By Kerry Reid, Special to the Tribune
3:37 PM CDT, May 23, 2012
School is winding down and the days are stretching out, which is the perfect time for fun at the old ballpark, beach, street fair, and all the other seasonal frolics that Chicagoans dream about during the dreary winter months. But don't forget that theater is a round-the-calendar enterprise. Whether you're looking for musicals, family shows, outdoor classics, or storefront gems, the list below should get you started.
BIG SPLASHES AND LONG RUNS
Chicago-bred actor and playwright Paul Oakley Stovall brings it home with this comedic Hyde Park family reunion, in which — of course — startling secrets are revealed. Phylicia Rashad of "The Cosby Show" and many Broadway outings directs this independent production, presented in association with About Face Theatre. Goodman Theatre; June 2-July 8
No, it's not the return of the Weston girls from "August: Osage County." Tracy Letts tackles Chekhov's trio of unhappy siblings in this new adaptation, directed by Anna Shapiro. Steppenwolf Theatre; June 28-Aug. 26
For its 10th anniversary, Regina Taylor remounts her popular musical (based on the documentary photography book "Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats"), in which a grieving Brooklyn-born girl finds solace in her family of southern "church ladies." The cast includes longtime powerhouse favorites E. Faye Butler and Felicia Fields. Goodman Theatre; June 30-Aug. 5
"Blue Man Group"
They've been around so long that they're easy to overlook, but the Men in Blue (which now sometimes includes women underneath the indigo latex) offer up a fun, loud, and — if you're in one of the front rows, messy — show that is one of those rare events perfect for families, tourists, and date nights. Briar Street Theatre; open run
"Million Dollar Quartet"
A jukebox musical with an intimate edge, this portrait of the night that Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley all tore it up at Sam Phillips' seminal Sun Records studio in Memphis continues to pack them in. Apollo Theater; open run
"Rock of Ages"
Jumping forward in time from the Sun Records heyday (and arguably backward in taste), this touring production of the show that celebrates All Things Hair-Metal settles in for a summer sojourn off Boul Mich, rather than Sunset Strip. Broadway Playhouse; June 5-Aug. 5
"A Steady Rain"
Keith Huff's break-out hit about the disintegrating lives of two Chicago cops, first produced by Chicago Dramatists, went to Broadway, where plucky regular-guy unknowns named Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman did the honors. It returns with original director Russ Tutterow and original actors Randy Steinmeyer and Peter DeFaria as the first production for the new Chicago Commercial Collective. Chicago Dramatists; July 7-Sept. 2
"Death and Harry Houdini"
House Theatre of Chicago's smash hit returns from a short run in Florida to once again mesmerize audiences, up close. Chopin Theatre; July 7-Aug. 17
The brand-new Riverfront Theater at the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center opens May 30 with the 12 Tenors and offers a wide array of spectacles all summer, but this adults-only concoction, blended from equal parts cabaret, burlesque, circus, and other variety flavorings, promises something out of the ordinary under the new Big Top. Riverfront Theater; July 18-Aug. 5
"Late Nite Catechism"
It won't absolve you of your obligations to attend Mass, but Catholics and "publics" alike have enjoyed Vicki Quade and Maripat Donovan's interactive and tongue-in-slightly-irreverent-cheek show about parochial education for almost twenty years. Royal George Theater; open run
"Who Do We Think We Are?"
Second City's 100th revue tackles the frustrations and absurdities of being an American in an election year. Second City; open run
Cirque du Soleil brings back its 1999 spectacular, which draws upon Chinese circus traditions and legends, in two area venues. Allstate Arena, Rosemont; June 20-24. Also United Center, June 27-July 1
"Cirque Shanghai: Year of the Dragon"
Can't make it to "Dralion?" Cirque Shanghai's return engagement also features the finest in Chinese circus artists, including motorcycle daredevils "Imperial Thunder." Navy Pier Skyline Stage; through Sept. 3
"Disney's Beauty and the Beast"
Rachel Rockwell directs the stage version of the Disney musical. Chicago Shakespeare Theater; June 28-Aug. 26
"Pinkalicious: the Musical"
You are what you eat, as the heroine of this Emerald City Theatre show (based on the book by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann) finds out after consuming too many pink cupcakes. Broadway Playhouse; through Aug. 5
"Inherit the Wind"
Oak Park Festival Theatre kicks off its outdoor season with Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's drama based on the Scopes "monkey trial" of the 1920s, back in those unenlightened times when people thought teaching Darwin was controversial. Steve Pickering directs. Austin Gardens, Oak Park; June 14-July 16
"The Hound of the Baskervilles"
A couple of local outdoor gems stand in for the gloomy moors in F. Andrew Leslie's version of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic, directed by Bradley Baker for Theatre-Hikes. North Park Village Nature Center, June 23-24. Also Morton Arboretum, Lisle, July 7-29
"The Merchant of Venice"
First Folio tackles one of Shakespeare's most troubling "problem plays." In addition to Alison C. Vesely's production on their outdoor stage, the company also offers the National Yiddish Theatre of New York's "Shylock and His Daughter" by Maurice Schwartz, running as a staged reading with the same cast as "Merchant" on Thursday evenings. Mayslake Peabody Estate, Oak Brook; July 11-Aug. 19
