Saturday, December 23, 2023

The Music Man Via Metropolis Performing Arts Center February 2 Through February 11, 2024.

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List: Family Friendly Shows On Our Radar




Recommended for Ages 6+ | Children under the age of 3 will not be permitted

(The cast of The Music Man in Concert from left to right: Amelia Holly, Ava Chanpong, Barry Irving, Brennen Martinez, Brian James, Brielle Horwitch, Elijah Warfield, Elise Daly, Genevieve Jane, Jackson Mikkelsen, Jade Marder, John Benischek, Jemma Lebenson, June Marzo, Josh Frink, Kara Rivera, Korey White, Lauren Miller, Lifan Deng, Lila Beck, Leighton Tantillo, Mason Wang, Miles Wendt, Matthew Post, Molly Hamada, Nancy Greco, Morgan Medina, Olivia Mulder, Patrick Sylvia, Patrick Johnson, Rachel Carreras, Piper Laskey Terry, Sophie Smekens, Rylee Sahl, Tessa Mae Pundsack, Sophie Tucker, Zoya Martin, Tyler James Gillespie, and Carolyn Michael.)

Metropolis Performing Arts Center proudly announces the upcoming production of The Music Man in Concert in collaboration with the School of the Performing Arts. Presented as a concert with a 25-piece orchestra, Meredith Willson’s six-time Tony Award-winning musical comedy has been entertaining audiences since 1957.

The Music Man runs in the Metropolis Theater from February 2, 2024, through February 11, 2024. Tickets are available for purchase now at or through the Box Office at 847.577.2121. 

“The Music Man has one of the most engaging and spirited scores in the Golden Age canon. It is instantly relatable, and still charms audiences today as much as it did when it debuted,” says Artistic Director Brendan Ragan.

Metropolis will present the acclaimed musical as a concert reading, backed by the JAM Orchestra. Featuring all of the musical's quintessential songs like “76 Trombones”,” Ya Got Trouble”, “Shipoopi”, and “Goodnight, My Someone”, the production will also include much of the original dialogue. "The story we all love will be fully told," says Ragan, "and without the usual costumes, props, or scenery, we can hone in on this robust and gorgeous music with a large ensemble of musicians and performers we'd never be able to stage in a typical production. That is really the benefit of presenting the show as a concert reading. The size and scale of the music will be a true delight.”

The Music Man in Concert will star Barry Irving as fast-talking salesman Harold Hill, and Brennan Martinez as the eponymous Marian the librarian. The concert will be produced in collaboration with Metropolis School of the Performing Arts. Brendan Ragan states, “Our School of the Performing Arts excels at not just providing access to artistic opportunities, but preparing young performers for a potential career in the performing arts. Intermingling with professional artists on stage will be a wonderfully rewarding opportunity for these talented young performers, and many will have trained for this opportunity in this very building.”

The Music Man in Concert
February 2–11, 2024
Ideal for Ages 6+ | Children under the age of 3 will not be permitted.
Duration: 2 hrs and 25 mins with a 15–minute intermission

Book, Music, and Lyrics by MEREDITH WILLSON
Music Directed by AARON KAPLAN
Staged Managed by BRIDGET KEARBEY

Assistant music direction by Kevin Zhou, lighting design by Evan Kicman, sound design by Commedore Clark, casting direction by Robin Hughes, production management by Alexis Nau, and technical direction by Victor Gutierrez.


The Music Man follows fast-talking traveling salesman, Harold Hill, as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a band that he vows to organize – despite the fact that he does not know a trombone from a treble clef. His plans to skip towns with the cash are foiled when he falls for Marian, the librarian, who transforms him into a respectable citizen by the curtain’s fall.

“The concert reading format will allow us to bring the music to life in a larger, more appealing way than a traditional production,” Ragan says. “Our ensemble will feature 16 adult performers, 25 youth performers, and 25 orchestra members. Having as many as 65 artists on stage will provide for a thrilling and unusual musical experience.”


Aaron Reese Boseman is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Theatre Direction. Boseman serves as co-founder/artistic director of Pulse Theatre Chicago, an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago, a board member of Downstage Arts, and an Ensemble Member of Invictus Theatre. Boseman has been nominated for a Jeff Award and multiple BTAA and Black Excellence Awards for his contributions as a director, actor, and designer. Acting credits include Ragtime, Hair (Metropolis Performing Arts), Blue Heaven (Black Ensemble Theater), Ruined (Invictus Theatre), Little Shop of Horrors (Skylight Music Theatre/Citadel Theatre), In the Heights (The Miracle Center), Balm in Gilead, Violet (Griffin Theatre/Loyola University), Big River (TATC). Directing credits include upcoming productions of Topdog/Underdog (Invictus Theatre) and Fairview (Theatre at Cedar Rapids), Once on This Island (Pulse Theatre/The Drama Group), Detroit '67 (Columbia College Chicago) The Mountaintop, A Raisin in the Sun (Invictus Theatre), American Son (The Ghostlight Theatre) In the Blood, The Colored Museum, Fabulation; or The Re-Education of Undine, and A Streetcar Named Desire (Pulse Theatre).

Metropolis thanks the following sponsors: Title Show Sponsors: Tom & MaryAnn Deming; Supporting Show Sponsors: Lynn & Doug Steffen, Peggy Kinnane's Irish Restaurant & Pub; Season Costume Storage Sponsor: Jennifer Burnidge, State Farm, CLU, CHFC; and Season Paint Sponsor: Marc Poulos Painting & Decorating.

