Voiceover Harlan Hogan back in theatre; Burnett’s Ira Antelis musical showcases in major workshop

Voiceover superstar Harlan Hogan has returned to the legitimate theatre for the first time in more than 25 years. Looking very dapper and trim in a well-fitted double-breasted suit, Hogan plays Edvard Lunt, a famous novelist and a bridegroom, in “Impossible Marriage,” a comedy by Beth Henley.

Nothing goes according to plan in this Southern Gothic comedy, set in a splendid garden (kudos to scenic designer Joey Wade).

But Hogan does get the much-younger-girl before the final curtain, even if her wedding gown includes giant, iridescent butterfly wings. Ah, well, friends of Harlan will have to see for themselves.

The show is running through May 14 at the Off-Loop Strawdog Theatre, 3829 N. Broadway. Info: www.strawdog.org.

A few weeks ago, we reported on the success of composing wizard Paul Libman, who recently won the prestigious Richard Rodgers Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Now, we’re pleased to report a high honor to another Chicago composer, Ira Antelis, Leo Burnett’s Music Aid director, who’s made a name and a career in the commercial field, alongside his theatrical ambitions.

Antelis and writing partner Andrew Barrett have been selected to showcase their musical, “Julian Po,” in the annual ASCAP Foundation/Disney Theatrical Productions Musical Theatre Workshop, meeting for five sessions in Chicago in April.

This program is conducted by distinguished Broadway composers Stephen Schwartz and Craig Carnelia who will offer professional critiques of three works-in-progress.

“Julian Po,” with book and lyrics by Barrett and music by Antelis, was selected from nearly 100 projects submitted. It will be workshopped at the April 8 and April 22 sessions, 7:30 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center. The public is invited, free, on a first-come, first-served basis.

The ASCAP/Disney Musical Theatre Workshop is funded, in part, by Peter Schneider, former president of Walt Disney Studios and producer of “The Lion King” on Broadway. Really old theatre hands in Chicago (such as this writer) may remember Schneider when he was the brash, young managing director of the long-defunct St. Nicholas Theatre Company, the troupe co-founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy.

Securing rights to adapt movies into stage plays used to be all-but-impossible for the typical small theatre company that flourished in Chicago’s Off-Loop environment. Owners of film rights couldn’t care less about some little, no-name troupe in flyover territory.

But the film guys have grown wiser over the last few years, and now are more likely to grant non-exclusive permission for a theatre company to try something. Over the last two years, this has resulted in local stage adaptations of “The Conversation” and “Misery” (a bit hit) among others.

Now, The Journeymen, a Jefferson Award?winning, small but high-caliber theatre company, has received permission to mount a stage version of Philippe de Broca’s 1960’s anti-war cult film, “The King of Hearts.” The adapter and director is tonika todorova (sic, no caps), an artistic associate at The Journeyman. She directs a 10-person cast.

“The King of Hearts” runs April 29-June 4 in the Coach House of the Berger Park Cultural Center, 6205 N. Sheridan Road. The Coach House isn’t a theatre proper, and so the show is certain to have an environmental feel that takes in the audience. Info: www.thejourneymen.org

Launching new projects are two of Chicago’s most senior, and most successful, theatre producers. Septuagenarian Bernard Sahlins, co-founder and long-time owner of The Second City, is partnering with The Poetry Foundation to produce and direct four famous verse dramas, among them works by T. S. Eliot, Moliere and Archibald MacLeish.

Sahlins has assembled a stunning cast of top Chicago actors for the lead-off play, Eliot’s story of Thomas Becket, “Murder in the Cathedral.” It will be performed in five area churches: Old St. Patrick (April 4), Rockefeller Memorial Chapel (April 5), Fourth Presbyterian (April 6), St. Paul’s United Church of Christ (April 7) and St. Chrysostom’s (April 8). Three more shows will follow in the fall.

The Poetry Foundation, by the way, used to be an influential but perpetually impoverished group that struggled to put out a monthly poetry magazine. Then, in 2002, Ruth Lilly died and left the magazine $100 million. The Indiana poetess and old school philanthropist was heir to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical (can anyone say Prozac?) fortune.

Anthony DeSantis, the 91-year old producer, is putting $7 million into his sixth Drury Lane brand theatre, Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place. Tony’s tony new playhouse?complete with his signature Austrian crystal chandeliers, opens May 18 with the musical, “The Full Monty” with a wonderful score by pop composer David Yazbek.

DeSantis and Sahlins have a combined producing history of 99 years.