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Paramount nabs ‘Once,’ ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ for 2017-18

The interior of Aurora's Paramount Theatre, as seen from the stage. (Photo: Courtesy of the Paramount Theatre)

The Paramount Theater in Aurora has been on a roll ever since it launched its Broadway Series seven years ago. But as anyone who caught its two most recent productions – an opera house-worthy take on “Sweeney Todd” and an elaborate version of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” – will tell you, this theater matches grandeur and starry talent like few others.

So it should come as no surprise that for its 2017-2018 season it has nabbed the rights to the first Chicago-area regional production of “Once,” the beguiling 2012 Broadway hit that was the recipient of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and that features an Irish folk-infused score by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, the stars of the 2007 film that inspired the show.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the musical spectrum, the Paramount will open its season with “Million Dollar Quartet,” the rollicking musical tale inspired by a unique recording session that involved Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. (Both shows will be staged by Jim Corti, the Paramount’s artistic director, and the force behind “Sweeney Todd.”) Filling out the season will be the ever timely Kander and Ebb classic, “Cabaret,” and, for the holiday season, the sweetly goofy “Elf: The Musical.”

Here is a closer look at Paramount’s 2017-18 Broadway Musical Series:

+ “MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET” (Sept. 13 – Oct. 29): With a book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, and featuring such rock and roll standards as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line,” “Hound Dog” and “Great Balls of Fire,” this show, to be directed by Corti, with music direction by Kory Danielson, harks back to Dec. 4, 1956, the moment when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins just happened to turn up at the Sun Records recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee at the same time. Up and comer Jerry Lee Lewis is recording songs with rockabilly king Carl Perkins when the iconic Elvis Presley stops by with his girlfriend. The not-quite-yet-guitar-god Johnny Cash is there to pay a visit to music manager Sam Phillips. And as it turns out, this was the first and only time they played together, with all the stormy interaction you might expect. Holding the record as Chicago’s third longest running show with a run at the intimate Apollo Theatre, the show will now get the “big stage” treatment.

“Million Dollar Quartet” will be the opening production of the 2017-2018 season at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. (Image courtesy of the Paramount Theatre)

+ “ELF : THE MUSICAL” (Nov. 22, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2018): Based on the film written by David Berenbaum and starring Will Ferrell, this musical features a book by Tom Meehan and Bob Martin, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and will be directed by Amber Mak (“The Little Mermaid” and “Hairspray”), with music direction by Tom Vendafreddo. At its center is William “Buddy” Hobbes who, as a baby, crawled into Santa’s sack of presents and was whisked away to the North Pole where he lived as an elf for years, yet always sensed something was not quite right. When he learns he’s human he goes in search of his father, a workaholic New York City publisher who couldn’t care less about Christmas. Along the way, his family finds a new lease on life.

+ “CABARET” (Feb. 7 – March 18, 2018): This very adult Kander and Ebb classic, with a book by Joe Masteroff based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood, captures the decadent life in 1930s Berlin just as the Nazis are rising to power. It will be directed by Katie Spelman, with music direction by Vendafreddo. Along with the now iconic Master of Ceremonies of the Kit Kat Klub, the story centers on the relationship between the English cabaret singer and good time girl Sally Bowles, and the young American writer, Cliff Bradshaw, who has come to Berlin to work on a novel.

+ “ONCE” (April 25-June 3, 2018): With a book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (who starred in the film of the same name), this show, directed by Corti, with music direction by Vendafreddo, is about the complicated romance that develops between an Irish busker about to give up his dream of a life in music, and the very musical Czech immigrant girl who pushes him to stick with it. The guy has an ex he can’t get out of his head, and the girl has an estranged husband and young daughter. Together they sing the beautiful song, “Falling Slowly,” and many others.

The Paramount Theatre has nabbed the rights to the first Chicago area regional production of the hit Broadway musical “Once.” (Image courtesy of the Paramount Theatre Aurora)

The beautifully restored 1,888-seat Paramount Theatre, located at 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, will offer its“Buy Two Shows, Get Two Shows Free” subscription offer, with four-play packages starting at $72. Renewals for Paramount’s 2017-18 Broadway Series begin at 10 a.m. on March 27, with current subscribers given first chance to secure their seats for all four shows. During the renewal process, new subscribers can pre-order before the general public to get in line for seats.

Pre-order reservations can be made online only at ParamountAurora.com for the first week. Starting at 10 a.m. on April 3, new subscribers can pre-order over the phone or in person as well. The deadline to renew or pre-order is May 7. After seating current subscribers, the Paramount box office will contact new subscribers in May and June and process subscription requests in the order they were received.

For more information,call (630) 896-6666 or isit www.ParamountAurora.com.

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