For more information, visit


Hooked on a Feeling 

February 23–March 3, 2024

9 to 5: The Musical 

May 2–May 26, 2024

Million Dollar Quartet 

June 11–August 4, 2024


“Access to the arts is a critical element of a well-rounded education,” Ragan says regarding the upcoming SOPA collaboration, “Given the immense proliferation of digital design, content creation, and artistic expression in non-artistic industries, I hope that we continue to realize how fundamental artistic training is for both the individual and society.”

Metropolis School of the Performing Arts enriches the lives of thousands of students ranging from toddlers to seniors. Metropolis curates arts curriculum for students of all ages and abilities including those with special and different needs. SOPA’s programming focuses on multiple performing arts disciplines including musical theatre, drama, music, improvisation, dance, and more. SOPA’s Community Engagement programs bring the arts to other organizations that work with senior citizens, students with disabilities, displaced youth, and more. Metropolis proudly holds a mindset of "arts for all" when creating programming for the community both inside of the Metropolis building and out in the surrounding neighborhoods.


Metropolis is a not-for-profit arts and education organization. Led by Artistic Director Brendan Ragan and Executive Director David Victor, the theater offers inspirational live entertainment, imaginative arts education, and impactful community partnerships, delivering artistic excellence, shared multi-generational connections, and inclusive experiences that engage the community.

By creating a space of belonging for the Metropolis’ broad and diverse community, the organization is actively building a community of patrons, students, supporters, artists, and staff through strengthening and nurturing the relationship between the artistic community and the organization that cultivates lifelong appreciation and involvement in the arts.

As an arts and community hub dedicated to the vibrancy of equity, diversity, accessibility, and inclusion, the Metropolis School of the Performing curates arts and theater curricula for students ages two–65+ through a variety of educational programming.

Metropolis was founded in 2000, and in January 2005, the Village of Arlington Heights purchased the Metropolis theater space, a portion of the lobby (now known as the Whisler Family Lobby), second-floor classrooms, and a dance studio, 13 music studios, and administrative offices. This promising partnership reinforces Performing Arts at Metropolis’ proud leadership role in the community and the community’s great expectations of the institution, which Metropolis will continue to strive to meet and Surpass. All proceeds benefit Metropolis’ theatrical arts and education programs. Metropolis is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Metropolis Performing Arts Centre acknowledges support from the Illinois Arts Council Agency. 

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Chicago Shakespeare Theater's ILLINOISE January 28–February 18, 2024

 ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List: 

Family Friendly Shows On Our Radar

Chicago Shakespeare Theater announces the cast and creative team of


A new kind of musical based on Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed concept album

With music and lyrics by Grammy and Oscar-nominated Sufjan Stevens

Story by Tony Award winner Justin Peck and Pulitzer Prize winner Jackie Sibblies Drury

Directed and choreographed by Justin Peck

Running January 28–February 18, 2024

Chicago Shakespeare Theater announces today the cast of the highly anticipated Illinoise, a new kind of musical based on Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed concept album. Illinoise embraces Grammy and Oscar-nominated Stevens’ landmark album in a genre-bursting theatrical experience that inspires hope. With a story crafted by Tony Award winner Justin Peck (New York City Ballet, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story) and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury (Fairview), and original choreography by Peck, Illinoise glows around a campfire as virtuosic dancers, singers, and a live band lead audiences on a mighty journey.

Beginning performances in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on January 28, 2024, the cast features Kara Chan, Ben Cook, Jeanette Delgado, Gaby Diaz, Robbie Fairchild, Christine Flores, Jada German, Zachary Gonder, Rachel Lockhart, Dario Natarelli, Tyrone Reese, Craig Salstein, Ahmad Simmons, Byron Tittle, Ricky Ubeda, and Alejandro Vargas. The band includes vocalists Shara Nova and Tasha Viets-VanLear, and instrumentalists Christina Courtin, Sean Forte, Domenica Fossati, Daniel Freedman, Kathy Halvorson, Nathan Koci, Eleonore Oppenheim, Brett Parnell, Brandon Ridenour, Kyra Sims, and Jessica Tsang.

With inclusion on several “best of the decade” lists, including those of Paste, NPR, and Rolling Stone, Sufjan Stevens’ acclaimed 2005 concept album Illinois enjoys cult status for its lush orchestrations and wildly inventive portrayal of the state’s people, landscapes, and history—complete with UFOs, zombies, and predatory wasps. This ambitious work weaves together delicate folk narratives about blossoming queerness, orchestral anthems destined for cinematic montages, and jazz tunes about the state’s ghost towns. Featuring new arrangements of the entire album by composer and pianist Timo Andres, this bold, new kind of musical adds live music and impressionistic choreography to revisit these themes of self-discovery. Following a premiere production at the Fisher Center at Bard in summer 2023, Illinoise marks its official press opening at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, before a New York run at Park Avenue Armory in March.

Featured in the cast of Illinoise is Gaby Diaz, winner of So You Think You Can Dance Season 12, whose film credits include West Side Story, tick, tick…BOOM!, Spirited, and the upcoming Maestro. Diaz starred Off-Broadway in Only Gold, for which she won the Chita Rivera Award. Also in the company are Ben Cook, who appeared in the film West Side Story and on Broadway in Ragtime, Billy Elliot (for which he was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award), Tuck Everlasting, Mean Girls, and West Side Story; Robbie Fairchild, whose performance in An American in Paris was nominated for a Tony Award and won the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Chita Rivera Awards, and who starred in the film Cats and the Netflix series Soundtrack; and Ricky Ubeda, winner of So You Think You Can Dance Season 11, who appeared in FX’s Fosse/Verdon, in the films West Side Story and Maestro, and on Broadway in West Side Story, On The Town, Cats, and Carousel.

