Saturday, May 3, 2014

What May May Have to Offer

May is a funny month for entertainment options in Bloomington-Normal, as students move out and theaters finish up their spring seasons. That means you'll have to act quickly to catch the last performances of the gripping drama Iron at Heartland Theatre in Normal, starring Lori Adams and Alyssa Ratkovich as a mother and daughter attempting to reconnect after years of separation due to the mother's incarceration, and Parkland College's production of Monty Python's Spamalot, the fizzy and silly musical about knights of the round table looking for a grail, holy or otherwise. They are certainly different sorts of theater, but both shows finish up this weekend, and both have received very good notices, so if you can get your hands on a ticket, they're both well worth your time.

Also in Champaign, the Station Theatre continues its run of Jon Robin Baitz's Other Desert Cities, directed by Kay Bohannon Holley and starring Steven M. Keen, Carolyn Kodes-Atkinson, Joi Hoffsommer, Joel Higgins and Kate Riley as the wealthy but dysfunctional Wyeth family of Palm Springs. Baitz's newest play was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

If you are a fan of British films or of the amazing Jim Broadbent or Lindsay Duncan, you'll want to check out Le Week-End at the Art Theater Co-op in Champaign, on screen till May 8. The premise of the film -- that long-married couple Nick and Meg travel to Paris for a second honeymoon to try to find the spark their relationship has lost -- is set up nicely in the film's trailer. Le Week-End was directed by Roger Michell, known for rom-com Notting Hill and the recent soft-focus FDR pic Hyde Park on Hudson, and is described as a "magically buoyant and bittersweet film." Le Week-End will also move into the Normal Theater for a short stay from May 29 to June 1.

Before that, the Normal Theater is focusing on Audrey Hepburn as directed by Stanley Donen for four nights, starting with Charade, the delightful 1963 romantic caper/spy film that paired Hepburn with Cary Grant, on May 8 and 9. The Hepburn/Grant romance is given even more sparkle by the terrific Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer song also called "Charade" that pops up in the movie. Then it's time for Funny Face, the 1957 musical where Audrey is a beatnik turned into a fashion model by photographer Fred Astaire, on the 10th and 11th. As it happens, May 10 is Fred's birthday. You can celebrate by catching Funny Face at the Normal Theater, taking a look at Holiday Inn on the RETRO channel on May 16, or staying up till the wee hours for The Belle of New York on Turner Classic Movies on May 22.

Community Players takes a break from musicals to offer the Neil Simon classic The Odd Couple, opening May 15. Brian Artman and Tom Smith play mismatched roommates Oscar and Felix for director Jeremy Stiller, with a supporting cast that includes Stacy Baker, Andy Cary, Drew German, Allen Popowski, Thom Rakestraw and Bridgette Richard. Performances of The Odd Couple continue through May 25. Tickets for this show and for the 2014-15 Community Players season are available now.

Players will also hold auditions for their upcoming production of Shrek: The Musical from 6 to 7 pm (for kids from 3rd to 8th grade) and 7 to 9 pm (for everybody older than 8th grade) on May 18, 19 and 20. For all the details, check out the Shrek Auditions Facebook page.

As part of its Summer Arts Festival, Eureka College Theatre will hold a stage combat workshop in Eureka in collaboration with Western Illinois University beginning May 19. The workshop will include 30 hours of instruction in stage fighting with single sword and quarterstaff, with additional "Dueling Arts Certification" in unarmed and small sword categories. At the end of the workshop, students will be tested for Society of American Fight Directors certification. Please note that enrollment is limited to 18 and that college credit may be available for participants. Click here to see costs and other important information.

Instead of Whose Line Is It, Anyway? -- the TV improv show that started in Britain and then spawned two American versions --  the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts will host Whose Live Anyway? at 7:30 pm on May 31. I feel the need to point out that it should probably be "Who's" to indicate "Who is live?" as opposed to "Whose," which really makes no sense in this context. But I guess these are improv performers, not people who necessarily know their "whose" from their "who's." Anyway, a quartet of performers who frequently visited Whose Line , including Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Jeff B. Davis and Charles "Chip" Esten, who has since broken out as an actor on ABC's Nashville, will take on some of the games they did on the television show as well as some new ones. This is not the first time Whose Line personnel have visited Bloomington, but it may be the first time since Esten became a major TV heartthrob. For more information, click here.

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