Hymns for Her: Fictional Heroines Receive Their Musical Due

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A great way to celebrate great women of fiction is through song. And Chicagoland venues are doing just that with the following live performances.

Jane Austen’s novel “Emma” comes to Chicago Shakespeare Theater with book, music, and lyrics by Tony Award-nominated composer Paul Gordon. Directed by Artistic Director Barbara Gaines, the period piece showcases one of literature’s most fiercely independent heroines, Emma Woodhouse (Lora Lee Gayer), staged in the company’s Courtyard Theater (through March 15). Five-time Jeff Award-winner Larry Yando and Brad Standley are also featured as the title character’s father and love interest, respectively. To learn more, visit www.chicagoshakes.com/emma.

Choreographer Kayla Boye brings Gregory Becker’s book, music and lyrics to life in “Wonder Woman The Musical”, one of the titles included in Underscore Theatre Company’s 6th annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival at The Edge Theater (through Feb. 23). “Adira” directed by Sarah Joy Adler, “Baked: The Musical” directed by Taylor Stark, and “Verve” directed by Joan Mazzonelli are also featured.

Inspired by Golden Age-style musical comedies, “Wonder Woman The Musical” tells the true story behind the 1941 classic comic book character who was inspired by three women who shared a four-way polyamourous relationship with the scientist who invented the lie detector. Working together, they blended their views on reproductive rights, equal opportunity, gender psychology, and BDSM to create a superhero to battle societal ignorance. For details, visit www.cmtf.org.

Northwestern University’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts presents “Legally Blonde: The Musical” at the Ethel M. Barber Theater in Evanston (Feb. 14-March 1). Based on Amanda Brown’s novel which inspired the hit movie about law student Elle Woods, this musical comedy features book by Heather Hatch; music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin; plus real canines on stage! For seats, visit Wirtz Center website.

Lynne Kurdziel-Formato directs and choreographs “An American in Paris” at Drury Lane Theatre (through March 29) in Oakbrook Terrace. The G-rated love triangle between artist Jerry Mulligan (Josh Drake), dancer Lise Dassin (Leigh-Ann Esty) and philanthropist Milo Davenport (Erica Evans) plays out amid the Tony Award-winning music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. To learn more, visit drurylanetheatre.com.

TUTA Theatre presents the world premiere of “Hedda Gabler: A Play with Live Music” (Feb. 28-March 29) adapted and directed by Artistic Director Jacqueline Stone, with original music and music direction by Wain Parham. Called one of the first fully developed neurotic female protagonists of literature, Henrik Ibsen’s heroine is given a reimagined point of view via a three-piece live band at Strawdog Theatre Company. For more information and tickets, visit www.tutatheatre.org.

Louisa Muller directs Giacomo Puccini’s ill-fated romance “Madama Butterfly” at Chicago Lyric Opera. Ana María Martínez (through Feb. 29, and March 5 & 8) and Lianna Haroutounian (March 4 & 7) star as the famed geisha Cio-Cio-San. The opera is sung in Italian with projected English translations. Visit lyricopera.org for details.

Image: (left to right) Laura Sportiello, Jasmine Young, Jenny Rudnick, Sydney Richards and Jayla Williams-Craigin perform in “Wonder Women The Musical” which is part of the 6th annual Chicago Musical Theater Festival. Photo by Sophia Sinsheimer.

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Ms. Arvia is a freelance writer, former filmmaker, artist and Janet-of-all-trades who is pleased to serve as Arts & Culture Editor on our magazine since she’s always been Rebellious.