A new musical for Chicago

TimeLine is thrilled to bring the musical Juno to Chicago audiences for the first time.

Based on the 1924 Sean O’Casey classic Juno and the Paycock, this musical was originally produced on Broadway in 1959. It closed after just 16 performances, never approaching the acclaim enjoyed by two other classic plays turned into musicals during that era, My Fair Lady and West Side Story.

Since then, the show has lived mostly in obscurity, although music theater aficionados have long loved the recording of Marc Blitzstein’s score and long desired to hear it live. The estate for book writer Joseph Stein confirmed that it has never had a production in Chicago, until now.

Why didn’t it work and why has it taken so long to be seen in Chicago? I honestly can’t say. Some have argued that Blitzstein’s musicality was ahead of its time for 1950s Broadway fare. Others wondered why O’Casey’s great play needed music at all—an argument exacerbated by two original leads who were stronger actors than singers. And many feel that the piece’s darker themes made it too grim an affair, despite the inherent humor laced throughout.

You’ll recognize in this show a quintessential trait of the Irish culture—the lyrical balance of pain and laughter.

TimeLine’s Company Members have talked of producing Juno dating back to our last (also our first) musical, Fiorello!another under-appreciated 1959 gem that found a huge audience during sold-out runs at our theatre in 2006 and 2008. Many of you have asked frequently when TimeLine would mount another musical, and while it’s taken longer than we’d hoped, there was never a question that it would be Juno.

"Juno" set model by designer John Culbert.
“Juno” set model by designer John Culbert.

One of this Irish boy’s greatest theatre-going memories is the 1994 production of Juno and the Paycock by Dublin’s Gate Theatre, brought to the Merle Reskin Theatre through the late, great International Theatre Festival of Chicago. Still a student at The Theatre School at DePaul University, I was an usher for that production, savoring each moment of every performance. I marveled at the depth of the Irish actors who could seamlessly walk the perilous line between comedy and tragedy, often within the same line, phrase or gesture. That ability is what makes this story—in play or musical format—so fiendishly tricky, yet so gloriously effective. For anyone who has had the pleasure of spending time in Ireland, you’ll recognize in this show a quintessential trait of the culture—the lyrical balance of pain and laughter.

The Juno design team has crafted an immersive setting that surrounds you with 1920s Dublin, and the intimacy of TimeLine’s home is a key element helping us bring the humor and heartache of the Boyle family to life.

It’s a story and a staging that we hope is the perfect cap to a 2013-14 season you have helped make one of TimeLine’s most memorable. I thank you for making this year so special and I hope you will join us to experience the beauty of Juno.


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