Chicago theater shows to see this summer

Mark your calendar for these summer highlights on Chicago theaters' stages

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Sandra Oh in a promotional shot for Victory Gardens Theater's Death and the Maiden

Sandra Oh in a promotional shot for Victory Gardens Theater's Death and the Maiden

Theater in Chicago can slow down a bit in the summer, amid all the music fests, street fairs, ballgames and beach time—and after this brutal, neverending winter, outdoor time—and outdoor drinking—are very necessary. But with more than 200 producing companies in and around the city, there are still plenty of good reasons to spend a few hours in a dark theater. This year they include an interesting mix of big-name visitors—Sting, Michael Cera, Sandra Oh—and promising pieces from established Chicago troupes. Here you'll find our guide to the plays, musicals and theater festivals to keep your eye on this summer.

Motown the Musical

  • Rated as: 3/5
  • Price band: 4/4

Motown the Musical offers such a dazzling array of snippets from the record label's 1960s and ’70s heyday—more than 50 genre-defining hits, from “ABC” to “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”—that you’re likely to come away with a new appreciation for Motown’s startling impact on popular music, even if you don't get much sense of the players behind the music.

  1. Oriental Theatre 24 W Randolph St, between State and Dearborn Sts
  2. Until Sat Aug 9
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This Is Our Youth

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

It’s hard to imagine a more unexpected Hipster Youth movement at Steppenwolf than Scott Pilgrim vs. the World costars Michael Cera and Kieran Culkin and Rookie editrix Tavi Gevinson starring in Kenneth Lonergan’s 1996 document of Gen X disaffection. (Bonus hip factor: The production sports an original score by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij.) The summer surprise, directed by Steppenwolf ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro, is backed by Broadway bigwig Scott Rudin, who will shepherd it intact for an August opening on the Great White Way.

  1. Steppenwolf Theatre Company 1650 N Halsted St, between Willow St and North Ave
  2. Until Sun Jul 27
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Brigadoon

  • Price band: 3/4

The mythical Scottish village of Brigadoon only manifests for one day every 100 years. Lerner and Loewe’s romantic 1947 musical about the town, featuring numbers like “Almost Like Being In Love," doesn’t appear much more often than that in Chicago, making Rachel Rockwell’s Goodman production one not to miss.

  1. Goodman Theatre 170 N Dearborn St, between Randolph and Lake Sts
  2. Until Sun Aug 17
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The Qualms

  • Price band: 3/4

Freshly minted Steppenwolf ensemble member Bruce Norris drops his seventh world premiere on Halsted Street, his first production at the ’wolf since he won the Pulitzer Prize for Clybourne Park. The new comedy, in which the arrival of a new couple upsets the power structure of an apartment complex's swingers' club, sports a heck of a cast, with Kate Arrington, Owais Ahmed, Karen Aldridge, Diane Davis, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Keith Kupferer, David Pasquesi, Paul Oakley Stovall and Greg Stuhr. Pam McKinnon directs.

  1. Steppenwolf Theatre Company 1650 N Halsted St, between Willow St and North Ave
  2. Until Sun Aug 24
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Men Should Weep

  • Price band: 2/4

Scottish playwright Ena Lamont Stewart's 1947 working-class family drama has never been staged in Chicago and hasn't been seen in the U.S. in three decades, despite its stature as "a landmark play in British drama," as The Guardian said of a 2010 revival at the National Theatre of Scotland. It's the kind of long-lost, large-cast ensemble piece that Griffin Theatre Company and director Robin Witt have proven excellent at excavating (see for instance last year's Flare Path, pictured). Witt's cast includes Katherine Banks, Maggie Cain, Christina Gorman, Ada Grey, Curtis Jackson, Jodi Kingsley, Tim Martin, Lori Myers, Ashley Neal, Amanda Powell, Ellie Reed, Michael Saguto, Roxanne Saylor, Isaac Sherman and Scot West.

  1. Raven Theatre 6157 N Clark St, between Hood and Granville Aves
  2. Until Sun Aug 10
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Physical Festival Chicago

  • Price band: 2/4

Links Hall hosts a new, nine-day festival of inventive physical theater, performed by six companies from around the U.S. and Europe.

  1. Links Hall at Constellation 3111 N Western Ave
  2. Fri Jul 25 - Sat Aug 2
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Great Expectations

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Strawdog's stirring new adaptation of Dickens's novel earned the number three slot on Time Out Chicago's list of the best plays of 2013. A remount, with some of last year's original cast, will open Strawdog's fall season, but first, it closes out Theater on the Lake's summer slate.

  1. Berger Park Cultural Center 6205 N Sheridan Rd, at Granville Ave
  2. Wed Aug 6 - Sun Aug 10
More info

Coraline

  • Price band: 1/4

Neil Gaiman's semi-macabre children's book, about a lonely girl who finds a hidden doorway to a creepily perfect parallel world, made its debut as a stage musical in 2009, with a book by playwright David Greenspan and music by Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields. Edward Rutherford directs the Chicago premiere under the auspices of the appropriately-named, ad hoc Black Button Eyes Productions, with musical direction by Nick Sula.

  1. City Lit Theatre 1020 W Bryn Mawr Ave, at Kenmore Ave
  2. Fri Aug 8 - Sat Sep 6
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