Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day! Exercise your civic duty...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

No kinks here, "Kinky Boots" is a crowd-pleaser

From left: Billy Porter as Lola, Annaleigh Ashford as Lauren and Stark Sands as Charile in "Kinky Boots."
Photo by Sean Williams
“Kinky Boots,” the new musical which opened its pre-Broadway tryout last night, is a bona fide, crowd-pleasing hit.

If you've been waiting for the reviews to come in before buying your tickets, you might want to forgo the heels and put on your flats. You're going to need them to race down to the Bank of America Theater to get tickets. Like "The Producers" before it, Chicago is being treated to a first look at what should be one of the Broadway season's biggest hits, but the show is only here to Nov. 4. The show should quickly become the hottest ticket in town and quite deservedly.

Based on the 2005 sleeper film of the same name, Kinky Boots features a book by Tony winning playwright Harvey Fierstein, a score and lyrics by Grammy-winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper and energetic and well-paced direction and choreography from Tony award-winning director Jerry Mitchell. It's a rousing, heartfelt and sentimental musical that happens to have a drag queen front and center.

"Kinky Boots" tells the story of Charlie Price (Stark Sands) who, after his father's death, reluctantly leaves his more urban-minded fiancé Nicola (Celina Carvajal) in London to return home to Northhampton to run the family's shoe business. The shoe business is in decline and Charlie is faced with the possibility that he may have to soon sack several of the factory workers, including the feisty Lauren (Annaleigh Ashford).

After a chance meeting in London with a drag queen with a broken highheel boot (Billy Porter, as Lola), Charlie decides that the niche market of women's shoes for men might just be the thing to save the family business, but he'll have to convince the closed minded blue collar workforce and Lola (whom he wants to design the shoes) that it is a good idea.

As Lola, Billy Porter is mesmerizing in a performance that will surely earn him a Tony nomination. His Lola is equal parts Tina Turner and Whitney Houston, fierce in his delivery of both line and song.

Annaleigh Ashford, best known to Chicago audiences as Glinda in the sit-down production of Wicked nearly stops the show with the hilarious The History of the Wrong Guys (which also happens to be the most Lauper-sounding song in the show.  
Barring some miraculous recovery, the economic climate in the musical should resonate with theatergoers (assuming, of course, economically depressed factory workers can afford to go to live theater; hey, there's always the TKTS ticket booth). In an age of Bain-style venture capitalism, the very idea that Charlie would choose to return home and save the family business (as opposed to leveraging it to the hilt, driving it into bankruptcy and collecting his golden parachute on the way out) may seem particularly far-fetched. The fact that both musical and film are based on a true story may seem the work of fantasy in a country where CEOs like Charlie are an even smaller niche than those shopping for women's footwear in men's sizes. We could use a few more Charlie Prices, willing to strap on heels and do the right thing, though.

He doesn't do it alone, though. And that's the point. The show celebrates industry, ingenuity, dreams and hard work. It's about sticking together and, as themes explored in the finale "Raise You Up/Just Be" imply, there is more power in raising each other up instead of tearing each other down for some short-term personal gain.  

Fierstein returns to the well once again with the theme of what makes a man, but you can't fault a guy for so thouroughly humanizing Lola. Perhaps moreso than in either "Torchsong Trilogy" or "La Cage aux Folles," Fierstein succeeds in visually showing us something that Ru Paul has been saying for years: we're all born naked, everything after that is drag. The clothes we chose to wear do not define our worth and that goes for drag queens or dock workers.

Mitchell's choreography deserves a shout out particularly for the first-act closer "Everybody Say Yeah" in which factory worker and drag queen alike gyrate on moving convey belts.

Gregg Barnes costumes capture the blue collar feel of the factory workers as well as the more fantastical outfits worn by Lola and his drag queen backup singers. When the thigh length, red-sequined heels first roll off the assembly line at the end of the first act, they are more than just shoes; it is the visual equivalent of Eliza Doolittle making her debut.   

Perhaps the biggest surprise is Laupers score. Unlike other recording artists who try their hands at writing a Broadway show and never seem to understand the medium of the Broadway musical, Lauper proves she is equally adept at crafting radio-ready, hook-heavy pop and dance songs the likes weve never heard in a Broadway show as well as traditional Broadway ballads, duets and ensemble numbers. Sex is in the Heel and Raise You Up/Just Be are infectious pop songs with beats that will get you up and moving. Hold Me In Your Heart and Im Not My Fathers Son, are delivered with such honesty, they might have you reaching for the tissues.

Still, a few minor things will need to be tweaked before the April Broadway opening. Charlies quasi-materialistic fiance Nikola is a bit underwritten and the terrific actress Celina Caravajal does her best with what she is given (which is to say,  not much).
Sands Charlie shifts a bit too quickly from factory savior to boss from hell and his relationship with Ashfords Lauren needs to be further developed as well.
We're the same, you and me, Charlie boy," Lola tells Charlie at the end of the first act and with that, the show places it's well-designed heels on one of those universal truths: there is so much more that unites us rather than divides us.  "Kinky Boots" heart is in the right place and its heels are on firm ground.  

"Kinky Boots" runs through Nov. 4 at the Bank of America Theater, 18 W. Monroe. Tickets, $33-$100. Call 800-775-2000. www.broadwayinchicago.com; www.kinkybootsthemusical.com

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A "Kinky" tease

Stark Sands (left, as Charlie Price) and Billy Porter (as Lola) in "Kinky Boots"
photo by Sean Williams
 "Kinky Boots" officially has it's pre-Broadway opening tonight (it's been in previews for the past couple of weeks). Come back tomorrow for my review, but until then please enjoy the production shot of the charming leads in the show, Stark Sands and Billy Porter.

And if you haven't seen the show yet, buy your tickets! It's important to support live theater, especially new works. Ticket deals can be had for weekday performances. You can always say you saw it first!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's no "1776," I'll give you that

The cast of Bailiwick's "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"
photo by Michael Brosilow
Much like the presidency that it depicts, Bailiwick’s Chicago premiere of the off-Broadway hit musical “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is a mixed bag.  

For those who thought “Spring Awakening,” “Urinetown” and “American Idiot” played it too safe, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” may just fit the bill as truly the first punk rock musical. The 100-minute, intermission-less show is a hipster re-envisioning of history; our seventh president is painted with the largest of brushstrokes as a guyliner-wearing, hip-swaggering, Emo rock star in tight jeans.

Loosely sketched, the show is equal parts satire, cartoonish vaudeville act and critique of our political process and dark history. It plays fast and loose with actual history, though (you would no sooner be advised to treat this as a history lesson than you would a marathon of “Hogan’s Heroes” as a lecture on World War II prisoner of war camps).

Matt Holzfeind as the charismatic President/rockstar
photo by Michael Brosilow
As the man who literally had the presidency stolen out from under him by a Congress that feared the true will of the people, Matt Holzfeind is a charismatic force of nature; a noble feat considering he is on stage singing, dancing for the major for most of the show.

