Theo Ubique Cabaret Theater – that unique storefront operation in Rogers Park under the artistic direction of Fred Anzevino – is where the actors serve you dinner or coffee, and then proceed to deliver knockout performances of great musicals and revues at a distance of less than one inch from the audience. The place is in a category all its own.
If you happened to catch this season’s production of “Rent” you already know that Theo Ubique can work major miracles in its intimate space. If you’ve never been there, the 2016-2017 season would be a fine time to get to know what happens on its stage as it presents four musicals – two Chicago premieres and two major revivals.
The season will begin in September with the Chicago premiere of a 2015 Drama Desk nominee for Outstanding Musical – the off-Broadway hit “Fly by Night,” to be directed by Anzevino, with music direction by Jeremy Ramey. Coming in December will be the Chicago premiere of “Hony Tonk Angels,” which has a book musical by Ted Swindley (whose “Always… Patsy Cline,” was a 2014 hit at Theo Ubique), and incorporates some of country music’s greatest hits into a story of three women who form a country music singing trio. It will be directed by Courtney Crouse, with choreography by Cameron Turner and music direction by Ramey.
Then, with a nine-week run beginning in March, 2017, comes a rarely revived classic – Frank Loesser’s “The Most Happy Fella.” The show – which features more than 40 songs, and is considered one of the earliest “sung-through musicals” on Broadway – is operatic in scope. It will be directed Anzevino, with Ramey as music director and James Beaudry as choreographer. Finally, for the summer of 2017, the company will present a revival of one of its most successful musical revues, “Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night.” Conceived by Anzevino and Arnold Johnston, it premiered in the 2008-09 season.
All performances will be at Theo Ubique’s home at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood. Season tickets will go on sale soon, with single tickets on sale approximately one month before each opening. Preview tickets are $20; $29-$34 for the regular run. Dinner (optional) is $25 additional, with advance reservations required. For additional information call (800) 595-4849 or visit www.theo-u.com.
Here is a closer look at the productions:
+ “Fly by Night” (Sept. 23 – Nov. 6): Conceived by Kim Rosenstock, written by Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick and Kim Rosenstock, and directed by Fred Anzevino, with music direction by Jeremy Ramey, this show was produced by New York City’s Playwrights Horizons in 2014. A darkly comic rock fable, it tells the tale of a melancholy sandwich maker and his humdrum life as it intersects with two entrancing sisters against the backdrop of the Northeast blackout of 1965. It’s a story “about making your way and discovering hope in a world beset with darkness.”
+ “Honky Tonk Angels” (Dec. 9, 2016 – Jan. 29, 2017): By Ted Swindley, with direction by Courtney Crouse, music direction by Jeremy Ramey and choreography by Cameron Turner, the show combines country hit songs with the story of three gutsy “good ole gals” who follow their dreams to Nashville. Taking its title from the 1951 Kitty Wells song, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” the score includes 30 classic country songs including “Stand by Your Man,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “9 to 5,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “Harper Valley PTA.”
+ “The Most Happy Fella” (March 10 – May 7, 2017): With book, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, directed by Fred Anzevino, with music direction by Jeremy Ramey and choreography by James Beaudry. Following the mega-success of his 1950 musical comedy “Guys and Dolls,” Loesser adapted Sidney Howard’s 1924 play, “They Knew What They Wanted,” about Tony Esposito, an older Italian immigrant and wine grower in California’s Napa Valley, and his romance with a younger woman. The show’s score is filled with sweeping ballads, intense dramatic arias and tuneful splashy Broadway-style numbers including “Somebody, Somewhere,” “Standing on the Corner,” “Big D,” and “Joey, Joey, Joey.”
+ “Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night” (June 15 – Aug. 6, 2017): With original translations by Arnold Johnston, this acclaimed revue, conceived by Fred Anzevino and Johnston, with musical arrangements by Joshua Stephen Kartes, was first mounted in 2008. It follows the emotional excursions of two sailors at port in a bar in Amsterdam, where relationships bloom and wilt through the songs of Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel. The score includes “Amsterdam,” “Don’t Go Away,” “Alone,” “Rosa” and many more.