Tuesday, July 26, 2022

REVIEW: Sister Act at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre On Stage Through August 27th, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 

Sister Act 

at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre 

in Arlington Heights


By Guest Critic Catherine Hellmann

“This is a beautiful theater! Everything here looks new,” marveled my sister and burgeoning theater critic. We made the trek to Arlington Heights for a performance of Sister Act. Having been raised in a big Catholic family and attending parochial schools, we knew the topic would be something we could relate to. (Well, ok, beides being a nightclub singer hiding in a convent from her murderous boyfriend…) Natalie “Nat” Renee Savoy has a blast as Deloris Van Cartier, the singer-in-disguise-as-a-nun. She seems more comfortable in the role of Sister Mary Clarence (“patron saint of prisoners!”) than as Deloris, even if she does want to accessorize her black and white habit.  :-) 

Monsignor O’Hara (Christopher Johnson, having fun in the role) convinces Mother Superior (a great Lauren Miller) that Deloris will be joining the order. Mother isn’t thrilled and questions the decision. Father reminds her that she took a Vow of Charity. 

“I take it back!” she yells. 

The women’s choir at the convent is terrible; it’s laughable and impressive how bad their singing is. To describe the atrocious choir, Mother Superior says, “There are no words.” Sister Mary Clarence is given the challenge by Mother Superior of improving the choir; Deloris is to use her talents as a performer to elevate their singing. Under her guidance, the sisters bond, the Church’s finances turn around, the two “bachelors who liked the ‘gothic look’ of the church” and want to buy it end up declining, and an offer is extended to sing for the Pope. Sister Mary Clarence is making her mark. 

The breakout role was Sister Mary Robert played by understudy Athena Kopulos. She was so sweet and charming as the very shy novice who finds her voice and her courage. I love when understudies get a shot and shine. 

We assumed we’d recognize the songs from the Whoopie Goldberg movie. But all the songs were unfamiliar, penned by Alan Menken (“Little Mermaid,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Newsies”) and Glenn Slater. Of course, the songs help with the characterizations and move the plot along. 

The choreography by Jen Cupani was clever and fun. The costumes were perfect by Sara Morrison; I especially liked the sparkled nun costumes at the end of the show. 

Sadly, I also want to address performance etiquette. An audience member next to me asked at intermission if children are allowed into the theaters in Chicago. I said most venues prohibit children under five. It’s very rare to hear a baby in the theater. But there was a toddler who kept making noise during the performance; I kept waiting for parents to remove her, but they never did. Plus, cell phones went off at least three times during the show. Ugh. It is so frustrating and distracting. I admire when the actors are able to continue on without being thrown off. 

The cast looked like they were having such a great time, which adds to the atmosphere. 

After the show, we had a delectable dinner at Carlos & Carlos Restaurant. Lobster ravioli, fresh bread with butter and olive oil, shrimp scampi, generous pours of wine. We enjoyed our lovely day in the ‘burbs. 

Catherine Hellmann loves her family, theater, and a good Chardonnay. 

Musical comedy smash Sister Act brings the hit film of the same name to life onstage at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre through August 27, 2022.
Based on the hit film, Sister Act is the musical smash that has audiences jumping to their feet. Featuring music by Tony and Oscar winner Alan Menken, this uplifting comedy was nominated for five Tony Awards. When wannabe diva Deloris Van Cartier witnesses a crime, she’s put in protective custody where she won’t be found: a convent! Disguised as a nun, Deloris finds herself at odds with her rigid new lifestyle. On a mission to bring new life into the church, Deloris introduces disco moves and powerhouse singing to the choir. The group’s unexpected popularity attracts newfound attention – blowing her cover. Sister Act brings a unique mix of Motown, soul, funk, and disco to the stage. A sparkling tribute to the power of friendship with glorious music and dazzling dance numbers, Sister Act is a reason to rejoice.

COVID Protocols: Metropolis COVID protocols continue to evolve as federal and state mandates relax and conditions improve. For current information on COVID protocols visit Metropolis’ website. Metropolis thanks you in advance for helping to provide the safest environment possible for the return to live indoor entertainment.
Regular Run Performances of Sister Act are July 21 – August 27, 2022. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online at, via phone at 847.577.2121, or via email at The Metropolis Box Office is currently open Monday-Saturday 12:00-4:00pm. On performances Monday through Saturday, the Box Office will remain open from noon through at least the start of the performance. On Sunday performances, the Box Office will open one hour prior to show time.

Metropolis’ cast for Sister Act includes Henry Allan (Pablo; Ensemble), Justine Cameron (Sister Mary Robert), Jonathan Cortez (Curtis; Ensemble), Valerie Gorman (Sister Mary Theresa), Natalie Henry (Sister Mary Patrick; Ensemble), Mary Heyl (Sister Mary Martin-Of-Tours; Ensemble), Bob Hussey (Joey), Christopher Johnson (Monsignor O’Hara; Ensemble), Ania Martin (Tina; Nun; Ensemble), Natalie Mattson (Nun; Ensemble), Kedar Miller (Eddie), Lauren Miller (Mother Superior), Amber Parker (Michelle; Nun; Ensemble), Tuesdai B. Perry (Nun; Ensemble), Barb Rieger (Nun; Ensemble), Natalie “Nat” Renee Savoy [they/them] (Deloris Van Cartier), Michelle Tibble (Sister Mary Lazarus; Ensemble), and Brenden Zwiebel (Ernie; Ensemble). Understudies include internal members of the cast, Athena Kopulos and Daniel Rausch.
Sister Act has Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Glenn Slater; Book by Cheri Steinkellner & Bill Steinkellner; with Additional Book Material by Douglas Carter Beane. Directed by Sade’ May, Assistant Directed by Mikee Parangalan, Music Directed by DeMario Tribett, Choreographed by Jen Cupani. Designers are Jenna Houck (Scenic Designer), Patrick McGuire (Properties Designer), Christopher Moore II (Lighting Designer), David Moreland (Technical Director), and Sara Morrison (Costume Designer). Metropolis Production Manager is Chris Causer.
Supporting Show Sponsor for Sister Act is HKM Architects + Planners; Costume Sponsor is Marty Pfister & Maria Bradley; Season Costume Storage Sponsor is Jennifer Burnidge, State Farm, CLU, CHFC; Season Paint Sponsor is Marc Poulos Painting. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre is partially supported by grants from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and Ecolab Foundation.

