Friday, January 31, 2020

New production of 42nd Street Makes Its Chicago Premiere at Lyric Opera House May 29 - June 21, 2020

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
Broadway stars Norm Lewis and Faith Prince to lead Lyric Opera of Chicago's 42nd Street

Broadway stars Norm Lewis and Faith Prince will headline Lyric Opera of Chicago’s premiere of Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s song-and-dance spectacular 42nd Street, presented from May 29 – June 21, 2020 at Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago (press opening May 30, 2020).

Norm Lewis and Faith Prince take on the roles of famed Broadway director Julian Marsh and Dorothy Brock, the seasoned diva who sees her star status eclipsed by a rising newcomer. Lewis recently appeared in the NBC television special Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert! alongside John Legend and Sara Bareilles. He received Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle award nominations as Porgy in The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess. In 2014, Lewis made history as the first African American to play the title role in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. Other recent credits include the Broadway revival ofOnce on This Island and the title role in Sweeney Todd Off-Broadway, for which he received an AUDELCO Award. He is starring in Spike Lee’s upcoming Netflix film Da 5 Bloods.

Prince is a Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award winner for her performance as Miss Adelaide in the 1992 Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls. She most recently starred on Broadway in Disaster! the musical and as Miss Hannigan in the Broadway revival of Annie. She was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for both A Catered Affair and Bells Are Ringing, and was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. Prince recurs on ABC’s Modern Family, and previously reurred on ABC’s Melissa & Joey and Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva. Prince appeared in Chicago in the new musical version of the hit movie First Wives Club in 2015. 

Single tickets for 42nd Street start at $37 and are on sale now at, in person at the Lyric Opera House box office, or by calling 312-827-5600.

Stephen Mear directs and choreographs this high-energy production featuring members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Gareth Valentine. Set and costume designs are by Peter McKintosh, with lighting designed by Chris Davey and sound designed by Mark Grey.

Tony Award-winning song-and-dance spectacular 42nd Street centers on a starry-eyed young dancer named Peggy Sawyer who leaves her home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to audition for the new Broadway show Pretty Lady, staged by notorious director Julian Marsh. When leading lady Dorothy Brock breaks her ankle, Peggy takes over and rises from chorus girl to star status overnight. 42nd Street is filled with sensational tap numbers and memorable melodies like “Lullaby of Broadway,” “We’re in the Money,” “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “Sunny Side to Every Situation,” “Young and Healthy,” and the famed title song. With music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin and Johnny Mercer, and a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, the stage musical is based on the novel by Bradford Ropes and Busby Berkeley’s 1933 movie.


Norm Lewis has received Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, and Outer Critics Circle award nominations as Porgy in The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess. He recently appeared in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert! and in the Broadway revival of Once on This Island. In 2014, Lewis was the first African American to play the title role in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. His nine other Broadway shows range from Les Misérables and Chicago to Miss Saigon and The Who’s Tommy. He has appeared extensively off-Broadway and in many major regional theaters nationwide, including in the title role in Sweeney Todd (AUDELCO Award). On PBS he has been seen in Norm Lewis: Who Am I?, New Year’s Eve: A Gershwin Celebration, Les Misérables: The 25th Anniversary Concert (as Javert, a role he also played in London’s West End), Show Boat, American Voices with Renée Fleming, and First You Dream – The Music of Kander & Ebb. Lewis has a recurring role in the VH1 series Daytime Divas and has previously been featured in television’s Scandal, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Bull, Chicago Med, Gotham, The Blacklist, and Blue Bloods. Lewis stars in Spike Lee’s upcoming Netflix film Da 5 Bloods.

Faith Prince has been dazzling Broadway since winning the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards as Miss Adelaide/Guys and Dolls. She most recently starred on Broadway in Disaster! and as Miss Hannigan in the revival of Annie. She was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for both A Catered Affair and Bells Are Ringing, and was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. Other important credits include The Little Mermaid, Nick & Nora, Little Me, The Dead, and Noises Off (Broadway); Billy Elliott (national tour); Terrence McNally’s Unusual Acts of Devotion (world premiere, Philadelphia Theatre Company); and First Wives Club(Chicago’s Oriental Theatre). Prince currently has a recurring role on ABC’s Modern Family. Among her other extensive television credits are Spin City, Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, Faith, House, Monk, and Law and Order. Film appearances include Our Very Own, Picture Perfect, Dave, and My Father the Hero. Prince, who has toured Australia in her original show Moving On and in concert with her Annie co-star Anthony Warlow, works frequently with the Boston Pops, Utah Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, and Philly Pops. Her new album, Total Faith, was recently released by Broadway Records.

About Lyric
Lyric Opera of Chicago is committed to redefining what it means to experience great opera.  The company is driven to deliver consistently excellent artistry through innovative, relevant, celebratory programming that engages and energizes new and traditional audiences.  

Under the leadership of general director, president & CEO Anthony Freud, music director Sir Andrew Davis, music director designate Enrique Mazzola, and creative consultant Renée Fleming, Lyric is dedicated to reflecting, and drawing strength from the diversity of Chicago. Lyric offers, through innovation, collaboration and evolving learning opportunities, ever more exciting, accessible, and thought-provoking audience and community experiences.  We also stand committed to training the artists of the future, through The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center and to becoming increasingly diverse across our audiences, staff, programming and artists - magnifying the welcoming pull of our art form, our company, and our city.

Through the timeless power of voice, the splendor of a great orchestra and chorus, theater, dance, design, and truly magnificent stagecraft, Lyric is devoted to immersing audiences in worlds both familiar and unexpected, creating shared experiences that resonate long after the curtain comes down.

Join us @LyricOpera on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. #Lyric1920 #LongLivePassion.

42nd Street is a production created by the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris.

Lyric presentation of Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s 42nd Street generously made possible by Lead Sponsor The Negaunee Foundation, cosponsors The Davee Foundation and Donna Van Eekeren and Dale Connelly, and Lead Corporate Sponsor Invesco QQQ.

Major in-kind audio support provided by Shure Incorporated.

TICKETS ON SALE AND CASTING ANNOUNCED: Steppenwolf's The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington and Catch as Catch Can

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of 
Miz Martha Washington
By James Ijames 
and Catch as Catch Can
By Mia Chung

Chicago Native and SNL Star Nora Dunn to make Steppenwolf Debut in …Miz Martha alongside Ensemble Member Celeste M. Cooper

Ensemble Member Gary Cole Returns to the Stage and Ensemble Member Amy Morton to Direct Catch As Catch Can

Steppenwolf Theatre Company announced complete casting for two productions today: The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington by James Ijames, directed by Whitney White (April 2 – May 17, 2020); and Catch as Catch Can by Mia Chung, which also announced ensemble member Amy Morton as director (June 4 – July 26, 2020). 

Single tickets ($35 - $93) to The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington go on sale this Friday, January 31 at 11am through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or Presale access is now available for Members. To learn more about Membership, call 312-335-1650 or visit

Chicago Premiere 
The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington
By James Ijames 
Directed by Whitney White 
Featuring ensemble member Celeste M. Cooper 
April 2 – May 17, 2020 
In the Downstairs Theatre

The cast features (pictured top row L to R) previously announced ensemble member Celeste M. Cooper (Doll) who will be joined by Nora Dunn (Martha Washington), (pictured bottom row L to R) Sydney Charles (Priscilla), Nikki Crawford (Ann Dandridge), Carl Clemons-Hopkins (Davy), Victor Musoni (William) and Travis Turner (Sucky Boy).

