RSSOffBeat With Phil Potempa

OFFBEAT: Chicago Shakespeare's 'Seussical' magical and imaginative stage find

OFFBEAT: Chicago Shakespeare's 'Seussical' magical and imaginative stage find

I'm not sure how or why I missed the 2006 summer production of "Seussical The Musical" staged by Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

And even previous to that run, I also missed the 2002 national Broadway tour that stopped in Chicago starring gymnast Cathy Rigby in the narrative spotlight.

Fortunately for me, and for audiences of all ages, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre is once again staging a new production of "Seussical," directed by Scott Weinstein with polish, pizzazz and plenty of humor and lessons to be learned for both children and adults.

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OFFBEAT: Emerald City's 'Charlotte's Web' heartwarming and humorous

OFFBEAT: Emerald City's 'Charlotte's Web' heartwarming and humorous

Growing up on a farm, I've always loved author E.B. White's story "Charlotte's Web," first published in 1952, just a few years after George Orwell's "Animal Farm" (1945), which ranks as another of my favorites.

And since I was born in 1970, the 1972 animated movie version of "Charlotte's Web," starring the voices of Debbie Reynolds as the spider, Agnes Moorehead as the Goose and Paul Lynde as sneaky Templeton the Rat, was one of my first favorite films.

So understandably, I was curious about the impression I would be left with when reviewing the new stage production of "Charlotte's Web," produced by Broadway In Chicago and Emerald City Theatre,  playing until Aug. 17 at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut in Chicago.

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OFFBEAT: Dillinger death anniversary includes Hollywood ties

OFFBEAT: Dillinger death anniversary includes Hollywood ties

July 22 marked the 80th Anniversary of that fateful night in 1934 when Hoosier-gangster claim-to-fame John Dillinger was gunned down in the alley next door to the Biograph movie theater in Chicago.

It was in July 2009 when Universal Pictures "Public Enemies" opened with Johnny Depp, as Public Enemy No. 1 Dillinger, depicting his life and final moments.

Dillinger, who thought of himself as a "modern day Robin Hood," always had an appetite for adventure.

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OFFBEAT: James Garner photo moment, Williams finds 'Amish Cook'

OFFBEAT: James Garner photo moment, Williams finds 'Amish Cook'

After actor James Garner died Saturday night at his home in Los Angeles at age 86 of natural causes, I kept expecting his wire obits to include a reference or tribute quote from actress Mariette Hartley.

While I'd never interviewed Garner, I have interviewed Hartley, who just turned 74 last month.

Much like Garner's career, Hartley's talent and versatility have allowed her to ride a roller coaster of popular roles throughout the decades, ranging from star billing on episodes of "Gunsmoke" and "The Twilight Zone" in the early 1960s to her Emmy-winning role as the wife of late actor Bill Bixby on the ''Incredible Hulk'' show in the late 1970s.

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OFFBEAT: Famine and family Scottish stage themes of Griffin's 'Men Should Weep'

OFFBEAT: Famine and family Scottish stage themes of Griffin's 'Men Should Weep'

So many of us are blessed to live in what still seems like a "land of plenty."

The worries of knowing hunger appear hidden when headlines continue to worn of obesity.

But without a doubt, I know my grandparents, who came from Poland and raised a large farm family of nine children, realized the fear of feeding many mouths.

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OFFBEAT: Family's film son explains making of Reinhart documentary

OFFBEAT: Family's film son explains making of Reinhart documentary

Reader Lori Reinhart sent me a wonderful email last week reminding me of our time together when I was a student at Valparaiso University.

"I hope you remember me from your student days at VU, when I was Dr. Doug Kocher's administrative assistant in the Communication Department," Lori wrote.

"My husband is one of Jerry Reinhart's sons and we are coming back to present the film documentary on Jerry called 'The Musical Man' showing on July 26. I know you have been working with the Reinhart Family for the past several years and they are quite fond of you."

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OFFBEAT: Blue Gate unveils 'Josiah' for Amish world stage premiere

OFFBEAT: Blue Gate unveils 'Josiah' for Amish world stage premiere

The Blue Gate Theater in the middle of Indiana's Shipshewana Amish Country, not far from South Bend, has debuted the world premiere of its new musical "Josiah for President," for a long run extending through Dec. 13.

This musical is the third created by Blue Gate Theater. The stage story was adapted by author Martha Bolton, who wrote the book of the same name.

Bolton, author of 88 books, has also written for late comedy greats such as Phyllis Diller and Bob Hope. She also adapted the scripts for "Half-Stitched" and "The Confession," both based on her books and made into musical adaptions with successful runs at The Blue Gate Theater.

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OFFBEAT: Teflon-tough Elaine Stritch dead at age 89

OFFBEAT: Teflon-tough Elaine Stritch dead at age 89

Stage, film and TV legend Elaine Stritch, who brought her Tony Award-winning Broadway one-woman stage show to the old Shubert Theater in Chicago in 2003, died Thursday at age 89.

Stritch, a great dame of entertainment who loved martinis as much as her life on stage, lived life as it should be lived, treating every day as though it was her birthday.

Joseph Rosenthal, Stritch's longtime attorney, told The Associated Press, the actress died Thursday of natural causes at her home in Birmingham, Mich., not far from Detroit.

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OFFBEAT: Steppenwolf's 'Qualms' naughty fun and thoughtfully entertaining

OFFBEAT: Steppenwolf's 'Qualms' naughty fun and thoughtfully entertaining

Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 N. Halsted St., in Chicago has earned a reputation for "keeping things interesting" for their audiences.

And their new world-premiere production of "The Qualms" by ensemble member Bruce Norris holds true to this promise and even kicks it up a notch with a dose of added naughty humor and themes.

Tony Award-winner Pam MacKinnon, who did Steppenwolf's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" a few years ago, directs this cast of nine featuring ensemble member Kate Arrington with Owais Ahmed, Karen Aldridge, Diane Davis, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Keith Kupferer, David Pasquesi, Paul Oakley Stovall and Greg Stuhr.

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OFFBEAT: Reader gets chair back, fans get Garth and Trisha tour

OFFBEAT: Reader gets chair back, fans get Garth and Trisha tour

Reader Cindy Carden of Dyer wrote to me last week asking for help with an antique emergency.

"Hi Phil: I hope you can help with a situation. I have an antique dining room set I purchased 40 years ago in Hegewisch when I was just 19 years old. It was from the 1920s. I had friends over for dinner and one of my guests rocked back in the chair and cracked it. He took it to L and N Furniture and Antiques in Crown Point for repairs. However, this business closed two months ago and my chair was mistakenly included with lots sold at an auction. I just want my chair back, since I'm sure someone in Northwest Indiana now has it. I have included a photo of one of the dining room chairs. Cindy Carden."

I published Cindy's plea last Tuesday, and she is now happily reunited with the lost chair.

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