Sister Act is the final show of The Metropolis 2021-2022 subscription series. The 2022-2023 subscription series includes Cabaret (September 15 - October 22, 2022), The Legend of Georgia McBride (January 26 – March 4, 2023), Ragtime (May 4 – June 10, 2023), and Xanadu (July 13 – August 19, 2023).
Metropolis is located in the heart of Chicago’s northwest suburbs in downtown Arlington Heights at the intersection of Campbell and Vail Avenue (111 West Campbell Street). Street parking is available. Due to Arlington Alfresco, there is modified street access and parking on West Campbell Street. Please allow extra time for arrival before your show. Free parking is available in the public garage behind the theatre. For more information about Metropolis and a complete performance schedule, visit or call the Box Office at 847.577.2121.
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre provides professional entertainment and arts education, enriching our community.

Elizabeth Mazur Levin New Artistic Director For Oil Lamp Theater

Oil Lamp Theater is excited to announce the appointment of Elizabeth Mazur Levin as its Artistic Director. A veteran of the “North Shore’s Hidden Gem” since 2012, Mazur Levin brings a fresh yet experienced perspective to Oil Lamp’s evolving artistic mission. A staple of the Glenview community since 2012, the 60-seat Oil Lamp Theater produces six shows a season, with a strong emphasis on exploring the themes of love and relationships. 

“I am tremendously excited to be stepping into the role of Artistic Director,” said Mazur Levin. “I have worked at many theaters, and what struck me about working at Oil Lamp right from the beginning was its commitment to creating a warm and inviting theatrical experience, not only for the patrons, but the artists as well.”

Mazur Levin is no stranger to Oil Lamp. She acted in the very first production of the theater when it settled down in Glenview. Her directing credits include Now & Then, Bad Dates, Beau Jest, Love, Loss, and What I Wore, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (2017 & 2020), Motherhood Out Loud, and two seasons of On the Road—Oil Lamp’s touring series. Now she will lead the artistic team in selecting works for its six-show season, as well as strengthening and evolving the artistic identity of Oil Lamp Theater.

"It's funny, while we haven't known each other for more than a few years, it has felt like we've known each other most of our lives,” said Jay Pastucha, Oil Lamp Theater’s Executive Director. “I believe that feeling stems from the trust I have in her, the confidence I have in her artistic vision, and the passion she has for Oil Lamp Theater.”

A Chicago actor herself, Mazur Levin has performed all over the Midwest as well as the East Coast.  She holds degrees in theater from Miami University (B.F.A. and B.A.) and Loyola University Chicago (M.Ed.). 

When discussing her vision for the future, Mazur Levin was quick to reference Oil Lamp Theater’s unique aesthetic and intimate atmosphere.

“I love walking into our space and providing an excellent artistic experience for both the theater goer and the artist,” she said. “As Artistic Director, I plan to take my years of experience here to meld the past with the future. I am committed to providing a season that not only entertains, but tells stories with, about, and from a variety of viewpoints. We want our audiences to think, engage, and feel in a shared theatrical experience.”

Oil Lamp Theater was originally founded in February 2005, and in March 2012, became a non-profit and established residence at a unique and intimate venue in downtown Glenview. The venue seats 60 and provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere for over 10,000 patrons per year to enjoy professional theater and entertainment. Between its famed complimentary cookies, delicious drinks at our bar, inviting and comfortable lobby, and top-tier productions, an evening at Oil Lamp Theater proves this venue is where theater feels like home.

Monday, July 25, 2022

World Premiere Comedy Chagall In School Via Grippo Stage Company at Theater Wit August 26 - October 8th, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar




 Left to Right -  John Drea (Marc Chagall) and Warren Duncan (Kazimir Malevich) 

Photo by James Sherman

Directed by Georgette Verdin, this New Comedy is Inspired by the Real Story of Famed Artist Marc Chagall

Previews Begin Friday, Aug. 26

  Pronoun Key: + (he/him/his); * (she/her/hers); ^ (they, them, theirs); = (any with respect)

Grippo Stage Company is proud to present Chagall In School, a world premiere comedy by James Sherman (Beau Jest, The God of Isaac, The Ben Hecht Show) and directed by Georgette Verdin.  The play is inspired by the real story of the famed artist, Marc Chagall. Performances will take place August 26 - October 8, at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Preview performances will be Friday, Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m.,Thursday, Sept. 1, Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 4 at 2 p.m. I'll be catching opening night, Sept. 6th, so check back soon after for my full review. The performance  schedule is Thursdays -  Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are now on sale  from $38 - $42 and information is available at 773.975.8150 or at

It’s 1920, a few years after the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and Marc Chagall is asked to head a school for artists in his Russian hometown of Vitebsk. By gathering together other noted artists of the time including Yuri Pen, Vera Ermolaeva and El Lissitsky and with the support of his loving wife, Berta, Chagall endeavors to realize his dream of a free school for anyone who wishes to explore their artistic aspirations. His goals are quickly complicated by the clash of personalities and differences between these artists, as well as Chagall’s own inherent inability to take on the role of a stern administrator. When the most impressive artist of the time, Kazimir Malevich, arrives to join the faculty, the artistic soul of the school and Chagall’s own future as an artist are contested.