The recently widowed “Mother of America” lies helpless in her Mount Vernon bed, ravaged by illness and attended to by the very enslaved people who are free the moment she dies. The form-shifting fever dream that follows takes us deep into the ugly, uncomfortable and thorny ramifications of America’s original sin. Both fantastical and fraught with cruel reality, this Chicago premiere from a daring new voice pulls no punches as it puts our idols, and ourselves, on trial.

Playwright and Director Bios

James Ijames is a Philadelphia-based performer and playwright. Ijames’s plays have been produced by Flashpoint Theater Company, Orbiter 3, Theatre Horizon (Philadelphia, PA), The National Black Theatre (NYC) and Ally Theatre (Washington, D.C.), among others. He is the recipient of the 2011 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Artist and has won two Barrymore Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play and Outstanding Direction of a Play for The Brothers Size. Ijames is an 2011 Independence Foundation Fellow, a 2015 Pew Fellow for Playwriting, the 2015 winner of the Terrance McNally New Play Award for WHITE, the 2015 Kesselring Honorable Mention Prize winner for …Miz Martha, the 2018 Kesselring Prize Winner for Kill Move Paradise and a 2017 recipient of the Whiting Award. His play WHITE will be produced by Definition Theatre Company as part of Steppenwolf’s LookOut Series, April 17 – May 24, 2020 in the 1700 Theatre. More info here.

Whitney White is a director and musician originally from Chicago based in Brooklyn, New York. Recent work includes What to Send Up When It Goes Down (The Movement, NYT Critic’s Pick), Jump (Rolling NNPN, PlayMakers Rep), Canyon (IAMA Theatre), This Land Was Made (Vineyard Theatre Lab), Rita Tambien Rita (Julliard), Othello (Trinity Rep) and Br’er Cotton (Endstation). Her original piece Macbeth in Stride was part of the 2019 Under the Radar Festival at The Public, and her original concert-play Definition is currently in development with Ars Nova and the Bushwick Starr. Associate Directing credits include Marvin’s Room (Broadway), If I Forget (Roundabout) and Othello (NYTW). White is a recipient of the Susan Stroman Directing Award, an Associate Artist at The Roundabout Theatre and was recently a 2050 Fellow at the New York Theatre Workshop. She is currently in residency with the Drama League as part of their Next Wave Residency where she is developing an African American production of Anton Chekov’s Three Sisters set to original music, and Colt Coeur. MFA Acting: Brown University/Trinity Rep, BA: Northwestern University.

…Miz Martha creative team includes Clint Ramos (Scenic Design), Izumi Inaba (Costume Design), Amith Chandrashaker (Lighting Design), Justin Ellington (Sound Design), Patrick Zakem (Artistic Producer), Tom Pearl (Director of Production); JC Clementz, CSA (Casting Director), Laura D. Glenn (Production Stage Manager), Mary Hungerford (Assistant Stage Manager). For full cast and creative team bios visit .

Chicago Premiere 
Catch as Catch Can
By Mia Chung 
Directed by ensemble member Amy Morton 
Featuring ensemble members Gary Cole, Audrey Francis and Tim Hopper 
July 4 – July 26, 2020 
In the Downstairs Theatre

All Steppenwolf ensemble member cast features (L to R): Gary Cole, Audrey Francis and Tim Hopper.

Two blue collar New England families grapple with a spiraling crisis that threatens not just their relationships, but their very identities. Three actors take on the six roles, crossing both generation and gender, upending the kitchen sink drama in what will surely be a theatrical tour-de-force. A distinctive Chicago premiere by the gifted writer Mia Chung.

Playwright and Director Bios

Mia Chung’s Catch as Catch Can received its world premiere at Page 73 in New York in 2018. Chung’s You for Me for You premiered at The Royal Court (London), the National Theatre Company of Korea (Seoul) and Woolly Mammoth Theatre (DC); and is published by Bloomsbury Methuen. Her awards, commissions and residencies include Clubbed Thumb, EST/Sloan, Huntington Theatre, Ma-Yi Writers Lab NEA, NYTW, Playwrights' Center, Playwrights Realm, South Coast Rep, SPACE at Ryder Farm and New Dramatists. She received a 2019 Helen Merrill Playwriting Award.

Amy Morton has been a Steppenwolf ensemble member since 1997 and directed several Steppenwolf productions including Guards at the Taj (also at Atlantic Theater Company), Clybourne Park, American Buffalo, Dublin Carol and The Pillowman, among others. She has performed in more than 30 Steppenwolf productions, including the Taylor Mac's Hir, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (also on Broadway, Tony nomination) and August: Osage County (also at the National Theatre and Broadway, Tony nomination). Currently she stars as Trudy Platt in the NBC drama series Chicago P.D.

Catch As Catch Can creative team includes Andrew Boyce (Set Design), Jessica Pabst (Costume Design), Yuki Nakase (Lighting Design), Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen (Sound Design), Jonathan Berry (Artistic Producer), JC Clementz, CSA (Casting Director), Laura D. Glenn (Production Stage Manager) and Jaclynn Joslin (Assistant Stage Manager). 

Classic Memberships starting as low as $100 guarantee seats, offer early access to special events, invitations to behind-the-scenes events and special discounts at the theatre and in the neighborhood. Stay tuned for information about becoming a member to the 20/21 season; discounted packages for students and teachers and accessible packages are also offered.

Flexible Membership options include the Black Card, which starts as low as $180. With a Black Card, you receive six ticket credits to use whenever and however you want for an entire year. Use all six tickets before that year is up? Reload your card to keep those experiences coming.

Under 30? Join Steppenwolf RED Card for just $100 and enjoy the same six flexible tickets (that’s less than $17 a credit and almost 80% off single ticket prices). Black and RED cardholders receive exclusive discounts, special perks and insider access. For more information, visit

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.

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 ($15 or $17, cash or card) is located just south of our theater at 1624 N Halsted. Valet parking service ($15 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.

Sponsor information
The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington is sponsored by PwC. Catch as Catch Can is sponsored by Ameriprise Financial. 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 an inviting space to grab a drink, have a bite, or meet up with friends and collaborators, day or night. Open Tuesdays – Sundays, Front Bar serves locally roasted coffee and espresso by Passion House Coffee Roasters and features food by The 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
Steppenwolf Theatre Company is the nation’s premier ensemble theater. Formed by a collective of actors in 1976, the ensemble members represent a remarkable cross-section of actors, directors and playwrights. Thrilling and powerful productions from Balm in Gilead and August: Osage County to MS. BLAKK FOR PRESIDENT—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 programming 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.

Steppenwolf's mission
Steppenwolf strives to create thrilling, courageous and provocative art in a thoughtful and inclusive environment. We succeed when we disrupt your routine with experiences that spark curiosity, empathy and joy. We invite you to join our ensemble as we navigate, together, our complex world.

