Saturday, December 22, 2018


ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List: 
There’s not a boy in sight. This is amazing


Photo Credit: Kimberly Robb Baker

Guest Review: 
Kimberly Robb Baker

About three quarters of the way through the world premier of American Girl Live, my daughter said, “There’s not a boy in sight. This is amazing!”

And she was right. How often is it that a girl can see live theatre about girls in which there is no male love interest, father, brother or male friend vying for the spotlight. This show, directed by Gina Rattan with book and lyrics by Sandy Rustin, is one of those rare gems.

On that front, there was a lot to be happy about with this show in which five girl campers and their young counselor explore their strengths and talents in an environment of camaraderie.

I liked that the cast, like the American Girl dolls themselves, reflected the diversity of America—as did the audience of little girls, many of whom were hugging American Girl dolls that looked like them. And it didn’t end at racial diversity. The show celebrated the athleticism, intellect, caring and artistry of girls.

Prizes were given out for extraordinary displays of girl power—and it was nice that those were often subtle victories, like expressing your needs, even amongst a group of new people or trying hard to build a robot, even if it still didn’t work out.

I had the chance to see the show with my 8-year-old daughter and her two friends. While none of them are big American Girl enthusiasts, they still enjoyed the show. They did wish that it was more about the dolls. While each camper has a doll and their doll is instrumental in helping them overcome their particular challenge by briefly touching on their own story, most of the stage time centers around the campers themselves.

The cast did a great job, especially Monica Poston as the counselor, Jenna Bruce as the new girl and singing powerhouse Laila E. Drew as a wannabe pop star. Poston and Bruce performed an especially fun number full of ‘30s dance moves.

If your girl adores American Girl or just being a girl, you’ll do well to take her to American Girl Live.

Kimberly Robb Baker is a Chicago based writer, blogger, consultant, story teller, and mother. You can find her worky stuff here: and her artsy fartsy stuff here:

American Girl Live, an all-new musical inspired by the popular characters from American Girl® owned by Mattel, Inc., will celebrate its world premiere at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie Dec. 21-23, 2018. Tickets and VIP packages are available now and may be purchased at the North Shore Center box office, or by calling 847-673-6300. 

American Girl Live will feature all-original songs and an unforgettable experience for fans of American Girl as they witness some of their favorite characters come to life, including Rebecca, Nanea, Maryellen, Melody, Julie and this year’s, Girl of the Year, Luciana Vega. Audiences will join a group of girls at sleepover camp for an exciting summer away from home. When each camper is faced with a new challenge or experience, she comes to better understand the timeless lessons of her favorite American Girl character through heartfelt story and song. The messages shared provide positive examples of friendship, courage, and hope that will extend beyond the performance and into the hearts of the audience.

American Girl Live is a creative collaboration between American Girl and Mills Entertainment.  The musical features a script and lyrics by Glenview native Sandy Rustin, is produced by Steppenwolf Theatre veteran Simone Gianfrancesco, music by Meg Zervoulis, choreographed by Emilie Renier and is directed by Gina Rattan. The all-female creative team vows to “celebrate girls” and promote positivity and perseverance which audiences can expect to see when the production hits the stage for the first time this holiday season.  

“Director Gina Rattan and I both felt strongly from the get-go that this show needed to have an all-female creative team, both to honor the values of the brand as well as to present a strong message—that every girl is the hero of her own story!” says producer Simone Gianfrancesco. “Who better to bring this message to life than a passionate group of women, aiming to inspire the next generation of creative thought leaders?”

“We’re honored to have been chosen to showcase the world premiere of American Girl Live at the North Shore Center,” said Michael Pauken, General Manager of North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. “We believe that this show will resonate with audiences of all ages and is the perfect production to bring to families this holiday season. Plus, our free parking, numerous affordable area dining options and close proximity to Westfield Old Orchard Mall and the Edens Expressway, have always made the North Shore Center a great place for families.”

About the creative team for American Girl Live: 

Gina Rattan (Director) is a musical theater director and has worked as the Associate Director for a variety of Broadway productions including, “Angels in America,” “Matilda The Musical,” “Soul Doctor,” “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” and “Billy Elliot.” She was also involved in the live TV musicals “Peter Pan” and “The Sound of Music” on NBC. Her regional credits include productions at ART, Old Globe, Guthrie Theater, Lone Tree Arts Center, Theater Raleigh and Theater Workshop of Nantucket. Rattan is currently the director of the “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” national tour and is working on several new productions. She is a member of The Wing and champion of the work, thoughts and rights of women and girls.

