Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Midnight in Paris" Yearns for Yesterday

Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" was a first for me. First time for a fire alarm in the middle of a movie!

And you wouldn't think that this sweet, beguiling movie would really lend itself to that kind of interruption. Okay, so the fire alarm didn't add to its charms. But it is definitely to the film's credit that we all filed back into the dark theater, took our seats, and fell back under its spell without a hiccup.

"Midnight in Paris" shows off lots of pretty pictures of Paris, enough to make it clear the movie is intended as a valentine to the City of Lights, but it also has deeper themes, about a desire to go back in time, to find a "golden age" when life and art and love seem much more beautiful. For screenwriter and wannabe novelist Gil Pender, the Woody Allen alter ego played by Owen Wilson, the perfect time and place would be Paris in the 1920s. At night. In the rain. Mostly, Gil yearns to find the smoky, romantic, bohemian "Lost Generation" experience made so appealing in the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Unfortunately, Gil has come to Paris with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), who is all about shopping and dining and dancing and trailing after either her stuffy parents or the insufferable Paul (Michael Sheen), an old friend who has a habit of pontificating endlessly about art.

In a way, Inez represents everything that's wrong with Gil's life in the present. She's materialistic and shallow, while he's trying to figure out how to get himself out of his career as a Hollywood schnook and into the deeper world of a novelist, where he, like his literary heroes, can grapple with mortality and passion, nostalgia and romance, and maybe even the very meaning of life.

It's pretty tough to talk about the appeal of "Midnight in Paris" without spoiling the plot, so you are forewarned. Spoilers ahead! A look at the credits for "Midnight in Paris" will do the same thing, however, so... Don't read ahead, and don't look at the credits, if you really don't want to be spoiled.

"Midnight in Paris" really starts to take off when Gil decides to walk back to the hotel (rather than taking a cab) so that he can drink in all that Paris after dark has to offer. But he's fairly drunk and he doesn't know where he's going, and so he gets hopelessly lost. Around a bend, he sits on some steps to collect his thoughts, and a clock strikes midnight. A mysterious Peugeot, right out of 1925, pulls up, and the people inside invite him in and take him along to a party. A costume party? Au contraire. It seems the Peugeot has transported him back in time to Paris in the Jazz Age, the very place he longed to see. Soon he's hobnobbing with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, Stein, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel... And a lovely woman named Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who is deep and dark and passionate and everything he could wish for in a muse.

After that, he can't resist. So, every midnight, Gil goes back to his stairs and waits for the Peugeot. And every time, he falls a little more in love with this enchanted Paris of the 1920s. Chatting with Hemingway about fear, getting literary critiques from Gertrude Stein, falling in love with Adriana...

So that's your story, as Woody Allen dances around the question of whether there really is a better time, a "golden age," that can solve everything. Owen Wilson is not the perfect Allen stand-in for me, although he adds a naiveté and sweetness to the patented stammering and amusing discourses on sex and death and politics, and he does a very nice job with the light, droll mood of the piece. I found myself rooting for Gil and what he might find with Adriana, beautifully played by Cotillard.

Rachel McAdams isn't as successful; her Inez is not very attractive and there doesn't seem to be any reason Gil would've been with her in the first place, but I suppose she serves her purpose.

And everything else about the movie works like a charm. I love time travel. I love the 1920s. I love the examination of nostalgia and yearning, of the literature and art and movies that are still important to my generation, and I love the fundamental idea that we can romanticize about the past all we want, but we still belong in our time, when push comes to shove.

I'd still like to pop back to Broadway in the 1920s to catch some Fred and Adele Astaire, however. Or the Columbian Exposition in 1893. In case any mystery cars or carriages want to come by for me.

In his review, Roger Ebert opined that this movie would not suit everyone, and in fact was probably not intended for everyone, but it was perfect for him. I'm with you, Roger. "Midnight in Paris" is perfect for me. Even with a fire alarm.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Luminous "Romeo and Juliet" Lights Up ISF

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival at Ewing Manor (pictured above) always has the potential to create magic. There's just something about the evening sky settling around the stage as an evening of Shakespeare wears on, with the performers and the magical words they speak lighting up the darkening night.

"Romeo and Juliet" may be a tough one to keep finding magic in, however, mostly because we all know the story and it's hard to give it a new spin.

Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins certainly spun it differently in "West Side Story," which gets brought up here in a Jersey Shore pre-show take-off that manages to be funny and diverting green show entertainment even if, like me, you're not all that familiar with "The Jersey Shore." Plus it gives a couple of extra actors something to do. I'm pretty sure I recognized ISU students Colleen Longo and Eliza Morris working hard as those two Joisey girls.

However much I maintain that it's not my favorite, still, "Romeo and Juliet" seems to get picked again and again to represent Shakespeare. Long before "West Side Story," it was the play Charles Dickens chose for Nicholas and Smike to get sucked into in "Nicholas Nickleby." That led to a memorable (and hilarious) version, complete with happy ending, in the Royal Shakespeare Company's epic "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby." Yet another generation jumped on board when Baz Luhrmann put Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in his revolvers-and-swimming-pools 20th century take called "Romeo + Juliet." And then there's Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow playing Will Shakespeare and a fictional lover rehearsing and performing the play at the Globe in front of Queen Elizabeth in "Shakespeare in Love."

This time out, director Doug Finlayson and his costume designer, Linda Pisano, mix modern elements -- black jeans and hoodies here, Chuck Taylors and a backpack there -- with leather jerkins and swords, and, of course, Shakespeare's language, to mingle the old and the new, the then and the now, to mostly good effect. The musical elements are also a mix, and except for using Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" one too many times, that works for me, too.

Finlayson's staging creates some lovely visuals on Michael Franklin-White's set, which manages to look cozy and imposing, all at the same time. R. Lee Kennedy's lighting design adds mood and depth, as does the darkness that descends around our star-crossed lovers as the night wears on.

As Romeo and Juliet, actors Dylan Paul and Laura Rook (shown below) look very good and speak with clarity and purpose.