The full cast includes John Drea+, (Marc Chagall); Yourtana Sulaiman*, (Berta Chagall); Fred Wellisch+,(Yuri Pen); Peter Ferneding+, (Alexander Romm); Daniella Rukin*, (Vera Ermolaeva); Myles Schwarz+, (El Lissitzky); David Lipschutz+, (David Yackerson); Warren Duncan+, (Kazimir Malevich); Hannah Green* (U/S Berta & Vera); Levi Smith+, (U/S Alex & Kazimir & David)



Georgette Verdin is a Cuban-American director, arts educator and the 2022 Michael Maggio Directing Fellow at Goodman Theatre. Since 2015, she's served as the managing artistic director of Interrobang Theatre Project, an award-winning storefront theater known for its gutsy productions tackling socially-relevant issues. Select directing credits include: the world premiere of SPAY by Madison Fiedler (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble), This Wide Night by Chloë Moss (Shattered Globe Theatre/Interrobang Theatre Project), Tribes by Nina Raine (Western Michigan University), the U.S. premiere of Out of Love by Elinor CookGrace and Recent Tragic Events by Craig Wright, as well as the 2016 Yale Drama Series winner, Utility by Emily Schwend (Interrobang Theatre Project).

Verdin has also worked with Lookingglass Theatre, Facility Theatre and Chicago Dramatists, among others. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA and a Master in Directing from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. She is a 2021 recipient of a 3Arts Make-A-Wave grant and an associate member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. For more, visit


James Sherman is a Chicago playwright, whose works include Magic Time, The God of Issac, Mr. 80%, The Escape Artist, Beau Jest, This Old Man Came Rolling Home, Jest a Second!, Romance in D, From Door to Door, The Old Man’s Friend, Affluenza!, Half and Half, Relatively Close, Jacob and Jack and The Ben Hecht Show. Sherman began his professional career as a writer and performer with The Second City in the early 1970s. He received an M.F.A. degree from Brandeis University and a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science from Dominican University.  In 1985, he began his long association with the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago and was a founding member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble. Sherman currently teaches playwriting and improvisation at Columbia College Chicago and DePaul University.  He has been a teacher of playwriting and acting on the faculties of The Second City Training Center, Chicago Dramatists Workshop, Victory Gardens Theater and as a visiting professor (2001) in Seoul, South Korea at the Korean National University of the Arts. His published works have been seen in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, England, Germany, Austria, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, China and Korea.   



Grippo Stage Company, a 501 (c) (3) public charity, produces new plays and revivals of classic works of theater in the Chicago metropolitan area. Previous productions include The Ben Hecht Show (world premiere) written and performed by James Sherman; Confessions of a P.I.M. P. (co-production with Dennis Zacek), written and performed by Tony Award-winning actor Andre De Shields and The God of Issac (Chicago revival) by James Sherman. Grippo Stage currently partners with pianist/actor/author Hershey Felder to present streaming shows from Florence, Italy.  Upcoming for May of 2023 is Shaw vs. Tunney (world premiere) by Douglas Post, based on The Prizefighter and the Playwright by Jay R. Tunney, which depicts the deep relationship between Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and Gene Tunney, the American World Heavyweight boxing champion.

Grippo Stage Company is proud to present Chagall In School, a world premiere comedy by James Sherman (Beau Jest, The God of Isaac, The Ben Hecht Show) and directed by Georgette Verdin.  The play is inspired by the real story of the famed artist, Marc Chagall. Performances will take place August 26 - October 8, at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Preview performances will be Friday, Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m.,Thursday, Sept. 1, Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 4 at 2 p.m. Opening night is Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. The performance  schedule is Thursdays -  Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are now on sale  from $38 - $42 and information is available at 773.975.8150 or at


Sunday, July 24, 2022

REVIEW: Ken Ludwig’s “Dear Jack, Dear Louise” Now Playing at Northlight Theatre Through August 7, 2022

Northlight Theatre Presents 

Ken Ludwig’s “Dear Jack, Dear Louise”

Now Playing Through August 7, 2022

directed by Jessica Fisch

featuring Casey Hoekstra and Sarah Price

The run time is 1:45, including intermission


By Guest Critic Catherine Hellmann

“Why the hell didn’t we write this show?” asked my sister when I explained the premise. Two young people in World War ll, a Jewish doctor witnessing the horrors of battle and an aspiring actress/dancer trying to get her big break onto Broadway, begin a letter-writing correspondence at the encouragement of their fathers who knew each other in the old country. Our mom was a WWll Army nurse who cared for our dad when he got deathly ill with spinal meningitis, and they began a correspondence when she shipped out from the States. Our dad always said their romance was indebted to the U.S. Army Mail System. (Unlike Ludwig’s parents, whose mom destroyed their letters, our family still has our Dad’s. We gave his Army story letters to my son who is a Social Studies teacher.) 

The cast is Casey Hoekstra (Jack) and Sarah Price (Louise). All Production Photos by Michael Brosilow

“Dear Jack, Dear Louise” is a charmer. From the initial letter in 1942 when their dads suggest they “get acquainted in a social way,” we get to know these two young people just as they get to know each other through their letters. Initially, Jack is stationed in Oregon, and Louise is in NYC. We cheer for their budding romance and the hope that they finally get to meet in person and overcome the huge obstacles in their way. 

