The Studebaker prepares to roll

Last August, I met with Jacob Harvey just as he was taking over as the new (and first) Managing Artistic Director of Theaters for the Fine Arts Building. At the time, he noted that with the loss of the Royal George as a midsize rental house, the soon-to-be-remodeled Studebaker Theater at Fine Arts might be a good option for “somewhere in between where a little tour or an out-of-town production and help fill that void.”

Earlier this week, I caught up with Harvey in person to see what’s new at Studebaker. While giving me a tour, the team at roller skatesa new musical by Christine Rea and Rick Briskin described as “Fat satisfies hair spray with a pinch of Xanadu” (and starring american idol alumni Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young) hammered away on set. (The show starts previews next week.) roller skates it was six days away from opening at the Royal George before the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. Then the Royal George itself, a commercial rental house with four places across Halsted from the Steppenwolf campus, closed for good in 2021 after of almost 37 years of operation.

So that’s one item on Harvey’s wish list. But Harvey and the rest of the Fine Arts team still have big plans. Just before we met, NPR announced that the popular question-and-answer show Wait wait . . . Do not tell me! he left his old home at the Chase Auditorium in South Dearborn and took up residence at the Studebaker; the first live taping there is scheduled for June 16. (The Studebaker, which used to have 725 seats, now has between 600 and 650 seats; part of the renovation involved expanding legroom on the balcony seats.)

Erica Berger of Berger Realty Group, which oversees the Fine Arts Building (she is the daughter of the late real estate mogul Bob Berger, who purchased the building in 2005), was the catalyst for the Wait wait blow. In an email, he explained: “Nearly three years ago, our late building manager received a cryptic call about an NPR show interested in moving into our space. Knowing that he had a history with NPR as a founding member of its young Generation Listen board (as a journalist and media executive), he called me; I immediately booked a flight back to Chicago to attend the meeting. When I walked into the room, to our surprise, I knew the Senior Manager of Operations from Wait wait . . .Colin Miller. . . . Like a wink from the universe, the synchronicity was hard to ignore.”

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