Paul is especially good at communicating Romeo's tempestuous youth and overwhelming passion, and I found him both moving and appealing throughout. Rook has the right look for young Juliet, but she has a maturity and thoughtfulness in delivery that tends to undercut her credibility as a reckless teen. Still, she looks lovely when her Juliet shows up at the party in bright pink hightops and wings (a nod to the Luhrmann movie?) and you can certainly understand why Romeo would abandon his previous crush for this girl.

Their performances, as well as the stagecraft supporting them, mean that the balcony scene and the final tomb section are especially vibrant in this production.

In supporting roles, I enjoyed Jan Rogge's straightforward Nurse, Andy Talen's regular-guy take on Benvolio, John Taylor Phillips and Jessie Dean as the hot-headed, mercurial Capulet parents, and Zach Powell, who makes Paris, the wrong suitor, a bit more memorable than usual.

All in all, this is a lush, luminous "Romeo and Juliet," brimming full of young love and crashing swordplay. And some truly wonderful stage pictures.

By William Shakespeare

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival at Ewing Manor

Director: Doug Finlayson
Costume Designer: Linda Pisano
Scenic Designer: Michael Franklin-White
Lighting Designer: R. Lee Kennedy
Sound Designer: Aaron Paolucci
Stage Manager: Claire E. Diedrich
Vocal Coach: Robert Ramirez
Fight Director/Choreographer: DC Wright

Cast: Jessie Dean, Michael Gamache, Melissa Graves, Nicholas Harazin, Nile Hawver, Josh Innerst, Mollie Rose Lewis, Kate McDermott, Dylan Paul, Melisa Peyera, John Taylor Phillips, Zach Powell, Jan Rogge, Laura Rook, Santiago Sosa, Stephen Spencer, Andy Talen, Shaun Taxali.

Running time: 2:50, including one 15-minute intermission.

Performed in repertory through August 6.

For tickets and other information, visit the Illinois Shakespeare Festival website here.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June Busts Out All Over This Weekend

So you already know about the Young at Heartland Summer Showcase on Friday at 1. And, of course, Heartland's 10-Minute Play Festival, including "Back Porch" pieces from Bloomington-Normal's own Joe Strupek and Bruce Boeck, continues its run this weekend, including a panel discussion with the playwriting contest's judges after Sunday's matinee.

I am guessing you probably know that the Illinois Shakespeare Festival opens its summer season TONIGHT, with a new take on the Reduced Shakespeare Company's hilarious "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," wherein three crazy guys play out a whole lot of Shakespeare in a very short time, including a 30-second "Hamlet" and then another 30-second "Hamlet" backwards.

"Complete Works," directed by Bill Jensen and starring Festival favorites David Kortemeier and Tom Quinn, opens tonight, with "Romeo and Juliet," directed by Doug Finlayson, taking the stage at Ewing Manor tomorrow. Both shows, along with "The Winter's Tale," opening in July, will continue in repertory through early August. This year, the ISF is also offering all kinds of backstage tours, a "Twelfth Night" for kids, and a bunch of different pre-show options in the lovely courtyard space. And it all starts tonight!

Also in town, there is a band concert and ice cream social scheduled for Franklin Park tonight at 6; "Seussical," the 2011 High School Summer Theatre musical under the auspices of Normal Parks & Rec, continues at the Connie J. Link Ampitheatre, with performances tonight through Sunday; the Normal Theater offers a mini-Elizabeth Taylor film fest, with "National Velvet" tonight and tomorrow and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" Saturday and Sunday; and the Children's Discovery Museum in Normal launches a "Potterpalooza" on Friday to celebrate everything Harry Potter.

Over in Champaign-Urbana, a fun and fizzy production of "Hairspray," the Broadway musical that reminds us all that we can't stop the beat, continues at the Station Theatre*; the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company finishes up its run of "West Side Story" on the Parkland College stage; and the University of Illinois Summer Studio Theatre offers one "QED" and three performances of "[title of show]" over the weekend at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

All of that means you have plenty of options for entertainment tonight through Sunday. And I may even see you out there if you happen to choose the same ones I do!

*I noticed on the Station's Facebook page for "Hairspray" that this show is sold out for most of its run, with tickets still available only for their July 2 and 8 performances. So if you want to see that one, you'd better act fast and be open for July 2 or 8!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Did You Know About ISU's 2011-12 Season?

I haven't seen any formal announcement, but I did notice that ISU's Department of Theatre sneaked the upcoming 2011-12 season into the back of the program for Sam Shepard's "The Tooth of Crime." Maybe they want us all concentrating on the Shakespeare Festival, which opens this week, and not thinking about fall or winter shows till it's their turn?

At any rate, this is what ISU's upcoming season looks like, according to that "Tooth of Crime" program:

THE WOMEN OF LOCKERBIE by Deborah Brevoort, opening September 29 in the CPA

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE by William Shakespeare, opening September 30 in Westhoff Theatre

ELECTRA by Sophocles, opening October 13 in Centennial West 207

A FLEA IN HER EAR by Georges Feydeau, opening November 3 in the CPA

THE MARRIAGE OF BETTE AND BOO by Christopher Durang, opening November 4 in Westhoff Theatre

PASSION PLAY by Sarah Ruhl, opening February 23 in the CPA

CLOUD 9 by Caryl Churchill, opening February 24 in Westhoff Theatre

PICNIC by William Inge, opening March 23 in Centennial West 207

LA BOHÈME by Giacomo Puccini, opening April 5 in the CPA

JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare, opening April 6 in Westhoff Theatre

That's the CPA, above, in a photo by Pete Guither.

Looking over this season, I'd say they're going for a nice balance of big shows and small shows, classics and newer pieces, with an emphasis on heavier work and just the Feydeau farce on the lighter side.

Personally, I'm most excited about Sarah Ruhl's "Passion Play" -- I've read it and I think it's a fabulous script with a ton of potential in the right hands. This sprawling story of three eras of Passion Plays, performed in England during Elizabethan times, in Oberammergau, Germany under Hitler, and in North Dakota with Ronald Regan as president, is magical, mystical, strange, creative and clever, and I found it an amazing read. I can't wait to see what ISU does with it.

