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Coming Attractions

Garth Drabinsky, chairman of Live Entertainment Corporation of Canada, is expected to announce at a press conference Monday that his company’s revival of the classic Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein musical Show Boat, directed by Hal Prince, will come to the Auditorium in early 1996 for a run of at least a year. The show has been playing in Toronto for more than a year and on Broadway since last September. In New York one recent week 98 percent of available tickets had been sold–despite a record top ticket price of $75.

With the Auditorium committed to Show Boat until 1997, the Chicago Theatre now seems a likely candidate to host Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the stage adaptation of the popular animated film, which has been selling out since opening on Broadway last April. No contract to bring the show to the theater has been signed as yet, but sources say executives at the Chicago Theatre have been talking to the Disney people for more than six months about the facility and its availability. For a number of years after the Chicago reopened in 1986, a series of management teams could not book much besides the occasional concert, a situation that eventually landed the theater in serious financial straits. With Live Entertainment’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in residence for more than a year and a half, the Chicago’s financial picture has brightened somewhat. Beauty and the Beast would be another big boost.

Disney has already announced that Beauty and the Beast will open in Los Angeles this spring, and several foreign productions are slated to debut in 1995. A source predicted the show could come to Chicago as early as fall 1995. Other possible venues besides the Chicago Theatre are the Shubert Theatre and the new 4,200-seat theater scheduled to open next fall in Rosemont. But the Shubert has fewer higher-priced orchestra seats than the Chicago, and the suburban venue’s location could work against the show’s huge tourist appeal. If the Chicago Theatre does land Beauty and the Beast, the family show is likely to prove even more popular than Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which has recently been grossing in the neighborhood of a million dollars a week.

This Bread’s for You

It’s like what Budweiser does with the Rolling Stones–only on a much smaller scale,” says comedian Caryn Bark about her relationship with a near northwest-side company that makes mondel bread. Anna, Ida & Me, which makes the traditional Jewish cookie in unusual flavors such as orange marble and peanut butter crunch, provides Bark with funds for advertising Diary of a Skokie Girl, her one-woman show about growing up Jewish in Skokie, and in exchange its name appears in the ads and press materials for the show.

“It seemed a perfect fit,” says Linda Kleiman, founder and president of Anna, Ida & Me. “She does a comedic show that is homey, and we do a product that evokes memories of home.” After running for six sold-out weeks at Footsteps Theatre, Diary of a Skokie Girl recently moved to Centre East in Bark’s hometown, where it’s scheduled to run at least through mid-January.

In addition to financial support, Kleiman donates plenty of mondel bread, given to Bark’s audiences as part of the show. Whatever people think about Bark’s material, the word of mouth on the mondel bread appears to be positive. “Now whenever I’m asked to perform somewhere,” Bark says, “they want to know if I’m bringing the mondel bread.”

If You Build It, Will They Come?

While the trustees of Chicago Music & Dance Theater, scheduled to open at Cityfront Center by the fall of 1997, move ahead with efforts to raise the funds to cover construction costs and endow the facility, questions linger about the theater’s ability to attract performers. So far 12 local not-for-profit music and dance organizations are expected to use the 1,500-seat facility on a regular basis, accounting for approximately 36 weeks of programming a year but leaving the theater empty for the other 16.

Four of the 12 organizations committed to the facility are presenting organizations–the Dance Center of Columbia College, the Old Town School of Folk Music, the Mexican Fine Arts Center, and Performing Arts Chicago–and last week board chairman Sandra Guthman expressed confidence that by the time the theater is ready to open they’ll be in a position to bring in more shows. But if those groups are unable to commit to producing more events, the Music & Dance Theater may have to go into the booking business. Presenting shows on its own and accepting responsibility for any losses those shows might incur would considerably increase the venture’s financial risks.

So far the theater’s trustees have raised $20 million of their $33 million goal. A national search is under way for a theater manager, and Guthman said the trustees expect to have someone in place by the end of March.

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