As Jackson’s long-suffering wife Rachel, Samantha Dubina brings heat and longing to the proceedings. There’s often a quiet nobility to her performance as we watch her cope with a husband struggling to strike a balance between his public and private life.  

Other shout outs in the cast: Judy Lea Steele brings the laughs as the motorized scooter-bound modern narrator, Jill Sesso’s performance of “Ten Little Indians” elevates things almost to the level of Laurie Anderson’s performance art, Patrick Rooney’s guitar virtuosity and rocking vocals on several male solos and the overall band (lead by the Jeff nominated music director James Morehead) who are as much a part of the action as the actors.

Nick Sieben’s scenic design draws the starkest analogy to our current political climate. Occupy Wall Street handbills share wall space with posters that urge you to “Vote Addams, Vote often” and others advertising tickets to Cleveland Indians baseball (the smiling face of the Cleveland Indians mascot is particularly jarring given the atrocities depicted in the play). Sieben also scores extra points for the 24 paper lanterns hung above the stage which represent the 24 states that made up the union when Jackson took office (Arkansas and Michigan would be added during his tenure, but that’s perhaps more factual history than you’ll gleam from the show).

For a company that has in part a history in presenting intelligent gay theater, crass stereotypes were the go-to for cheap laughs, particularly in “The Corrupt Bargain.” Whether this was a choice made by the individual male actors or director Scott Ferguson, it’s a bit of a head scratcher.  Just what do we think is witty, sardonic or “post-modern” about the embrace of gay stereotypes, gentlemen?

It’s also likely that the play’s unconventional format and 11th hour shift to a more serious tone will bewilder some theatergoers.

Bailiwick Chicago’s production of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” runs through Nov. 11 at the National Pastime Theater, 941 W. Lawrence, 4th floor. Tickets, $25-$30. Free performance on election night (Nov. 6) with proof you voted. bailiwickchicago.com

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nightblue's "Avenue Q" a pleasant surprise

The cast of Nightblue Performing Arts Company's "Avenue Q"

Suburban-based Nightblue Performing Arts Company isn't exactly a known commodity in the Chicago theater community, but I suspect that will soon change on the bases of their production of the Tony award-winning musical "Avenue Q." Acting, singing, choreography, production values and orchestration elements were all high, well exceeding the $30 ticket price. The bar has been set high for their next Chicago endeavor, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The show is a loving spoof and homage to children's television programs (specifically "Sesame Street," but there are also jokes referencing "The Electric Company" and others). Naive, wide-eyed recently college graduate Princeton (Adam Fane) finds himself on the Avenue after starting at Avenue A and continuing to move down through both streets and alphabet letters until he finds a neighborhood that he can afford. Q is home to an idealistic teaching assistant Kate Monster (Casi Maggio) who dreams of opening a special school for monsters (a Monsterssori), happy-go-lucky intellectual Nicky (Jason Richards Smith), Nicky's uptight, closeted, Republican roommate Rod (Fane), a would-be therapist Christmas Eve (Kate Garassino), her unemployed, ne'er-do-well fiance Brian (Alex Heika), resident porn sexpert Trekkie Monster (Smith) and the down-on-his luck former child star and now superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman and played by David Robbins).

Adam Fane as Princton in "Avenue Q"
In the dual role of Princeton and Rod, Fane is equal parts charming, boy next door and repressed, ranging closet case. Fane is able to switch characters quickly and each has their own unique mannerisms, singing voice and speaking voice.

As Kate Monster, Casi Maggio is the heart of the show. She has a lovely voice that is powerful when it needs to be, yet she is able to capture Kate's vulnerability as well.

As Nicky and Trekkie Monster, Jason Richards Smith lands all of the comedic moments. His Trekkie is less creepy and more lovable. Despite his computer addiction, you want to just give him a hug.

As Christmas Eve, Garassino manages to be more than just a racial stereotype for laughs. Her nuanced performance of "The More You Ruv Someone" was both heartfelt and funny.

Heika has less to do as Brian (the fault of the script and not his acting or vocal talent). Double casting him as one of the Bad Idea Bears was sheer genius as it gave him more opportunity to display his comedic timing.

Several other things set things apart from usual productions of this show. The most noticeable is the company's decision to create their own puppets as opposed to renting them. With the exception of Lucy the slut, the puppet designs by Noah Ginex bare little resemblance to those used on Broadway (the same puppets people usually rent). As a result, the production is able to forge its own identity.

The second was director David E Walter's decision to forgo puppets for the Bad Idea Bears (a trio of mischievous minor characters in the show). Actors don teddy bear costumes and we can see their facial expressions (obviously far more expressive than a puppet's).

The third thing is Mike Mendiola's choreography. While the original Broadway production had some dancing, there is more of it here. Though it is the puppeteer whose feet are moving, rather than separating us from puppet, in some strange way it feels like the puppeteer's feet are an extension of the puppet.

The end result was a smaller production that almost rivaled its Broadway counterpart. No easy feat for any company, let alone one trying to establish itself in the competitive Chicago market.

Nightblue Performing Arts Company's "Avenue Q" runs through Oct. 14 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. Tickets, $27-$30. Call 773-327-5252. nightbluetheater.com

Friday, October 5, 2012

Q&A with "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" star Matt Holzfeind

The cast of Bailiwick's "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"
Step aside John McCain, there’s a new maverick in town. The cast and crew of the Chicago premiere of the off-Broadway hit “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” are here to declare sexy as the fourth branch of government.
I chatted briefly with Matt Holzfeind,  the star of the rock musical. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: The show has been praised for being unorthodox. Is that justified?
Matt Holzfeind: I suppose. It takes a look at an historical figure in a more modern context. As a work of theater, it plays with style and finds a new and surprising way to tell the tale. It’s highly theatrical.
Q: Why “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”?
MF: It’s an incredible part in a show that is utterly fascinating. This role calls for me to do a lot of things that I don’t normally get to do in musical theater and I am excited to take on that challenge.
Q: Do you find it daunting to play an historic figure?
MF: It’s kind of great thing to try. I’ve been in brand new works and productions of existing plays. I’ve played fictional characters and real people. The chance to work on a thing like this was exciting. With characters based on real people, It’s a cool  to have a template to work from. As actor you draw from your own experiences, but to be able to add your experiences with someone’s real life is just awesome. I’m making an amalgam of my experiences and his.
Q: Sounds like you’ve done a lot of research, then?
MF:  More research than I usually do. Mostly because he’s a guy many Americans are familiar with.
Q: Any books that were particularly useful?
MF: Jon Meacham’s American Lion. Of course, it focused mostly on his time as president. I also read up on anything I could find on line. He’s a multifaceted political figure and most people have strong opinions either for or against him. Fortunately, he is portrayed in the show with a lot of artistic license, so I just needed to have a good, general idea about what he was about.
Q: What is it about him that you identify with?
MF: He had a very strong bond with family, friends and close advisors. He made sure they were taken care of. He had a loyalty to people that is unique in today’s landscape. I have that a bit in my life. I would fight for family and friends as much as Jackson did for those who were in his inner circle.
Q: What ways are you different?
MF: One of of his strengths (and one of his weaknesses) was his assistance on always thinking he was right. It initially kind of made him popular, because he could make decisions and get things done. It also made people feel like he didn’t listen to both sides, though. I try to take everything in. I’m not married to things one way or the other. I’m ok about experiencing things that may ultimately change my perspective or point of view.
Q: The show is giving away tickets on election night with proof that you voted, do you consider yourself political?
MF: I would say I’m political enough in that I am aware of what is going on. I try and stay informed, but I’m not political from an political activist standpoint. I have an understanding of where we are and what is at stake, depending on who gets elected president.
Q: What do you think Jackson would say about the current presidential election?
MF: He hated debt. I mean he really loathed debt and what that meant. If he saw our debt, people in federal government would lose their heads. As the founder of the Democratic party, I also think he’d probably have a problem with the current Democratic party and the political process in general. We are more divided politically than we ever have been.. If he could see today how divided we are, he wouldn’t like it. f
“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” runs through Nov. 10 at the National Pastime Theater, 941 W. Lawrence. Tickets, $15-$30. Free 9 p.m. performance on Election night (Nov. 6) with proof that you voted. bailiwickchicago.com

