Wednesday, February 1, 2017

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List: Chicago Children's Theatre's Smash Hit THE HUNDRED DRESSES

(Ideal For Ages 6+)

Chicago Children's Theatre's smash hit anti-bullying musical
The Hundred Dresses is currently running through Feb. 12 
at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. 
Tickets and info: or call (872) 222-9555

 all photos by Charles Osgood

Here at ChiIL Mama, we've been ardent fans of Chicago Children's Theatre since its launch in 2005. My kids were 2 and 4 year old toddlers then and they've grown up with Chicago Children's Theatre. CCT is truly a staple of Chicago's family friendly theatre scene with world class productions that parents enjoy as much as their children. Over the years CCT has cemented its reputation as the city's largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. 

The Hundred Dresses
We've adored this all-time favorite since Chicago Children's Theatre first presented The Hundred Dresses back in 2009. This smash hit musical is about a young girl who struggles with bullying and learns what it takes to stand up to others - even when you're standing alone.

My son (8) and daughter (6) enjoying the pre-show coloring in the lobby. 

Signed programs became a treasured keepsake.

Check out my Jr. Critic Kids, Dugan (8) & Sage (6) enthusiastically getting their programs signed after the show. We even bought the book and read it as a family after the kids loved the 2009 production so much.

Adapted and created by Ralph "Ralph's World" Covert and G. Riley Mills, the original 2009 world premiere was one of Chicago Children's Theatre's biggest hits ever, prompting the Chicago Tribune to proclaim CCT had "delivered on its promise to elevate the experience of children's theater in this city."

Now The Hundred Dresses is back, directed again by Sean Graney, artistic director of The Hypocrites (another of our favorites here at ChiIL Mama & ChiIL Live Shows!!), and it's ready to engage a whole new generation of Chicago children with its funny, touching story, prankster school boy characters, girls in a rainbow of dresses, high-energy rock music, and fun, creative choreography, all tied together with a poignant and timely anti-bullying message.

Meet Wanda Petronski, the new girl in school. Wanda talks with a funny foreign accent and wears the same faded blue dress to school every day. Yet she swears her closet back home is lined with 100 beautiful silk dresses. Still, the "mean girls" at school pick on Wanda relentlessly. And those who stand by silently soon learn that doing nothing can be the worst form of bullying of all.

Based on Eleanor Estes' timeless children's novel, Chicago Children's Theatre's smash hit The Hundred Dresses takes audiences of all ages on a fun, funny, heartwarming musical journey that explores the bonds of friendship and the courage to be yourself. 

Performances run through February 12, 2017 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. Show times are Tuesdays through Friday at 10 a.m., Saturdays at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The Hundred Dresses runs approximately one hour and is ideal for ages 6 to adult. Single tickets are $10-$39. For tickets and information, visit or call (872) 222-9555.

Chicago Children's Theatre's performance home, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, is convenient to public transportation, surrounded by family-friendly restaurants and located just steps from the Magnificent Mile. 

CCT also offers discounted group rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting groups. Email or call 
(773) 227-0180 x 15 to learn more.

Access Weekend for The Hundred Dresses
Access Weekend for The Hundred Dresses is Saturday and Sunday, February 4 and 5, with services for persons with disabilities integrated into public performances. These include:

Live open captioning for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing:

Sensory friendly performance with quiet room for children on the autism spectrum or with Down Syndrome: 

Click here to register for a free touch tour of The Hundred Dresses during our next Access Weekend: February 4-5.

For more information about access services, visit or contact access administrator Alex Mauney at

Behind-the-scenes: Chicago Children's Theatre's  The Hundred Dresses

Chicago Children's Theatre premiered The Hundred Dresses in 2009 at the Royal George Theatre to unanimous critical acclaim and numerous sold out houses. The musical was revived in 2011 due to popular demand at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Time Out New York Kids hailed its subsequent 2012 off-Broadway run at Atlantic Theater Company "an emotional tour de force that takes on childhood prejudice, bullying, insecurity and the poignant awakening of conscience with sensitivity and panache." The play was published by Dramatic Publishing and has since been performed at theaters for young audiences, high schools and colleges throughout the U.S.

