Theatre Building Chicago changes hands

theatre-building-chicago

LUKABA PRODUCTIONS FINDS A HOME

Lukaba Productions announced today that it will be the primary tenant of the Theatre Building Chicago, at 1225 W. Belmont Ave.  Lukaba has committed to a long-term lease with 1225 West Belmont Avenue LLC, who this week signed a contract to purchase the building from Theatre Building Chicago.

Under the contract announced this week, Theatre Building Chicago will sell its property in Lakeview, containing three 148-seat theaters, to 1225 West Belmont Avenue LLC, according to Charles H. Jesser, manager of record for the entity. Jesser also stated that the purchaser intends to make substantial upgrades to the building. (Yeah!) The transaction is expected to close in May.

Lukaba executive producer Brian Posen stated, “We are excited about the opportunity to have our own space where we can collaborate with other artists and offer audiences accessible, affordable and exceptional entertainment.”

sketchfest-logo Lukaba Productions, under Posen’s leadership, has a long history of theatrical production in Chicago.  Lukaba’s flagship product is the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, the world’s largest such festival that has taken place at TBC each January since 2002.  In addition, Lukaba is the parent company of the Cupid Players, the musical sketch comedy troupe that lays claim to the title of longest-running sketch revue in iO Theater’s history.  Posen has also produced a number of theatrical productions.  Those presented at TBC include the Chicago premiere of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, Noises Off! and How the Other Half Loves.

“We have spent the last several years searching for a permanent home that can serve as a base for our own productions, as well as helping us fulfill our mission of serving and nurturing Chicago’s theatrical artists.  We will continue TBC’s tradition of offering Chicago’s off-Loop companies affordable performance space so that the building will continue to serve as an incubator for Chicago theatre,” said Lukaba board chair Laura Michaud.

See more updates on this story at Chris Jones’ blog.

An interview with Andrea McArdle – an orphan no longer

Andrea McArdle  – On the road since 1977

Interview by Novelist Amy Shearn

Andrea McArdleAt the Wilmette Theatre, Sunday May 16th at 2:30pm, Chicago residents (and beyond) will have an opportunity that would make me – if I was still seven-years old – shriek with joy.  No, it’s not a pet unicorn or a canopy bed: it’s a performance by the talented show business veteran Andrea McArdle, who created the role of Annie in the Broadway musical Annie in 1977.

AS: Okay, I’m sorry, you’re probably tired of talking about “Annie”…

AM: (laughing) I’ve made my peace with it.  During the whole thing I was not that fun to deal with.  It’s just so different when you’re in it.

AS: I was obsessed with “Annie” as a kid.

AM: I always meet gay guys who are like, “The red album! The red album!” [The original Broadway cast recording]

"The Red Album"

AS: Exactly.  I read that you were pulled from the chorus of orphans to play Annie on Broadway.

AM: I was the toughest orphan.  The only reason they never considered me for Annie was that I wasn’t a redhead. I was on the soap opera “Search for Tomorrow” and I was contracted with long brown hair.  Then they realized not to look for what’s outside — you could dye hair or wear a wig, not that my mother would have let me dye my hair — but to look for the soul of the character, and I got the role.

AS: What was it like to be cast as Annie? 

AM: The show wasn’t a hit then. To me, I treated it the same way I treated the school play — I didn’t really see the difference between that and Broadway.  I had no idea what a Tony award was. When I was nominated for one I was like, “Oh, cool.”  It was just another gig.

I have great parents.  I was always the daughter before  a commodity.   I was a gymnast before theatre and it was just like that — being part of a team.  Afterwards, it became a hit.  When it hit we knew we were the toast of the town.  It could have been terrible, but like I said, I had great parents.

AS: What was it like being a child star?

AM: I’m lucky that it wasn’t television, which uses you up and spits you out.  You know, sometimes I’m still waiting for my “Norma Rae” role and think it just hasn’t happened yet.  (laughs.)   After “Annie,” I had offers to go on sitcoms but they were all terrible and luckily we knew better.  It would have had a horrible outcome, just trashed my reputation.  They didn’t know what do with kids when I was hot.

Today they have the Disney channel, I would have had my own show, a whole franchise.  But then, American Broadway was dying — it was the beginning of the British Invasion and all major producers were on their last legs.  There were really no projects around, so we just didn’t get to ride the momentum.  That’s why it’s nice to also be a singer.  It was hard to cast me — I looked like an eight-year-old boy until I was eighteen and then suddenly grew up one summer — so no one knew what to do with me.

AS: You appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and performed with Liberace. What was that like?

Liberace (photo from liberace.org)

AM: It was amazing. I wasn’t phased. I did the Carson show three times. I played Judy Garland in the movie Rainbow on NBC and Liberace saw it. I was in school writing a paper on JFK and got a call to go to Las Vegas. Liberace gave me my sweet 16 party, which was wrong on so many levels, but great.