Chicago Shakespeare's "Sunday" a masterful take on a masterpiece that is not to be missed

 Cross posted from broadwayworld.com
Jason Danieley (left) and Carmen Cusack
  As most Chicagoans know, Georges Seurat’s  A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884 is one of the signature Impressionist pieces held in the collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.
   Directed by Gary Griffin, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine musical “Sunday in the Park With George” is a masterpiece in its own right.  An emotional tour de force, it’s the kind of don’t miss-production that theatergoers will be talking about for years to come.
   In a nut shell: the first act concerns the relationship between an artist named George(Jason Danieley) and his model/mistress Dot (Carmen Cusack). The artistic struggle to develop ones’ own artistic style and complete a masterpiece comes with a price. As he assembles his famous portrait, we see George is so focused on his work to a fault that his personal life suffers.
  The second act concerns his great grandson (also and artist and played by Danieley). Like his great grandfather before him, the modern George also struggles with finding balance between art and relationships, but has the added challenge of having to maintain professional relationships in terms of finding funding for his art (something his great grandfather who was of independent means never had to do).  

Cusack shines as Dot

  Cusack possesses a set of pipes that just may very well rival Patti LuPone’s in turns of power and, because her approach to each song is so organic and of the moment,  her voice is an instrument that is an extension of her superb acting. Her Dot is fierce, passionate and somewhat wounded by previously relationships. As modern George’s wheelchair-bound grandmother Marie, Cusack is appropriately frail, but just as passionate.   
  Danieley plays the part of an emotionally distant artist in the first act a bit too well. I didn’t really feel connected to his character until we were well into the first act. Conversely, I immediately identified with his modern George.. Part of this is the material, of course. In the first act, George does a lot of musical muttering, whereas the second act gives Danieley much more opportunity to display his capable vocal prowess.
  Overall, the second act is perhaps the biggest surprise. It often feels as if it is the weaker of the two acts in other productions; its existence merely a vehicle for the emotional show-stopper “Move On.”

Danieley as the modern George as the ghost of Dot looks on.
Danieley perfectly nails the exasperation of the juggling act that is the life of the modern artist with the frenzied “Putting It Together” and as George’s grandmother Marie, Cusack succinctly sums up the universe truth about the fragility of life and what’s really important with “Children and Art.” It’s themes echo those of “Beautiful” in the first act and instead of stealing focus from that song (and make no mistake, as George’s mother Linda Stephens’ performance of the first act number is very moving), Cusack’s performance expands on those same themes: things change but only family and art remain behind.     
  If I have any minor quibbles, it is with Griffin’s decision to tweak the final visual tableau. Traditionally, the show starts and finishes with the artist and a blank canvas. The point being that while we see nothing, the artist recognizes it for what it truly is: a tool to explore infinite possibilities.
  In this production, Griffin assembles the whole cast for one more take on the famous painting and instead of having the characters from the painting exit the stage as they usually do(leaving us with that blank canvas), they remain on stage.
  While it may not sound like an earth-shattering alteration, it does steal some of the focus around the show’s final point and can be interpreted in several ways: The modern George is finally making peace, accepting and embracing with the family history he has been running away from, he (like his great grandfather before him) sees what isn’t there and draws inspiration from it, or (and this is the bleakest interpretation) the artist who couldn’t get past his own previous works to create something truly new is now also haunted by the legacy of art created by his great grandfather.
  With so much on stage, it is both literally and figuratively hard to see the blank canvas. Where once there were infinite possibilities, we as an audience begin to draw conclusions.    

"Sunday in the Park with George" runs through Nov. 4 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier (600 E. Grand). Tickets, $48-$78. Call (312) 595-5600 or www.chicagoshakes.com

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

In praise of the Pre-Broadway preview

Billy Porter (left) and Stark Sands star as Lola and Charlie
in the new musical "Kinky Boots" Photo by Gavin Bond
No, this is not a review of "Kinky Boots," the new Broadway musical featuring a book by Tony award-winning playwright Harvey Fierstein, music and lyrics by iconic music legend Cyndi Lauper and Tony award-winning choreographer\director Jerry Mitchell.

"Kinky Boots" creative (from left) Jerry Mitchell, Harvey Fierstein
and Cyndi Lauper. Photo by Gavin Bond
Though I attended last night's preview performance in Chicago (the first public performance save for a couple of workshops and a producer's preview last Sunday night), you'll need to come back to Broadway World and Triggercritic.com on Oct. 18 to read my review. It wouldn't be fair to review a show before Oct. 17, the date when the show's producers and creators are ready to release it to the world.

So, why did I attend? In my book, the first preview performance of a Broadway-bound musical is like gay Christmas. There's an excitement, an energy and much anticipation. Sure, you've had holidays were you've been disappointed, but it's still Christmas and who doesn't get excited around holidays?

Of course, there are more than a few Scrooges running around town. Some of them even writing blogs or newspaper columns urging you to skip the holiday until the show runners get any possible kinks worked out of their "Kinky Boots."

To the scrooges of the world, I say: Bah! Humbug! I have seen everything from good previews to awful (cough, cough, "Spider-Man" turn off your lights). When shows are good, you're in on the ground floor. And when they're bad, you've got a front row seat to the train wreck.

But it goes beyond that. Previews give you a chance to watch art in process. Anyone can enter a building, for instance, and say "they built it, by gosh!" How many of us getting to see it being built brick by brick, though?

The naysayers will quip "but who would want to pay for the privilege?" Well, me for one. I've learned more about acting, directing, producing, playwriting and dancing from watching previews than I have from attending theater or by reading theater columns and reviews.

Had I not attended a preview performance of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," I would have missed this, for instance:

Granted, this was a revival, but it had enough new material that there was still a risk (Kristin Chenoweth's star-turn role of Sally Brown was not in the original). As I write this, I realize that "Kinky Boots" director Jerry Mitchell was coincidentally the choreographer for this.