I'm not sure I understand why the Department of Theatre schedules shows in the Center for the Performing Arts and Westhoff on back-to-night nights, but I'm sure they have their reasons. It makes it tough on theater-goers, though.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Young at Heartland Shows Off Its Summer Showcase Friday

Young at Heartland, the area's one and only acting troupe especially for seniors, brings its annual Summer Showcase to Heartland Theatre this Friday, June 24, with the show scheduled to begin at 1 pm. It's a popular show and begins promptly, plus no reservations are taken, so you'll want to get there plenty early to snag a good seat. There's no admission fee, but your donation, whatever it is, will help keep Young at Heartland going.

A typical YAH show offers short scenes performed by the actors in the troupe (pictured above). For this showcase, several of the scenes were written by participants as part of a special writing workshop offered by fellow troupe members Terri Ryburn and Bruce Boeck. Press materials indicate seven of this year's scenes came from Young at Heartland participants. As luck would have it, an eighth piece came from me. I wrote a short scene called "The Everything Bagel," which will be performed by Vicki Hill and Diane Boeck as part of the Summer Showcase. I am very excited to see what they've done with my "Bagel."

This year's collection of scenes is grouped around the theme "Decisions," with the various pieces all reflecting on the idea that "Life is filled with decisions, from the trivial to the momentous. No one knows this better than seniors!"


at Heartland Theatre
Friday, June 24th
1 pm

For more information, visit or call 309-452-5647.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere!

If you watch TV and pay any attention whatsoever to the ads, you already know that "Mr. Popper's Penguins," the Jim Carrey movie with hot and cold running penguins, is opening in movie theaters this week. If you need more penguins, or a different kind of penguin project than the one Jim Carrey is running, you'll want to head over to the Astroth Community Center at Heartland College in Normal to catch the McLean County Penguin Project® production of "High School Musical, Jr."

Performances are scheduled for Friday, June 17, and Saturday, June 18th, at 7 pm, and Sunday, June 19, at 2 pm.

Seedling Theatre's Donna Anhalt, who is the producer of this event, says by way of invitation: "Come one! Come all! Watch 79 talented young people sing and dance for you in this delightful musical!"

The Penguin Project's home page explains the process that makes the Penguin Project unique: "All of the roles are filled by children with developmental disabilities including Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities, visual impairment, hearing impairment, and other neurological disorders. They are joined on stage by their 'peer mentors,' a group of children the same age without disabilities, who have volunteered to work with them side-by-side and guide them through 4 months of rehearsals and the final production. By creating unrestricted access to the performing arts, The Penguin Project® demonstrates that the special challenges of a disability need not handicap a child’s ability to participate in life’s experiences."

In fact, Penguin Project organizers conclude, “Our penguins may not be able to fly, but that does not prevent their spirits from soaring.”

"High School Musical, Jr" is the McLean County Penguin Project's third production, after "Annie, Jr" in 2009 and "Music Man, Jr" in 2010.

And if you would like to listen to WJBC's interview with cast members Haley Dees, Ethan Edwards and Joshua Kothe, as well as producer Donna Anhalt, including ticket-buying information, you can click here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Back Porch Plays at Heartland Theatre


Everybody pretty much knows already that I love the ten-minute play form, right?

Playwrights who are good at ten-minute plays can say a lot in a short amount of time, they can define character and draw a plot, they can pull you in with their cleverness or their poetry or their humanity, sell you on what they have to say, and pay it all off… Within ten minutes.

Pretty amazing when it all works.

Heartland Theatre has been putting on an evening of ten-minute plays every year for the last ten years, and I have been a part of that, chairing the committee that selects the plays and sticking my fingers all over the process wherever anybody gives me a chance. With that caveat out of the way, I still go to the performances every year with some trepidation. After all, what we read on the page is not at all what shows up on stage. The directors and actors and designers bring their own talents and vision to the script, and suddenly, it’s something quite different than the script we saw back in December.

This year, in honor of the very first year, when the theme for Heartland’s play festival was the front porch, the theme was the back porch. That means all eight plays chosen from among the 226 entered are set on a back porch, and the judges considered how well they explored that theme when choosing them.

I will tell you that a whole lot of playwrights apparently think “back porch” and immediately conjure up ideas about funerals and dead people. No clue why that is. I, personally, think of Andy and Aunt Bea. (Not dead.) But nobody else went with Mayberry. Instead, as I said, we saw lots of dead people and funerals, and that is at least partially reflected in what’s on stage right now.

In performance, both local playwrights’ work stood out in a very good way. Joe Strupek and Bruce Boeck, both from Bloomington-Normal, contributed “Don’t Forget to Play My Numbers” and “Crickets,” and both plays came off very well, with sharp performances from Todd Wineburner, Kevin Paul Wickart, Dave Lemmon and Gayle Hess, and excellent direction from Marty Lynch and Kenneth Kendall, both first-time directors at Heartland.

Another first-timer, Jennifer Lumsdon, did very nice work directing Teesue H. Fields’ “Colored Entrance Around Back,” casting a harsh light on the 1950s in a negotiation between a young white housewife and the African-American maid she’s thinking of hiring. Sarah Stone Innert and Claron E. Sharrieff managed the subtle twists and turns in Fields’s script with quiet intensity.

Misti Sommers, who has acted and directed in Heartland’s 10-Minute Play Festival twice before, also came in strong, taking the reins on Andrew Bailes’ “When She Danced,” featuring another terrific performance from Todd Wineburner, who showed good chemistry and warmth with newcomer Aaron Thomas as his son.

“Eleanor’s Passing,” by John Patrick Bray, directed by Chris Gray, and “How to Weed Your Garden,” by Jerry McGee, directed by Heartland Managing Artistic Director Mike Dobbins, showed two different views of friendship among the elder set, balancing humor with real emotions along the way. “Eleanor” showed three men, nicely played by Larry Eggan, Dave Lemmon and Kevin Woodard, trying to figure out where life is leading them in their later years, while “Garden” went with three women, played by Lynda Straw, Rosemary Luitjens and Ann Bastian White, humorously handling jealousy, recipes and late-in-life crisis.

