Show Me Chicago Offers a Sampler of the 2011-2012 Theater Season With Red, Follies, Mary Poppins and more.

Show Me Chicago Offers a Sampler of the 2011-2012 Theater Season With Red, Follies, Mary Poppins and more.
Sweeney Todd esemble at Drury Lane Oakbrook.

With over 200 theaters, Chicago has something for everyone from Broadway musicals, experimental theater, children's shows, drama and comedy to the Bard and more.  As the 2011-2012 season line-up is chomping at the bit to get started, Show Me Chicago has put together a first course menu of ten shows to whet your appetite and beg for more.  So go ahead and begin your adventure by checking out ten of Chicago's amazing world-class offerings on SMC--which as you will see are second to none.

1. Seeing Red at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

Direct from Broadway, the highly-anticipated Red---hailed as compelling and fiercely intellectual--makes its Chicago premiere in the Goodman Theatre's Albert space.   A seemingly unlikely premise for a play, Red, by acclaimed playwright John Logan, provides a portrait of legendary abstract expressionist painter, Mark Rothko (1903-1970] and his apprentice caught in the rapidly changing landscape of the art world of the 1960's.  The two-man show was a runaway sell-out hit at its world premiere in London's West End and winner of six Tony Awards in 2010 on Broadway. Tickets, $25 to $85, are on sale now at the box office and online or by phone at 312 443 3800.  170 N. Dearborn.  The show runs September 17 through October 23, 2011 in the Albert. 

Special Event: The Art Institute of Chicago is home to some Rothko's paintings.  You may want to check them out before you see Red or attend their Season Opening Benefit, in conjunction with Red, on September 27, 2011 at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. 312 443 5564.

2. Lose Your Mind to Follies at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater kicks off its 25th Anniversary Season with Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Follies.  The show promises to be spectacular with a company of 29 actors and a 12-piece orchestra performing Sondheim's original score including the classic standards "I'm Still Here," "Losing My Mind" and "Broadway Baby." The setting and intimacy of Follies is enhanced in CST's 500-seat Courtyard Theater with a thrust stage that brings audience members into the heart of the action. Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Ave.  Tickets, $44 to $75 are on sale now at the Theater's Box Office at 312 595 5600 or online.

3. Partake in the Meaty Musical Thriller Sweeney Todd at Drury Lane Theatre.

The Stephen Sondheim Tony Award-winning Sweeney Todd, is a bloody good musical--if you catch my drift.  The 1973 masterpiece of murder and corruption, hailed by the Wall Street Journal as "the greatest musical of the past half-century" was revived in 2006 and continues to be a hot ticket. Tickets, $20 (students) to $46.  Lunch and dinner packages are also available starting at $49.75 (sorry, no meat pies on the menu at press time). Drury Lane Theatre,  100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. 630 530 0111. Now through October 9, 2011.

4. Discover Secrets Hidden In the Next Room, or the vibrator play at Victory Garden's Theatre.

Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room, or the vibrator play at Victory Garden's Theatre explores the history of a certain piece of medical equipment designed to treat female distress--aka, the vibrator.  Only Ruhl has that special knack for digging into the carnal appetites of man to explore the interplay between the actual and the magical as she recently did at Goodman Theatre with "Stage Kiss".  This time around the 37-year-old playwright addresses feminist oppression in the twilight of the Victorian age with wit, intelligence and a vibrator. The show, directed by Victory Gardens Associate Artistic Director Sandy Shinner, is the first show under the leadership of VG's newly appointed Artistic Director Chay Yew.  Victory Gardens Biograph Theater is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue in Lincoln Park.  Tickets for previews are: $20 to $40. Regular run tickets are $20 to $50.   773 871 3000 or online. September 9 through October 9, 2011.