"The Addams Family" is another case in point. Seen in Chicago previews, the opening number was called "Clandango." There are numerous YouTube clips of the song, but I won't link to them here as none of them were captured legally. Catching the show on its Broadway run or subsequent tour, the opening number was "When You're an Addams."

Without having seen the preview, you wouldn't have any context to contemplate why one song works and the other doesn't or even the process itself. To return to my building analogy, it's admiring the building, without respecting the framing and foundation.

What's more, when you attend previews, you will likely hear songs that --not counting the various "Unsung Broadway" and "Lost In Boston" recordings-- you're unlikely to ever hear again. Unless the composer recycles the material, of course. Even then, if you don't attend previews, you'll never know when the composer has pulled something out of his or her trunk (and trust me, they all do it; Broadway composers were into recycling long before being Green came into fashion).

With previews, you're part of the process. At the opening preview of "Kinky Boots," the entire creative team was in attendance and you can bet the cast is getting a handful of notes today which were gleamed from audience reactions from last night's performance.

So, heels up, I say. Recognize the opportunity that a "Kinky Boots" preview is affording you!

"Kinky Boots" is in previews through Oct. 16 at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe. Tickets, $33-$100. The show officially opens Oct. 17 and runs through Nov. 4. It will open on Broadway Spring 2013.

Heels up! Chicago gets Kinky (boots)

My interviews with the cast of "Kinky Boots" as well footage from the press conference. Video shot by Rick Aiello.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Circus in the Parks a family affair for Midnight Circus members

Cross-posted from suntimes.com (original link below)

Circus in the Parks a family affair for Midnight Circus members - Chicago Sun-Times

By Misha Davenport
In 2007, the Jenkins family heard the playground in their neighborhood park was about to be downsized due to a lack of funding, they sprang into action.
“We were at Welles Park with our son, Max, who was a newborn at the time,” Jeff Jenkins recalls. “The park was desperately in need of a renovation and the funds just weren’t there. There was talk about the playground being removed.”
For many families, raising funds for the local park usually entails a bake sale, but not the Jenkins family.
Jeff and Julie Jenkins perform regularly with Chicago’s famed Midnight Circus, and the pair came up with a far more entertaining idea.
“We approached the park supervisor and alderman and convinced them to allow us to do a weekend of circus shows in the park,” Jeff Jenkins says. “Admittedly, it was an out-of-the-box idea. I have to take my hat off to former 47th Ward Alderman Gene Schulter. He got behind this and really championed it. I have to give some credit to former Mayor Daley as well. It isn’t always easy to get things done in Chicago and both of these guys could see what we could accomplish.”
It was a gamble that paid off. In its inaugural year, the Circus in the Parks program raised $20,000 for Welles Park.
“It was a colossal amount of money to be raised in a single weekend for the Park Advisory Council,” Jenkins says. “More importantly, it brought thousands of people into their neighborhood park. After those first performances, we heard from people who told us they didn’t know the park was there or that it offered the many events that it does.”
The event also helped strengthen the community, Jenkins says.
“People came out for the circus and actually got to meet their neighbors.”
The Jenkins family isn’t just clowning around, either. The program has grown in size and scope every year.
“Probably our biggest addition thus far came last year,” Jenkins notes. “We added a 70-foot tent that was a real game changer for us. We are no longer at the mercy of the weather and the tent offers an intimate entertainment experience.”
To date, Circus in the Parks has raised over $250,000 and this year promises to be their biggest yet. They’ve already performed in Hamlin and Welles Park this season and will be in Holstein Park (2200 N. Oakley) this weekend and will perform in seven parks citywide. Jenkins is hoping to raise $500,000 this year.
In keeping with circus tradition, Circus in the Parks is very much a family act. Jeff and Julie’s children, seven-year old Max, and five-year-old Samantha, and the family’s pooch, Junebug (a rescue dog from the Englewood neighborhood), all perform.
“Samantha may steal the show this year, but kids all seem to love Junebug and always want to meet her afterwards,” Jeff Jenkins says. “Junebug loves the attention and has many fans.”
This is hardly amateur hour, though. Samantha will perform on the trapeze and Max and Jeff have spent a few years perfecting their act. The family is joined by professional circus artists from all over the country and Canada. In all, there are 25 performers and 15 different acts that cover a variety of circus arts including tumbling, juggling, aerial hoops and clowns.
“We pack a lot into two acts and an hour and 45 minutes,” Jenkins says. “Every performer is outstanding. It’s a great way to experience your park, your community and world-class circus artists.”
Jenkins says this is much more than just performing circus acts.
“As much as we love circus and performing, we also are parents and have a stake in community. Not only can we entertain people, we are helping rebuild playgrounds and neighborhoods.”

‘Circus in the Parks’
♦ 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays; 1 and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 21
♦ Tickets, $15 (advance purchase strongly recommended)
♦ Visit www.circusintheparks.org
Sept. 22-23: Holstein Park, 2200 N. Oakley
Sept. 29-30: Independence Park, 3945 N. Springfield
Oct. 6-7: Commercial Park, 1845 W. Rice
Oct. 13-14: Mt. Greenwood Park, 3724 W. 111th St.
Oct. 20-21: Chase Park, 4701 N. Ashland

Friday, September 7, 2012

Leg Warmers and short shorts: A chat with Xanadu's Gina Milo and Chris Critelli

Cross posted from Broadwayworld.com

The '80s are back, courtesy of Drury Lane Theatre's production of the Broadway hit "Xanadu." 

Based on the 1980 flop that feature Olivia Newton John and a score by Electric Light Orchestra, the show's neon lights will shine through Oct. 28. 

I caught up with stars Gina Milo and Chris Critelli, who play the muse Clio and the struggling artist Sonny respectively, to talk about all things '80s.  

Q: The film “Xanadu” is considered by many to be a guilty pleasure, what’s your guilty pleasure?
Gina Milo: My guilty pleasure is anything with sugar. Cupcake, cookies, ice cream, I don't discriminate. I don’t allow myself to eat sugar when I'm doing shows, but when I'm not, look out!. 
Chris Critelli: I'd have to say my guilty pleasure is greasy, disgusting street food in New York. The kind of stuff you get late at night. I’ll never stop loving it.

Q: What was your reaction to the film when you first saw it?
GM: The first time I saw it was after I got cast. It’s pretty bad. It’s awful in a kind of wonderful-awful way. You have to keep watching because it’s so awful. We hadn't even had the first rehearsal and I was thinking 'Oh, my God, what have I gotten myself into." 
CC: I was the same. I first saw it when I was preparing for the show a few months ago. It was hard to get through. The film 'Xanadu' is a journey, but it's not an easy one to take. It's got great music, but it hard to hear it over the sound of Gene Kelly spinning in his grave. You can see in the film that he is delivering every line with gritted teeth. You can almost hear him thinking 'I can't believe this is really going to be the last movie I’m ever going to make.'

