Showing posts with label Stage 773. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stage 773. Show all posts

Friday, October 11, 2019

REVIEW: World Premiere of INVISIBLE Via Her Story Theater Now Playing Through November 3, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Written by Mary Bonnett
Directed by Cecilie Keenan

The World Premiere of a play about the Women's Ku Klux Klan 
in 1920's Mississippi

by bonnie kenaz-mara

Her Story Theater's Invisible is full of characters you'll love to hate. These women, in a small Mississippi town in 1925, are the most dangerous kind of self-righteous, southern bigots, who justify hate crimes, violence, and even murder in the name of Christianity and white supremacy. Though subservient to their husbands and sometimes even domestic violence abuse victims themselves, these women have power and use their smarts, social standing and ability to ostracize to amass an army for the first Women’s Ku Klux Klan. The clan not only harassed and hurt African Americans, but Jews, Catholics, and even disenfranchised whites who were perceived as "other" as well. Greed, deception, corruption and theft ran rampant among the ranks of the KKK movement, which eventually imploded, but not before amassing a frightening number of members. This period piece is a stark reminder of how little has changed in 100 years, as white supremacy, scapegoating immigrants, and race based discrimination is once again gaining mainstream credibility in our current political climate.

Invisible is a character driven exploration of a moment in history, between world wars, where immigrants were maligned, race based violence was condoned, and patriotism and Christian religion got twisted to justify horrific ends. It's an era of errors we'd best remember as a country, as we teeter on the bring of repeating it. 

There is a bright spot in the morass. Without revealing too many spoilers, there are those who step up embrace human decency regardless of skin color, heritage or religion, just because another person is in need. Invisible has a wonderful character, a well educated artist from Chicago, who has gone back to the location of family trauma and tragedies to challenge the status quo with poetry, music, activism and acts of human kindness. We're also huge fans of the swamp foundling who can hear and speak to the dead. There's also a compelling mystery around the lineage of "ghost girl" and an intriguing dose of the supernatural, which makes Invisible great storytelling. This production has nuance and depth, and avoids coming across as preachy, on a tough topic.

Invisible also does an excellent job of including conflicted characters, trying to do the right thing. In every movement there are those who embrace an ideology for financial reasons, out of fear, or for other reasons aside from true belief in the cause. It's telling that the core KKK women relied on bullying and fear of financial ruin to control this segment of their base. Even white women were seen as "other" if they were Irish, not born in town, or showed any slight immodesty, impropriety, or rebellion. 


The casting is excellent, and Maddy Flemming and Lisa McConnell are particular standouts. Though the subject matter is heavy, particularly the end with video projections of throngs of hooded KKK members, it's a story that needs to be seen. As long as hate crimes and immigrant bashing are still happening, racial inequality is acceptable, and religion is used to justify hate, there's a need for theatre and art to shine a light in those dark corners, and make audiences think and feel again. Kudos to Her Story Theater for bringing this world premiere to life on stage. 

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 has published frequently since 2008: (adult) & (family friendly).

INVISIBLE imagines a woman in a small Mississippi town in 1925 who is forced to reconcile her involvement in the modern Women’s Ku Klux Klan movement with her religious beliefs and sense of decency. Wrapping their anti-immigrant mission in a cloak of patriotism following the passage of women’s suffrage, Mabel Carson’s neighbors have convinced her of the justness of their cause, but the arrival in town of a Chicago newspaper reporter just as their WKKK chapter is gaining momentum forces Mabel to question her beliefs. INVISIBLE is a powerful and suspenseful drama in the tradition of American southern-set narrative fiction.

Performance Details
Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, plus Saturday, November 2 at 3 pm

Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago

Tickets:, 773-327-5252

PRICES: $35.00, Students $15.00
For information on group rates, visit or call 312-835-1410.


In the 1920s in America, the Women's KKK came into being. By then Black Codes in the South were firmly in place; the oppression was profound and often violent. Unlike the Klans of the Reconstructionist Era and Civil Rights Movement who specifically targeted the African American community, this Klan turned its main attention toward Immigrants, Catholics and Jews. 

Under the guise of an all welcoming flag of patriotism, they wrapped themselves up in Nationalism, Nativism and Purity -- 100% American. "America for Americans". The newly formed Women's Klan of that era fought their way to power after winning the women's right to vote. They infiltrated churches, schools, civic organizations and appealed to motherhood, the future and safety of children. 

They were the inventors of "Poison Squads" who spread lies and destroyed reputations. If any of this reminds you of today's climate, come see this show and understand what we collectively inherited from this brief but impactful time in history. It was a movement that swept the nation. It was when the Klan went mainstream in America. While the plot and characters of INVISIBLE are imagined, the descriptions of the WKKK activities are accurate, and actual historical figures are mentioned as off-stage characters. 

left-right: Morgan Laurel Cohen, Richard Cotovsky, Maddy Flemming, Brad Harbaugh.
Lower row left-right: Barbara Roeder Harris, Megan Kaminsky, Lisa McConnell.

INVISIBLE was written by Her Story Theater’s Producing Artistic Director Mary Bonnett, author of the company’s earlier productions that comprised its “Chicago Sex Trafficking Cycle.” The cycle includes SHADOW TOWN, voted one of the 2013 “Ten Best Productions of the Year” by Chicago Theater Beat; THE JOHNS, MONEY MAKE ‘M’ SMILE for youth, and 2018’s breakout hit MONGER, of which the SUN TIMES said “It lands with a crushing (and factually supported) weight.”  SPLASH MAGAZINE gave it four stars, saying, “The Play’s action is mesmerizing; at a tightly crafted 75 minutes… it hits many nerves at once; anger, disbelief, compassion, fear and a desire to help.” BUZZ CENTER STAGE said “What I really want is for you to go see this play. This is something real.”