“Bedtime Story,” by Christopher Lockheardt, directed by John W. Kirk, opened the show on a more poetic turn, as actors Nick McBurney and Cristan Embree circled around a story of past lovers who had never quite managed to hit happily-ever-after, and “Too Many Air Conditioners,” by Thomas Mollica, directed by Chris Gray, closed it with a murky memory piece about a grandmother, played by Ann Bastian White, who is at a place where nothing in her life is all that clear. Misti Sommers and Lisa Ankenbrand rounded out “Air Conditioners” as a granddaughter who isn’t all that good at dealing with Grandma and a helpful nurse doing her best. By the time Grandma turned to go inside, ending this year’s 10-Minute Play Festival, the audience was right with her in a poignant moment, feeling her confusion and sadness.

As a reader, I felt this year’s crop of scripts was one of the strongest we’ve fielded, and I love the fact that two of the best were from local authors. But then again, I love a good ten-minute play!

Heartland Theatre Company’s
10th Annual 10-Minute Play Festival

PLAYS (listed in performance order):
Bedtime Story
By Christopher Lockheardt

When She Danced
By Andrew Bailes

Eleanor’s Passing
By John Patrick Bray

How to Weed Your Garden
By Jerry McGee

By Bruce Boeck

Don’t Forget to Play My Numbers
By Joe Strupek

Colored Entrance Around Back
By Teesue H. Fields

Too Many Air Conditioners
By Thomas Mollica

Cast: Lisa Ankenbrand, Larry Eggan, Cristan Embree, Gayle Hess, Dave Lemmon, Rosemary Luitjens, Nick McBurney, Claron E. Sharrieff, Sarah Stone Innerst, Misti Sommers, Lynda Straw, Aaron J. Thomas, Ann Bastian White, Kevin Paul Wickart, Todd Wineburner and Kevin Woodard.

Directors: Mike Dobbins, Chris Gray, Kenneth Kendall, John W. Kirk, Jennifer M. Lumsdon, Marty Lynch and Misti Sommers.

Scenic Designer: Michael Pullin
Costume Designer: Gail Dobbins
Lighting Designer: Tommy Nolan

Heartland Theatre, 452-8709, or click Box Office

Performance dates: June 16-18 and 23-25 and July 1-2 at 7:30 pm; June 26 at 2 pm
Running time: 1:50, including one 15-minute intermission

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Morning After the Tonys

What a great show! I will be honest -- I am completely and totally biased in favor of performers I like, which means I can root for them with all my heart and be very disappointed if they don't win their categories, even if I have seen none of the nominated performances. So, no, my three favorites (Laura Benanti, Joel Grey and Joe Mantello) went away empty-handed. And that did not interfere with my enjoyment of the evening all that much. Go figure.

Highlights for me were the Neil Patrick Harris/Hugh Jackman "Anything You Can Do" battle (they were both awesome in a number that included bits of various songs, arranged by Michael John LaChiusa and Patrick Vaccariello*); the tap-tastic number from "Anything Goes" featuring wonderful Sutton Foster, who won her second Tony last night for that role, dancing Kathleen Marshall's effervescent choreography, another Tony winner; "Side by Side" from the New York Philharmonic concert version of "Company," with the entire cast showing up and showing off; and the Lin-Manuel Miranda closing number, performed by Neil Patrick Harris, which recapped the evening, including key moments from acceptance speeches, in rap.

Most Enticing: "Anything Goes." The Tony broadcast has turned into a big advertisement, more about promoting shows to possible ticket-buyers than celebrating the best performers from the previous year. In that respect, "Anything Goes" was a clear winner for me, making me want to buy a ticket on an airplane and get to NY to see that show. In contrast, "How to Succeed in Business" and "Sister Act" looked frenetic and strained, "War Horse" and "Jerusalem" didn't really pull me in, and "The Book of Mormon," the night's big winner, seemed pretty darn ordinary, judging by the number we saw. Others that seemed more appealing include "The Scottsboro Boys," which has closed, so I'll have to catch it when it tours, and Larry Kramer's devastating "The Normal Heart" in its new production.

Best winner: Sutton Foster. She's just so darn talented. She really didn't need another Tony, since now I know she has Bobby Cannavale at home, but hey, she still deserves it for taking on an iconic character like Reno Sweeney and creating a whole new, workable, wonderful persona. Honorable mentions: John Benjamin Hickey, always so good in understated roles, getting his due for "The Normal Heart," and the lovely bumblebee from "The Book of Mormon," Nikki M. James, bubbling over with excitement about winning a Tony.

Worst winner for me: It's not about the role (I'm sure she's very good) but about the way she looked. Come on, Frances McDormand. You didn't just roll out of your high school history class 2nd period in 1972. Comb the hair, ditch the jean jacket, and act like you are honored to be honored. Runners-up: Mark Rylance, another brilliant actor who seems to get weird and icky when somebody threatens to give him an award.

Biggest disappointment: Well, the fact that they hide the Creative Arts awards will never not be a HUGE disappointment, especially when they had a live stream of the red carpet an hour before the show, and then closed it down and left us hanging for a half hour while they were handing out awards inside. There's just no excuse for that. Take the camera inside and give us a shaky, off-balance, hard-to-hear, iPhone video if you have to. If you can stream the red carpet, you can stream the Creative Arts awards and give Athol Fugard and Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre their prizes on TV, too.

I also wasn't crazy about either of Brooke Shields' appearances. In short, she was a mess both times they gave her an opportunity for face time. So let's retire Brooke Shields as a Tony presenter/performer/anything, okay?

Aside from those issues, I thought it was a very fun, breezy show that made Broadway look like a place we should all be camping out. I'm ready. I need to get there before Joel Grey leaves "Anything Goes," after all.

*Thanks to my friend Jon Alan Conrad for tracking down who was responsible for what. We guessed Marc Shaiman for the opening number. We were wrong. We guessed Lin-Manuel Miranda for the finale. We were right. We had no guess for the middle, but Jon found the answer by rewinding, apparently, and watching the credits instead of Neil Patrick Harris performing under them.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One More Tony Post: Congratulations, Lookingglass!

