Wednesday, April 25, 2018

OPENING: WORLD PREMIERE MUSICAL, LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET Via Chicago Children's Theatre April 24-May 27, 2018

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I'll be out for the press opening this Saturday, so check back soon for my full review. Chicago Children's Theatre has been a favorite of ours since their inaugural production in 2005, when my teens were tots!

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s 2017-18 season finale has arrived, and it’s the hip-hop, heart-thumpin’, toe-tappin’ joy ride Last Stop on Market Street, a world premiere musical based on the 2016 Newbery-winning, Caldecott-honored children’s book by Matt de la Peña.

Starring E. Faye Butler as Nana,
with young actors Alejandro Medina (left)
and Kei Rawlins (right) rotating in the role of CJ

Nationally acclaimed playwright Cheryl L. West (Akeelah and the Bee) has adapted for the stage Peña’s multiple award-winning book about 7-year-old CJ and his wise Nana who teaches him to find beauty on a Sunday afternoon bus ride through the city. This is a co-commission and rolling world premiere with Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis that is already attracting national attention, including a feature in American Theatre Magazine.

Motown legend Lamont Dozier and his son Paris Ray Dozier have created a jammin' original score. Goodman Theatre's Henry Godinez directs the Chicago world premiere and the play’s subsequent co-commissioned debut at Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis.

Don't miss Chicago theater legend E. Faye Butler's CCT debut as Nana, with Alejandro Medina, an 11-year old actor from Oak Park, and Kei Rawlins, 10-years old from River North, rotating in the role of CJ. The cast also features Melanie Brezill, Jesse Bhamrah, Brian Keys, Kirra Silver and Breon Arzell.

 E. Faye Butler plays Nana, and Alejandro Medina alternating with Kei Rawlins as CJ.

Countless kids, parents and teachers know and love Peña’s warm-hearted story about 7-year-old CJ and his wise Nana who teaches him to find beauty on a Sunday afternoon bus ride through the city.

 E. Faye Butler as Nana and Kei Rawlins alternating with Alejandro Medina as CJ.

But stop! In the name of love! Because Motown legend Lamont Dozier and his son Paris Ray Dozier, the duo behind the music in Chicago Children’s Theatre 2014 smash hit Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, are returning to create their second original score for CCT with Last Stop on Market Street.

Last Stop on Market Street is adapted by Cheryl L. West, features an original score by Motown legend Lamont Dozier (pictured) with his son Paris Ray Dozier, and is directed by Henry Godinez with music director is Andra Velis Simon.

Henry Godinez, resident artistic associate at Goodman Theatre, has been tapped to direct the Chicago world premiere, and the play’s subsequent debut at Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis. Godinez is a respected veteran director and actor who has worked at all of Chicago’s major stages, including Chicago Children’s Theatre where he staged the company’s very first production in 2006, A Year with Frog and Toad.

Jump on this bus Chicago theater lovers, because Last Stop on Market Street stars musical theater legend E. Faye Butler in her Chicago Children’s Theatre debut as Nana. Alejandro Medina, an 11-year old actor from Oak Park, and Kei Rawlins, 10-years old from Chicago’s River North neighborhood, will rotate in the role of CJ.

The Last Stop cast also features Melanie Brezill, Jesse Bhamrah, Brian Keys, Kirra Silver and Breon Arzell. The production team includes Andra Velis Simon (music director), Stephanie Paul (choreographer), John Musial (scenic design), Izumi Inaba (costume design), Alex Ridgers (lighting design), Ray Nardelli (sound design), Eleanor Kahn (properties design) and Ari Clouse (stage manager).

Last Stop on Market Street runs April 24-May 27 at Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, 100 S. Racine Avenue in Chicago’s West Loop. Show times are Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

School matinees are Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m., and Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. and Noon.

Last Stop on Market Street is recommended for ages 6 and up. Single tickets are $35 including fees. For subscriptions, single tickets and information on group rates, visit or call Chicago Children’s Theatre Guest Services, (312) 374-8835.