INVISIBLE will be directed by longtime Chicago director Cecilie Keenan, who earned raves for her direction of WEDDING BAND in 2017 for The Artistic Home. That production prompted Tony Adler, the then-theater editor of the READER to declare “ So praise the Lord, as one of its characters would certainly say, for the Artistic Home revival of Childress's WEDDING BAND.”

INVISIBLE will be the first HerStory Theater production to be eligible for Chicago's Jeff Awards.

Her Story Theater is a theater for social change. Through theater and the written word, our mission is to shine bright lights in dark places on women and children in need of social justice and community support.  Since 2011, we have partnered with countless organizations to raise awareness on current issues that impact women and children.

Sponsored by the Oppenheimer Family Foundation

Thursday, August 22, 2019


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar


Join over 400 queens of comedy from all around the world for one of the biggest funny festivals in the country, now with their first ever all-Spanish speaking set, August 22-25

Chicago knows funny, and we're ready to launch some laughs again, with four days of fem fun. This year, for the first time ever, the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival will also feature an all-Spanish speaking slot showcasing a stand up show, a sketch group, and two improv groups! 

Check it out. The 8th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival is taking place August 22 through August 25 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. The Chicago Women’s Funny Festival is the largest celebration of women in comedy in the country and offers talented, and funny individuals the opportunity to learn, teach, and empower each other and audiences who all love to laugh. Featuring a spectrum of comedic genius ranging from ‘relatable stand up’ to ‘highbrow musical improv’, the Chicago Women’s Funny Festival has something for everyone. 

Blending long term veterans with fresh newcomers, the fest packs over 80 shows into four funny-filled days, making it easier than ever to discover new groups to love. 

The full schedule and searchable calendar for the 8th Annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival can be viewed at  

“Chicago is home to one of the biggest comedy scenes in the world, and with that comes an immeasurable number of very funny and highly talented women who are constantly re-defining the industry and setting the stage for what it means to be a comedian,” said Valentine. “We are honored to have the opportunity to unite these women and deliver a festival that is full of fun laughs, inclusion, and empowerment.”

Featuring an array of veteran talent and newcomers, highlights for the 2019 festival include stand up acts like longtime favorite, Patti Vasquez, whose solo show will take audiences on a journey of awkward dates, embarrassing moments and other funny stories of personal humiliation that will make you think “Wow, I guess my life isn’t so bad after all”, Dina Nina Martinez, who the Late Late Show’s James Corden hails as “…very funny”, longtime couple and dynamic comedy duo Anna Vocino and Loren Tarquinio of Married AF with their special part stand up, party storytelling, part improv set, and ventriloquist Hannah Leskosky with her magical mouth moving and substance abusing puppet unicorn, Marzipan Lavender Sparkles.

The brand new all-Spanish speaking set of shows will feature standup comedian, Eliana La Casa, an Argentinian comedian living in Chicago who blends personal stories and opinions into laugh out loud relatable moments, La Carne Asada #2: The Seasoning, a hilarious sketch show re-living all that a Latinx family dinner has to offer, Las Tinas Improv, creating a one night only audience based telenovela, and Ratas De Dos Patas, who will translate suggestions into Spanish to create hilarious streetwise teaching moments for the audience.

Other lineup highlights include the marvelous talent of improv group Bosses in Bonnetts with their “Black Girl Magic” Sketch Revue offering lots of laughs and real thoughts on the black female experience, the Chicago Reader’s 2016 Best Improv Troupe, Hitch* Cocktails, with their Alfred Hitchcock style improv fueled by audience suggestions, and the Super Tasty variety show featuring frank and funny talks about sex, performances, demos and more.

Chicago Women’s Funny Festival was founded in 2012 when producers Jill Valentine and Liz McArthur wanted to build a comedy festival where women could come together and celebrate all art forms of comedy under one roof. The first festival boasted 66 shows and 400 performers in five days. Women’s Fest also hosted events throughout the week where women from across the country could network with each other and more importantly, celebrate one another’s work. The response from comedians and audience members was overwhelmingly positive – which is why the festival is coming back for an eighth year.

Jill Valentine is a Chicago Southside native who has been the Executive Director of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival (the largest of its kind in the nation) since the festival’s inception in 2000. She is also Stage 773’s Executive Director and a founding principal of the building. Jill performs in several popular and critically acclaimed groups in Chicago, including The Cupid Players, Off Off Broadzway and Feminine Gentleman who have performed all over the country.

Liz McArthur hails from St. Louis and has worked with the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival since 2005. McArthur can be seen with groups such as Off Off Broadzway, OneTwoThree Comedy, and Feminine Gentlemen. McArthur is also part of the hit zombie comedy Musical of the Living Dead.

All performances will take place at Chicago’s home for the city’s most innovative, creative and passionate off-Loop performing artists, Stage 773, located at 1225 W. Belmont. Stage 773 is a non-profit Chicago company that produces produces Bye Bye Liver, The Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival, The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, education and program opportunities, as well as offering subsidized theater rental space to the hundreds of Chicago’s itinerant off-Loop companies and performers.

Tickets for the 8th Annual Women’s Funny Festival are $15 each. Nightly and festival passes are also available ranging from $36 to $150. Tickets and information are available online at, by phone 773.327.5252, and in person at the Stage 773 box office, located at 1225 W Belmont.

