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Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 01:14 pm

Fall curtain call

A season of robust theater in central Illinois


Rent takes the Muni stage at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6-7, Sept.12-14 and Sept. 19-21

Although summer is drawing to a close, the theater season is still going strong. Springfield and the surrounding region boast some truly impressive talent and mesmerizing productions that can hold their own against theater in bigger cities. There’s no need to travel far and wide for great theater – you can be transported to another world simply by catching a show at one of these outstanding local venues.

The Hoogland Center for the Arts is Springfield’s theater powerhouse, running a variety of shows consistently throughout the year. Located at 420 S. Sixth St., the Hoogland wraps up its run of Gypsy, the 1959 musical about vaudeville actress and burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee, on Aug. 30-31 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 1 at 2 p.m.

The last two years in the life of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman are chronicled in QED: A Play, which runs Sept. 13 and 14 at 8 p.m. Feynman helped develop the atomic bomb and served on the commission that investigated the Challenger shuttle explosion, but the play also touches on more personal moments, like his wife’s death from cancer.

Inherit the Wind wrestles with religious faith and intellectual freedom through a fictionalized account of the famous 1925 Scopes evolution trial. It runs at 8 p.m. Oct. 4-6 and Oct. 11-13.

The Tony Award-winning Monty Python spinoff Spamalot runs Oct. 18-20 and Oct. 25-27, telling the ridiculous tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

Sangamon Auditorium hosts Memphis on Oct. 29 at 7:30.
Oct. 25-27 The Little Years explores the life of a female math prodigy in the 1950s, following her as she struggles with the notion that math isn’t for women, and with her own problems.

Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ classic science fiction novelWar of the Worlds is recreated live in a play of the same name on Oct. 30, featuring actors depicting radio broadcasters in period-appropriate garb and sound men providing aural accompaniment.

From 1854 until 1929, the Orphan Train carried more than 250,000 orphaned children from the East Coast to families in the Midwest. The Track Home: A Musical is a fictionalized account of one such trip, covering the train’s history and the children’s heartache and hope. It runs Nov. 8-10 and Nov. 15-17.

Most shows at the Hoogland offer a pre-show dinner option, in case you want to grab a bite to eat but don’t want to risk missing the show. For $15, diners get a buffet meal with meat and vegetarian options and dessert. For tickets or more information, call 217-523-2787 or visit www.hcfta.org.

While the bulk of the theater season at the Springfield Municipal Opera (better known as simply The Muni) happens during summer, you can still catch a show if you hurry. The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Rent tells the story of a group of artists and musicians struggling to get by in New York as HIV/AIDS ravages their community. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6-7, Sept.12-14 and Sept. 19-21. The Muni is located at 815 E. Lake Dr. Check out www.themuni.org or call 217-793-6864 for more information.

The Legacy Theatre, 101 E. Lawrence Ave., has been wowing audiences with high caliber shows since it opened in March 2012 after the building sat through years of neglect. The next chance to catch a show at this beloved venue is Sept. 20-22 and Sept. 26-29, when the Legacy hosts A Day in Hollywood / A Night in the Ukraine. It’s a two-act show, with the first act revisiting the golden days of Hollywood through song and dance, and second act reviving a classic Marx Brothers farce. Then comes Pinkalicious, a cute and kid-friendly play about a young girl who eats too many cupcakes and must learn how to control herself. The show runs Nov. 9 at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7p.m., then again on Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. For more information or tickets for these events call 217-528-9760 or visit www.atthelegacy.com.

Monty Python spinoff Spamalot runs Oct. 18-20 and Oct. 25-27 at The Hoogland Center for the Arts.

Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois Springfield campus hosts mostly musical acts, but it also has some theater on tap for fall. Memphis is a musical depicting a forbidden romance between a white radio DJ and a black lounge singer in the 1950s. The show is Oct. 29 at 7:30. Masked Marvels & Wondertales is an array of fantastic masks and elaborate tales woven together into a dreamlike world by storyteller Michael Cooper. His kid-friendly show is Nov. 10 at 3 p.m. Check out www.uis.edu/sangamonauditorium or call 217-206-6160 for more information.

The Jacksonville Theatre Guild is just a short jaunt west of Springfield, hosting shows at their cozy venue in downtown Jacksonville. Their performance of Eat Your Heart Out tells the story of several encounters in Manhattan restaurants, each involving the main character, Charlie. The show runs Sept. 6-8 and Sept.13-15. JTG is also planning a run of the children’s play Velveteen Rabbit  Oct. 11-13 and Oct. 18-20. They’re located at the JTG Studio Theatre at 210 West College in Jacksonville. More information is at www.jaxtg.com, or call 217-245-1402.

Jacksonville is also home to the new Playhouse on the Square, which just opened in May. On Sept. 20 and 21, the Playhouse hosts QED: A Play, the Richard Feynman story that also runs at the Hoogland earlier in the month. The Playhouse is at 68 East Central Park Plaza in Jacksonville. Call them at 217-491-3977 or visit www.playhouseonthesquare.net.

The Department of Theatre and Dance at Millikin University puts on shows year round featuring its students. On Oct. 9-13, they performe Tartuffe, which tells the comedic story of a family trying to free their patriarch from the grasp of a dubious prophet. Then they shift into musical mode on Nov. 20-24 for String, a tale of a Greek god who falls in love in the modern world.

Call 1-800-373-7733 or visit www.millikin.edu/theatre for more information.

Millikin’s student-run theater company also puts on shows at the Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre. Their next production is Evil Dead: The Musical, which shows in a comedic way what happens when five college students become possessed by a dark force. The show is Oct. 25-27. Visit www.pdtheatre.com for more information.

You’ll never forget the fantastic shows you’ll see at these venues, so get out and make some memories.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.

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