Local theaters offering up big shows this season
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media September 13, 2012 10:58AM
LEO is one of the acts coming to Elgin Community College in the 2012-13 season. | Courtesy of ECC
Updated: October 16, 2012 8:24PM
From Dionne Warwick to William Shatner, and Engelbert Humperdinck to Mavis Staples, there are a lot of good shows coming to area theaters this season.
Here’s an overview of shows coming to Naperville’s North Central College, the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, the Paramount in Aurora and Elgin Community College.
NORTH CENTRAL COLLEGE, NAPERVILLE
(630) 637-7469, northcentralcollege.edu/showtix
Dionne Warwick, The Oak Ridge Boys, Bernadette Peters, Branford Marsalis, Sara Evans, Five for Fighting and Celtic Woman are among the highlights of the upcoming season at Naperville’s North Central College.
The College has four main performance venues: The 605-seat, acoustically perfect Wentz Concert Hall at 171 E. Chicago Ave.; the 150-seat black box experimental Madden Theatre adjacent to the Wentz; Pfeiffer Hall at 310 E. Benton Ave., which houses most theatrical productions, recitals, choral and instrumental performances; and the 240-seat theatre at Meilley-Swallow Hall, 31 S. Ellsworth St.
Brian Lynch, fine arts director at North Central College, promised theatergoers an exciting season.
“We always try to bring something for everyone,” he said. “We hope people are starting to realize we’re getting the best of the best here.”
The season kicks off with Eric Hutchinson Sept. 23, followed by Five For Fighting Sept. 27.
“Specifically targeted because of all the hundreds of thousands of people descending on this area because the Ryder Cup, we’re bringing in Five For Fighting the night before the Ryder Cup opens,” he said.
The Ryder Cup golf tournament is held this year in Medinah Sept. 25 to 30.
For people who prefer more iconic artists, Dionne Warwick will perform two concerts Oct. 6 and 7.
“We’ve had her six or seven years ago, and she’s such an amazingly classy lady to work with,” he said. “She’s everything anybody could imagine for a performer with her reputation. She does a magnificent show. She’s an incredibly gracious lady on stage. You’re seeing one of the greats in the business perform.”
Kicking off Homecoming week will be an Oct. 26 performance by the legendary Bernadette Peters, he said.
“Some of the audience, when we sell the show out, will be sitting above and behind her in the choral balcony,” he said. “That might be the key place to sit.”
Closing homecoming week is two performances by country superstar Sara Evans on Oct. 27.
“It’s going to be a great season,” he said. “And that’s just the first two months.”
In November, a new production of the classic story “The Velveteen Rabbit” comes to the concert hall on the 10th of the month.
On Nov. 17, singer Mary Wilson stars in “Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Project,” with biographer, narrator and host James Gavin.
“The way it’s been described to be, is some video clips, some audio clips, some narration by the author and that salute to Lena. It’s going to be an absolutely amazing show,” he said. “We’re going to be the first in the area to have that performance, too.”
Christmas comes alive at North Central, beginning with two performances by the famed group Celtic Woman on Dec. 8 and 9.
Just before Christmas, the legendary country group Oak Ridge Boys perform their holiday program, “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’, on Dec. 21, he said.
“We started getting calls for Oak Ridge Boys as soon as they posted it on their web site, before we had even announced the season yet,” he said.
TheatreWorks USA will put on two performances of “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 2, and the Organic Theater Company will once again bring “Jacob Marley’s A Christmas Carol” to the Meiley-Swallow Hall for five performances Dec. 13 through 16.
“It’s Marley’s side of what actually happened,” he said. “That is becoming an annual event. It’s a more mature performance. It’s not bright, colorful costumes and fun and dance. It’s a very different take on the story.”
Mark Cohn kicks off 2013 with a trio on Jan. 12, and Beckie Menzie and Tom Michael return as part of the cabaret series Jan. 27.
In a continuation of the cabaret series, David Burnham performs in “Mostly Broadway” Feb. 17, and the Russian National Orchestra return Feb. 24.
“I decided to bring back dance this year, and we’ve got three of the best companies around,” he said. “We’ve got Alvin Ailey (Oct. 21), we’ve got Parsons Dance in February, and on April 13 we have Giordano Dance Chicago. It’s the 15th anniversary of the company, and it’s because of that company that I have a career. Gus Giordano, the (late) founder of the company, took me under his wing when I was at Northwestern. This is my way of thanking him.”
