Friday, December 7, 2018



Buffalo Theatre Ensemble (BTE), the professional Equity company in residence at the McAninch Arts Center, hosts a “Give Stories Life” Friendraiser benefit BTE at the McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell Blvd., on the campus of College of DuPage, Dec. 14, 6-8 p.m.

This event will serve as an opportunity for the public to learn more about BTE and join members of the BTE Ensemble and Board as they celebrate BTE’s joining of the Glen Ellyn Chamber, and acknowledge Dr. Donald G. Westlake’s enduring support of the company. This event is free and open to the public. RSVPs are requested but not required. To RSVP or for more information email

The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a reception featuring light refreshments and beverages. A ceremonial ribbon cutting will take place at 6:30 p.m. to mark BTE’s inaugural year with the Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce. The evening will also provide a quick look back via trailers of moments from some of BTE's recent productions and, at 7 p.m., a program by Dr. Donald G.  Westlake, featuring some of his memoirs, including regarding BTE. The evening will conclude with a look at the scenic build in process for BTE’s next production, “Defiance” by John Patrick Shanley, directed by BTE Ensemble Member, Kurt Naebig (Jan. 31-March 3) and a backstage tour.

“Don has seen all of our productions, since BTE's inception, and has been a strong advocate for us, always, including our 2016 return to our residence at the MAC. We would not be who and where we are without his enduring support,” BTE Artistic Director Connie Canaday Howard.

Westlake, currently a resident of Wheaton, grew up in Elburn Ill. and received his B.S. in Ed. from Northern Illinois University. He was a mathematics and physical education teacher in his home town before becoming an analytical chemist at Argonne and, then, in the U.S. Army. He received his Ph.D. in Metallurgy from Iowa State University before returning to Argonne in 1959. Dr. Westlake retired in 1984 as a Senior Scientist in the Materials Science Division of the Argonne National Laboratory. As an author he has written two books co-authored with his late wife Helen Gum Westlake, plus a book of poetry, “Elburn: Forty-four Miles to Chicago,” which received the Studs Terkel Award from the Illinois Humanities Council. His stories can be heard on the podcast “Reflections from the Cloud.”

Buffalo Theatre Ensemble

The mission of Buffalo Theatre Ensemble is to provide a forum in which artists, scholars, writers, students and community members explore new ideas and provocative issues through the production of high-quality theater for the enjoyment of its audiences. Since 1986 BTE has staged more than 117 productions. For more information about BTE visit

BTE thanks the DuPage Foundation for their generous support in the reinstatement and continued operation of Buffalo Theatre Ensemble. BTE also thanks the Norm Woodel Inspiration Fund for its assistance in the rebirth and further development of Buffalo Theatre Ensemble.

2018-2019 shows include Chicago Premiere of “The Dingdong, or How the French Kiss,” a new adaptation by Mark Shanahan from “Le Dindon” by Georges Feydeau (Sept. 6-Oct.7); “Defiance” by John Patrick Shanley, directed by BTE Ensemble Member, Kurt Naebig (Jan. 31-March 3) and “Miracle on South Division Street” by Tom Dudzick, directed by Steve Scott (May 2-June 2). For tickets or more information, visit or call 630.942.4000.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

ONE NIGHT ONLY: Nasty, Brutish & Short: A POCI Puppet Cabaret

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
Rough House Theater's quarterly puppet cabaret 

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we're all about inclusion and access for people and puppets! Diversity in the arts makes for stellar storytelling, and everyone deserves a voice. So, we're jazzed that this month's quarterly puppet cabaret will focus on Puppeteers of Color Incubator (POCI) artists. Check it out!

Nasty, Brutish & Short: A POCI Puppet Cabaret
Co-Curated by: Jamillah Hinson & Nik Whitcomb
Monday, December 10 | 7:30pm Tickets: $8-$40 

Nasty Brutish & Short is Links Hall and Rough House Theater's quarterly puppet cabaret. It offers four annual evenings of contemporary short-form puppet experiments and object based theater to SOLD OUT adult audiences. 

This past August, in partnership with the Art Leaders of Color Network (ALCN), Links Hall and Rough House launched the Puppeteers of Color Incubator (POCI). A cohort of nine puppeteers were selected to participate in a six month program designed to support the development and creation of new short form puppet works by artist of color. Lead by ALCN members Jamillah Hinson & Nik Whitcomb December's Nasty Brutish & Short marks the first public showing of the POCI artists' new projects! 

The POCI Cohort includes: Rasaan Booker, Sheri Flanders, Allyson Gonzalez, Jerrell Henderson, Maddie Hong, Margaret Kemp, Louise Loeb, Jose Nateras, Chris Pow. 

"The Puppeteers of Color Incubator (POCI) exists to give puppeteers and artists of color a space to explore, experiment, and develop their tools as puppeteers while deepening their understanding of their own individual artistry. POCI seeks to expand the art of puppetry within the community and create a network of artists for support and further creative opportunities." --- Jamillah Hinson & Nik Whitcomb, POCI Co-Curators


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

JANUARY 25 – MARCH 10, 2019

Crowle Plays Eight Members of The D’Ysquith Family in this Tour de Force Musical about One Man’s Unbridled Journey to Inherit his Family’s Fortune Featuring Music by Stephen Lutvak, Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, and a Tony Award-winning Book by Robert L. Freedman with Direction and Choreography by Stephen Schellhardt 
and Music Direction by Andra Velis Simon.

Here at ChiIL Live Shows, we're elated about Porchlight Music Theatre’s next production. Tony Award winner, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, is a favorite of ours, and with Jeff Award winning Matt Crowle in the lead, this production is sure to be a hit. 

Porchlight Music Theatre’s Mainstage 2018 – 2019 season continues with 2014 Tony Award-winning Best Musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, January 25 – March 10, 2019 at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street. 

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder stars Matt Crowle and features Music by Stephen Lutvak, Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, and a Tony Award-winning Book by Robert L. Freedman, is directed and choreographed by Stephen Schellhardt and music directed by Andra Velis Simon. 

Previews are Friday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 26 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 27 at 2 p.m.; Monday, Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Opening Night is Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. The performance schedule is Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. (January 27, March 3 and March 10) and 6 p.m. (February 3, February 10, February 24 and March 10) with weekday matinee performances Thursday, Feb. 21 and Feb. 28 at 1:30 p.m. 

Please note: There are no performances Sunday, Feb. 2 at 4 p.m.; Thursday, Jan, 31, Thursday, Feb. 28 and Thursday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m.; full schedule is included at the end of the release. 

Tickets are $39 - $66 and are available at or by calling the Porchlight Music Theatre box office, 773.777.9884.

