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‘Evita’ producer Hal Luftig finds Chicago much to his liking

Hal Luftig

Hal Luftig

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‘Evita,’ Sept. 18-Oct. 6, Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. $27-$95; (800) 775-2000

Updated: September 11, 2013 3:00PM

It’s been more than 30 years since theatergoers fell in love with the first Broadway production of “Evita,” and now the seven-time Tony Award-winning musical is back with a whole new production, playing Chicago’s Oriental Theatre starting Sept. 18. Calling it a “piece of Play-Doh still in formation,” award-winning producer Hal Luftig talked about Evita’s triumphant arrival to the Windy City.

Question: You might be a New Yorker, but you sure seem to love Chicago.

Hal Luftig: I love its heartbeat. I love its architecture. I love its weather except for in the winter. But professionally, I absolutely love your audiences. They come to the theater and they know exactly what they are seeing. If you could plop Chicago right into the heart of New York City, I would be a very happy man.

Q. You premiered “Kinky Boots” in Chicago in 2012, in its pre-Broadway opening. Was there a lot of discussion behind that decision?

HL: Honestly, there are always several factors that go into where you are going to do a show. It’s a big Rubik’s Cube. You look at theater availability and timing, and I’m not going to deny the fact that Chicago had just started the tax credit which, as a new show, saved us a sizeable chunk of change. But, yes, Chicago always seems to hit all the sweet spots.

Q. I’ve heard that you actually went out into the theater and talked to the audiences here in Chicago after the first few shows of “Kinky Boots.” What did you gain from those conversations?

HL: We did have a handful of performances where we asked anyone who wanted to stay to tell us what they liked and what they didn’t. I was amazed. There would always be a big chunk of people that would stick around. You ask that of people in New York? No way. They are too jaded. They want to get home. The audiences in Chicago hung out and their comments were dead-on.

Q. What about you? What do you like to do after a show or on a day off in Chicago?

HL: In terms of theatre theater, I’ve been fascinated by the productions at Steppenwolf and Chicago Shakespeare Theater and even smaller productions at the Royal George Theatre. I’m a foodie too. [Director] Jerry Mitchell always takes me to Mercadito, which is definitely one of my favorites in Chicago. When we were at the Bank of America Theatre with “Kinky Boots,” I also loved going to the steakhouse right around the corner [Rosebud].

Q. It sounds like there is not much you don’t love about Chicago.

HL: I love that Chicago supports the theater and every show I bring there. As a producer, that means a lot. When you know the people in the town you are going to care about your show as much as you do, there is nothing like it. It’s not true in every town, ya know? I’m not naming any names, though. [Laughs] .

Tricia Despres is
a Sun-Times freelance writer.

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