AS: What do you think of contemporary child stars?

AM: Ugh, so many of them are puppets for sick parents.  It’s so different from getting into business because a child has talent. I feel horrible for them; I would never want to grouped into the child star group.

AS: Do you ever get tired of being Annie?

AM: Well, sometimes I think the Annie thing has held me back.  If I had arrived on scene at 18 or 19 it would been better — you can’t be an adolescent girl in mary janes and a red dress forever.  But I wouldn’t change a thing.

AS: What were some of your favorite roles?

AM: I got to play Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.”  I was 37, and I was surprised they were calling me.  I thought they were calling me for Mrs. Potts and I was like, Mmm, I don’t know if I’m ready to play a teapot.  But I loved playing Belle.  My daughter was 12, and it was great to be in something she was so in to.  I think that’s the best Disney story, too.  It’s not just for kids.  It has universal appeal.

I loved played Sally Bowles — it’s really fun to play a bad girl.

AS: Many Ageless North Shore readers are redefining or reevaluating their lives and careers at midlife.  How have you managed to maintain such an active career in a field notoriously interested in youth?

Andrea at New York’s Metropolitan Room. (photo by Richard Termine )

AM: Well, you know, I’m in a period of crossroads.  I’ve been mature enough to play mothers for almost a quarter of a century.  This business owes us nothing.  Who wants to wait two years to sing two great songs in a show?  That’s why cabaret is so incredibly appealing. No one wants to see, you know, a “seasoned” 17-year-old sing cabaret.  It took me years to feel comfortable  with cabaret; it’s easier to sing for 6000 people than for 60.  You have to deal with the people and their energy…but once you face it, it’s liberating.

Now I have so many great stories and I can chat with the audience.  It’s a live version of what a book would be, but it’s all off the top my head.  I’ve had a lot of funny experiences! Who else performs for the queen at 13? I mean, Catherine Zeta Jones was my Molly in London.  No one could pronounce her name — we called her Zeetie.  It’s just interesting to see where everybody ends up.

My story is a success story — theater is what I love. I was lucky.  Now you have to go and do tv just to get the roles you want.  Since Broadway went corporate it’s just such a machine.  It changed everything.  It’s all marketing.  I mean, when you see reality tv show stars getting roles…it’s tough.  But in theater,you do it for the love of it.  And I love what I do.

For tickets to an “Evening of Song, ANDREA MCARDLE with Doug Peck on the piano”, Sunday, May 16th at 2:30pm click here.

__________________
Amy Shearn is the author of  How Far Is the Ocean from Here. Her work has appeared in Jane, West Branch, Salt Hill, and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, a baby and a dog. Visit her online at amyshearn.com.

NOTE: This interview is re-posted, with permission, from Ageless Northshore: http://ageless-northshore.com.

London theater awards rife with Hollywood stars

Jude Law, James Earl Jones, Keira Knightley, among others

FILE - In this Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 file photo, actor Jude Law attends the 

Hollywood heavyweights feature strongly in the race for the 2010 Laurence Olivier theater awards, including nominees Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, James Earl Jones and Keira Knightley.  

Among the nominations:

  • James Earl Jones is a best-actor favorite for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, by Tennessee Williams
  • Jude Law is also up for best-actor for his lead role in the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet
  • James McAvoy for Three Days of Rain, Mark Rylance for Jerusalem, Ken Stott for  Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge and Samuel West for Enron.
  • Rachel Weisz received a best-actress nomination for her performance as faded belle Blanche Dubois in Willams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.
  • Also included in best-actress nominations are Gillian Anderson for Henrik Ibsen‘s A Doll’s House, by  Lorraine Burroughs for The Mountaintop, Imelda Staunton for Entertaining Mr. Sloane and Juliet Stevenson for Duet for One.
  • "Pirates of the Caribbean" star Keira Knightley is nominated in the supporting actress category for her turn as a manipulative movie starlet in The Misanthrope.
  • Melanie Chisholm — better known as Mel C of the Spice Girls — is nominated for best actress in a musical, for Blood Brothers.
  • “Mr. Bean" star Rowan Atkinson is up for best actor for playing Fagin in Oliver!
  • Along with these Hollywood stars, sexy song-and-dance drama Spring Awakening received seven nominations, including best new musical. Lucy Prebble‘s Enron, about the collapse of the Texas energy giant, and Jez Butterworth‘s raucous state-of-England play Jerusalem lead the drama field with six nominations each, including best new play.
  • New-musical contenders are Spring Awakening, Dreamboats and Petticoats, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Sister Act.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in London on March 21.