Based on the 1907 novel “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal” by Roy Horniman and the source for the 1949 British film “Kind Hearts and Coronets” starring Alec Guinness, The New York Times said A Gentleman’s Guide is “Among the most inspired and entertaining new musicals." This tour de force musical comedy tells the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, an heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession by eliminating the eight pesky relatives who stand in his way. All the while, Monty has to juggle his mistress (she’s after more than just love), his fiancée (she’s his cousin but who’s keeping track?), and the constant threat of landing behind bars! Of course, it will all be worth it if he can slay his way to his inheritance…and be done in time for tea. 

The cast of Porchlight Music Theatre’s A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder includes: Matt Crowle, “The D’Ysquith Family;” Andrés Enriquez, “Monty Navarro;” Caron Buinis, “Miss Shingle;” Emily Goldberg, “Sibella Hallward;” Ann Delaney, “Phoebe D’Ysquith;” Sharriese Hamilton, “Eugenia;” Ryan Dooley, “Magistrate;” Billy Dawson, “Copley;” Megan Elk, “Tour Guide;” Rachel Klippel, “Barley;” Phoebe Moore, female swing and Adam Ross Brody, male swing.

The A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder production team includes Stephen Schellhardt, director and choreographer; Andra Velis Simon, music director, Aubrey Adams, assistant director/choreographer; Robert Hornbostel, sound designer; Jeff Hendry, costume designer; Denise Karczewski, lighting designer; Anthony Churchill, projection designer; Angie Miller, scenic designers; Kevin Barthel, wig designer; Mealah Heidenreich, props designer; Noah Watkins, assistant to the director; Linda Madonia, musician contractor; Mary Zanger, stage manager; Cody Westgaard, production manager and Bek Lambrecht; technical director.

ABOUT MATT CROWLE, “The D’Ysquith Family” 
Matt Crowle is a proud Porchlight Music Theatre artistic associate. Crowle gratefully returns to Porchlight where his credits include his recent Jeff-nominated turn as “Charley Kringas” in Merrily We Roll Along and” Hysterium” (Jeff Award) in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Other Chicago theatre highlights include The Santaland Diaries at Goodman Theatre; The Producers (Leo Bloom) at Mercury Theater Chicago; Mary Poppins (Bert) at Paramount; Singin’ In The Rain (Cosmo Brown), Spamalot (Patsy), Bye Bye Birdie (Albert Peterson), and South Pacific (Luther Billis, Jeff Award) at Drury Lane Oakbrook. Broadway/National Tour: Monty Python’s Spamalot and Doctor Dolittle starring Tommy Tune. He earned his BFA in Music Theatre under the guidance and mentorship of the late great Dr. Bruce Kirle. 

Andrés Enriquez returns to Porchlight where he was previously seen in Merrily We Roll Along, In The Heights and New Faces Sing Broadway 1939.  He is an ensemble member at both Barrel of Monkeys Productions and Lifeline Theatre, where he is also the casting director. Enriquez is also proud to have worked at several Chicagoland theaters including Remy Bumppo, The Hypocrites, Fox Valley Repertory, Theater at the Center, 16th Street Theater and Lifeline Theater. 

ABOUT STEPHEN SCHELLHARDT, director and choreographer
Stephen Schellhardt has been acting, directing, choreographing, producing, casting and teaching professionally for over a decade. He has acted in numerous Equity productions in Chicago-area and regional theatres, receiving three Equity Jeff Award nominations and a Barrymore Award for acting, as well as a Non-Equity Jeff Award nomination for his directorial work on Urinetown, and his choreographic work on Dogfight at BoHo Theatre, where he was recently appointed artistic director. 

In Chicago, Schellenhardt has worked with the Marriott Theater, Writers Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Mercury Theater Chicago, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, About Face Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Chicago’s Lyric Opera, The Goodman Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre, BoHo Theatre and the Ravinia Festival. National Tours include Altar Boyz. International credits include Jane Austen’s Persuasion at The Royal Winchester Theatre in England and the Shanklin Theatre on The Isle of Wight (Chamber Opera Chicago).  He has directed/choreographed at About Face Theatre, Writers Theatre, Timberlake Playhouse, The Summer Theatre of New Canaan, Ars Nova in New York City, The Casino Club, Northwestern University, and BoHo Theatre. 

He is a founding member of the Chicago Artists Chorale, co-director for The Children’s Theatre of Winnetka, casting associate at About Face Theatre and most recently served as the associate producer and casting director for Writers Theatre in Glencoe. 

Currently, Schellenhardt spends most of his time in Evanston where he is a full-time lecturer of musical theatre at Northwestern University and director of the annual Waa Mu Show. He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Drama School and a proud member of the Actors Equity Association. 

Andra Velis Simon is thrilled to return to Porchlight Music Theatre, where she music directed the Porchlight Revisits productions of They’re Playing Our Song and On a Clear Day. She is the resident music director for Firebrand Theatre, where she just completed their run of Caroline, or Change.  She also music directed Firebrand’s inaugural production of LIZZIE, as well as 9 to 5 The Musical.  Currently, Velis Simon is serving as vocal director for Steppenwolf Theatre Company's La Ruta by Isaac Gomez.  Her work as a music director, adapter, arranger, pianist and vocal coach has been seen regionally at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, A.R.T. in Cambridge, Brooklyn Academy of Music, NYU’s Skirball Center, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Pasadena Playhouse and Berkeley Rep. In Chicago, she has worked with The Goodman Theatre, The Hypocrites, Theater Wit, Chicago Children’s Theatre, and many others. From 2008-2016,Velis Simon served as the staff music director for the Theatre Department at Columbia College Chicago, where she continues to teach musical theatre performance.   

Porchlight Music Theatre is proud to be a member of the vibrant Ruth Page Center for the Arts community and an Artist In-Residence. Central to the Ruth Page Center for the Arts’ programming is the Artists In-Residence program, which is designed to serve organizations looking for a home base while they grow or expand their artistic and organizational capabilities. The Center is committed to nurturing and assisting dance and other performing artists, allowing for exchange and collaborative relationships to develop within the artistic community. The Ruth Page Center for the Arts is a destination for quality performing arts, accessible to a wide community regardless of race, gender, age, education or disability. An incubator of artistic energy and excellence, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts carries forward the vision of its founder, legendary dance icon Ruth Page, to be a platform for developing great artists and connecting them with audiences and community.