Thursday, January 30, 2020


This performance will also feature a post-show conversation with acclaimed photographer Tom Bianchi

Windy City Playhouse (3014 W. Irving Park Rd.) announce a special performance of their upcoming immersive production of Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking play “The Boys in the Band” to benefit Lambda Legal, a national organization dedicated to achieving and upholding the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those living with HIV. Directed by Playhouse Associate Artistic Director Carl Menninger, “The Boys in the Band” helped spark a revolution by putting gay men's lives onstage during the pre-Pride era. Fresh off its Tony Award-winning Broadway revival, this landmark play comes to Chicago for the first time in 20 years to celebrate the piece’s 50th anniversary.

In addition to the performance, theatregoers will enjoy a special post-show conversation with celebrated photographer and activist Tom Bianchi, who achieved widespread acclaim for his photographs, poems and essays focusing on the gay male experience.

Tickets for the performance are on sale now at

Preview performances for “The Boys in the Band” begin January 29, followed by opening night on February 6. Patrons who are unable to attend the benefit performance but want to contribute can enter the code “LAMBDA” at ticket checkout for other shows to receive $10 off each ticket purchase, with $10 donated directly to Lambda Legal.

“At Windy City Playhouse, we value equality, diversity and inclusion, and believe strongly in the work Lambda Legal does in Chicago and across the globe,” said artistic director Amy Rubenstein. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to support and partner with this organization to give back to these communities.”

The cast of “The Boys in the Band” includes Sam Bell Gurwitz as Harold, Christian Edwin Cook as Alan, Jordan Dell Harris as Donald, Jackson Evans as Michael, James Lee as Larry, Kyle Patrick as Cowboy, Ryan Reilly as Hank, Denzel Tsopnang as Bernard and William Marquez as Emory.

The creative team for the show includes William Boles (Scenic Designer), Uriel Gomez (Costume Designer), Erik Barry (Lighting Designer), Sarah Espinoza (Sound Designer), Mealah Heidenreich (Properties Designer & Set Dressing), Max Fabian (Violence & Intimacy Diretor), Jenniffer Thusing (Production Stage Manager), Spencer Fritz (Assistant Stage Manager), Jonah White (Master Electrician), Jonathan Schleyer (Technical Director) and Ellen White (Production Manager).

Set in 1968, the play takes place at the birthday party of Harold, who is turning 32. Luckily, friend-enemy Michael is there with six mutual friends to help him ease into the big three-two. The party is all jokes and quips until the host proposes a harmless game of truth or dare. Suddenly, each must reckon with his sexual identity -- out, closeted, flamboyant, or "passing" -- in an oppressive world where self-love is a luxury. At this party, the cake tastes like truth, and everyone gets a slice.

In true Playhouse fashion, guests will be invited to sit on the various couches, chairs and love seats that make up the quintessentially mid-Century, sunken living room in which the show takes place. Patrons will be welcome to move from seat to seat as they wish but will be otherwise seated throughout the show. Guests will be offered small cocktail samplings (with non-alcoholic options available) and party snacks will be available for the taking throughout the show.

The 2018 Broadway revival production of “The Boys in the Band” won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. Variety said, “It not only reminds us of where we’ve been, it also serves as a warning about whatever forms of social oppression are still here and yet to come.” Reviewing the recent revival, Dave Quinn of People raved, “If there were ever a time to revisit ‘The Boys in the Band,’ it’s now.”

The performance schedule for “The Boys in the Band” is as follows: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets ($75-$95) are on sale now.


About Windy City Playhouse
Windy City Playhouse is a professional theater and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, located on Chicago's northwest side. Premiering in March of 2015 with a mission to present contemporary, relevant, and approach art, the Playhouse has quickly become a mainstay of the Chicago theater scene. In 2018, its runaway hit, the immersive SOUTHERN GOTHIC, solidified the Playhouse as the first choice in Chicago theater for one-of-a-kind audience experience. "Experience driven. Audience first."

For more information, visit and follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

World Premiere Musical Production The Notebook Opens at Chicago Shakespeare Theater September 22, 2020

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Chicago Shakespeare Theater 
to Stage World Premiere Musical Production
The Notebook
beginning September 22, 2020
Music and lyrics by Ingrid Michaelson
Book by Bekah Brunstetter
Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Directed by Michael Greif

Chicago Shakespeare Theater announces that it will stage the World Premiere musical The Notebook, based on the classic best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks that inspired the hugely popular film. The highly anticipated musical adaptation features music and lyrics by multi-Platinum singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson with book by playwright Bekah Brunstetter—best known as a writer and producer on NBC’s hit series This Is Us. Staged by celebrated Broadway director Michael Greif (Dear Evan Hansen, Next to Normal, Grey Gardens, RENT), The Notebook will premiere September 22–November 8, 2020 in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater has established itself as a key partner in the development of new plays and musicals. The Notebook comes on the heels of the Theater’s wildly successful North American premiere of the new musical SIX, which enjoyed a record-breaking extended run at Chicago Shakespeare in Summer 2019—and begins performances on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on February 13, 2020.

Chicago Shakespeare Creative Producer Rick Boynton shared, “We are excited to partner with Ingrid, Bekah, and Michael to develop and premiere this moving and universal story. Chicago Shakespeare has a long history of collaborating with the world’s great artists and we look forward to working with this stellar team as we bring this breathtaking musical to life on our stage.”

A deeply moving portrait of the enduring power of love, The Notebook chronicles the decades-long love story between a mill worker named Noah and a privileged debutante named Allie. Beginning with a whirlwind summer romance in North Carolina in the 1940s, their love affair spans an entire lifetime—in spite of the differences that threaten to pull them apart. The World Premiere production will feature a diverse, multi-generational cast, reflecting the timeless and universal nature of the story. Casting is underway and will be announced at a later date.

Known for her distinctively soulful folk-pop style that explores universal themes like self-doubt, betrayal and love, singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson is a force in the music industry, with four Top 20 albums and two Platinum singles: “The Way I Am” and “Girls Chase Boys." Michaelson’s nine studio albums have been released on her own independent label Cabin 24 Records and her original songs have soundtracked important moments in hundreds of television series and feature films. Michaelson made her Broadway debut as Sonya in Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 in 2017.

On The Notebook, Michaelson shared, “I have loved the movie and the story for so many years now that the idea of turning it into a musical overwhelmed me. The concept of unending devotion and love wrapped up in memory and family is something very close to my own personal life. The story sings to me so perfectly. I cannot wait to see our beautiful story truly come to life in one of my favorite cities.”

Michaelson joins forces with bookwriter Bekah Brunstetter, a supervising producer and writer on NBC’s Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning series This Is Us. An accomplished playwright, Brunstetter’s plays have been produced at major regional theaters including South Coast Repertory, Atlantic Theater Company, and The Old Globe. Her most recent work, The Cake, debuted off-Broadway at the at Manhattan Theatre Club in March 2019 to rave reviews.

Brunstetter noted, “This project has my entire heart. I'm extremely excited to keep exploring it with Ingrid and Michael, and to get to do so in Chicago is a playwright's dream. Some of my most favorite productions of my plays have been the Chicago incarnations, so I feel incredibly lucky that we get our first stab at the show in such a smart theater town.”

The World Premiere production of The Notebook is directed by Broadway’s Michael Greif. A four-time Tony Award-nominee, Greif’s Broadway credits include Dear Evan Hansen, Next to Normal, and Grey Gardens—as well as the landmark 1996 original production of RENT, among others. The multi-Obie Award-winner has staged a host of Off-Broadway productions at Second Stage, Signature Theatre, and The Public Theater, and directed FOX’s Rent: Live telecast.

