Emmy winner, American Theater Co founder Cleveland returns in one-man Clinton show


EMMY-WINNING WRITER RICK CLEVELAND (“The West Wing” and “Six Feet Under”) returned last Monday (10/25) to the Off-Loop theatre he co-founded, American Theatre Company, and tore the place up with his hilarious new one-man piece, “My Buddy Bill.” Cleveland will perform it here again for one night, March 22, at the Goodman Theatre. Save the date now! This sly and rollicking monologue neatly combines truth and fiction as Cleveland recounts his (real) friendship with Bill Clinton as both President and ex-President.

Besides Bill and Hillary, Cleveland’s cast of characters includes Christopher Walken, Billy Bob Thornton, First Brother Roger Clinton and First Dog Buddy, a Chocolate Labrador. I don’t want to give too much away, but in Cleveland’s telling, Bill Clinton not only smokes but inhales.

THE AMERICAN THEATRE COMPANY, by the way, has opened its 20th anniversary season with a critically-praised production of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” running through November 7.

MEGA-HIT PRODUCER MARC PLATT (“Jerry Maguire,” “Philadelphia,” “Legally Blonde”) was in town to ballyhoo his most recent success, the $14 million Broadway musical “Wicked,” which won three 2004 Tony Awards and is a hit despite mixed reviews when it opened. “Wicked” will celebrate its first anniversary on Broadway soon, and will recoup its investment by February.

Platt’s news for Chicago is that Our Town will be the first stop for the national tour of “Wicked,” which will play a seven-week stand at the Ford Center/Oriental Theatre next April 29-June 12.

“MAMMA MIA” will pay another return visit to Chicago, playing November 23-December 26 at the Ford Center/Oriental. This time around, the cast features long-time favorite Chicago diva E. Faye Butler–a multiple Joseph Jefferson Award winner–as Rosie, one of the co-starring roles.

LONDON’S FAMOUS AND BELOVED OLD VIC THEATRE opened its season under a new artistic director, Oscar winning American actor Kevin Spacey, who’s long supported the company, for which Sir Elton John is chairman of the board of trustees. Charting a new course for the Old Vic, Spacey launched his regime a month ago with an unknown play by a contemporary Dutch playwright no one in England ever heard of. The play, “Cloaca,” was described in the press as dark and ribald comedy. Well, the critics clobbered “Cloaca.”

To nurse his wounds, Spacey retreated to The Pit, a cozy bar in the basement of the Old Vic. It has a 2AM license, which is rare for London where the standard closing hour for pubs is 11PM. With the Royal National Theatre, the National Film Theatre, Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall (the last two are concert venues) clustered nearby, The Pit looks like a sure bet to draw an artsy crowd every night and make a ton of money.

Jonathan Abarbanel is theater critic for WBEZ Chicago Public Radio and theater editor of the weekly Windy City Times.