The cast of Illinoise also includes Kara Chan (Twyla Tharp Dance, American Ballet Theatre), Jeanette Delgado (Miami City Ballet, West Side Story film), Christine Flores (Dance Heginbotham, Pam Tanowitz Dance), Jada German (Twyla Tharp Dance, Metropolitan Opera), Zachary Gonder (Carmen at Lyric Opera, Pam Tanowitz Dance), Rachel Lockhart (Juilliard’s Choreographic Honors program, Jacob’s Pillow), Dario Natarelli (New York City Center Encores!, Maestro film), Tyrone Reese (Juilliard School), Craig Salstein (Miami City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, associate choreographer for West Side Story and Maestro films), Ahmad Simmons (Fosse/Verdon on FX, Hadestown, West Side Story, Carousel, and Cats on Broadway), Byron Tittle (Dorrance Dance, In the Heights film), and Alejandro Vargas (Juilliard School). The band includes vocalists Shara Nova and Tasha Viets-VanLear, and instrumentalists Christina Courtin, Sean Forte, Domenica Fossati, Daniel Freedman, Kathy Halvorson, Nathan Koci, Eleonore Oppenheim, Brett Parnell, Brandon Ridenour, Kyra Sims, and Jessica Tsang.

In addition to Stevens, Peck, and Drury, the creative team includes Music Director and Supervisor Nathan Koci, Music Arranger and Orchestrator Timo Andres, Scenic Designer Adam Rigg, Lighting Designer Brandon Stirling Baker, Sound Designer Garth MacAleavey, Costume Designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, Props Designer Andrew Diaz, Mask Designer Julian Crouch, Associate Director and Choreographer Adriana Pierce, Associate Music Director Sean Forte, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger, Production Manager Brian Freeland, Executive Producer Nate Koch, General Management by NVK/Jenna Ready and Joanna Pisano, and Booking Agent ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann. Illinoise was originally commissioned, developed, and produced at the Fisher Center at Bard, is a co-commission of the Fisher Center at Bard, Park Avenue Armory, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Southbank Centre, TO Live, and the Perelman Performing Arts Center, and is produced in association with ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann.

Also onstage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in early 2024 is Richard III, playing in the Courtyard Theater February 2–March 3, 2024. In his first production as artistic director, Edward Hall directs Tony Award-nominated actor, Paralympic champion, and bilateral above-knee amputee Katy Sullivan in the title role. A divided kingdom is fertile ground for the charismatic and unscrupulous Richard to seize power and exact revenge—and no one is safe from his tyranny. Full of scathing dark comedy and high-stakes family drama, this tale grapples with violence, power, and the gray area between good and evil. This will mark the first major US production of Richard III to feature a woman with a disability in the title role.

Accessible and enhanced performances for Illinoise include:

ASL duo-interpreted performance – Friday, February 9, 2024, at 7:00 p.m. All dialogue and lyrics are translated into American Sign Language by two certified interpreters.

Audio-described performance with optional touch tour – Sunday, February 11, 2024, at 2:30 p.m. A program that provides spoken narration of a play’s key visual elements for patrons who are blind or have low vision. Touch Tours provide patrons the opportunity to experience, firsthand, a production’s design elements.

Open-captioned performance – Wednesday, February 14, 2024, at 1:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. A text display of the words and sounds heard during a play, synced live with the action onstage.

More information at and, or social media at @chicagoshakes and @IllinoiseOnStage.

Illinoise will be presented January 28–February 18, 2024, in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Single tickets starting at $45 are on sale now. Special discounts are available for audience members under the age of 35 and for groups of 10 or more. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit


Sufjan Stevens is a singer, songwriter, and composer living in New York. His preoccupation with epic concepts has motivated two state records (Michigan and Illinois), a collection of sacred and biblical songs (Seven Swans), an electronic album for the animals of the Chinese zodiac (Enjoy Your Rabbit), a full length partly inspired by the outsider artist Royal Robertson (The Age of Adz), a masterwork memorializing and investigating his relationship with his late mother (Carrie & Lowell), and two Christmas box sets (Songs for Christmas, vol. 1–5 and Silver & Gold, vol. 6–10). BAM has commissioned two works from Stevens, a programmatic tone poem for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (The BQE) and an instrumental accompaniment to slow-motion rodeo footage (Round-Up). He has collaborated extensively with the New York City Ballet choreographer Justin Peck (Year of the Rabbit, Everywhere We Go, Countenance of Kings, Principia, The Decalogue, and Reflections). Stevens’ Planetarium, a collaborative album with Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, and James McAlister imbued with themes of the cosmos, was released in 2017 to widespread critical praise. Stevens also contributed three much-lauded songs to Luca Guadagnino’s critically acclaimed film Call Me By Your Name, including the Oscar and Grammy-nominated song “Mystery of Love.” In 2020, he shared Aporia, a collaborative new age album made with his stepfather Lowell Brams, and his eighth studio album, The Ascension, a reflection on the state of humanity in freefall and a call for a total transformation of consciousness. In early 2021, he released Convocations, a five-volume, two-and-a-half-hour requiem mass for present times. The most recent studio album by Stevens—A Beginner’s Mind—features songs inspired in part by popular films. It was released in the fall of 2021 and is a collaboration with singer-songwriter Angelo DeAugustine. In October 2023, Stevens’ tenth solo studio album, Javelin, was released.


