Well earned Tony nods to Mueller, Norris and Ostling

Jessie Mueller

THE 2012 TONY AWARD NOMINATIONS are thinner than in years past for Chicago born-and-bred artists, but Jessie Mueller scored a nod for best featured actress in a musical for her much-acclaimed Broadway debut in the not-so-acclaimed revival of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

Mueller is long a favorite here, along with her talented family – dad Roger Mueller, mom Jill Shellabarger, sister Abby, and brothers Matthew and Andrew.

Playwright and onetime Chicagoan Bruce Norris, whose work shows up frequently at Steppenwolf, gets a chance to add to the hardware he’s already picked up (including a Pulitzer Prize) for his excoriating social comedy about gentrification, Clybourne Park, which had a run at Steppenwolf this past fall.

The set-in-Chicago piece, which has echoes of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, has already played off-Broadway and in London. The Broadway production, which is not associated with Steppenwolf, features a cast originally from the Mark Taper Forum’s staging by Tony nominee Pam MacKinnon.

Producer Wendell PierceOne of the producers is Wendell Pierce, vet of “The Wire” and currently appearing as trombonist Antoine Batiste in HBO’s post-Katrina New Orleans series “Treme.” (There was a widely publicized fallout between Norris and original producer Scott Rudin in February.)

Daniel Ostling, a Chicago-based scenic designer who is an ensemble member with Lookingglass Theatre, also nabbed a Tony nom for his Clybourne Park set.

Norris’ play is featured in a new anthology from Northwestern University Press, Reimagining A Raisin in the Sun, that looks at the issues of race and gentrification through several lenses. The collection also includes Robert O’Hara’s Etiquette of Vigilance; Branden Jacobs-Jenkins Neighbors; and Living Green by Gloria Bond Clunie, an “alumni” member of the Victory Gardens Theater playwrights’ ensemble.

Steppenwolf’s associate producer, Rebecca Ann Rugg, co-edited the book with Northwestern University theater professor Harvey Young.

Entire ensemble on the set of 2011's The Chicago Landmark ProjectMORE “CITY OF NEIGHBORHOODS” NEWS: The League of Chicago Theatres and Broadway in Chicago have chosen Theatre Seven of Chicago as the recipient of this year’s Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theater Award.

The five-year-old company produces mostly original work with an emphasis on Chicago stories, as in last summer’s Chicago Landmark Project, which provided snapshots of Chicago’s past and present as imagined at various Windy City locales, famous and obscure. The company picks up the award at the League’s annual gala on May 14 at the Marriott Hotel on Adams.

The League also very recently relocated their offices to 17 N. Wabash, Suite 520, in case you’ve been looking for them.

BROADWAY IN CHICAGO also provides support for budding “Glee”-sters through the Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards, which will be presented for the first time ever on Monday, May 7, at the Broadway Playhouse (formerly the Drury Lane Water Tower).

Twelve actors and 12 actresses show off their triple-threat chops, which they’ve honed with coaching from the cast of Jersey Boys. One actor and one actress will move on to the finals in New York on June 25 to compete for “The Jimmy Awards,” named in honor of legendary producer/theater owner James M. Nederlander.

THE TWELVE TENORS direct from Dublin marks the first programming for the new Riverfront Theater,  the 70-foot tall, 22,000-sq. ft. temperature-controlled tent along the Chicago River.  Joining The Twelve Tenors, as the Thirteenth Tenor, on opening night, May 30, is Lou Manfredini, Chicago personality and host of the popular radio show, Mr. Fix It, House Smarts TV and a regular contributor on The Today Show.

He will sing several songs with the Irish dozen throughout the evening.  “If you listen to my show you know I love to sing. Hopefully the fact that I’m a baritone and not Irish won’t bring the whole thing down,” he says.

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