Sunday, October 23, 2022

REVIEW: 25 Years of Blue Man Group!

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List

photo credit Bonnie Kenaz-Mara unless listed otherwise
Blue Man Group
25th Anniversary 
By Guest Critic Catherine Hellmann

The last time I saw Blue Man Group, I was pregnant with my son. He is now a second-year teacher. So, it’s been awhile. Incredible how this unusual and hard-to-define show has endured and thrived and became a global phenomenon with franchises in ther cities. It’s cool that it started here in Chicago. 

My theater friend advises that one approach the Blue Men concept as if they are aliens to our planet, or English-Language Learners who have been dropped into a foreign culture. There is an innocence about them which is a huge key to their charm. They look bewildered at simple things, like a toddler making discoveries. 

If you live in a cave and have somehow missed the Blue Man buzz over the decades, Blue Man Group consists of three actors/percussionsts/artists who create music, paint, catch marshmallows in their mouths (the guy next to me counted 17…), interact with the crowd, make fun of technology, and cause amusing mischief. 

The audience participation aspect is fun. The right people seem to get chosen to participate. They were very entertaining and good sports. It’s also charming to see such a huge variety of people in the crowd. It’s a show for grandparents and younger children, families and dates, and a sure bet for your friends who are visiting Chicago from out of town and want something different to experience. 

There are “unsafe seats” near the stage for when the drumming gets interactive with paint. My sister observed, “Uh-oh, the folks in the front rows are putting on their plastic again…” You can also sit farther back and enjoy the show at a distance, but don’t be surprised if a Blue Man walks up the aisle past you or even climbs over the seats nearby.     

They have the best late-comers cue I’ve ever seen. A chorus recording sings “You are LATE! You are LATE!” while a camera follows the mortified audience members to their seats. That was a hoot! 

There is a newer bit with the Blue Men eating from boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal that made me pity the stage crew who has to clean up after every performance. I liked reading the giant cue cards which the Blue Men flip. One read that “Tobias isn’t here,” a hilarious reference to David Cross’ insanely funny character on Arrested Development. (Tobias had aspirations to be a member of Blue Man Group and “blue himself” in advance preparation of getting the call to sub from his agent…leaving blue handprints all over the house.)

We also had a fabulous time at the preshow press party. Check out our adventures below:

ChiIL Mama (Bonnie Kenaz-Mara) with sisters & guest critics, 
Catherine & Teresa Hellmann 

If you’ve never been to see Blue Man Group, you should go once to see what all the fuss is about and have the experience. After that, you have my blessing to support other theaters in Chicago, especially the smaller, storefront ones.  

Catherine Hellmann is a Teacher-Warrior, mom, reader, and theater fanatic. She loves books so much that she birthed a librarian and two teachers. A recent trip to Alaska marked her 49th state…Hawaii is next on her Bucket List. 

  • Blue Man Group, the critically hailed theatrical phenomenon with an open run at Chicago’s Briar Street Theatre, celebrates 25 years in Chicago  
  • Since its debut at the Briar Street Theatre in 1997, Blue Man Group Chicago has:
    • Entertained more than 5 million people with more than 12,000 performances
    • Thrown more than 120,000 marshmallows and 36,000 gum balls 
    • Used 48,400 cakes of makeup (in their own proprietary color, Blue Man Blue) 

Blue Man Group Ticket Information: 
Blue Man Group Chicago ticket prices start at $49. Tickets can be purchased by visiting In celebration of Blue Man Group Chicago’s 25th anniversary, Illinois residents can receive 25 percent off select seats now through December 1, 2022 by visiting A full show schedule and pricing can also be found at 

About Blue Man Group 
Blue Man Group is a global entertainment phenomenon, known for its award-winning theatrical productions, iconic characters and multiple creative explorations. Blue Man Group performances are euphoric celebrations of human connection through art, music, comedy and non-verbal communication. Since debuting at New York’s Astor Place Theatre in 1991, the live show has expanded to additional domestic residencies in Boston, Chicago, and Las Vegas, an international residency in Berlin, and multiple
North American and World tours, reaching more than 50 million people worldwide. Blue Man Group is universally appealing to a broad range of age groups and cultural backgrounds, and continually injected with new music, fresh stories, custom instruments and sensory stimulating graphics. Blue Man Group is owned and operated by Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. For more information, please visit 


Monday, October 10, 2022

The Young People’s Theatre of Chicago’s Inaugural Season To feature Two World Premieres and The Chicago Premiere of a New Mo Willems Musical

