By Greg Wahl

Every theater season in Chicago brings some recognizable names to town in some form or another, and the local entertainment calendar’s got a variety of marquee line-ups on the way. While we Chicagoans pride ourselves in our homegrown and often unheralded crop of actors and comedians, sometimes theatrical/spoken word/comedy productions peak a little more interest when they come with a certain degree of celebrity. At the very least, even if a show is woefully sub-par, it might be just a little more memorable for having been a lousy show with someone famous in it. From highbrow drama to lowbrow comedy, and a little bit in between, here’s a selection upcoming on-stage appearances by notable names and familiar faces this season.


Rick Bayless in Cascabel

March 21 – April 22

While he’s best known as a local celebrity chef with restaurants that are really hard to get into, most non-foodies know him through his PBS show, “Mexico: One Plate at a Time,” now in its fifth season. The play is a love story set in La Cascabel, a boarding house in 1940s Mexico. Tickets are pricey, but the experience (which of course includes Bayless’ artful cookery) is likely to far surpass what one normally thinks of as “dinner theatre.”

John Hodgman (April 1st) and Eddie Griffin (May 18th & 19th)

In its brief existence thus far, Second City’s new Up Comedy Club has already hosted the recognizable likes of Brian Posehn (“The Sarah Silverman Program”), Ben Bailey (“Cash Cab”), Christopher Titus (“Titus”) and Rhys Darby (“Flight of the Conchords”). On Sunday, April 1, cult favorite and “Daily Show” regular John Hodgman takes the stage. Eddie Griffin, known for his several film roles and the late-90s TV series “Malcolm and Eddie,” will appear on May 18 & 19 for two shows each night.

Daniel Tosh (April 19th), Mo’Nique (May 13th), Aziz Ansari (June 15th) at The Chicago Theatre

The Chicago Theatre regularly hosts appearances by big names in film and television comedy, including recent shows by Jerry Seinfeld and Bob Newhart. This spring brings a few more notable names to the historic venue. Viral video goofball Daniel Tosh appears for two sold-out shows on April 19, former sitcom star Mo’Nique performs a Mother’s Day comedy show on May 13, and Aziz Ansari’s “Buried Alive” tour makes a stop on June 15.


Simon Callow in Being Shakespeare

April 18 – 29

Perhaps best known to U.S. audiences as the subject of the funeral in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Simon Callow has also appeared in Shakespeare in Love and A Room with a View. A decade after his starring role in The Mystery of Charles Dickens at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre during the 2001 Christmas season, Callow brings another literary production to town with Being Shakespeare, his acclaimed homage to the Bard of Avon.


Brian Dennehy and Nathan Lane in The Iceman Cometh

April 21 – June 10

Both Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy are no strangers to Chicago stages, with Lane starring not long ago as Gomez Addams in the musical version of The Addams Family, and Dennehy making seemingly annual appearances at The Goodman. Lane will play salesman “Hickey” Hickman to Dennehy’s Larry Slade in Eugene O’Neill’s classic drama, and tickets are getting scarcer by the day.


Kristin Chenowith

June 16

Currently starring in the new ABC series “GCB,” Kristin Chenowith has had a surprisingly diverse career that has included several Broadway musicals, an Emmy-nominated stint on “Glee,” and films such as Bewitched, Running with Scissors and Stranger than Fiction. Chenowith will perform songs from her new album, Some Lessons Learned, along with a selection of Broadway tunes.

George Wendt and Tim Kazurinsky in The Odd Couple

November 2 – December 9

George Wendt and Tim Kazurinsky are both best known for their television roles from the 1980s. In Wendt’s case, it’s of course as the barfly accountant Norm from “Cheers.” Tim Kazurinsky has been working mostly behind the scenes as a writer since his days on “Saturday Night Live.” The pair teams up this fall for a month-long run of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” at Skokie’s Northlight Theatre.

Greg Wahl can be seen on screen, however fleetingly, sitting behind Wayne Brady, whenever the criminally underrated film “Crossover” airs on TV.