As Chicago’s home for music theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre continues its 24th season and its second as an Artist In-Residence at the historic Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago’s Gold Coast. Porchlight Music Theatre is nationally recognized for reimagining classic productions, developing new works and showcasing musical theatre’s noted Chicago veterans and rising stars. Porchlight elevates the genre by providing intimate and powerful theatrical experiences of music theatre through the lens of the “Chicago Style.” Porchlight’s rich history includes the staging of more than 60 productions with 15 Chicago premieres and five world premieres. Through Porchlight’s “Off the Porch” new works program, the musicals of the next generation are developed and given a first audience. The School at Porchlight is Chicago’s center for music theatre training in the areas of performance, writing and appreciation including a youth summer “Make Your Own Musical” camp and a Saturday morning youth program. The company’s many accolades include 28 Black Theatre Alliance nominations and seven awards, as well as a total of 151 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations resulting in 42 Jeff Awards including five consecutive Best Production awards for The Scottsboro Boys (2017), Dreamgirls (2016), Sondheim on Sondheim (2015), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (2014) and A Class Act (2013).

Mr. Crowle’s performance is sponsored by Anne and Greg Taubeneck

Porchlight Music Theatre is supported by generous contributions from the Actors’ Equity Foundation, Bayless Family Foundation, Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation, Chapman | Spingola, Attorneys at Law, the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Elegant Events Lighting, James P. and Brenda S. Grusecki Family Foundation, Hopsmith Tavern, the MacArthur Fund for Arts & Culture at the Prince Foundation, the Morgan Stanley Foundation, The Saints, Top Nosh Hospitality and the Topfer Family Foundation. 

The season program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency, a state agency, and by a CityArts Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. 

Tickets On Sale December 7th for Goodman Theatre's World Premiere of HOW TO CATCH CREATION

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar



Goodman Theatre proudly announces its cast for the world premiere of How to Catch Creation by Christina Anderson—“a gifted playwright you want to pay attention to” (Variety). A vivid portrait of three artist/intellectual couples exploring life, children and marriage—coming together and coming apart—How to Catch Creation is directed by Niegel Smith, who most recently directed the smash sensation Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) last season at the Goodman. The ensemble cast includes Karen Aldridge (Tami), Ayanna Bria Bakari (Natalie), Jasmine Bracey (G.K. Marche), Bernard Gilbert (Stokes), Maya Vinice Prentiss (Riley) and Keith Randolph Smith (Griffin). The creative team includes Todd Rosenthal (Set), Allen Lee Hughes (Lighting), Jenny Mannis (Costumes) and Justin Ellington (Composer). 

Tickets ($25 - $70; subject to change) go on sale this Friday, December 7 at, by telephone at 312.443.3800 or at the box office (170 N. Dearborn). The Goodman Theatre Women’s Board is the Major Production Sponsor and WBEZ 91.5 is the Media Sponsor.

A young writer’s life turns upside down when her girlfriend drops some unexpected news. Fifty years later, four artists feel the reverberations of that moment—and its unexpected consequences—as their lives intersect in pursuit of creative passion and legacy. In this bold, imaginative work, Christina Anderson dissects the universal act of creation to inspire the dreamers and idealists in us all.

Playwright Christina Anderson’s body of work includes the plays Blacktop Sky, pen/man/ship, The Ashes Under Gait City and Man in Love. Her plays have appeared at The Public Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre, Penumbra Theatre and Playwrights Horizons, among others in the United States and Canada. She is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and Epic Theatre Ensemble, a DNAWORKS ensemble member and the interim head of playwriting at Brown University. Awards and honors include the inaugural Harper Lee Award for Playwriting, two Playwrights of New York nominations, three Susan Smith Blackburn Prize nominations and a Woursell Prize finalist. Anderson received her BA from Brown University and MFA from the Yale School of Drama’s playwriting program.

Director Niegel Smith is a Bessie Award-winning theater director and performance artist. He is the artistic director of New York’s The Flea; board member of A.R.T./New York and ringleader of Willing Participant, an artistic activist organization. His theater work has been produced by Alley Theatre, HERE, Hip Hop Theatre Festival, Magic Theatre, Mixed Blood, New York International Fringe Festival, New York Live Arts, Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, Playwrights Horizons, Pomegranate Arts, The Public Theater, St. Ann’s Warehouse, Summer Play Festival and Under the Radar Festival, and his participatory walks and performances have been produced by Abrons Arts Center, American Realness, Dartmouth College, Elastic City, The Invisible Dog Art Center, Jack, The New Museum, Prelude Festival, PS 122, the Van Alen Institute and Visual AIDS. He often collaborates with playwright/performer Taylor Mac and with artist Todd Shalom. Smith was co­-director of the critically acclaimed A 24­ Decade History of Popular Music, winner of the Kennedy Prize in Drama, the Edwin Booth Award and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Karen Aldridge (Tami) returns to Goodman Theatre, where previous credits include The Trinity River Plays, Proof (Black Theater Alliance Award, The Ruby Dee Award – Best Leading Actress in a Play), The Good Negro and The Cook (Jeff Award nomination for Best Actress). Additional Chicago theater credits include Victims of Duty at A Red Orchid Theatre; Love’s Labour’s Lost, MacBeth, Twelfth Night and Tug of War at Chicago Shakespeare Theater; The Seagull at Writers Theatre; Far Away and In the Blood (Jeff Award nomination for Best Actress) at Next Theatre Company; The Qualms, Clybourne Park and she originated the role of Tamyra in Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize nominated Man from Nebraska at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Aldridge starred in the international tours of Battlefield and Le Costume, both directed by Peter Brook. She also originated the role of Mrs. Phelps in the production of Matilda the Musical on Broadway. Film and television credits include Chicago Fire, Chicago PD and Chicago Med (NBC); Boss (STARZ!); Blue Bloods and Unforgettable (CBS); The Get Down (Netflix, produced and directed by Baz Luhrmann) and Ron Howard's film The Dilemma.

Ayanna Bria Bakari (Natalie) makes her Goodman Theatre debut. Theater credits include Indiana Repertory Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Emerald City Theatre, Raven Theatre, The New Colony, Red Theater, 16th Street Theater, TimeLine Theatre. She also performed in Stage Left Theatre’s Jeff nominated production of Insurrection: Holding History. Bakari is currently an ensemble member with The Story Theatre. Television credits include Chicago PD and a recurring role on ShowTime’s The CHI. She graduated with a BFA in acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University and is currently represented by Stewart Talent. 

Jasmine Bracey (G.K. Marche) returns to Goodman Theatre where she previously appeared in A Christmas Carol. Chicago credits include Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Chicago Dramatists. Regionally, she has worked with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Alley Theatre, Guthrie Theater, Resident Ensemble Players and Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival. Bracey has toured with The Acting Company and appeared in several independent films and commercials.