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List 


2022-23 SEASON

A Science-Themed Musical by Emmy Award-Winning / Grammy-Nominated Team An Adaptation of a Best-Selling Early-Reader Series

The Chicago Premiere of a New Mo Willems Musical

Here at ChiIL Mama, we had the opportunity to meet Morgan Tayler, children's musician, father, and brilliant composer and lyricist of Peabody, many times over the years, starting way back in 2009. It was a pleasure to shoot photos and videos of him in concert at Chicago's Schubas, and partner up many times on giveaways for our readers. We were sad to hear that Morgan Taylor recently passed away from Covid complications:

We're happy to say his legacy lives on in his work, and the world premiere of Peabody will be presented in Morgan Taylor’s honor.

The Young People’s Theatre of Chicago’s (YPT) inaugural 2022-23 season features two highly anticipated world premieres. The season launches with Glen Berger (Emmy Award - Peep and the Big Wide World; FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman) and Morgan Taylor’s (Grammy nomination - Gustafer Yellowgood) S.T.E.M.-themed Peabodya Musical Comedy for Intrepid Young Scientists (Oct 29–Nov 20) and concludes with John Glore’swickedly funny (and wonderfully spooky) adaptation of Abby Hanlon’s early-reader favorite, Dory Fantasmagory (May 5–28). Both new works are expected to enjoy long lives in children’s theaters across the country. Following the inaugural success of last year’s Knuffle Bunny, YPT also introduces Chicago to Mo Willems’ new musical adaptation of his own Caldecott Award-winning Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Feb 3–26).

All performances take place at The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets on sale September 1, 2022. For ticket purchases and more information, visit or call the box office at 773 404 7336.

In residence at the historic Greenhouse Theater Center, YPT produces the highest quality professional theatre for children of all ages and backgrounds. The company also plans to introduce performance and training opportunities for kids. Founding Artistic Director Randy White has directed extensively in New York and at regional theatres across the country. Mr. White was the founder of Cardinal Stage in Bloomington, IN, where he launched the extraordinarily successful “Cardinal for Kids” series.

“Last year’s Knuffle Bunny was a hugely successful first outing for YPT,” says Mr. White. “Now, as we get ready for our first full season of work, the company is focused on bringing original and innovative theatre to Chicagoland’s children and families. We’re excited to partner with community organizations, parents, impassioned educators, and local business leaders to make it possible for local children of all ages and backgrounds to experience and participate in a wide range of transformative theatrical experiences!”

YPT’S 2022 – 2023 SEASON

Eileen Doan as Alyssa Peabody Photos by Anthony La Penna


A World Premiere
Oct. 29 – Nov 20, 2022
Press Performance: Saturday, Oct 29 at 10am
Book by Glen Berger
Music and Lyrics by Morgan Taylor
Directed by Randy White
Performance Schedule: Fridays at 7pm; Saturdays at 10am and 1pm; Sundays at 1pm (added 10am performances on final two Sundays)
Tickets: $25 / $19 (under 12)
Appropriate for ages 5+

Why do apples fall? Question the obvious and you change the course of history! Or in the case of 11-year-old Alyssa Peabody, you spark pandemonium at your middle school science fair!

A rollicking musical comedy that gives new meaning to the term Science Whizz!

Glen Berger’s (book) plays include Underneath the Lintel (450 performances Off-Broadway, 350 productions worldwide). TV credits include two Emmy Awards and 200+ episodes for the PBS children’s series, Arthur. Glen was co-bookwriter for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (directed by Julie Taymor, music by Bono and The Edge of U2). His memoir Song Of Spider-Man—the harrowing tale of Turn Off the Dark’s creation—was published by Simon & Schuster.

Morgan Tayor (music & lyrics) is a Grammy-nominated composer and the creator of the popular multimedia Gustafer Yellowgood project. In addition to his off-Broadway work, Morgan has toured and/or worked with Wilco, Duncan Sheik, Lisa Loeb, and others.


The Chicago Premiere
Feb 3 – Feb 26, 2023
Press Performance: Friday, Feb. 3 at 7pm
Book by Mo Willems and Mr. Warburton
Lyrics by Mo Willems
Composed by Deborah Wicks La Puma
Directed by Randy White
Performance Schedule: Fridays at 7pm; Saturdays at 10am and 1pm; Sundays at 1pm (added 10am performances on final two Sundays)
Tickets: $25 / $19 (under 12)
Appropriate for all Ages

Poor Pigeon never gets to do anything! But when Bus Driver is running late (gasp!), Pigeon’s dream to drive the bus might actually come true! From the vivid imagination of Mo Willems comes an interactive romp with every child’s favorite high-strung bird!

