Chicago off to non-traditional start

Hip-hop 'Ado' tops new Shakespeare slate

A hip-hop version of “Much Ado About Nothing,” a stage tuner incarnation of “Willy Wonka,” a revival of Peter Schaffer’s “Amadeus” directed by Gary Griffin, and its first production of a Christopher Marlowe tragedy will get Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s 2008-09 season off to a non-traditional start.

“Bomb-itty of Errors” creators GQ and JAQ — brothers Gregory and Jeffrey Ameen Qaiyum — will again blend the bard with hip-hop, this time for “Much Ado.” Developed in workshops at Chicago Shakes, show features a cast of rap and hip-hop MCs playing multiple roles. “Bomb-itty” was an Off Broadway hit that landed the Chicago natives a sketch comedy show on MTV called “Scratch & Burn.” “Much Ado” will play the smaller Upstairs venue from June 25 – Aug. 3, 2008.

With a venue at the tourist-friendly Navy Pier, CST has taken to programming a family musical for the summer season. This year’s selection will be “Willy Wonka,” an adaptation of the film version of Roald Dahl’s book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” New theatrical adaptation was developed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Show runs July 8-Aug. 17.

“The Color Purple” director Griffin, CST Associate Artistic Director, will stage a new production of “Amadeus.” Shaffer’s Tony and Oscar-winning tale of the jealous Antonio Salieri and his rivalry with Mozart runs Sept. 6-Nov. 9.

Up-and-coming Chi director Sean Graney will helm Marlowe’s tragedy “Edward II,” more formally known as “The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward II, King of England, with the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer.” Project, to run in the Upstairs Theater Oct. 1-Nov. 9, is being billed as a “promenade staging,” with a group of audience members moving about the space with the actors.

The theater’s World Stage Series will bring in two shows that originated in Britain, starting with a multi-lingual production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” featuring dancers, musicians, martial arts experts, and street acrobats from across India and Sri Lanka. Helmed by Tim Supple, show runs Nov. 25- Dec 7 at CST. In February of 2009, Michael Pennington will perform his one-man “Sweet William,” a biography-analysis-performance blend about Shakespeare.

For those craving some straight-on Shakespeare, CST artistic director Barbara Gaines helms “Macbeth” Dec. 31, 2008-March 8, 2009. The title role will be assayed by Ben Carlson, a Canadian actor who previously won the Jeff Award for “Hamlet” at CST.

And Josie Rourke, artistic director of London’s Bush Theater, will make her Chicago debut with a production of “Twelfth Night,” running March 29-June 7, 2009.

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