Justin Peck is a director, choreographer, filmmaker, and dancer based in New York City. He is the Resident Choreographer and Artistic Associate of the New York City Ballet, the second person in the institution’s history to hold this title. He has developed and created over 50 dance and theater works that have been presented on stages around the world, including Lincoln Center, the Palais Garnier, Sydney Opera House, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Broadway (most notably with his 2018 Tony Award-winning production of Carousel). His work has been performed by companies such as the Paris Opera Ballet, Australian Ballet, Dresden Semperoper Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Boston Ballet, Juilliard, National Ballet of Canada, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, LA Dance Project, Dutch National Ballet, the School of American Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and Houston Ballet among many others.

Peck works extensively as a filmmaker with credits including direction of music videos for The National, Chris Thile, and Dan Deacon; choreographing the 2021 film West Side Story in collaboration with director Steven Spielberg; and being commissioned by The New York Times to direct 10 films celebrating the best acting performances of the 2018 year, which included performances by Julia Roberts, Ethan Hawke, Lakeith Stanfield, Glenn Close, Emma Stone, and Toni Collette.

Peck celebrates the art of collaboration and is honored to have worked across mediums with a wide array of luminaries, including Sufjan Stevens, Raf Simons, Elizabeth Moss, Steven Spielberg, Caroline Shaw, Jeffrey Gibson, Renee Fleming, Shepard Fairey, Sofia Coppola, Stephen Sondheim, Shantelle Martin, Humberto Leon, Bradley Cooper, Nico Muhly, John Baldessari, Dries Van Noten, Damien Chazelle, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Marcel Dzama, and Jody Lee Lipes. Peck danced with New York City Ballet from 2006-2019, eventually achieving the rank of soloist in 2013. He has performed a vast repertoire of works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Alexei Ratmansky, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Christopher Wheeldon, and many others.

Peck’s honors include the Tony Award for Best Choreography for the Broadway production of Carousel (2018), the National Arts Award (2018), the Golden Plate Honor from the Academy of Achievement (2019), the Bessie Award for Outstanding Production for Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes (2015), and the World Choreography Award for the film West Side Story (2022).


Jackie Sibblies Drury’s plays include Marys Seacole (OBIE Award), Fairview (Pulitzer Prize), Really, Social Creatures, and We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915. The presenters of her plays include Donmar Warehouse, The Young Vic, Lincoln Center Theater's LCT3, Soho Rep., Berkeley Rep, New York City Players & Abrons Arts Center, Victory Gardens, Trinity Rep, Woolly Mammoth, Undermain Theatre, InterAct Theatre, Actors Theater of Louisville, Company One, Bush Theatre, and T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Drury has developed her work at Sundance, Bellagio Center, Ground Floor at Berkeley Rep, Soho Rep. Writer/Director Lab, New York Theatre Workshop, Bushwick Starr, LARK, and MacDowell Colony, among others. She has received a PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award, a Steinberg Playwright Award, a Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a Jerome Fellowship at The LARK, a United States Artists Fellowship, a Helen Merrill Playwriting Award, and a Windham-Campbell Literary Prize in Drama.


Regional Tony Award-recipient Chicago Shakespeare Theater produces a bold and innovative year-round season—plays, musicals, world premieres, family productions, and theatrical presentations from around the globe—alongside nationally recognized education programming serving tens of thousands of students, teachers, and lifelong learners each year. Founded in 1986, the Theater’s onstage work has expanded to as many as twenty productions and 650 performances annually. Chicago Shakespeare is dedicated to welcoming the next generation of theatergoers; one in four of its audience members is under the age of eighteen. As a nonprofit organization, the Theater works to embrace diversity, prioritize inclusion, provide equitable opportunities, and offer an accessible experience for all. On the Theater’s three stages at its home on Navy Pier, in classrooms and neighborhoods across the city, and in venues around the world, Chicago Shakespeare is a multifaceted cultural hub—inviting audiences, artists, and community members to share powerful stories that connect and inspire.


Twelfth Night 

by William Shakespeare 

directed by Tyrone Phillips

Courtyard Theater 

Now through December 3, 2023 



A WorldStage production from Scotland

conceived and directed by Amy Draper

associate direction by Eve Nicol

book by Stewart Melton

music and lyrics by Finn Anderson

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

Now through December 17, 2023 


Chicago Shakespeare SLAM

in high schools across the region and onstage

at Chicago Shakespeare

December 11, 2023



music & lyrics by Sufjan Stevens  

based on the album Illinois 

story by Justin Peck and Jackie Sibblies Drury 

directed and choreographed by Justin Peck  

The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare

January 18–February 28, 2024 


Richard III

by William Shakespeare

directed by Edward Hall

starring Katy Sullivan

Courtyard Theater 

February 2–March 3, 2024


Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare

adapted and directed by Mikael Burke

Courtyard Theater 

February 22–March 20, 2024


Judgment Day

by Rob Ulin

directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel

The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare 

April 23–May 26, 2024


The Enigmatist

written and performed by David Kwong

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare 

May 29–June 30, 2024

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Broadway-Bound North American Tour of THE WIZ Through Sunday, December 10, at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List





THE WIZ - No Bad News. Melody Betts as Evillene-Photo by Jeremy Daniel



NOVEMBER  28 – DECEMBER 10, 2023


Can you feel a brand new day? The sun is shining brighter now because THE WIZ is currently playing in Chicago! Producers Kristin Caskey, Mike Isaacson, Brian Anthony Moreland, Kandi Burruss, Todd Tucker, Common, MC Lyte, The Ambassador Theatre Group, and Broadway In Chicago are proud to bring you the Chicago premiere of the all-new Broadway-bound North American tour of THE WIZ. THE WIZ will play a strictly limited engagement of sixteen performances, through Sunday, December 10, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. I'll be out for the press opening November 29th, so check back soon for my full review. 