All Aboard! Don’t miss Chicago Children’s Theatre’s bus to Last Stop on Market Street

Young CJ is staying with his grandmother - stripped of his smart phone or tablet “because Nana says so” - in a world considerably different from the one he’s used to. Dragged on an urban bus ride that’s loud, gritty and weird, guided by his veritable force of nature, Nana, CJ travels a little closer to his roots and learns that things are not always what they have been, and people are not always who they may seem.

Leading Chicago Children’s Theatre’s cast in this as Nana is the indefatigable E. Faye Butler, a Chicago musical theater legend who has performed around the globe to international acclaim. Her many awards include six Joseph Jefferson Awards, two Helen Hayes Awards, a Barrymore Award and four Black Theatre Alliance Awards.

Alejandro Medina (CJ) arrives at CCT off a successful run as Tall Boy in Porchlight Music Theater’s Billy Elliott. Kei Rawlins (rotating as CJ) recently made his professional debut in the Goodman’s A Christmas Carol, can be seen in TV ads for Sprint and T. Rowe Price, and was featured earlier this year in Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine.

The cast for Last Stop on Market Street features (top, from left) E. Faye Butler, Alejandro Medina,
Kei Rawlins, Breon Arzell, (bottom) Jesse Bhamrah, Melanie Brezill, Brian Keys and Kirra Silver.

The ensemble cast has worked at many of Chicago’s top stages. Breon Arzell (Mr. Dennis) performed in Objects in the Mirror (Goodman), An Octaroon (Definition Theatre), The Wiz (Kokandy Productions), The Hairy Ape (Oracle Productions) and The Scottsboro Boys (Raven Theatre). Jesse Bhamrah (Blind Man/Mr. Chow), new to Chicago, just made his local debut in Goodman’s An Enemy of the People. Melanie Brezill (Posey/Butterfly) starred in Chicago Children’s Theatre’s My Wonderful Birthday Suit! this season, performed on Broadway in The Book of Mormon and in the national tour of Mamma Mia!. Brian Keys (Tat Man), an actor, singer and musician born and raised on the south side, recently performed a solo show in Collaboraction’s PEACEBOOK Fest, in the Jeff Recommended Ruined with Eclipse Theater and Seven Guitars at Court. Kirra Silver (Jojo) co-starred earlier this season in The Snowy Day at Emerald City Theatre Company and Time Stands Still at Raven Theatre. 

Matt de la Peña (author) is the New York Times bestselling author of six young adult novels (including Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here and The Living) and four picture books. Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson, was released in 2015, and won the 2016 Newbery Medal, Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book awards. His newest picture book, Love with illustrator Loren Long, released this spring, is inspired by the birth of his daughter. In 2016 he was awarded the NCTE Intellectual Freedom Award. He received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific where he attended school on a full basketball scholarship. Peña currently lives with his family in Brooklyn, NY. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.

Cheryl L. West (adaptor) is the librettist for Play On! (which ran on Broadway and at Seattle Rep) and the author of several plays including Birdie Blue, Rejoice!, Holiday Heart, Puddin ‘n’ Pete, Jar the Floor and Before It Hits Home. The latter earned West several awards including the 1992 Helen Hayes/Charles McArthur Award for outstanding new play and the Susan Smith Blackburn prize, an international award given to a woman who has written a work of outstanding quality for the English-speaking theater. Her plays for young audiences include Akeelah & the Bee, adapted from the popular 2006 film, along with Mwindo, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Addy: American Girl Story and Pullman Porter Blues. She is also a recipient of the National Endowment Playwriting Award and the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Best Playwright Award. Her plays have been produced in England, New York and in numerous regional theatres including the Goodman, Northlight, Arena Stage, Old Globe, Seattle Rep, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Bay Street Theatre Festival, Syracuse Stage, Cleveland Play House, South Coast Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Manhattan Theater Club, and Off-Broadway’s Second Stage. West adapted Holiday Heart for Showtime/MGM and Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions, which earned her a GLADD nomination and a Golden Globe nomination for Alfre Woodard. She has worked in TV and film projects at Paramount, MTV Films, Showtime, TNT, HBO and CBS. She was the Webby nominated writer for the web series, Diary of a Single Mom in collaboration with Robert Townsend’s V Studios.

