As first reported on Playbill On-Line and now confirmed, Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company will open its 2000-2001 season with its first foray into musical theatre, The Ballad of Little Jo, directed by Tina Landau.
The season will also feature a new production of Ibsen's classic, Hedda Gabler, starring Martha Plimpton; a new stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield"; and the American premiere of Drawer Boy, starring John Mahoney and Frank Galati.
Director-playwright and Steppenwolf ensemble member Landau will helm The Ballad of Little Jo, Sept. 14-Nov. 5 (opening Sept. 24). According to Mike Reid, who penned the work with Sarah Schlesinger, the show will be the first new musical produced by the lauded Chicago company. The show, which is based on a real story, concerns a young woman living in the last century. Born to money in the East, her father banishes her to the West after she has a child out of wedlock. But on a train bound for San Francisco, Jo is robbed and thrown off in Idaho. There, through a series of odd occurrences, she comes to disguise herself as a man. Finally, she decides to live her entire life that way, going by the name Joe Manahan.
Reid has spent the past 20 years as a Nashville songwriter, penning tunes for the likes of Bonnie Raitt. Another musical by Reid and Schlesinger, In This House, was recently given a reading at the McCarter Theatre.
Landau is an ensemble member at Steppenwolf, where she directed her own play, Space, which recently received a production at the Public Theater in New York. Her other credits include Floyd Collins. Next in the line-up is Giles Havergal's adaptation of "David Copperfield," Feb. 1-March 25, 2001 (opening Feb. 11). Uriah Heep, Peggoty, Dora, Steerforth and Mr. Micawber are all featured in this telling of Dickens' slightly autobiographical novel about an abandoned boy and his many encounters with misfortune. Havergal also directs. Jim True-Frost leads the cast.
Michael Healey's The Drawer Boy tells of Miles, a young actor who retires to the country to write a play, moving in with two bachelor farmer brothers, played by Mahoney and Galati. When Miles includes one of their stories in his drama, the farmers' lives are suddenly unsettled. The production will occasion Galati's first acting work in some time. Known as the director of large scale productions such as The Grapes of Wrath and Ragtime, Galati spent much of the 70s and 80s in his home base of Chicago, alternating between directing and acting assignments. Mahoney is well known to television audiences from the sitcom "Frasier." Drawer Boy will run April 12-June 10, 2001 (opening April 22).
Martha Plimpton, who has appeared in several productions at Steppenwolf over the past couple seasons, including The Playboy of the Western World, will play the title role in Hedda Gabler. Douglas Hughes will direct the production, which will run June 28-Aug. 19, 2001 (opening July 8).
A fifth play is yet to be announced.
Tickets for the season range $125-$175. Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N. Halsted St. in Chicago. For information, call (312) 335-1888.
--By Robert Simonson