The Lord of the Rings - A Musical Tale at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

Chicago Shakespeare Theater, under the visionary guidance of Artistic Director Edward Hall and Executive Director Kimberly Motes, are set for its highly anticipated 2024/25 season, promising a spectacular lineup of theatrical brilliance. With a bold vision and unwavering commitment to artistic excellence, Hall and Motes have curated a diverse selection of 10 compelling productions that will captivate audiences over the course of 12 thrilling months. Among the standout highlights of this season is the eagerly awaited US premiere of "The Lord of the Rings - A Musical Tale," a groundbreaking theatrical adaptation that promises to transport audiences to the enchanting realm like never before.

"It is a huge pleasure to introduce this first season of work which looks forward to a year of adventure, entertainment, and thought-provoking theater made by artists in the US and across the globe," says Edward Hall. "The range and scale of work is something to be celebrated by audiences everywhere as we illuminate the vitality of Shakespeare's genius alongside leading contemporary writers of our day."

"We have been energized and inspired by the audiences, artists, donors, students, and community leaders we have met over the past six months as well as by our board and staff," says Kimberly Motes. "This season is an expression of their encouragement and the dynamism of Chicago as a city of world class theater, arts, and culture. It's a joy to celebrate a multitude of powerful creative voices reflective of the many communities in our city."

The 2024/25 Season


As part of a continued commitment to introducing young audiences to the magic of live theater, Chicago Shakespeare begins this summer with Corduroy (June 18-July 14, 2024 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). Based on the cherished children's books Corduroy and A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman and adapted for the stage by Barry Kornhauser, this 60-minute play had its world premiere at the Tony Award-winning Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis in 2018. Corduroy's button has gone missing and he can't go home with the kindhearted Lisa without it. Audiences follow the beloved bear on a rollicking and delightfully destructive journey through the department store as he searches high and low in this imaginative tale of friendship and belonging. Esteemed Chicago director Amber Mak returns to CST after last summer's smash-hit production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, bringing a wealth of experience directing shows for young audiences.

"Corduroy has been a beloved book for over 50 years as an enduring, lovable story of friendship, home, and being accepted just as you are today," says Mak. "I am excited to bring these characters from the book to life on the Pier in a very fun, whimsical, and imaginative adventure that multi-generational audiences can experience together."

The Lord of the Rings - A Musical Tale

Beginning in July, The Lord of the Rings - A Musical Tale (July 19-September 1, 2024 | The Yard), based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien, comes to the stage in a US premiere production directed by Paul Hart, who created the acclaimed new staging in 2023 at the UK's Watermill Theatre. This adventure through the multi-dimensional world of Middle-earth has been beloved by generations of readers and adapted into an Academy Award-winning film trilogy by Peter Jackson. As the Hobbits celebrate Bilbo Baggins' eleventy-first birthday in the Shire, he gifts his nephew Frodo his most precious belonging-a gold ring. This fateful moment launches Frodo on a legendary and perilous quest across Middle-earth to the darkest realms of Mordor to vanquish evil with his loyal Fellowship. With book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus and original music by Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman (Bombay Dreams, Slumdog Millionaire), Finnish folk band Värttinä, and Tony Award winner Christopher Nightingale (Matilda the Musical), this theatrical event celebrates the magical world of Middle-earth, making for an unforgettable experience for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

"Sharing the Watermill's wonderful expression of The Lord of the Rings on stage with audiences across the globe beginning this summer in Chicago, with the US premiere of Paul Hart's and Chicago Shakespeare Theater's collaborative re-imagining, is a dream come true for all of us at Middle-earth Enterprises," says Fredrica Drotos, of Middle-earth Enterprises.

Henry V

Following his groundbreaking production of Richard III this season, Artistic Director Edward Hall opens the start of the fall season with Henry V (September 6-October 6, 2024 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). This gripping tale of youthful ambition and adventure explores the thrill and destructive power of war, examining nationalism at its most dangerous and seductive. From the evocative opening line, "O for a Muse of Fire," Henry V includes some of Shakespeare's most famous speeches and stirring poetry. Hall's approach reflects his belief in Shakespeare as a modern writer for our modern world, exploring the themes of conflict, patriotism, and legacy through a contemporary lens. Prior to taking the helm of CST as artistic director in October 2023, Hall staged acclaimed productions of Shakespeare's plays in London's West End, New York, and on tour around the globe as the founder and artistic director of Propeller Shakespeare.

