By Richard S. Gubbe
The Bard’s birthday, Agatha Christie and Steven Sondheim highlight the Studio Theatre offerings for the upcoming season that begins this week.
First up for the 2015-2016 season is the Agatha Christie mystery, “Witness for the Prosecution.”
“The show plays like a CSI in the ‘50s with a triple flip ending,” Webb says.
Esther Crandall, originally from the Chicago suburbs who now resides at Wesley Willows in Rockford, will appear in the show. Now in her 80s, she and Webb go back to the early ‘90s. “She’s been my go-to Agatha Christie person,” Webb says.
“Witness for the Prosecution” tells the story of Leonard Vole – and the women surrounding him. He stands charged with the murder of Miss Emily French, an eccentric, rich woman who willed the entirety of her fortune to him. On the night of the murder, Vole claims to have been home. Yet the evidence continues to mount against him and the only alibi he can produce is the testimony of his devoted, foreign wife, Romaine. In classic Christie style, the plot weaves its way through the expanding evidence, but things take an unforeseen twist when Romaine takes the stand as a witness – for the prosecution.
The show features regional singing/acting stars Jenny Maltvy, Rose McGregor, Eric Wilson and Nathan Forrester. Rated G
Performances are 8 p.m. Oct. 7-17 with a 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays.
“Sunday in the Park with George”
In what Webb calls “a tough show to do in small theater,” he takes on “Sunday in the Park with George.” Webb’s self-described “never-ending quest of Sondheim” continues, focusing on the work inspired from Georges Seurat’s iconic pointillist painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” “Sunday in the Park with George” is considered a masterpiece from Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. This story merges past and present into poignant truths about life, love and the creation of art. This moving study of the enigmatic painter Georges Seurat won a Pulitzer Prize and was nominated for an astounding 10 TONY Awards, including Best Musical.
This storyline features the days leading up to the completion of his most famous painting, Georges Seurat is struggling to make meaningful art and maintain a relationship with his lover, Dot. Amid the scorn of the artistic community, Seurat’s artistic ability thrives at the expense of his love. A century later, a descendant of Seurat’s – also an artist named George – finds himself burned out and searching for an artistic path of his own. He finds the answer to his future waits in the past.
Performances are set for 8 p.m. Dec. 2-12 with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Rated PG.
Chosen for local singing sensation Dorothy Page Turner, “Crowns” is one of the most-produced shows in the United States, and a showpiece in African-American theater. Regina Taylor’s definitive gospel musical is adapted from Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry’s book, “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats.” The story follows Yolonda, a proud, tough girl from Brooklyn who moves to South Carolina after the shooting death of her brother. There, with the help of her grandmother, Mother Shaw, she embarks on a journey out of her isolation and grief, learns the history of her ancestors, and finds her rightful place in her new community. Yolanda and Mother Shaw are joined by a circle of women – Wanda, Jeanette, Velma and Mabel. “Crowns” follows Yolanda’s transformation over the course of a church service, beginning with a reluctant processional, and ending in her triumphant baptism. “Crowns” brings soulful, powerful Gospel music to the Studio Theatre.
Performances are 8 p.m. Feb. 3-13 with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays.
“Much Ado About Nothing”
April 2016 marks the 400th Anniversary of The Bard’s passing. Webb’s desire was to celebrate the life of the greatest playwright in English history with the closest thing to his birthday as we possibly can.”
Don Pedro and his men return victorious from battle, and intend to rest at the home of their wealthy friend, Leonato. While the military campaign might be over, it is clear that an old war is still waging between Benedick, one of Don Pedro’s men, and Leonato’s sharp-tongued niece, Beatrice. Another younger set of lovers, Claudio and Hero, conspire with Don Pedro to set a “lover’s trap” for Benedick and Beatrice. But Don Pedro’s bastard brother, Don Jon, has other designs. Will everything turn out to be “much ado about nothing?”
Performances are 8 p.m. March 23-April 2, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Rated PG.
Call 815-921-2160 for tickets.