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Sasha Hutchings, Sean Grandillo and the company of the national tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “OKLAHOMA!” (Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

The production is a sad introduction for new audiences and a spirit-crushing experience for those who’ve seen “Oklahoma!” many times throughout the years.

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Sidney DuPont as Washington Henry, A.J. Shively as Owen Duignan and Ensemble in “Paradise Square” (© Kevin Berne)

What really blows this show out of the park is its knockout dancing, and the brilliant choreography by Bill T. Jones that in many ways is more potent than any spoken dialogue.

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The Company of the RENT 20th Anniversary Tour RENT 20th Anniversary Tour (Credit Amy Boyle 2019).

Among the shows that have marked the return of live theater in Chicago are three very different music-driven works variously set in the final three decades of the 20th century. Seen during present day upheaval, as well as through the lens of their original conception, the result is an intriguing double vision. 

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“Rent” kicked off its 25th anniversary tour in Chicago. (WTTW News)

It’s been 822,900 minutes since Broadway in Chicago closed its doors. Now nearly a year and a half later, they’re back with a story that’s giving us 525,600 reasons to love.

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Robert Dubac in “The Book of Moron.” (Courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

In 90 uninterrupted minutes of altogether irresistible satire, Robert Dubac – an actor, writer, comedian and grand master of sleight-of-hand (and mind) – ingeniously nails the current regrettable state of the nation and the world at large.

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Kyle Ramar Freeman (left) as Asaka and Courtnee Carter as Ti Moune in the North American Tour of “Once On This Island.” (Photo by Joan Marcus / 2019)

The show is full of exuberant dancing and performances by strong actor-singers, but the crucial intimacy of its storytelling too often gets lost in the carnival atmosphere that has been generated to give this 90-minute gem a Broadway gloss.

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From left: Danielle Wade, Megan Masako Haley, Mariah Rose Faith and Jonalyn Saxer in the National Touring Company of “Mean Girls.” (Credit: © 2019 Joan Marcus)

If you were to consider the dominant feelings expressed by the adolescent girls in these two shows, the obvious conclusion would be that for all the talk, the feminist movement of the past five decades has failed to reach a whole generation or two of girls.

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Ben Cooley (left) and Taylor Bloom perform in “The Simon & Garfunkel Story.” (Photo by Lane Peters)

Listening to the richly faithful performances by Taylor Bloom and Ben Cooley was in many ways like stepping into a time machine. As I left the theater awash in memories, I wondered whether Simon and Garfunkel have seen the show in which they are so winningly captured.

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The company of “Hamilton.” (Courtesy of Joan Marcus)

Just over three years ago, Chicago audiences were introduced to the smash hit musical “Hamilton.” We catch up with two original cast members of the Chicago production.

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From left: Scott Parkinson, Stef Tovar, David Parkes, Jed Feder and Bri Sudia in TimeLine Theatre Company’s “Oslo.” (Photo by Brett Beiner Photography)

J.T. Rogers’ superbly crafted, whip-smart, at times fancifully (and farcically) imagined 2017 Tony Award-winning play captures the efforts of a Norwegian husband-and-wife team to forge a peace process between the Israeli government and the PLO.

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A scene from “The Band’s Visit.” (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

Expect no flashy spectacle, lavish dance numbers or any of the other standard ingredients of Broadway musicals. But be assured that “The Band’s Visit” – now making a brief stop at the Cadillac Palace Theatre as part of its national tour – comes with its very own unique magic. 

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Dylis Croman in “Chicago, The Musical,” left, and George Abud and Sydney Shepherd in “August Rush: The Musical.” (Credit: Jeremy Daniel, left, Liz Lauren)

“Chicago, The Musical” holds the record as the longest-running American musical in Broadway history – and it’s a keeper. “August Rush: The Musical” is a New York-bred “tryout” production, and it just doesn’t work.

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The cast of “A Chorus Line” at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Credit: Michael Courier)

Three very different productions that recently opened on Chicago stages serve as a powerful reminder of the dramatically varied ways in which the language of dance can be spoken.

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Lila Coogan and Stephen Brower in “Anastasia.” (Photo by Evan Zimmerman, MurphyMade)

Here is the looming question: How could three great talents (Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens and Terrence McNally) go so completely wrong with this Broadway musical “inspired by” the 1997 animated musical film?

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Joe Barbara, left, Frankie Leoni and company of “A Bronx Tale.” (Photo: Joan Marcus)

This unapologetically old-fashioned coming-of-age story – with a creative team that includes Chazz Palminteri, Alan Menken, Robert De Niro and Jerry Zaks – is a poignant and insightful look at the complex relationship between fathers (whether real or “surrogate”) and sons.

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From left: Tom Brandon, John Sheehy, Connor Going (at piano), Andrew Carter, Denis Grinden (seated) and Mark Loveday in “The Choir of Man.” (Credit: Brian Wright)

Lift a glass and make a toast to the musical and verbal talents of some Emerald Islanders who have arrived on the shores of Lake Michigan for brief stays.