Outside all the prizes given to Broadway shows and artists, the Tony folks also hand out a "regional" Tony, presented to a theater outside New York chosen as that year's Outstanding Regional Theatre. The American Theater Critics Association, of which I am a member, considers and recommends a theater for this award every year.

Chicago theaters have been the recipients of this award five times, with Steppenwolf (1985), the Goodman (1992), Victory Gardens (2001), Chicago Shakespeare (2008), and now Lookingglass all singled out for the honor. That puts Chicago at the top of the list when it comes to Regional Tonys.

The fact that Chicago theaters are so often honored shows not only that Chicago is a great theater town, but also that its major theaters have staked out very individual identities, making each one stand out clearly for its own special vision and theatrical process.

Lookingglass, this year's winner, has mastered the art of visual theater, often using movement, dance, acrobatics, color, bold strokes and dramatic stage pictures to tell its stories. Those stories often seem to be mythic or fantastical in origin, with new adaptations of "The Arabian Nights," "Metamorphoses" and "Alice in Wonderland" (their "Lookingglass Alice") among their most popular pieces.

Lookingglass got started in 1988, the brainchild of Northwestern grads, including David Schwimmer of TV's "Friends" and Mary Zimmerman, the director/playwright/genius behind "Metamorphoses." The first Lookingglass production was "Through the Looking Glass," performed in a room on Northwestern's campus, but by the next year, Lookingglass was successful enough to earn four Jeff citations, including Original Music, Choreography, Ensemble, and Direction for "The Odyssey."

Since 2003, Lookingglass has performed its shows in a theater carved into Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works on Michigan Avenue. Their theater seats only 270 people at its most accommodating, which means every seat is up-close-and-personal when its works are performed.

Lookingglass has definitely carved out a place for itself on the Chicago theater landscape, and this Tony Award is much-deserved for its striking, spectacular contributions to American theater in general.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Phone Rings, Door Chimes, in Comes "Company"

It seemed like a great idea for the New York Philharmonic to put together an all-star concert version of Stephen Sondheim's "Company" last April. The only downside was that there was only one performance!

But, in what seems to be a trend, the Philharmonic filmed that concert and is now releasing it to movie theaters across the country, sharing the joy with all the rest of us in the hinterlands who couldn't get to New York to see it. I have been keeping an eye on the Philharmonic website to check for dates and times near me, and I am happy to say that, yes, "Company" is coming to Bloomington-Normal. And Champaign, Peoria, Hickory Point Mall near Decatur, and a whole lot of other choices.

Here in Bloomington, "Company" will be showing exactly once, on Wednesday, June 15, at 7 pm, at the Bloomington Galaxy 14 Cine. You can buy tickets now if you want to ensure you get a spot.

As George Furth's book plays out, "Company" paints a picture of Bobby, a 35-year-old bachelor whose entire circle of friends is dominated by married couples. On the eve of his birthday, Bobby thinks about where he is in his life, taking a look at all those friends as well as the women he has most recently been involved with, as he ponders what it means to share your life with someone instead of going it alone. Is he better off the way he is? Should he have settled down with Kathy or Marta or April when he had the chance? And who among them is actually happy? When he looks at battling spouses Harry and Sarah, jaded Joanne and Larry, and about-to-be-married Amy who is experiencing the coldest of cold feet, why would Bobby want to be married, too?

All of that is intriguing enough, making "Company" stand apart as something a little different. But Sondheim's score also features songs like the searing "Ladies Who Lunch," Amy's hilarious "Not Getting Married," an energetic anthem about New York City called "Another Hundred People," and the soaring, amazing "Being Alive," that seems to put right out there the yearning and fear and joy of bonding with someone else.

For the New York Philharmonic, Neil Patrick Harris, who will be hosting the Tony Awards this weekend, played Bobby, the infuriating, adorable guy everybody wants to be around. Elsewhere in the cast, faux-pundit Stephen Colbert matched up with Martha Plimpton as Harry and Sarah, the couple who do so many "little things" together, including karate and squabbling; Craig Bierko and Jill Paice played Peter and Susan, who seem like the perfect couple, except for the small fact of that looming divorce; Jennifer Laura Thompson and Jon Cryer took on pot-smoking, not-all-that-hip Jenny and David; Katie Finneran paired with Aaron Lazar as Amy and Paul, who may or may not go through with their wedding; and Broadway force of nature Patti LuPone took Jim Walton along for the Joanne and Larry "older but not wiser" experience. Christina Hendricks (of "Mad Men" fame), Chryssie Whitehead and Anika Noni Rose played the three women Bobby considers as romantic partners.

That's a pretty powerful cast, with at least five Tony Awards, seven Emmys, and four or five Grammys among them. Plus they're all appealing, fun performers who seem to have jumped in and performed the heck out of "Company," if the trailer for this filmed version is any indication.

So I say go, as many times as you can, to every theater that's anywhere near you. I think I may be able to work in an extra screening or two, considering Champaign has more showings than Bloomington...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Get Ready for the TONY AWARDS!

I used to be all about the Oscars. And then I saw my first Broadway show. It was "Nine," it was on a Monday night, Tommy Tune's off-night from "My One and Only," and he sat right in front of me at "Nine." Next I saw "Sunday in the Park with George." After that, after I was writing romance novels and taking trips to New York fairly often to see my agents and editors, I became pretty addicted to Broadway shows and the Tony Awards that recognize the performers, musicians, designers, directors, choreographers and producers who create them.

Although they are now officially called The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards®, they started out as the Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre, honoring Mary Antoinette Perry, an actress and director who'd co-founded the American Theatre Wing. She died in 1946, and the first Tony was handed out in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947. That year, honorees included Ingrid Bergman for "Joan of Lorraine," José Ferrer for "Cyrano de Bergerac," Helen Hayes for "Happy Birthday," Fredric March for "Years Ago," and David Wayne for "Finian's Rainbow," with Kurt Weill winning for composing the music for "Street Scene." Agnes de Mille ("Brigadoon") and Michael Kidd ("Finian's Rainbow") shared the award for choreography, while Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan took home awards for writing and directing "All My Sons."