Greif said, “Bekah and Ingrid have written a smart, passionate, timely musical adaptation of a great love story. I’m excited to return to Chicago to premiere it in a great theater town with smart, passionate, and very discerning audiences.”

Tickets to The Notebook will go on sale this winter. To be the first to hear updates on the World Premiere musical, sign up at and follow the production on social media at #TheNotebookChicago and via @chicagoshakes.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare has redefined what a great American Shakespeare theater can be—a company that defies theatrical category. This Regional Tony Award-winning theater’s year-round season features as many as twenty productions and 650 performances—including plays, musicals, world premieres, family programming, and presentations from around the globe. Chicago Shakespeare is the city’s leading presenter of international work, and has toured its own productions across five continents. The Theater’s nationally acclaimed arts in literacy programs support the work of teachers, and bring Shakespeare to life on stage for tens of thousands of students annually. Each summer, the company tours a free professional production to neighborhood parks across Chicago. In 2017 the Theater unveiled The Yard, which, together with the Jentes Family Courtyard Theater and the Thoma Theater Upstairs, positions Chicago Shakespeare as Chicago’s most versatile performing arts center.

Wirtz Center’s MFA Lab series To Feature Eurydice, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Glass Menagerie

 ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
Wirtz Center’s MFA Lab Series 
features intimate productions of 
‘Eurydice,’ ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’ and ‘The Glass Menagerie’

Tickets now available online, by phone, and at the box office.

A Greek myth retold, an unconventional narrative about cellmates in an Argentine prison and a Tennessee Williams classic seen through the lens of a Chinese American family will make up Wirtz Center’s annual MFA Lab series in winter and spring of 2020.

The series includes Sarah Ruhl’s 2003 play “Eurydice,” Jan. 31 to Feb. 2; Manuel Puig’s “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” May 1 to 3; and Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” May 22 to 24.

The MFA Lab series matches new theater directors from Northwestern’s MFA program with emerging designers from its partner MFA program in stage design for exciting and unexpected collaborations.

“These artists are the next wave,” said Al Heartley, managing director for the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts. “They are given the freedom to create bold, risk-taking productions that span genres to delight audiences.”  

All productions will be presented at the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, 1949 Campus Drive on the Evanston campus.

The productions include:
By Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Hamid Dehghani
Jan. 31 to Feb. 2

“Eurydice” retells the Greek myth about love that transcends death. Told from Eurydice’s viewpoint, the play depicts how Eurydice is seduced into death on her wedding day and must decide whether to return to earth or to stay in the underworld. The New York Times called this Drama League Award recipient a “weird and wonderful new play.” MacArthur “Genius” Ruhl's script is designed to be a “playground for the designer of the sets” which this MFA collaboration plans to exploit. 

Kiss of the Spider Woman
By Manuel Puig
Directed by Ji Won Jeon
May 1 to 3

Based on Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” is an impactful tale of persecution that juxtaposes gritty realities with liberating fantasies. Set in a Buenos Aires prison, the story follows the relationship of two cellmates, Valentin and Molina, as they form an intimate bond. The work’s form is unusual because there is no traditional narrative voice.

The Glass Menagerie
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Alvin Chan
May 22 to 24

This refreshing new take on Tennessee Williams’ classic memory play, “The Glass Menagerie” is told through the lens of a Chinese American family. Set in St. Louis in 1937, Tom Wingfield, an aspiring poet, recalls the memories of his mother and sister. Tom’s father ran off years ago and, except for one postcard, has not been heard from since…until now.

Performances for all MFA Lab Series productions are Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $6 in advance for Northwestern students (or $10 at the door).

More information and single tickets are available on the Wirtz Center website. Tickets can also be purchased by phone at 847-491-7282 or in-person at the Wirtz Center box office, located in the lobby of the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Box office hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. The box office is closed Sundays and Mondays. 

The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts annually mounts more than 40 productions in theater, music theater and dance. Undergraduate actors, managers and playwrights, alongside graduate actors, designers, directors and dramaturgs, collaborate on works both classic and contemporary for audiences of all ages. The Center adheres to and reflects the academic mission of the University, the curricular needs of the theater and performance studies departments and the educational priorities of communication students. It exists in service to the campus and the greater community of the metropolitan Chicago area.

The Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts.  

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Author and “Mother” of Improvisational Theater Viola Spolin of The Second City to Be Honored February 10, 2020

American Writers Museum
to Honor 
Viola Spolin and The Second City
February 10, 2020 at 6:30pm

I have fond memories of my first theatre improvisation class in high school, based on Viola Spolin's work, and discovering the joys of her improv games. I later employed her techniques in college, when I founded Miami University's first troupe, Tower Players Improv, in Oxford, Ohio. The troupe remained in existence over 20 years and won nationwide competitions. I later taught improv classes through the park district in Oxford and The Discovery Center in Cincinnati and Chicago, so she has been an influence of mine for decades. I still see her techniques pop up today in exercises both of my teens have done in numerous theatre productions, camps, and After School Matters programs. Her contributions and influence on theatre arts have been invaluable. 

Join the American Writers Museum as they honor the work of Viola Spolin, author and “mother” of improvisational theater. Ms. Spolin’s groundbreaking work and codification of her theater games into a training method and philosophy eventually led to the creation of The Second City.

The evening will include cocktails at 6:30 PM following by programming that will include opening remarks by museum president Carey Cranston, the unveiling of Ms. Spolin’s ceremonial bookmark to be permanently displayed at the museum, and words by writer and teacher of improvisational theater Aretha Amelia Sills, the granddaughter of Ms. Spolin and daughter of Second City co-founder Paul Sills.

In addition, the event will celebrate The Second City’s 60th anniversary and the release of The Second City: The Essentially Accurate History with an improvised discussion by moderator Mark Bazer (The Interview Show, WTTW) and talent from The Second City. Book signing to follow.

This event is open to the public; however, capacity is limited to 150 attendees. Please RSVP in advance here.

Monday, February 10, 2020
6:30 - 8:30 PM
American Writers Museum
180 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor 

About Viola Spolin:
There would be no Second City if it were not for the work of Viola Spolin, who created and developed a system of actor training that evolved to become the modern art form of improvisation. Born in 1906, actress, social worker, and educator Viola Spolin became drama supervisor for the Works Progress Administration Recreation Project in Chicago, where she invented a series of games designed to teach dramatics to children and recent immigrants. Formalized under the rubric of “Theater Games,” the exercises gave the children hands-on experience at behaving collaboratively and empathetically.

In the early 1950s, Spolin taught those games to actors working with her son, Paul Sills, at the University of Chicago, where their true potential to develop material and entertain audiences was uncovered. Sills used the new techniques in productions for the Playwrights Theater Club and with the Compass Players, the first improvisational theatre in America. In 1960, Spolin began running improvisation workshops for the cast of The Second City, a still-new theater company Sills co-founded with Bernie Sahlins and Howard Alk.

