Showing posts with label Jenna Schoppe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jenna Schoppe. Show all posts

Thursday, June 6, 2019

OPENING: THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE VIA Underscore Theatre Company at The Understudy Through July 14, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
Underscore Theatre Company Presents
Book and Lyrics by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier & Seth Macchi
Music by Ben Auxier and Brian Huther
Additional Music and Arrangements by Ryan McCall
Directed by Rusty Sneary 
Music Direction by Ryan McCall
Choreography by Jenna Schoppe
 June 8 – July 14, 2019 at The Understudy

Underscore Theatre Company is pleased to conclude its 2018-19 season with the musical comedy THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE, playing June 8 – July 14, 2019 at Underscore’s newly-remodeled, permanent home, The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St. in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Named “Best of the Fest” at the 2018 Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, LEFTY & CRABBE features book and lyrics by Brian Huther, Ben Auxier and Seth Macchi, music by Ben Auxier and Brian Huther, additional music and arrangements by Ryan McCall, direction by Rusty Sneary, music direction by Ryan McCall and choreography by Jenna Schoppe. Tickets are currently available at

THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE will feature Ben Auxier, Stephanie Boyd, Katy Campbell, Elisabeth Del Toro, Brian Huther, Mike Ott, Reagan Pender, Shea Pender, Natalie Rae and Kyle Ryan. Swings: Sophia Foldvari and Nate Hall.

Set at the death of vaudeville and the rise of Hollywood, THE BALLAD OF LEFTY & CRABBE tracks two ultra-talented but down-on-their-luck performers and friends as they navigate the ever-changing landscape of the entertainment world. Lightning-fast and "fall down funny," Lefty & Crabbe was born as part of the Kansas City Fringe Festival in 2015, received its first full production at The Living Room Theatre in 2017 and won “Best of the Fest” for its 2018 production at The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival.  

Comments Underscore Artistic Director Whitney Rhodes, “When I was living in Minneapolis, I worked for historic theaters that started as Vaudeville houses and spent years hearing truly magical stories about that history. The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe sent me on a nostalgic journey that is pure joy; it is a smart and thoughtful piece of work. It's a nod to where the craft began and we can't wait to share it with audiences.”

The production team includes Nicholas Schwartz (scenic design), Christina Leinicke (costume design), Benjamin Carne (lighting design), Robert Hornbostel (sound design), Andy Lynn (production manager), Lacey Pacheco (stage manager) and Christine Lauer (assistant stage manager).

Cast (in alphabetical order): Ben Auxier (Ensemble), Stephanie Boyd (Ensemble), Katy Campbell (Ensemble), Elisabeth Del Toro (Lolo, Ensemble), Brian Huther (Ensemble), Mike Ott (Ensemble), Reagan Pender (Ensemble), Shea Pender (Crabbe), Natalie Rae (Evelyn, Ensemble) and Kyle Ryan (Lefty).

Swings: Sophia Foldvari and Nate Hall.

Location: The Understudy, 4609 N. Clark St., Chicago

Dates: Previews: Saturday, June 8 at 7:30 pm, Sunday, June 9 at 4 pm and Monday, June 10 at 7:30 pm
Press performance: Tuesday, June 11 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Friday, June 14 – Sunday, July 14, 2019
Curtain Times: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 4 pm; Mondays at 7:30 pm.
Tickets: Previews: $15. Regular run: $20 - $25. Tickets are currently available at

About the Artists:

Brian Huther (Book, Music and Lyric) is a Chicago-based creator, performer and musician, and erstwhile radio producer and greeting-card writer. His projects with creative partners at Friend Dog Studios have accumulated millions of views on YouTube and Facebook (Drunk Trump, 2016 The Movie: The Trailer) and packed out theatres in Kansas City, Missouri (The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe, Milking Christmas, Hacks). He has written two one-act plays, and is currently developing a five-act near-future epic because he likes the pain. Performing credits include Theatre Wit, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, KC Actors Theatre, The Living Room, Chicago PD and a cornucopia of storefront projects, sketch/improv shows, music projects and commercials.

