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Winter might have been more mild than usual this year, but spring is coming in hot with live performances to light up the season. From remounts of favorites to world premieres, Chicago stages offer an intriguing seasonal bouquet in dance, opera, theater, comedy, and more. Here are 20 shows to consider in the days and months ahead.

DANCE (Irene Hsiao)

Sans Pareil
The Chicago Black Dance Legacy Project returns to the Logan Center for the Arts for Sans Pareil, a program featuring all ten members of its current cohort of Chicago dance companies—veteran CBDLP members Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center and Hiplet Ballerinas, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Forward Momentum Chicago, Joel Hall Dancers & Center, Najwa Dance Corps, and Muntu Dance Theatre, and new members M.A.D.D. Rhythms, Move Me Soul, Praize Productions, and The Era Footwork Crew. Celebrating forms including African dance, modern dance, jazz, tap, and footwork, the program promises a glimpse of the range of Black dance in Chicago and offers the opportunity to witness history in the making as these companies come together to share the stage for the first time—as well as resources, practices, and perspectives over the course of the next two years. Sat 3/25 7 PM, Sun March 26 2 PM (youth performance) and 6 PM, Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., chicagoblackdancelegacy.org, $25 general admission, $10 students/seniors (62+)

World premieres by Thang Dao and Hope Boykin headline two weeks of mostly new works danced by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in their spring program Elements at the MCA’s Edlis Neeson Theater. Program A includes Kyle Abraham’s dynamic and flirtatious 2018 solo Show Pony and the company premiere of Lar Lubovitch’s 2010 Coltrane’s Favorite Things. Program B features Spenser Theberge’s tenderly sensual 2010 duet Ne Me Quitte Pas, first danced by HSDC in 2022, as well as Osnel Delgado’s The Windless Hold, created in 2019 for HSDC during an exchange with Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company. Both programs are anchored by Aszure Barton’s showstopping BUSK, created in 2009, first seen at the Auditorium with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater right before the pandemic, remounted by Hubbard Street in 2021, and now in its third Chicago outing. Barton recently became only the third artist-in-residence in the company’s 45 years, after Twyla Tharp and Alejandro Cerrudo. 3/23-4/2, Thu 7:30 PM, Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Edlis Neeson Theater, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010, hubbardstreetdance.com, $15-$95

OPERA (Deanna Isaacs)

Chicago Currents: Celebrating Chicago’s Waterways
Chicago Fringe Opera has put together something unique and uniquely Chicago: a staged art song concert celebrating the city’s waterways. Five singers, accompanied by piano and violin, navigate a musical history that includes Indigenous people, the arrival of Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, the rise of the industrial city, and the Great Migration—culminating with contemporary work that summons us to reconnect with our river-meets-lake landscape and to conserve it. The American Indian Center and Friends of the Chicago River are among the sponsors; performers include soprano Kirsten C. Kunkle, a citizen of the Mvskoke Nation, singing new pieces she wrote based on the work of her uncle, Indigenous poet Alexander Posey. Among the large roster of other composers: Florence Price and Harry T. Burleigh along with current Chicagoans Stacy Garrop and Eric Malmquist. Fri 3/24 7:30 PM, Sat 3/25 3 PM, The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, chicagofringeopera.com, $28-$45 

The Cook-Off
Vanguard Opera, Chicago Opera Theater’s residency program for contemporary composers new to opera, presents a concert version premiere of a one-act by Grammy-nominated composer and Wheaton College professor of music composition and theory Shawn E. Okpebholo, with a libretto by veteran opera scripter Mark Campbell. Commissioned by the Vanguard Initiative, The Cook-Off follows three competitors on a television cooking show—Kenny Kincaid’s America Loves Food—as they aim to outdo each other by creating the most luscious version of the national comfort food, mac and cheese. Okpebholo’s “Lord How Come Me Here,” featuring Ryan Opera Center alumni J’Nai Bridges and Will Liverman, was a contender in the 2023 Grammys. Thu 5/11 7:30 PM, Athenaeum Center for Thought and Culture, 2936 N. Southport, chicagooperatheater.org, 90 minutes, in English with English surtitles, $50 or $150 with after-party

THEATER (Kerry Reid)

Dying for It
On the heels of Steppenwolf’s production of Describe the Night, set in part in the Soviet Union during the Stalin era, Artistic Home presents Moira Buffini’s “free adaptation” of Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide—a piece banned by Uncle Joe before it ever hit the stage. Semyon, an unemployed young man with an obsession about ending his own life, crosses paths with a rogues’ gallery of fellow citizens (including an intellectual, a priest, a writer, a postman, and a “boisterous romantic”) who are all determined to somehow profit from Semyon’s pain. The dark satire is directed by Monica Payne. Through 4/23, Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee, 773-697-3830, theartistichome.org, $15-$35

