Twang") has been an on-and-off hit in Nashville for five years. Now "The Doyle & Debbie Show" wants to take the rest of America by storm — even the blue states. Created and performed by the writer-musician Bruce Arntson (joined by Jenny Littleton and Matt Carlton), "Doyle & Debbie" has YouTube followers and reports of much laughter, from Nashville lovers and haters alike. Oct. 17-Dec. 31 at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted St.; $43.50-$49.50; doyleanddebbie.com
Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre has premiered almost everything Bruce Norris has ever written: "The Pain and the Itch," "The Infidel" and many others. But the theater passed on premiering his best play to date: "Clybourne Park," the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for drama. This searing, widely acclaimed updating of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" is set in Chicago (just around the corner from the Steppenwolf, it feels) and explores the complexities of race, hate and real estate. Through Nov. 6 at Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St.; $48-$70; 312-335-1650; steppenwolf.org
'In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play'
Another hit play from a writer with Chicago roots that has taken its sweet time coming to town, "In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play" is Sarah Ruhl's much-admired study of the complex Victorian roots of that popular, pleasurable and empowering device, once viewed by a patriarchal profession in entirely medical terms. Sandy Shinner, who remains at Victory Gardens alongside new Artistic Director Chay Yew, is at the switch. Through Oct. 9 at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.; $15-$50; 773-871-3000; victorygardens.org
Rising director Jonathan Berry makes his New York debut this fall, but he's also working for Chicago's Griffin Theatre and helming the first Chicago production of the edgy and powerful Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater musical, based on the Frank Wedekind classic about the perils of teaching children nothing about sex. So far, most of us have only seen different versions of Michael Mayer's original Broadway production: Now Berry will get to start from intimate scratch with poor Wendla and Moritz. Chicago-style. Nov. 27-Jan. 8 at Theatre Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave.; $28-$38; 773-975-8150; griffintheatre.com
'The Real Thing'
Ever since she dazzled last season as Honey in the Steppenwolf Theatre's Broadway-bound production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," the young actress Carrie Coon has been attracting all kinds of attention from casting agents for stage and screen. Alongside the formidable trio of Sean Fortunato, John Sanders and Natasha Lowe, Coon appears in Michael Halberstam's new production of the prismatic and ever-popular 1982 Tom Stoppard play, a searing and typically complex look at love, loyalty, relationships and lies. Through Nov. 20 at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe; $55-$70; 847-242-6000; writerstheatre.orgCopyright © 2015, RedEye