Summer Theatre Chicago 2014: What Not to Miss

Summer Theatre Chicago 2014: What Not to Miss
Alex Goodrich as The Cat in the Hat and Emily Chang as Jojo in the upcoming Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of Seussical. Photo by Michael Brosilow.

Chicago’s Summer Theatre landscape promises that even if the sun doesn’t come out tomorrow, Chicago will still have a hot summer.

The summer of 2014 offerings from our city’s more than 200 producing theaters are bigger, better and hotter than ever. So escape to the mystical world of theatre with one or more of these amazing productions.

“There is a show for absolutely everyone this summer in Chicago,” says Deb Clapp, Executive Director of the League of Chicago Theatres. “From exciting new adaptations to beloved musicals, Chicago’s vibrant theater community offers up some of the highest-quality and most creative works of theater in the country, and we can’t wait to share them with audiences this summer.”

Family-friendly shows include:

With the kids out of school for the summer, you can only plan so many beach days. A trip to one of these productions, may be just the ticket.

  • The Second City’s Go, Improv, GO!: An Improvised Kids Show returns this summer to UP Comedy Club. June 17 – July 31.
  • The whimsical world of Dr. Seuss comes to life on stage in Seussical at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. July 5 – August 17.
  • “Cirque Shanghai: Warriors” “Cirque Shanghai” combines the impressive acrobatics with the martial prowess of Chinese Kung Fu and Wu Shu masters. Performances have already started and will continue through Monday, Sept. 1 at the Pepsi® Skyline Stage, a 1,500-seat, canopied, open-air theater on Navy Pier® (600 E. Grand Ave).

Little Theatres with big shows:

Small only in size, Chicago has a world-class line-up of critically acclaimed theatre companies including Lifeline Theatre, TimeLine Theatre Company, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Redmoon Theater, Trap Door Theatre, and TUTA Theatre–to name a few.

Some have their own performance venues, while others perform in untraditional theater spaces such as storefronts, churches, laundromats and bars.  Here are some of this summer’s small-theater big shows.

  • Based on the novel by Terry Pratchett and adapted by Chris Hainsworth, Lifeline Theatre presents the wickedly funny Monstrous Regiment. Now through July 20.
  • Heartbreaking yet hilarious, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble–the only Chicago Theatre dedicated exclusively to the work of women artists– presents Courtney Baron’s Eat Your Heart Out.  Now through June 28.
  • Presented by Kokandy Productions, Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins will run at Theater Wit, with direction by Rachel Edwards Harvith and choreography by Mike Ford. June 13 – July 20.
  • Bailiwick Chicago presents Carrie: The Musical, based off of the Stephen King novel of the same name, at Victory Gardens Theatre. Now through July 12.
  • The world premiere musical, One Hit Wonders, by Black Ensemble Theater Associate Director Rueben D. Echoles and Dawn Bless, directed by BET Associate Director Daryl D. Brooks with a highly talented cast and its on-stage orchestra rocks. It is currently running at the New Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center (4450 N. Clark) through June 29.
  • Tyrant, a tense and provocative play is making its world premiere at Theatre Wit– presented by Sideshow Theatre Company. Now through June 29.
  • American Theatre Company returns to the original 1967 off-Broadway script of Hair to revise and restore material never-before-seen. Directed by PJ Paparelli. Now through June 29.
  • American Blues Theatre’s Grounded will be presented at the Greenhouse Theatre Center. June 6 – July 13.
  • Originally on Broadway in 1959, TimeLine Theatre Company’s Juno tells the story of a fearless matriarch in the 1920’s Irish Civil War. Now through July 27.
  • Trafford Tanzi is an action packed coming-of-age story set in a 1970’s wrestling ring presented by Prologue Theatre Company at Fizz Bar & Grill. June 6- June 28.
  • The New Colony at Signal Ensemble Theatre presents David Zellnik’s Orville and Wilbur Did It! directed by Andrew Hobgood. June 13 – July 20.
  • The Artistic Home presents The Late Henry Moss, a story about two brothers trying to determine the truth of their childhood after their father’s death. June 22 – August 3.
  • August Strindberg’s masterpiece The Dance of Death is filled with black comedy and biting humor. Presented by Writers Theatre at their delightful and intimate venue, Books on Vernon (in Glencoe). Now through August 3.

Summer Blockbusters

A little more pricy, these summer blockbusters are an interesting and worthy mix.

  • Rick Bayless in Cascabel: Dinner – Daring – Desire–a theatrical adventure featuring a sumptuous feast, world-class circus acts, and a tantalizing love story starring celebrity chef Rick Bayless is coming to the Goodman Theatre’s Owen Bruner Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, for four weeks only, July 30 through August 24.
  • The unforgettable musical adventure, Brigadoon, comes alive in a bountiful new adaption directed by Rachel Rockwell at the Goodman Theatre.  June 27 – August 3.
  • The highly-anticipated world premiere (and pre-Broadway run) of The Last Ship, with a score by Sting, based on his childhood experiences, comes to the Bank of America Theater June 10 through July 13.  The Broadway in Chicago production is directed by Joe Mantello with book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey and choreography by Steven Hoggett.
  • You’re in for a good time with the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy and his amazing stable of stars from the Motown years including: The Jackson 5, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson and more at the Oriental Theatre in the Broadway in Chicago production of Motown the Musical. Now through July 13.


  • Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Juno), Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson star in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s comedic drama This is Our Youth. June 10 through July 27.
  • The world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Bruce Norris’ newest work The Qualms, comes to Steppenwolf  Theatre July 3 through August 31.
  • The hit musical, Million Dollar Quartet, continues in its sixth year at the Apollo Theater.
  • The Second City’s Incomplete Guide to Everything  will continue through the summer at Up Comedy Club, along with Second City’s Game Night.
  • If you haven’t seen the long-running hit show Blue Man Group, you may want to catch it at the Briar Street Theatre before it leaves August 9.

Coming next week: Be sure to check out Show Me Chicago’s line-up of “Theatre and Movies at Chicago’s Great Outdoor Venues.”

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