As the Inaugural Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence, Mo Willems adapted his own 2004 Caldecott Honor award-winning book in 2019 and critics in DC and across the country have raved:

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  • ●  “Magical!” DC Theatre Scene

  • ●  “Real-life wisdom for the young, delivered in a tasty hour-long concoction of silliness.”

    Broadway World

  • ●  “Phenomenal... will keep your kids at the edge of their seat, dancing and singing... I

    was hesitant taking my 8- and 10-year-old boys. But they loved it. – Seattlechild

  • ●  “Reminiscent of cartoonish underdog characters who discover their purpose within the universe’s Rudolph, Wilbur the pig, or James and his giant peach...heartfelt and fulfilling.” – Arts at Michigan

    Mo Willems (playwright) is an author, illustrator, animator, and playwright. Best known for his #1 New York Times bestselling picture books, Willems has been awarded three Caldecott Honors, two Theodor Geisel Medals, and five Geisel Honors. Willems began his career as a writer and animator on PBS’ Sesame Street, where he garnered six Emmy Awards. Over the last decade, Willems has been the most produced playwright of Theater for Young Audiences in America, in large part thanks to his continued collaboration with Deborah Wicks La Puma. Willems is overjoyed to have written Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! with his longtime collaborator and friend, Mr. Warburton. Banana!

    Deborah Wicks La Puma (composer and orchestrator) composed Willems’ Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play! (The Kennedy Center), and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed: The Rock Experience (Seattle Children’s Theatre). One of the most produced artists in Theater for Young Audiences today, La Puma’s honors include the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, an NEA New American Works Grant, two Parents Choice Awards, and a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical Adaptation. A proud Mexican-American, La Puma is Mother to three daughters and lives in Southern California.


    A World Premiere
    May 5 – May 28
    Press Performance: Friday, May 5 at 7pm
    Written by: John Glore
    Based on the book: Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon
    Directed by Randy White
    Performance Schedule: Fridays at 7pm; Saturdays at 10am and 1pm; Sundays at 1pm (added 10am performances on final two Sundays)
    Tickets: $25 / $19 (under 12)
    Appropriate for Ages 4+

    It’s tough being the youngest! Dory’s siblings won’t play with her and there are monsters to battle all over the house, like the hair-raising Mrs. Gobble Gracker! With the help of her fairy godmother, Mr. Nuggy, Dory sets out to win what she wants most: her family’s attention!

    From children’s playwright and longtime South Coast Rep Literary Manager John Glore (A Wrinkle in Time, The Stinky Cheese Man), comes a clever and hilarious new adaptation of Abby Hanlon’s enormously popular Dory Fantasmagory. Directly engaging the audience in original and surprising ways, Glored captures the original series’ charm and delightfully droll sensibility.

    • ●  Charming, funny and true to life!” –Kirkus Review

    • ●  “Educational Value: A+” —Common Sense Media


John Glore (playwright/adaptor) is an award-winning playwright whose work for young audiences includes adaptations of A Wrinkle in Time, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, The Night Fairy, Kate DiCamillo's Flora and Ulysses, and many. His work for children and adults has been produced at Berkeley Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Round House Theatre, The Children's Theatre Company, First Stage, Childsplay, and others.

Abby Hanlon (book author) is the author and illustrator of Dory Fantasmagory, a series of chapter books for five to nine year olds. Dory was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Parent's Magazine. It won a Golden Kite Honor for Fiction and is an American Library Association Notable Book. The books have been translated in twenty-two languages and are Junior Library Guild selections. Abby also taught creative writing and gradeschool in the New York City public school system.


Randy was the Founding Artistic Director of Cardinal Stage in Bloomington, IN. Under White’s leadership, Cardinal grew into Southern Indiana’s largest arts organization. A champion of children’s theatre, White also inaugurated the extraordinarily successful “Cardinal for Kids” series–which played to 100,000 kids in just 7 years. White was also gratified to work with 100+ extraordinarily talented Chicago actors, designers, and directors while at Cardinal.