Spolin remained an active teacher, artist, and writer until her death in 1994. Her 1963 book Improvisation for the Theater remains a classic reference text for teachers of acting and improvisation, as well as across a variety of other fields. The book defends the position that “it is highly possible that what is called talented behavior is simply a greater individual capacity for experiencing.” For more, visit

About The Second City
Since opening its doors as a small cabaret theater in 1959, The Second City has grown into an entertainment empire. With sold-out shows playing 7 days a week on stages in Chicago and Toronto, Second City’s Touring and Theatrical companies entertain an additional 1 million theatergoers a year around the globe. The Second City Training Center is the largest school of improvisation-based arts on the planet, with locations in Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles that serve 11,000 students annually. In 2016, the Harold Ramis Film launched, becoming the world’s only film school dedicated to comedy. Second City Works, the B2B side of Second City, has brought award-winning improvisation and audience-driven techniques to over 600 Fortune 1000 companies, challenging businesses seeking a more collaborative culture to innovate through development programs, original digital and video content, campaign consultation, private events, and more. Second City Entertainment’s foray into television and media continues to produce new content and programming, including two-time Emmy winner SCTV and the upcoming Martin Scorsese-helmed Netflix documentary exploring the iconic series’ enduring legacy.

Review of Lyric Opera Concert: “Rising Stars in Concert”

Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Guest Review
By Catherine Hellmann 

The weather outside was frightful (about 5 degrees, ok, so it is finally winter in January in Chicago), but the atmosphere at the Lyric Opera on Sunday afternoon was delightful. The “Rising Stars in Concert” concert is an impressive “Thank you!” to the donors of the Lyric. 

The 2019-20 Ensemble of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center is a very talented group of performers. Selected from over 400 auditions, the elite group consists of 11 singers and one pianist. According to their website, the program “prepares emerging singers and apprentice coaches for careers in opera by providing unique, comprehensive training.” Since 1974, the Ryan Opera Center has been recognized as one of the premier training grounds in the world for emerging talent. Young singers are able to study with powerhouse talents, like Renee Fleming, and perform supporting roles at the Lyric in actual, full-scale productions. What a gift for an aspiring star! 

The singers study foreign languages in their apprenticeship so they are able to sing in French, German, and Italian as well as English. The program on Sunday included arias by Berlioz, Gounod, Richard Strauss, Rossini, Donizetti, as well as Victor Herbert and Ralph Vaughan Williams. So, check all four boxes on languages! 

There were dramatic pieces, like Lauren Decker (in her awesome red shoes!) singing Verdi in her rich contralto. She gave me goosebumps when she sang the words “Be silent,”  in her very low, deep voice. Mario Rojas sang a lovely romantic piece from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette in his gorgeous tenor voice. I would have climbed down from my balcony to join him! 

Emily Pogorelc was a standout in her princess white gown singing Bellini’s aria from Act Two of La sonnambula. Her voice with its stunning trills and arpeggios was the cream in my coffee (which sounds like Cole Porter, but it’s Ruth Etting, because I looked it up...thanks, Google!) 

There were comical pieces as well. My favorite was a duet by Bass Anthony Reed and Bass-Baitone David Wiegel by Rossini from Il turco in Italia where two men talk about selling a wife. The one gent determines if he can’t buy the other guy’s wife, he will abduct her! My favorite line was: “When marriage isn’t working, the husband becomes a salesman.” The men intend to duke it out, so they stretch and prepare physically with one of them falling comically as he attempts the splits. The other hurts his back while warming up, so both end up lame at the conclusion. 

After intermission, there was a piano quartet playing Gabriel Faure’s Piano Quartet No. 1, Op. 15, Fourth Movement with pianist Madeline Slettedahl. She says in the program: “It’s been a privilege to perform frequently with my talented singing colleagues both here in Chicago and abroad, developing both musically and interpersonally in a field that has so much to say about the human experience.”  

A video played with departing singers being interviewed about their experiences with the Ryan Opera Center. One singer stated that these four years immersed her in everything and allowed her to “be prepared for anything” while growing as an artist and as a person.   

Another singer grew up attending the Lyric Opera since high school, so being in the program was like “coming home.” 

The show ended with Victor Herbert’s finale from Naughty Marietta. When the singers burst into: “Ah! Sweet mystery of life, at last I found you!” there were chuckles in the audience, probably recalling Mel Brooks’ amusing take on this song in Young Frankenstein. “‘For ‘tis love, and love alone, the world is seeking!” 

The world also needs more glorious music, and the Lyric Opera provided us with this balm on a dreary, frosty day. 

Catherine Hellmann has great stories from a year doing singing telegrams, which was not as artistic as the Lyric, but pretty darn enteratining. 

Lyric Opera's “Rising Stars in Concert” is a showcase performance starring Ensemble members of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center with members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Ari Pelto Sunday, January 19, 2020.

Lyric Opera of Chicago
20 N. Wacker Drive
Chicago, IL 60606
United States

Lead Sponsor: Donna Van Eekeren Foundation

Sponsors: Ann M. Drake, Sue and Melvin Gray, Patricia A. Kenney and Gregory J. O’Leary, Chauncey and Marion D. McCormick Family Foundation, Lauter McDougal Charitable Fund, Frank  B. Modruson and Lynne C. Shigley, and Dr. Scholl Foundation, with additional support from Dentons LLP and Allan Drebin

Rising Stars in Concert was also broadcast on 98.7WFMT and on Sunday, January 26, 2020 at 7:00 p.m.

The radio broadcast of Rising Stars in Concert is generously sponsored by the Donna Van Eekeren Foundation.

Monday, January 27, 2020

REVIEW: The National Ballet of Odessa's Swan Lake at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie


Guest Review: 
by Catherine Hellmann

“Everything is beautiful at the ballet. Raise your arms, and someone’s always there.”--A Chorus Line

The National Ballet Theatre of Odessa presented the ballet masterpiece Swan Lake at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie on January 21. Featuring 55 of Ukraine’s top performers, Swan Lake has familiar, sensual music by composer Prokofiev. The storyline “follows a young prince as he tries to free the beautiful swan maiden from an evil spell.” 

According to the press release, “Swan Lake is a ballet performed in four acts, with one intermission. The script is based on the scenario by Vladimir
Begichev and Vasiliy Geltser, directed by Elena Baranovskaya, and
choreographed by Marius Petipa, Alexander Gorsky, Lev Ivanov, Konstantin
Sergeyev and Yuri Grigorovich.” 

The dancing was incredible and made me feel like I should run home and do five hours of Pilates. Even the way ballet dancers walkoffstage puts me to shame; they are simply so elegant and graceful. I trip just walking to my car…

The costumes were gorgeous. What’s not to like about incredibly fit men in tight white tights?? (Oh, the women were lovely, too..) 

All of the dancers were extraordinary, but the lead ballerina was divine.


When I was a kid, my beloved uncle George, a Franciscan priest, used to take me to the Cincinnati Ballet. We had a bachelor relative who had extra money and was a big sponsor of the company and passed free tickets on to Fr. George. I loved those outings, even though George was so intellectually formidable then. 

My teenage daughter had never been to a ballet before, and she loved it. I was so tickled to pass the family tradition on to a new generation. 

Catherine Hellmann is a teacher, writer, and theater junkie. She has tried to inspire urban and rural middle schoolers for over twenty years. A mother of three, she is thrilled to once again claim Chicago as home.  