About Stage 773
Stage 773 is a vibrant anchor of the Belmont Theatre District and home to Chicago’s finest off-Loop talent. As a performance and tenant venue, our four stages provide entertainment for everyone: comedy, theatre, dance, musicals and more. We are a not-for-profit, connecting and catalyzing the theater community, while showcasing established artists and incubating up-and-coming talent.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Midwest Premiere of Grace, or the Art of Climbing Via Brown Paper Box Co. at Stage 773

Brown Paper Box Co. presents the Midwest Premiere of
or the Art of Climbing 
by L M Feldman

Thursday, June 6-Sunday, July 8, 2019
at Stage 773

Fresh off their Jeff Award nomination for Little Women the Musical and community-focused Holding On cabaret, tickets are now on sale for Brown Paper Box Co.’s Midwest premiere of Grace, or the Art of Climbing by L M Feldman running June 6-July 8, 2019 at Stage 773.

Faced with a painful chapter in her life and fighting the inertia of depression, Emm decides to enter the world of competitive rock-climbing. Her quest through the rugged and humorous terrain of physical training and personal relationships charts the journey of a young woman suspended between love and loss, strength and fear, fathers and daughters, and the ardor and grace of being human. Brown Paper Box Co. is proud to present the Midwest premiere of this Barrymore Award Best New Play nominee and Kilroys List honorable mention. For additional information, performance times, artists’ bios, and tickets, please visit
“In this beautiful play, L M Feldman amplifies the complexities of mental illness without ever dismissing our lead character as a victim, allowing those of us who struggle with depression to see ourselves represented on stage as fully human,” says director Erin Shea Brady. “We recognize Emm's challenges as our own as she navigates heartbreak and loss, finding her footing in an unpredictable and ever-changing world. Feldman's story is unique, harnessing the power of physical theater to illustrate the importance of trust — in ourselves, in our bodies, and in the people around us.”

The cast for Grace, or the Art of Climbing features Alex Molnar (Emm), Graham Carlson (Sam), James Lewis (Mick), Lynnette Li (Ky), Greg Mills (Abe), Elissa Newcorn (Dell), and Joshua Zambrano (Sims) with Cathleen Brumback and Jonathan Wilson as Understudies.

The staff and design team includes Erin Shea Brady* (Director), Liz Cooper (Lighting Designer), Blake Cordell (Sound Designer), Zach Dries* (Photographer/Videographer), Evan Frank (Scenic Designer), Berit Godo (Assistant & Movement Director), Kaitlyn Guerrieri* (Front of House Manager), Adrian Hadlock (Props Designer), Jeremy Hollis* (Production Manager), Mary-Catherine Mikalayunas (Stage Manager), Charlie Sheets* (Graphic Designer), Kristi Szczepanek* (Casting Associate), and Jonathan Wilson (Climbing Consultant).
* denotes Brown Paper Box Co. members

About Brown Paper Box Co.
Based in Chicago, Brown Paper Box Co. produces theatre that connects audiences to the heart of the story and to our shared human experience. By combining smart, simple design with clear storytelling, we make traditional pieces relevant and new work accessible.

Erin Shea Brady* (Director) is thrilled and grateful to be directing Grace, or the Art of Climbing. Directing credits include: Everybody (Brown Paper Box Co.) and Cabaret, Annapurna (staged reading) and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice (No Stakes Theater Project). Assistant Directing and Dramaturgy credits include productions at the Goodman, Jackalope, TimeLine, A Red Orchid, Northlight, and Remy Bumppo. Erin is a graduate of the directing program at Columbia College Chicago, and participated in the internship program at Steppenwolf, Jackalope's Playwright's Lab, and Goodman's Criticism in a Changing America bootcamp. Erin is a company member with BPBCo. & is currently pursuing her MSW at Loyola. She is a contributing writer & critic at PerformInk & Newcity Stage.

L M Feldman (Playwright) is a queer, feminist playwright (and circus artist) who pens plays that are wildly theatrical but deeply intimate. Her plays include THRIVE, OR WHAT YOU WILL (Page 73 Residency, New Georges Audrey Residency); ANOTHER KIND OF SILENCE (Magic Theatre Virgin Play Festival, PlayPenn Conference, Playwrights Realm Fellowship, FEWW Prize Honorable Mention); AMANUENSIS (Georgetown University); A PEOPLE (Orbiter 3, Jewish Plays Project); THE EGG-LAYERS (Jane Chambers Honorable Mention, New Georges/Barnard College commission); GRACE, OR THE ART OF CLIMBING (Denver Center, Art House Productions, Nice People Theatre, ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award Nomination, Barrymore Nomination); ensemble-devised works, including GUMSHOE (New Paradise Labs + Free Library of Philadelphia + Rosenbach Museum), WAR OF THE WORLDS: PHILADELPHIA (Swim Pony + Drexel University), AND IF YOU LOSE YOUR WAY, OR A FOOD ODYSSEY (The Invisible Dog, New York Innovative Theatre Award Nomination), and others; and a baker's dozen of short plays. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, L is also a New Georges Affiliated Artist, a devised-work collaborator, a teacher of playwriting (Bryn Mawr College, Lantern Theatre/Jefferson Medical School, PlayPenn), and a freelance dramaturg. L has lived in seven cities and is now based in Philly – where she is an InterAct Core Playwright and a proud member of Orbiter 3.