Bernard Gilbert (Stokes) returns to Goodman Theatre where he previously appeared in Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3). Additional Chicago credits include Skeleton Crew (Northlight Theatre), Our Lady of 121st Street (Eclipse Theatre Company), Man in the Ring (Court Theatre) and a tour of Letters Home (Griffin Theatre). Regional credits include Two Trains Running at the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company in Vermont, and productions of The Royale at City Theatre Company in Pittsburgh and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Television credits include Chicago P.D. Gilbert received his MFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University and Morehouse College.

Maya Vinice Prentiss (Riley) Chicago credits include productions with Goodman Theatre, Definition Theatre Company, Pegasus Theatre Chicago and Teatro Vista. She is a recent MFA acting graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and holds a BA in drama from Spelman College. Prentiss is originally from Richmond, Virginia.

Keith Randolph Smith (Griffin) returns to Goodman Theatre, where he was previously in The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove and Jitney. Broadway credits include Jitney, American Psycho, Fences, Come Back Little Sheba, King Hedley II, Salome and Piano Lesson. Recent Off-Broadway credits include The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d, Paradise Blue, First Breeze of Summer and Tamburlane the Great. Regional credits include the Alliance Theatre in The C.A. Lyons Project by Tsehaye Geralyn Hebert, The Old Globe, City Theatre and Seattle Repertory Theatre, among others. Smith is a company member of Quick Silver Theater Company and The Actors Center. He is also the recipient of acting fellowships from TCG/Fox Foundation and the Lunt-Fontanne Foundation; and a graduate of the conservatory of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

AMERICA’S “BEST REGIONAL THEATRE” (Time magazine), Goodman Theatre is a premier not-for-profit organization distinguished by the excellence and scope of its artistic programming and civic engagement. Led by Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer, the theater’s artistic priorities include new play development (more than 150 world or American premieres), large scale musical theater works and reimagined classics (celebrated revivals include Falls’ productions of Death of a Salesman and The Iceman Cometh). Goodman Theatre artists and productions have earned two Pulitzer Prizes, 22 Tony Awards, over 160 Jeff Awards and many more accolades. In addition, the Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle;” and its annual holiday tradition A Christmas Carol, which marks its 41st production this season, has created a new generation of theatergoers. The Goodman also frequently serves as a production partner with local off-Loop theaters and national and international companies by providing financial support or physical space for a variety of artistic endeavors.

Committed to three core values of Quality, Diversity and Community, the Goodman proactively makes inclusion the fabric of the institution and develops education and community engagement programs that support arts as education. This practice uses the process of artistic creation to inspire and empower youth, lifelong learners and audiences to find and/or enhance their voices, stories and abilities. The Goodman’s Alice Rapoport Center for Education and Engagement is the home of such programming, most offered free of charge, and has vastly expanded the theater’s ability to touch the lives of Chicagoland citizens (with 85% of youth participants coming from underserved communities) since its 2016 opening.

Goodman Theatre was founded by William O. Goodman and his family in honor of their son Kenneth, an important figure in Chicago’s cultural renaissance in the early 1900s. The Goodman family’s legacy lives on through the continued work and dedication of Kenneth’s family, including Albert Ivar Goodman, who with his late mother, Edith-Marie Appleton, contributed the necessary funds for the creation of the new Goodman center in 2000.

Today, Goodman Theatre leadership also includes the distinguished members of the Artistic Collective: Brian Dennehy, Rebecca Gilman, Henry Godinez, Dael Orlandersmith, Steve Scott, Chuck Smith, Regina Taylor, Henry Wishcamper and Mary Zimmerman. David W. Fox, Jr. is Chair of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees, Denise Stefan Ginascol is Women’s Board President and Megan McCarthy Hayes is President of the Scenemakers Board for young professionals.

World Collide As Legendary Comedy Empire The Second City Partners With Star Wars Celebration Chicago in 2019

Save the Dates:

The Second City Appearing at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago
April 11-15, 2019 at McCormick Place

Legendary comedy empire The Second City will bring its world-famous brand of entertainment to thousands of fans at Star Wars Celebration Chicago in 2019. What’s more, The Second City will also be hosting Star Wars-themed performances at their iconic theater in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, which can be easily reached by public transportation or speeder-sharing services.

Alumni of The Second City include some of the world’s foremost comedy superstars, including Dan Aykroyd, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Keegan-Michael Key, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Joan Rivers, Martin Short, and many more (not to mention many of the current and past cast members of Saturday Night Live).

Star Wars Celebration Chicago, the ultimate Star Wars fan festival, is slated as a 5-day show taking place April 11-15, 2019 at McCormick Place. Celebration is the place for Star Wars fans to gather with their global community, make memories with friends old and new, and revel in the past, present and future of the greatest galactic saga ever told. Spend a weekend immersed in a Star Wars experience featuring cast and crew appearances, Star Wars cosplay at its finest, exclusive merchandise, live entertainment, screenings, behind-the-scenes panels, select exhibits, and never-before-seen glimpses into the future of Star Wars!

Please visit for more exciting details about The Second City’s featured content at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

OPENING: The Second City’s 107th Mainstage Revue

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
The Second City’s 107th Mainstage Revue

Under the direction of ten-time resident stage director and Jeff Award winner Matt Hovde and with returning music direction by Vinnie Pillarella, The Second City’s 107th Mainstage Revue will feature current Mainstage ensemble members Ryan Asher, Tyler Davis, Jeffrey Murdoch, and Nate Varrone, who will be joined by Gaslight District cast member Emily Fightmaster and She the People cast member Kimberly Michelle Vaughn. The stage manager is Craig Taylor. 

The Second City’s 107th Mainstage Revue plays Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 11pm, and Sundays at 7pm in the Mainstage Theater, located at 1616 N. Wells Street, Chicago. Tickets start at $31 and are available at the Second City Box Office (230 W. North Ave, First Floor, Piper's Alley), by phone at 312-337-3992, or online at

About the Artists
RYAN ASHER (Ensemble) is from Charlottesville VA, and received her BFA in theater performance at Virginia Commonwealth University. Ryan is currently an ensemble member in The Second City’s 106th Mainstage revue, Dream Freaks Fall from Space, and was a member of The Second City Touring Company. She also appeared last summer in The Second City’s Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She also performs with improv groups around Chicago, including Trigger Happy and SHEBEAST.

TYLER DAVIS (Ensemble) is a Columbus, Ohio, native and a current an ensemble member in The Second City’s 106th Mainstage revue, Dream Freaks Fall from Space. He has performed with The Second City Touring Company, as well as in The Second City’s Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand at the Kennedy Center. He also performs with improv groups around Chicago, including Devil’s Daughter and Trigger Happy.

