Five musical productions open this coming weekend at Illinois high schools, all of them in the Chicago area.
On Feb. 16, Lane Technical High School in Chicago will open a production of Gypsy, based on the written memoirs of striptease dancer Gypsy Rose Lee. This will be the only production of Gypsy in Illinois (that we know about) this school year. With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and including the song “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” it has been called “American Musical Theater’s answer to King Lear,” despite not winning any Tony Awards when it came out in 1959. It had the misfortune of hitting Broadway in the same year as The Sound of Music.
On Feb. 17, Lyons Township High School in near-west suburban LaGrange will open a production run of Seussical, based on the successful children’s books of Dr Seuss. Although the plot is mainly that found in Horton Hears a Who, the story is narrated by the Cat in the Hat, who sometimes intrudes into the storyline.
Then, on Friday, Feb. 18, three high schools open musicals: Crystal Lake South puts on The Wizard of Oz, East Leyden in Franklin Park puts on Annie Get Your Gun, and Evergreen Park puts on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
The Wizard of Oz is the same as the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland. And Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is the same as the movie as well — not the recent film in which Johnny Depp plays Willy Wonka, but the 1971 cult classic starring Gene Wilder and featuring the number, “The Candy Man.” A few songs have been added so that each of the Golden Ticket winners has a song to sing, but otherwise, most of the music comes from the Oompa Loompas.
A concert version of Annie Get Your Gun came to the Ravinia Festival in north suburban Highland Park last summer, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Annie Oakley’s birth. The musical is based — very loosely — on her life as a tomboy sharpshooter from west central Ohio. The real Annie Oakley was a plain-spoken small-town girl who fell in love with a show-biz gunslinger from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. Her amazing talent keeps pushing him away until one time when she loses a shooting contest on purpose and the two unite — both on the stage and in matrimony.