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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 12:01 am

Fall curtain call

A season of robust theater in central Illinois

The Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield finishes its run of The Mikado on Aug. 29, 30 and 31.


A good actor isn’t afraid to be emotionally naked in front of an audience. From the silver screen to Broadway, talented thespians figuratively bare themselves to the public. But how much more challenging is that nakedness when the audience is full of familiar faces? Local theater demands the same passion, comedic timing and commitment as acting in major productions, but with the added dimension of vulnerability in front of the performer’s family, friends and associates. Supporting local theater shows an appreciation of that challenge, so check out these shows in the Springfield area for some truly powerful (and fun) performances.

The Hoogland Center for the Arts, at 420 S. Sixth St. in Springfield, offers a steady supply of shows throughout the year. Wrapping up a six-show run at the Hoogland is The Mikado, which tells the story of a Japanese executioner with no one to execute and a deadline to off someone – anyone at all – with dire consequences for his city if he does not. A love triangle complicates matters considerably in this classic tale by famed duo W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. The Mikado runs Aug. 29 and 30 at 8 p.m. and Aug. 31 at 2 p.m.

Perhaps Shakespeare’s most quoted play, Hamlet, is a tale of murder, royal power struggles and revenge as the title character seeks to avenge the death of his father, the king, at the hands of his power-hungry uncle. The version showing at the Hoogland in September promises to be accessible, even for those who don’t know Shakespeare. It’s scheduled for Sept. 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m., as well as Sept. 7 and 14 at 4 p.m.

One of Springfield’s most beloved characters, former weatherman and Hoogland executive director Gus Gordon, takes the stage again in Pete ’N’ Keely, a musical comedy about a divorced couple who try to rekindle their singing careers by rekindling their romance. It runs Oct. 3, 4, 10, 11 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 5 and 12 at 4 p.m.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a musical featuring the story of Milly, a young woman who unwittingly marries into a family of seven unruly brothers living in Oregon during the 1850s. Milly tries to find wives for her six brothers-in-law in order to get them out of the house they all share, but the brothers take things a bit too far when they kidnap women from a neighboring town to be their wives. It’s scheduled to run Oct. 10 through 19. Times have not yet been announced.

Nearly 40 years after it first aired as a quirky film tribute to early science fiction and horror flicks, cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show still has a loyal following as a musical comedy on stage. It relates the bizarre hijinx of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a “transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania.” The show runs Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 at 8 p.m., as well as Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m.

Harvey is everyone’s favorite pooka and the stage version of Jimmy Stewart’s most endearing film. It tells the story of Elwood P. Dowd, a lovable man about town who happens to have an imaginary friend, a six-foot-tall rabbit named Harvey. Naturally, Dowd’s overprotective social-climber sister can’t bear the thought, and a silly chain of events unfolds, with everyone getting what they deserve. The Hoogland’s show runs Nov. 14 through 23. Times have not yet been announced.

More info on shows at the Hoogland is available at www.hcfta.org or by calling 217-523- 2787.

The Springfield Municipal Opera, better known as The Muni, is a hopping outdoor venue all summer, with one last hurrah as fall sets in. The final show of the season is the musical Jekyll & Hyde. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous book, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the play is about a kindly doctor whose secret potion turns him into the personification of evil. It begins 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 5 and 6, Sept. 11 through 13 and Sept. 18 through 20. The Muni is at 815 E. Lake Dr. Tickets and more information are available by calling 217-793-6864 or online at www.themuni.org.

Sangamon Auditorium at the University of Illinois-Springfield hosts numerous top-notch musical acts, but every once in awhile, you can catch some live theater there, too. Anything Goes is a playfully bawdy, classic musical about love and mischief aboard an ocean liner. It’s scheduled for Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. Call Sangamon Auditorium at 217-206-6160 for more information, or visit www.uis.edu/sangamonauditorium.