Spider-Man the Musical – a sticky web of financial woes

A web of financial woes

He can shoot webs, swing between buildings, and punch through brick walls, but Spider-Man’s fundraising powers are another story. Six years, tens of millions of dollars, and music by U2 have yet to bring the superhero to Broadway, where a planned musical is still short as much as $24 million of its projected $52 million budget. According to the Los Angeles Times, the production would easily be the most expensive in history and would feature pyrotechnics, giant sets, and a Spider-Man who swings directly over the audience. "The visuals and the music are amazing, and that’s what will matter," Bono told the Times.

Think Fast: Cheyenne Jackson, Red Orchid Theatre, Barbara Gaines, and Superior Donuts

logo Good news for Old Town’s A Red Orchid Theatre: tickets for their current production Mistakes Were Made (our review here), by Craig Wright, have been selling like hot cakes – so much so that they’ve added an extra Wednesday night performance for all of October.  Be sure to check it out before it closes on October 31st.  Mistakes Were Made stars Michael Shannon, and is directed by Dexter Bullard.   (h/t Chris Jones)


shakespeare

 

Check out the interview with Chicago Shakes artistic director (and founder) Barbara Gaines regarding her direction of the company’s current production, Richard III. Well worth the read.

 


superiordonuts The Daily Beast has posted a rave review of Tracy Letts’ Superior Donuts, which played last year to positive reviews at Steppenwolf. An excerpt:

Letts and his cast can breathe deeply today. While a far less ambitious play than August, with its three-story set and sprawling cast, Superior Donuts is no less successful for what it aims to be: a tender, funny, and often tragic valentine to Letts’ Chicago in a time of intense cultural change. Fans of August won’t find that play’s heavy, gut-wrenching revelations here, but Donuts was always intended to be a smaller, lighter effort, as delightful and sweet as a doughnut itself. The play, which Letts began writing even before August, earned positive reviews when it first opened in Chicago with the same cast in July 2008, and after a year of Letts’ tweaks and rewrites, it may be even better….

Read the entire review here.


Per Perez Hilton:

cheyenn Tina Fey’s brilliant comedy, 30 Rock, may be getting the one thing it’s severely lacking – a hot piece of eye candy!

Rumors are circulating that Broadway hottie, openly gay and successful actor Cheyenne Jackson, will allegedly be joining the cast in a semi or possibly a completely permanent capacity.

For those of you who don’t live and die by the goings on of the Great White Way, Cheyenne has been in productions like Xanadu and All Shook Up!

More here.

Think Fast: “High Fidelity”, Jude Law in “Hamlet”, oyster-eating at the theatre, “Spiderman” schadenfreude, etc.

 
081709_judehamletsignage

  • Another big Hollywood name has (once again) caught the Broadway bug: Jude Law is set to star in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet on September 12th, running through December 6th.  Jude Law previously received a Tony Award nomination for the 1995 play Indiscretions. More info here.
  • Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre, which dates back to 1662.  The excavations are part of an 8-million-euro project to reinstate the theatre on its original site. The school’s director, Patrick Sutton, said the excavations had uncovered part of the theatre’s original walls as well as stage timbers. Among the artifacts found were an actress’s ceramic wig curler, clay pipes, a broken wine bottle and oyster shells. “Oysters were obviously the popcorn of the day,” he suggested. More here.
  • Rumors started among the Broadway fanatics (okay, I guess you can count me in as a member) last week that the musical-in-the-works, Spiderman, the Musical, must be in trouble when it was announced that the multi-million dollar renovation of the Hilton Theater had been halted.  It was called a "cash-flow problem", which is corporate for, "we’re not putting up another cent." Accordingly, Broadway producer Kevin Davenport’s theatre blog “The Producer’s Perspective” has a snarky well-deserved post titled “Schadenfreude for Spider-Man?”. 

Think Fast – Jerry Springer, theatre ticket refunds?, Tim Gunn, and Writers’ Theatre London tour

  • Is it a good idea for theatres to offer your ticket money back if you did not enjoy the play (as the Goodman Theatre did in El Grito del Bronx)? Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones thinks not.
springer-in-chicago-the-musical
heidi-and-tim
  • Starting this Thursday, August 20th, The Coach House (950 W. Wolfram – map) will kick off its weekly “Project Runway” viewing parties with the hit show’s new season premier.  Come play drinking games with Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn with many of the bar’s drinking specials. (maybe a shot every time Tim Gunn says “Talk to me”? or “Work, work, work!”??).
  • Writers’ Theatre is offering a London Theatre tour, December 30th thru January 6th, which will be led by Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and former chief theatre critic of the Chicago Tribune Richard Christiansen.  Enjoy some of the world’s greatest theatre; visit with some of the world’s greatest actors; experience insider encouters with local theatrical leaders; fine dining, fascinating conversation, exhilarating drama!   For more info, contact Rachel Weinstein at 847-242-6005.  Space is limited, so act fast.