Who:  Brown Paper Box Co.
What:  Midwest Premiere of Grace, or the Art of Climbing by L M Feldman
When:  Thursday, June 6-Sunday, July 8, 2019
Where: Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave. Chicago, IL 60657
Previews: Thursday, June 6, 2019 @ 7:30PM and Friday, June 7, 2019 @ 7:30PM

Opening Performance: Saturday, June 8, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Press Performance: Sunday, June 9, 2019 @ 2:30PM (matinee) and Monday, June 10, 2019 @ 7:30PM

Regular Run: Friday, June 14, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Saturday, June 15, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Sunday, June 16, 2019 @ 2:30PM (matinee)
Monday, June 17, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Thursday, June 20, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Friday, June 21, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Saturday, June 22, 2019 @ 2:30PM (matinee)
Saturday, June 22, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Sunday, June 23, 2019 @ 2:30PM (matinee)
Thursday, June 27, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Friday, June 28, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Saturday, June 29, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Sunday, June 30, 2019 @ 2:30PM (matinee)
​Friday, July 6, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Saturday, July 7, 2019 @ 7:30PM
Sunday, July 8, 2019 @ 2:30PM (matinee)

Tickets: On sale now at                                                                   

Thursday, May 30, 2019


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

JUNE 8 – JUNE 30 

 Photo Credit for all: Josh Hawkins

A Near-Future Apocalyptic Story Told through Tap Dance, Original Live Music and Narration by Slam Poetry Creator Marc Kelly Smith

Artistic Director Mark Yonally and Chicago Tap Theatre (CTT) are proud to present Saving The World, a science fiction tap dance story show set to all-original music composed and performed live by Diana Lawrence, directed by Raphael Schwartzman, written by Slam Poetry Creator Marc Kelly Smith and choreographed by Yonally, June 8 – June 30, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Opening night is Saturday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m. The performance schedule is Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.  Tickets are $40 for adults, $30 for seniors, students and dancers. Group discounts are also available. For tickets, go to or call the Stage 773 box office at 773.327.5252. 

Saving The World is Chicago Tap Theater’s first all new story show in three years since 2016’s award-winning Time Steps and 2017’s box office smash Changes. From the creative team behind Time Steps, comes a show about pride, arrogance and demagogues. CTT Writer-in-Residence (and creator of the world-wide Slam Poetry genre) Marc Kelly Smith weaves a brand new tale of the near future.  As a corporation begins to aid those hit by every-increasing natural disasters, a collision between helping those who need it most and profiting mightily from them is looming. Throughout the performance tap dancers, with the aid of video projection, will be embodying the natural disasters, including tornadoes and tsunamis.

“Marc Smith has really laid it all out there for this one,” said Yonally, “I feel since we first started working together there were themes that recurred through his work, and this show is, in many ways, is the culmination of all of his work with Chicago Tap Theatre.” Yonally continued, “We are working with a new director for this production, and he, along with the script by Marc, are pushing us to try truly new and innovative things. Even if you’ve seen every story show, you will see a LOT of new ideas on stage.”

That new director, Raphael Schwartzman, is a noted movement theater director creating his first tap opera with Chicago Tap Theatre. Schwartzman brings a fresh new approach to narrative dance, along with a stronger focus on emotional resonance and depth of character. CTT is proud to work with composer/Music Director Diana Lawrence, who is creating an all-original score for Saving The World that features live performances by her and two other musicians. This score veers from rock opera to folk to 80s chip tune.

The cast includes: Jennifer Pfaff Yonally, Kirsten Uttich, Isaac Stauffer, Aimee Chase, Mark Yonally, Christopher Matthews, Anabel Watson, Bailey Caves, Heather Latakas, Sterling Harris, Case Prime and Molly Smith .The production staff includes Sarah Lackner, production and stage manager; Dustin Derry, projection design; Emma Cullimore, costume design; Jimmy Jagos, set and prop design


Marc Kelly Smith is the creator of the international Poetry Slam movement and has performed weekly at the Uptown Poetry Slam (now the Uptown Poetry Cabaret) since 1986. He has chalked up over 3,000 national and international engagements and is highly sought after as the authority on performance poetry. In the past seven years he has created six all-original shows with Chicago Tap Theatre as their Writer-in-Residence, including Eyes Without a Face, LoveTaps, TightWire, Mama’s Boy and the award winning TimeSteps (Top 10 Dance Events of the Year, Chicago Tribune and Best New Production of 2016, Dance Magazine Reader’s Poll).


Raphael Schwartzman is over the moon to direct Saving the World with Chicago Tap Theatre. A graduate of Butler University in Indiana, Schwartzman has worked in the Chicago theatre scene for the better part of the last decade.  He's also trained and made theatre in the UK, Russia, and Italy.  Chicago directing credits include The Curse on Mordrake House (Chicago Fringe Festival), Thinking Sacks of Meat (Piccolo Theatre), and Visiting Hours (MadKap Productions). 

ABOUT MARK YONALLY, choreographer

Mark Yonally is the founder and Artistic Director of Chicago Tap Theatre, one of the most critically well-regarded dance companies in Chicago. They perform an annual three-show season in Chicago and tour both throughout America and Europe. Their performances have been chosen as the Top Ten Dance events of the year by the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, SeeChicagoDance and Windy City Media. Their 2016 Time Travel Story Shoe, “TimeSteps” was selected as the Best New Production of 2016 by the Dance Magazine Reader’s Poll. Yonally has developed a national and international reputation as a performer, with solo performances in Chicago, Helsinki, Barcelona, New York, Amsterdam and Paris. He has been blessed to have Sam Weber, Sarah Petronio, Dianne Walker, Bill Evans and Billy Siegenfeld as mentors. He has also recorded with live musicians, including an appearance with the Polyphonic Spree on their song “Mental Cabaret” and on stage with them at Lollapalooza.

