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‘Schooner’ headed to Mercury Theater; Joffrey gets new dancers, ballet master

“SCHOONER” RETURNS: The “The Christmas Schooner,” the evergreen Chicago holiday musical created by Chicagoans John Reeger (book) and Julie Shannon (music and lyrics), is headed for a holiday season engagement at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport. The story of a 19th century sea captain who risked life and limb to transport fir trees from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Chicago’s German immigrants, it will be directed by L. Walter Stearns, with musical direction by Eugene Dizon and choreography by Brenda Didier. The show will run Nov. 16-Dec. 31. Tickets: (773) 325-1700 or visit,

JOFFREY BALLET’S NEW ARTISTS: The Joffrey Ballet has brought a new ballet master on board, as well as eight new dancers from Chicago and around the globe. Nicolas Blanc, who has served as ballet master of the Scottish Ballet since 2009, and who previously danced as a principal with the San Francisco Ballet and several major European ballet companies, will replace Chartel Arthur, who retired after years as both a Joffrey dancer and longtime ballet mistress with the company.

The new dancers for the 2011-2012 season include Ogulcan Borova (born in Turkey, and a principal dancer with the Cincinnati Ballet since 2008); Katherine Bruno (a Chicagoan who trained and danced with the Salt Creek Ballet and was on contract for two seasons with the Joffrey); Rory Hohenstein (born in Washington, D.C., who has danced with the San Francisco Ballet, Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses troupe and the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company); Dara Holmes (who has spent the past two years at the Joffrey Academy of Dance and appeared in the Joffrey productions of “The Nutcracker” and “The Merry Widow”); Jeraldine Mendoza (who was a trainee at the San Francisco Ballet); Katherine Minor (born in Grenoble, France, and a longtime resident of Portland, Oregon, who trained at the Paris Opera Ballet School and the School of American Ballet); Alberto Velasquez (born in Havana, Cuba, who trained in Mexico, France and New York); Mahallia Ward (from Austin, Texas, who received the Rudolf Nureyev Dance Education Fellowship and other awards before becoming a Joffrey Ballet trainee in 2010).

BRENNAN TO LEAD MONKEYS: Molly Brennan, a veteran of the 500 Clown ensemble, has been named artistic director of Barrel of Monkeys (BOM), the popular Chicago-based arts education theater ensemble of which she has been a member since 1999. She replaces Luke Hatton, who is moving with his family to California.

MORE “MURDER”: Now in its fourth month, “Murder for Two,” the marathon 90-minute, two-man farce performed by actor-pianists Joe Kinosian and Alan Schmuckler, has been extended through Oct. 16 in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Upstairs space. Tickets: (312) 595-5600 or visit

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