 Everybody look around! The Tony Award®-winning Best Musical that took the world by storm is back.

THE WIZ returns “home” to stages across America in an all-new Broadway-bound tour, the first one in 40 years. The tour began on September 23, 2023 in THE WIZ’s original home city of Baltimore, where the show made its world premiere 50 years ago. Following its run in Baltimore, the tour will slide into Emerald cities across the country before it begins Broadway previews at The Marquis Theater on March 24,2024.

This groundbreaking twist on The Wizard of Oz changed the face of Broadway—from its iconic score packed with soul, gospel, rock, and 70s funk to its stirring tale of Dorothy’s journey to find her place in a contemporary world.

The extraordinary cast features Alan Mingo Jr (Kinky Boots) as The Wiz, award-winning recording artist Deborah Cox as Glinda, Melody Betts (The Factotum, Lyric Opera Of Chicago) as Aunt Em and Evillene, Kyle Ramar Freeman (A Strange Loop) as Lion, Phillip Johnson Richardson ("Sharper," A24) as Tinman, and recording artist Avery Wilson ("On Top Of The World) as Scarecrow. Nichelle Lewis (Hairspray, National Tour) makes a star turn Broadway debut as Dorothy.

Director Schele Williams (The Notebook, revival of Disney’s Aida) and choreographer JaQuel Knight (Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’, Black is King) conjure an Oz unlike anything seen before. Charlie Smalls’ Tony Award®-winning score features the iconic hits “Ease on Down the Road,” and “Home,” with new musical moments from Joseph Joubert (music supervision, orchestrations, & music arrangements) and Allen René Louis (vocal arrangements, music arrangements). Tony® and Emmy®-nominated TV host Amber Ruffin (“The Amber Ruffin Show,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers”) pens additional material for William F. Brown’s trailblazing book.

THE WIZ also includes the hit songs “Everybody Rejoice,” music and lyrics by Luther Vandross, as well as the “Emerald City Ballet” with music by Timothy Graphenreed.

Oz is reimagined with scenic design by Academy Award ®-winning Hannah Beachler (Black Panther, Beyoncé’s Black is King and Lemonade), costume design by Emmy Award®-winning and two-time Academy Award®-nominated Sharen Davis (Ray, Dreamgirls), lighting design by Barrymore Award-winning Ryan J. O’Gara (Thoughts of a Colored Man), sound design by Jon Weston (Parade), projection design by Daniel Brodie (Motown the Musical), and wig design by Charles LaPointe (MJ the Musical).

Based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, THE WIZ takes one of the world’s most enduring (and enduringly white) American fantasies, and transforms it into an all-Black musical extravaganza for the ages.

THE WIZ premiered on Broadway in 1975 and became an instant sensation, going on to win seven Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Ted Ross), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Dee Dee Bridgewater), Best Choreography (George Faison), and in a Broadway first, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Costume Design (Geoffrey Holder). “Ease on Down the Road” became the show’s break-out single, and “Home” has since become a bona fide classic. That original production ran for four years (first at The Majestic Theatre and later at The Broadway Theatre) – and 1,672 performances – on Broadway. A 1978 film adaptation starred Diana Ross, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Richard Pryor and Lena Horne, and marked Quincy Jones’ first collaboration with Michael Jackson.

Casting by: Tara Rubin Casting. 

For more information and complete tour route visit: and follow @thewizbway on Twitter , Instagram, and Facebook.



Individual tickets for The Wiz are currently on sale and range in price from $55.00 -$195.00 with a select number of premium tickets available. Individual tickets can be found on or by going to any Broadway In Chicago venue box office. Tickets for groups of 10 or more can be purchased by contacting Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710 or emailing



Tuesday, November 28 at 7:30 pm

Wednesday, November 29 at 7:30 pm

Thursday, November 30 at 7:30 pm

Friday, December 1 at 7:30 pm

Saturday, December 2 at 2 pm

Saturday, December 2 at 8 pm

Sunday, December 3 at 2 pm

Sunday, December 3 at 7:30 pm


Tuesday, December 5 at 7:30 pm

Wednesday, December 6 at 2 pm

Wednesday, December 6 at 7:30 pm

Thursday, December 7 at 7:30 pm

Friday, December 8 at 7:30 pm

Saturday, December 9 at 2 pm

Saturday, December 9 at 7:30 pm

Sunday, December 10 at 2 pm


Broadway In Chicago was created in July 2000 and over the past 23 years has grown to be one of the largest commercial touring homes in the country. A Nederlander Presentation, Broadway In Chicago lights up the Chicago Theater District entertaining up to 1.7 million people annually in five theatres. Broadway In Chicago presents a full range of entertainment, including musicals and plays, on the stages of five of the finest theatres in Chicago’s Loop including the  Cadillac Palace Theatre, CIBC Theatre, James M. Nederlander Theatre, Auditorium Theatre, and just off the Magnificent Mile, the Broadway  Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

For more information and tickets, visit

Facebook @BroadwayInChicago ● Instagram @broadwayinchicago ● TikTok @broadwayinchicago ● #broadwayinchicago

Saturday, November 18, 2023

REVIEW: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Now Playing Paramount Theatre Through January 14, 2024

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
receiving its Professional Regional Premiere 
November 8, 2023-January 14, 2024 

Don't miss this delicious modern morality tale with a fabulous gender swapping set of Charlies, a charmingly snarky Wonka, and creatively colorful costumes and sets. 