EMILY FIGHTMASTER (Ensemble) is from Cincinnati, Ohio, and a current ensemble member in The Second City e.t.c.’s 42nd revue, Gaslight District. She graduated from DePaul University with a Women and Gender Studies degree and has traveled coast to coast with The Second City Touring Company. Emily is a proud alum of Boom Chicago, the Amsterdam-based comedy theatre and is a member of Baby Wine at The Annoyance.

MATT HOVDE (Director) is a Second City Conservatory Program grad and began teaching at The Second City Training Center in 2003. Matt has directed several resident stage revues for the Mainstage and e.t.c. stages, including A Red Line Runs Through It, Let Them Eat Chaos, Sky’s The Limit (Weather Permitting), Studs Terkel’s Not Working, America: All Better! and Between Barack and a Hard Place. Additional directing credits include Twist Your Dickens, The Second City & Slate’s Unelectable You, Second City’s Game Night, and productions for The Second City in Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Baltimore, Vienna, Brussels, and on the high seas. He studied TV, Film, and Theater at TCU.

JEFFREY MURDOCH (Ensemble) was born and raised in the Metro Detroit area and attended the University of Michigan. In addition to performing in Dream Freaks Fall from Space, Jeff has performed with The Second City Touring Company and at the Upstairs Gallery, iO, and The Annoyance.

VINNIE PILLARELLA (Musical Direction, Original Music, Sound Design) is a Chicago native and has been the musical force behind The Second City’s 105th and 106th Mainstage revues. A veteran of The Second City Touring Company, Vinnie has also created music in theaters around the city, including The Annoyance, iO, Public House, and Silk Road Rising.

CRAIG TAYLOR (Stage Manager) has stage managed for The Second City for nearly 40 years and has been asked to provide the impossible for numerous Second City directors.

NATE VARRONE (Ensemble) is from Columbus, Ohio, and attended The Ohio State University.  Currently an ensemble member in The Second City’s 106th Mainstage revue, Dream Freaks Fall from Space, Nate has also performed with The Second City Touring Company, at iO, with Crab Atlanta, and is a cast member of Holy F*** Comedy Hour at The Annoyance.

KIMBERLY MICHELLE VAUGHN (Ensemble) graduated from Columbia College of Chicago with her BA in Theatre. A recent alum of The Second City Touring Company, she recently opened She the People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It For Themselves, Second City’s first all-female created and performed show. 

About The Second City
Since opening its doors 1959, The Second City has grown to become the world’s premier comedy club, theater and school of improvisation, entertaining 1 million theatergoers a year around the globe. Alumni of The Second City’s resident stages, touring companies, and theatrical divisions include some of the biggest names in entertainment, and in addition to the sold-out shows playing nightly on resident stages in Chicago and Toronto, the comedy empire has staged productions with a wide range of illustrious creative partners and theatre companies, including the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Goodman Theatre, Center Theater Group Los Angeles, Portland Center Stage, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, La Jolla Playhouse, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, and even the Chicago Bulls. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018



Framing Hanley have released their second single from their upcoming album Sumner Roots that is due out early 2019.   The song can be streamed or downloaded at all digital outlets HERE.

Kenneth Nixon on "Baggage Claim"  'I’ve never been a fan of talking about the meaning behind a song to the songwriter, because it’s a songwriter’s goal usually to write a song that someone can relate to themselves.  It’s funny, though, because when people hear this song, they’ll likely have a much different takeaway than what this song means to us.  This song was written about the stranglehold that music, and moreover, the music industry had on us 4 years ago when we first considered walking away.  Just the feeling of wanting to change one’s identity, everything about oneself, to have a fresh start.  Yet every time we tried to distance ourselves from music, it was right there; threatening to pull us back under.'

The first song "Puzzle Pieces" was released this summer and has already surpassed 2 million streams.

The band had released three albums prior to breaking up in 2015.   The Moment (2007), A Promise To Burn (2010) and The Sum Of Who We Are (2014) have sold over 200,000 albums, 1.5 million downloads and their music has been streamed over 150 million times on Pandora and Spotify alone.   Their official music videos have surpassed over 35 million plays.   Radio hits included Hear Me Now, Lollipop, You Stupid Girl, Collide and Criminal.

Details for Sumner Roots pre-order bundles will be available soon with the announcement of album artwork and tracklisting.

About Framing Hanley
Framing Hanley is an American rock band formed in Nashville, TN in 2005.   They released their first studio album in 2007.   After 10 years the band called it a day playing their final show on August 1st, 2015.  The band during their time together released three albums and toured the world.   In 2017, Kenneth Nixon and Ryan Belcher got the itch and decided to form a new group in 2017 however after putting some demos together it was time to reform Framing Hanley.   Kenneth Nixon stated "For the last few years there was a part of me that I was running away from.  When FH ended, I was vocal that 'rock n roll broke my heart.'  But as the songwriting process started, I realized that I was just being a bitch and rock n roll was a huge part of my life.   Writing together with Ryan again, our sound came back and I knew we had to let fans of FH hear what we had been supressing."    Rejoining Nixon and Belcher is bassist, Jonathan Stoye (who joined the band in 2013 replacing Luke McDuffee).   Rounding out the band is Nic Brooks on guitar and Shad Teems on drums and piano.

About Thermal Entertainment
Founded in 2011 with the mission to introduce the World to the Best Talent In the Music Business.   Thermal are a Indie Record Label, Artist Management and Promotion company.  They take on artists that they believe in.   The bands current roster includes Bobaflex, Brandon Gibbs, Broken Testimony, Far From Gone, Framing Hanley, Jacob Cade, Rick Monroe, Shallow Side, Silvertung and Soulicit.

Monday, December 3, 2018

5 December Productions For The Naughty and Nice

Floral Shakespearian, Queer Cheer, Stripping Steelworkers, a Classic Carol Crooner, and Family Betrayals of Biblical Proportions

Chicago's theatre scene is ramping up for the holidays in a big way. Whether you're jazzed for the season and ready to embrace everything holly jolly, or you're looking for an escape from deck the halls hell, here are two Christmas themed shows and three that aren't. Perfect for clutter busting gift ideas, or a great distraction for entertaining visiting family and friends, there's a little something for everyone on this list. 

Pride Films and Plays
The Broadway, Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway
December 14, 2018 – January 6, 2019

Book and Lyrics by Bryan Renaud and Emily Schmidt
Directed by Michael D. Graham

We caught this irreverent gem last year. It's sweet, funny and LGBTQ positive. Read our review HERE. 