Q: Why does the film and musical have such a cult following?
GM: I think for a lot of people, the film represents freedom. There is a lot of freedom in it. Individuality, sexuality. So many abstract things happening in it. When I watch it, I see all these different types of people in the ensemble. Everybody belongs in Xanadu and that maakes you feel accepted, too.
CC: I've got to say it's mostly the short shorts my character wears [laughs]. Seriously, though. The film and subsequently now the musical really tap into the pulse and energy of the era. You can't think of the '80s and not think of the pop music of the era and this show has got it.  'Xanadu' is all about the music, the colors and the pure joy that the decade represented. 

Q: The show both celebrates and lampoons the ‘80s. What is one thing from that era you’d like to see make a comeback and why?
GM: Leg warmers all the way. When I got cast, my husband was most excited about the leg warmers. I couldn't understand why until I put them on. They are really sexy, surprisingly. They're slouchy-sexy, if I can coin a phrase. 

CC: Deloreons, of course. Especially the flying kind! It is such a ridiculous car. With the way the doors open, you can't park them anywhere. So, yeah. Deloreons. 

Q: Conversely, what’s one thing that should stay buried in that time capsule forever?
GM: I would say the garish make up. It was pretty intense. Hot pink is fine on your clothes, but not on your face.
CC:Crimped hair. It is so silly. Crimped hair needs to be locked in a vault in the dark somewhere.

Q: What attracted you to your respective roles?
Gina Milo
GM:There were a couple of things. It's a great vehicle for a quirky girl like me. I usually get cast as the sidekick. This is one of the few shows where you can be quirky and still be the lead. Secondly, I admired Olivia Newton John. To mimic her is a dream come true for the five year old in me.
CC: It’s just pure joy. I get to have fun, sing awesome '80s pop rock and be funny for two hours. The score is amazing and I'm fortunate to get to sing it. You forget the hits ELO wrote. It's the same reaction I had with J'ersey Boys.' You forgot about their incredible music catalaog. Their music was soundtrack of people'slives back in the day for a reason. It's great.

Q: Speaking of the score, do you have a favorite song in the show?
GM:I'll keep it to four. I love anything from the '40s, so I adore "Whenever You're Away From Me" and "Dancin'". I love singing "Suddenly" with Chris. We harmonize really well on that song. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention "Xanadu," of course. 
CC: My favorite is also my most hated. I love "Suddenly.' It's a beautiful song and the moment is so hysterical. Gina is such a big ball of warmth. We met each other in New York before rehearsals started and five minutes into lunch we were telling each other our dark secrets. She is this best friend who I happened to meet later in my life and I love being able to have that moment on stage with her.  I hate it thought because I'm in a phone booth and I have to magically change into roller skates in nanosecond.

Q:The show requires roller skating skills, was that daunting or are you a natural on 'heels with wheels'?
GM:I wasn’t scared, at first. I used to roller skate with my dad when I was a kid and figured how hard could it be? Then, when I realized we had to be dancingin roller skates, I had an emotional break down every other day. Now, I;m best friends with my roller skates.
Chris Critelli

CC: 'Heels on wheels' -I love that! I'm going to use that. I had done some skating in middle school back in Buffalo. Even so, I was terrified. I had the icy fear of meeting my roller-death. Humans were not meant to move that way. I'm getting used to it, though.

Q: Most people don’t know their Erato from their Terpsichore. Where you familiar with the Muses and mythology before the show, did you have a crash course in it or is it all still Greek to you?
GM:I can pretty much point to mythology as being the one course in junior high that got me kicked off the honor role. I was terrible with mythology. So, I had to really study to prepare for the show. I realized I love the muses and the gods. They are all so dysfunctional. 
CC:I grew up as a chubby nerd. I was really into Greek mythology. I would spend hours at the library reading all the books. Creatures. I grew up watching all those Ray Harryhausen movies. I love the fact that the cyclops and the minotaur have cameos in the show. 

Q: Chris, your character wears some short shorts. Any concerns about staying warm or fitting in them?
CC: It is definitely a concern! The more you wash 'em, the more they tatter. By the end of the run, there might not be anything left! As for fitting in them, I plan a steady diet of awesome '80 workout video tapes to keep in shape. 

Q: Gina, any tips for nailing an Australian accent?
GM:It's very hard. British is way easier. You have to keep your tongue forward and lyour mouth ight. It's almost like a smile. . That’s the magic formula. the 'O' vowel is the hardest. 

Final question: Who is your muse?
GM: I go back and forth between my mother and husband. My mother is such a character. I've tried to bring aspects of her into all my characters. My husband cheers me on. Actually, they both do. 'Xanadu' has me out of my comfort zone, doing things that are very different for me. To know that they are both their supporting me, it really helps me find the courage to tackle this.  
CC: I would also say my family. My parents and sister. I owe who I am to those three people. I can only hope I make them proud.

"Xanadu" runs through Oct. 28 at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Tickets, $20-$45. Call (800) 745-3000. drurylaneoakbrook.com

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hookah in the house..."True Blood" star Nelsan Ellis to direct local production

Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette, "True Blood")
Say what you will about this shark-jumping season of "True Blood," but in my humble opinion one of the only reasons I have continued to tune in is for Nelsan Ellis' layered performance of medium and short order cook Lafayette. Keeping Lafayette alive (spoiler: he dies in the first book) was one of the best decisions show-runner Alan Ball ever did.

Ellis is now bringing his talent back to the Windy City. He will be directing the Chicago premiere of  "HooDoo Love" by Olivier Award-winning playwright Katori Hall. It's also the inaugural Chicago production for The Collective Theatre, for which Ellis is a co-founder --along with Francois Battiste, Veronda Carey, Le’Mil Eiland,  Metra Gilliard and Jasond Jones.

Ellis, in his non-Lafayette garb.

Set in the 1930s, the show follows a young woman named Toulou who escapes from the Mississippi cotton fields to pursue her dream of singing the blues in Memphis. After she meets a rambling blues man, her dreams are realized in a way she never could have imagined. 

"HooDoo Love" plays September 22 – October 21, 2012 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago.  The production features Christophé Abiel, Toni Lynice Fountain, Mark Smith and Lynn Wactor.  Tickets, $32 ($20 students; $27 previews) are currently available online at www.athenaeumtheatre.org or by calling the Athenaeum Theatre Box Office at (773) 935-6875. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Doctor is back in the house Sept. 1

"Doctor Who" series seven gets a start date and it's a bit earlier than previously reported. The latest adventures of the Time Lord from Gallifrey will hit U.S. shores on Sept. 1 BBC America reports.

The Doctor (Matt Smith) will once again face off against the Daleks in the first episode of the new series. Lead writer and executive producer Stephen Moffat says it was a bit of a no-brainer to kick off the fall series with one of the Doctor's best-known foes.

"We've been off the air for longer than usual, so it was an easy decision to come back with Doctor Who at its most iconic and that means Daleks. Lots and lots of scary Daleks. There have been many monsters to face the Doctor over the years, but only one that can sum up the whole series just by being there," Moffat said. "Also, it's my first go at writing for them. I LOVE the Daleks, and I've held off till now. But I had what I thought was a good idea, and couldn't resist any longer!!"

Smith could barely contain his glee.