But we know that they do, because their future son is the playwright. 

Both Casey Hoekstra as Jack and Sarah Price as Louise are wonderful. Jack is reserved; he oversees amputations and skin grafts on a regular basis in his grueling work. Sarah is upbeat, sassy, ambitious, and swears a lot when she’s mad. These penpals blossom from friends to a deep caring for each other. By the time they meet in person, they know each other deeply through their words, which seems quaint but a lot more “real” than the Internet dating of modern times. When there is a lull in their literary conversation because of career interruptions or other priorities, the patience they have to practice seems unfathomable to us in the world of texting and instant messages.

I loved all the time period references. Louise is auditioning for “Arsenic and Old Lace” on Broadway. She adores a production of “Oklahoma!” starring Celeste Holm as Ado Annie. Her favorite performers are Ethel Merman, Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, and Rosalind Russell. Louise’s costumes by Izumi Inaba evoke the flattering styles of the 1940’s. And the fun soundtrack includes “Night and Day” by Cole Porter, “For Me and My Gal,” and “It Had to Be You.”    

I assumed that Ludwig borrowed and pieced together sections of his parents’ letters, but he had to create all the dialog from scratch. Since his mother must have felt the letters were too “intimate,” she didn’t save them for her sons. Knowing this background fact makes Ludwig’s entertaining script all the more impressive. The two characters interact through their letters without actually interacting together. I wondered how this was going to work theatrically, (would it just be a lot of back and forth letter reading like a vocal tennis game?), but it does so beautifully.    

One other factual aspect of the backstory is that Jack’s mother was one of 13 girls, so Jack had 12 aunts! Louise goes to Pennsylvania from New York to meet the family, which results in her brave recap of facing a dozen potential critics. Louise describes Jack’s family as appearing “out of a Norman Rockwell painting if Norman Rockwell painted Jews.” 

At our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party, Dad gave an awesome speech where he said our mom “took special care of me because she told me later,’I didn’t want you to die on my watch.’ And she’s still taking care of me because I am not dead yet!” 

Luckily, for my six siblings and I, and for Ken Ludwig and his brother, that military postal service was efficient and reliable! None of us would be here if it wasn’t for the powerful correspondence between Paul and Mildred and for Jack and Louise. 

Catherine Hellmann is the youngest of seven children and a teacher like her dad. (But he had the GI Bill to pay for college.) Her kids are teachers and a librarian, so apparently this literary stuff is hereditary. 

Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, continues its 2021–2022 season with Ken Ludwig’s Dear Jack, Dear Louise by Ken Ludwig.  The production runs July 7 – August 7, 2022 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie. 

When two strangers meet by letter during World War II, a love story begins. U.S. Army Captain Jack Ludwig, a military doctor stationed in Oregon, begins writing to Louise Rabiner, an aspiring actress and dancer in New York City, hoping to meet her someday if the war will allow. But as the war continues, it threatens to end their relationship before it even starts.  

Two-time Olivier Award-winning playwright Ken Ludwig tells the poignant story of his own parents’ unlikely courtship during World War II.

The creative team includes Yeaji Kim (Scenic Design), Izumi Inaba (Costume Design), Jackie Fox (Lighting Design), Eric Backus (Sound Design), and Lonnae Hickman (Props). The production stage manager is Rita Vreeland.

**A reminder that masks are required at all times at the theater.  Safety protocols are available here:**

Featuring: Casey Hoekstra (Jack) and Sarah Price (Louise).

Creative Team: Yeaji Kim (Scenic Design), Izumi Inaba (Costume Design), Jackie Fox (Lighting Design), Eric Backus (Sound Design), and Lonnae Hickman (Props). The production stage manager is Rita Vreeland.


Regular run: July 16-August 7, 2022

Tuesdays: 7:30pm (July 12 and August 26 only)

Wednesdays: 1:00pm and 7:30pm

Thursdays: 7:30pm 

Fridays: 8:00pm

Saturdays: 2:30pm (except July 9) and 8:00pm

Sundays: 2:30pm; and 7:00pm (July 10 and 24 only)

A Touch Tour. Open Captioning and Audio Described performance will be held on Saturday, July 30 at 2:30pm. A Relaxed performance for individuals with sensory sensitivity will be held Sunday, July 24 at 7:00pm.


Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie


Previews: $30-$61

Regular run: $30-$89

Student tickets are $15, any performance (subject to availability)

Box Office: The Box Office is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie. 847.673.6300;

Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.

Founded in 1974, the organization has mounted over 220 productions, including more than 40 world premieres. Northlight has earned 208 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 36 Awards, as well as ten Edgerton Foundation for New Play Awards. As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.

Northlight is supported in part by generous contributions from Allstate Insurance; the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation; BMO Harris Bank; Bulley and Andrews; Byline Bank; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; CoBank; ComEd, An Exelon Company; Eckenhoff Saunders; Evanston Arts Council; Evanston Community Foundation; Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; Full Circle Foundation; The Gross Foundation; Gruman Butkus Associates; John R. Halligan Fund; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Illinois Humanities; Katten Muchin Roseman LLP; Kirkland & Ellis Foundation; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation;  Modestus Bauer Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Niles Township; NorthShore University HealthSystems; Northwestern University; The Offield Family Foundation; The Pauls Foundation; PNC Bank; Polsinelli; Ralla Klepak Trust for the Performing Arts; Room & Board; Sanborn Family Foundation; The Saints Foundation; Dr. Scholl Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; The Sullivan Family Foundation; and Tom Stringer Design Partners.

