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E. Faye Butler as Rose in “Gypsy” from Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo by Michael Courier)

With her force-of-nature personality, powerhouse voice and galvanic emotional range, E. Faye Butler was clearly was born to play Mama Rose.

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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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Brianna Buckley, left, and Chanell Bell in “Crumbs from the Table of Joy,” by Lynn Nottage. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

“Crumbs from the Table of Joy” – one of the playwright’s earliest works, now on stage at Raven Theatre – is continually engaging. And in the current climate, it also turns out to be uncannily timely.

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Lilli Cooper and Santino Fontana

A song-and-dance version of the 1982 movie “Tootsie” has its pre-Broadway engagement in Chicago. We speak with two of the show’s stars.

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From left: Jon Hudson Odom, David Alan Anderson and Steve Haggard in “Witch” at Writers Theatre. (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Now receiving an altogether riveting world premiere production at Writers Theatre, “Witch” is a pitch-black fairy tale for our times, and one that is not to be missed. 

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Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble members Francis Guinan, left, and K. Todd Freeman in the world premiere of “Downstate.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Hedy Weiss reviews a provocative new play about sex offenders at Steppenwolf Theatre, plus a new musical based on the movie “Tootsie.”

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 Matilda Ziegler (Em) and ensemble member Tim Hopper (Andy) in Steppenwolf’s world premiere production of “Downstate.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

The pitch black, profoundly provocative world premiere by Bruce Norris brings to the fore all the arguments and nuances around sexual predators, and will either make you question your opinions on the subject or confirm them. 

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Santino Fontana, center, in “Tootsie.” Also pictured, from left: Drew King, Leslie Donna Flesner, Sissy Bell and John Arthur Greene. (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)

For all its timely social commentary, “Tootsie” (a gently updated musical version of the hit 1982 film) feels a bit like show business balm – a feel good work for the #MeToo era.

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Playwright and performer David Cale in his world premiere solo musical memoir “We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time,” directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre. (Credit: Liz Lauren)

If ever you had any doubt about the healing and transformative powers of art, “We’re Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time,” David Cale’s hypnotically beautiful one-man show, will set you straight.

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Valentijn Dhaenens in “BigMouth,” on stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater through Sept. 22, 2018. (Photo by Maya Wilsens)

However you describe “BigMouth,” the virtuosic, one-of-a-kind, one-man show created and performed by Valentijn Dhaenens – its impact is undeniable.

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From left: “Sweet Charity,” “Legally Blonde” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” (Photo credit, from left: Justin Barbin, Liz Lauren, Brett Beiner)

They are set in different eras, and come with notably different sounds and story lines, but the three musicals now being produced on local stages share one major theme. Here’s a closer look.

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From left: Chicago rappers The Boy Illinois and Phenom star in “Tearz,” adapted from Wu Tang Clan’s hit single off their 1993 debut album “36 Chambers,” premiering as part of Collaboraction’s “Peacebook” Austin line-up. (Credit: Joel Maisonet)

Tap, rap, and a whole lot more when Collaboraction’s performance festival visits the West Side.

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Ilse Zacharias (left) and Drew Schad in Shattered Globe Theatre’s new adaptation of “Crime and Punishment.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

The haunting dramatization of “Crime and Punishment” now on stage attacks the work with the same fire and attention to moral argument as the master writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, himself. 

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Allen Gilmore, left, and James Vincent Meredith in “Radio Golf” at Court Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

A revelatory, brilliantly acted revival of August Wilson’s play is currently on stage at Court Theatre, under the direction of Ron OJ Parson.

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Adia Alli in Definition Theatre Company’s production of “No Child…” (Credit: Joe Mazza_Brave Lux, Inc.)

The blight, as well as the occasional bursts of beauty that define life in inner-city high schools is all too familiar. But rarely has it been captured with such a sense of wit, grace, exasperation and tragicomic insight.

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From left: Cecilia Iole, Aleah Vassell, Jeff Parker, Noelle Harb and Brittany Marie Pirozzoli in “Candide.” (Photo by Brynn Yeager)

Not only does director Calvin MacLean have deep Chicago roots, so do a number of the major players in this grand-scale production.

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