Another famous Shakespearean villain comes alive in Belinda Bremner's Oak Park Festival staging. Austin Gardens; July 19-Aug. 25
"The Wind in the Willows"
Theatre-Hikes stages an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's stories about Mole, Ratty, Badger and the ultimate party animal, Mr. Toad of Toad Hall. Pullman State Historic Site, July 14-15; North Park Village Nature Center, July 21-22; Central Park/Metro South Medical Center, Blue Island, July 28; Morton Arboretum, Lisle, Aug. 4-26
"The Marvin Gaye Story (Don't Talk About My Father, Because God is My Friend)"
The unforgettable voice — and tragic life — behind "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Sexual Healing" forms the subject for Jackie Taylor's latest bio-musical. Black Ensemble Theater; through July 29
Philip LaZebnik and Kingsley Day's "not-very-historically-accurate" musical about booming Chicago right before the Great Fire of 1871 gets a world premiere under Sheldon Patinkin's direction. City Lit Theater; May 29-June 24
"Eastland: A New Musical"
This might not be the show to see before you take out-of-towners on the Chicago Architecture Foundation's river tour. Andrew White's script, featuring a score by Ben Sussman and Andre Pluess, tackles the titular 1915 tragedy, in which 844 people lost their lives when their boat tipped over in the Chicago River. Lookingglass Theatre; June 6-July 29
"Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein"
Theo Ubique's hit revue takes a trip to the suburbs for Fox Valley Repertory's Summer Theater Fest. Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles; May 31-July 22
That "one brief shining moment" when Arthur and Guenevere held court in medieval Britain, as romanticized by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, takes the stage at Light Opera Works, featuring a full orchestra and Nick Sandys and Jennie Sophia as the married monarchs. Cahn Auditorium, Evanston; June 1-10
Adam Guettel and Tina Landau's Americana-laced musical draws upon the real story of Collins, a Kentucky spelunker whose entrapment underground provided the fodder for an early media feeding frenzy. Peter Marston Sullivan directs for Bohemian Theatre Ensemble. Theater Wit; June 15-July 15
After you've seen "The Avengers" for the umpteenth time, you might want a superhero spectacle a bit more grounded in real life. Rising musical writers Aaron Thielen and Michael Mahler created this story of a young artist whose dad, a comic-book shop owner, encourages him to take some leaps of faith over his doubts. Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire; June 20-Aug. 19
"The 39 Steps"
It's Hitchcock gone haywire in Patrick Barlow's goof of the 1935 thriller by the master of suspense. Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace; July 5-Aug. 26
Oracle Productions (whose performances are always free) opens Bob Fisher's version of E.T.A. Hoffman's terrifying tale, in which a mysterious visitor wreaks havoc in a family's life. Oracle Theatre; June 1-30
More nightmares, courtesy of the Right Brain Project's rare remounting of Peter Weiss' meditation on madness and class struggle. Nathan Robbel directs a cast of 29 in a shoebox setting. RBP Rorschach; June 7-July 7
Collaboraction's annual homage to short (seven-minute) plays shakes it up this year by incorporating a few longer pieces. Flat Iron Arts Building; June 7-July 15
Tellin' Tales Theatre unveils a line-up of hellish, yet hilarious, vacation stories. Prop Thtr; June 8-17
"The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me"
Pride Films and Plays celebrates Pride Month with a 20th-anniversary production of David Drake's solo about one gay man's coming of age in America. Chad Ryan stars. Luna Central; June 20-July 1
"Hit the Wall"
Ike Holter's rock retelling of the Stonewall riots, which became a smash hit for the Inconvenience at Steppenwolf's Garage Rep earlier this year, gets a short remount through Theater on the Lake. Theater on the Lake; July 25-29
"Exit, Pursued by a Bear"
Theatre Seven of Chicago, recipient of this year's Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theater Award, presents the local premiere of Lauren Gunderson's black comedy about an abused wife who enlists some ursine assistance for her escape plan. Greenhouse Theater Center; June 7-July 15
"My First Time"
Based on a website dedicated to true tales of sexual initiation, this show became an off-Broadway hit. It makes its local bow with Broken Nose Theatre. Greenhouse Theater Center; June 8-July 28
"Salt of the Earth"
John Godber's drama about a Yorkshire coal-mining family, presented by Ka-Tet Theatre Company. City Lit Theater; July 13-Aug. 11
Dead Writers Theatre Collective makes its inaugural bow with Noel Coward'sdrama about the decadence, drug abuse, and dark secrets bubbling just underneath the upper crust in society. Jim Schneider directs. Greenhouse Theater Center; July 20-Aug. 26
A soldier faces charges of war crimes in Colleen Wagner's morally complex drama, presented by Idle Muse Theatre Company. Side Project Theater; July 26-Aug. 26
The iceman may have cometh — and wenteth — from the Goodman, but Eugene O'Neillfans seeking something a bit less intense can check out Eclipse Theatre's production of his romantic comedy (you read that right), set during the 1906 Fourth of July celebrations in a small Connecticut town. Athenaeum Theatre; July 26-Sept. 2
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