For its fourth annual Chicago production, Chicago drag queen sensation Dixie Lynn Cartwright again takes the lead of this cheeky musical twist on the modern holiday fave about "embracing your inner elf." After Santa Claus retires, his wicked son begins a not-so-jolly reign as the new head of Christmas. The North Pole begins to crumble under his tyrannical rule, and Barney the Elf is forced to leave his home. Soon he embarks on a fabulous journey of self-discovery (or is it elf-discovery?) that lands him in one of Chicago's hottest drag bars. But can he truly leave Christmas behind for a new life in the big city? BARNEY THE ELF brings choreographed musical numbers galore and plenty of queer holiday cheer to the Pride Arts Center for the first time, in a new staging by Michael D. Graham.

Dixie Lynn Cartwright (center) as Zooey. Photo by Carin Silkaitis. 

Michael Ingersoll’s Artists Lounge Live
Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire
Tuesday, December 18, 3:00pm and 7:30pm.

If Christmas Carols are your jam, or you're looking for something to appeal to the parents or more traditional family and friends on your gift list, check out Evan Tyrone Martin singing Nat King Cole favorites for 2 shows, one night only.

Chicago musical theatre sensation Evan Tyrone Martin (JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, SIDE SHOW, OKLAHOMA!) warmly resonates the velvety vocal style of musical legend Nat King Cole. Chicago Tribune calls the Award-nominated Martin “Destined for Stardom: One of the Hot New Faces of Chicago Theatre,” Chicago Sun-Times raves, "Evan Tyrone Martin is a golden-voiced actor of sweetness and grace,” and BCR News praises, "Martin's vocal ease would have done Nat King Cole proud." Martin intimately relates Cole’s personal journey, while presenting a festive cocktail of hit including “L-O-V-E,” “Mona Lisa,” “The Christmas Song,” and “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.”

CITADEL THEATRE, 300 S. Waukegan Road, Lake Forest
Through Sunday, December 23, 2018

This is a great bet for the keeping Christ in Christmas crew. In a season full of over tellings of Jesus' birth stories, Citadel's taking the way back machine to the good book, with plenty of song and dance moves to keep things interesting. 

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book and Lyrics by Tim Rice
Directed by Robert D. Estrin
Ryan Brewster, Musical Director
Jake Ganzer, Choreographer

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s family musical about the trials and triumphs of Joseph, Israel’s favorite son! One of the most enduring shows of all time, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT is a reimagining of the Biblical story of Joseph, his father Jacob, eleven brothers and the coat of many colors.

Pictured above: Jacob Barton is fitted for his "Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." 

at Lincoln Park Conservatory, 2391 N. Stockton Drive
Through Sunday, December 16

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Ian Damont Martin
Original Music by Elizabeth Rentfro and Alex Mauney

If all this early winter darkness and cold has you S.A.D. then this is the perfect remedy. Midsommer Flight’s show is IN the Lincoln Park Conservatory where there's plenty of light, green space, extra oxygen and Shakespearian theatre too. It's an excellent way to battle the seasonal blues. And if the holidays have your wallet a bit thin, the “pay-what-you-can” price point leaves no excuse. Big fun with or without funds!

One of the hottest tickets of past holiday seasons - Midsommer Flight’s “pay-what-you-can” production of TWELFTH NIGHT, performed in the beautiful Show House Room of the Lincoln Park Conservatory - will return for its fourth year on November 29, 2018. Shakespeare’s delightful comedy of mistaken identity and gender switching has a strictly limited seating among the lush flowers of the Show House Room. The production is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “Night Out in the Parks” initiative that provides world-class performances in Chicago's neighborhood parks throughout the year.
Pictured above: Amanda Forman (left) and Tarina Bradshaw.(right) Photo by Zack Whittington. 

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, 721 Howard St., Evanston
December 7, 2018 – January 27, 2019

Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek, Book by Terrence McNally, based on the motion picture released by Fox Searchlight Pictures and written by Simon Beaufoy, produced by Uberto Pasolini and directed by Peter Cattaneo
Directed by Fred Anzevino
Music Directed by Jeremy Ramey
Choreography by Sawyer Smith

THE FULL MONTY is more "birthday suit" than santa suit, and sounds like a fun escape from too much saccharine sweet holiday drivelTHE FULL MONTY will be Theo Ubique's first production in their new home at 721 Howard St. in Evanston.

Based on the cult hit film of the same name, THE FULL MONTY follows a group of unemployed steelworkers from Buffalo who while spying on their wives at a "Girls' Night Out," see how much their wives enjoy watching male strippers. Jealous, out of work and feeling emasculated, the men come up with a bold and unclothed way to make some quick cash. In preparing, they find themselves extremely exposed; not merely physically but emotionally. As they conquer their fears, self-consciousness and prejudices, the men come to discover that they're stronger as a group, and the strength that they find in each other gives them the individual courage to "let it go."

Sunday, December 2, 2018

OPENING: World Premiere of La Ruta to Feature Featuring All-Female Latinx Cast December 13, 2018 - January 27, 2019

Chi, IL Live Shows on our radar
World Premiere
La Ruta
Written by Isaac Gomez
Directed by ensemble member Sandra Marquez

Featuring an all-female cast of some of the most dynamic Latinx actors in Chicago!

December 13, 2018 - January 27, 2019
RUNNING TIME: 1 hour and 40 minutes (no intermission)

I'll be out for the press opening Dec 21st, so check back soon for my full review. 

Cast includes: Ensemble member Karen Rodriguez (Ivonne) with Charin Alvarez (Marisela); Cher Alvarez (Brenda); Laura Crotte (Desamaya); Sandra Delgado (Yoli); Mari Marroquin (Zaide); and Alice da Cunha and Isabella Gerasole (Women of Juarez).


To the U.S.-owned factories in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, La Ruta is just a bus. But to the women who live, work and often disappear along the route, it's so much more than that. Inspired by real testimonies, and using live music to evoke factory work and protest marches, La Ruta is a visceral unearthing of secrets buried in the desert and a celebration of the Mexican women who stand resiliently in the wake of loss.

Isaac Gomez is an award-winning Chicago-based playwright, originally from El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. An important work from a powerful young voice, we are proud to feature the world premiere of Isaac Gomez’s La Ruta with Sandra Marquez in her Steppenwolf directing debut and an all-female cast of Chicago’s most dynamic Latinx artists.