Highly recommended--ChiIL Mama.

Paramount Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory features (front) Stephen Schellhardt as Willy Wonka, (middle row, kneeling, from left) Tiffany T. Taylor as Violet Beauregarde, Meena Sood as Charlie Bucket, Heidi Kettenring as Mrs. Teavee, (back row, standing, from left) Devon Hayakawa as Veruca Salt, David Blakeman as Augustus Gloop, August Forman as Mike Teavee, Jason Richards as Mr. Salt, Lorenzo Rush Jr. as Mr. Beauregarde, Abby C. Smith as Mrs. Gloop, and Gene Weygandt as Grandpa Joe. 

By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Here at ChiIL Mama we love the magic and creativity of live theatre. Where else do so many areas of the arts collide, to make epic story telling possible? We're also big fans of making fun, family memories together. Experiential gifts like tickets to a family friendly musical, make for great clutter busting gift ideas for the holidays. Theatre is also here for you, when the turkey's been devoured and you're left with a houseful of family and a need for something fun to do together. 
Gluttony dooms Augustus Gloop (David Blakeman, center), as Mrs. Gloop (Abby C. Smith, left), looks on in horror, while Willy Wonka (Stephen Schellhardt)...not so much…in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Paramount Theatre has the perfect recipe for multigenerational family fun with their tasty treat of a holiday extravaganza. We had the pleasure of seeing the Professional Regional Premiere of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on opening night and we've been singing the catchy lyrics and raving about this show ever since. 
Nick Druzbanski (left) is reporter Jerry Jubilee and Allison Sill is fellow correspondent Cherry Sundae in Paramount Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Veruca Salt (Devon Hayakawa, right) and Mr. Salt (Jason Richards) are amazed by Oompa Loompas in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The sets, costumes, lighting, and orchestra are all next level. The choreography and special effects pop, and the entire colorful conglomeration makes for a fabulously phantasmagorical production, with a timely message we can all get on board with.  

The boat ride scene in Paramount Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, featuring Stephen Schellhardt as Willy Wonka at the helm with his telescope, and Heidi Kettenring (left) as Mrs. Teavee, with her flask. 

We particularly love the diversity in casting, with a range of ethnicities, body types, and genders, a perfect update from the lily white original. 
Jaye Ladymore (left) plays Mrs. Bucket and Meena Sood is Charlie Bucket in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Paramount has also added excellent modern touches since Roald Dahl's original book, published in 1964. Violet is an obnoxious, black, social media influencer, played to perfection byTiffany T. Taylor, with Chicago favorite, Lorenzo Rush Jr. as Tiffany’s father, Mike. Of course she's still easily recognizable as the gum smacking brat we all love to loathe. 

Mr. Beauregarde (Lorenzo Rush Jr., from left) live streams the moment his daughter, social media star and “The Queen of Pop,” Violet Beauregarde (Tiffany T. Taylor) meets Willy Wonka (Stephen Schellhardt), but Wonka isn’t having any of it in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Tiffany T. Taylor (center) plays Violet Beauregarde and Lorenzo Rush Jr. (behind) is Tiffany’s father and front man, Mr. Beauregarde, in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

August Forman, crazy talented trans Chicago actor, is hilarious as Mike Teavee, the brilliant, screen addicted hacker kid with an attitude problem. This is the 3rd Paramount production we've caught August in, including a lead in Hand to God, and fun supporting roles in Little Shop of Horrors, where they were directed by their spouse, talented Chicago actor and director, Landree Fleming.
August Forman plays Mike Teavee in Paramount Theatre’s 
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

David Blakeman makes a great glutton, as Augustus Gloop. Devon Hayakawa shines as spoiled Russian princess, Veruca Salt. And Stephen Schellhardt is spectacular as snarky curmudgeon, Willy Wonka. Their respective parents are pretty perfect in their enabling roles, too. And like Shakespeare's characters, this collection of intrepid kids and their caregivers are as timeless and timely as ever. 
David Blakeman (center) plays Augustus Gloop and Abby C. Smith (with basket) is Mrs. Gloop in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Veruca Salt (Devon Hayakawa) learns if she’s a good nut, or a bad nut, in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Stephen Schellhardt plays Willy Wonka in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
We've been huge fans of Broadway star and Chicago gem, Gene Weygandt, for years, and we adore his Grandpa Joe in this production! We did a video interview and shot song clips with him way back in 2011, in rehearsals for A Christmas Story at Chicago Theatre, and since then we catch him on stage every chance we can. Gene's a true local treasure.

Gene Weygandt (left) plays Grandpa Joe and Meena Sood is Charlie Bucket in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Gene Weygandt (left) plays Grandpa Joe and Charlie Long (center) is Charlie Bucket in Paramount's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Charlie Long alternates performances with Meena Sood as Charlie.) Photo: Amy Nelson

Finally, we are completely enamored with lovable Charlie Bucket, played by alternating boy and girl leads, Meena Sood and Charlie Long. We caught Meena in action on opening night and were charmed by her Charlie Bucket. What a great role model and inspiration for kids to see that a beloved character can truly be embodied by a kid of any gender or ethnicity. Representation matters, and this is huge!  Kudos to the entire cast and crew for a truly memorable, world class production. Don't miss this!

