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Linda Fortunato, Artistic Director of Theatre at the Center (TATC), Northwest Indiana’s only professional theater company, has announced the mainstage titles for TATC’s 2018 Season.  
 
Fortunato will direct three of the five productions, including Steel Magnolias, which will launch the 2018 season. Forever Plaid and The Lady with All the Answers are the spring and summer shows. In the fall, Fortunato will also direct Ghost The Musical, a stage adaptation of the 1990 Academy-Award winning film. Closing the 2018 season, she will direct and choreograph Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical inspired by the 1947 classic film.
 
Steel Magnolias (February 22 – March 25, 2018) is a hilarious and heart-warming play set in a Louisiana beauty shop. It follows the hopes, dreams, triumphs and tragedies of six colorful characters and inspired the 1989 film which starred Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine and Dolly Parton. It’s a story exploring the bond between a mother and daughter, and friendships of those who feel like family.
 
Spring welcomes Forever Plaid (May 3 – June 3, 2018), one of the most popular and beloved of musical revues. “The Plaids” are a quirky quartet of high school chums in the spotlight for the biggest performance of their lives. Their spirited antics and comic banter weave together such hits as “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Heart and Soul” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” in this playful tribute to the close harmony of “guy groups” of the 1950’s.
 
An up-close and personal introduction to the real Ann Landers awaits audiences in The Lady with All the Answers (July 12 – August 12, 2018).  Popular advice columnist Ann Landers had a life which seemed letter-perfect. With more than 90 million readers each day, she had a quick wit which could be comical and creative, as well as sharp and shocking, all in the same sentence. The play unfolds in Landers’ Lakeshore Drive apartment in 1975 where she shares some of her most fascinating stories as she prepares to write the most difficult column of her career.
 
In the fall, Ghost The Musical (September 13 – October 14, 2018) is the musical adaptation of the 1990 Academy-Award winning film sharing the love story of Sam and Molly. After Sam’s untimely death, he tries to protect Molly from an unknown threat. In an attempt to communicate with her, he enlists the help of a storefront psychic to hilarious and harrowing effect. This tale about the power of love features a score by Grammy Award winning songwriters Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, and includes the classic “Unchained Melody.”
 
The holidays are celebrated with Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical (November 15 – December 23, 2018), from the composer of The Music Man. Inspired by the beloved 1947 film, audiences will enjoy the gift of music and laughter. After Santa encounters a skeptical little girl during the season of sharing and caring, a message about the importance of believing is made clear to all. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” became famous as one the memorable songs in this joyous favorite for all ages.
 
“In choosing Theatre at the Center’s 2018 season, I wanted to create a blend of different styles to engage our audience,” Fortunato said.
 
“Through intimate plays, a beloved musical revue, a new musical, and a holiday classic, we will explore the bonds of friendship and family, of loves lost and found, and meet strangers who feel like family. I hope our audiences will laugh heartily, maybe cry a little, and enjoy some favorite music and songs as they join us for both familiar stories and new ones, as well.” 
 
Founded in 1991, the 410 seat Theatre at the Center is a year-round professional theater at its home at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Indiana. Theatre at the Center is the only professional theater company in Northwest Indiana, offering downtown caliber performance in an accessible venue with plenty of free parking. Theatre at the Center is located off I-80/94, just 35 minutes from downtown Chicago.
 
Renewal for existing Season Subscriptions begins Aug. 20 and continues through Sept. 24, with sales for new Season Subscription patrons beginning Oct. 10. Individual tickets for any of the five mainstage shows of the new 2018 Season are on sale beginning Dec. 12.
 
Theatre at the Center mainstage show performances are 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays and select Thursday and Sunday evenings.  Individual ticket prices range from $42 - $46.  To purchase individual tickets, including the remaining shows of the 2017 Season, call the Box Office at 219-836-3255 or Tickets.com at 800-511-1552.   Group discounts are available for groups of 11 or more and gift certificates are also available. For more information about Theatre at the Center, visit www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

As I found my seat in the very intimate forty-seat or so Red Curtain Theater in First Congregational Church House to see Robert Harling's popular American classic Steel Magnolias, made popular by the movie starring Julia Roberts, I was very drawn in immediately by Mark Boergers' set design which places audience members on both sides of the action facing each other, so close you feel you are waiting for your own hair appointment in the super friendly and inclusive Truvy's Beauty Salon in Chinquapin, Louisiana.

 

Directed by Artistic Director Mark Boergers, all six members of this truly ensemble piece get an equal chance to shine and show the particular strengths and challenges each of these extraordinary women are facing. The multi-racial casting was extremely effective and believable. Each of these women, some rich, some poor, some single and some married, or about to be, really work together in an organic and wonderful way to create a world any woman can identify with at every stage of her life.  

 

Usually, I point out members of the cast who stand out but in this case ALL of the cast stand out, some with their biting humor like Nicholia Q. Aguirre as Clairee, whose late husband was mayor of Chinquapin, and Meg Elliott as Ousier who owns an outstanding sense of comic timing! Lucy Sandy as Truvy, the owner is a calm yet very funny, motherly anchor of the beauty salon she built in her own garage to support her husband. 

 

Brooklyn Hebert is lovely in the role of Shelby who is getting her hair done for her wedding day as the play opens. Natalie Sallee plays Shelby's mother M'Lynn really brings home the tears as the danger of diabetes threatens her daughter's happy, yet fragile, life dealing with the disease before and after childbirth. As the young Annelle, a young new beautician who has arrived recently in this small town with an abusive, perhaps criminal, boyfriend who deserts her Nikkia Tyler is very effective also, as we see her clinging to these new friendships and her newfound trust in God, and the church - while literally on the verge of homelessness.

 

Although Harling’s script is considered a flawless classic, these six strong characters in such a small, realistic, almost threadbare set take the show to new levels of humor and sensitivity, which leave one wondering why the Hollywood film itself wasn't cast multi-racially as well. 

 

I highly endorse this bright, new production to anyone who has seen or not seen and enjoyed the film or play before, as this ensemble directed by Mark Boergers offers up a refreshing and fulfilling vision of the original play that women and the men who love them can all identify with easily. Along with this excellent cast of trained actors the audience can learn firsthand about being strong as steel when necessary and laughing like children when it seems like all that's left to do is cry.  

 

The Arc Theatre’s Steel Magnolias is being performed at the Red Curtain Theater at the First Congregational Church House in Evanston through February 12th. For tickets and more show info, click here.

 

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