“Every single woman in this play is based on a real person. And although some names have been changed for their protection, the violence they face and their resilience have not. I made a promise to these women that their stories would be heard by as many people as humanly possible, and through this world premiere at Steppenwolf, we are one step closer to keeping that promise -- to bear witness and carry their stories forward. As a queer Mexicano from the border, I owe my entire existence to Mexican women. This play is for them. Para todas. Para siempre.”

Steppenwolf does not offer advisories about subject matter, as sensitivities vary from person to person.If you have any questions about content, age-appropriateness or stage effects (such as strobe lights or theatrical fog) that might have a bearing on patron comfort, please contact the box office at 312-335-1650.

Wednesdays – $25 Cultural Industry days (matinees and evening shows, use code CULTURAL)
Thursdays – pay your age and 2-for-1 credit nights for RED Card members
Fridays – pre-show live DJ at Front Bar Dec 21, 28, Jan 4, 11, 18, 25
Saturdays – 2-for-1 credit matinees for Black Card members
Sundays – post-show events following matinees in January

Memberships–More flexibility + perks

Get a group together and save.

For a limited time, groups of 6+ can get a discount on tickets to Familiar and LaRuta. Enter code 44393, get $10 off each ticket—the more the merrier.

Preview performances:
December 13 - December 19

ASL interpretation:
Sunday, January 6 at 7:30pm

Thursday, January 10 at 7:30 and Saturday, January 26 at 3pm

Audio-described and touch tour:
Sunday, January 13 touch tour at 1:30, performance at 3pm

This December, Steppenwolf Theatre Company is proud to present the world premiere production of La Ruta by acclaimed Chicago playwright Isaac Gomez, directed by ensemble member Sandra Marquez. Featuring ensemble member Karen Rodriguez along with an eight-member all female Latinx cast, La Ruta is inspired by the lives of Mexican women who live, work—and disappear—along a Ciudad Juárez bus route. La Ruta weaves live music through a story of resilience in the wake of loss.

La Ruta begins previews December 13, 2018 and the production runs through January 27, 2019 in the Upstairs Theatre (1650 N Halsted St). Press performances are Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 7pm and Friday, December 21 at 7:30pm; opening night is Thursday, December 20. Single tickets ($20-$89) go on sale this Friday, October 19 at 11am through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or

Playwright Isaac Gomez shares, “Every single woman in this play is based on a real person. And although some names have been changed for their protection, the violence they face and their resilience have not. I made a promise to these women that their stories would be heard by as many people as humanly possible, and through this world premiere at Steppenwolf, we are one step closer to keeping that promise -- to bear witness and carry their stories forward. As a queer Mexicano from the border, I owe my entire existence to Mexican women. This play is for them. Para todas. Para siempre.”

For tickets or more information, contact Audience Services (1650 N Halsted St) at 312-335-1650 or
Visitor Information
Steppenwolf is located at 1650 N Halsted St near all forms of public transportation, bike racks and Divvy bike stands. The parking facility ($12 or $14, cash or card) is located just south of our theater at 1624 N Halsted. Valet parking service ($14 cash) is available directly in front of the main entrance starting at 5pm on weeknights, 1pm on weekends and at 12noon before Wednesday matinees. Limited street and lot parking are also available. For last minute questions and concerns, patrons can call the Steppenwolf Parking Hotline at 312.335.1774.

Committed to making the Steppenwolf experience accessible to everyone, performances featuring American Sign Language Interpretation, Open Captioning and Audio Description are offered during the run of each play. Assistive listening devices and large-print programs are available for every performance and the Downstairs and 1700 Theatres are each equipped with an induction hearing loop. All theaters feature wheelchair accessible seating and restrooms, and Front Bar features a push-button entrance, all-gender restrooms and accessible counter and table spaces.

Sponsor Information
United Airlines is the Official and Exclusive Airline of Steppenwolf.

Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks
Connected to the main lobby is Steppenwolf’s own Front Bar: Coffee and Drinks, offering a warm, creative space to grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. Open Tuesdays – Sundays from 8am to midnight, Front Bar serves artisanal coffee and espresso is provided by La Colombe and food prepared by Goddess and Grocer. The menu focuses on fresh, accessible fare, featuring grab-and-go salads and sandwiches for lunch and adding shareable small plates and desserts for evening and post show service.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble represents a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead to August: Osage County and Pass Over—and accolades that include the National Medal of Arts and 12 Tony Awards—have made the theater legendary. Steppenwolf produces hundreds of performances and events annually in its three spaces: the 515-seat Downstairs Theatre, the 299-seat Upstairs Theatre and the 80-seat 1700 Theatre. 

Artistic programing includes a seven- play season; a two-play Steppenwolf for Young Adults season; Visiting Company engagements; and LookOut, a multi-genre performances series. Education initiatives include the nationally recognized work of Steppenwolf for Young Adults, which engages 15,000 participants annually from Chicago’s diverse communities; the esteemed School at Steppenwolf; and Professional Leadership Programs for arts administration training. 

While firmly grounded in the Chicago community, nearly 40 original Steppenwolf productions have enjoyed success both nationally and internationally, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, London, Sydney, Galway and Dublin. Anna D. Shapiro is the Artistic Director and David Schmitz is the Executive Director. Eric Lefkofsky is Chair of Steppenwolf’s Board of Trustees. 

Ticket and Production Info
Dates: December 13, 2018 – January 27, 2019

Previews: December 13 – 19, 2018
Opening: Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 7pm
Regular Run: December 21, 2018 – January 27, 2019

Accessible Performances:
American Sign Language Interpretation: Sunday, Open Captioning: Thursday, January 10 at 7:30pm and Audio Description and Touch Tour:
Curtain Times: Tuesday – Friday at 7:30pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm and 7:30pm

Ticket prices:
Previews: $20 – $76, Regular Run: $20 – $89. Prices subject to change
20 for $20: Twenty $20 tickets are available for subscription shows on the day of the performance at 11am (Mon – Sat) and 1pm (Sun), by phone only at 312-335-1650. Limit 2 per person.
Rush Tickets: Half-price rush tickets are available one hour before each show.
Student Discounts: Limited $15 student tickets are available online. (Limit 2 tickets. Must present a valid student ID for each ticket).

Group Tickets: All groups of 10 or more receive a discounted rate for any performance. Black Card Memberships are for audiences interested in extreme flexibility. Cards include six tickets for use any time, for any production including the LookOut Series. The tickets are valid for one year with the option to add additional tickets as needed. Perks include easy and free exchanges, access to seats before the general public, savings on single ticket prices and bar and restaurant discounts for pre- and post-show socializing. Red Card Memberships are available for theatergoers under 30.
More info at

For additional information, visit,, and

REVIEW: THE BOOK OF MERMAN Via Flying Elephant Productions at Stage 773 Through January 6, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar 

Flying Elephant Productions 
Presents the Return of the Hit Musical
Book by Leo Schwartz and DC Cathro
Music & Lyrics by Leo Schwartz
Directed by DC Cathro
Music Direction by Tyler Miles
Choreography by Jenna Schoppe

(left to right) Michael IdalskiNicole Frydman and Sam Massey in Flying Elephant Productions’ revival of THE BOOK OF MERMAN. All Production Photos by Evan Hanover.

