The ongoing 2022-2023 theater seasonroughly September to Junewill be the first complete production season in Chicago in three years. A few troupes cautiously returned to live performances late last spring, but most companies waited until the fall to do so.
The number of shows opening each month now almost is back to pre-pandemic normal, although audiences are not. Companies lost subscribers during the shut-downno surpriseand continue to rebuild both subscription audiences and single-ticket sales.
As always in Chicago, theater fare for the winter months is tremendously varied, as one can see at chicagoplays.com, the website of the League of Chicago Theatres (with a link to Hot Tix, the League's discount ticket program). Here are a few choices which catch our attention.
Tick, Tick . . . Boom!, BoHo Theatre at The Edge, through Feb. 5This is the show Jonathan Larson wrote before Rent, and which he performed as a rock monologue about a wannabe-theater composer approaching 30. After Larson's unexpected early death, award-winning playwright David Auburn turned it into a three-actor show about the composer, his girlfriend and his best buddy. Under BoHo director Bo Frazier, it will be offered as a celebration of trans love with trans or non-binary performers. Info: bohotheatre.com .
Big Fish, Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, through March 19This 2013 musical version of the familiar film and novel didn't fare well on Broadway, but I liked it when it tried out in Chicago. I especially thought it had a fine score, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa, helping to tell a quirky story with heart and imagination. Veteran actor/director Henry Godinez directs, with choreography by Tommy Rapley, late of the much-missed House Theater of Chicago. The cast is headed by Heidi Kettenring and Alexander Gemignani. Tickets: marriotttheatre.com .
Andy Warhol in Iran, Northlight Theatre, through Feb. 10Do you consider Andy Warhol a gay icon? A great artist? A celebutante? Just weird? There are two overlapping plays about the odd person one often found sitting on Manhattan brownstone stoops and handing out his paper, Interview. This first one concerns Warhol's journeywhen he already was famousto pre-Revolution Tehran to create a portrait of the Shah's wife. Instead, he's confronted in his hotel by a revolutionary. Tickets: northlight.org . See Andy Warhol's Tomato below.
Wuthering Heights, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, through Feb. 19Brit theater-maker Emma Rice and her Wise Children troupe devised this highly-lauded, exuberant version of Emily Bronte's lushly-gothic tale, featuring live music, dance and puppetry in what they bill as "an intoxicating revenge tragedy for our time." It's presented as part of Chicago Shakespeare Theater's WorldStage (sic) Series in The Yard. It's the first of two overlapping Bronte pieces (see Villette below). Tickets: chicagoshakes.com .
Toni Stone, Goodman Theatre, though Feb. 26Toni Stone was the first woman to play major league professional baseball. What, you never heard of her? Well, you won't find her in A League of Their Own because Toni Stone was black. She played in the Negro League, and had to fight like hell to do that because she was a woman. Chicago-based playwright Lydia J. Diamond tells the Stone story in this 2019 drama, in its Chicago premiere on the Goodman mainstage. Ron OJ Parsons is the director, and he always knows what he's doing. Tickets: goodmantheatre.org .
Andy Warhol's Tomato, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, MacInich Arts Center (Glen Ellyn), Feb. 2-March 5This play by Vince Melocchi reveals the unknown Warhol at 18, confronting his working-class roots while working on his brother's produce truck in Philadelphia . . . and perhaps seeing tomatoes in a new way. Our reliable friend Steve Scott directs. Tickets: btechicago.com .
Villette, Lookingglass Theatre at Water Tower Pumping Station, Feb. 8-April 23This is the last novel completed by Charlotte Bronte, and it's no less improbable than her big hit, Jane Eyre, but without the happy ending. Much of it is set in France, and a good deal of the dialogue is in French in Bronte's original. We'll see how adapter Sara Gmitter and director Tracy Walsh handle that. As usual with Lookinnglass, one expects a handsome and physically dashing production for this world premiere. Tickets: lookingglasstheatre.org .
Right to Be Forgotten, Raven Theatre, Feb. 9-March 26This Chicago premiere by Sharyn Rothstein concerns social media and how the internet never forgives or forgets. The hero, having made an online error at 17, still battles a decade later to regain his privacy and reputation, which Big Tech doesn't make easy. Sarah Gitenstein directs. This seems like an essential play for our present time, when so many folks have multiple social media accounts (and so many of which are embarrassing). Screw Tik-Tok, Musk and Zuckerberg! Tickets: raventheatre.com .
1776, Broadway in Chicago at CIBC Theatre, March 1-17It's been a while since this familiar 1969 musical, about writing the Declaration of Independence, has been around. Now, it's given a revisionist interpretationala Hamiltonwith our Founding Fathers played by artists of different genders and ethnicities, and looking a helluva lot more like American looks today! We wonder if the "Founding Fathers" still will have powdered wigs. The music and lyrics are by Sherman Edwards with a book by Peter Stone. Tickets: broadwayinchicago.com .
Jonathan Abarbanel is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association