Acclaimed Ukrainian Ballet Company To Perform “Romeo & Juliet” at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, January 19, 2020 and “Swan Lake” at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, January 21, 2020

The National Ballet Theatre of Odessa, is proud to announce two performances coming to Chicagoland in January 2020.  Featuring 55 of Ukraine’s top performers, “Romeo & Juliet” will be performed at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. in Chicago, Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020 at 3 p.m., and “Swan Lake” will be performed at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020 at 7:30 p.m.. “Romeo & Juliet” tickets are $55 - $85 , and are available by calling the box office at 312-334-7777 or through “Swan Lake” tickets are $38 - $68 and are available by calling 847-673-6300 or by visiting 

“Romeo & Juliet” is a ballet performed in two acts, set to the music of composer Sergei Prokofiev, choreographed by Michael Lavrovsky, directed by Elena Baranovskaya and produced by Garri Sevoian. The fullscale production is based on the WIlliam Shakespeare’s tragedy of the two doomed young lovers. The principal dancers are Olena Dobrianska as “Juliet” and Sergii Dotsenko as “Romeo.” 

ART BEAT: South Shore Arts will host an Artist’s Reception for “It’s Surreal Thing” Friday, February 21 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. At The Towle Theater in Hammond

Openings On Our Radar:

“It’s Surreal Thing”
 An Exhibit of Inked Imagery by Artist Jim Siergey

South Shore Arts in Northwest Indiana will host an Artist’s Reception for “It’s Surreal Thing”, an exhibit featuring the inked imagery of Jim Siergey, on Friday, February 21 from 6–8 p.m. at the Towle Theater in Hammond.   An Opening Night performance of Towle Theater’s production of “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” follows at 8:00 p.m. to kick off the theater’s 2020 season. Both “It’s Surreal Thing” and “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” continue through March 8.

Jim Siergey is an artist well-known in the underground art scene for over two decades.   It was on a grade school field trip to The Art Institute of Chicago where Siergey was introduced to Messrs. Magritte and Dali as well as Mssrs. Tanguy, Ernst, DuChamp and Man Ray.   According to Siergey, “These Surrealists became another perverse influence on my young life as I had already been tainted by TV viewings of the anti-establishment antics of The Marx Brothers and Bugs Bunny.   How could I be expected to look at anything logically or take anything seriously ever again?”

Before moving to Munster, IN a year and a half ago, he spent his previous lifetime in Chicago working as an illustrator, character animator and cartoonist.   His permanent record includes gigs for Time magazine, USA Weekend, The Field Museum, TV commercials, educational films and an animated Take Me Out to the Ballgame 7th inning stretch video for the White Sox’ Jumbo-Tron.   His comic strip “Cultural Jet Lag” ran for 20 years in many alternative press publications.   Paperback books, bubble gum cards, greeting cards and art gallery exhibits are other places where his work can be found.   Since moving to “The Region”, he has exhibited his work at the Promise You Art House in Highland and the Paul Henry Studios in Hammond as well as in group shows in Griffith and Crown Point.

The Towle Theater is located at 416 Sibley Street in downtown Hammond, IN 46320.   For information about the gallery to view the exhibit by appointment, call 219.937.8780.

Photo Credits: Jim Siergey

OPENING: Legally Blonde: The Musical at Northwestern’s Wirtz Center Feb. 14 to March 1, 2020

America’s beloved blonde law student takes the stage at Northwestern’s Wirtz Center
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” 
(complete with canines) 
opens Valentine’s Day

Northwestern University’s Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts presents “Legally Blonde: The Musical” Feb. 14 to March 1.

Elle Woods, Bel Air's favorite pink-clad blonde, and her equally stylish Chihuahua, Bruiser seem to have it all until Elle’s boyfriend dumps her to attend Harvard Law. Determined to get him back, Elle charms her way into law school, then discovers she has far more legal savvy than she ever imagined. 

Based on the popular 2001 movie, this musical comedy with book by Heather Hatch and music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin is directed and choreographed by Christopher Chase Carter.

“‘Legally Blonde’ is just as relevant today because it is all about breaking down stereotypes,” said Chase Carter, known to Chicago audiences for his recent directing work for Theo Ubique Cabaret’s production of “Working” and choreography for Porchlight Musical Theatre’s production of “A Chorus Line.”

Chase Carter even believes Elle’s signature color “pink” is about breaking down stereotypes.  “For many people, pink is seen as soft, or for girls, but in this show, pink makes a statement,” Chase Carter said. “It’s power, it’s vibrant and bold, and it’s a symbol for breaking down stereotypes.”

In addition to plenty of pink, this production includes two campus canines: Atty, who plays Bruiser, Elle’s stylish Chihuahua and Shlomo, who plays Rufus, Elle’s manicurist and confidant’s dog. Bruiser’s pet parent is Caleb Whittaker, a Northwestern student, and Rufus’ pet parent is China Whitmire, house manager for the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

“It’s always interesting working with animals,” Chase Carter said. “You can’t always communicate 100 percent of what you want them to do.” Despite the communication challenges, Chase Carter knows the canines add something very special to the cast. “Bruiser is Elle’s dearest friend, he serves as an important support system for her,” Chase Carter said.

“Legally Blonde: The Musical” opens Valentine’s Day, Fri., Feb. 14 and continues performances through March 1 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. in the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, on the Evanston campus.

Tickets are available now on the Wirtz Center website, by phone at 847-491-7282 or in-person at the Wirtz Center box office, which is located in the lobby of the Ethel M. Barber Theater.

Box office hours are Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. The box office is closed Sundays and Mondays. 

The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts annually mounts more than 40 productions in theater, music theater and dance. Undergraduate actors, managers and playwrights, alongside graduate actors, designers, directors and dramaturgs, collaborate on works both classic and contemporary for audiences of all ages. The Center adheres to and reflects the academic mission of the University, the curricular needs of the theater and performance studies departments and the educational priorities of communication students. It exists in service to the campus and the greater community of the Metropolitan Chicago area.

The Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts.  

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Sunday, January 26, 2020

REVIEW: The Merry Widow at the McAninch Arts Center in Glen Ellyn, IL

Franz Lehár’s “THE MERRY WIDOW” 

Pictured Katherine Weber (far R) with cast in Act I
All photos are by John Cebula Esq. 

Guest Review
By Catherine Hellmann

I am very much a City Girl. It takes a strong lure to get me to the suburbs, even though my elder daughter brags, ”Mom, there is always free parking!” But the long haul out to Glen Ellyn at College of DuPage (where, yes, there was indeed plenty of free parking) to the McAninch Arts Center on a dreary night to see The Merry Widow was worth the drive. 

The Merry Widow is an operetta by Franz Lehar which means it has spoken dialogue interspersed between songs; this production is sung in English but still has the supertitles above the stage so nothing is missed. All of these factors make the performance much more palatable to patrons who may not be “opera people.” 

Plus, it is a funny script and story. 

Set in Paris, Baron Zeta from the fictional country of “Pontevedro” is concerned that his troubled nation is going to go (sssh! Don’t say this word!) “bankrupt.” A plan is hatched to keep the money from a rich young widow in their principality. A “Cinderella story” is explained where a poor farmer’s daughter, Hannah Glawan, was wooed relentlessly by a very wealthy older man until she finally agreed to marry him. He died shortly after their nuptials, leaving her with millions. Hannah is pursued by all the eligible bachelors in Paris, who are more interested in her purse holdings than her. “It’s not me they’re in love with, it’s my bank account,” she laments.  