Sandy Rustin (Playwright and Lyricist) is an award-winning playwright known for her comedic works. Her critically acclaimed Off-Broadway musical “Rated P for Parenthood” was optioned by Kelly Ripa’s Milojo & ABC-TV for TV development. Her comedy “The Cottage” plays all over the U.S. and was most recently directed by Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”) and workshopped by Manhattan Theatre Club in New York City. Currently, Rustin is helping to adapt the hit cult film, “CLUE” (Paramount, Hasbro, Araca Group) for the stage. In addition to her work with Mills Entertainment as the writer and lyricist of “American Girl Live,” Rustin is also writing the script for Mills’ production of “Bad Moms Live” (STX Entertainment). Her three other plays – “Struck,” “Houston,” and “Elijah” - play in theatres across the U.S.

Meg Zervoulis (Composer) is a composer and is known for her work on the musical teams on several big-name Broadway productions including, “Mean Girls” (Associate Music Director), “The Prom” (Associate Music Director/Conductor) and “Great Comet of 1812” (Assistant Conductor). Off-Broadway credits include, “Cagney” and “Rated P.” She also has been involved in new works including, Sondheim’s “Buñuel” (Public Theatre), “Merrily We Roll Along” (Fiasco/Roundabout), Kooman and Dimond’s “Dani Girl” and Andrea Grody’s “Strange Faces.”  Regional credits include, “Mary Poppins,” “Bandstand,” “Ever After” and many more at the Paper Mill Playhouse. Zervoulis is the resident conductor of Hotel Elefant, a contemporary music ensemble in New York City. She has also served an adjunct professor/music director at Montclair State University for several years. She is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and a member of the Lilly Awards Power Network.

Emilie Renier (Choreographer) is a New York City based choreographer who has choreographed and performed in productions both nationally and internationally.  Some of her performing credits include, “Rodger’s + Hammerstein’s Cinderella” (national tour), Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” (national and international tour), “Mary Poppins,” “The Sound of Music,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Peter Pan,” “She Loves Me,” “A Man of No Importance,” “RENT,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Nine” and others.  Reiner has served as the Assistant Choreographer for the national tour of “Rodger’s + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” “Hair,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Little Women” and many more.  

Simone Gianfrancesco (Executive Producer) is a senior producer and development executive with Mills Entertainment (a CAA company). Her varied portfolio includes such clients and partners as A&E Television Networks (Bring It! Live), John Cleese and Eric Idle, Iyanla Vanzant, Lilly Singh, Tyler Oakley, the Fred Rogers Company (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live), and the Jim Henson Company (Dinosaur Train Live, Sid the Science Kid Live). Select regional credits include productions with Steppenwolf Theatre Company, La Jolla Playhouse and About Face Theatre. Upcoming projects include collaborations with the Joan Rivers estate and with Turner Classic Movies. Simone focuses her work on bringing diverse and aspirational content to all communities, specifically to young women; she is proud that this partnership with American Girl® furthers that objective, building girls of strong character.
American Girl Live will perform at The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie on Friday, Dec. 21 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. Tickets range in price from $37 - $47 and are available now. Special VIP packages featuring a pre-show party and post-show photo opportunity with the cast are also available. Please visit, or call 847-673-6300 for more information. 

About American Girl 
American Girl is a premium brand for girls and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mattel (NASDAQ: MAT), a leading global children's entertainment company that specializes in design and production of quality toys and consumer products.  Headquartered in Middleton, WI, American Girl offers an inspiring world of dolls, content, and experiences that nourish a girl’s spirit and help develop her strength of character. Best-selling lines include Truly Me™, Girl of the Year™, Bitty Baby™, WellieWishers™, and American Girl’s classic historical characters. The company sells products through its award-winning catalogue, on, in its proprietary U.S. experiential retail stores, as well as at specialty retailers nationwide. By inspiring girls to be their best, American Girl has earned the loyalty of millions and the praise and trust of parents and educators.

About Mills Entertainment
As the leading producer and promoter of branded live entertainment in the United States, Mills Entertainment, a division of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), collaborates with top talent and property holders to create unforgettable live experiences.  With full global distribution and partnerships worldwide, their specialty is taking shows from concept to stage, serving as the complete solution in realizing the vision.  Current projects include Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Carnival of Curi-oddities, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!, Theresa Caputo Live! The Experience, Bring It! Live and Miraculous. . For more information visit,

About The North Shore Center 
The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie is a dynamic two-theater complex designed by Boston architect Graham Gund and opened in November 1996. The North Shore Center is managed by Professional Facilities Management, Inc. and operates as part of the Village of Skokie’s plan to provide cultural, literary and educational programs to benefit the citizens of Skokie and Chicago’s North Shore. The facility features an 867-seat main theater, and a convertible 318-seat theater, which serves as the home to Northlight Theatre. In addition, there is a 6,000 square foot grand lobby, rehearsal hall and conference rooms. The North Shore Center presents a Feature Series and the curriculum-based Youtheatre program, which has provided supplemental arts education to over a million Chicago area students since its launch in 1980. Located 30 minutes from Chicago’s Loop and conveniently across from Westfield Old Orchard Mall, the Center is in close proximity to many excellent dining, shopping and hotel options. Free parking is also abundantly available. For more information or tickets to its diverse programming, please visit

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