"From a pure entertainment perspective, The Hundred Dresses delivers on all counts - a beloved children's story told in a whole new way by an amazing cast, a funky rock 'n roll score, fantastic choreography, eye candy costumes and top-notch production value all around," said Jacqueline Russell, Artistic Director, Chicago Children's Theatre. 

"At the same time, the play's core anti-bullying message strikes an undeniable chord with children, parents and educators. As a theater devoted to tackling important social issues impacting youth today, we think The Hundred Dresses is the ideal production to introduce our work to a new generation of Chicago children and families."

The cast for The Hundred Dresses features Emily Berman (Wanda), Christine Bunuan (Maddie), Danielle Davis (Miss Mason), Donterrio Johnson (Jack), Matt Kahler (Jan/Old Man Svenson), Nik Kmiecik (Willie Bounce), Dana Omar (Cecile) and Erin O'Shea (Peggy).

The production team includes Andra Velis Simon, arranger/music director; Tommy Rapley, choreographer;John Musial, set; Samantha Jones, costumes; Heather Gilbert, lights; Ray Nardelli, sound; and Mealah Heidenreich, props. Production stage manager is Katrina Hermann. Assistant stage manager is Andi Sturtevant.

Ralph Covert (playwright, composer, lyricist) is best known best to parents and children as the creator of Ralph's World, the mega-fun musical planet where kids rock rock rock and dance dance dance to their own and their parents' delight. Covert came to public attention with his first rock 'n' roll band, longtime Midwestern faves The Bad Examples. He was also teaching contemporary songwriting at the time at the venerable Old Town School Of Folk Music when he became a father. Then Education Director Jacqueline Russell, who today is the Artistic Director of Chicago Children's Theatre, asked Covert to handle some Wiggleworms toddler sessions on his own terms, i.e., no musical compromises save for the lyrics. The result is a treasure trove of music that parents and their children can equally love. There are eight compact discs of Ralph's World music on Disney Sound plus the award-winning Say Hello DVD (Parenting Magazine's 2003 Video of the Year) and Bar/None's All Around Ralph's World. Covert's national media appearances for Ralph's World include NPR's All Things Considered, ABC World News Tonight, The CBS Morning Show, and Sirius XM Kids Radio New Year's Eve broadcast. His praise in print includes The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, People and Parade. He has four published books as a children's author, and also serves with several national educational initiatives. Visit for his children's music and for his grown-up rock.

G. Riley Mills (playwright and lyricist) has written for the professional theater since 1987. He and Ralph Covert have twice been awarded Jeff Citations for Best New Work (1998 and 2001). Together they have two published books: Sawdust and Spangles (2007 NAPPA Honor Award winner) and A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas. Other Chicago productions include Death and Devils (Polarity Ensemble Theatre), Raising Blue (Prop Thtr), Streeterville (TimeLine Theatre Company) and The Great Egress (Mary-Arrchie). Mills is cofounder of the Chicago-based global communications training company Pinnacle Performance Company, and teaches effective communication to executives and CEOs across the globe. He co-founded the not-for-profit company called The Bookwallah Organization ( that collects and distributes children's books to orphanages across the world.

Sean Graney's (director) previous Chicago Children's Theatre directing credits include Honus and Me and Hana's Suitcase. He is the Artistic Director and Founder of The Hypocrites, where his most recent project was directing Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes by Andra Velis Simon, arranger/music director of The Hundred Dresses. Graney has directed over 30 productions since 1997. He has won three Jeff Citations for Outstanding Direction for All Our Tragic, Equus and Machinal. In 2004, Chicago Magazine identified him as Chicago's Best Avant-garde Director. He also directed Edward II (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), The Elephant Man (Steppenwolf Young Audiences) and The Comedy of Errors, What the Butler Saw and Mystery of Irma Vep (Court Theater). 

