It's not going to take long for the theater and music scene to warm up this spring, but in a bit of a twist, the first theater production of the season is on ice. The Springfield Figure Skating Club's Spotlight on Ice Show takes place on March 18 and 19 at the Nelson Center Ice Arena at 1601 N. Fifth St. "They're Playing Our Song!" will feature snippets and tunes from popular and timeless productions, such as Mary Poppins, Shrek, Show Stoppers and 42nd Street.
If ice can be a stage, then so too can a turn-of-the-19th-century park with a mid-century Brutalist-style concrete tower. From April through December, you can listen to master carillonneur Carlo van Ulft and assistant carillonneurs play a variety of music from original carillon compositions to arrangements of popular classics and pop music at the Thomas Rees Memorial Carillon (1740 W. Fayette Ave.).
Capital City Improv (CCI) is getting things started this spring at the Hoogland Center for the Arts (420 S. Sixth St.). They've been holding some improvisational theater workshops to help up-and-coming improv actors learn the basics and still have more workshops planned through May. The group also held auditions in February in anticipation of Crowd Pleasers on March 25. In pure CCI style, this show will feature some favorite games and lots of audience participation. Come ready to laugh, but be warned, the show is suitable for mature audiences only, which should make it all the more fun.
Beginning on March 24 and running through April 2, the Springfield Theatre Centre will present The Christians, an Obie Award-winning play by Lucas Hnath. Hnath's Pastor Paul grew his former humble storefront church into a megachurch with all the amenities that are familiar to many. It is in this place of his ministry that the play asks highly controversial questions without providing any answers. This thought-provoking play will challenge the audience and spark many deep conversations in the following days. The production is directed by Phil Funkenbusch and is on stage at the Peggy Ryder Theatre.
During the same week, you can also catch Once at the LRS Theatre. The story follows the collaboration between an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant who share a love of music. The collaboration quickly develops into a friendship, and then just as quickly into a love story. It is a testament to the emotionally charged music that follows the story that it is the only show to have music that won an Academy Award, Grammy Award, Olivier Award and Tony Award.
Local actresses Kathryn Harris and Patricia Davis will portray Sadie and Bessie Delaney in Having Our Say – The Delaney Sisters' First 100 Years on April 7 and 8. These daughters of a minister born in slavery and a brilliant woman of mixed ancestry tell our history as they experienced it, beginning with the Reconstruction and progressing through to the near present, including the rise of Jim Crow, two world wars, the triumphs of Black culture during the Harlem Renaissance and the civil and women's rights movements.
Catch Newsies Jr. on April 14-16 and April 21-23, presented by the Springfield Theatre Center. Based on a true story, it follows a courageous group of New York City newsboys as they become unlikely heroes when they team up to fight an unscrupulous newspaper tycoon in 1899. With the now-classic songs "Carrying the Banner," "Seize the Day" and "Santa Fe," Newsies Jr., is a timeless story full of spirit and heart.
Our Town opens April 28 in the LRS Theatre. Called "the greatest American play ever written" by playwright Edward Albee, Thornton Wilder's timeless drama of life in the mythical village of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, is an American classic. This new multicultural production explores the relationship between two neighbors whose childhood friendship leads to romance and later marriage.
Originally running on Broadway in 2005 and revived in 2016, multi-Tony Award-winning The Color Purple makes its glorious debut on the stage May 12-14 and May 19-21. The timeless story follows the personal awakening of the young woman, Celie, in a musical adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and features jazz, ragtime, gospel, African music and blues.
While the Hoogland's stages will be filled with these wonderful shows of comedy and drama, you'll also find a classy musical act. "An Evening with Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga" will be in the LRS Theatre on May 6, when renowned tribute artists Steve Leeds and Sharon Owens authentically recreate the music and on-stage magic of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, with a little Barbra Streisand thrown in for good measure because, well, she's Barbra.
The UIS Performing Arts Center also has a fresh lineup of theater offerings this season, plus a wonderful selection of music shows that hit on everyone's favorite genres.
ON THE VERGE (or The Geography of Yearning), directed by Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson, will open on March 31. Written by Eric Overmyer, the play follows the adventures of Mary, Fanny and Alexandra, who believe they have found themselves in Terra Incognita – the globe's final undiscovered land. These intrepid explorers test their friendship and courage as they come face to face with the eight beings they encounter in their travels.
For a perfect family theater outing for audiences of all ages, it's hard to find a better stage show than Madagascar the Musical (April 17). It's based on the DreamWorks' hit animated motion picture and filled with outlandish characters, adventures galore and an upbeat score that everyone will enjoy.
The Book of Mormon (April 18) premiered on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in March 2011 with a positive critical response. The musical comedy has won nine Tony Awards including Best Musical, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
While theater is still in the spring of its season, the symphony orchestra season is coming to an end. In grand Illinois Symphony Orchestra style, it will close the season with an "Epic Ending" of selections by Michael Torke, Antonín Dvoák and Béla Batók, conducted by Andrew Joon Choi on May 5.
The Legacy Theatre will be drawing back its stage curtains for a couple of unique music acts. Springfield's own Lori Ann McCabe (Always, Patsy Cline, Mamma Mia!) brings Linda Ronstadt to the stage with "Linda Ronstadt Songbook" along with Devin Denora and Rachel Larison (April 14-16). Ronstadt's talents earned her 31 gold and platinum albums and 13 Grammy Awards; her brilliant vocal talents keeping her songs in the Top-40s for two decades.
Without missing a beat, The Legacy will then bring Venice to the stage. Venice, a band described by Jackson Browne as quintessentially Californian, has a unique sound that mixes the rock of 70s Aerosmith with the storytelling of James Taylor, and harmonies reminiscent of The Eagles. Catch their show on April 28.
The Fat Ass 5K and Street Party for Charity (May 12-13) will give you a taste of the hot music fest scene that's coming up this summer. This awesome event will have live music on stage both Friday and Saturday nights.
Finally, be sure to check out Foreigner with special guest Head East, two classic rock acts with timeless hits, at The BOS Center on May 16.
All that makes for a great schedule of theater and music shows to get us out and into the world of art and entertainment again, but it's just a taste of what's to come. Because you know this summer will be filled with music fests, open-air theater productions and impromptu street performances to keep us wildly entertained.
Stacie Lewis is the former calendar editor for Illinois Times who still likes to keep up on what's happening in the area.