In NYC, White directed Theatreworks USA’s Max and Ruby, a new children’s musical that played off-Broadway and toured nationallyHe directed the 15-month off-Broadway run of Glen Berger’s Underneath the Lintel, assisted on Disney’s The Lion King, and was Resident Director at New Dramatists. Regionally, White has directed at Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Portland Center Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, etc. As an educator, White has directed and/or taught for the Yale Dramat, University of Pennsylvania, Indiana University, University of Minnesota/Guthrie, University of Alberta, Fordham, NYU, etc.

In Chicago, White directed The Wizard of Oz at the Children’s Theatre of Winnetka and Curious George and Knuffle Bunny at Northbrook Theatre. For the Greenhouse Theater, White directed Truman and The Birth of Israel and was nominated for an Equity Jeff Award for his critically acclaimed production of Midsummer (A Play with Songs). White holds an MFA in directing from the University of Alberta in his native Canada.


The Young People’s Theatre of Chicago. YPT was established in early 2020 but significantly Covid-delayed. It wasn’t until late 2021 that YPT launched with a successful production of Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny — 

— "Will your kids be entertained? The answer (spoiler alert!) is ‘YES’— judged by the happy vocal reactions of the kids at the matinee I attended! A solid debut!” —Chicago Reader 

— “Vivacious… packs a big punch. If you have a little one in your life, be sure to bring them to see this fun, funny musical. This first production of YPT is a sign of good things to come.”  —Splashmags

Lincoln Park and surrounding neighborhoods welcomed Knuffle Bunny with multiple sold-out performances.

YPT’s follow up production of the science-themed musical comedy Peabody was postponed by multiple Covid cases in the first weeks of rehearsal. But we persevere! The world premiere of Peabody will launch YPT's 3-play 2022-2023 season. And then in the New Year we build on Knuffle Bunny’s success with the Chicago premiere of Mo Willems’ adaptation of his own award-winning and best-selling Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!  The inaugural season wraps up in the spring with a world premiere adaption of Abby Hanlon's award-winning Dory Fantasmagory. 

These two bookend world premiere productions suggest an exciting future for YPT—a future that foregrounds commissions and the development of exciting new work for children of all ages. 

Young People’s Theatre of Chicago (YPT) offers high-quality productions and performance/education opportunities for children of all ages and backgrounds. Housed in the historic Greenhouse Theater Center, YPT launched in the fall of 2021. The company’s inaugural 3-Play 2022-23 season features two exhilarating world premieres, along with the Chicago premiere of a new musical by America’s most popular children’s author!

YPT’s Managing Artistic Director Randy White noted that, “as we prepare for this inaugural season, YPT is focused on partnering with community organizations, parents, educators, and local business leaders to provide thrilling and transformative theatre experiences for children from Lincoln Park and surrounding neighborhoods. These community partners will make it possible for local children of all ages–from toddlers to teenagers–to experience theatre that entertains, empowers, educates, and inspires.”

Thursday, October 6, 2022

World Premiere of THE LOCUSTS Via The Gift Theatre October 20 – November 19, 2022 at Theater Wit

Adult Night Out: ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 

The Gift Theatre

Presents the World Premiere of


Written by Jennifer Rumberger

Directed by Ensemble Member John Gawlik

October 20 – November 19, 2022 at Theater Wit

The Gift Theatre is pleased to conclude its 2022 season with the world premiere of Jennifer Rumberger’s chilling thriller The Locusts, commissioned and developed by The Gift and directed by Ensemble Member John Gawlik*. The Locusts will play October 20 – November 19, 2022 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. I'll be out for the press opening, October 24th, so check back shortly for my full review.

The production features Ensemble Members Cyd Blakewell*, Brittany Burch* and Jennifer Glasse* with guest artists Mariah Sydnei Gordon, Renee Lockett and Patrick Weber.

With a serial killer on the loose in Ella’s small hometown of Vero Beach, Florida, she’s called up from her busy career in the Miami police force to help apprehend him. At home, she’s confronted with the life she left behind: her pregnant and struggling sister, her scared young niece, who like Ella, is desperate to find a life somewhere else, and the dark events of her childhood that she’s tried to forget. As the murders grow more horrific and the small community is frozen by fear, Ella realizes she has to confront the events of her dark past in order to stop him.

Playwright Jennifer Rumberger comments, “A few years ago, Mike Thornton approached me about writing a play for the ensemble members of the Gift, and sent me an article about the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein as a potential starting point. Mary Shelley was such a young girl dealing with a massive amount of trauma in her life by writing this classic horror story. At the same time, I was working on a serial-killer play, staying up late reading true crime novels and getting so furious about how these deranged men were deciding the path of women’s lives, when my partner remarked that perhaps they were both the same play. Over time, The Locusts ended up being a play that asks how women of different generations deal with the threat of male violence — a threat that looms in some way over all of the characters in the play, as well as over our current world and the legislation we see happening in America before our eyes.”