"Asylum of the Daleks is going to be a cracker," Smith said.  "Steven has written an absolute belter and we have made the Daleks scary again, something I am not sure we got right before."

The exclusive BBC America trailer is below. Spoilers follow the embeded trailer.

The cable channel also released synopses of the first three episodes. Though spoiler warning is in effect, there's nothing in the blurbs that I haven't seen floating around the web. Still, proceed at your own accord


Asylum of the Daleks – Episode 1
Kidnapped by his oldest foe, the Doctor (Matt Smith) is forced on an impossible mission - to a place even the Daleks are too terrified to enter.... the Asylum. A planetary prison confining the most terrifying and insane of their kind, the Doctor and the Ponds must find an escape route. But with Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory’s (Arthur Darvill) relationship in meltdown, and an army of mad Daleks closing in, it is up to the Doctor to save their lives, as well as the Pond’s marriage. Asylum of the Daleks premieres Saturday, September 1, 9:00pm ET.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship – Episode 2
An unmanned spaceship hurtles towards certain destruction - unless the Doctor can save it, and its impossible cargo...... of dinosaurs. By his side a ragtag gang of adventurers; a big game hunter (guest star Rupert Graves), an Egyptian Queen (guest star Rianna Steele) and a surprised member of the Pond family (Mark Williams). But little does the Doctor know there is someone else onboard who will stop at nothing to keep hold of his precious, prehistoric cargo. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship premieres Saturday, September 8, 9:00pm ET.

A Town Called Mercy – Episode 3
The Doctor gets a Stetson (and a gun), and finds himself the reluctant Sheriff of a Western town under siege by a relentless cyborg, who goes by the name of, the Gunslinger. But who is he and what does he want? The answer seems to lie with the mysterious, Kahler-Jex, an alien doctor (yes another one) whose initial appearance is hiding a dark secret. Look for Scifi fan favorite Ben Browder ("Farscape" and "Stargate SG1") as a gun slinger. A Town Called Mercy premieres Saturday, September 15, 9:00pm ET.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Equity Jeff Award Nominees

Looking over this year's Equity Jeff Award nominees, you may find yourself asking what I did: just what or who didn't get nominated?

Was last season really this good? There are nine nominees in both the large and midsize play categories. Nine!

Not to take anything away from the nominees, but having seen most of the nominations, it would appear the Jeff Awards are on the verge of descending into what one normally sees on the little league circuit: everyone gets an award just for participating.

Where there snubs? You betcha. Two that come immediately to mind: Nathan Lane ("The Iceman Cometh") and Susan Moniz ("Follies"). Given how generous the nomination committee seemed to be this year, these two omissions are particularly glaring. Lane managed to breath life into a show that most theatergoers are already familiar with.
Nathan Lane (right) in the Goodman's production of "The Iceman Cometh"
In Moniz's case, this was truly a role she was born to play and her performance was riveting.

Susan Moniz in "Follies"

Here's hoping the committee hires a speed reader to announce the nominees at the awards show on Oct. 15. Otherwise, it's going to be a long night.



"Angels in America"
“Angels in America, Parts One and Two” - Court Theatre
“Clybourne Park” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
“The Convert” - Goodman Theatre in association with Center Theatre Group and
    McCarter Theatre Center
“Elizabeth Rex” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“The Iceman Cometh” - Goodman Theatre
“In the Next Room or the vibrator play” – Victory Gardens Theater
“Invisible Man” - Court Theatre in association with Christopher McElroen
“Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting” - Lookingglass Theatre Company
“Oedipus el Rey” - Victory Gardens Theater

"Death and Harry Houdini"
“Blizzard ‘67” - Chicago Dramatists
“Chesapeake” - Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
“Death and Harry Houdini” - The House Theatre of Chicago
“Disgraced” - American Theater Company in special arrangement with The Araca
“Enron” - TimeLine Theatre Company
“Fish Men” - Goodman Theatre presents the Teatro Vista production
“Freud’s Last Session” - Carolyn Rossi Copeland, Robert Stillman, and Jack Thomas
    present the Barrington Stage Production
“Immediate Family” - Paul Boskind, Ruth Hendel and Stephen Hendel by special
    arrangement with Goodman Theatre, and in association with About Face
    Theatre Company
“The Pitmen Painters” - TimeLine Theatre Company

"Eastland: A New Musical"
“Eastland: A New Musical” - Lookingglass Theatre Company
“Follies” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“Hairspray” - Drury Lane Productions
“A Little Night Music” - Writers’ Theatre
“The Pirates of Penzance” - Marriott Theatre
“The Sound of Music” - Drury Lane Productions
“Sweeney Todd” - Drury Lane Productions

"The Doyle & Debbie Show"
“A Catered Affair” - Porchlight Music Theatre
“The Christmas Schooner A Musical” - The Mercury Theater
“The Doyle & Debbie Show” - lonesome road productions in association with Jim
    Jensen and Lisselan Productions
“Rent” - American Theater Company and About Face Theatre

“Stephen Sondheim’s Putting it Together” - Porchlight Music Theatre
“We’re All in This Room Together” - The Second City e.t.c.

Nathan Allen - “Death and Harry Houdini” - The House Theatre of Chicago
J. Nicole Brooks - “Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting” - Lookingglass Theatre Company
Robert Falls - “The Iceman Cometh” - Goodman Theatre
BJ Jones - “The Pitmen Painters” - TimeLine Theatre Company
Christopher McElroen - Invisible Man - Court Theatre in association with
   Christopher McElroen Productions
Amy Morton - “Clybourne Park” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Charles Newell - “An Iliad” - Court Theatre
Ron OJ Parson - “The Caretaker” - Writers’ Theatre
Sandy Shinner - “In the Next Room or the vibrator play” - Victory Gardens Theater
Chay Yew - “Oedipus el Rey” - Victory Gardens Theater

William Brown - “A Little Night Music” - Writers’ Theatre
Amanda Dehnert - Eastland: A New Musical - Lookingglass Theatre Company
Gary Griffin - “Follies” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Tammy Mader - “Hairspray” - Drury Lane Productions
Dominic Missimi - “The Pirates of Penzance” - Marriott Theatre
Rachel Rockwell - “The Sound of Music” - Drury Lane Productions
Rachel Rockwell - “Sweeney Todd” - Drury Lane Productions

"Clybourne Park"
“Ameriville by Universes” - Victory Gardens Theater
“Clybourne Park” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
“The Iceman Cometh” - Goodman Theatre
“Mr. Rickey Calls A Meeting” - Lookingglass Theatre Company
“The Pitmen Painters” - TimeLine Theatre Company

Martin Rayner (left) as Sigmund Freud with Mark H. Dold as C.S. Lewis in "Freud's Last Session."
Usman Ally (Amir) - “Disgraced” - American Theater Company in special
    arrangement with The Araca Group
Teagle F. Bougere (Invisible Man) - “Invisible Man” - Court Theatre in association
    with Christopher McElroen Productions
William J. Norris (Davies) - “The Caretaker” - Writers’ Theatre
Martin Rayner (Sigmund Freud) - “Freud’s Last Session” - Carolyn Rossi Copeland,
    Robert Stillman, and Jack Thomas present the Barrington Stage Production
Steven Sutcliffe (Ned Lowenscroft) - “Elizabeth Rex” - Chicago Shakespeare
Larry Yando (Roy M. Cohen) - “Angels in America, Parts One and Two” - Court