Pretty heady stuff for the first year! But also proof that movie stars coming to Broadway and scooping up Tonys was happening right from the beginning, what with Ingrid Bergman and all. (Bergman was also on Broadway in 1940 in a play called "Liliom," but she was lured to Hollywood by the movies, after several Swedish films and then "Intermezzo" in the US in 1936. She counts as a movie star to me -- for "Casablanca," if nothing else -- well before her Tony for "Joan of Lorraine.")

This year, I haven't seen the big nominees, like "Book of Mormon," created by the South Park guys (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) and the co-composer/lyricist of "Avenue Q" (Robert Lopez), nominated for 14 Tony Awards, or "The Scottsboro Boys," with 12 nominations, including the Kander and Ebb score, David Thompson's book, and Susan Stroman's direction and choreography. Other shows which did well in nominations include the Roundabout's revival of "Anything Goes," with 9 nominations; the Harry Potter version of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," with 8; "The Merchant of Venice" that put Al Pacino back in the role of Shylock, with 7; Jez Butterworth's "Jerusalem," with 6; and Stephen Adly Guirgis's "The Motherf***er With the Hat," which may present issues on title pronunciation on the live awards show, with 6 nominations.

Pundits are expecting "Book of Mormon" to carry off quite a few trophies, including Best Musical, with Nick Stafford's "War Horse" (which is, yes, about a horse that goes to war) a popular choice for Best Play, although Guirgis's "Motherf***er" may just be the dark horse that can nip "War Horse" at the finish line. (And I'm really sorry I stretched that metaphor.)

"Anything Goes" is the favorite to win Best Revival of a Musical, along with star Sutton Foster as Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical, while Larry Kramer's emotional play about the beginning of the AIDS era, "The Normal Heart," will battle it out for Best Revival of a Play. Some folks think the Roundabout's "The Importance of Being Earnest" or the Public Theater's "Merchant of Venice" will sneak by, but I'm betting on "The Normal Heart," and keeping my fingers crossed for Joe Mantello for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play, even though that is one stacked category.

Brian Bedford ("The Importance of Being Earnest"), Bobby Cannavale ("The Motherf***r With the Hat"), Al Pacino ("The Merchant of Venice") and Mark Rylance ("Jerusalem") are the other contenders, and every one of them is possible. Rylance has been the most talked about as the winner, but Cannavale just took the Drama Desk Award in that category. And I would never count out Pacino or Bedford on general principles. I don't care -- I'm still rooting for Joe Mantello!

And as for the rest... I want to see Laura Benanti win Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her role in the "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," a hotly anticipated show that really wore out its welcome quickly. But Benanti, a beautiful actress with an even more beautiful voice, was the sole stand-out in a lot of reviews, and I want that award for her. I've still got her "Unusual Way" on repeat on my iPod, even though that revival of "Nine" was eight years ago.

And I am also rooting for Judith Light ("Lombardi") to win the Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play. I don't know a thing about the play, but I do know the other actresses in the category are all terrific in their right. Still, I love Judith Light from her "One Life to Live" days, and now that "OLTL" is in its last days, it would make me happy to see Light on stage with a Tony medallion.

In the end, though, it really doesn't matter who wins, at least not to those of us who watch at home and didn't sing, dance, act, direct, produce or design a single thing in any of these shows. But the Tony Awards are almost always a good show all by themselves. With Neil Patrick Harris hosting and performances expected from Sutton Foster, Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit, Daniel Radcliffe and John Laroquette, Patina Miller, Andrew Rannells, and Joshua Henry, the 65th Annual Tony Awards promise to be a very good show. I'm still wearing a boot from recent foot surgery, but I'm going to put on a decent dress and get out the champagne glasses for this, anyway. Nobody better call me between 7 and 11 Central time on Sunday, June 12. I'm busy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Route's TAPESTRIES One Night Only at Eaton Gallery Tomorrow

A New Route Theatre, one of the theaters under the Illinois Theatre Consortium umbrella, continues its streak of monthly new work with TAPESTRIES, part of its "Word Weaver" initiative.

According to New Route's Facebook page about the event, "TAPESTRIES is an original play based on interviews with members of the Bloomington-Normal community. Meet the women whose stories inspired the play as we launch the New Route Theatre Word Weaver Program."

You can't get much more hometown-inspired than that! TAPESTRIES is scheduled for Wednesday, June 8, at 7 pm at the Eaton Gallery in downtown Bloomington. Following the performance, New Route will offer a panel discussion with the three people whose stories are the basis for the play.

The actors for this performance include Dr. Jan Neuleib, a retired English professor from ISU, Dr. Paula Ressler, also a professors in ISU's English Department, IWU Classics professor Nancy Sultan, and Young at Heartland members Victoria Hill and Dottie Peiffer.

New Route Artistic Director Don Shandrow has been offering "One Shot Deals" this year, described as "an opportunity for the community to get to know New Route Theatre on a donation only basis. Surrounded by the creative energy and warmth of Eaton Gallery and Herb Eaton's art, audiences will experience new plays that are in workshop as well as established plays. Some will be readings and some will be fully mounted productions but all will meet New Route Theatre's mission to reflect the diversity of our community both onstage and in the audience."

TAPESTRIES, the newest piece in the "One Shot" series, is directed by Irene Taylor, who wrote and performed in "Suppos'd To," the April "One Shot Deal" at Eaton Gallery.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Heartland's 10th Annual 10-Minute Playfest Coming Up Fast!

Not only is Heartland Theatre Company's 10th annual take on its popular 10-Minute Playfest opening this week, but seven -- yes, SEVEN -- of the eight winning playwrights are scheduled to be in attendance to see their work on stage in Bloomington-Normal.

The playwrights are invited every year with three or four usually making the trek to B-N to see how their plays play in Heartland Theatre Company's intimate surroundings. I believe an Australian playwright even came to see his play one year! But this year, seven of eight are coming out to Heartland.

To refresh your recollection, this year's eight winning playwrights are:

Andrew Bailes of Gainesville, Florida, a winner with WHEN SHE DANCED, a sweet father-and-son play where the dad relates the story of how a long-ago Neil Young concert changed his life.

