Reviewer’s preview: Theaters’ stages nimbly adjust to new lineups

Every day, emails and texts citing “the difficult decision” reach my mailbox. Whether it’s a postponement of the January return of diva Lynne Jordan’s Raue Center performance or Goodman’s announcement that the world premiere and pre-Broadway run of “The Outsiders” has been canceled until a later date, the nebulous waits pile up. One by one as the omicron pandemic continues, the shows topple like the proverbial dominoes.

Broadway’s slate of show closings sent box offices tumbling; only 30 shows have been running. The operators of all 41 Broadway theaters are extending mask and vaccination requirements through April 30. Chicago theaters, as well, continue to require proof of vaccination and mandatory masks – that includes audience, staff, crew and all performers. Chicago and area theaters were the first to close and the last to reopen; as an additional safeguard, there is no food and beverage service in theaters as of Jan. 3.

But with an eye on a hopeful future, “proceeding as planned” theater season announcements were made, with a sampling of their productions highlighted here.

As of this date, Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago will present “King James” (March 3-April 10); “Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man and the Pool” (April 28-May 22); “Choir Boy” (June 16-July 24); and the much-awaited “Seagull” (April 28-June 12).

Chicago Shakespeare Theater offers “All’s Well That Ends Well” (April 22-May 29); the world premiere of the new musical “It Came From Outer Space” (June 22-July 24); “The Notebook,” now premiering Sept. 6; and “The Tempest,” slated for “sometime” in the fall of 2022.

Goodman Theatre in Chicago announces August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean,” opening Jan. 22 and running through Feb. 27; “The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci,” playing Feb. 11 through March 20; and “Good Night, Oscar,” starring “Will & Grace” actor Sean Hayes from March 12 through April 17. Robert Falls marks his 35th anniversary and final directorial achievement with “Swing State,” which will run in replacement of the previously scheduled “The Outsiders.”

Closer to home in Arlington Heights, Metropolis offers “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” (Feb. 3-March 19); “SHOUT! The Mod Musical” (April 28 -June 11); and “Sister Act” (July 14-Aug. 27).

In Aurora, Paramount Theatre’s Broadway series of musicals continues with “Groundhog Day” (Jan. 26-March 13) and “Rock of Ages” (April 13 -May 29).

Crystal Lake’s Raue Center For The Performing Arts welcomes the return of Lucy’s Comedy café, tribute bands paying homage to the likes of Pink Floyd and Dave Matthews, a much-anticipated performance by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, GreenRoom Improv, several Mission Imagination children’s shows, and the Raue Center production of “Always Patsy Cline.”

Theatre 121 will continue performances at Woodstock Opera House with “Noises Off” in March, “The Sound of Music” in April, and “Urinetown” in June.

In Antioch, PM&L’s 59th and a half season has slated the musical comedy “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” in time for Valentine’s Day, playing Feb. 4-20.

The arts always have and always will continue to be an economic generator as they entertain and educate. But in the second year of a pandemic, is this the road back or is it just another intermission? Given what they’ve already been through, everyone is holding their collective breath, from professional theaters to community theaters with large and small houses.

Apologies, acknowledgments, word that dates are changed or nonexistent, I’m sadly getting used to the carefully scripted “scheduled for sometime in the I don’t know when” announcements.

• Regina Belt-Daniels continues to appreciate all aspects of theater. Currently serving on the Its Showtime Advisory Board and the RCLPC Theater Board, she appreciates J.M. Barrie’s words in the play “Mary Rose,” in which he writes: “ … a touch of frost may stop the growth of a plant and yet leave it blooming.” May theaters continue to bloom in these times.