Pictured: Alisa Jordheim in Act II

Hannah’s old love was a boy from her childhood, now known as the Count Danilo Danilovitch. At their first reunion, he is upset that she married the old man. Hannah tells him,”When one is a woman and poor, one does what she has to do.” The Count actually still loves her, but feels that if he courts Hannah now, it will appear to be only for her money. I doubt this will be seen as much of a “spoiler” if I reveal that the two original lovers do wind up together at the end, and Pontevedro is saved! All’s well that ends well.

Adding to the humorous plot is the blatant affair the Baron’s wife, Valencienne, is conducting with a local Frenhman who is an officer. The Baron refers to his wife as “a symbol of virtue” as she repeatedly sneaks away with her lover, Camille de Rosillon. The Baron’s cluelessness is an amusing motif; Baritone Aron Wardell does a nice job as the foolish Baron. Valencienne (a lovely Katherine Weber) calls herself a “respectable wife,” but is anything but that description. 

Another funny, ongoing bit is the list of honorary titles given to the Baron by his embassy secretary, Njegus, played by Michael LaTour, who is also the Stage Director and Choreographer for this production! “Your Bigness,” “Your Vastness,” “Your Sageness,” and “Your Epicness,” he schmoozes. 

The show is set in the 1920s which allows the women to be decked out in gorgeous sequined flapper dresses. Their gowns are simply gorgeous. Thank you, Kimberly G. Morris, for the eye candy in wardrobe design. 

Pictured L-R: Allison Selby Cook, Brooklyn Snow, Erika Morrison, Katherine Weber

Other standouts are the petite but mighty soprano Alisa Suzanne Jordheim as the title character. She has the vocal chops to pull off this demanding role. 

Just last week, I was privileged to see the “Rising Stars in Concert” at the Lyric Opera and praised the brilliant Ryan Opera Center which trains young artists. The Count was played ably by baritone Jesse Donner, and he is a recent graduate of that program from 2017. His voice was not only gorgeous, but his acting was playful as well.

The New Philharmonic was conducted by Music Director Kirk Muspratt. “Cookies with Kirk” follows the performance with the gleeful cast rushing first to the lobby for sweet treats. Wow. I don’t get dessert at the Lyric...maybe the suburbs aren’t so bad…

Mark your calendars: In the spring, there will be two concerts At the MAC on April 18 and 19 celebrating Frida Kahlo. Written by Mexican composers, the works feature a soprano soloist with tenor Jesse Donner singing and a 100-voice chorus.  From June to August, there will be an “exclusive exhibit of Kahlo’s original artwork on loan from the Delores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City,” according to their press release. 26 pieces will be on display. It is the largest Frida Kahlo show in the Chicago area in 40 years. 

Timed tickets for the art exhibit are only $18 plus fees.  Call (630) 942-4000 for tickets. Only 30 untimed tickets are available each day of the exhibit. 

And, there is ample FREE parking. 

Catherine Hellmann is an Ohio transplant in love with the Windy City and all it has to offer...even if it involves traveling in the Chicagoland area. She has a daughter in the ‘burbs, another who goes to school in downtown Chicago, and her son lives in the college town of Ann Arbor.  

Pictured: Katherine Weber and James Judd in Act II

Pictured: The cast of “The Merry Widow” in Act I

Alisa Jordheim (Soprano), Jesse Donner (Baritone), Katherine Weber (Soprano) and James Judd (Tenor) Star in Staging by Michael La Tour, Stage Director of New Philharmonic’s Sold-Out Operas, “Die Fledermaus (2019) 
and “The Mikado” (2017) 

New Philharmonic, under the musical direction of Maestro Kirk Muspratt, opens 2020 with Franz Lehár’s popular operetta “The Merry Widow,” featuring a libretto by Viktor Leon and Leo Stein, at the McAninch Arts Center. Due to the growing popularity of New Philharmonic’s winter operas a performance on Friday, Jan.24 at 7:30 p.m. has been added to the regular two performance run. Other performances are Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 26 at 3 p.m. This operetta, staged by Michael La Tour, will be sung in English. A free MAC Chat will take place one hour prior to each performance.

“The Merry Widow” is based an 1861 comedy play, “L'attaché d'ambassade (The Embassy Attaché) by Henri Meilhac and revolves around a rich widow, and her countrymen's attempt to keep her money in the principality by finding her the right husband. New Philharmonic’s production will be set in the audacious, stylish, fun and madcap 1920s. 

So many men, so little time. Hannah Glawari has all the money to save the bankrupt country of Pontevedro and all the eligible bachelors in Paris, but what she really wants is her long-lost love. Count Danilo, forbidden to wed Hannah when childhood sweethearts, has been charged with saving Pontevedro, but Hanna’s recent widow’s fortune has turned the tables. The most ravishing of operettas concludes with a party a la Café de Maxim’s complete with dancing girls.

“The Merry Widow” stars Alisa Suzanne Jordheim (soprano) as Hannah Glawari, Jesse Donner (baritone) as Count Danilo Danilovitch, Katherine Weber (soprano) as Valencienne and James Judd (tenor) as Camille de Rosillon; with Aaron Wardell (Baron Mirko Zeta), Evan Bravos (Vicomte Cascada), Matthew Greenblatt (Raoul de St. Brioche), Douglas Peters (Bogdanovitch), Brooklyn Snow (Sylviane), Reuben Lillie (Kromow), Allison Selby Cook (Olga), Ian Hosak (Pritschitsch), Erika Morrison (Praskovia), Lisa Kristina (Zo-Zo) and Stage Director La Tour in a cameo role as the clerk Njegus. They will be supported by a 20-person ensemble of chorus, grissettes and supers. 

The design team includes Kimberly G. Morris (costume/wig/makeup design), Elias Morales (lighting design), and Jon Gantt (projections design). Stage manager is Isabelle Rund. 


New Philharmonic, under the direction of Maestro Kirk Muspratt, presents “The Merry Widow” at the McAninch Arts Center, located on the campus of College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Friday, Jan. 24 and Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 26 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $59. For tickets or more information, call 630.942.4000 or visit

Alisa Jordheim (Hannah Glawari) has been seen at the MAC in New Philharmonic’s 2017 and 2018 New Year’s programs, New Philharmonic 2017’s “The Best of Broadway: Rodgers & Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber” and in the role of Yum-Yum in the New Philharmonic’s 2017 production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” ​ This past November she made her company debut as Clotilde in Pacini's “Maria, regina d'Inghilterra” with Odyssey Opera. Other performing credits include her acclaimed performance as Soeur Constance in Poulenc’s “Dialogues des Carmélites” at the 
Caramoor International Music Festival, Gilda in “Rigoletto” with San Diego Opera, Ninetta in “La gazza ladra” with Teatro Nuovo and concert performances including Mozart's “Exsultate, jubilate” with the Milwaukee Symphony and Mozart's “Mass in C Minor” with the Bel Canto Chorus. Honors and awards include recipient of a 2016 Sullivan Foundation Award and 2015 Sullivan Foundation Career Development Grant, winner of the 2015 Bel Canto Regional Artists Competition, and winner of the Edith Newfield Scholarship in the 2013 Musicians Club of Women Music Scholarship Competition in Chicago. Jordheim was recently featured in Fred Plotkin's "40 under 40: A New Generation of Superb Opera Singers" on WQXR, New York's Public Radio station.  