REVIEW: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Musical Now Playing at Mercury Theater Through September 11, 2022

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Based on the film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” by Stephan Elliot

Featuring legendary cabaret chanteuse Honey West as Bernadette

and Josh Houghton as Tick/Mitzi

Now Playing Through September 11, 2022


By Guest Critic Catherine Hellmann

Credit for All Production Photos, Brett Beiner Photography

“It’s raining men! Hallelujah!”  So opens this exuberant production. The audience was as stoked as the cast on opening night. After a crazy/frustrating couple years, delays, and  rumors that the historic Mercury Theater was closing, Priscilla was finally here! Hallelujah, indeed. 

“Hey, I know a lot of these songs!” declared my excited, easygoing sister. Of all the theater I have been dragging her to (like 3-5 shows a week), Teresa proclaimed this fun musical was one of her favorites. It is a crowd-pleaser with a very familiar score, such as “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “Shake Your Groove Thing.” The rendition of the absurd “MacArthur Park” of the “cake left out in the rain” is an absolute hoot. 

I was excited to finally see the famous Honey West perform; she is perfect as the mature drag queen, Bernadette. Josh Houghton is wonderful as Tick/Mitzi. And Shaun White as Adam/Felicia is hilarious and bitchy; his lip-synch of “Sempre Libre” from Verdi’s opera La traviata is a highlight with his facial expressions and gestures. (Boy, I hate when drag queens have better legs than I do…) The three “divas” who act as a chorus are also standouts, especially Jessica Brooke Seals’ vocals. (“How do they change their costumes so fast?” my sis marveled.) Ayana Strutz has a dance number that made the audience gasp at her astounding flexibility! 

“Priscilla” is actually the name of the RV which the trio of drag queens take on their long journey. The scenic design by Jonathan Berg-Einhorn is truly inspired. The small stage of Mercury is limited, but the pink RV divided into decorated parts is clever and imaginative. How do you find an RV full of drag queens? “Follow the glitter.” 

The costumes by Robert Kuhn must be mentioned. (Ensembles in the audience made for great people-watching as well.) No diva worth her high heels can be complete without fabulous gowns. One of Mitzi’s dresses is covered in flip flops, which was my favorite. And the wigs by Keith Ryan are also inventive and fun.

Although this is an amusing and outrageous show, there are poignant moments and a strong message of acceptance. One of the drag queens asks why do they put up with insults and abuse every night? “So we feel like real women?” Hmmm…they get it. And there are also unabashed examples of prejudice and gay bashing in the show which remind us of the courage required to be so open about their “True Colors.” 

So, hobble on your stilettos and drape those feather boas and head out to catch “Priscilla.” You won’t want to miss this wild ride.

Catherine Hellmann is an educator, mom of educators, and theater junkie. She also loves reading and Chicago. And reading about Chicago. 

Mercury Theater Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter, Managing Director Kristi J. Martens and Executive Producers Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon announce the cast and creative team for the much-anticipated production of the summer, Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The musical features a book by Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott and is based on the film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” by Stephan Elliot. This production is directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter, with music direction by Executive Producer Eugene Dizon. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert runs July 15 – September 11, 2022 at Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue. 

The cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert is led by legendary cabaret chanteuse Honey West as Bernadette and Josh Houghton as Tick/Mitzi and features Heather J. Beck (Diva, US Marion, US Shirley), Lydia Burke (Diva, US Cynthia, US Miss Understanding), John Cardone (Ensemble, US Bernadette), Marcus Jackson (Jimmy, Frank, Ensemble, US Bob, Dance Captain), Brittany D. Parker (Marion, Shirley, Ensemble, US Diva), Darren Patin (Miss Understanding, Ensemble, US Adam/Felicia), Jason Richards (Bob, Ensemble), Jessica Brooke Seals (Diva), Gabriel Solis (Benji), and Ayana Strutz (Cynthia, Ensemble), Shaun White (Adam/Felicia) and Matthew Weidenbener (Young Bernadette). 

The creative team for Priscilla Queen of the Desert includes Christopher Chase Carter (director/choreographer), Eugene Dizon (music director), Jonathan Berg-Einhorn (scenic and props designer), Bob Kuhn (costume designer), Carl Wahlstrom (sound designer), Max Maxim (video designer), Rachel West (lighting supervisor), Will Hughes (scenic supervisor), Kathy Logelin (dialect director) and Keely Vasquez (casting associate). The production stage manager is Kristi J. Martens and the assistant stage manager is Katie-Sarah Phillips.

Based on the smash-hit movie, Priscilla is the heartwarming, uplifting adventure of a glamorous Sydney-based performing trio who take their show to the middle of the Australian outback. They hop aboard a battered old bus (nicknamed Priscilla) searching for love and friendship and end up finding more than they ever imagined. With a hit parade of dance floor favorites including “It's Raining Men," "I Will Survive," "Hot Stuff," "Boogie Wonderland," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," and "I Love The Nightlife" this wildly fresh and funny musical is a journey to the heart of fabulous!