Up next at the Ruth Page: World premiere of  The Year I Didn't Go to School: A Homemade Circus and Mermaid Theatre's  Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Has your child asked to take a gap year? Let them find out what it's really like with CCT's world premiere of The Year I Didn't Go to School: A Homemade Circus. Created and directed by Lookingglass Artistic Director Heidi Stillman and based on the popular Giselle Potter picture book, this all-new production will be a thrilling experience for all ages, filled with circus arts, February 28-March 26, 2017.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear & Other Treasured Stories by Eric Carle, presented by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia, closes Chicago Children's Theatre's 11th season, May 2-28, 2017.

Both shows will be presented at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 
1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. For tickets and information, visit or call (872) 222-9555.

In addition to presenting its 2016-17 mainstage season at the Ruth Page, CCT is busy transforming the former 12th District Police Station at 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago's West Loop into a beautiful, mixed-use performing arts and education facility designed to serve all Chicago families.

Now nearly complete and set to open in January, the adaptive reuse of the former police station at 100 S. Racine, aka "The Station," is Phase One of what will eventually be the new, expanded footprint for Chicago Children's Theatre.

Chicago Children's Theatre is calling its new home The Station in homage to its history as a former police station, and to underscore the building's focus on education and community engagement. This first phase encompasses five classrooms, a dedicated, year round space for Red Kite interactive theater for students with autism, a lobby with box office and concessions, and the flexible, 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre. 

The world premiere of Magic City, created by Chicago's internationally acclaimed shadow puppet theater Manual Cinema, will christen Chicago Children's Theatre's new performance space at The Station, January 27-February 19, 2017.

In sum, The Station will be a new destination for all of Chicago's children to immerse themselves in inclusion, unique arts education, community galvanizing, diversity and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) curricula. 

Chicago Children's Theatre is utilizing Chicago's finest theater and visual artists, as well as partnering with renowned institutions to offer courses and camps for children ages 0 to 14. The first eight-week session launches Monday, February 6, 2017. Registration is now open at for classes in storytelling, modern movement, hip-hop, aerial and circus arts and vocal instruction.

Phase Two of Chicago Children's Theatre's new building is anchored by a second, 299-seat mainstage theater, scheduled for completion in 2020.

About Chicago Children's Theatre
The company evolved out of Chicago's need for high-quality, professional year-round children's programming to match the quality and significance of theatrical powerhouses such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre. 

Likewise, CCT has always believed children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are with high-profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain.

Audiences have embraced Chicago Children's Theatre since its inaugural production, A Year with Frog and Toad, at the Goodman Theatre in 2006. Since then, the company's productions have featured everything from black-light scenery to live music to interactive four-dimensional sets to life-size puppets, with performances showcasing the heart of Motown to Vaudeville to contemporary, current and modern styles.

CCT has also built a national reputation due to its strong focus on new work, producing 14 world premieres in the last 10 years including The Selfish GiantThe Hundred DressesJackie and MeDot and ZiggyThe Houdini BoxThe Elephant and The Whale (in association with Redmoon), Mr. Chickee's Funny MoneyLeo Lionni's FrederickWonderland, Alice's Rock & Roll AdventureA Snowy Day with Beatrix PotterJabari Dreams of FreedomAnother Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter and
Moon Shot: A Race to Space (a Theater Unspeakable production, commissioned by Palo Alto Children's Theatre.) These enjoyed highly successful inaugural runs in Chicago, followed by new productions at family theaters across the U.S. 

CCT has always honored a strong commitment to low-income families and children with special needs. In partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the company offers free tickets to more than 5,000 Chicago-area low-income students each season. 

Meanwhile, the company has pioneered immersive theater designed for children on the autism spectrum via its Red Kite Project, and recently expanded programming for children with impaired vision or hearing and Down's syndrome. 

Chicago Children's Theatre also offers a full roster of after school theater classes and summer camps.

Led by Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell, Board Chair Todd Leland and Community Programs Artistic Director Frank Maugeri, Chicago Children's Theatre is supported by a dynamic Board of Directors comprised of dedicated individuals from the fields of entertainment, philanthropy and business. Officers include Jeff Hughes, President; Lynn Lockwood Murphy, Vice Chair and Secretary; David Saltiel, Vice Chair; and David Chung, Treasurer. 

Chicago Children's Theatre is sponsored in part by ComEd and Goldman Sachs Gives

Click HERE for more information, or call (773) 227-0180.

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