In addition to the Broadway touring shows and productions at some of the area’s larger venues, there is a vibrant theater scene continuing to unfold at storefront and mid-sized theaters. From classic musicals and plays to new works, solo shows and the offbeat, there is something here for every taste.
Here is a sampling of what can be found at these theaters across the city this fall. Check out our weekly Curtain Call column for an ongoing list of shows as they open.
“Caroline, Or Change” (Sept. 22-Oct. 28 at Firebrand Theatre, The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee; firebrandtheatre.org) Firebrand Theatre, in partnership with TimeLine Theatre, stages Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s musical, set in 1963 Louisiana, about a maid struggling with changes monumental and mundane. Tesori’s score is a wonder ranging from Motown to klezmer to classical. Lili-Anne Brown directs.
“Zurich” (Oct. 4-Nov. 10 at Steep Theatre, 1115 W. Berwyn; steeptheatre.com) Playwright Amelia Roper’s perspective on life has been called “bracingly astringent.” Find out why in this dark comedy, set at a posh Swiss hotel where power struggles between guests play out. Brad DeFabo Akin directs.
“Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine” (Oct. 5-14 at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago, Evanston; musictheaterworks.com) Angela Ingersoll brings her critically acclaimed portrayal of the legendary singer to the Music Theater Works stage. With her stunning voice and eerie resemblance to Garland, this short run is one not to miss.
“Flyin’ West” (Oct. 5-Nov. 3 at American Blues Theater, Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont; americanbluestheater.com): Chuck Smith directs Pearl Cleage’s powerful exploration of a little-known chapter of American history in which former slaves headed west, where the Homestead Act of 1862 afforded them the chance to begin new lives.
“It’s Only a Play” (Oct. 11-Nov. 11 at Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway; pridefilmsandplays.com) Terrence McNally’s hilarious send-up of show business is set at a disastrous opening night party where things do not go as planned. Jon Martinez directs.
“Gypsy” (Oct. 12-Nov. 25 at Porchlight Music Theatre, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn; porchlightmusictheatre.org) Powerhouse singer E. Faye Butler stars as Broadway’s legendary stage mother in the classic musical. As is always the case with Porchlight, expect a first rate production helmed by Michael Weber.
“The Scientific Method” (Oct. 18-Dec. 2 at Rivendell Theatre, 5779 N. Ridge; rivendelltheatre.org): Jessica Holt directs the world premiere of Jenny Connell Davis’ comedy-drama about a scientist on the verge of a scientific breakthrough whose nerves are rattled when a handsome new colleague starts asking questions around the lab.
“Cosmologies” (Oct. 19-Dec. 9 at The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee; gifttheatre.org): The Gift turns to playwright and ensemble member David Rabe for this existential absurdist comedy about a young man whose negotiation for a date goes very wrong. Michael Patrick Thornton directs.
“In the Canyon” (Oct. 23-Nov. 25 at Jackalope Theatre, Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway; jackalopetheatre.org) Calamity West’s plays have ranged from a contemporary take on an Anton Chekhov drama to a psychological study of serial killer John Wayne Gacy to a murder mystery set in Bavaria. West’s new play, a story of survival in a broken society, spans 2007-2067. Elly Green directs.
“The Revolutionists” (Nov. 15-Dec. 29 at Strawdog Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice; strawdog.org): Lauren Gunderson’s intriguing play brings together four women who made history during the French Revolution — playwright Olympe de Gouge, assassin Charlotte Corday, deposed Queen Marie Antoinette and spy and free women of color Marianne Angelle. Denise Serna directs.
Mary Houlihan is a local freelance writer.