They will host a ballroom dance master class after the show.
Branford Marsalis will perform March 1, and the Vienna Boys Choir comes March 17. Between the two is the show “One Night of Queen” on March 9.
Jazz songstress Spider Saloff performs the songs of Cole Porter on March 24, and the springtime heats up with an April 27 performance by the Chicago Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble, he said.
“They have the sound and the fire and the passion of Miami Sound Machine,” he said. “It’s that same kind of lively, upbeat, energetic sound. Everyone needs to see that show.”
Also in the spring are two family performances from TheatreWorks USA: “Junie B. Jones” on March 16, and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” on April 20.
The season closes May 18 with “How Big Can You Get? 100 Years of Cab Calloway featuring Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.”
Performing throughout the year will be the DuPage Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Naperville Men’s Glee Club and the Anima Singers, to name a few, he said.
“There’s something on this campus every weekend, so if folks are looking for something to do, just come to North Central and they’re bound to find something good going on here,” he said. “There’s something for everyone. We’ve got a variety of performances you can see. If you don’t like one thing, there’s probably something coming the next night you’re going to love.”
THE RIALTO SQUARE THEATRE
15 E. Van Buren St., Joliet
(815) 726-7171, Rialtosquare.com
“This is our first year of doing a comedy festival,” said Annette Parker, Director of Marketing and Sales for the Rialto. “It’s called the Rialto’s Last Laugh Comedy Festival.”
It’s a new programming initiative aimed at tickling the funny bone from Oct. 11 through 27. Performers include: Adam Carolla on Oct. 12, Kathleen Madigan Oct. 18, the Nobodies of Comedy on Oct. 26, and Cheech & Chong Oct. 27.
“We did a little spin-off from the comedy festival — we’re also doing a comedy film festival,” she said. “We’re (showing) the top five comedy films of all time.”
They are partnering with the University of St. Francis, which will show films No. 5 through 2; and the No. 1 film will be shown at the Rialto. In case you are wondering, the films are (from No. 5 to 1): “Tootsie,” “Some Like it Hot,” “Duck Soup,” “Dr. Strangelove” and “Annie Hall.”
Comedy in October is something the Rialto plans to continue in the future. The laughs continue into November, when four funny ladies present the show “Pumps and Punchlines” on Nov. 2.
A cappella group Straight No Chaser performs Nov. 3, Baby Boomers can revel in the glory of “This is the ‘60s” Nov. 9, and crooner Engelbert Humperdinck comes to town Nov. 7.
“He is our top seller right now, so if people want tickets, they better get them quickly,” she said.
The annual Christmastime event Festival of Trees returns again this year, Nov. 19 through 25, she said.
“We’re having an opening night celebration, a holiday lunch break, a wine tasting, teddy bear tea, Rialto Idol (contest) and ‘The Nutcracker.’ We have organ concerts, we’re showing movies, and of course we have trees and wreaths people can bid on.”
December heats up with shows sure to bring in the Christmas spirit; including “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas By Chip Davis” on Dec. 5, the Joliet American Legion Band doing a free Christmas concert Dec. 9, the John Tesh Big Band Christmas Show on Dec. 12, and “It’s A Wonderful Life — Live Radio Broadcast” on Dec. 14.
The new year opens with a Jan. 11 performance by The Midtown Men — four original members of the Broadway hit “Jersey Boys.” The annual Bridal Expo will be Jan. 20, the State Ballet Theatre of Russia presents “Cinderella” Jan. 22, and the play “Defending the Caveman” will be performed Feb. 9.
“In honor of Valentine’s Day, we thought that would be a good date-night show for people,” she said.
In addition to the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas show, the Broadway at the Rialto series includes Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” Feb. 18, “Dreamgirls” March 14, and Steve Solomon’s one-man show, “My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish, and I’m in Therapy” on April 13.
Sandy Hackett’s The Rat Pack Show pays tribute to the Golden Age of Las Vegas on April 5, and the season rounds out with an unusual and highly anticipated show from Jim Henson on April 14.
“Henson Alternative Stuffed and Unstrung Featuring the Miskreant Puppets” is an improvisational show recommended for mature audiences only.
“It’s an improv show with the puppets, and audience members yell out situations,” she said.
The show is called unpredictable and irreverent, and it’s never the same show twice.
“We are announcing three very popular concerts Sept. 28, and tickets go on sale Oct. 5,” she said. “I think people are going to like them.”
