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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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Kevin Webb in Black Button Eyes Productions’ world premiere of “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier.” (Photo by Cole Simon)

One thing you realize from the very start of “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier” is that its narrator – a dissipated, devilishly twisted writer – is not going to sugarcoat things. 

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Liam Quealy as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in “Memphis” from Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo by Michael Courier)

Nothing more concisely captures the impressive scope of the work done on Chicago-area stages than this annual list of nominations.

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From left: Aurora Adachi-Winter, Ian Michael Minh, Matthew Yee in “Vietgone.” (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

Qui Nguyen’s play, now receiving its Chicago premiere at Writers Theatre, is a second generation, rap-era kid’s flashy, sexually charged version of a story about the pain and rage that come with being a refugee, and the difficult process of assimilation. 

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Chicago Dance Crash (Credit: Ashley Deran)

As always, the annual benefit concert served up a rich smorgasbord of styles Saturday. It also offered a subtle suggestion of Chicago’s dance history.

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Carlos Kalmar (Photo: Patrick Pyszka)

As difficult as it may be to believe, the summer of 2018 is winding down. One significant marker: the Grant Park Music Festival will give the final performances of its 84th season on Saturday.

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Collin Quinn Rice, left, and Raphael Diaz in Griffin Theatre Company’s Chicago premiere of “The Harvest” by Samuel D. Hunter, directed by Jonathan Berry. (Photo by Michael Courier)

Broken souls grasp for meaning and connection in Samuel D. Hunter’s intense play that unfolds in a dreary church basement in the small town of Idaho Falls, Idaho.

A roundup of recent concerts from the Ravinia Festival

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A scene from “Mass” (Russell Jenkins / Ravinia Festival)

As visitors to the Ravinia Festival well know, the picnics on the grass staged there tend to be legendary feasts. But it is the musical feasts that are the real food for thought.

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From left: Theo Huff (obscured), Rick Stone, Dwight Neal, Lamont “Harmonica Man” Harris, Cynthia Carter and Rhonda Preston in “Rick Stone the Blues Man” at Black Ensemble Theater. (Credit: Alan Davis)

In her deftly crafted new show, “Rick Stone the Blues Man,” writer/director Jackie Taylor has devised a wonderfully engaging way to explore the full spectrum of blues classics.

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Knute Rockne (Stef Tovar) fires up the Notre Dame football team. (Credit: Justin Barbin)

In spinning the tale of Knute Rockne and his prize athlete, the creators of this terrific show have tapped into much grander themes than the nature of intensely competitive college football.

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