From national tours to intimate storefront theaters putting on world premieres, Chicago and the surrounding suburbs are home to some of the nation’s top theatres. Whether you’re looking for a fun night out or an excuse to delve into the thriving arts scene, here are five of the best shows currently performing or getting ready to take the stage that you don’t want to miss out on this month.
- “Sweeney Todd” – Paramount Theatre (23 East Galena Blvd., Aurora); Playing through March 19
It’s a one-hour drive to the Paramount Theatre in Aurora from the Lake Shore Campus, but it’s worth every minute spent in the car. Paramount’s staging of the Stephen Sondheim musical masterpiece “Sweeney Todd” is, in my opinion, Chicago’s top “can’t miss” performance right now. With a run time of two hours and 40 minutes, the show clocks in on the longer end, but you’ll hardly notice. In the show, Benjamin Barker — a once fresh-faced barber — returns home following an unjust 15-year prison sentence. But nothing is as he left it. Barker vows his revenge for all that’s happened and with the help of a razor and barber chair, enacts a plan that costs the lives of some while leading others to prosper. Tickets cost $44-$59 and can be purchased at www.paramountaurora.com.
- “The Wiz” – Theater Wit (1229 W. Belmont Ave.); March 16-April 16
Kokandy Productions is launching its fifth anniversary season with a revival of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, “The Wiz.” The rock, gospel and soul-infused musical is an urbanized retelling of the classic movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” through the lens of 20th century African American culture. The musical features hits like “Home” and “Ease on Down the Road.” Kokandy Productions’ adaptation is slated to feature Loyola alumnae Anna Dauzvardis and Angela Alise, who play Glinda and Addaperl respectively. Tickets cost $33-$38 and can be purchased at www.kokandyproductions.com.
- “A Wonder In My Soul” – Victory Gardens Theater – Biograph (2433 N. Lincoln Ave.); Playing through March 19
“A Wonder In My Soul,” which received an extension at the Victory Gardens Theater, is a timely piece given the current conditions of Chicago. Belle and Birdie, longtime salon owners and best friends, grapple with the decision to remain in their beloved South Side neighborhood or relocate under the pressures of gentrification and crime. Told through music, poetry and dance, “A Wonder In My Soul” looks at the evolution of one neighborhood and explores beauty and friendship through the eyes of these two women. Tickets cost $15-$60 and can be purchased at www.victorygardens.org.
- “Mamma Mia!” – Marriott Theatre (10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire); Playing through April 16
Marriott Theatre recently announced that it would be extending its production of “Mamma Mia!” an additional two weeks following the show’s box office success. Maybe you grew up listening to your parents play ABBA tapes and CDs, or perhaps you fell in love with the 2008 movie version of the beloved musical starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried. Regardless, Marriott Theatre’s production is likely to leave fans rather pleased — especially considering its version has received significantly warmer reviews when compared to Paramount Theatre’s production that played last September and October.
“Mamma Mia!,” which had a 14-year life on Broadway, tells the story of a young woman’s search for her birth father on a Greek island paradise just before her wedding day. Although it’s a 45-minute drive from the Lake Shore Campus to the Marriott Theatre, you’re sure to be belting away to “Dancing Queen” and “Honey, Honey” all night long. Tickets cost $55-$60 and can be purchased at www.marriotttheatre.com.
- “Linda Vista” – Steppenwolf Theatre (1650 N. Halstead St.); March 30-May 21
Penned by Tony Award-winning playwright Tracy Letts (“August: Osage County”), “Linda Vista” will be making its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre come the end of the month. Leading the cast is Steppenwolf ensemble member Ian Barford, who will play Wheeler. The 50-year-old lead character recently moved into his new apartment after a failed marriage left him sleeping on a cot in his ex-wife’s garage. With this move comes Wheeler’s opportunity to reconcile the man he has become with the man he wants to be. All of this is tackled with complication, pain and great hilarity. Tickets cost $20-$89 and can be purchased at www.steppenwolf.org. There is also a limited number of $15 student tickets available online for performances. For details on these, visit www.steppenwolf.org/students.