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From left: Dara Cameron, Jacqulyne Jones and Catherine Smitko in “The Spitfire Grill.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

The 2001 musical with a soaring, intensely poetic score delivers both a rare emotional punch and a winning sense of forgiveness, redemption and love. It is uncannily timely.

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Joe Foust in “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey”  (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

“The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey” is a wildly creative story about a familiar message brought to life by Chicago actor Joe Foust’s effortless storytelling skills, comic sensibility and emotional range. 

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From left: Tiffany Oglesby, Sydney Charles and Joslyn Jones in American Blues Theater’s production of “Flyin’ West.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

With echoes of “Oklahoma” in its evocation of the hardscrabble lives of exceptionally strong women, Pearl Cleage’s story revolves around the different choices made by four women, including the elderly but unbending matriarchal figure who experienced the abominations of slavery, yet survived to tell the story.

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From left: Chuckie Benson, Michael Mahler, Zachary Stevenson and Kieran McCabe in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Zachary Stevenson – a bravura performer who is the spittin’ image of the character he plays, and who possesses the voice, moves, guitar licks and irresistible energy of the “original” – is proof that Buddy Holly lives.