Bonnie is a Chicago based writer, theatre critic, photographer, artist, and Mama to 2 amazing adults. She owns two websites where she publishes frequently: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Meena Sood (left) and Charlie Long (right) rotate performances as Charlie Bucket in Paramount Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Photo left by Liz Lauren. Photo right by Amy Nelson.)

(Stephen Schellhardt (left, both photos) plays Willy Wonka, opposite Meena Sood (left) as Charlie Bucket, who rotates performances with Charlie Long (right) as Charlie, in Paramount Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Photo left by Liz Lauren. Photo right by Amy Nelson.)

Enter a world of pure imagination when Aurora’s Paramount Theatre presents the Professional Regional Premiere of 
Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 
directed by Jeff Award-winner Trent Stork, open now and running through January 14, 2024. 

Tickets: or (630) 896-6666

Stephen Schellhardt (center) plays Willy Wonka in Paramount Theatre’s 
Professional Regional Premiere of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Oompa Loompas, oodles of fun and other surprises 
await audiences 

Character sketches by Ryan Park, costume designer, 
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
We love to peek behind the curtains at the process, and checking out Ryan Park's sketches, we're already getting excited to see how the sausage gets made... or the chocolate, as the case may be!

Step behind the gates and discover the magic that awaits when Aurora’s Paramount Theatre presents the Professional Regional Premiere of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, November 8, 2023-January 14, 2024. 

Stephen Schellhardt plays Willy Wonka in Paramount Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Follow young Charlie Bucket, his Grandpa Joe and four more Golden Ticket winners on a private tour of eccentric “Candy Man” Willy Wonka’s magical and mysterious chocolate factory. Who will win the lifetime supply of chocolate? Experience their life-changing journey through a world of “Pure Imagination," revealed with Wonka’s army of curious Oompa-Loompas. 

Trent Stork, Paramount’s Artistic Producer and Casting Director, and winner, Jeff Award, Director-Musical-Large, for Paramount’s Kinky Boots in 2022, and their design team are planning a high-energy, technicolor production performed on a dazzling set designed by Jeffrey D. Kmiec, with choreography by Kasey Alfonso, music direction by Kory Danielson and costumes by Ryan Park

Before audiences even step into the theater and see the amazing set, Paramount’s Grand Gallery will be fully decked out for the holidays, anchored by a two-story, Willy Wonka-themed Christmas tree, the perfect backdrop for pre-show holiday season selfies. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is your golden ticket for a scrumdiddlyumptious holiday outing for the whole family at Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. Single tickets, $28-$79, are on sale now, or save with a Paramount Theatre three-play Broadway Series subscription package. 

Welcome to a world of pure imagination: Paramount’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is based on the beloved 1964 children’s novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. The musical features an original score composed by Marc Shaiman with lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray) and a book by David Greig

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also pays homage to the original score by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley including favorites like "Candy Man," "I've Got a Golden Ticket," "Oompa Loompa Song" and "Pure Imagination." 

The musical premiered on London’s West End in 2013 where it ran for more than three years and earned seven Laurence Olivier Award nominations, including Best New Musical. It premiered on Broadway in 2017, ran for nine months, and was followed by two national tours. 

Paramount Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory stars (top, from left) Charlie Long and Meena Soodalternating as Charlie Bucket, (middle, from left) Stephen Schellhardt as Willy Wonka, Gene Weygandt as Grandpa Joe, David Blakeman as Augustus Gloop, Abby C. Smith as Mrs. Gloop, Devon Hayakawa as Veruca Salt, Jason Richards as Mr. Salt, (bottom, from left) August Forman as Mike Teavee, Heidi Kettenring as Mrs. Teavee, Tiffany T. Taylor as Violet Beauregarde, Lorenzo Rush Jr.
as Mr. Beauregarde and Jaye Ladymore as Mrs. Bucket. 

For Paramount’s Professional Regional Premiere, two super talented child performers - Charlie Long and Meena Sood - will alternate in the role of Charlie Bucket. Long played Kurt last season in Paramount’s The Sound of Music and rocked out as Billy and in the ensemble of School of Rock. Sood made her Paramount debut last spring in School of Rock as Shonelle, and she stepped into the role of class factotum Summer Hathaway for several performances.

Paramount’s principal cast for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory includes Stephen Schellhardt as Willy Wonka, Gene Weygandt as Grandpa Joe, David Blakeman as Augustus Gloop, Abby C. Smith as Mrs. Gloop, Devon Hayakawa as Veruca Salt, Jason Richards as Mr. Salt, August Formanas Mike Teavee, Heidi Kettenring as Mrs. Teavee, Tiffany T. Taylor as Violet Beauregarde, Lorenzo Rush Jr. as Mr. Beauregarde and Jaye Ladymore as Mrs. Bucket. 

Ensemble members are Terrell ArmstrongLexie BaileyBrian BanduraMatthew BettencourtBen BroughtonLydia BurkeMorgan DiFonzoEvan C. DolanNick DruzbanskiAlley EllisJared David Michael GrantDakota HughesMichael LunderJessica MinterSara ReineckeNellie ShufordAllison Sill, Ayana Strutz and Matthew Weidenbener.

Trent Stork

Director Trent StorkParamount’s Artistic Producer and Casting Director, won their first Jeff Award, Director-Musical-Large, for Paramount’s Kinky Boots in 2022. Stork also helmed last season’s blockbuster productions ofSchool of Rock, and Into the Woods with co-director Jim Corti. 