The UIS Studio Theatre is where UIS theater minors sharpen their acting chops. Their fall 2014 production is Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs, which humorously relates the memories of a 15-year-old boy from Brooklyn in the lead up to World War II. It runs Nov. 7, 8, 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m., plus Nov. 9 and 15 at 2 p.m. The UIS Studio Theatre is in the first level of the Public Affairs Center on the UIS campus. For more information and tickets, call 217-206-6240 or visit www.uis.edu/theatre.

The Jacksonville Theatre Guild performs at a variety of locations around Jacksonville, depending on the size of the production. Their upcoming Greasepaint, Bats, and Seasoned Hams is a throwback to the Guild’s past, written by local playwright Ken Bradbury. It will run at Nichols Park Pavilion on Sept. 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., plus Sept. 21 at 2 p.m.

For some spooky fun, check out the Guild’s run of Boo! - Thirteen Scenes from Halloween. It’s a “dramatic comedy,” scheduled to show in the JTG Studio, 210 West College, on Oct. 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m., as well as Oct. 12 and 19 at 2 p.m. Find more information at www.jaxtg.weebly.com or by calling 217-245-1402.

Also in Jacksonville is the Playhouse on the Square, now in its second season. They have a full playbill this fall, starting with You Can’t Take It With You, the romantic comedy about two families whose worlds collide when young love blossoms. It runs Sept. 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 7:30, and Sept. 21 and 28 at 2 p.m.

Next up is Her Infinite Variety: An Evening Out With Shakespeare’s Women, an original play by MacMurray College professor emeritus of English Dr. Robert Seufert of Jacksonville. It runs Oct. 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m., plus Oct. 4 at 2 p.m.

Alice in Wonderland first opened in 1886, and it has been a favorite of both children and adults ever since. The Playhouse reveals its rendition of the famous musical Oct. 17, 18, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m., along with Sunday showings on Oct. 19 and 26 at 2 p.m.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula returns in the form of a dramatized radio play at the Playhouse just in time for Halloween. It runs Oct. 30 and 31 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 1 at 2 p.m.

Set in an old boathouse in rural Missouri during summer of 1944, Talley’s Folly is one act with no set change or intermission. It’s about two unlikely lovers who finally come to terms with their mutual attraction. The Playhouse run is planned for Nov. 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 9 at 2 p.m.

In A Trip to Bountiful, Carrie is an unhappy woman who lives with her weak-willed son and combative daughter-in-law in Houston while pining for her old stomping grounds of Bountiful, Missouri. The play runs Nov. 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 7:30, plus Nov. 16 and 23 at 2 p.m.

The Playhouse on the Square is at 68 East Central Park in Jacksonville. For more information, call 217-491-3977 or visit www.playhouseonthesquare.net

The Millikin University Department of Theatre and Dance puts Decatur on the theater map this fall with two upcoming productions. The Whipping Man tells the story of Caleb DeLeon, a Jewish officer in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He returns home during Passover in 1865 to find his world shattered, forcing him to face difficult truths. The show is at the Albert Taylor Theatre, 1184 W. Main St., on Oct. 8 through 10 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 11 and 12 at 2 p.m.

Lost boys (and girls) assemble for Millikin’s rendition of Peter Pan, the cherished tale of a boy who never grew up and the pirate captain obsessed with revenge. The play runs Nov. 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 16 at 2 p.m. at Kirkland Fine Arts Center, 200 North Fairview Avenue in Decatur. More information is available by calling 217-424-6318 or visiting www.millikin.edu/academics/cfa/dtd.

Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre is an offshoot of Millikin’s theater department, in which students have free reign to experiment and innovate. Their fall season starts with [TITLE OF SHOW], a self-referential musical about two friends struggling to write a musical. It plays at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 24, 25 and 31 and Nov. 1. A Sunday show on Nov. 2 starts at 2 p.m.

Pipe Dreams also presents No Exit, the existentialist play by Jean-Paul Sartre about four people who die and find themselves trapped in a room together – their own version of Hell. The play runs Nov. 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 23 at 2 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit www.pdtheatre.com or email info@pdtheatre.com.

Local theater may not make anyone famous, but there’s no doubt that the same creativity and talent on Broadway and in Hollywood show up on stages around Springfield. Check out these shows to get a taste of that passion.

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.


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