Theatergoers in the Chicago area are blessed with more good shows then can be seen given normal time schedules of work and play. And given that people’s interests are as varied as the offerings from the area’s approximately 250 companies, one person’s idea of paradise may be someone’s purgatory.
So it’s OK to write in the comment space your favorite show of 2017 whether our reviewers included it here in our Chicago Theater and Arts’ list or not.
The shows listed here are by no means the only great productions mounted in 2017 by Chicago’s talented theater community. The list could easily extend to the top 10 or 20 shows. It was hard for reviewers to pick just one but several factors were taken into consideration. Now, let’s hear your choice.
Ragtime – The Griffin Theatre Company, Chicago
Last summer’s production of ‘Ragtime’ by Griffin Theatre provided audiences with a new take on the Tony Award-winning musical. This spectacular production featured new orchestrations of the play performed with two pianos, a wind instrument and 20 actors. Created by director Scott Weinstein and music director Matt Deitchman, this All-American musical brought new perspectives on racism, immigration, social justice and other issues in a changing America, and literally, brought the house down!
Silent Sky – First Folio Theatre, Oak Brook
‘Silent Sky’ by Lauren Gunderson is a touching, true story of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, a historic but unsung astronomer at Harvard University’s observatory in the early 1900s who was never allowed to use a telescope. Leavitt was a “hidden figure” before the female African American human computers whose work made the early NASA space launches possible. In this production, both the cast and the faux sky sparkled brilliantly at First Folio Theatre on the Mayslake Peabody Estate. (The property is in a forest preserve in Oak Brook).
Billy Elliot – Porchlight Theatre, Chicago
I love the story and music of ‘Billy Elliot’ and Porchlight really did
justice to it on a very intimate stage.
Fun Home – Victory Gardens, Chicago
While I sat on the edge of my seat at the Victory Gardens Theater watching ‘Fun Home,’ I experienced a plethora of emotional family issues on several levels—from parent/child relationships and sibling interactions to growing up, coming out, and leaving one’s family. That’s what set the stage for ‘Fun Home,’ a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s 2006 personal, graphic novel of the same name. It was presented on a sparse stage that easily allowed the audience to focus on the family’s characters. And the show’s music, especially its finale, “Flying Away,” brought the audience to its feet.
Francine Pappadis Friedman
The Book of Will – Northlight Theatre, Skokie
In ‘The Book of Will,’ playwright Lauren Gunderson shows how an appreciation of William Shakespeare’s works by his players, friends and families likely led to the publication of the Bard’s works in the 1623 First Folio. Scholars and playgoers understand the importance of the First Folio but its significance is truly felt in the show’s last scene when brilliant staging brings it all together.