Tickets for Priscilla Queen of the Desert, priced $39-$85, are on sale now at the box office, 3745 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago,

More About Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Book by: Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott

Based on the film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” by Stephan Elliot

Directed and Choreographed by: Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter

Music Direction by: Executive Producer Eugene Dizon

Featuring: Honey West (Bernadette) and Josh Houghton (Tick/Mitzi), as well as Heather J. Beck (Diva, US Marion, US Shirley), Lydia Burke (Diva, US Cynthia, US Miss Understanding), John Cardone (Ensemble, US Bernadette), Daniel Hurst (Young Bernadette, Ensemble, US Tick/Mitzi), Marcus Jackson (Jimmy, Frank, Ensemble, US Bob, Dance Captain), Brittany D. Parker (Marion, Shirley, Ensemble, US Diva), Darren Patin (Miss Understanding, Ensemble, US Adam/Felicia), Jason Richards (Bob, Ensemble), Jessica Brooke Seals (Diva), Gabriel Solis (Benji), and Ayana Strutz (Cynthia, Ensemble). Casting for the role of Adam/Felicia will be announced at a later date.

Creative Team: Christopher Chase Carter (director/choreographer), Eugene Dizon (music director), Jonathan Berg-Einhorn (scenic and props designer), Bob Kuhn (costume designer), Carl Wahlstrom (sound designer), Max Maxim (video designer), Rachel West (lighting supervisor), Will Hughes (scenic supervisor), Kathy Logelin (dialect director) and Keely Vasquez (casting associate). The production stage manager is Kristi J. Martens and the assistant stage manager is Daniel J. Hanson.

Dates: July 15 – September 11, 2022


Wednesdays: 7:30 p.m.

Thursdays: 7:30 p.m.

Fridays: 7:30 p.m.

Saturdays: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Sundays: 2 p.m.

Location: Mercury Theater Chicago

3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago

Tickets: $39 – $85

Box Office: 3745 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago

COVID PROTOCOL: Mercury Theater Chicago follows the CDC and State of Illinois recommendations about maintaining a COVID safe environment. Any interaction with the public poses an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19. By visiting Mercury Theater Chicago, it is understood that everyone voluntarily assumes all risks related to exposure.

All patrons will have to wear a mask throughout the performance when not actively eating or drinking regardless of vaccination status.

About Mercury Theater Chicago

The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is in the heart of the Southport Corridor at 3745 North Southport Avenue, within a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful destination, Mercury Theater Chicago is a live-theater seating 280 people, adjoining Venus Cabaret Theater (seating 80). 

The building that houses the Mercury opened in 1912 as a silent film nickelodeon, named The Blaine Theatre after actor and former Senator and Secretary of State James G. Blaine. The Blaine became obsolete when talking pictures became popular nationwide in 1928. The building served a variety of uses until 1994, when it was purchased by theater producer Michael Cullen and transformed into a live theatre, named the Mercury Theatre.

In 2010 the building was sold again and reopened as Mercury Theater Chicago under the direction of Walter Stearns, a veteran theater director and producer. Mercury Theater Chicago's second performance space, Venus Cabaret Theater, offers a unique intimate theatrical experience complemented by specialty cocktails. Mercury Theater Chicago is thrilled to be part of the city's vibrant theatre community, boasting record-setting long runs, employing hundreds of artists and recognized with dozens of award nominations. Mercury Theater Chicago's team includes Christopher Chase Carter (Artistic Director), Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon (Executive Producers), Kristi J. Martens (Managing Director) and Honey West (Cabaret Director). Visit

REVIEW: Queer Eye: The Musical Parody Now Playing at The Second City in Chicago

 ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

Queer Eye: The Musical Parody

at The Second City in Chicago 


By Catherine Hellmann, Guest Critic 

My older daughter and I loved to watch the original “Queer Eye” when she was in high school. She’s now been finished with grad school about ten years. Yeah, we’re talking 2003. I’m wondering why bother to skewer an outdated show? Well, a new “Queer Eye” debuted in 2018 with a different cast who are mimicked perfectly in this funny production at Second City. My cynicism was won over. The talented cast have high energy, fun dance moves, and great voices which add to their over-the-top performances and drive the momentum of the show. I’ve been dragging my new-to-Chicago sister to a LOT of theater, and she said this was one of her favorites. 

The poor sap (victim!) being made over is “Sam,”(Bryson Howard) who lives in his mom’s basement, was breastfed until he was 9 (ewww…), plays “Fortnite,” and “is unemployed but an aspiring puppetteer.” This prize of manhood is adored by his childhood friend Claire, played with goofy enthusiasm by Bridget Adams-King (who has an astounding voice). Of course, Sam is too clueless to realize that Claire has a tremendous crush on him. (hysterical puppet scene a la “Avenue Q” late in the show).      

While being made over, Sam # 1 transforms into Sam # 2, played by the charismatic Jordan Dell Harris. One of the big improvements is switching out Sam’s ugly t-shirt; even his mother tells him,”This shirt says, ‘You’re a virgin.’”

Or as the fashionista (Tina Arfaee) sings: “Straight men’s clothes bring me to tears. They look like they haven’t shopped in years.” 

There are ongoing jokes that the home makeover guy has to perform the most work, with Eddie Ledford as Bobby nearly having a nervous breakdown about needing to redo an entire living space. The other members of the “Fab Five” get off pretty easy with their tasks, especially the “Culture” guy, Karamo (Evan Tyrone Martin). My daughter and I always pondered exactly what the hell his role contributed. Here, Karamo sings how he doesn’t know what to do when it’s his segment. (“I got nothin’!”) 

My sister’s favorite Fab Five was the grooming/hairdresser Jonathan, played with relish by Evan Starkweather. His comic timing and reactions were spot-on. They were funny as he delivered them, but I later watched an episode of the new “Queer Eye,” and he is channeling the hairdresser on the show. (“Are we about to bond?”) 

