State Street, the final production of City Lit Theater's 2011-2012 season, will begin previews at City Lit Theater on Friday, May 25, and open for the press on Tuesday, May 29 at 7:00 pm. The production, a musical comedy by Philip LaZebnik and Kingsley Day and directed by Sheldon Patinkin, runs through Sunday, June 24, 2012.
The City Lit production of State Street will be LaZebnik's second stage musical to premiere in the last twelve months, after years of working in film and television. He wrote the book for the musical My Fairy Tale, based on the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, with songs by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin), which had its American premiere in California last year. He is best known for his work as a screenwriter on three of the most successful animated musicals of all timePocahontas, Mulan, and Prince of Egypt.
State Street is set in a not-very-historically-accurate version of Chicago in the days just before the Great Fire of 1871, and is inspired by the colorful and unfortunate history of Crosby's Opera House. Uranus H. Crosby built the opera house, Chicago's first temple of high art, only to see it lose money and close. He sold the building through a lottery at $5.00 a ticket. This made him a million dollars; he then bought the opera house from the lottery winner for a fraction of that amount and was back in business. After an expensive renovation, the opera house was scheduled to re-open on October 9, 1871. Late in the evening of October 8, the Great Chicago Fire swept through the city and ended the career of Crosby's Opera House for good.
The cast of characters in State Street include a pantheon of nineteenth-century Chicago greats: pillars of the community like Potter Palmer, Marshall Field, and Cyrus McCormick, as well as rowdier sorts like bartender Mickey Finn, brothel keeper Gentle Annie Stafford, and underworld gambling king Big Mike McDonald. Even Mrs. O'Leary and her cow Daisy make an appearance.
State Street was developed with funding from the Paul and Gabriella Rosenbaum Foundation and workshopped at Columbia College Chicago. City Lit's production is the show's first professional staging and is made possible in part by a grant from the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation.
Philip LaZebnik and Kingsley Day wrote the musical comedy Summer Stock Murder, which ran at Theatre Building Chicago (now Stage 773) for eighteen months and won eight Non-Equity Jeff Awards, a record which has since been tied but never beaten. They are also the playwrights of Tour de Farce, which since its premiere at the old Wisdom Bridge Theatre starring Steve Carell and Hollis Resnik has had numerous productions in the United States and Europe.
Philip LaZebnik has numerous film and TV writing credits, both in Los Angeles and Europe, including the screenplays for Disney's animated features Pocahontas and Mulan as well as the DreamWorks animated feature The Prince of Egypt. He also contributed to the scripts of Antz, Shrek, and numerous other films. His American television credits as writer-producer include Wings, Day by Day, The Torkelsons, and Almost Home. He also wrote episodes for Star Trek: Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Since moving to Europe, his writing credits include films for Studio Hamburg and Nordisk Films, and he has been head writer for a highly successful Danish TV series. My Fairy Tale, written in collaboration with Stephen Schwartz, was commissioned and premiered by Gladsaxe Theatre of Copenhagen, as part of Denmark's national celebration of the bicentenary of Hans Christian Andersen's birth. It made its American premiere as part of the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts Theatrefest in August of last year.
Kingsley Day contributed critically acclaimed additional lyrics to the current production of The Pirates of Penzance at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. His new score for Gilbert and Sullivan's lost operetta Thespis has received three Chicago-area productions and has been issued on CD. He is a thrice-Jeff-nominated music director/pianist whose credits include Theatre Wit's Two for the Show and the Apollo Theater's Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! and Always...Patsy Cline, as well as five revues at National Jewish Theater directed by Sheldon Patinkin, one of which, Puttin' on the Ritz, won the Jeff Award for Best Revue. At City Lit, he was music director for Oh Boy! and composed incidental music for Volpone. His new reconstruction of Chopin's posthumous Mazurka in F Minor was issued in March by Hal Leonard Publishing as part of its Schirmer Performance Editions series.
Sheldon Patinkin is Chair Emeritus and a faculty member of Columbia College Chicago Theater Department, having served for 29 years as Chair. He directed City Lit's Volpone last season. He is artistic consultant to The Second City, where he has worked since 1960, and to Steppenwolf Theatre, where he has directed Waiting for Lefty, Death of a Salesman and Uncle Vanya. He is an ensemble member of Gift Theatre, where he most recently directed Absolute Hell. He was artistic director at the old National Jewish Theatre, where he received a Jeff Award for directing the Irving Berlin revue Puttin' On the Ritz. He has also received a special Jeff for his contribution to Chicago theatre. He helped develop the concept for the television series SCTV, for which he also wrote and produced. His translation of Brecht's The Good Person of Setzuan was directed by Frank Galati at Goodman Theatre, and his concert staging of Leonard Bernstein's Candide was presented at Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall. He has written two books, The Second City: Backstage at the World's Greatest Comedy Theater and No Legs, No Jokes, No Chance: A History of the American Musical Theater.
The cast for State Street is Kevin Bishop, Rob Brady, Harter Clingman, Matt Edmonds, Sarah Hayes, Callie Johnson, Matthew Keffer, Sean Knight, Diane Mair, Chase McCurdy, Annie Passanisi, Matt Rockwood, Patti Roeder, Ed Rutherford, and Clay Sanderson.
Dance choreography is by Amy Uhl, and fight choreography by David Yondorf. Music direction and accompaniment is by Kingsley Day.
The design team is Liz Cooper (lighting), Amy Hilber (costumes), and Roger Wykes (set).
City Lit receives funding from the Alphawood Foundation, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs CityArts program, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Its outreach program is sponsored in part by A.R.T. League.
City Lit specializes in literate theatre, including stage adaptations of literary material. City Lit Theater is located in the historic Edgewater Presbyterian Church building at 1020 West Bryn Mawr Avenue, one block west of Sheridan Road and a block and a half east of the Bryn Mawr Red Line L stop. The 84 Peterson bus, the 147 Lake Shore Express bus, and the 151 Sheridan bus all stop near City Lit. Valet parking is available for theatre customers through the 1st Rate Valet service at Francesca's Bryn Mawr restaurant across the street from City Lit. Discounted parking is available for theatre customers, with validation from the Edgewater Beach Café, in the Edgewater Beach Apartments' underground parking lot located one block east of the theatre. A limited amount of free parking is available for theatre customers who dine before the show at That Little Mexican Café, located one block west of the theatre.
State Street will play Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm, May 25 through June 24, as well as one Saturday matinee on June 23 at 3:00 pm. Press opening is Tuesday, May 29 at 7:00 PM. Ticket prices are $22 for previews and $30 after opening. Discounts are available for seniors, students and groups of ten or more. Tickets can be reserved by going to www.citylit.org or by calling (773) 293-3682.
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