Lamont Dozier (music writer/lyricist), was a member of Holland-Dozier-Holland in the 1960s and is credited for being one of the primary architects of the Motown Sound, responsible for writing, co-writing and producing more than 54 #1 hits for The Supremes, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Freda Payne and a host of others. His hits include “Stop in the Name of Love,” “How Sweet It Is,” “Reach Out I'll Be There,” “Where Did Our Love Go” and more. Dozier has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, from which he received the 2009 Johnny Mercer Award, the highest praise a songwriter can achieve. He has worked with such contemporary acts as Alison Moyet, Aretha Franklin, Simply Red, Phil Collins, Boy George, Eric Clapton, Kanye West, Joss Stone, Solange Knowles, Dave Stewart, Sir Cliff Richard, Phil Collins and George Benson. His music catalogue is one of the most sampled to date by everyone from rappers Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Lil Wayne, Dr. Dre, The Alchemist, Common, Lupe Fiasco and Three 6 Mafia, to soul icons Mary J. Blige, Nas and Usher and even alternative rockers Linkin Park.

Paris Ray Dozier (co-music writer/lyricist) is a native of Los Angeles. Dozier's professional career in music began when he was 15, writing songs for artists on Hollywood Records, Disney, where he would be signed two years after as a singer/songwriter and producer. While at Hollywood Records, Dozier was mentored by and produced an album with Rob Cavallo, most notably regarded as the producer who discovered Green Day and now the CEO of Warner Bros. Records. Dozier later became musical theme writer for B-InTune Television on UPN 13. He continues to write and produce for various artists in just about every genre of music.

Henry Godinez (director) is the Resident Artistic Associate at Goodman Theatre where his directing credits include The Sins of Sor Juana and Mariela in the Desert by Karen Zacarías; José Rivera’s Boleros for the Disenchanted (and world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre); Regina Taylor’s Millennium Mambo; Luis Alfaro's Electricidad and Straight as a Line; The Cook by Eduardo Machado; Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez; the Goodman/Teatro Vista co-production of José Rivera’s Cloud Tectonics and the 1996–2001 productions of A Christmas Carol. He also served as the director of the Goodman’s Latino Theatre Festival. His other Chicago directing credits include Water by the Spoonful (Court Theatre), A Civil War Christmas (Northlight Theatre), A Work of Art at Chicago Dramatists, A Year with Frog and Toad and Esperanza Rising (Chicago Children’s Theatre), Two Sisters and a Piano (Apple Tree Theatre/Teatro Vista co-production) and Anna in the Tropics (Victory Gardens). He is co-founder and former artistic director of Teatro Vista. As an actor, he was most recently seen in Quixote: On the Conquest of Self at Writers Theatre. He is the recipient of the 1999 Theatre Communications Group Alan Schneider Director Award, the Distinguished Service Award from the Lawyers for the Creative Arts and was honored as the 2008 Latino Professional of the Year by the Chicago Latino Network. Born in Havana, Cuba, Godinez is a professor at Northwestern University and serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Arts Council and Albany Park Theater Project.

Andra Velis-Simon is a music director, adapter/arranger, vocal coach and pianist based in Chicago. Her credits at Chicago Children’s Theatre include The Hundred Dresses, A Year with Frog and Toad and Goodnight Moon. Regionally, her work has been seen at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, A.R.T. in Cambridge, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Berkeley Rep, Olney Theatre Center in Maryland and Three Oaks in Michigan. In Chicago: The Goodman (The Iceman Cometh and Camino Real); Porchlight (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever); Theater Wit (Mr. Burns: a post-electric play and 10 out of 12); The Hypocrites (Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes, American Idiot, Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and HMS Pinafore); and many others. Velis-Simon is the Resident Music Director for Firebrand Theatre. 

