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Cast of “Cambodian Rock Band.”  (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Lauren Yee thrillingly fuses her writing with music that links two cultures and two eras in the richly theatrical “Cambodian Rock Band.” 

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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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“Djembe!” (Credit: Liz Lauren)

Prepare to head home from “Djembe!” – the irresistibly engaging interactive music show now at the Apollo Theater – with callouses on the palms of your hands and a giant grin on your face.

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Now receiving its Chicago debut, this full-length fairy tale production created for American Ballet Theatre is a frothy, visually lavish confection sure to generate either a light-headed sugar rush or a serious sugar coma. 

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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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Fearsome choreography, dazzling dancers and innovative sound and music marked the Chicago debut of Gauthier Dance in a stunning program at the Harris Theater.

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Melody Angel and Melissa DuPrey in Court Theatre’s production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Was Enuf.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

This spring season, Chicago theaters are in full bloom. Theater critic Hedy Weiss recommends new shows on Chicago-area stages, from fun musicals to serious dramas.

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Leah Karpel, left, and Shanesia Davis in Sharyn Rothstein’s “Landladies” at Northlight Theatre. (Photo credit: Michael Brosilow)

This edgy new play by Sharyn Rothstein, making its world premiere at Northlight Theatre, deals with the most primal human needs – for shelter, security, a sense of self-worth and love.

And: Composer Alan Menken charms Auditorium audience

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Sam Woods (puppet) and Christopher Kale Jones in “Little Shop of Horrors.” (Photo credit: Brett Beiner)

Alan Menken performs his delightful one-man show to a packed house in the Loop as his first hit musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” receives a terrific production on the North Side.

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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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AnJi White in Court Theatre’s production of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Was Enuf.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

In this electrifying revival directed by Seret Scott, Ntozake Shange’s groundbreaking work has never been so sharply defined in terms of character, language and overall narrative drive.

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Robin DaSilva as Mahalia Jackson (Credit: Michael Courier)

For years now, Jackie Taylor has reminded Black Ensemble audiences that “going to the theater is like to going to church.” In her latest production, this sentiment takes on a decidedly literal meaning.

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(Courtesy of Mayumana)

“Stomp!” based its show on the notion that you can make a joyful noise with everything from brooms to kitchen sinks. Mayumana builds on that concept with some great bolts of 21st century electrification. 

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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.

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Kelli Harrington and Tommy Thurston in “The Bridges of Madison County” at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. (Photo by Cody Jolly Photography)

This is one of those productions that makes you wish the show’s composer and writer would make a quick trip to Chicago to see their work in what might just be its ideal incarnation.

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