Bruce Boeck of Normal, Illinois, a former winner back again with CRICKETS, about a husband and wife sorting through their feelings immediately after their daughter's wedding.

John Patrick Bray from Riverhead, New York, with ELEANOR'S PASSING, a funny piece about three old friends considering moving in together.

Teesue Fields from Floyd Knobs, Indiana, who wrote COLORED ENTRANCE AROUND BACK, a compelling historical play about a black woman applying for a position as maid in a white woman's household in the 50s.

Christopher Lockheardt of Andover, Massachusetts, with BEDTIME STORY, a poetic piece about a man and woman who once meant something to each other. But times have changed since he once made up stories to help her sleep, and Happily Ever After may just be forever out of reach.

Jerry McGee, from Brooklyn, New York, author of HOW TO WEED YOUR GARDEN, a comedy involving three older women, a mysterious cake recipe, too many candles and way too many weeds.

Thomas Mollica, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a memory play called TOO MANY AIR CONDITIONERS. Grandma thinks life was lovely back in the days before air conditioning sent everybody inside all summer long. Just how accurate are her recollections?

Joe Strupek, from Bloomington, Illinois, the second local winner, with DON'T FORGET TO PLAY MY NUMBERS. This one is a touching look at one father's advice, involving baseball, dogs, cabbage rolls, and the lottery we call life.

Heartland's 10-minute play festival is a very popular endeavor, so you should definitely make your reservations now if you haven't already. Each of these playwrights except Bray (at the time I wrote this, anyway) had committed to attending on opening weekend. Thursday, June 9 is "Pay What You Can" night, and Saturday, June 11 features a special reception for Playfest sponsors Deanna Frautschi and Paul Bedell.

Later in the run, on Sunday, June 26, the first-round judges will offer their thoughts on the process in a post-show discussion open to the public. That panel of first-round judges includes me, which is why I can give you plot summaries of all the plays (above)! I can also tell you they are a very good crop of plays this year, and I found it very interesting that "back porch" seemed to translate to memories, ghosts, eminent domain, sibling rivalries, kissing and astronomy to so many playwrights. The prominence of rocking chairs and lemonade was less surprising. One judge fell in love with a play about poultry, of all things, even though that one didn't end up making the cut. But you can hear more about all of that if you come for the post-show discussion on June 26th.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Fred and Adele Astaire Awards

On May 15th, the annual Fred and Adele Astaire Awards, presented for excellence in stage and film dance achievement, were handed out in New York City.

These awards began in 1982 as simply the Astaire Awards, to "recognize outstanding achievement in dance on Broadway each season." Since then, they've expanded to recognize dance achievement on film, too.

After seeing this year's announcement of winners, my friend Jon wondered if there were a complete list of all the winners since 1982 compiled somewhere. Although both of us have done our best to locate such a list, we have come up empty, I'm afraid. By searching for each year's press release individually and noting what history was mentioned in those press releases, I have compiled a sort-of list, semi-accurate, with holes and weird overlappings. Oh, well. This is what I got:

1982: Ann Miller, Best Female Dancer for “Sugar Babies”
Don Correia, Best Male Dancer for “Little Me”
Michael Bennett, Best Choreographer for “A Chorus Line”??

1983: Natalia Makarova, Best Female Dancer for “On Your Toes”
Charles 'Honi' Coles, Best Male Dancer for “My One and Only”
George Balanchine, Best Choreographer for “On Your Toes”

1984: Hinton Battle, Best Male Dancer for “The Tap Dance Kid”
Danny Daniels, Best Choreographer for “The Tap Dance Kid”

1985: Jerome Robbins, Lifetime Achievement

1986: Debbie Allen, Best Female Dancer for “Sweet Charity”
Gregg Burge, Best Male Dancer for “Song and Dance”
Peter Martins, Best Choreographer for “Song and Dance”
Bob Fosse, Best Choreographer for “Sweet Charity” and “Big Deal” ??

1987: Robert Lindsay, Best Male Dancer for “Me and My Girl”
Hanya Holm, Special Award for Contribution to Modern Dance and the Broadway Stage

1988: Herbert Rawlings, Best Dancer for “Dreamgirls”
Michael Smuin, Best Choregrapher for “Anything Goes”

1989: No awards given?

1990: Yvonne Marceau and Pierre Dulaine, Special Award for Contribution to the Broadway Stage for “Grand Hotel”
Robert Lambert, Best Male Dancer for “Gypsy”
Tommy Tune, Best Choreographer for “Grand Hotel”

1991: Gregg Burge, Stanley Wayne Mathis and Kevin Ramsey, for “Oh, Kay!”
Tommy Tune, Best Choreographer for “The Will Rogers Follies”

1992: Gregory Hines, Best Male Dancer for “Jelly’s Last Jam”
Christopher Chadman, Best Choreographer for “Guys and Dolls”

1993: Chita Rivera, Best Female Dancer for “Kiss of the Spider Woman”
Wayne Cilento, Best Choreographer for “The Who’s ‘Tommy’”

1994: Margaret Illmann, Best Female Dancer for “The Red Shoes”
Scott Wise, Best Male Dancer for “Damn Yankees”
Lar Lubovitch, Best Choreographer for “The Red Shoes”

1995: Charlotte d’Ambouse, Best Female Dancer for “Damn Yankees”
Susan Stroman, Best Choreographer for “Show Boat”

1996: Donna McKechnie, Best Female Dancer for “State Fair”
Savion Glover, Best Male Dancer for “Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk”
Savion Glover, Best Choreographer for “Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk”

1997: Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking, Best Female Dancers for “Chicago”
Ann Reinking, Best Choreographer for “Chicago”

1998: Kit Kat Klub Boys and Girls, Best Dancers for “Cabaret”
Garth Fagan, Best Choreographer for “The Lion King”
Graciela Daniele, Best Choreographer for “Ragtime”

1999: Adam Cooper, Best Male Dancer for “Swan Lake”
Patricia Birch, Best Choreographer for “Parade”
Matthew Bourne, Special Award for “Swan Lake”

2000: Deborah Yates, Best Female Dancer for “Contact”
Clyde Alves, Best Male Dancer for “The Music Man”
Susan Stroman, Best Choreographer for “Contact” and “The Music Man”

2001: Kate Levering, Best Female Dancer for “42nd Street”
Michael Arnold, Best Male Dancer for “42nd Street”
Susan Stroman, Best Choreographer for “The Producers”
Donald Saddler, Lifetime Achievement

2002: Sutton Foster, Best Female Dancer for “Thoroughly Modern Millie”
Justin Bohon, Best Male Dancer for “Oklahoma!”
Susan Stroman, Best Choreographer for “Oklahoma!”