Last Stop on Market Street received a developmental reading in summer 2017 at the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University. Following its debut at Chicago Children’s Theatre, Last Stop at Market Street will be remounted with a new cast as a rolling world premiere September 15-October 21 at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, again under the direction of Henry Godinez.

Access Weekend for Last Stop on Market Street is May 12 and 13:

CCT continues to grow its commitment to all Chicago children at The Station by expanding services for patrons with disabilities. Access Weekend for Last Stop on Market Street is May 12 and 13, 2018. Services include:

Pre-show Touch Tour of the set prior to the show for guests who are blind or have low vision:
Saturday, May 12 at 9:30 a.m.

Live open captioning for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing:
Saturday, May 12 at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Sensory friendly performance for children on the autism spectrum or with Down Syndrome: 
Sunday, May 13 at 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Note: Modifications are made to lighting, sound and music to avoid sensory overload, with a nearby Quiet Room.

For more information about Access services, visit or contact CCT’s Access and Inclusion department at

About Chicago Children’s Theatre

Chicago Children’s Theatre has transformed the former 12th District Police Station, located in the heart of Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood at 100 S. Racine Avenue, into its first permanent home. The new Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, celebrated its grand opening in January 2017, and now serves as a beautiful, mixed-use performing arts, education and community engagement facility that welcomes all Chicago families.

In addition to live performances in its new Pritzker Family Studio, Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, is a centrally located community hub with the most diverse roster of year-round performing arts classes and camps for children 0 to 14 anywhere in Chicago. 

Registration is open at for the next eight-week spring session, April 9-June 2, 2018. High demand classes include Bubble James, HipHop4Tots, Intro to Piven Theatre Workshop, Circus and Aerial Arts with Actors Gymnasium, Wiggleworms West Loop, Improv with The Second City and Intro to Theatre.

Registration is also open for a unique series of 2018 Summer Camps at Chicago Children’s Theatre, The Station, ranging from week-long Adventure Camps born from legends, myths, folktales and fairytales. Look for half-day Play Time camps for little ones 3-1/2 to 5, special two-day workshops like Acting for the Camera and Acting with Green Screen, a GRRL Power camp in August for girls only that brings the Viola Project’s signature girl-powered Shakespeare program to Chicago Children's Theatre and Camp Red Kite, a three-week summer arts camp tailored specifically to the unique interests and needs of young people on the autism spectrum. 

Visit, email, or call (312) 374-8835 to register your child for one camp or many.

Since its launch in 2005, Chicago Children’s Theatre has cemented its reputation as the city’s largest professional theater company devoted exclusively to children and young families. The company evolved out of Chicago’s need for high-quality, professional children’s programming to match the quality and significance of powerhouses such as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre. CCT has always believed children should be treated as the sophisticated audiences that they are, showcasing high profile and award-winning talent, inventive production values and compelling stories that challenge, educate and entertain. CCT also honors 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.

CCT has built its national reputation due to its focus on new work, producing 16 world premieres in the last 11 years including The Selfish Giant, The Hundred Dresses, Jackie and Me, Dot and Ziggy, The Houdini Box, The Elephant and The Whale (in association with Redmoon), Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, Leo Lionni’s Frederick, Wonderland, Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure, A Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter, Jabari Dreams of Freedom, Moonshot: A Race to Space, The Year I Didn’t Go To School: A Homemade Circus, My Wonderful Birthday Suit! and An Epic Tale of Scale. These enjoyed successful inaugural runs in Chicago, many followed by productions at theaters across the U.S.

In 2017, Chicago Children’s Theatre became the first theater for young audiences in the nation to win a National Theatre Award from the American Theatre Wing, creators of the Tony Awards.

Led by Co-Founders, Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell and Board Chair Todd Leland, Board President Eric Neveux 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. 

Chicago Children's Theatre is sponsored in part by Goldman Sachs Gives and ComEd, with specific production support from The Chicago Community Trust.

For more information, visit

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