The season closes with the annual Organ Extravaganza on April 27.
THE PARAMOUNT THEATRE
23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
(630) 896-6666, ParamountAurora.com
The Paramount Theatre in Aurora will see a lively mix of comedy, dance, music and theater this season, said executive director Tim Rater.
After a successful first outing, the self-produced Broadway Subscription Series returns.
“What I’m hearing is that folks seem to be very excited about the Broadway,” he said. “It was the first time we produced our own Broadway theater. The ticket price was reasonable, the subscription price was reasonable, and the response has been great. People are very excited to see ‘Grease.’”
“Grease” opened Sept. 12 and runs to Oct. 7. Other shows in the series include “Annie” Nov. 21 to Dec. 30, “The Music Man” Jan. 16 to Feb. 3, and “Fiddler on the Roof” March 6 to 24.
“It’s a pretty family-friendly season,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a pretty great season this year.”
In honor of the upcoming election, the political comedy troupe The Capitol Steps pay a visit Oct. 12.
“They’re always really well-received, and fun to watch,” he said. “This year should be especially fun with all the politicking that’s going on right now. These guys make fun of everybody.”
Aurora’s own Ballet Folklorico Quetzalcoatl performs Oct. 19, and the folk-rock duo The Indigo Girls play Nov. 3. Popular singer Olivia Newton-John comes to Aurora Nov. 10.
If you watch the WGN Morning News, you won’t want to miss the Chicago Comedy Tour on Nov. 17. The show features Pat Tomasulo, Ana Belaval and Mike Toomey performing in the Copley Theatre.
There will be a special holiday concert with some of the stars from last year’s Broadway season and this season on Dec. 4.
“They’ll do some of the big hits from the Broadway musicals as well as some holiday songs,” he said. “Then we have Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue in the Copley Theatre, which is very irreverent comedy; nobody is off-limits. That’s the fun of the show. It’s already selling really well.”
That show runs Dec. 13 to 23.
Ring in the New Year with Under the Streetlamp on Dec. 31, featuring stars from Chicago’s “Jersey Boys.” There are two concerts; the latter will include a champagne toast to the new year.
Perhaps the biggest jewel in the Paramount’s crown this season is the Jan. 4 performance by William Shatner. His show is titled “Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It.”
“The show is funny, and touching and insightful,” he said. “It was very favorably reviewed.”
Poi Dog Pondering performs Feb. 9, and entertainer Bobby Vinton performs a Valentine’s show Feb. 14. Finally, the disco era lives on with the tribute show “Stayin’ Alive: One Night of the Bee Gees” on March 30.
The theatrical event known as Stomp comes to the Paramount April 13, and the season closes out with ‘60s rockers The Ides of March and Herman’s Hermits with Peter Noone performing on May 18.
“We’re going to be adding more throughout the year, and we have our Classic Movie Mondays which have been running for almost a year,” he said. “Movies are $1 and you can see a different classic movie every Monday at 7 p.m. People love to be able to come and see these classic films in the movie theater.”
“Shrek” is the next one showing on Sept. 17. See the web site for a complete list of movies.
ELGIN COMMUNITY COLLEGE ART CENTER
1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin
(847) 697-1000, Elgin.edu
The goals are to continue to redefine the concert experience for the audience, said director of performing arts Steve Duchrow, and make the arts central to peoples’ lives. It’s those goals that helped shape the season.
“We named it three years ago: do art differently,” he said. “Ultimately, different here means better. Different here mean surprising. Different here means exciting. That’s the bar. How do we surprise the patron in a different way and give them something they don’t expect?”
They will do that through an eclectic and exciting mix of artists, he said.
“There’s a lot of great artists and great shows coming up,” he said.
The season opens Sept. 29, with a return performance by the renowned American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life. At the end of a full week of educational programming, the theater will present their stage presentation of “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien.
The legendary blues artist Mose Allison performs Nov. 3.
“He is one of the great legends of jazz and blues,” Duchrow said. “When you look up Mose Allison, you see Van Morrison talking about him. You see Elvis Costello talking about him. You see Pete Townsend talking about him. They talk about how influential he was to them.”
As it’s his 85th birthday, ECC will have a birthday cake for Allison.
Victor Wooten — bass player for Bela Fleck and Dave Matthews, among others — comes to town Oct. 13. He will do a 90-minute workshop open to anyone prior to the performance.