ABOUT DIANA LAWERNCE, music director 

As a music director and improviser, Diana  Lawernce has worked with organizations such as The Second City, the Goodman Theatre, Porchlight Music Theatre and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Lawernce created original music for Steppenwolf Theatre’s 2016 premiere of Mary Page Marlowe, and her musical, Mill Girls, was granted a 2018/19 Incubator workshop at the O’Neill Theatre Center. Lawerence is also a teaching artist with Storycatchers Theatre, where she creates musical theater with incarcerated youth. L


Founded in 2002, Chicago Tap Theatre is a growing and vibrant dance company dedicated to preserving the quintessentially American dance form of tap while taking it to the next level of creativity, innovation and quality. CTT performs exclusively with live music provided by some of Chicago’s finest musicians playing everything from Duke Ellington to David Bowie and many artists in between. Under the dynamic direction of master teacher and performer Mark Yonally, CTT has gained a loyal and sizable following in Chicago and continues to tour both nationally and internationally. Having pioneered the “tap opera” format, which tells stories with compelling characters and intriguing plots, CTT has used the language of tap dance, live music and narration to move Chicago audiences for over 10 years.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


ChiIL Live Shows on our radar


Marisa Bucheit as Princess Laya/Suzanna courtesy of Folks Operetta. 

JUNE 29 – JULY 14 AT STAGE 773 

The Production is a Return to the Golden Era of 
Hollywood Musicals with Ábrahám’s Captivating Score

Folks Operetta continues its Reclaimed Voices Series with Paul Ábrahám’s exotic jazz operetta, The Flower of Hawaii featuring soprano and former Ms. Illinois Marisa Bucheit (2014) as Princess Laya/Suzanne. The Folks Operetta invites audiences to escape to paradise for this unique celebration of European operetta, American jazz and Hawaiian guitar at Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave. from June 29 – July 14. 

Opening night is Saturday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. Performances will take place on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Conducted by Anthony Barrese and directed by Amy Hutchison, The Flower of Hawaii will remind audiences of the Golden Era of Hollywood musicals. Tickets range from $30 - $40. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit

Inspired by the story of Princess Ka’julani, The Flower of Hawaii spoofs American colonialism, but never takes on that subject too deeply; this is meant to be escapist entertainment with music celebrating the fox trot, waltzes and marches. The libretto features multiple love stories including Laya, a Hawaiian princess, who must choose between the American naval officer she loves and the Hawaiian prince to who she was betrothed as a child. Meanwhile, no less than three other couples must find their way through various romantic complications before all of them arrive at “Happily Ever After.”

Hungarian composer Paul Abrahám (1992 – 1960) combined operetta with jazz,and the result was a string of hugely popular shows: Vicktoria and her Hussar (1930), Flower of Hawaii (1931) and Ball at the Savoy (1932.) Abrahám’s unique blend of European waltzes and American jazz idioms changed the course of operetta. His rise to fame and fortune was swift. Between 1929 and 1932, in addition to three of the most successful operettas of the time, he composed numerous film scores and popular songs. Abrahám’s music was heavily influenced by touring African-American jazz bands that had taken 1920s Berlin and the rest of Europe by storm. As a Jewish composer with a passion for jazz, he embodied everything the Nazis hated. When they came to power in Germany in 1933, he had to flee the country overnight. For the next five years, he continued to work in Vienna and Budapest, composting three more operettas. In 1938, with the German annexation of Austria, the rise of fascism in Hungary, and threat of war, he was compelled to leave for America. Like many other exiles, he had trouble finding meaningful work in the United States. To make matters worse, he also faced serious mental health problems. Abrahám would spend 10 years in the Creedmor Mental Hospital in Queens, New York. After the war, he and his wife returned to Germany, where he lived until his death in 1960.

The cast of The Flower of Hawaii includes: Rodell Rosell (Prince Lilo-Taro); Marisa Buchheit (Princess Laya/Suzanne); Nick Pulikowski (Captiain Stone); Teaira Burge (Bessie); William Roberts (Buffy); Trent Oldham (Jimmy Fox); Angela Yu (Raka); Robert Morrissey (Governor); Benjamin Burney (Kaluna/Bobby Flipps); Benjamin Kawsky (Sunny Hill); Jordan Beyeler (dancer); Ivory Leonard (dancer); Ysaye McKeever (dancer); Athena Kopulos (feature dancer/ensemble); Sarah Ruth Mikulski (Bessie understudy/ensemble); Clara Imon Pedtke (ensemble); Elena Avila (ensemble); Adrianne Blanks (ensemble); Cydney Washington (ensemble); Camryn MacLean (apprentice/ensemble); Anwar Mohammed (apprentice/ensemble) and Julian Lee-Zachies (apprentice/ensemble).

The crew of The Flower of Hawaii includes: Anthony Barrese, conductor; Amy Hutchison, stage director/editor; August Tye, principal choreographer; Ressie Davis, choreographer; Eleanor Kahn, set designer; Patti Roeder, costume designer; Eric Watkins, lighting designer; Peter Schwob, technical director, Kayla Kroot, props; Joseph Frantzen, assistant manager/editor; Antoliy Tochinskiy, rehearsal pianist and Hersh Glagov, translator/lyricist/editor.

