Members of the touring production of “Chicago” will perform to a sell-out crowd at Medford’s Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.

The Craterian season opens

Sure, the touring production of "Chicago" coming to Medford's Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater Wednesday, Sept. 3, sold out faster than hotcakes in January, and what could you do? Don't dismay. The Craterian has put together a strong month to open its season.

Comic Martin Short will perform Sept. 17 ($66 to $78).

The redoubtable musical "Oliver!" is coming to town Sept. 22 ($42 to $60).

Cantabile, aka the London Quartet, will bring its mix of singing and British wit on Sept. 27 ($19 to $25; youth tickets $13 to $19)).

And the 25th anniversary tour of "Nunsense," starring Sally Struthers, will take the stage Sept. 30 ($47 to $53; youth $34 to $40).

Here's a quiz. Nobody can forget Martin Short's portrayal of Franck, the wedding planner in "Father of the Bride." But what was Franck's last name? (The answer is on page 21.)

When Short graduated from Ontario's McMaster University in 1972, he was thinking social work. But two of his classmates, Eugene Levy and Dave Thomas, urged him to try acting. Which is how all three ended up later that year in "Godspell" in Toronto, a production that also featured Gilda Radner.

After the best part of a decade in Canadian theater and television, Short broke into American television in 1979 starring in "The Associates." The turning point in his career came in 1982 when he joined the cast of "SCTV," the comedy show created by members of Toronto's branch of the famed Second City improvisational troupe. Old pals Thomas and Levy were core members. There, Short caught the eye of Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels, who hired him for the 1984-85 season.

Short's SNL characters included crusty songwriter Irving Cohen ("Give me a C! A bouncy C!"), faux-albino entertainer Jackie Rogers Jr., combative attorney Nathan Thurm, odd-ball man-child Ed Grimley and unhinged Hollywood agent Jiminy Glick. Short's film debut came in the wacky parody "The Three Amigos" alongside fellow SNL alumni Chevy Chase and Steve Martin.

Short has returned to television to write, produce and star in three comedy specials. He also co-starred as the Mad Hatter in NBC's "Alice in Wonderland" and earned an Emmy nomination for his work on the NBC mini-series "Merlin." He earned a second Emmy nod for his performance in Comedy Central's "Prime Time Glick" (2001-2004).

On Broadway, he earned a Tony nomination for his work in the ill-fated "The Goodbye Girl" (1993), and won the award in 1999 for "Little Me." In 2006 he starred in the musical comedy "Fame Becomes Me," which caused the New York Times' Ben Brantley to call him "the friendliest of the 'Saturday Night Live' alumni who made it big."

He was reportedly Mel Brooks' first choice to play Leo Bloom in the Broadway musical, "The Producers," the role that went to Matthew Broderick. Short did play Bloom to Jason Alexander's Max Bialystock in the Los Angeles production of the show.

"Oliver!" is based on "Oliver Twist," the classic by that most theatrical of writers, Charles Dickens. Perhaps the first novel in English with a child protagonist, it may have been inspired by Robert Blincoe, an orphan whose first-hand account of his ordeals as a child laborer was widely read in the 1830s.

"Oliver!" mixes sentiment, satire and social commentary as it portrays the effects of industrialization on London's working class. In Dickens' day, the Poor Law consigned the destitute to workhouses, which were essentially prisons where inmates performed hard labor.

But Oliver's story is also a ripping yarn, plain and simple, with the unsinkable Oliver, pompous Mr. Bumble, rascally Fagin, cocksure Artful Dodger, good-hearted Nancy and dastardly Bill Sikes.

It was English pop composer Lionel Bart who decided he could turn "Oliver Twist" into a hit musical. Twelve producers passed on the project until Bart found his money man, Donald Albery. The show got 23 curtain calls on opening night, June 30, 1960, and held the stage for six years. "Oliver!" opened on Broadway in 1963, ran for 774 performances, and won a Tony for best score. The 1968 film won six Academy Awards. It's been in production somewhere ever since, with songs like "Consider Yourself," "Where is Love?" "As Long as He Needs Me" and "Who Will Buy?"

Cantabile mixes classical discipline and comic panache in a dazzling array, from Renaissance madrigals to Monty Python ditties.

The group has its roots in some guys gathering at Cambridge University in 1977 to perform as a barbershop quartet in a musical called "Charlotte's Hotel." Two members of the current line-up, counter-tenor Richard Bryan and baritone Michael Steffan, were there, but there have been multiple personnel changes in the group's 30-plus years. Tenor Mark Fleming joined the group in 1991, and tenor Steven Brooks arrived in 2005.

Cantabile (can-TAH-bill-lee) collaborated with the comedy revue group "Oxbridge," discarded the original name of CUBS (Cambridge University Barbershop Singers) and became Cantabile, a musical instruction in Italian that means "in singing style."

"Nunsense," starring Sally Struthers, premiered in 1986 and ran for more than 10 years, becoming the second-longest-running off-Broadway musical of all time behind "The Fantasticks." At last count it had been translated into 26 languages and been given over 8,000 different productions.

"Nunsense" characters have been played by Edie Adams, Honor Blackman, Pat Carroll, Peggy Cass, Phyllis Diller, Joanne Worley and many others. It has spawned five sequels and "Nunsense A-Men," a version in which the sisters are played by men in drag.

Sally Struthers, who stars in this production, is best known for playing Gloria on "All in the Family." She starred in the Fox television series "9 to 5" and has had recurring roles on "Still Standing" and "The Gilmore Girls."

Creator Dan Goggin says he was inspired by a gift from a Dominican monk who had once been his teacher — a mannequin dressed in a nun's habit. Goggin came up with a line of greeting cards with a nun spouting incongruously tart quips, followed by a cabaret show called "The Nunsense Story" followed by the full-scale theatrical production.

Quiz answer: Franck's last name was Eggelhoffer.

See craterian.org or call 779-3000 for more information.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at bvarble@mailtribune.com or at 776-776-4478.

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