The production team includes Chas Mathieu (Scenic Designer), Jessica Van Winkle (Costume Designer), Trey Brazeal (Lighting Designer), Stefanie M. Senior (Sound Designer), Maday Favala (Props Designer), Parker Molacek (Projections Designer), Emjoy Gavino* (Casting Director), David Preis (Technical Director) and Sarah Luse* (Stage Manager).

*Denotes The Gift Theatre Ensemble Member

 Cast: (in alphabetical order): Cyd Blakewell* (Ella), Brittany Burch* (Maisie), Jennifer Glasse* (Layla), Mariah Sydnei Gordon (Olive), Renee Lockett (Willia) and Patrick Weber (Robbie).

Location: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago.

Dates: Previews: Thursday, October 20 at 7:30 pm, Friday, October 21 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, October 22 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, October 23 at 3 pm

Press opening: Monday, October 24 at 7:30 pm

Regular run: Thursday, October 27 – Saturday, November 19, 2022

Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm.

Tickets: Previews $25. Regular run $38 - $45. Students $25. Seniors $35. Tickets are currently available at, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office.

Captioned performances: Saturday, November 12 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, November 13 at 3 pm

Sensory-friendly performance: Saturday, November 19 at 7:30 pm

Audio-described performance/touch tour & conversation with the cast: Saturday, November 19 at 7:30 pm (touch tour begins at 6:45 pm)

Come Closer Series

Join The Gift on Sunday, November 6, 2022* for the Come Closer conversation series, which provides an intimate look at the artistic process behind the production, and the important topics this story addresses. Explore The Locusts with the cast, crew and special guests following the matinée.

*The Come Closer series is exclusive to guests attending the performance on Sunday, November 6 and subscribers.


About the Artists

Jennifer Rumberger (Playwright) is a Chicago playwright and essayist. Recent productions include Night in Alachua County with Wildclaw Theatre, Open Blue Sky at Stella Adler/Tisch School of the Arts and The Bride with the Living Room Playmakers and Chicago Fringe Festival. Her play, A Little Ghost Story, was a second time selection for the 2019 Seven Devils Playwrights Conference; her play Night in Alachua County was also developed there in 2014. Night in Alachua County was recommended for consideration for the 2018 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award. Jennifer was a nominee for the PoNY Fellowship and a semi-finalist for the P73 Fellowship. Jennifer’s work has also been developed or presented in New York, Houston, Chicago and Florida by The Lark Playwrights Center, id Theatre Company, The Gift Theatre Company, Black Box Acting Studio, The Living Room Playmakers, Commission Theatre Company, Wordsmyth Theatre Company, Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company, White Rose Miami and Northwestern University. She performs at live storytelling events in Chicago with You’re Being Ridiculous and GiftLIT. She is a founding member and associate playwright with the Living Room Playmakers. MFA: Northwestern. 

John Gawlik (Director) has appeared with or helmed productions for many Chicagoland companies. Recent projects include directing Doubt and the world premiere of The Royal Society of Antarctica at The Gift Theatre. Favorite acting credits include: Bill Sykes in Oliver at Drury Lane, Blizzard ‘67 with Chicago Dramatists, The Lonesome West and Beauty Queen of Lennane with The Gift Theatre, A Skull in Connemara at Northlight (After Dark Award, Ensemble) and The Great Society with Famous Door. Additional directing credits include When the Rain Stops Falling at Circle Theater (Jeff Award for Director and Production), The Ruby Sunrise (Top Ten shows of 2009: TimeOut Chicago), the Jeff Award-nominated production of W;t and the Jeff Award-winning The Good Thief for The Gift Theatre. John is an ensemble member of The Gift Theatre. Television and film credits include: Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, The Chi, The Last Shift and The Trial of the Chicago Seven. 

Lead Production Sponsor: Tom Rieck and Cathy Dunlap


About The Gift Theatre

Since 2001 and over 70 productions, The Gift Theatre has been dedicated to telling great stories onstage with honesty and simplicity by being the most intimate professional Equity theatre in the country, leading to national acclaim for both the theatre and ensemble and creating a cultural revolution on Chicago’s northwest side.