"Henry V remains one of the most revealing plays about war, nationalism, the consequences of both, and our need for common causes to bind us together," says Hall. "There has never been a more prescient moment to explore our reflex for conflict through the prism of a story that contains some of the greatest writing in the English language."


One of the world's preeminent theater companies, the Royal Shakespeare Company returns to Chicago for the first time in 30 years as part of a new, ongoing partnership with CST. Direct from a run in the Swan Theatre at the company's home in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK comes the mystical Pericles (October 20-December 8, 2024 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). In her and Daniel Evans' first season as the RSC's co-artistic directors, Tamara Harvey directs this major new production of Shakespeare's moving tale of love, hope, and miracles. When Prince Pericles flees for safety, he finds himself on an epic voyage through storms, shipwrecks, abduction, and loss. This exclusive limited engagement marks CST's 100th international production of bringing the world's great artists to Chicago.

"It's a joy to be renewing our relationship with Chicago Shakespeare Theater in 2024, in this moment of transformation for both companies," said RSC co-artistic directors Tamara Harvey and Daniel Evans. "The RSC's connection with Chicago dates back to 1913 and many of our audiences and company remember welcoming CST to Stratford-upon-Avon as part of our Complete Works Festival in 2006. As the RSC's new co-artistic directors, we share Edward Hall's passionate commitment to collaboration across borders and to providing a platform for exhilarating theatre that speaks with immediacy to the world we live in today. Bringing this production of Pericles directly from our inaugural season marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter between our two companies. We can't wait to share it with CST's audiences."

Jaja's African Hair Braiding

Straight from a twice-extended Broadway run, Jaja's African Hair Braiding (January 14-February 2, 2025 | The Yard) will have its regional premiere at CST in a co-production with Arena Stage and Berkeley Repertory Theatre. This comedic play, which had its world premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2023, offers a glimpse into one sweltering summer day in the lives of a group of West African immigrant women who find community in a Harlem hair salon. Love blossoms, dreams flourish, and secrets are revealed in this dazzling production. Written by acclaimed playwright Jocelyn Bioh (School Girls, or the African Mean Girls Play, Nollywood Dreams), the production is directed by Chicago native and Obie Award winner Whitney White (Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, What to Send Up When It Goes Down). Jaja's African Hair Braiding is presented in association with Madison Wells Live and LaChanze.

"I am thrilled and honored that audiences beyond Broadway will get to come to 'the shop' and meet the vibrant women of Jaja's African Hair Braiding," says Bioh. "This play means so much to me as both a native New Yorker and as a first-generation Ghanaian American as it speaks to the heart of what makes our country so beautifully unique: its rich diversity of people and culture. There is a real universality to these women's experiences, and I can't wait for audiences to connect and fall in love with each of them."


Also beginning performances in January, following a sold out, critically acclaimed East Coast debut, Avaaz (January 21-February 9, 2025 | Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater Upstairs) is a "powerful, defiant, celebratory" (Washington Post) exploration of family and the immigrant experience, written and performed by Emmy Award nominee Michael Shayan and directed by Tony Award nominee Moritz von Stuelpnagel. Shayan-playing the role of his own larger-than-life Iranian-Jewish mother, Roya-welcomes audiences into her home to celebrate the Iranian New Year and shares her quintessential American journey from Tehran to "Tehrangeles," California, formerly known as Westwood. Rich in extravagant humor and heart, Avaaz is at once deeply personal and universal. This production, hailed as "ingenious" and "masterful" by BroadwayWorld and DC Theater Arts, is designed by a Tony and Emmy Award-winning creative team. It successfully premiered at the Olney Theatre Center and its time at Chicago Shakespeare marks the continuation of a US tour. A Fellow with the Sundance Institute and Lambda Literary, Shayan was recently recognized on Out Magazine's OUT100 list of the most impactful and influential LGBTQ+ people. A Harvard-trained writer, performer, and illusionist, Shayan offers a perspective rarely seen on stage. von Stuelpnagel's credits include the upcoming Judgment Day at CST and Present Laughter and Hand to God on Broadway.

