Arts & Culture » Culture Club

Buying Time at the Body Politic/Open Steppenwolf/Chicagoans on Broadway/Will "Peter Pan" Fly as an Annual?/Roxy in a Hard Place/Everybody Into Pool

Still struggling to find its footing, the Body Politic Theatre is turning itself over to another producer: Malcolm Rosenfeld's Clever Dick opens there April 26.

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Buying Time at the Body Politic

Can Clever Dick rescue the Body Politic? In yet another effort to put its financial house in order, the Lincoln Avenue theater is turning over its space to a commercial producer who hopes he has a hit on his hands. On April 26, Rosenfeld Productions Inc. and the Body Politic will open Clever Dick, a mystery spoof by author-director Charles Marowitz; it's described as "an Agatha Christie whodunit as written by Joe Orton." Capitalized at around $150,000, the show is being called a coproduction, but in fact producer Malcolm Rosenfeld is raising all the money and will have the final say. "We needed a theater of this size and intimacy," explains Rosenfeld, "and the Body Politic needed us at this moment. In essence we're covering the theater's administrative costs." With shaky funding and an uneven production track record, the Body Politic has been in a state of flux for some time. The company's managing director, Nan Charbonneau, is the second in two years. She has pushed the not-for-profit organization firmly toward the commercial sector to buy time to sort out its problems. Last summer (before Charbonneau's arrival) the Body Politic stage was turned over for seven months to commercial producers Cullen, Henaghan & Platt to present Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune and The Good Times Are Killing Me. Though Body Politic received substantial rental fees from that deal, they evidently weren't enough to solve all the company's problems.

If Clever Dick takes off, Rosenfeld says he will run the show through the summer months, when the Body Politic might have been dark otherwise. Rosenfeld will use members of the Body Politic ensemble in the nine-person Clever Dick cast; he will also use the company's group-sales staff and what he calls its "backstage abilities." A South African native, Rosenfeld is new to the Chicago theater scene. Since moving to the U.S. he has produced shows out of New York and music concerts and festivals in New Orleans and southern Florida. Clever Dick's author-director Marowitz also penned Sherlock's Last Case, which had a successful run at the Body Politic in late '88.

Should Clever Dick hit pay dirt, Rosenfeld says he may tour the production. It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what kind of reception the show gets if it ever lands in the Big Apple. Marowitz has written a stinging denunciation of New York Times drama critic Frank Rich for the February 19 issue of Theater Week magazine. Describing Rich's style of criticism, Marowitz writes that "the tone is snide, derisory and subject to the gaucheries of a contrived cleverness that never quite achieves humor; the intellect is thin, collegiate and predictable; the temperament like that of a racetrack tout who has tarried too long around the stables."

Open Steppenwolf

After considerable construction delays, Steppenwolf Theatre appears to be firming up plans for the opening of its new $4 million space in the 1600 block of North Halsted. Sources indicate that a March 1991 debut is under discussion. Look for AT&T, one of the most visible of national corporate underwriters, to be involved in the grand-opening festivities. AT&T also sponsored Steppenwolf's 1988 production of The Grapes of Wrath and its appearance at the Kennedy Center in 1985. Grapes, by the way, opens on Broadway at the Cort Theatre on March 22.

Chicagoans on Broadway

Chicago will be well represented on Broadway this season. Steppenwolf's opening will be followed on April 29 by A Change in the Heir, a fractured-fairy-tale musical with a score by Daniel Sticco and George M. Gorham. The show, which will receive a $900,000 production at New York's Edison Theatre, was first presented by the New Tuners Theatre, a local not-for-profit company founded by Theatre Building operators Byron Schaffer Jr and Ruth Higgins. New Tuners was established to develop and produce new musicals, and A Change in the Heir is "the first musical we developed from scratch," says Schaffer. He isn't letting the glittery allure of Broadway go to his head. Two previous plays he was involved with moved on to New York and quickly disappeared. "I'm making no predictions about the fate of A Change in the Heir," he says. "There are so many variables."

Will "Peter Pan" Fly as an Annual?

Don't be surprised if Peter Pan starts flying around Chicago on a yearly basis. Tribune Charities, which is presenting the musical March 7 through 18 at the Arie Crown Theater, is wondering whether it is sufficiently popular to present each year as a fund-raiser. "We want to see if Peter Pan could become another Nutcracker," explains Tribune director of promotions Rich Honack. The Nutcracker ballet has turned into an immensely successful Tribune Charities event each Christmas--it netted more than $1 million last season.

Roxy in a Hard Place

The Roxy is fighting to stay open. Co-owner Betty Murray says she is searching for investors to replace a group that "wants out." "These investors had some problems with another business," says Murray, "and they don't want to deal with a bar anymore." On top of that, the building in which the Roxy is housed at 1541 W. Fullerton is up for sale. Murray says she has offered $375,000 for the building, but another bid of $400,000 has come in, and she has until the end of the month to match it. A flood from a burst water pipe damaged the bar last Christmas Day. "Every time we get a little bit ahead," says Murray, "something seems to happen." Like other night spots around town, the Roxy has had trouble pulling in crowds for some of the comedy acts it books. The club now is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Among the comics who have developed their acts at the Roxy are Judy Tenuta and Nora Dunn.

Everybody Into Pool

Thinking about buying a pool table? The market should be flooded with used ones in about 18 months, if the prediction of one local pool-hall manager is accurate. What was once primarily a blue-collar pastime has turned into a trendy yuppie entertainment in Chicago. Upscale pool parlors with various types of restaurants attached are popping up all over town. But the boom won't last forever. Right now competing pool halls are trying to distinguish themselves, each emphasizing a different facet of its operation. The Cue Club, one of the most recent entrants at 2833 N. Sheffield, claims it has more room between tables than the competition. Mr. Lucky's at 213 W. Institute Place is working hard on its restaurant, which owners hope will pull them through when the pool fad dies down.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kathy Richland.

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