Ben Auxier (Book, Music and Lyrics) is an actor, writer and comedian originally from Kansas City who moved to Chicago in late 2016. His other co-writing endeavors include the musical comedy Milking Christmas, which premiered in Kansas City in 2017, the dark comedy straight play HACKS, which won a Best of Fringe recognition in 2016, and loads and loads of sketch, including lot of work for the occasionally-viral online comedy channel Friend Dog Studios. His acting credits over the last few years include the original Chicago run of Lefty & Crabbe, Mozart in THEATREWORKS' production of Amadeus in Colorado, and several appearances with KC-based companies The Heart of America Shakespeare Festival and The Living Room Theatre.  

Seth Macchi (Book and Lyrics) is an actor, comedian and writer located in Kansas City. Previous acting appearances at New Theatre in Kansas City include Bernard in Boeing Boeing, Chris in Beau Jest, Paul in Over the Moon and Tony in You Can’t Take It With You. Seth was also in Our Town and A Christmas Carol at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, The Mistakes Madeline Made, H4CKS, The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe and Milking Christmas at The Living Room, Not About Heroes at the MET and Fiddler on the Roof at Spinning Tree. Seth is also a co-creator of Friend Dog Studios, a creative collaboration he shares with Ben Auxier and Brian Huther. Together, they have made dozens of online comedy sketches, a podcast, and three world premiere stage productions, which they mounted at The Living Room. Check out some of the stuff they have created online at

Ryan McCall (Additional Music, Arrangements, Music Direction) is a composer/arranger/performer currently serving as the Music Director/Accompanist for the Theater and Dance Department at the University of Kansas. KU credits include: Music Director for La Cage aux Folles, Spring Awakening, Company, Little Women, Into the Woods, Merrily We Roll Along, Anything Goes, The Adding Machine, My Fair Lady, Kiss Me Kate; Composer of And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi, Man Equals Man, Summer and Smoke, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (North American Premiere in it’s original pronunciation). Ryan has worked professionally with Kansas City Ballet, Second City, Improv Olympic, KC Rep, Giordano Dance Company and The Living Room Theater. Recently, Ryan joined forces with Friend Dog Studios as a composer and arranger for two new musicals, The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe and Milking Christmas. He is also the composer of the family musical Noah’s Art, which he wrote with his longtime friend Nathan Tysen (Tuck Everlasting, Amelie), and the rock musical Stillwater with Tysen and their band, Joe’s Pet Project. Ryan has taught songwriting workshops at the Kansas, Florida and International Thespian Conferences and is one of the Music Directors for the Lovewell Institute for the Creative Arts, a program dedicated to teaching young artists how to write for the musical theater stage. Ryan is originally from Salina, KS.

Rusty Sneary (Director) graduated from Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre performance. In the spring of 2010, he co-founded The Living Room Theatre where he serves as the Artistic Director. Rusty has produced and served as Artistic Director on over 50 productions including over 25 world premieres. He has also served as a lighting designer, sound designer and the director of many productions, has acted in numerous productions at The Living Room, and continues to act on other professional Kansas City stages. Directing credits include the world premieres of The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe, Trigger Happy and The Grave, as well as Annapurna, Some Girl(s), Talk Radio and Race.

Jenna Schoppe (Choreographer) is a choreographer, actor and dancer. She returns to Underscore after appearing in the Tiny Storefront Concert series. Her previous choreographic endeavors include Yank: A WW2 Love Story (Pride Films and Plays, Jeff Award – Best Choreography), Little Women (Brown Paper Box co.), Shrek (Windy City Performs), Book of Merman (Flying Elephant Productions), Bobbie Clearly (Steep Theatre) and The Producers (NightBlue Performing Arts). 

About Underscore Theatre Company

Founded in 2011, Underscore Theatre Company is a team of producing artists dedicated to exploring stories of power and resonance through a musical lens; fostering the development of new musicals; and bolstering Chicago’s role as a national leader in musical theatre. Since its creation, Underscore has produced or co-produced 65 new mainstage and workshop musicals in Chicago. Underscore is proud to be Chicago's home for new musicals.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

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

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar 

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

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

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

by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About The Creative Team

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

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

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

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

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

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