17 Can’t-Miss Fall Plays and Musicals in Chicago and the North Shore

Can't-Miss Fall Plays and Musicals: "Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine"

We’re turning the spotlight on the hottest plays and musicals coming to Chicago and the North Shore this fall.

Sweet Charity

Sept. 5 to Oct. 28

Inspired by Italian director Federico Fellini’s film “Nights of Cabiria,” this musical with a score by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields, and book by Neil Simon has become a classic in its own right. But in 2016, a Vulture headline (“Can ‘Sweet Charity’ Still Work?”) suggested that the original story, which follows the love life of a dance hall hostess in New York City, is long overdue for a modern, feminist update. And if anyone’s up to the task, it’s director Alex Sanchez, who directed and choreographed “Newsies” last year at the Marriott. Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, 847-634-0200

Curve of Departure

Sept. 13 to Oct. 21

Fall Plays and Musicals: "Curve of Departure" at Northlight Theatre
Pictured: Sean Parris and Mike Nussbaum (Photo by Michael Courier.)

The beloved and seemingly immortal elder of Chicago’s theater world, Mike Nussbaum, stars in the local premiere of a play that won high critical praise in other cities, with BJ Jones directing. Nussbaum portrays one member of a “ragtag little group of humans,” who are gathering in a cramped New Mexico motel room as they get ready for the funeral of a man they loved but did not like. The Washington Post called it a “gorgeous little drama,” applauding playwright Rachel Bonds’ “special alchemy.” Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, 847-673- 6300


Sept. 20 to Nov. 11

Bruce Norris, who won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for “Clybourne Park,” returns to his home theater with a world premiere (co-produced with the National Theatre of Great Britain). Norris has often courted controversy with his provocative subject matter, and this drama sounds like no exception: It’s about four sex offenders sharing a group home in downstate Illinois. Tony-winner Pam MacKinnon directs a cast including Steppenwolf ensemble members Glenn Davis, K. Todd Freeman, Tim Hopper, and Francis Guinan. Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St., Chicago, 312-335-1650


Sept. 26 to Dec. 16

History’s witch trials never cease to fascinate us, not least because their echoes can often be heard in current events. See Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” which revived the story of the Salem witch trials during the depths of McCarthyism. Now, in this world premiere directed by Marti Lyons, Jen Silverman presents a contemporary update of the 17th-century English drama “The Witch of Edmonton,” concerning a deal with the Devil. The New York-based playwright told one interviewer, “I am really interested in narratives for both queer characters and female characters that are way more complicated and way more authentic than the real estate that’s usually given to us.” Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, 847-242-6000

Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine

Oct. 5-14

Fall Plays and Musicals: "Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine"
Photo by Amy Boyle Photography.

Angela Ingersoll, a Jeff Award-winning actress who has played Judy Garland in the stage show “End of the Rainbow” and performed Garland’s hits in the PBS special “Get Happy,” sings the Hollywood legend’s best-known tunes in this concert performance. Not only does Ingersoll bear a striking resemblance to Garland, but critics have also praised her uncanny ability to capture the heartbreaking qualities of Garland’s vocals. Music Theater Works at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, 847-920-5360

Lady in Denmark

Oct. 19 to Nov. 18

In this moving production, a Danish-American woman in Chicago finds solace after her husband’s death by listening to Billie Holiday records. Chay Yew, artistic director of Victory Gardens, commutes downtown to direct this world premiere at the Goodman by Dael Orlandersmith, the talented writer of insightful dramas including Pulitzer finalist “Yellowman” and two previous Goodman shows, “Stoop Stories” and “Black N Blue Boys/Broken Men.” Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, 312-443-3800

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Robert Loerzel is a freelance journalist who lives in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. His work has also appeared in Playbill and on WBEZ, and he is the author of the book “Alchemy of Bones: Chicago’s Luetgert Murder Case of 1897.”