Body Politic Finds a Space for Fashion/Annie Warbucks Wins the West/Chicago Magazine Drops the Fall Preview | Culture Club | Chicago Reader

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Body Politic Finds a Space for Fashion/Annie Warbucks Wins the West/Chicago Magazine Drops the Fall Preview

Interested in adultery, nudity, and "a vicious beating with carnal overtones"? Albert Pertalion and the Body Politic have a show for you.


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Body Politic Finds a Space for Fashion

The roller-coaster ride is over, for now anyway, at the Body Politic Theatre. After weeks of knuckle-gnawing uncertainty, the theater company's management apparently knows where (the Gallery-Chopin Theatre at 1541 W. Division) and roughly when (early October with any luck) they will open their first play of the season, the American premiere of Doug Lucie's Fashion, a racy politically oriented comedy set in Britain. Artistic director Albert Pertalion says, "The show has adultery, two nude scenes, and a vicious beating with carnal overtones."

Only a month ago Pertalion acknowledged that the particulars of Fashion's first performance, originally slated for September 9, were totally up in the air. Among other things he claimed he was waiting to find out whether the hit comedy Wild Men, which has a lease through December on the Body Politic space at 2261 N. Lincoln, would post a closing notice in August and vacate the premises. Asked several weeks ago about a potential closing, Wild Men producer James Stern said he had no intention of shutting down his show so soon.

Meanwhile, in early August, the Body Politic was thinking of renting a different venue should its home space not be available early this month to open Fashion as planned. Pertalion looked into renting space at as many as 30 theaters. Set designer Arthur Ridley was even working on two possible designs so he could promptly move forward once a space was found. At the time Pertalion said, "Some quick decisions will have to be made."

But as late as last week, with rehearsals for Fashion already in progress, Body Politic management was still weighing its dwindling options on where to mount the show. The decision making apparently was complicated by board president Dick Wier's periodontal surgery, which rendered him incapable of speaking. One space still being pursued was the 500-seat Wellington Theater, more than twice the size of Body Politic's 192-seat home space. According to a source familiar with the negotiations, Wellington landlord Michael Leavitt had offered the theater for approximately $3,000 a week, plus a percentage of the show's weekly box office gross.

But Body Politic staffers realized the financial folly of producing in such a large and expensive space, and the Wellington deal was scrapped. Though the Gallery-Chopin is far beyond the boundaries of the Lincoln Park area that Body Politic regulars are familiar with, the much smaller Bucktown facility seemed a more sensible venue. It remains to be seen whether Body Politic audiences will venture there.

In order to produce Fashion at the Gallery-Chopin, Body Politic had to postpone opening night about a month because a production of Native Speech by Tight & Shiny Productions is slated to run there through September 26, with a possible one-week extension. Consequently the nine cast members in Fashion will take a monthlong hiatus after two weeks of rehearsals. A staffer said subscribers will be notified of the revamped performance schedule, and come October they'll see whether the Body Politic has gotten its act in order. "I think all the pieces have been put together," notes Pertalion. "Keep your fingers crossed."

Annie Warbucks Wins the West

Annie Warbucks, the Annie sequel that premiered last winter at Marriott's Lincolnshire Theatre, looks like it's on a happy roll to Broadway. With the New York opening now firmly slated for March 1993, an all-dolled-up $2 million shakedown production is touring the west coast. Featuring familiar Chicago-based actress Alene Robertson as Harriet Stark, the evil New York City commissioner of child welfare, the show opened last month at the California Theatre of Performing Arts in San Bernardino.

Though she indicated the show needed more adjustments, Los Angeles Times theater critic Sylvie Drake said, "It looks like the kid has legs." She praised the "eminently singable" music and singled out "Love" as her pick for the show's signature number, much as "Tomorrow" was for the original Annie. According to Marriott's Lincolnshire producer Kary Walker, "Love" was transformed from a sweet but low-key ballad into a rousing gospel number after the show closed in Chicago last July.

Though there's no way to predict how Annie Warbucks will be received on the Great White Way, audiences in the hinterlands are apparently clamoring to see it. The touring production racked up advance ticket sales of more than $1.5 million in Seattle, where it opened earlier this week. Walker said the production has already earned back its $2 million capitalization.

Chicago Magazine Drops the Fall Preview

For the first time in five years Chicago magazine has opted not to devote a significant portion of its September issue to a feature preview of the city's fall cultural offerings. Editor Richard Babcock has apparently decided the monthly magazine already does enough on arts and entertainment. "We cover cultural events exhaustively," said Babcock, referring in part to the magazine's lengthy event listings.

But at least one source at the magazine says there is growing concern among some staffers about what they perceive to be diminishing arts coverage. "People are frustrated," said the source. "There is a feeling Babcock is only interested in local artists who have become Hollywood celebrities."

The September issue, with a cover story on "Where to Get Great Stuff Cheap," hit the stands a couple of weeks after it was revealed that Babcock had dumped Anthony Adler, the magazine's long-standing theater critic. In lieu of an Adler review of Wild Men, there appeared a new column called Show Biz, which this month features associate editor Jeanne Rattenbury's rather puffy profile of Mandy Patinkin, due at the Shubert Theatre next week with his one-man musical revue. Babcock said the column won't necessarily run every month but will rotate with other columns in the magazine's front section.

Babcock came to Chicago from New York magazine, which has regularly published a thick fall preview issue. But Babcock believes the fall cultural preview concept may be outmoded, and he predicted we could see less of it as magazines experiment with ways to attract new readers and hold on to existing ones.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/J. Alexander Newberry.

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