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Kokandy’s 2017-18 season includes four musicals fit for our time

The directors of musicals for Kokandy Productions' 2017-18 season include Lili-Anne Brown (from left), Allison Hendrix, David Alpert and John D. Glover. (Photo: Courtesy of Kokandy Productions)

VThe 2017-2018 season of Kokandy Productions will mark the fifth anniversary of this enterprising company that has produced such musicals as “Heathers,” “Assassins,” “The Full Monty” and “Loving Repeating,” and earned 27 Jeff Award nominations in the process.

The company will celebrate the anniversary with an expanded season featuring four fully produced musicals (including two Chicago premieres and two guest directors), along with numerous readings and workshops designed to “add fresh voices” to Kokandy’s “New Works Initiative.” The new season also will mark Kokandy’s transition to a not-for-profit organization.

In a prepared statement, Allison Hendrix, Kokandy’s co-artistic director, observed: “As we reflected on the past, present and future of the company, we sought out stories for our upcoming season that explore what it has meant – and now means – to live in America, with a particular focus on life in the ongoing wake of national distress and tragedy. The Great Depression, the attacks of September 11, 2001, the current climate of violence and unrest – these moments define us as individuals and as a nation. Each of our shows allows us to explore the danger and the joy of being human; in every moment, we have a choice to fight, to flee, to celebrate, to rage, to love. All of our characters in this 2017-18 season face such choices, and we will spend this year discovering how they succeed and fail at moving forward.”

Here is a look at the upcoming season so far, with one show still to be announced:

+ “THE WIZ” (March/April 2017): This 1975 Tony Award-winning musical, with a book by William F. Brown and a score by Charlie Smalls Follow that mixes rock, gospel and soul, will be directed by Lili-Anne Brown. In this urban retelling of the movie classic, “The Wizard of Oz,” Brown will “put the focus on what it means to live with intelligence, compassion and courage in today’s tough cities.”

+ “LITTLE FISH” (July/Aug. 2017): This Chicago premiere, with book, music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, will be directed by Allison Hendrix (who, incidentally, is currently giving a knockout performance as the panic-stricken bride-to-be in the Writers Theatre production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”). Billed as “an oblique parable for urban life after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” the musical is loosely based on Deborah Eisenberg’s short stories, “Days” and “Flotsam.” At its center is thirtysomething writer Charlotte, who decides to give up smoking, and begins swimming to compensate for the lack of nicotine. With the help of her friends Kathy and Marco, Charlotte moves forward and backward in time, only to discover that she has spent her life running away. The show’s eclectic score includes Latin, jazz, rock, and what has been described as “the pure urban noise within Charlotte’s mind.” “Little Fish” debuted off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre in 2003.

+ “BONNIE & CLYDE” (Sept./Oct. 2017): This Chicago premiere of a musical with book by Ivan Menchel, music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Don Black, will be staged by New York-based guest director David Alpert. The musical captures the real-life exploits of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the ill-fated lovers and outlaws whose story has been infamous since they achieved folk hero status at the height of the Great Depression. A tale of love, adventure and crime, the musical has a “non-traditional score” featuring blues, gospel and rockabilly music. The show received its world premiere at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2009, and transferred to Broadway in 2011.

Kokandys’ fifth season will conclude in Spring 2018 with a soon-to-be-announced production directed by co-artistic director John D. Glover. All productions will be staged at Kokandy’s resident home, Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont. Season subscriptions and single tickets will go on sale at a later date.