Side Show, the 1997 musical that flopped on Broadway but whose spirit is carried on by ardent fans, will have its Chicago-area premiere in May 2000 at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, IL.
The Bill Russell-Henry Krieger musical, about the real-life conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, will be the largest and most ambitious staging in the 25-year history of Northlight. The production, slated for Northlight's 360-seat space, will feature a 15-member cast and a full orchestra, May 17-June 18, 2000.
Since Broadway, Side Show has enjoyed regional stagings at TheatreWorks in northern California, at the Boston Conservatory and at a New Jersey community theatre. Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA., will also present it in the 1999-2000 season.
Northlight Theatre artistic director B.J. Jones announced a five-play 25th anniversary season, offering the Chicago premieres of Off-Broadway's Dinah Was, Visiting Mr. Green and As Bees in Honey Drown, plus David Rambo's God's Man in Texas, a hit at the 1999 Humana Festival of New American Plays.
Jones told Playbill On-Line May 11 that 70 percent of the current subscribership of 5,700 has already renewed for next season and this year the company has cleared up its red ink and will have a $100,000 surplus. The nonprofit troupe began 25 years ago in an elementary school auditorium in suburban Chicago, moved several times, and is now the resident professional company at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie (using a 360-seat space and an 860-seat space). The season highlights:
* Visiting Mr. Green (Sept. 29-Oct. 31), Jeff Baron's Off-Broadway comedy about a young man sentenced to weekly meetings with an aging widower after nearly running him down with a car, directed by Jones and starring Nussbaum as Mr. Green. Nussbaum recently starred in Northlight's The Old Neighborhood.
* Dinah Was (Dec. 1, 1999-Jan. 2, 2000), Oliver Goldstick’s musical tribute to legendary jazz diva Dinah Washington, staged by David Petrarca. When Dinah arrives in Las Vegas ready to star at the Sands, she is treated to back-of-the-bus accommodations in a mobile home behind the casino. Refusing to leave the lobby, Dinah relives her career and life in an evening of jazz (13 songs) and emotional flashbacks. The staging is a co production with Arena Stage and Dallas Theatre Center.
* As Bees in Honey Drown (Feb. 2-March 5, 2000), Douglas Carter Beane's flip, New Yorky satire of celebrity culture, directed by Gary Griffin. In the Off-Broadway favorite, a young writer is seduced by the extravagant and mysterious Alexa Vere de Vere, part Auntie Mame, part Sally Bowles.
* God's Man in Texas (March 29-April 30, 2000), David Rambo's examination of the personal issues that impact a change in the leadership at a famous Baptist church, with Jones as a charismatic young pastor and Tony Mockus as the aging, defensive pastor. Susan V. Booth will direct the comedy about institutional power struggles, fathers and sons and modern day religion U.S. religion.
* Side Show (May 17-June 18, 2000), Krieger and Russell's musical look at the public and private joys of real-life "Siamese twins," the Hilton sisters. Jones called the show a risk because it's about outsiders or, as the show's opening song calls them, "freaks." The Skokie and Evanston area is about "status quo" and "normal" lives, said Jones, so it will be interesting to see how the crowd responds. Casting is incomplete.
The theme next season is about "human compassion and understanding," Jones suggested.
For Northlight Theatre subscription information, call (847) 673-6300.
-- By Kenneth Jones