5.  Experience The Real Thing (no, not Coke!) at Writers' Theatre.

A married playwright blurs the line between reality and his dramas on the stage as his personal life unravels before his eyes in Writers' Theatre's The Real Thing.  Actress Carrie Coon, who you may remember as the tipsy ingenue Honey, in Steppenwolf Theatre's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and who's  heading to Broadway with the show in 2012, makes her Writers' Theatre debut as Annie in Tom Stoppard's razor sharp drama, The Real Thing, that examines the complex nature of  love, art and reality. Tickets range from $45 to $65 and are available at the box office, at 376 Park Avenue, Glencoe; or by phone at 847 242 6000 or online.  The theater is located at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe.  September 13 through November 20, 2011.

6.  See the Making of a Masterpiece With The Pitmen Painters or take A Walk in the Woods with TimeLine Theatre.

TimeLine Theatre kicks off their 15th Anniversary season with a Blessing, Lee that is. Blessing's Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama, A Walk in the Woods, is one of two TimeLine productions that are running concurrently in two different theaters. The other show, The Pitmen Painters, was penned by the talented Lee Hall who is also the author of the Tony-award winning Billy Elliot and other highly-respected plays. The Chicago premiere of The Pitmen Painters will be staged at TimeLine's home theater on Wellington. The show is based on a true story of a group of miners in Northern England who take an art appreciation class that snowballs into an astonishing body of work.   A Walk in the Woods, leaves the negotiating table for a walk in the woods to debate nuclear policy during the 1980's.  A Walk in the Woods opened August 21 and runs through November 20, 2011 at Chicago's Theatre Wit (1229 W. Belmont Avenue).  The Pitmen Painters runs September 6 through December 4, 2011 at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Avenue. Tickets, $22 to $42 at 773 281 8463 x 6 or online.

7.  Lookingglass Theatre Puts Out The Great Fire.

Lookingglass Theatre Company is kicking off their 2011-2012 season with one hot number, The Great Fire--a Lookingglass original written and directed by Ensemble Member John Musial. The original 1999 production was performed at the former site of the Jane Addams Center. The updated 2011 production will be staged in the Lookingglass' home at the Waterworks Pumping Station which ironically was one of the only buildings to survive the historical fire. Relive the story that changed Chicago forever as Lookingglass recreates this historic event that took place 140 years ago.  Tickets, Previews: $20 to $34.  Regular run: $30 to $68. Phone: 312 337 0665 or online.  821 N. Michigan Avenue at Pearson. Previews: September 21 through October 1.  Regular run: October 5 through November 20, 2011.

8. Partake in a Practically Perfect Evening with Mary Poppins at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

The high-flying musical Mary Poppins is back for a three week sprint bringing the magic of Disney to Chicago's Theater District.  A perfect piece of musical theater for all ages. Tickets, $25 to $142 at Broadway in Chicago.  Cadillac Palace Theatre. October 13 through November 6, 2011.

9. View Clybourne Park Live in Black and White at Steppenwolf Theatre.

Long-time Steppenwolf collaborator Bruce Norris gives a provocative nod to A Raisin in the Sun as he explores this symbolic battleground of racial tensions and relations in Steppenwolf Theatre's season-opener, Clybourne ParkClybourne Park, uses a modest bungalow located on the northwest side of Chicago to bring home the story which takes place on two separate afternoons, 50 years apart.  Steppenwolf Ensemble Member Amy Morton is in the director's chair for Clybourne Park.  Tickets for previews range from $20 to $52; Regular run tickets are $20 to $75.  Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted Street, 312 335 1650. September 8 through November 6, 2011.

10.  Marriott Theatre Showcases A Tale of War and Peace that's not Just For the Boys.

Once again, Marriott Theatre sticks with their tried and true formula of knowing their base and giving their audience what they want.  This time around, they have taken on a rather large challenge reviving a Bette Midler and James Caan movie from 20 years ago called “For the Boys”  and turning it into a Marriott original performed in the round.  The production, two years in the making under the watchful eye of Marriott's co-artist director Aaron Thielen, centers around popular performers who entertained the troops under the auspices of the USO. The story begins in 1942 and progress through the Viet Nam war with the major emphasis on the Big Band era.  Tickets, $40 to $48, with dinner theater packages available starting at $55. Phone: 847 634 0200 or online. 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire.  Free or valet parking available on premises.  Now through October 16, 2011.

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