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Broadway in Chicago, riding high, sets stage for ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ in a spring season splash

Submitted by on Jan 1, 2013 – 4:38 pm

Preview: Among seven spring shows, Broadway in Chicago also will present the world premiere of New York-bound “Big Fish” and the drag costume extravaganza “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”

By Lawrence B. Johnson

You could hardly blame Eileen LaCario, vice president of Broadway in Chicago, for the exhilaration in her voice as she ticked off the spring lineup of touring shows coming to the Windy City. After all, at the moment she was speaking, in late December, B’way in Chicago had two major hits playing simultaneously – “The Book of Mormon” and “War Horse” – and she’s banking on the spring slate to keep that bright light ablaze.

Leading off the season’s second half, in early March, will be the Broadway-bound revival of the musical “Jekyll & Hyde,” featuring “American Idol” star Constantine Maroulis as the man with the darkly divided personality and R&B singer Deborah Cox as the woman the better part of him loves.

Then it’s the glitzy, riotous musical “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” which LaCario sums up as “entertainment beyond belief.” The Australian outback gets a dose of cultural shock when three drag queens take their fabulously costumed show to a resort.

Also coming our way is the world premiere of another musical with its sights on Broadway, “Big Fish,” starring Norbert Leo Butz as Edward Bloom, a man whose life seems to be fabricated from the tall tales he loves to tell.

It’s an extremely diverse collection of shows B’way in Chicago has assembled for the weeks ahead, a variety that reflects LaCario’s take on her public: “I think Chicago audiences like to experiment.”

Here’s Broadway in Chicago’s spring 2013 season in brief:

  • “Jekyll & Hyde,” with music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, March 12-24 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St.: Following a four-year run on Broadway, this reconceived production starring Constantine Maroulis and Deborah Cox is wending its way toward a fresh start in New York. Based on the story by the 19th century Scottish author Robert Louis Stephenson, “Jekyll & Hyde” is a classic morality fable about a man torn between internal forces of good and evil. “Having Maroulis and Cox in the lead roles will add a great deal of excitement,” says LaCario, “and Frank Wildhorn has created one of the most beloved scores on Broadway.”
  • “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” a musical featuring pop tunes with a book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, March 19-31 at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, 50 E. Congress Pkwy.: Two drag queens and a transsexual hit the Australian outback in their lavender tour bus, Priscilla, to perform their drag show in a remote resort town. Suffice to say there’s a lot of perspective adjustment to come. “There’s nothing more delightful than ‘Priscilla,’” says LaCario. The show is a costume feast – winner of the 2011 Tony Award for that — peppered with a chart of dance-floor hits including “It’s Raining Men,” “Finally” and “I Will Survive.”
  • “Catch Me If You Can,” with a book by Terrence McNally, music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, April 2-14 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.: This splashy musical thriller follows the elusive figure of Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., a born con artist who runs away from home as a teenager in search of the high life – with nothing but his personal charm, creative imagination and multiple identities as an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer. He is, of course, none of those things. It isn’t long before he’s being hotly pursued by an FBI agent, in what proves to be a slalom chase to an unforeseeable finish.
  • “Big Fish,” a world premiere with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, book by John August, directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, April 2-May 5 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St.: Based on the 1998 novel by Daniel Wallace and the 2003 film directed by Tim Burton, “Big Fish” will be spawned in Chicago for its destiny on Broadway. Norbert Leo Butz stars as Edward Bloom, quite a fanciful storyteller whose incredible yarns have led his son William to think the old man is nothing more than a congenital liar who can never be trusted. Only a journey of spiritual discovery enables William to learn the truth about his father.
  • “American Idiot,” with the music of Green Day, lyrics by lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong and book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer, who also directs, April 16-21 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre: Winner of the 2010 Tony Awards for best scenic and lighting designs, and nominated for best musical, “American Idiot” was spun into a show from the concept album of the same title by punk rock band Green Day – which also won the 2011 Grammy Award for best musical show album. It’s the story of three restless youths who flee their suffocating suburban lives to find life’s hard answers in the wider world. This will be the second presentation of “American Idiot” by Broadway in Chicago. “I like to bring in shows that a younger audience can relate to,” says LaCario.
  •  “Anything Goes,” with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, April 23-May 5 at the Cadillace Palace Theatre: This is the scintillating Roundabout Theatre production that brought Kathleen Marshall the 2011 Tony Award for best choreography. She was also nominated for best director. In the touring show, Rachel York stars as Reno Sweeney, an evangelist turned nightclub singer who’s sailing for London with an assortment of characters ranging from British upper class to American underclass. Porter’s smart, frothy 1934 score includes all-time hits like “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “Anything Goes.”
  • “West Side Story,” with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents, choreography by Jerome Robbins, June 11-16 at the Oriental Theatre: “It’s one of the shows our audiences always request,” says LaCario. The tragic retelling of  “Romeo and Juliet” pits two New York youth gangs against each other as a boy from one side and a girl from the other – Tony and Maria — see only each other and their new-found love. The Bernstein-Sondheim collaboration on “West Side Story” (1957) gave forth such timeless lyric gems as “Something’s Coming,” “Tonight,” “Maria,” “America” and “I Feel Pretty.” 
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Photo captions and credits:  Home page and top: Constantine Maroulis portrays the psychologically split character of Jekyll-Hyde, with Deborah Cox as the woman who thinks she knows and loves the man. Descending: It’s all about the costumes in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” (Photo by Joan Marcus) Stephen Anthony plays Frank Abagnale — here in one of  his many guises, as an airline pilot — in “Catch Me If You Can.” (Troika Entertainment). Erich Bergen and Rachel York head the cast of “Anything Goes.” (Photo by Joan Marcus) The Jets try to keep their cool before a rumble in “West Side Story.” (Photo by Carol Rosegg)

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  • Chewing my nails in anticipation of Big Fish. Tim Burton’s surreal film is a favorite of mine, which makes me skeptical that a stage adaptation could live up to that standard. On the other hand, the fantastical story offers many natural spots for songs, so it has great potential if it’s done right. And Mr. Lippa and Ms. Stroman make a promising team. Fingers (or fins) crossed!

  • Chewing my nails in anticipation of Big Fish. Tim Burton’s surreal film is a favorite of mine, which makes me skeptical that a stage adaptation could live up to that standard. On the other hand, the fantastical story offers many natural spots for songs, so it has great potential if it’s done right. And Mr. Lippa and Ms. Stroman make a promising team. Fingers (or fins) crossed!

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