ABOUT GERALD FRANTZEN, Producer/Lyricist/Editor

Gerald Frantzen is the artistic director of Folks Operetta. He has sung with the Lyric Opera of Chicago chorus for nine years, where he made his solo debut in the opera Eugene Onegin (2008). His opera roles include Giove (Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria- NPR broadcast), both Acis and Damon (Acis and Galatea), 2nd Nazarene (Salome) with the Glimmerglass Opera; Ernesto (Don Pasquale) with Natchez Opera; Prunier (La Rondine) with Sarasota Opera; Der Kellner (Arabella) with Santa Fe Opera and Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) with Ridge Light Opera.

Frantzen has been a frequent soloist with Handel Week where he has performed two Messiahs and played a leading role in the Chicago premiere of G. F. Handel’s Rodelinda and recently played Acis in Acis and Galatea. He was also the tenor soloist in Bach’s Magnificat and The Mozart Requiem.

Since 2006 he has translated over 18 different operettas with Folks Operetta dramaturge Hersh Glagov; presenting 15 American premieres. His operetta credits Arizona Lady (2010 U.S. Premiere); The Circus Princess (U.S. premiere); Ball at the Savoy (2014 American premiere); The Girl in the Train (American premiere); Springtime (American premiere); (Peter and Paul in the Land of Nod- American premiere); Thespis  (World premiere); Gypsy Love, Yeomen of the Guard; Duchess of Chicago; Pirates of Penzance; The Student Prince; The Merry Widow, The Gondoliers;  Song of Norway; as well as Madame Pompadour. In 2013 Frantzen wrote the critically-acclaimed concert “Operetta in Exile” with Glagov.   

His international musical theater credits include Jekyll & Hyde in Bremen, Germany; the role of Piangi (The Phantom of the Opera – Hal Prince, director) in Hamburg, Germany and The Russian (Chess) in Bergen, Norway. Regional credits include Dorsey and the Young Confederate Soldier (Parade-which won 8 Jeff Citations), Sir Harry (Once Upon a Mattress), Tony (West Side Story), Baron (Grand Hotel) and Charlie (Brigadoon). He can also be heard with “The Three Waiters,” which has won the award for Best Corporate Event over six times.

Film credits include “Return of the Night Porter” as an editor, which won the Grand Prix at the Karlovy Film Festival in Europe. Recordings include John Frantzen Compositions and a musical theater collection called Another Autumn (recorded with Alison Kelly; The Rose of Stambul by Leo Fall on the Naxos Recording Label. Frantzen has also sung with the Chicago Symphony Chorus and The Grant Park chorus.

ABOUT ANTHONY BARRESE, Conductor/Folks Operetta Music Director 

Anthony Barrese is the recipient of the 2007 Georg Solti Foundation U.S. award for young conductors. His original works have won numerous awards, and he is regularly engaged by opera companies in North America and Italy. He has led several productions with Sarasota Opera (Lakmé, Le nozze di Figaro, Hansel and Gretel), and with Opera Southwest (Le nozze di Figaro, Die Fledermaus, La cenerentola) where he is Artistic Director and Principal Conductor. Barrese was the Assistant Conductor of the Dallas Opera in 2006-2007 and returned there as Guest Conductor for a production of Tosca in 2008, and in 2015 for La Wally. In 2008 Barrese conducted a new production of Turandot in Ascoli Piceno’s historic Teatro Ventidio Basso, with a cast that included Nicola Martinucci as Calaf. He also made his French debut conducting Turandot at the Opéra de Massy. In recent seasons Barrese made debuts with Florida Grand Opera (Les pêcheurs de perles) Opera Theatre of St. Louis (The Kiss), Opera North (L’elisir d’amore), and Boston Lyric Opera (Don Giovanni)

Barrese is the recipient of numerous composition awards including a N.E.C. Contemporary Ensemble Composition Competition Award for his Madrigale a 3 voci femminili, and two B.M.I. Student Composers Awards. As a musicologist, he  rediscovered, prepared, and edited the critical edition of Franco Faccio’s opera Amleto, in conjunction with Casa Ricordi.

He made his operatic conducting debut in Milan with La Bohème and recorded Roberto Andreoni’s quattro luci sul lago with ”I Solisti della Scala” (a chamber group made up of the first chair musicians of the La Scala Philharmonic) for broadcast on Italian National Radio (RAI 3). As Artistic Director of Opera Southwest he has performed Rossini’s Otello with the American staged premiere of the finale lieto, and in 2014 he led the new World Premiere of Amleto, not heard anywhere since 1871. In the 2015-16 season Barrese led a “Return of Rossini” festival at OSW, as well as a production of Norma at Florida Grand Opera. As Music Director of Opera Delaware he conducted the west coast premiere of Amleto in 2016, and the company premiere of Rossini’s Semiramide in 2017. Upcoming engagements include The Merry Widow with Opera Saratoga (2018), and Lohengrin with Opera Southwest.


Amy Hutchison has championed American opera throughout her career. She has served on the directing staffs of Lyric Opera of Chicago and Houston Grand Opera and on the faculties of The Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University and Westminster Choir College in Princeton. Her fascinating, brilliantly mounted double bill; production of Donizetti’s Il Pigmalione and Rita for Chicago Opera Theater wowed audiences and critics alike.  As part of COT’s Vanguard Initiative, she was honored to stage Grand Illusion by Composer-in-Residence Stacy Garrop and Jerre Dye. 