My personal fave was the food guy, Antoni, played by the adorable (and hot!) Dominic Rescigno. He confesses that he is the “eye candy” of the show and asks when can he take his shirt off? Loved his cooking segment in his “Kiss the Cok” apron! (and avocado puppets!) 

Dakota Hughes got a huge cheer from the crowd with her rousing song imploring Sam to move out of her house! She and Adams-King both had two roles with lots of back-and-forth costume changes. One of the funniest bits was when their characters asked where their other characters were and made a hasty excuse of, “Uhhhh…She’s busy.” 

None of the show is possible without the tremendous talent of Music Director/Composer/Lyricist/Orchestrator Heidi Joosten. She keeps it all together. I could hardly believe she was the only instrumentalist. 

After the show, I walked my sis around so she could see the informal museum that celebrates all the talent that has rolled through Second City. All those famous faces that have created a huge legacy In Chicago. We’re lucky this theater is here. 

Catherine Hellmann could use a makeover, but who has time between teaching teenagers and attending theater?  

Legendary Chicago comedy institution The Second City is excited to present Queer Eye: The Musical Parody. Co-created and co-written by Second City Mainstage ensemble member Evan Mills and Heidi Joosten, the show will be co-directed by Mills and Stephen Schellhardt, who is also choreographer. Joosten, the composer, lyricist and orchestrator for the show, will fill the role of musical director. Cast members include Bridget Adams-King, Tina Arfaee, Jordan Dell Harris, Bryson Howard, Dakota Hughes, Eddie Ledford, Evan Tyrone Martin, Dominic Rescigno, and Evan Starkweather. Shannon Golden-Starr is stage manager.

Inspired by the hit Netflix show Queer Eye, Second City audiences will follow everybody's fave Fab Five as they help an Average Joe manifest their full potential through aggressive self-love, laugh-out-loud comedy, and more songs than you can handle, henny! Watch a two-act "episode" of the show we all thought we knew... until now. Queer Eye: The Musical Parody features all the avocados, plenty of pompadours, and maybe even a puppet or two. Say "YASS, and" to this hilarious experience where things just keep on getting better...and funnier! 

Tickets for Queer Eye: The Musical Parody start at $39.00 and are available by phone at 312-337-3992 or online at The show schedule is as follows beginning May 26, 2022: Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 7pm in UP Comedy Club.

About the Artists

Bridget Adams-King (“Claire/Rachel”) (she/her) is thrilled and so grateful to be making her Second City debut! Some of the theaters she has previously worked with include Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Kokandy Productions, Northlight Theatre, and Griffin Theatre. She is a two-time Jeff-nominated performer for her portrayal of “Kate” in If/Then at Brown Paper Box Co. and “Lucy Parsons” in Underscore Theatre Company’s 2018 production of Haymarket: A New Folk Musical. She has also appeared in an episode of NBC’s hit show Chicago PD. She is repped by Gray Talent Group. @badamsking 

Tina Arfaee (“Tan”) (they/any) has been writing and performing in Chicago since 2012, most notably at The Annoyance Theater with Matt Damon Improv. With MDI, she wrote and starred in the web series In-Diana. She has also appeared on an episode of Chicago Fire, Centered the web series, and short film The Sweatshirt. Tina is a graduate of The Second City/NBC Universal Bob Curry Fellowship. She is repped by Big Mouth Talent. @tinatwocats

Shannon Golden-Starr (Stage Manager) (She/They) CHICAGO: I, Banquo, Short Shakespeare: The Comedy of Errors, Q Brothers' Christmas Carol, Shakespeare in the Parks production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), Frankenstein, Act(s) of God, Plantation!, Hard Times, Moby Dick, Thaddeus and Slocuum: A Vaudeville Adventure (Lookingglass Theatre Company); The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Frederick (Chicago Children’s Theatre); The King of the Yees, Uncle Vanya, Carlyle, Soups Stews and Casseroles: 1976, Feathers and Teeth (Goodman Theatre); The Mutilated, Simpatico (A Red Orchid Theatre); This Wonderful Life (American Blues Theater); Betrayal (Raven Theatre).

Jordan Dell Harris (“Sam #2”)  (he/him) is making his Second City debut! He was last seen onstage as “Donald” in Windy City Playhouse’s The Boys in the Band (Jeff Award winner, Best Ensemble). Other Chicago credits include work with Goodman Theatre, Raven Theatre, Griffin Theatre, The Story Theatre, BoHo Theatre and more. TV credits include 4400 (CW) and Next (Fox). 

Bryson Howard (“Sam #1”) (he/him) is a Chicago transplant from South Carolina by way of Nashville, TN, and Paris, France. After four and a half years of performing improv and scripted comedy around Chicago, the city thankfully has not yet rejected the transplant. He has been fortunate enough to perform in several shows at The Annoyance Theatre; he was part of the cast of The Queer Eye: The Musical Parody at the Playground Theater; he is an ensemble member of Baby Wants Candy, and he can be found performing improv at various venues in Chicago with his comedy partner Cassidy Russell. Twitter: @BrysonHoward. Instagram: @BrysonDallasHoward.

Dakota Hughes (“Bev/Executive Producer”) (They/Them) is ecstatic to make their Second City debut! Dakota is a Los Angeles native and graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where they earned a BFA in Musical Theatre Performance. Some favorite credits include Kinky Boots, Cinderella (Paramount Theatre), American Idiot (The Hypocrites), Lizzie (Firebrand), Thrones! The Parody Musical! (The Apollo Theater), and [title of show] (Open Door Rep).