"It's an honor to take Avaaz across the country with Moritz and this incredible team, particularly at a time of overwhelming anti-immigrant sentiment," says Shayan. "Avaaz offers a different narrative and grapples with complex truths in a fabulous, decadent, larger-than life party on stage. I can't wait to share the magic of 'Tehrangeles' with audiences in Chicago and beyond!"

Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night's Dream

Chicago Shakespeare will increase the number of student performances from 30 to 40 and welcome 20,000 middle and high school students from across the region to Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night's Dream (February 4-March 8, 2025 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). Adapted and directed by Edward Hall, Shakespeare's beloved romantic comedy captures the exhilaration, foolishness, and delight of young love, as the chaos of magic and enchantment turns the world upside down. In addition to the five-week run of school matinees, this 75-minute production will offer public performances on Saturdays.

"It's a joy to be creating this Short Shakes production as part of CST's ongoing commitment to providing the best theater for young people," says Hall. "I have had some of my most exciting experiences in the theater making work in this forum and look forward to sharing a comedy that warms the heart and delights the soul, inspiring young audiences and artists of the future."


In partnership with the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA), CST introduces Teatro La Plaza from Lima, Peru to Chicago audiences with an original and energetic reimagining of Shakespeare's Hamlet (March 13-23, 2025 | Carl and Marilynn Thoma Theater Upstairs). Blending Shakespeare's text with personal anecdotes from their lives, a group of young performers with Down syndrome take the stage in a lively and profound theatrical experience directed by Teatro La Plaza's founder Chela de Ferrari. Together, the performers explore the central question "To be or not to be?" using pop music, dance, and wry humor to create an original and joyful celebration of self-expression.

"CLATA is excited to see Teatro La Plaza's Hamlet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, not only because this is such a different adaptation of Hamlet but also because it's a very unique representation of Latine actors that also deserves to be experienced," says Jorge Valdivia, CLATA's executive director. "There is so much that we can learn from this unique adaptation. We're thrilled about our ongoing partnership with CST and seeing our city give Teatro La Plaza a warm welcome."

Sunny Afternoon

Winner of four Olivier Awards including Best New Musical, Sunny Afternoon makes its North American premiere (March 21-April 27, 2025 | The Yard). It tells the story of the rise to stardom of The Kinks through their own prolific catalog of chart-topping songs including "You Really Got Me," "Lola," and "All Day and All of the Night." With an original story, music, and lyrics by The Kinks' legendary Ray Davies and a script by Joe Penhall, this musical is an unforgettable rock-and-roll journey through the soaring triumphs and devastating lows of an iconic band that influenced generations. Edward Hall returns to this show after directing the world premiere at London's Hampstead Theatre and in the West End.

"Anyone who knows The Kinks knows we're a series of catastrophes turning into glorious triumph," says Davies. "This is not an's coming from my perspective and very personal to me. Most of the stories come from the family in the front room where everyone played an instrument, and everyone collaborated. Yet what's come through is that it's a kind of timeless story. Yes, there's a setting, but hopefully the songs transcend time. It's about characters and situations and people trying to get through their lives."


In the spring, Olivier Award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti returns to Chicago with her celebrated play Hymn (April 29-May 25, 2025 | Jentes Family Courtyard Theater). Originally set in London in its premiere at the Almeida Theatre, Chakrabarti will reframe the play for CST to be set in Chicago. This soul-affirming story charts the lives of two middle-aged Black men as they form a deep bond in an intimate exploration of the loyalties and betrayals of brothers, fathers, and sons. Chakrabarti's Red Velvet enjoyed an acclaimed run at CST in 2017; other notable credits include Life of Pi, now on tour across North America, and Hamnet, a stage adaptation of Maggie O'Farrell's novel that premiered at the Royal Shakespeare Company last year.

"I wanted to write a story of two Black men who find love with each other-a familial, platonic love," says Chakrabarti. "My own male friends have often surprised me with their sensitivity, femininity, fussiness, insecurities, fun, kindness, and warmth-the list goes on. Hymn was born out of my desire to tell a different story. To reframe this play for Chicago is very exciting indeed, and I believe it will lend itself beautifully to this city's rich culture."