She also helmed critically-acclaimed Chicago premiere productions of As One by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed and Missy Mazzoli’s Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt for Chicago Fringe Opera. Hutchison frequently collaborates with South Shore Opera Company, where her work includes Joelle Lamarre’s The Violet Hour, Steven M. Allen’s The Poet, Jonathan Stinson’s The March: A Civil Rights Opera Project, Samuel Coleridge- Taylor’s Dream Lovers and African Romances, and William Grant Still’s epic masterwork Troubled Island, named the number one classical music event of 2013 by the Chicago Sun-Times. Other Chicago area productions include Madame Pompadour for Folks Operetta, Music by the Lake’s Brigadoon, DuPage Opera’s Faust, and Our Town and Transformations for DePaul Opera Theatre. Her collaboration with Ricky Ian Gordon and Stacey Tappan, Once I Was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon, was staged at the Chicago Cultural Center and recorded on the Blue Griffin label.

Beyond Chicago, Hutchison’s work includes productions of As One in San Antonio; Il Matrimonio Segreto in Boston; Carmen in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Columbus; Turandot in Orlando; Don Pasquale for Indianapolis Opera; La Traviata in Costa Mesa and Menotti’;s Help! Help! The Globolinks! for Madison Opera. She served as revival director for William Bolcom’s A View from the Bridge (Teatro dell;Opera di Roma, Washington National Opera and Portland Opera); the Maurice Sendak production of Hänsel und Gretel (Opernhaus Zürich, Canada, San Diego, Indianapolis and televised for PBS: Live from the Lincoln Center); and the international tour of Houston Grand Opera’s Porgy and Bess (Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, L’Opéra National de Paris, Teatro La Fenice, and more). She serves on the board of philanthropic organization She100, performs advisory roles with Folks Operetta and South Chicago Dance Theatre and formerly served on the board of About Face Theatre.


Folks Operetta is a 501(c)(3) non-profit theater company devoted to the nurturing of live operetta through articulate and dynamic productions.  In the belief that the arts serve to illuminate the human condition, Folks Operetta is dedicated to the revival and development of operetta, a popular and accessible form of music and theater for general audiences.  In particular, the Folks Operetta concentrates on producing both Viennese and American operettas from the early 20th century.

Folks Operetta begins its 2019-2020 season of the Reclaimed Voices Series with Paul Ábrahám’s exotic jazz operetta, The Flower of Hawaii. Folks Operetta invites audiences to escape to paradise for this unique celebration of American jazz and Hawaiian guitar at Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave. from June 29 – July 14. Opening night is Saturday, June 29 at 7:30 p.m. Performances continue on a regular weekly schedule: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Featuring the conducting of Anthony Barrese and the directing of Amy Hutchison, The Flower of Hawaii will remind audiences of the Golden Era of Hollywood musicals. Tickets range from $30 - $40. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit 

The Pauls Foundation, The Sage Foundation and the The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Casting Announced: American Blues Theater's The Spitfire Grill July 12 – August 17, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar
American Blues Theater Announces Casting for
The Spitfire Grill
Based on the Film by Lee David Zlotoff

Book by James Valeq & Fred Alley
Lyrics by Fred Alley
Music by James Valeq
Directed by Tammy Mader
Music Direction by Malcolm Ruhl

Featuring Dara Cameron, Ian Paul Custer, Karl Hamilton, Donterrio Johnson,
Jacquelyne Jones, Gabrielle Lott-Rogers, and Catherine Smitko

July 12 – August 17, 2019

American Blues Theater announces casting for the Chicago revival of The Spitfire Grill, based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff, with book by James Valeq and Fred Alley, lyrics by Fred Alley and music by James Valeq. The Spitfire Grill, directed by Tammy Mader with music direction by Malcolm Ruhl, runs July 12 – August 17, 2019 at Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave in Chicago. I'll be out for the press opening July 19th, so check back shortly after for my full review.

A feisty parolee follows her dreams, based on a page from an old travel book, to a small town in Wisconsin and finds a place for herself working at Hannah's Spitfire Grill. The New York Times calls THE SPITFIRE GRILL “a soul of theatrical resourcefulness” and The Wall Street Journal heralds its “soaring melodies”. 

The cast of The Spitfire Grill includes Dara Cameron* (Shelby Thorpe), Ian Paul Custer* (The Visitor), Karl Hamilton (Caleb Thorpe), Donterrio Johnson (Sheriff Joe Sutter), Jacquelyne Jones (Percy Talbott), Gabrielle Lott-Rogers (Effy Krayneck), and Catherine Smitko (Hannah Ferguson).

The creative team for The Spitfire Grill includes Sarah E. Ross* (scenic design), Jared Gooding* (lighting design), Lily Grace Walls (costume design), Rick Sims* (sound design), Mary O'Dowd (props design), Shandee Vaughan* (production manager), and Kate Ocker (stage manager).

Musicians include Ian Paul Custer* (piano), Greg Hirte (violin), Malcolm Ruhl (accordion), Scott Sedlacek (guitar / mandolin), and Magdalena Sustere (cello).

*American Blues Theater Ensemble and Artistic Affiliates. 

July 12 – August 17, 2019 
Previews: July 12 – 14, 2019
Press Opening: Friday, July 19, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Regular Run: July 20 – August 17, 2019

Thursdays:  7:30pm
Fridays:  7:30pm
Saturdays:  3:00pm & 7:30pm
Sundays:  2:30pm

Blues Views: 
free post-show discussions follow Sunday performances

Additional performances on July 17 at 7:30pm and August 14 at 2:30pm
& 7:30pm

No performances on July 13 or 20 at 3:00pm nor August 17 at 7:30pm

Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago

Ticket prices:                
$19 - $39
Box Office: Buy online at or by calling 773.654.3103.

