Yoakam, Fisher, Kane, Carle Bring Rock 'n' Roll to Life in Chicago Starting May 2

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02 May 2009

<I>Rock 'n' Roll</I> stars Mary Beth Fisher, Timothy Edward Kane, Mattie Hawkinson and Stephen Yoakam in rehearsal.
Rock 'n' Roll stars Mary Beth Fisher, Timothy Edward Kane, Mattie Hawkinson and Stephen Yoakam in rehearsal.
Michael Brosilow
The Chicago premiere of Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll, a play covering two countries, three generations and 22 years of political upheaval, begins previews May 2 toward a May 11 opening at the Goodman Theatre.

The cast features Stephen Yoakam, Timothy Edward Kane, Mary Beth Fisher, Mattie Hawkinson, Amy J. Carle, among others.

Charles Newell directs the production, to run to June 7 at the Goodman's Albert Theatre. The drama includes a rock soundtrack featuring Syd Barrett, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Plastic People of the Universe, U2 and more.

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"Rock 'n' Roll is a fascinating, complex journey that is at once highly emotional and intellectual," Newell stated. "Tom Stoppard masterfully weaves together Czech politics, Sappho poetry and early rock 'n' roll — and its transformative power in politics. It's an exhilarating night in the theatre that makes its audience think and feel very deeply — leaving the theatre basking in the high notes of Mick Jagger!"



The rock concert-inspired set design is by John Culbert. The cast also includes Greg Matthew Anderson, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Kareem Bandealy, John Hoogenakker, Susie McMonagle and Mick Weber.

Newell has been the artistic director of the Court Theatre for 15 years, where he has directed more than 30 productions. He directed Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, Travesties (twice) and The Invention of Love.

In the play, it's August 1968, just after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, as Russian tanks roll into Prague under Alexander Dubek. According to Goodman notes, "Rock 'n' Roll begins at Max Morrow's (Stephen Yoakam) home in Cambridge, England, and in various locations in Prague. Eleanor (Mary Beth Fisher), Max's wife, has lost a breast to cancer, and their 16-year-old daughter Esme (Mattie Hawkinson) is beginning to embrace hippie culture. Despite increasing Soviet aggression, Max defends his idealistic faith; his Czech protégé Jan (Timothy Edward Kane), who lives for rock music, defends Dubek as a reform Communist. Jan returns to Czechoslovakia, where rock music is censored, and he defends a local band called The Plastic People of the Universe; his dissident actions eventually land him in prison. Meanwhile, Esme joins a commune, marries a journalist named Nigel (Thom Cox) and has a daughter. Still suffering from cancer, Eleanor gives a private tutorial to Jan’s old flame, Lenka (Amy J. Carle), while Max looks on — and Eleanor orders Lenka to keep her hands off Max until after she has died. Twenty years later, Jan, now working in a bakery in Prague, despairs for the future of Czech culture, which has been so long suppressed by censorship. By the Velvet Revolution of 1989 under Václav Havel, the tanks are rolling out, the Stones are rolling in and idealism has hit the wall. …At the end, love remains — and so does rock 'n' roll."

The creative team also includes lighting designer Christopher Akerlind, costume designer Ana Kuzmanic, sound designers Ray Nardelli and Joshua Horvath and dialect consultant Elizabeth Smith.

For more information visit GoodmanTheatre.org.