Chicago's 11-year-old Second City e.t.c. company is about to open its 18th revue, RiverAnts, July 16. The show is already in previews, since Second City revues tend to morph into one another. (That is, the current revue will change, drop material and add new material, until it's sufficiently different to be worth designating as "new," says producer Kelly Leonard.) Second City e.t.c.'s current show is Forty Ounces And A Mule.
RiverAnts will pay an left-handed tribute to road shows coming to Chicago, including such theatrical phenomena as the surreal creatures of Blue Man Group, the young ranters of Rent, and the hoofers of Riverdance. The show's press release promises that RiverAnts will "not feature exciting Irish step dancing," and that it "excludes some of the most talented Celtic musicians in the world."
Leonard also cautions that RiverAnts will not be a Forbidden Broadway-style spoof revue. "The show is a collection of scenes and songs loosely threaded together. We're still writing the show (all the way up till opening night). Right now it involves an office situation with someone getting fired, but of course, it takes off in a zillion different directions from that."
Leonard told Playbill On-Line that Second City e.t.c. was founded because the Second City mainstage was always sold out, and because talent wasn't moving up the system fast enough. "Then in the late 1980s, e.t.c. started getting better reviews than the mainstage, because they were edgier and more experimental. That's changed, and there's been something of a renaissance for the mainstage."
The original Second City was founded in 1959 and has since given birth to Second City, Toronto and Second City, Detroit. In Illinois, Second City Northwest (in Rolling Meadows) closed down when Motorola bought the building it was in, but "we're looking for a new one in the suburbs within the next two years," says Leonard. According to Leonard, director Mick Napier has gained a serious reputation in Chicago for using long-form improv to offer a hallucinatory experience, "with scenes and characters recurring and mutating, as opposed to the old Second City style of disconnected sketches. The new shows are very thematic."
Starring in RiverAnts are Matt Dwyer, Rachel Hamilton, Laura Krafft, Jerry Minor, Rebecca Sohn, Horatio Sanz an Rich Talarico. Jeff Richmond serves as musical director.
For more information on shows at Second City, call (312) 642-8189 or check out their website at http://www.secondcity.com.
Among the notables who've appeared at one of the Second City companies over the years are Hamilton Camp, Joe Flaherty, Paul Sand, Martin Short, Paul Sills, James Belushi, John Belushi, Robin Duke, Linda Lavin, Shelley Long, Paul Mazursky, Brian Doyle-Murray, Bill Murray, Andrea Martin, Michael Myers, Avery Schreiber and Robert Klein.
--By David Lefkowitz