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Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004 02:20 pm

Backstage Pass

A new production of Jesus Christ Superstar opens Friday at Sangamon Auditorium

Springfield area theater patrons have plenty of reasons to celebrate, thanks to a strong schedule of shows in the next few weeks. On the heels of Springfield Theatre Centre's successful run of Annie, which was held over for two additional performances last weekend, Sangamon Auditorium is bringing a touring company of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. This new production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Superstar is garnering great reviews around the country. It plays for five performances this weekend: 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; and 7 p.m. on Sunday. (Tickets are $22-$47; call 206-6160.)

Touring companies of Broadway musicals have been crisscrossing the area. On Saturday, a company of The Music Man makes a stop at Kirkland Fine Arts Center (call 424-6318 for tickets).

In the category of drama, the Celebration Company in-residence at the Station Theatre in Champaign is staging the downstate premiere of Edward Albee's new play The Goat (or Who is Sylvia?). The performance continues through Sunday, Feb. 1, and again Wednesday-Saturday, Feb. 4-7 (call 384-4000). If you haven't seen this play and are interested in current American drama, don't miss it. Albee's 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Three Tall Women, plays at Springfield Theatre Centre on Feb. 6-8 and Feb. 14-16. The performance willmark the return of Marian Levin after a much-too-long hiatus.

Another drama, Robert Anderson's I Never Sang for My Father, plays at Jacksonville Theatre Guild beginning today, Jan. 29, through Sunday, Feb. 1. Directed by Russ Hymes, I Never Sang features Jim Nevins and Doc Holloway (call 245-1402).

Now that the Center for the Arts is open, it's time to come up with some serious fundraising so the Center can achieve its mission. Auditions will be held for chorus parts for the first event, a gala concert-performance of Les Misérables. The concert will be held May 1 and feature Peter Samuel, who played Javert in the Broadway production. Auditions for chorus roles take place Saturday, Feb. 7 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Sunday, Feb. 8, from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. (for information, call 726-8443).

Springfield Theatre Centre is holding tryouts for two upcoming performances. Auditions for the rock musical Tommy take place at STC this Saturday, Jan. 31, from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Derry Dalby directs the show, which runs the end of March. (For information, e-mail or call 523-0878). STC is also holding auditions for As You Like it on Saturday, Feb. 7, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

Chicago has become a favorite out-of-town-tryout city for new musicals. The hit Billy Joel/Twyla Tharpe show Movin' Out started there. Last summer, the new Stephen Sondheim musical Bounce played the Windy City for several weeks. And now, The Goodman Theatre has The Light in the Piazza, now running through Feb. 15. The musical is based on Elizabeth Spencer's 1960 novella (it ran in The New Yorker in 1958) and is a much-anticipated new musical theater work. The music and lyrics are by Adam Guettel (Floyd Collins), who many consider the most promising of new musical theater composers. Craig Lucas (Prelude to a Kiss, Reckless) has written the script about an American woman who is traveling in Italy in 1953 with her daughter (who falls in love with a local boy). The show began in Seattle last summer and the word is it's a real gem with a great score (call 312-443-3800).

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