Jesse Donner (Count Danilo Danilovitch) was most recently seen at the MAC in New Philharmonic’s 2019 production of Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus.” His just performed the role of Danilo in the St. Petersburg Opera production of “The Merry Widow,” and his other performances this season include his debut as Rodolfo in Union Avenue Opera’s production of Puccini’s “La Boheme,” a return to the Louisville Orchestra as the tenor soloist in Verdi’s “Requiem” and Handel’s “Messiah” and his concert debut with the New Jersey Festival Orchestra. Previous seasons’ credits include Toledo Opera’s Fall Gala Concert, featured soloist for Chicago Philharmonic’s “Concert for Peace,” the role of Ismael in Union Avenue Opera’s production of Verdi’s “Nabucco” and the role of Emporer Alteum in Cedar Rapids Opera’s production of Puccini’s “Turandot.” Donner was a resident artist at Lyric Opera of Chicago from 2014-2017. Honors and awards include the 2015 Luminarts Fellowship and the Bel Canto grand prize, the 2014 George Shirley Award for Opera Performance, a special encouragement award from the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Auditions, and 1st place in the 2012 Michigan Friends of Opera Competition. 

Katherine Weber (Valencienne) was seen earlier this season in New Philharmonic’s “Ode to Joy” concert. Other past performances with New Philharmonic include the roles of Rosalinde in Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus” (2019), and Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata” (2017). Weber garnered acclaim in the title role of Chicago Opera Theater’s 2018 Chicago premiere of Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta.” Other performing credits include soloist in Beethoven's “Mass in C,” Vivaldi's “Gloria” and Mozart’s “Requiem” with the Winona Oratorio Chorus and Orchestra and two seasons with Opera for the Young, in Madison, Wisc., where she toured in the title role in Dvořák’s “Rusalka” and Pamina in Mozart's “The Magic Flute.” She was featured soloist with the Florentine Opera and soprano soloist in Handel's “Messiah” at her alma mater, Viterbo University. Honors and awards include regional finalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions twice (2017, 2015), recipient of the Award of Excellence and the Lew Cady Memorial Award (both from Central City Opera), the Bain Fellowship from Indiana University, and two-time winner of the Schubert Club Competition and four time encouragement award winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

James Judd (Camille de Rosillon) was most recently seen at the MAC in the September “Ode to Joy” concert and in the role of Alfred in New Philharmonic’s January 2019 production of Strauss II’s “Die Fleidermaus.” He has sung with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Western New York Chamber Orchestra, and The AIMS Festival Orchestra. Judd’s past operatic roles include Monostatos in Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte,” Ferrando in Mozart’s “Così fan tutte,” the title role in Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito,” Asgar in the U.S. premiere of Hajibeyov’s “Arshin Mal Alan” and Claude in the world premiere of Nettles' “The Fall of Stag Lee.” He has performed at the Rocky Ridge Music Center in Estes Park, Colo., where he won their prestigious concerto competition. Judd also sings with many professional choruses, including the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Judd holds a Master of Arts in Vocal Performance at The University of Iowa as well as Bachelor of Music in both Education and Vocal Performance from SUNY Fredonia.

Michael La Tour (Stage Direction/ Njegus) has worked professionally as an actor, singer, dancer, mime, clown, designer, choreographer, director and producer. He is on staff at The Ryan Opera Center of The Lyric Opera of Chicago as a master teacher and stage director (Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” Verdi’s “La Traviata, Strauss II’s “Die Fledermaus,” Presgurvic’s “Romeo et Juliette”). His most recent work seen by MAC patrons was New Philharmonic’s 2017 sold out production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Other directing credits include Kentucky Opera (Puccini’s “La Boheme,” Bizet’s “Carmen,” Presgurvic’s “Romeo et Juliette”) and Opera Moda (Mechem’s “Tartuffe,” Adamo’s “Little Women,” Hoiby’s“A Month in the Country”). With Peter Amster, he has co-directed and choreographed “Side By Side By Sondheim” for Pegasus Players, Hwang’s “M. Butterfly” for Apple Tree Theatre (After Dark Award for choreography) and the grand opening of The Harris Theater in Millennium Park. 

Pictured Center: Alisa Jordheim surrounded by cast members Matthew Greenblatt, John Kouns, Danius Grablaukas, Reed Pence, William Ortega, Ben Adair, Matthew Byerly and Evan Bravos

About New Philharmonic
New Philharmonic, the only professional orchestra based in DuPage County, Ill., has inspired classical music enthusiasts in Chicago and the suburbs for more than 40 years. It continues to thrive with the goal to give innovative treatment to both classic compositions and modern works while striving to make the music accessible to new audiences and youth through a variety of educational efforts. The orchestra was honored with the Illinois Council of Orchestras’ 2017 ICO Award for Professional Orchestra of the Year. Today, under the direction of Kirk Muspratt, named 2018 Conductor of the Year (Professional Orchestra) by Illinois Council of Orchestras, New Philharmonic consists of more than 60 professional musicians and performs more than a dozen concerts a year, reaching more than 7,500 from the greater Chicago area annually. 

About the MAC
The McAninch Arts Center (MAC) at College of DuPage is located 25 miles west of Chicago near I-88 and I-355. It houses three indoor performance spaces (the 780-seat proscenium Belushi Performance Hall; the 236-seat soft-thrust Playhouse Theatre; and the versatile black box Studio Theatre), the outdoor Lakeside Pavilion, plus the Cleve Carney Museum of Art and classrooms for the college’s academic programming. The MAC has presented theater, music, dance and visual art to more than 1.5 million people since its opening in 1986 and typically welcomes more than 100,000 patrons from the greater Chicago area to more than 230 performances each season. 

The mission of the MAC is to foster enlightened educational and performance opportunities, which encourage artistic expression, establish a lasting relationship between people and art, and enrich the cultural vitality of the community. Visit or for more information.

Support for New Philharmonic is provided in part by Brookdale-Glen Ellyn; ST|G|P Sullivan Taylor | Gumina & Palmer, P.C., the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; WFMT 98.7 FM, WDCB 90.9 FM and the College of DuPage Foundation. This production of “The Merry Widow” is supported by an anonymous Soloist Sponsor.

Established as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization in 1967, the College of DuPage Foundation raises monetary and in-kind gifts to increase access to education and to enhance cultural opportunities for the surrounding community. For more information about the College of DuPage Foundation, visit or call 630.942.2462. 

Programs at the MAC are partially supported through a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. 

Pictured in Act III: Foreground L-R:  Erin Perry, Crystal Chandler. Lori Fimoff, Lisa Kristina, Molly Chesna, Kaitlin Tienen, Sara Solis; Background: Ben Adair, Reed Pence and Meghan Smeenge

New Philharmonic, under the musical direction of Maestro Kirk Muspratt, with staging by Michael La Tour, opens 2020 with Franz Lehár’s popular operetta “The Merry Widow,” libretto by Viktor Leon and Leo Stein, at the McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell Blvd.,Glen Ellyn, Ill. Performances are Friday, Jan. 24 and Saturday, Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 26 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $59. For tickets or more information, call 630.942.4000 or visit
All photos are by John Cebula Esq. 

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