Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November News

I'm afraid it's now November 1, which means it's time once again to pack away your Halloween costume. If you are costume-minded, however, you can still see lots of them on area stages, as this month, actors will be dressing up like mermaids and brides and nuns and fairies and turn-of-the-century Parisians for your entertainment. Or, in the case of "Hello Again" at Illinois Wesleyan, actors will take on the hair and fashion of 9 different decades of the 20th Century and even possibly undress for your entertainment. (It's a show that centers on intimate encounters and previous productions have shown a fair amount of skin. The poster for this one looks pretty bare, too, but in a softer way, so... We'll just have to see the show to know for sure. But I digress.)

As I said back in October, November 3rd is a very busy day, with four different shows opening in Bloomington-Normal.

There's "Iolanthe" at IWU's School of Music, a comic Gilbert & Sullivan opera about fairies, shepherds, Parliament, and mixed fairy/mortal marriages creating havoc, with only four performances November 3-6.

"Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" is another of the November 3 shows, with performances of this Catholic coming-of-age musical running at Community Players through the 20th. You can read what cast member Joel Shoemaker had to say about the show here.

And "Sirens," the sweet, funny romantic comedy from Deborah Zoe Laufer about a songwriter who can't seem to stay in tune anymore and just how far overboard he's willing to go for his song, opens at Heartland Theatre on that very same day. "Sirens" also runs through the 20th, with a "Pay What You Can" preview on the 3rd and a talk-back with the cast after the performance on Sunday, November 13th. I interviewed Todd Wineburner, who plays the sinking songwriter in "Sirens," and I will be talking to more of the cast later this week. Stay tuned! Or make reservations now by emailing boxoffice@heartlandtheatre.org or by calling 309-452-8709.

Maybe we shouldn't count ISU's "The Marriage of Bette and Boo" as a November 3 contender anymore, since it's sold out on opening night. But you can catch it on the 4th or 5th or 8th through 12th at Westhoff Theatre if you make a reservation now. Unless, of course, you prefer to see the Feydeau farce "A Flea in Her Ear" at ISU's Center for the Performing Arts, since it has pretty much the same schedule as "Bette and Boo," plus a matinee on the 6th and minus the matinee on the 12th. Call the ISU box office at 309-438-2535 to sort out all the details.

In case you still haven't found a show for November 3 that sounds like your style, you do have another choice. Over in Urbana, the Station Theatre opens a brand-new show called "Way Off Broadway," written and directed by Celebration Company member Mike Trippiedi. The plot sounds a bit like "Waiting for Guffman" by way of Mickey and Judy and their "Let's put on a show!" modus operandi. Trippiedi's previous play "Caged Vixens" also premiered at the Station, while his most recent movie, "Amber Rose," has been playing at film festivals all over the US this past year.

New Route Theatre continues its One-Shot Deal series with a table reading of "Fat Jack's," a new play they're billing as a "tragicomedy," on Wednesday, November 9 at 7 pm at the Eaton Gallery in downtown Bloomington. "Fat Jack's" was written by ISU English Department faculty members Joe Amato and Kass Fleisher, and was apparently inspired by the infamous Sam-Shepard-drunk-driving-in-Normal incident that happened in January, 2009. (That's Sam's DUI arrest photo over there on the left.) Irene Taylor directs this table-read.

If you can get to Decatur, Richland Theatre is producing "Assassins," the Sondheim musical about people who try to kill presidents, opening November 11. John Poling appears as John Wilkes Booth. Yes, it's a strange premise for a musical, but this is one awesome show, all about the crazy side of the American Dream, entitlement, guns, triggers and how easy it is to completely go off the rails. You can see a short promo video here.

Illinois Wesleyan offers the darkly seductive "Hello Again," Michael John LaChiusa's musical take on Arthur Schnitzler's "La Ronde" November 15-20, directed by Scott Susong, whose work is always provocative and entertaining. LaChiusa wrote the book, music and lyrics for "Hello Again," pushing Schnitzler's story of intersecting lovers into the 20th century. LaChiusa frames each pair of lovers, including a soldier/nurse, a senator/whore, and a writer/film star, in a different decade, with his score using different styles to echo those decades. As the ISU press release tells us, "'Hello Again' crisscrosses beds and jumps back and forth between decades, intimately examining the painful secrets that drive adults towards the bruising effects of reckless intimacy without the protection of emotional connection." You should be forewarned that "Hello Again" has a high level of sexual content and adult themes, and is not intended for anyone under 17. Tickets will be sold from the McPherson Theatre box office -- 309-556-3232 -- starting November 7. The IWU Theatre website is also available here for general information. Susong has just unveiled the fabulous poster for this event, which I am including here. Pretty nifty, huh?

Sarah Ruhl's "Dead Man's Cell Phone," directed by Rhys Lovell, comes to Eureka College's Pritchard Theatre November 15-20. Ruhl is very much the hot playwright of the moment (and the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" as well as a two-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize) and "Cell Phone" is an intriguing play, opening with a woman in a cafe who can't help but notice a nearby cell phone that won't stop ringing. She answers it, sending her down a rabbit-hole into a dead man's life and connections. Who was he? Who loved him or knew him or is sorry that he's gone?

If you're not busy on Thanksgiving, or if you need to dance off a little turkey, the Normal Theater is screening "Holiday Inn," the Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire take on how to celebrate holidays that introduced the song "White Christmas." Bing and Fred try to capture women's hearts singing (der Bingle) and dancing (Mr. Astaire) as they also celebrate New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, Easter, July 4th, George Washington's birthday and Abraham Lincoln's birthday (unfortunately in blackface) with a story about an inn in Vermont. It's mostly Bing's vehicle, but there's enough Fred, too, and some fizzy Irving Berlin songs.

So that's my take on November... Definitely a lot to do. Especially on November 3rd.


  1. Whoa! I seriously love that poster.

  2. It's pretty nifty, all right. I know I saw behind-the-scenes pics from the photo shoot but I can't find them anymore. D'oh!

  3. I had ignorantly assumed from the name of the university (and I an Illinoisian!) that a university with "Wesleyan" in its name would be more... restrictive in its production and advertising content than it clearly is. I mean, that's a racier poster than the professional ones I've seen for this musical.

  4. There is no nudity in Hello Again. I think the poster lets the audience know that this is an adult piece.

  5. I don't think the poster looks like there's necessarily nudity (and I don't think it's even that racy, Jon -- the soft focus kind of makes that clear, to me. Which sounds like a backwards pun, but wasn't intended that way.) Anyway, I think the poster is nifty because it's pretty and because it shows how the "ronde" part works, the way the actors are paired, plus the bareness indicates a certain intimacy, which fits the subject matter.

  6. I know there's no nudity in it. There's actually more unclothed-ness in the poster than in the show, which was my point in calling it "racy" (which I consider rather a quaint word, in fact, not anything extreme). It does indeed let the audience know the nature of the show in a very well-planned way. I like this poster a lot, more than any of the ones for the NYC productions.

  7. Yeah, the only other Hello Again poster I've seen is cartoonish, with a big half-naked guy at the back looking all O face, with two couples in different, er, positions hiding his bottom half. It's bright-colored and fairly vulgar.

    I do think there was substantial nudity in the recent off-Broadway production, so it's possible with "Hello Again." I think that from reading reviews which complained about all the nakedness! I guess that's an option, but not one that Illinois Wesleyan is taking in this production. IWU seems to do what they feel is right for the show, with some featuring nudity (Cabaret) and some not (Passion). I guess it just depends.