The Cherry Orchard
Robert Falls stepped down in 2022 as artistic director of the Goodman after a 35-year tenure, but he’s not retired. A cast of Chicago heavy hitters take the stage under Falls’s direction in a revival of Anton Chekhov’s last play, written in 1904 before his untimely death from tuberculosis and tracing the fading fortunes of a once-aristocratic Russian family. Kate Fry stars as Lyubov Ranevskaya, returned from Paris and in denial about just how bad the family finances have become. She’s joined by Janet Ulrich Brooks, Will Allan, Kareem Bandealy, Matt DeCaro, Steppenwolf ensemble member Francis Guinan, and many other excellent talents. The production marks a swan song of sorts for Falls with Chekhov’s major works, too; he previously directed Three Sisters (1995), The Seagull (2010), and Uncle Vanya (2017, in a version adapted by Annie Baker). 4/1-4/30, Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, 312-443-3800, goodmantheatre.org, $25-$80

A Soldier’s Play 
Charles Fuller’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the murder of a Black sergeant on a Louisiana army base in 1944 received a Tony Award-winning revival in 2020 with Roundabout Theatre under the direction of the legendary Kenny Leon. (The play was also turned into a 1984 film starring Howard E. Rollins Jr., Adolph Caesar, and a young Denzel Washington.) Leon’s production, starring Broadway veteran Norm Lewis as Captain Richard Davenport, sent to investigate the murder and subsequently uncovering a tangled dark web of personal grudges entwined with racial oppression, comes to town for a short touring presentation with Broadway in Chicago. 4/4-4/16, CIBC Theatre, 18 W. Monroe, broadwayinchicago.com, $35-$105

Galileo’s Daughter
Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, now under the artistic leadership of Marti Lyons, has mostly focused on contemporary classics during its 27-year history. But with Jessica Dickey’s Galileo’s Daughter, the company presents its third world premiere (and the first production directed by Lyons since she took the reins in 2021). Dickey’s historical drama imagines the life of Maria Celeste, daughter of the famous Renaissance astronomer, as she is caught up in the religious controversies surrounding her dad (i.e., the Inquisition’s threat of torture for his “blasphemous” notion that the Earth moves around the sun). Moving back and forth in time as a contemporary playwright studies the letters between the father and daughter, Dickey’s play serves as “a personal examination of faith, forgiveness, and the cost of heeding one’s truth.” 4/5-5/14, Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, 773-975-8150, remybumppo.org, $10-$40

Is God Is
Aleshea Harris’s What to Send Up When It Goes Down got two blistering productions last year with Congo Square Theatre (the second time in association with Lookingglass Theatre). Now A Red Orchid Theatre presents the Chicago premiere of Harris’s 2018 Obie Award-winning drama, Is God Is, under the direction of Marti Gobel. Twins Racine and Anaia receive a letter from the mother they believed to be dead. They head out from “the Dirty South” to the California desert, bent on vengeance for her and for themselves. Harris’s play draws on an array of influences, including hip-hop, spaghetti westerns, Afropunk, and ancient tragedy. 4/6-5/28, A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells, 312-943-8722, aredorchidtheatre.org, $15-$40

The Porch on Windy Hill
Northlight offers up “a new play with old music” by Sherry Lutken, Lisa Helmi Johanson, Morgan Morse, and David M. Lutken, conceived and directed by Sherry Lutken. Set during the COVID-19 shutdown, the story follows Mira, a young biracial classical violinist who decides (along with her boyfriend, who just happens to be a folk song collector) to ride out the early days of the pandemic by retreating from Brooklyn to her ancestral home in North Carolina. There she finds out about family secrets and rediscovers a love of Appalachian music. 4/13-5/14, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673-6300, northlight.org, $30-$89 ($15 students)

London Road
Shattered Globe nabs the U.S. premiere of this musical by Alecky Blythe (book and lyrics) and Adam Cork (music and lyrics). The residents of Ipswich in the UK band together to protect their community after five sex workers are killed by a serial killer. Based loosely on the true story of Steve Wright (known variously as the Suffolk Strangler and the Ipswich Ripper), the musical uses verbatim elements of interviews conducted with the residents, sex workers, and reporters caught up in the case. Elizabeth Margolius directs and choreographs, with musical direction by Andra Velis Simon. 4/21-6/3, Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont, 773-975-8150, sgtheatre.org, $10-$52