Heidi Joosten (Music Director/Composer/Lyricist/Orchestrator) (she/her) is thrilled and grateful to be making her Second City debut with this show that is so near and dear to her heart. A multi-hyphenate performing artist, Heidi has collaborated on over 100 new theatrical, comedic, and concert works in the Chicagoland area since her arrival in 2014. Notable writing credits include: Queer Eye: the Musical Parody (The Second City), Saint Hildegard: the Rupertsberg Tour (Theo Ubique), Micro (Music Theatre of Madison), and The Bone Harp (Underscore Theatre Company). Joosten is a highly-sought after composer with over 200 works to her name, and her award-winning music has been performed across the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. Heidi holds a Bachelors of Music from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and Masters of Music from Roosevelt University - Chicago College of Performing Arts. Proud member of ASCAP and the Dramatists Guild.

Eddie Ledford (“Bobby”) (he/him) is a Chicago-based actor, singer and comedian. He is a graduate of The Second City’s Conservatory, an ensemble member of the queer comedy group Baby Wine, and has performed in theaters, festivals and digital projects around the city including The Annoyance, Rhino Fest, Chicago Sketch Fest, Ordinary Peepholes, Commercial Appeal and web series Guilty. He originated the role of “Bobby” in the show’s initial run at The Playground Theatre and is very happy and grateful to reprise it at The Second City. Instagram: @_eddele

Evan Tyrone Martin (“Karamo”) (he/him) is excited to be making his Second City debut! Most recently, Evan could be seen in Blues In The Night at Porchlight Music Theatre opposite Broadway star Felicia P. Fields. Regional credits: “Jim” in Roundabout Theatre's digital reading of Zora Neale-Hurston's musical SPUNK (directed by Lili-Ann Brown); The Black Clown (Ensemble) at American Repertory Theater/Lincoln Center's 2019 Mostly Mozart Festival; Hair (“Hud”) at Mercury Theater; Jesus Christ Superstar (“Jesus,” BTAA Nomination) at Paramount Theatre; Dreamgirls (“Curtis,” BTAA Nomination) and Far From Heaven (“Raymond,” Jeff nomination) at Porchlight Music Theatre; and The Little Mermaid (“King Triton”) at Arkansas Rep. Evan has worked with Godspeed, Arkansas Shakes, Chicago Shakes, Chicago Humanities Festival, and many others. He also toured starring in the hit revues Unforgettable: Falling in Love with Nat King Cole and An Unforgettable Nat King Cole Christmas. Next up, Evan will play “Mister” in The Color Purple at the legendary MUNY in St. Louis. Instagram: @3vanMart1n. He is repped by Paonessa Talent.

Evan Mills (Co-Director/Writer/Creator)( He/Him) is incredibly grateful to be co-directing the original musical he wrote with his writing partner Heidi Joosten, Queer Eye: The Musical Parody. He is currently an ensemble member in The Second City’s 110th Mainstage Revue and was previously an ensemble member of The Second City Mainstage revue Together at Last. Evan has toured with Second City’s RedCo and is a recipient of the Bob Curry Fellowship Program. He spent a summer in Washington D.C., performing at the Kennedy Center in Generation Gap and has also performed at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. He has been featured in the Break Out Comedy Festival, LA Laughter Comedy Fest, and the Comedy Central Showcase. You can check out his original music on Spotify (“A Little Bit Alexis” cover and “Sissy Boy”) and follow him on all social media platforms @awkvanmills.

Dominic Rescigno (“Antoni”) (he/him) is experiencing a dream come true doing this show with these people on this stage. He is a graduate of Second City’s Comedy Studies program and is currently finishing the Conservatory. He has performed for Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Onion, ClickHole, Walt Disney World, and starred in Chicago's long-running comedy Tony N' Tina's Wedding. His two webseries The Dominics and Dominic Tonight! have been critically ignored. | @dominicrescigno

Stephen Schellhardt (Co-Director/Choreographer) (he/him) is thrilled to be a part of the Queer Eye: A Musical Parody family. He is a Jeff Award-winning director and actor, as well as choreographer, producer, educator, and casting director. In Chicago, Stephen has worked with the Marriott Theater, Writers Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Mercury Theater, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, About Face Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Chicago’s Lyric Opera, The Goodman Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Northwestern University, and BoHo Theatre, where he served as a company member and Artistic Director for six years. 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). From 2014-2017, Stephen served as Associate Producer and Casting Director at Writers Theatre in Glencoe before becoming a visiting professor at Northwestern University and then moving to The Chicago College of Performing Arts, where he now holds the title of Head of Musical Theatre. Stephen is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama and a proud member of the Actors Equity Association.  

Evan Starkweather (“Jonathan”) (he/they) is a Chicago-based performer and writer making their Second City debut. They were last seen performing karaoke at a bar in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, but before that, they wrote and performed numerous sketch and musical variety shows at The Annoyance, The Playground, and The Second City Training Center. They are a graduate of The Second City Conservatory, and their music video “Platonic Gay Best Friend” has been featured on Funny or Die. @evanspelledellen

About The Second City

The Second City opened its doors in 1959 as a small comedy cabaret and has since grown to become the world’s most influential name in improv and comedy. Second City's stages, Touring Companies, and Training Centers across North America have proudly been the launch pad for many of the funniest names on the planet, including John Belushi, John Candy, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Keegan-Michael Key, Eugene Levy, Tim Meadows, Bill Murray, Mike Myers, Suzy Nakamura, Catherine O’Hara, Amy Poehler, Gilda Radner, Sam Richardson, Joan Rivers, Amber Ruffin, Jason Sudeikis, and Steven Yeun, among many more.

Google Analytics