November 24, 2018 – January 6, 2019 at Stage 773

by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Flying Elephant Productions has done it again, launching a creative, high energy new musical that's now playing an open-ended off-Broadway run. Happily, they've not forgotten their roots, and Chicago gets treated to a playful remount at Stage 773 as well! 

This cleverly written tribute to Ethel Merman includes a fun stand off ala Annie Get Your Gun, reworded nods to Gypsy, and an overarching narrative that has two door to door Mormon missionaries bumbling through their sexual crushes, secret creative endeavors, and life choices. 

Nicole Frydman (Ethel Merman) is a dynamic dame with powerhouse vocals, and a joy to see in action. Michael Idalski and Sam Massey are the perfect combination of enthusiasm and wide eyed naivete.

More of the songs are solidly based on Merman musicals and have less to do with The Book of Mormon. I was hoping for a bit more camp and humor like Spamilton, which lampooned not only Hamilton but a bevy of Broadway hits, and was laugh out loud funny throughout. Still, THE BOOK OF MERMAN has a sweet, uplifting message and hilarity ensues when things take a turn for the modern, with a hip-hop rendition of Pirates of Penzance ala Merman. 

THE BOOK OF MERMAN has a chance encounter changing everyone involved for the better, right down to the last plot twist. Ultimately this production is a fun night out for musical theatre lovers that's likely to bring on the jazz hands and bring out the diva and the thespian in all of us. Recommended.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Flying Elephant Productions is pleased to present the return of the hit musical comedy THE BOOK OF MERMAN, featuring a book by Leo Schwartz and DC Cathro, music and lyrics by Leo Schwartz, direction by DC Cathro, music direction by Tyler Miles and choreography by Jenna Schoppe. THE BOOK OF MERMAN will play November 24, 2018 – January 6, 2019 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at, by calling (773) 327-5252 or in person at the Stage 773 Box Office. The press opening is Saturday, December 1 at 8 pm.

The new Chicago production will feature Nicole Frydman, Michael Idalski and Sam Massey.

Two Mormon missionaries ring Ethel Merman’s doorbell and hilarity ensues. It’s a diva driven journey of self-discovery with an original score of comedy songs, power ballads and mash-up standards. 

THE BOOK OF MERMAN is also enjoying its off-Broadway debut this fall. The production opened on October 5, 2018 for an open-ended run at St. Luke’s Theatre (308 West 46th St.). For additional information on the New York run, visit THE BOOK OF MERMAN has also played in Portland, OR, Columbus, OH, Indianapolis, IN and Washington, D.C., and Birmingham, AL.

THE BOOK OF MERMAN debuted with Pride Films and Plays in January 2015. Following a successful run at Mary’s Attic, the production transferred to Chicago’s Apollo Theater for an additional three months.

The production team for THE BOOK OF MERMAN includes: Nicholas Schwartz (scenic design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), Jaysen Kralovetz (props design) and Jack Rhea (stage manager).

Location: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Saturday, November 24 at 7:30 pm, Sunday, November 25 at 7:30 pm, Monday, November 26 at 7:30 pm (Industry Night), Thursday, November 29 at 7:30 pm and Friday, November 30 at 7:30 pm.
Press performance: Saturday, December 1 at 8 pm
Regular run: Sunday, December 2, 2018 – Sunday, January 6, 2019
Curtain Times: Wednesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3:30 pm. 

Tickets: Preview $30. Regular run $40. 
Industry Night: Monday, November 26 at 7:30 pm. Tickets $10.
Tickets are currently available at, by calling (773) 327-5252 or in person at the Stage 773 box office.

About The Creative Team

Leo Schwartz (Book, Music, Lyrics) is a multi-disciplined and award-winning composer of stage and screen. He is the producer and writer of the Off-Broadway musical The Book of Merman. His musical Till, about Emmett and Mamie Till, won the Mainstreet Musical Theatre Festival in 2016. His musical Under A Rainbow Flag, won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work in 2013. His musical song cycle, We The People: Songs of the Resistance was premiered by Flying Elephant Productions in January of 2018 in Chicago. His works have been performed in Europe, the New York Musical Theatre Festival, at the York Theatre and across the United States. He is Executive Director of Flying Elephant Productions and his work can be heard and seen at 

DC Cathro (Book, Director) is a playwright, actor and director from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. His musical Till, written with award-winning composer Leo Schwartz, is one of three winners in the 2016 Main Street Musicals Festival, selected by Gregory Mosher. In 2014, he became the only playwright to have two shows in the Pride Films and Plays Festival in Chicago: Pen, A Musical (also written with Schwartz) and Family Holiday. DC's works have been performed and read at theatres and festivals across the U.S., including The William Inge Festival in Independence, Kansas, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and Greenhouse Ensemble Theatre in New York City.

Tyler Miles (Music Director) is a Chicago composer, teacher, music director and performer. He has written songs and incidental music for over a dozen film and theatre pieces. Currently, in addition to teaching over two dozen students, both young and adult, Tyler is working as a music director in the Chicago theatre scene where he is also in the process of developing an original musical with and about the successful cabaret singer Honey West. Tyler holds a bachelor’s degree in Music from Northeastern Illinois University.

Jenna Schoppe (Choreographer) is proud to help Flying Elephant Productions bring The Book of Merman back to the stage. Her previous choreographic endeavors include Yank: A World War II Love Story (PFP – Jeff Award-Best Choreography), Shrek (Windy City Performs), Oliver (Windy City Performs), The Producers (NightBlue Performing Arts), Now. Here. This. (Brown Paper Box Co.) and Bobbie Clearly (Steep Theatre). You can catch her dancing most weekends at The Kiss Kiss Cabaret at Uptown Underground.

About Flying Elephant Productions
Nothing is more challenging than getting a creative career off the ground. In many ways, it would be easier to get an elephant to fly. Flying Elephant Productions is dedicated to presenting new works, musicals and plays, that are dynamic, impassioned, and, in our belief, prone to fly. We not only give them first voice, but will also work with the creators to market and promote their work further. Our success at production and our entrepreneurial experience make us a uniquely qualified voice in theatre. For additional information, visit

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