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Theater 2014-15: In Act II, Broadway in Chicago unveils two shows bound for that other B’way

Submitted by on Jan 19, 2015 – 5:18 pm

The show is 'Stomp,' and this is not a donut break. (Steve McNicholas)Preview: Season’s second half brings first look at “First Wives Club” and Gloria Estefan bio “On Your Feet” plus return of “Book of Mormon” and “Jersey Boys.”

By Lawrence B. Johnson

When the curtain rises for the supercharged percussion show “Stomp” on Jan. 20 at the Bank of America Theatre, the winter-spring portion of Broadway in Chicago’s 2014-15 season will surge ahead at full throttle.

Headliners in 'First Wives Club,' from left, Faith Prince, Christine Sherrill and Carmen Cusack. (Jenny Anderson.)The dozen touring productions opening in Chicago from now through June include two pre-Broadway musical premieres – “First Wives Club” and “On Your Feet” – as well as reprises of mega-hits “The Book of Mormon” and “Jersey Boys,” and a gold-standard spectacle for children, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.”

“First Wives Club,” which opens Feb. 17, is based on the 1996 film and Olivia Goldsmith’s novel about three former college friends who reunite and discover they’ve all been dumped by their husbands for younger women. They band together to get revenge on the men who done them wrong.

“On Your Feet,” based on the life story of seven-time Grammy winner Gloria Estefan and her husband, musician-producer Emilio Estefan, features many of the superstar singer’s hits such as “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” “1-2-3,” “Mi Tierra” and “Conga.” The show opens June 2.

Once more, the dauntless boys are ready for their African mission in 'Book of Mormon. (Joan Marcus)“The pre-Broadway shows are always exciting – you’re really part of the creative process,” says Gemma Mulvihill, executive director of sales for Broadway in Chicago. “Through the run, producers are literally watching and making changes depending on whether audiences laugh, cry, applaud.”

Mulvihill, an erstwhile New Yorker who has lived in Chicago for more than 20 years, still vividly recalls the ramp-up here of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” before its Broadway opening in 2001.

“Every night Mel Brooks would stand at the back and laugh like he’d never heard the jokes before,” she says, “and we’d come and stand at the back just to watch him laugh. But every night, he’d change something in the show.”

Highlights of Broadway in Chicago’s winter-spring lineup in brief:

  • The Manchurian Dance reflects the exotic splendor of 'Shen Yun.'“Stomp” (Jan. 21-15 at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St.): This perennially popular romp takes bang-on-a-can to a whole new place as an eight-member troupe employs a wild array of percussion instruments – match boxes, wooden poles, brooms, garbage cans, hubcaps – to generate pulse-pounding rhythms.
  • “The Book of Mormon,” with book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone (Feb. 25-May 17 at Bank of America Theatre): The dauntless missionaries are back in this irreverent, laugh-packed campaign to convert Africa.
  • “Shen Yun” (March 6-8 at Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St.): Weaving ancient legends and modern heroic tales of China through music and dance, the classically trained company of “Shen Yun” makes a splendorous and artful cultural journey across 5,000 years.
  • Jillian Butterfield portrays Belle with Ryan Everett Wood as Beast in 'Disney's Beauty and the Beast.' (Matthew Murphy)“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and additional songs by Tim Rice (March 25-29 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre): It’s the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, whose unconditional love for the dreaded Beast transforms both of their lives.
  • “Jersey Boys” with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe (May 12-24 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre): The sweet and upbeat story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, blue-collar boys who hitched their wagon to one of the brightest pop music meteors ever sighted.
  • “Once” with music and lyrics by Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard (June 2-7 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre): Once…upon a time, a beautiful young woman fell in love with a Dublin street musician about to give up on his dream. It’s a complicated affair, tuneful and touching.

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