Save the dates:

About American Blues Theater  
Winner of the American Theatre Wing’s prestigious National Theatre Company Award, American Blues Theater is a premier arts organization with an intimate environment that patrons, artists, and all Chicagoans call home.  American Blues Theater explores the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves.  
The diverse and multi-generational artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago.  The 36-member Ensemble has 600+ combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2018, the theater and artists received 204 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and over 36 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.    
American Blues Theater programs and activities are made possible, in part by funding by The MacArthur Funds for Arts & Culture at Prince, the Shubert Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, SMART Growth Grant, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council Agency, Anixter Foundation, Actors’ Equity Foundation, and the Chip Pringle Fund. ComEd is the Season Lighting Sponsor.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

OPENING: Valentine Fun Abounds With THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes – The Valentine Edition Via Hell in a Handbag Productions February 8, 2019 – March 10, 2019 at Stage 773

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

Hell in a Handbag Productions Presents
THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes – The Valentine Edition
By Artistic Director David Cerda
Directed by Jon Martinez
February 8, 2019 – March 10, 2019 at Stage 773

(left to right) Ed Jones, David Cerda, Adrian Hadlock and Grant Drager in a publicity image for Hell in a Handbag Productions’ hit parody THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes. Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios.

Chicago’s favorite drag seniors start 2019 with LOVE in Hell in a Handbag Productions’ beloved parody THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes – The Valentine Edition, written by Artistic Director David Cerda and directed by Jon Martinez. Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia and Rose return February 8 – March 10, 2019 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at or, by calling (773) 327-5252. 

I'll be ChiILin' with Chi, IL's Hell in a Handbag for the press opening of THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes – The Valentine Edition, February 10th, so check back soon for my full review. Hell in a Handbag is a long time favorite of ours here at ChiIL Live Shows, and their Golden Girls parodies are something to see! 

THE GOLDEN GIRLS – The Lost Episodes series began in 2017 and has been going strong ever since. Chicago loves Handbag’s long-running parody of the classic TV sitcom with original scripts. Get your tickets early and bring a sweetheart!

THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes – The Valentine Edition will feature Adrian Hadlock* as Sophia, Ed Jones* as Rose, Michael Rashid and David Cerda as Dorothy and Grant Drager* as Blanche. The ensemble also includes Chazie Bly*, Miles Brindley, Casey Coppess, Steve Kimbrough, Ryan Oates, Ryan Tang and Danne W. Taylor as various characters.

Poor Dorothy can’t find a date for the Sadie Hawkins dance at the Miami Senior Center. When Rose sets her up with a man with a colorful past, the evening takes a turn for the bizarre. Meanwhile Sophia locks horns with her arch rival, Sylvia Martinelli and the two engage in a steamy battle of wits.

The production team includes: Christopher Rhoton (scenic design), Danny Rockett (sound design), Keith Ryan* (wig design), Adrian Hadlock* (props design) and Si Squires-Kasten (stage manager).

*Denotes Handbag ensemble member.

Cast (in alphabetical order): Chazie Bly* (Ensemble), Miles Brindley (Ensemble), David Cerda* (late night Dorothy), Casey Coppess (Ensemble), Grant Drager* (Blanche), Adrian Hadlock* (Sophia), Ed Jones* (Rose), Steve Kimbrough (Ensemble), Ryan Oates (Ensemble), Michael Rashid (Prime time Dorothy), Ryan Tang (Ensemble) and Danne Taylor (Ensemble).

Location: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. 

Dates: Previews: Friday, February 8 at 8 pm and Saturday, February 9 at 8 pm
Opening/Press performance: Sunday, February 10 at 3 pm

Regular run: Thursday, February 14 – Sunday, March 10, 2019
Curtain Times: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will be an added Valentine’s Day performances on Thursday, February 14 at 8 pm; there will be added late night performances on Saturday, February 23 at 10:30 pm, Saturday, March 2 at 10:30 pm and Saturday, March 9 at 10:30 pm.

Tickets: Previews: $22. Regular run $27 in advance, $31 at the door. Group rates $20 for 10 or more. Tickets are currently available at or, by calling (773) 327-5252.

About the Artists

David Cerda (Playwright) is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Hell in a Handbag Productions. Cerda has written or collaborated on POSEIDON! An Upside Down Musical, Caged Dames, Sexy Baby, Lady X: The Musical, Christmas Dearest, Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, SCARRIE-The Musical, The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes (Volumes 1 & 2), The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes: The Holiday Edition, The Halloween Edition, and many others. He has also worked as a songwriter with Amazon Studios and as an actor around Chicago. In 2016, Cerda was in inducted into the Chicago GLBT Hall of Fame and in 2017 he received a Lifetime Achievement Jeff Award for his contributions to the Chicago theater community and philanthropic efforts.

Jon Martinez (Director) is glad to be back on board after directing and choreographing Snowgirls – The Musical with Handbag. Other credits include: The Buddy Holly Story (American Blues); Crumbs From The Table of Joy (Raven Theatre); The View Upstairs (Circle Theater); In The Heights (Civic Theatre);On A Clear Day… (Porchlight Music Theater); It’s Only a Play, Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Joseph Jefferson Award nomination) (Pride Films & Plays); Rock of Ages (Timberlake Playhouse); Tonya & Nancy The Rock Opera (Chicago Premiere) (Underscore Theatre); 3C (Red Orchid); We’re Gonna Die (Haven Theater/Steppenwolf); LIZZIE (Firebrand Theatre); Xanadu (ATC); Carrie, Murder Ballad (Bailiwick Chicago). His first ballet, Le Apache, premiered in 2016 at The Harris Theater in Chicago. Next up, he will be directing and choreographing the regional premiere of Be More Chill at Playhouse Square Cleveland. 

About Hell in a Handbag Productions
Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit.

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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