We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915
Jackie Sibblies Drury’s 2012 drama provides a darkly sardonic view of the fate of the Herero people of Namibia, who faced genocide at the hands of the Germans. The event was largely forgotten by the west—as most genocides of African people by colonial forces have been—but the Germans used their attacks on the Herero to help create the monstrous framework they’d later use in “the Final Solution.” The play questions the nature of representation itself in telling such horrific stories, as the actors delivering the “presentation” undergo their own racial and interpersonal conflicts. Drury’s play got its first reading in 2010 at Victory Gardens Theater and received its world premiere there in 2012 as part of the Ignition Festival of New Plays. It’s now the first full production for Theatre Y in their new North Lawndale venue; Kezia Waters directs. 4/21-5/21, Theatre Y, 3611 W. Cermak, 773-908-2248, theatre-y.com, free

More Drury: Definition Theatre continues its season at Hyde Park’s the Revival, which opened with Micah Ariel Watson’s Alaiyo, with the Chicago premiere of Drury’s 2019 Pulitzer Prize-winning Fairview, directed by company cofounder and artistic director Tyrone Phillips. A birthday party for the matriarch of the Frasier family is not what it appears to be. To say more would be to spoil a key twist in Drury’s story, but suffice it to say that she’s taken the tropes of the middle-class family drama and reexamined them through the lens of white supremacy. 4/27-5/21, The Revival, 1160 E. 55th St., definitiontheatre.org, $35

Bayanihan: The Spirit of Solidarity 
Links Hall presents this event, a variety show combined with a health fair and community resources, that “makes space for collective grief and celebrates creativity with the Chicagoland Filipinx/a/o community,” drawing from storytelling work created over the years by AFIRE (Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment). HL Doruelo curates as part of Links’s Co-MISSION Curators-in-Residence program. 5/5-5/6 Fri-Sat 7 PM, Links Hall, 3111 N. Western, linkshall.org, $16-$42

The Gospel at Colonus
Court Theatre closes out its season with Bob Telson and Lee Breuer’s celebrated 1983 musical retelling of the story of Oedipus through the device of an African Pentecostal church service. The Broadway production in 1988 and the Goodman production in 1990 both featured the Five Blind Boys of Alabama as the chorus. The Court cast, directed by Mark J.P. Hood and artistic director Charles Newell, includes men and women in the chorus, with Kelvin Roston Jr. as Oedipus and Aeriel Williams as Antigone. 5/12-6/11, Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, 773-753-4472, courtheatre.org, $28.50-$82


Second City’s 111th Mainstage Revue
The show doesn’t have a title yet, but Carisa Barreca, a vet of several revues at Piper’s Alley and a director of Second City touring companies, makes her mainstage directorial debut with this latest collection of sketches, featuring several performers from Second City’s stellar last mainstage show, Do the Right Thing, No Worries If Not. Opens 4/4 in an open run, 1616 N. Wells, 312-337-3992, secondcity.com, $39-$79

Satirical Race Theory
After shutting down during COVID, iO came back full strength last fall. This new improvised show, “a farce on the American classroom,” features an all-Black cast of over a dozen seasoned performers and aims to explore popular academic subjects through a Black lens. The dance troupe the Puzzle League will open each performance. 4/15-7/1, Sat 8 PM, iO Theater, 1501 N. Kingsbury, ioimprov.com or seetickets.us, $30 ($15 student)

So Fucked It’s Funny
If you’re having trouble laughing in post-Roe America, maybe this show will help. Comedian Deanna Ortiz hosts this evening of “righteous anger and riotous laughter” as a fundraiser for Midwest Access Project. Thu 4/27, 8 PM, Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee, 773-697-3830, thedentheatre.com, $26-$57.50 (18+)

Newport Peek-Easy
Newport Theater has been reinventing the rules of burlesque and variety, and you can see some of those results for yourself in this ongoing showcase of burlesque, drag, and variety (including digital content). Open run Sat 7 PM, Newport Theater, 956 W. Newport, 773-270-3440, newporttheater.com, $20-$30

The Showcase at Chicago Magic Lounge
If you need to put some magic into your weeknights, the Chicago Magic Lounge has you covered. On Tuesdays, they turn over the stage to a rotating lineup of regular practitioners of prestidigitation, offering a glimpse of the “close-up” magic that Chicago made famous. The Magic Lounge also offers a cool cocktail bar up front where you can order interesting concoctions from a bartender who is also happy to practice a few tricks of the trade. The Showcase, open run, Tue 7 PM, Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N. Clark, 312-366-4500, chicagomagiclounge.com, $35-$40

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