2003: Elizabeth Parkinson, Best Female Dancer for “Movin’ Out”
John Selya, Best Male Dancer for “Movin’ Out”
Twyla Tharp, Best Choreographer for “Movin’ Out”
Chita Rivera, Lifetime Achievement

2004: Donna Murphy, Best Female Dancer for “Wonderful Town”
Hugh Jackman, Best Male Dancer for “The Boy from Oz”
Kathleen Marshall, Best Choreographer for “Wonderful Town”

2005: Norbert Leo Butz, Best Male Dancer for “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”
Charlotte D’Amboise, Special Award for “invaluable contribution to Broadway dance during the 2004-05 season"

2006 and 2007: no awards given?

2008: Karen Olivo, Best Female Dancer for “In the Heights”
Spencer Liff, Best Male Dancer for “Cry Baby”
Rob Ashford, Best Broadway Choreographer for “Cry Baby”
Dave Scott, Hi-Hat and Jamal Sims, Best Film Choreography for “Step Up 2: The Streets”
Tommy Tune, Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award

2009: Pia Glenn, Best Female Dancer for “You’re Welcome, America: A Final Night with George W. Bush”
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish, Best Male Dancers for “Billy Elliot”
Peter Darling, Best Broadway Choreographer for “Billy Elliot”
Longines Fernandes, Best Film Choreographer for “Slumdog Millionaire”
Stanley Donen, Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award

2010: Nicole Chantal de Weever and the Female Ensemble of “Fela” for Best Female Dancers
Charlie Neshyba-Hodges, Best Male Dancer for “Come Fly Away”
Bill T. Jones, Best Broadway Choreographer for “Fela”
Marguerite Derricks, Best Choreographer of a Fictional Film for “Fame”
Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern, Best Directors of a Documentary Dance Film for “Every Little Step”
Kenny Ortega, Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award

2011: Sutton Foster, Best Female Dancer for “Anything Goes”
Norbert Leo Butz, Best Male Dancer for “Catch Me If You Can”
Susan Strohman, Best Broadway Choreographer for “The Scottsboro Boys”
Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon, Best Film Choreographers for "Mao's Last Dancer"
Jacques d’Amboise, Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award

Yes, I'm aware that my list is strange in spots, like giving an award to Michael Bennett for “A Chorus Line” in 1982. But if not then, when? I’m also missing the female in 84, male, female and choreographer in 85, I have an extra choreographer in 86, no choreographer or female in 87, no female in 88, nobody in 89, no female in 92, no males in 93 or 95 (plus I have Charlotte d’Amboise and Scott Wise in different years for the same show), and then the issue of 2006 and 2007, when apparently no awards were given out. I found an article in 2008 that said there had been no awards for three years, but since the 05 stuff seems pretty clear, I think it was just two.

So there’s what I found with my internet searches and cross-referencing hither and yon and whatever else I could get my hands on. Neither nor seems to have any kind of historical listing and no one responded to my email request for more information. I'm hoping there is someone else out there looking for this exact same thing who will see my sad, holey list and decide to take this on as a project. Fred and Adele Astaire deserve better! And so do the recipients of these awards over the years.

Friday, June 3, 2011

June Is Here, Ready or Not!

No, I have not forgotten June. Yes, I'm late. I had this little foot surgery on May 31, and I assumed I would be lounging around with my foot up, but otherwise well able to tell you all about what's happening in June.

Yeah, I didn't count on pain-killers and the joy of sleep while on pain-killers and how little I would feel like getting the old laptop arranged properly over the recliner to actually open it up.

I am going to keep this brief (my attention span not being all that great) and race through some June options. Because there are a lot! And I don't want you to overlook them just because my computer access is awkward and my foot is killing me. If you want to forgive typos and any other weirdness due to my foot, though, that would be awesome.

First up, U of I's summer rep (of sorts) opened last night with [title of show], a little musical about trying to create a musical when you don't even have a name for it. [title of show] continues tomorrow and next Saturday, and all the way through June 26th. The other shows in Krannert's Summer Studio Theatre are Peter Parnell's QED, opening Wednesday, June 8, and running through the 24th. And the third show is Noel Coward's crazy "Blithe Spirit," where a mischievous ghost from the past inserts herself into her husband's new marriage. "Blithe Spirit" runs from July 7 to 23.

Heartland Theatre Company brings back it annual 10-Minute Play Festival, this time on the theme "The Back Porch" on June 9th, with performances all the way through July 2. Heartland considers the 10-Minute Playfest as the first show of its season, which means lots of subscribers eager to use their new flex passes fill the seats. It's a very popular offering for Heartland, with eight brand-new short plays written by playwrights from all over the country. To make reservations or read more about this year's winners, check out the website here.

The Station in Urbana launches its summer season with "Hairspray," opening June 16. How can you fit the big, bodacious musical that is "Hairspray" inside a small black box like the Station? I don't have a clue! Read more about it here.

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival opens its own summer rep June 23rd with the Reduced Shakespeare Company's "Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," a show that was a huge hit for the ISF in 2008. It will once again be directed by Bill Jenkins. "Romeo and Juliet" opens on the 24th, and the third show, "The Winter's Tale," bowing July 14. For all the details on tickets, backstage tours, jazz in the courtyard and other possibilities, check out the ISF website here.

John Wayne and Elizabeth Taylor also visit the Normal Theater, and the New York Philharmonic's "Company" (including Neil Patrick Harris and Stephen Colbert in a star-studded cast) comes to Bloomington's Galaxy 14 on June 15.