Adrian Aguilar (Jon) in "tick...tick...BOOM!"
Adrian Aguilar (Jon) - “tick…tick… BOOM!” - Porchlight Music Theatre
Bruce Arntson (Doyle Mayfield) - “The Doyle & Debbie Show” - lonesome road
    productions in association with Jim Jensen and Lisselan Productions
Clarke Hallum (Ralphie) - “A Christmas Story, The Musical” - Gerald Goehring, Roy
    Miller, Michael F. Mitri, Pat Flicker Addiss, Peter Billingsley, Mariano Tolentino,
    Louise H. Beard, Michael Filerman, Scott Hart, Timothy Laczynski,
    Bartner/Jenkins Entertainment, Angela Milonas and Bradford W. Smith
Andrew Lupp (Phil Davis) - “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical” - Marriott
Kelvin Roston, Jr. (Jackie Wilson) - “The Jackie Wilson Story (My Heart is Crying,
    Crying)” - Black Ensemble Theater
Rashawn Thompson (Marvin Gaye) - “The Marvin Gaye Story (Don’t Talk About My
    Father Because God is My Friend)” - Black Ensemble Theater

Diane D'Aquila as Queen Elizabeth I in "Elizabeth Rex"
Pascale Armand (Jekesai/Ester) - “The Convert” - Goodman Theatre in association
    with Center Theatre Group and McCarter Theatre Center
Janet Ulrich Brooks (Anya Botvinnik) - “A Walk in the Woods” - TimeLine Theatre
Kate Buddeke (Tanya) - “The North Plan” - Theater Wit
Diane D’Aquila (Queen Elizabeth I) - “Elizabeth Rex” - Chicago Shakespeare
Kate Fry (Catherine Givings) - “In the Next Room or the vibrator play” - Victory
    Gardens Theater
Lia Mortensen (Lynn Fontanne) - “Ten Chimneys” - Northlight Theatre
Kelli Simpkins (Darcy) - “The Kid Thing” - Chicago Dramatists and About Face

Liz McCartney as Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd"
Jennifer Blood (Maria Rainer) - “The Sound of Music” - Drury Lane Productions
Lillian Castillo (Tracy Turnblad) - “Hairspray” - Drury Lane Productions
Shannon Cochran (Desirée Armfeldt) - “A Little Night Music” - Writers’ Theatre
Rebecca Finnegan (Aggie Hurley) - “A Catered Affair” - Porchlight Music Theatre
Jenny Littleton (Debbie) - “The Doyle & Debbie Show” - lonesome road productions
    in association with Jim Jensen and Lisselan Productions
Liz McCartney (Mrs. Lovett) - “Sweeney Todd” - Drury Lane Productions
Caroline O’Connor (Phyllis Rogers Stone) - “Follies” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Edgar Blackmon (Ensemble) - “Who Do We Think We Are?” - The Second City
McKinley Carter (Woman #1) - “Stephen Sondheim’s Putting it Together” -
    Porchlight Music Theatre
Mike Kosinski (Ensemble) - “We’re All in This Room Together” -
    The Second City e.t.c.
Adam Pelty (Man #1) - “Stephen Sondheim’s Putting it Together” -
    Porchlight Music Theatre

Greg Matthew Anderson (Kerr) - “Chesapeake” - Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
Timothy Edward Kane (Poet) - “An Iliad” - Court Theatre
Deborah Staples (Performer) - “The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful
    Redhead” - Writers’ Theatre

Ron Orbach (right) with Tracy Michelle Arnold in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Brad Armacost (Phil Hogan) - “A Moon for the Misbegotten” - Seanachaí Theatre
Ian Barford (Arly Wilcox)  - “The March” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Brian Dennehy (Larry Slade) - “The Iceman Cometh” - Goodman Theatre
Alex Goodrich (Ellard Simms) - “The Foreigner” - Provision Theater
Harry Groener (General William Tecumseh Sherman) - “The March” - Steppenwolf
    Theatre Company
Ron Orbach (Nick Bottom) - “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” - Chicago Shakespeare
Dan Waller (Oliver Kilbourn) - “The Pitmen Painters”- TimeLine Theatre Company
Howard Witt (Adam Kirchbaum AKA Ninety-Two) - “Fish Men” - Goodman Theatre
    presents the Teatro Vista production

Rod Thomas (right) with Jonathan Lee Cunningham in "Little Shop of Horrors"
Brandon Dahlquist (Count Carl-Magnus & Lieder Singer) - “A Little Night Music” -
    Writers’ Theatre
Alex Goodrich (Kirk) - “HERO the Musical” - Marriott Theatre
Kevin Earley (Pirate King) - “The Pirates of Penzance” - Marriott Theatre
Ross Lehman (Major-General) - “The Pirates of Penzance” - Marriott Theatre
Michael Aaron Lindner (Edna Turnblad) - “Hairspray” - Drury Lane Productions
Rod Thomas (Orin Scrivello, Derelict, Customer, Radio Announcer, Bernstein,
    Mrs. Luce, Skip Snip, and Patrick Martin) - “Little Shop of Horrors” - Theatre
    at the Center

Natalie West in "The Butcher of Baraboo"
Cheryl Lynn Bruce (Mai Tamba) - “The Convert” - Goodman Theatre in association
    with Center Theatre Group and McCarter Theatre Center
Hannah Gomez (Maribel) - “Crooked” - Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Mary Cross and
    Sharon Furiya
Patrese D. McClain (The Folk) -”Spunk” - Court Theatre
Polly Noonan (Sabrina Daldry) - “In the Next Room or the vibrator play” - Victory
    Gardens Theater
MaryAnn Thebus, (Vera) - “After the Revolution” - Next Theatre Company
Kristina Valada-Viars (Mandy Bloom) - “Time Stands Still” - Steppenwolf Theatre
Natalie West (Gail) - “The Butcher of Baraboo” - A Red Orchid Theatre

Christinie Sherrill (left) with Chelsea Packard in "Legally Blonde: The Musical"
Dara Cameron (Susan Schmitty) - “HERO the Musical” - Marriott Theatre
Patti Cohenour (The Mother Abbess) - “The Sound of Music” - Drury Lane
Hollis Resnik (Carlotta Campion) - “Follies” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Alene Robertson (Martha Watson) - “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical” -
    Marriott Theatre
Christine Sherrill (Paulette) - “Legally Blonde The Musical” - Marriott Theatre