The former “Jersey Boys” cast mates, Under the Streetlamp, returns for two shows on Oct. 18, performing hits from the American radio songbook. The group has sold out the Blizzard Theatre three times in the past.
Mavis Staples performs Nov. 17. Not only is she one of the legendary singers to come from the Stax/Volt era, “she worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, and … Bob Dylan actually proposed to her,” he said.
They have a show called LEO premiering Nov. 26 and 27 only at ECC.
“It’s a show that is sort of a mix between Buster Keaton and Blue Man Group and Cirque du Soleil,” he said. “It appears to defy gravity.”
A new initiative they are trying this year is the “Super Patron.” Someone who buys tickets to two events a year is a “super patron.” Super patrons will receive a 10-percent discount on pre-show dinners presented by the culinary department.
In addition to the presenting season, there are 20 performance ensembles that call ECC home, he said.
“Those are all priced between $10 and $20, so it’s a good value,” he said. “One night you can see steel band, and then you can see a ballet folkloric group, then you can see a full orchestra, then you can see an adult chorus doing ‘The Messiah.’”
When it comes to Christmas, there are “about a dozen” holiday shows, he said, with the centerpiece being the Ruth Page Civic Ballet performing “The Nutcracker” Dec. 8 and 9.
“The steel band has a Christmas show, the jazz band has a Christmas show, the youth orchestra does as well, so there’s a number of those holiday shows that start in early December,” he said. “And of course, no Christmas show would be complete without a performance of ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ Pink Floyd people like Christmas, too.”
Duchrow’s referring to a concert by the band Echoes of Pompeii, which will perform Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” to honor the 40th anniversary of that album release. They will perform the historic album live, along with other Floyd favorites, on Dec. 15.
The new year’s slate begins with American Grands on Jan. 26, 2013. It’s a piano lover’s dream when 12 grand pianos and more than 500 local performers take the stage.
Comedian Robert Klein performs Feb. 9, Ladysmith Black Mambazo comes to town Feb. 16, blues guitarist Matt Andersen burns up the stage on Feb. 23 and guitarist Frank Vignola performs March 15 and 16.
On March 16, the Improvised Shakespeare Company performs a fully-improvised and hilarious show using the language and themes of William Shakespeare. The show hails from Chicago’s famed iO Theatre.
Tim Piper portrays John Lennon in “Just Imagine” on April 6. “Just Imagine” asks the question, what would John Lennon say if he knew he only had two hours left to live?
“We try to focus on the art, and make sure the art is relevant and exciting and transformational,” Duchrow said.
The group 2CELLOS will apply their skills to works by Coldplay, U2, Nirvana, and AC/DC during a performance on April 11, while singer/songwriters Eliza Gilkyson, John Gorka, and Lucy Kaplansky will perform as the super group Red Horse on April 13.
Biographer James Gavin explored the man and myth behind jazz legend Chet Baker in his book “Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker” on April 14. The performance contains a mix of spoken word, film and jazz music performed by Spider Saloff (vocals), Art Davis (trumpet), and Dennis Luxion (piano).
In 2014, ECC will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Arts Center, Duchrow said.
“They had a great vision when they built the Arts Center,” he said. “We are excited about our venue.”
THE HEMMENS CULTURAL CENTER
45 Symphony Way, Elgin
(847) 931-5900, Hemmens.org
In an unfortunate turn of event, the Hemmens’ presenting budget was eliminated in a round of city budget cuts, said Butch Wilhelmi, supervisor of the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin.
Don’t fret, the Hemmens won’t be collecting dust this season. Green Room Productions theater company will continue to do an improv show on the first Saturday of the month.
“The phrase they use is 100 percent clean and 99 percent funny,” he said. “It’s something we started a year ago and we’re excited about it. It’s something you can bring the whole family to. It’s a nice, fun night out.”
The Hemmens is still home to the Elgin Symphony Orchestra, which will continue to perform their usual repertoire of pops classics and holiday concert in December, he said.
The Children’s Theater of Elgin will have a couple of shows at the Hemmens, including “Peter Pan” in October, he said.
“They bring in a company from Las Vegas, so Peter Pan will be flying,” he said.
The Hemmens will still see plenty of action, he said.
“From the first weekend in January through the last weekend in July, I don’t have any open weekends except for Easter weekend,” he said. “I’ve got something booked at least one night every weekend for those first seven months from renters. We’re not doing our own thing, but we’ve been able to fill in with rental business.”
There will also be dance and talent competitions, he said.