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Stages 2000: A Festival of New Musicals in Progress

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This weekend-long musical-theater marathon is hosted by Chicago's New Tuners Theatre with the participation of similar groups around the country devoted to nurturing new works, including the Lehman Engel Workshop in New York and Los Angeles, the North Shore Musical Theatre in Boston, and the Disney/ASCAP Workshops in LA. This year's edition of the annual event showcases 14 new works in various stages of development, performed in staged readings with the actors using scripts, according to the schedule below. The fest gives audiences and aspiring writers a chance to discuss the art, craft, and commerce of musical theater as they rub elbows during meal breaks between performances. Repeat performances of most presentations have been scheduled to allow audiences to see all the shows. The festival opens Friday, July 28, with a gala dinner and performance at the Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E. Ontario; tickets for that event are $150. Regular performances take place Saturday-Sunday, July 29 and 30, at the Theatre Building, 1225 W. Belmont. Admission to these shows (which take place in the venue's west and north auditoriums) is $10 per performance or $50 for a two-day pass. For information and reservations, call 773-327-5252.

FRIDAY, JULY 28

Opening Gala

Broadway tenor Jason Graae headlines the opening gala benefit at the Arts Club of Chicago. Graae, a native Chicagoan who was last seen here in 1992 in the charming but underrated musical Theda Bara and the Frontier Rabbi at the Wellington (now Ivanhoe) Theater, will perform excerpts from his delightful new Varese Sarabande CD You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile, an anthology of songs by Bye Bye Birdie composer Charles Strouse, as well as other selections. The evening also features the writers of the coming weekend's shows performing their own material. The 8 PM performance is preceded by cocktails at 6 PM and dinner at 7 PM.

SATURDAY, JULY 29

The Virginian

Owen Wister's 1902 western novel--which helped establish the cowboy as an icon of American pop culture and introduced the phrase "When you call me that, smile"--inspired this new work by Donald Abramson, Owen Kalt, and Elizabeth Doyle. West auditorium, 10 AM.

Hands

Another classic of American literature, Harriet Beecher Stowe's antislavery tract Uncle Tom's Cabin, is the basis for Noelle Donfeld and Nathan Wang's musical. North auditorium, 10 AM.

Stones and The Ballad of Tom Dooley

Stones, Julie Shannon and John Reeger's musical, seen earlier this year at Bailiwick Repertory, concerns a single mother and her family in the aftermath of the 1919 race riot in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. "Though not perfect, this is a functional, entertaining, moving work of theater," said Reader critic Jack Helbig when he reviewed the Bailiwick production. The Ballad of Tom Dooley, by Brenda Lilly, Ken Stone, and Jan Powell, is inspired by the folk ballad about a southerner accused of murdering his girlfriend's Yankee admirer during Reconstruction. West auditorium, 1:30 PM.

The Gift of the Magi and The Pineapple Story

David J. Maurello and Robert Johnson's The Gift of the Magi is based on O. Henry's familiar tale of an impoverished young couple trying to buy each other Christmas presents. The Pineapple Story is Sachi Oyama and Dan Scoville's portrait of Asian-American soldiers stationed in France during World War II. North auditorium, 1:30 PM.

Scream Queens: The Musical and Les Dames a Trois . . . et Piano

The first half of this double bill is a campy comedy by Scott Martin; the second is an operatic spoof by Philip Seward about "three loony divas, a lost cadenza, and a lone tenor." West auditorium, 3:30 PM.

Yes, No, Maybe, Omm and Me & Al

Yes, No, Maybe, Omm is Ken Pedersen's short comedy about a quintet of musical theater performers seeking nirvana; Me & Al, by Donald Abramson, Judy Freed, and Leo Schwartz, tells of an average Chicago guy seeking celebrity with his idol, Al Capone. North auditorium, 3:30 PM.

The Girl in the Frame, Seed, and The Cosmic Calamities of Henry Noodle: Merchant of Venus

This triple bill begins with Jeremy Desmon and David S. Guerrerio's surreal comedy about a woman whose photo appears in a new picture frame. Next up is June Siegel and Nancy Ford's piece about "47 Kenyan women [who] give birth to a bus." The program climaxes with a piece by Tim McCanna whose influences include Shakespeare and The Rocky Horror Show. West auditorium, 7:30 PM.

I Sent a Letter to My Love

See Critic's Choice. North auditorium, 7:30 PM.

SUNDAY, JULY 30

The Girl in the Frame, Seed, and The Cosmic Calamities of Henry Noodle: Merchant of Venus

See Saturday listing. West auditorium, 10 AM.

I Sent a Letter to My Love

See Critic's Choice. North auditorium, 10 AM.

The Virginian

See Saturday listing. West auditorium, 1:30 PM.

Hands

See Saturday listing. North auditorium, 1:30 PM.

Stones and The Ballad of Tom Dooley

See Saturday listing. West auditorium, 4 PM.

The Gift of the Magi and The Pineapple Story

See Saturday listing. North auditorium, 4 PM.

Scream Queens: The Musical and Les Dames a Trois . . . et Piano

See Saturday listing. West auditorium, 7 PM.

Yes, No, Maybe, Omm and Me & Al

See Saturday listing. North auditorium, 7 PM.

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