Stork’s production team includes Kasey Alfonso, choreographer; Kory Danielson, music director, conductor and music supervisor; Jeffrey D. Kmiec, scenic designer; Ryan Park, costume designer; Greg Hofmann, lighting designer; Adam Rosenthalsound designer; Paul Deziel, projection designer; Jesse Gaffney, prop designer; Ethan Deppe, electronic music designer; Max Fabian, fight and intimacy director; Susan Gosdick, dialect coach; Amanda Raquel Martinez, assistant director; Maria Blanco, associate choreographer; Celia Villacres, associate music director and associate conductor; Jaci Entwisle, stage manager; and Amber R. Dettmers and Erin Nicole Eggers, assistant stage managers.
Stephen Schellhardt (right) plays Willy Wonka in Paramount Theatre’s Professional Regional Premiere of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Performances run through January 14, 2024. Trent Stork directs. 
Photo credit for all: Liz Lauren (*unless otherwise indicated - photos featuring Charlie Long as Charlie by Amy Nelson.)

Times, dates and ticket information

Previews start November 8. Opening Night is Friday, November 17 at 8 p.m. Performances run through January 14: Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Run time is approximately 2 hours 30 minutes with intermission. 

Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. For tickets and information, visit, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until show time on show days. For group discounts, contact Melissa Striedl, or (630) 723-2461. 

Jaye Ladymore (left) plays Mrs. Bucket and Charlie Long is Charlie Bucket in Paramount Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Charlie Long alternates performances with Meena Sood as Charlie.) Photo: Amy Nelson

Exceptions/added performances

No 1:30 p.m. matinee Wednesday, November 8. No shows Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 23 and Christmas Eve, Sunday, December 24. Added holiday matinees are Friday, November 24 and Friday, December 22 at 3 p.m., and Thursday, December 28 at 1:30 p.m.

Pay What You Can Performances

Paramount will offer two Pay What You Can performances of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Thursday, November 9 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, November 11 at 3 p.m. Both days, starting at 10 a.m., visit the Paramount box office in-person to request tickets. Limit four per person. Subject to availability. See for details. 

August Forman (left) plays Mike Teavee and Stephen Schellhardt is Willy Wonka in Paramount Theatre’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Access Services

Paramount offers assistive listening devices free of charge at all performances. Check in at the coat room before the show to borrow a listening device.

Paramount will offer opening captioning on Wednesday, January 3 at 1:30 p.m., and American Sign Language interpretation on Friday, January 5 at 
8 p.m. 

If you require wheelchair or special seating or other assistance, please contact the box office at (630) 896-6666 or in advance.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is sponsored by Rush Copley Medical Center and Jakes Inc. Paramount Theatre Broadway Season sponsors include the Dunham Foundation, the City of AuroraBMO Harris BankComEd and the Illinois Arts Council

What’s next in Paramount’s 12th Anniversary Broadway Series?

Join the growing ranks of Aurora’s Paramount Theatre, the largest subscription-based theater in the U.S. Three-play packages including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Billy Elliot: The Musical (February 7-March 24, 2024) and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (April 24-June 16, 2024) are also on sale, starting at $50.40.

Plus two BOLD Series shows, right across the street at Paramount’s Copley Theatre

In addition, Paramount second BOLD Series continues across the street in Paramount’s Copley Theatre, 8 E. Galena Blvd., with the recent Off-Broadway sensation What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck (October 4-November 12, 2023), and Tennessee Williams’s classic drama A Streetcar Named Desire (March 13-April 21, 2024). 
For tickets, subscriptions and information, visit, call (630) 896-6666, or visit the Paramount box office, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until show time on show days. 
About Paramount Theatre

Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., is the center for performing arts in Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois. The beautiful, 1,843-seat theater, graced with a strong 1930s Art Deco influence and original Venetian décor, nationally known for its high-quality productions, superb acoustics and historic grandeur, has been downtown Aurora’s anchor attraction since 1931.

After launching its own Broadway Series in 2011, Paramount Theatre has rapidly grown to be the largest subscription house in the U.S. In 2022-23, more than 35,000 subscribers enjoyed Paramount’s critically acclaimed, Broadway-caliber productions, along with an array of internationally known comedians, musicians, dance troupes and family shows.

For over 50 years, the Joseph Jefferson Awards has recognized excellence in Chicago area theater. Last season, Paramount took home six Jeff Awards for Kinky Boots, including Best Musical-Large, Paramount’s fourth win in that category following Sweeney Todd (2017), West Side Story (2016) and Les Misérables (2015). Over the last 11 years, Paramount has been honored to earn 115 Jeff nominations and 27 wins. 

Paramount Theatre is one of four live performance venues programmed and managed by the Aurora Civic Center Authority (ACCA). Paramount’s “sister stage” is the 165-seat Copley Theatre, home to Paramount’s BOLD Series, across the street at North Island Center. ACCA also oversees RiverEdge Park, the city’s 6,000-seat outdoor summer concert venue, Stolp Island Theatre, an immersive space opening in 2024, and the Paramount School of the Arts.

Paramount Theatre continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries under the guidance of Tim Rater, President and CEO, Aurora Civic Center Authority; Jim Corti, Artistic Director, Paramount Theatre; a dedicated Board of Trustees and a devoted staff of live theater and music professionals.

For the latest updates, visit or follow @paramountaurora on Facebook, and Instagram, and Paramount Theatre on LinkedIn.