Jon Steinhagen's "Blizzard '67"
Ayad Akhtar - “Disgraced” - American Theater Company in special arrangement
    with The Araca Group
John Conroy  - “My Kind of Town” - TimeLine Theatre Company
Sarah Gubbins  - “The Kid Thing” - Chicago Dramatists and About Face Theatre
Andrew Hinderaker - “I Am Going to Change the World” - Chicago Dramatists
Jon Steinhagen - “Blizzard ‘67” - Chicago Dramatists
Aaron Thielen and Michael Mahler - “HERO the Musical” - Marriott Theatre
Andrew White, Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman - “Eastland: A New Musical” -
    Lookingglass Theatre Company

Calixto Bieito and Marc Rosich - “Camino Real” - Goodman Theatre
Frank Galati - “The March” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Oren Jacoby - “Invisible Man” - Court Theatre in association with Christopher
    McElroen Productions
Tracy Letts - “Three Sisters” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Jessica Thebus and Frank Maugeri - “The Feast: an intimate Tempest” - Chicago
    Shakespeare Theater in association with Redmoon

The cast of Drury Lane Productions' "Hairspray"
Tammy Mader - “Hairspray” - Drury Lane Productions
Matt Raftery - “The Pirates of Penzance” - Marriott Theatre
Jessica Redish - “Pippin” - The Music Theatre Company
Marc Robin - “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical” - Marriott Theatre
Alex Sanchez - “Follies” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Jenny Giering - “Elizabeth Rex” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Andrew Hansen - “A Walk in the Woods” - TimeLine Theatre Company
Lindsay Jones - “Timon of Athens” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen - “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” - Chicago
    Shakespeare Theater
Kevin O’Donnell - “Death and Harry Houdini” - The House Theatre of Chicago
David Singer - “Three Sisters” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Austin Cook - “Stephen Sondheim’s Putting it Together” - Porchlight Music Theatre
Roberta Duchak - “The Sound of Music” - Drury Lane Productions
Roberta Duchak - “Sweeney Todd” - Drury Lane Productions
Brad Haak - “Follies” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Valerie Maze - “A Little Night Music” – Writers’ Theatre
Robert Reddrick - “The Marvin Gaye Story (Don’t Talk about My Father Because
    God is My Friend)” - Black Ensemble Theater

Ira Amyx and Merje Veski - “A Moon for the Misbegotten” - Seanachaí Theatre
John Iacovelli - “Immediate Family” - Paul Boskind, Ruth Hendel and Stephen
    Hendel by special arrangement with Goodman Theatre, and in association with
    About Face Theatre Company
Jack Magaw - “Disgraced” - American Theater Company in special arrangement
    with The Araca Group
Brian Prather - “Freud’s Last Session” - Carolyn Rossi Copeland, Robert Stillman,
    and Jack Thomas present The Barrington Stage Production
Chelsea M. Warren - “The Kid Thing” - Chicago Dramatists and About Face Theatre

The Goodman Theatre's production of "Red"
Kevin Depinet - “The Iceman Cometh” - Goodman Theatre
Troy Hourie - “Invisible Man” - Court Theatre in association with
    Christopher McElroen Productions
Jack Magaw - “The Caretaker” - Writers’ Theatre
Jack Magaw - “In the Next Room or the vibrator play” - Victory Gardens Theater
Dan Ostling - “Eastland: A New Musical” - Lookingglass Theatre Company
Todd Rosenthal - “Clybourne Park” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Todd Rosenthal - “An Iliad” - Court Theatre
Todd Rosenthal - “Red” - Goodman Theatre in association with Arena Stage at
    the Mead Center for American Theater
Walt Spangler - “Time Stands Still” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Jesse Klug - “The Amish Project” - American Theater Company
Jesse Klug - “Fish Men” - Goodman Theatre presents the Teatro Vista production
JR Lederle - “Chesapeake” - Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
Michael McNamara - “The Turn of the Screw” - First Folio Theatre
Ben Wilhelm - “Death and Harry Houdini” - The House Theatre of Chicago

John Culbert - “Invisible Man” - Court Theatre in association with Christopher
    McElroen Productions
James F. Ingalls - “Camino Real” - Goodman Theatre
Natasha Katz - “The Iceman Cometh” - Goodman Theatre
Jesse Klug - “Sweeney Todd” - Drury Lane Productions
Keith Parham - “Red” - Goodman Theatre in association with Arena Stage at
    the Mead Center for American Theater

Jay Worthington (front) and Kenny Mihlfried in The Gift Theatre's "Cloud 9"
David Hyman - “Rent” - American Theater Company and About Face Theatre
Branimira Ivanova - “Cloud 9” - The Gift Theatre
Lee Keenan - “Death and Harry Houdini” - The House Theatre of Chicago
Kate Murphy - “Absolute Hell” - The Gift Theatre
Michael Alan Stein - “The Nativity” - Congo Square Theatre Company

Chicago Shakespear Theatre's "Follies"
Jacqueline Firkins - “In the Next Room or the vibrator play” - Victory Gardens
Rachel Anne Healy - “A Little Night Music” - Writers’ Theatre
Virgil C. Johnson - “Follies” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Nancy Missimi - “The Pirates of Penzance” - Marriott Theatre
Nancy Missimi - “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas The Musical” - Marriott Theatre

Victoria DeIorio - “Falling: A Wake” - Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Mikhail Fiksel - “Fish Men” - Goodman Theatre presents the Teatro Vista
Christopher Kriz - “The Turn of the Screw” - First Folio Theatre
Kevin O’Donnell and Harrison Adams - “Death and Harry Houdini” - The House
    Theatre of Chicago
Rick Sims - “Chesapeake” - Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

Mikhail Fiksel - “Oedipus el Rey” - Victory Gardens Theater
Joshua Horvath and Kevin O’Donnell - “Angels in America, Parts One and Two” -
    Court Theatre
Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen - “The 39 Steps” - Drury Lane Productions
Andre Pluess - “An Iliad” - Court Theatre
Josh Schmidt - “The March” - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Maya Ciarrocchi  - “Crowns” - Goodman Theatre
Seth Henrikson & Oddmachine - “Megacosm” - A Red Orchid Theatre
Alex Koch - “Invisible Man” - Court Theatre in association with
    Christopher McElroen Productions
Mike Tutaj - “I Am Going to Change the World” - Chicago Dramatists
Mike Tutaj - “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Mike Tutaj - “A Walk in the Woods” - TimeLine Theatre Company

Samuel Taylor (left) and Adrian Danzig in "The Feast: an intimate Tempest"
Kurt Alger - Wig Design - “Hairspray” - Drury Lane Productions
Jesse Mooney-Bullock - 3D Puppetry Design - “The Feast: an intimate Tempest” -Chicago Shakespeare Theater in association with Redmoon
Melissa Veal - Wig and Make-up Design - “Elizabeth Rex” - Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Dennis Watkins - Magic Designer - “Death and Harry Houdini” - The House Theatre of Chicago

The 44th Annual Jeff Awards ceremony honoring excellence in professional theatre produced within the immediate Chicago area will be held on Monday, October 15, at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Advance purchase tickets, which include the ceremony and buffets, are $75 ($55 for members of Actors' Equity Association, United Scenic Artists, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, Stage Managers’ Association, The Dramatists Guild of America, and American Federation of Musicians). The evening is black tie optional and the public is cordially invited to attend.