Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chicago Shakes Announces Who'll Be Playing CYRANO and Mama Rose

Chicago Shakespeare Theater announced its 2013-14 schedule back in March -- from Cyrano de Bergerac to The Merry Wives of Windsor, Gypsy, Road Show and Henry V -- but now we have the all-important news of who'll be wearing Cyrano's nose and who'll be taking Rose's Turn.

Harry Groener
So, first off... Cyrano! Harry Groener, the Broadway star who appeared on television as the evil Mayor on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and on Chicago stages in The March at Steppenwolf and The Madness of George III at Chicago Shakes, will play the role of the smart, romantic hero with the gigantic nose. Groener will be directed by Penny Metropulis, who also took the reins on George III, for which Groener won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Actor.

The CST press release quotes Artistic Director Barbara Gaines as saying, "We have long wanted to bring this beautiful play to our audiences at Chicago Shakespeare, but we hadn’t found our Cyrano or the director to realize the complexity of this character. That is, until we experienced the chemistry and the artistry of Harry Groener and Penny Metropulos." Gaines continues, "Cyrano is a role of a lifetime and a story that touches every heart. The stars have aligned to reunite this powerhouse team who, when combined with a first rate cast and the award-winning team of designers, will breathe fresh life into this masterwork."

Cyrano de Bergerac is scheduled for Chicago Shakes' Courtyard Theater from September 24 to November 10. You can check out the rest of the cast here -- it includes Wendy Robie, who appeared in our very own Illinois Shakespeare Festival last summer.

Louise Pitre
Gypsy is the first of two Stephen Sondheim-related shows on the schedule, as Sondheim's Road Show, which premiered at the Goodman Theatre back in 2003 as Bounce, follows in the Spring. And Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin will direct both for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Although we don't have a complete cast for Gypsy yet, the Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones has gone on the record to say that Louise Pitre, who originated the role of Donna in Mamma Mia! on Broadway, will play Rose, who may just be the pushiest stage mother of all time.

The Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim score for Gypsy includes barnburners like "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Let Me Entertain You," with Styne's music and Sondheim's lyrics fueling Arthur Laurent's unsentimental book about how entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee rose above her mother's ambition for younger sister Dainty June to forge a career of her own. Famous Roses on Broadway have included Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and Patti Lupone, while Rosalind Russell did the movie and Bette Midler was an excellent TV-movie Rose.

How will Pitre do? We'll have to wait till February 2014 to find out. That's opening night for this Gypsy, scheduled to run through March 23 in the Courtyard Theater.

For information on the whole 13-14 lineup, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Those are excellent bits of casting. We know how wonderful Harry Groener can be, of course, on TV, as a song&dance man (Crazy for You) or just a song man (Sunday in the Park). And I can so see him as a riveting Cyrano.

    Quite a range of actors have played Cyrano in NYC, by the way: Old troopers Richard Mansfield and Walter Hampden (both in multiple returns). More recent actors José Ferrer, Robert Symonds, Derek Jacobi, Frank Langella, Kevin Kline*, and Douglas Hodge. And in different musical versions Christopher Plummer and Robert Guillaume.

    [*With Jennifer Garner as Roxane, Daniel Sunjata as Christian, and support from Chris Sarandon and Euan Morton.]

    I didn't think they'd have a Rose I hadn't heard of. But I definitely know Louise Pitre from all the Mamma Mia! publicity... and from other appearances I've read about, I can't help feeling, though I can't pin down just what. She's done a lot, much of it in her native Canada.