Friday, September 29, 2023

SAVE THE DATES: Paramount Presents Charlie and the Chocolate Factory November 8, 2023-January 14, 2024

 ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List

Oompa Loompas, oodles of fun and other surprises await audiences at Paramount's 
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
receiving its Professional Regional Premiere 
November 8, 2023-January 14, 2024

Character sketches by Ryan Park, costume designer, 
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Here at ChiIL Mama we love the magic and creativity of live theatre. 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!

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. 

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. Opening Night is Friday, November 17 at 8 p.m. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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.           

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Catch Little Amal Drifts Off To Sleep Saturday, September 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Maggie Daley Park


Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival invites Chicago to help Little Amal drift off to sleep at her final Chicago tour stop, Saturday, September 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Maggie Daley Park

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival invites Chicago to meet Little Amal, the 12-foot puppet of a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl, at the final stop on her upcoming Chicago tour, Saturday, September 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Maggie Daley Park, 337 E. Randolph St. in downtown Chicago.

The free outdoor show, a Chicago Puppet Studio-built spectacle performance titled Little Amal drifts off to sleep, imagines Amal finding a place to sleep for the night. When she curls up under the night moon, dreams of her journey awaken in Amal as she battles visions of storms and unruly cities in her dream of finding a safe and happy home.

Little Amal drifts off to sleep is the final Chicago stop in the Amal Walk Across America Tour. The piece is conceived, co-designed and co-directed by Blair Thomas, Artistic Director, Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. Jerrell L. Henderson is co-director, and Tom Lee, Co-Director of the festival’s Chicago Puppet Studio, is co-designer. Original live music is by Mark Messing

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is one of more than 300 artists, museums and cultural institutions nationwide hosting welcome events on the current Amal Walks Across America Tour, one of the largest free public festivals ever created. 

Starting in Boston on September 7 and culminating on November 5 in San Diego, Amal will visit more than 37 towns and cities on a 6,000-mile journey through the nation’s capital, the Midwest, the South and along the Southern border.

Little Amal has already traveled across 13 countries meeting more than a million people, and watched by tens of millions more online. She walks for the hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people roaming the world in search of safety, half of whom are children. Amal does not speak, but she does give voice to marginalized people, and she is welcomed by ordinary people and people of power. Her walk unites communities and refocuses attention on the urgent needs of refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers, and highlights the rich cultures and contributions immigrants bring with them. 

For more information and Amal’s U.S. tour schedule, visit

Amal Walks Across America - Trailer
Watch the Amal Walks Across America trailer

(left) Chicago Puppet Studio Coordinator Zach Sun in one of the cars designed by 
Tom Lee that Little Amal will encounter in Little Amal drifts off to sleep(right) Chicago Puppet Studio builder Emilie Wingate holds two prototypes of the deer puppets that 
Little Amal will meet in Little Amal drifts off to sleep.

Chicago Puppet Studio builder Averly Shelstraw paints the native Illinois species of fish that Little Amal will encounter in Little Amal drifts off to sleep.

Amal was designed and built by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa, creators of the award-winning puppets for the hit show War Horse. Amal is inspired by a character in Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s play The Jungle, about a refugee camp in Calais, France. 

Amal Walks Across America is produced by The Walk Productions in association with Handspring Puppet Company. The Walk Productions is led by David Lan and Tracey Seaward. Playwright/Director Amir Nizar Zuabiserves as Artistic Director, Sarah Loader is Executive Producer, and the Associate Artistic Directors are Khadijat Oseni and Enrico Dau Yang Wey

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival’s free spectacle is made possible by support from Kristy and Brandon Moran, with in-kind support from Spoke & Bird Cafe.

Other local organizations hosting welcome events for Little Amal during her Chicago visit, September 28-30, include Chicago Children’s TheatreChicago Humanities FestivalChicago Shakespeare TheatreSilk Road RisingSteppenwolf Theatre Company, and local community partners Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special EventsChicago Refugee CoalitionLiteracy Volunteers of IllinoisMadonna MissionMedGlobal and New American Welcome Center University YMCA.

About the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is the largest of its kind in North America, attracting more than 14,000 audience members annually to dozens of Chicago venues large and small to enjoy an entertaining and eclectic array of puppet styles from around the world. 

Mark your calendar: the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is January 18-28, 2024. 

Festival offices are in Chicago’s historic Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., where the Chicago Puppet Studio also creates puppets for theaters and special events around the U.S., and the Chicago Puppet Lab incubates Chicago artists creating new, original puppetry work through workshops and residencies. 

For more, visit Sign up for the festival’s e-newsletter to receive first notice on special events, festival updates, exclusive offers, and behind-the-strings scoop. Or, follow the festival on Facebook and Instagramhashtag #ChiPuppetFest.