Sunday, January 28, 2024

Chekhov’s Seagull and Diva Dementia Center Stage in Charming Chayka

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival 

Chayka


Belova-Iacobelli Theatre Company From Belgium/Chile

Recommended for Ages 13+ 



REVIEW:

By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing Chayka at the Chopin Theatre's main stage. This lovely solo show features one puppeteer with a life-sized, half body puppet that shares her feet and one arm. A teddy bear, a book, a scarf stand in for the other main characters in Chekhov’s play, The Seagull. And of course, there's a seagull. 


As Chayka, an aging diva with dementia makes her final appearance on stage as Chekhov’s Arkadina, the 4th wall is broken down, and the audience is privy to both the actress and the character in turn.  The puppetry is exquisite, as the young woman puppeteer and Chayka alternately dialogue, merge and split, and even swap places, in a dance of memories and forgetting. 


English subtitles are projected above, so it was easy to follow the plot and transcend any language barriers. 

On a minimalist, stripped down set, Chayka relives the glory days when she played a host of the younger Seagull characters, bemoans the lack of a lake, and finds her light. It's a poignant piece, and a bold choice. Puppet genre shows dealing with aging and endings are rare. 


Despite the melancholy subject, there's plenty of humor, and the opportunity to run the gamut of emotions, escalating to a set deconstructing, table flipping rage. In the past few years, I've seen both The Seagull and also Stupid F*#@ing Bird, Aaron Posner's irreverent, contemporary remix of Chekhov’s The Seagull. All 3 productions  explore the timeless tussle between young and old, past and present, in search of meaning. If you're a fan of creative puppeteering and particularly Chekhovian explorations of frustration and decline, make a point to experience Chayka. 

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

Chayka

Belova-Iacobelli Theatre Company

Belgium/Chile

Chopin Theatre (mainstage), 1543 W. Division St., Wicker Park

January 26-28

Three shows: Friday and Saturday, January 26 and 27 at 7 p.m.; Sunday, January 28 at 3 p.m.

60 minutes (English subtitles)

Ages 13 and up

Tickets: $30-$40

In the backstage of a theater, an aging actress named Chayka struggles to remember why she is there. A young woman arrives to remind her: tonight she must play the part of Arkadina in Chekhov’s The Seagull. As her memory fades, not knowing quite who she is nor the part she is meant to be playing, Chayka is determined at least to give this last performance. In her struggle and descent, reality and fiction intersect.

 

This multi-award winning production, told in a dreamlike style, is a duo performance for one actress and one puppet, and is the first piece from the Belgo-Chilean company Belova ~ Iacobelli. In 2012, the Chilean actress and stage director Tita Iacobelli met the Belgo-Russian puppeteer Natacha Belova in Santiago, Chile, at the La Rebelión de los Muñecos Festival. In 2015, again in Santiago, they created an experimental theater laboratory for contemporary puppet theater. When the two-month experience was over, they decided to develop a play together. Chayka was the first production, created in June 2018 in Santiago de Chile, followed In September 2021, by LOCO at the Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles in Belgium. In October 2022, the performance Sisypholia, by Natacha Belova co-directed with Dorian Chavez, was presented at the International Biennial of Living Arts Toulouse Occitanie in France. belova-iacobelli.com

Everything you need to know about the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival January 18-28, 2024

January in Chicago isn't all dreary, cold, and grey. Puppet fest is back to put some color and joy into your January. Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows, we've covered the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival every year since it's inception. We're elated that they're now an annual fest instead of every other year, and we'll be out to review as much of the fest as possible once again in 2024. Check out the schedule below to save the dates. There'll be plentiful family friendly and adult puppet fun and we'll have the scoop right here. 

Tickets are now on sale for the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, the largest of its kind in North America, returning January 18-28, 2024, at venues large and small throughout the city. 

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is the largest event dedicated to the art form in North America. In the heart of winter, the Festival spans 11 days and dozens of Chicago venues, sharing 100+ puppetry activities with 14,000+ guests. The festival includes performances, the Free Neighborhood Tour, a Puppet Hub open throughout the festival on the fourth floor of the Fine Arts Building, a symposium, the Catapult Artist Intensive, workshops, and more. 

Visit chicagopuppetfest.org for tickets and information about the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, and sign up for the festival’s e-news.

Follow the festival on Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, hashtag #ChiPuppetFest.



Thursday, January 25, 2024

Magically Macabre Krabat Leaves a Mark at The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel and Grupa Coincidentia 

from Germany/Poland:

Krabat

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar

Recommended for Ages 13+


REVIEW:

By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

Black magic, blood, grinding bones, dissonant chords at a volume to rival a punk or metal concert, people transforming into ravens, and magically macabre puppetry make for an interesting evening with Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel and Grupa Coincidentia. We caught Krabat with 5 friends and family members and reactions ranged from enthusiastic adoration to abject loathing. I never expect full consensus from a given audience, and differing views on a show spark interesting conversations. Still, it's a testament to these puppeteers, that they push the boundaries of performance to the extent that they elicit strong, emotional reactions, equally positive and negative. 

Don't let the source material, a classic German children's book “Krabat and the Sorcerer's Mill,” fool you into thinking this is a children's show. It's a darkly disturbing, adult piece of theatre set at the end of the 30 years' war (lasting from 1618 to 1648) when a desperate war orphan, Krabat, becomes an apprentice to a master who not only runs a mill, but also sacrifices children and works dark magic. Remember, Germans are the ones who brought us "children's stories" like The Brothers Grimm (die Brüder Grimm or die Gebrüder Grimm) fairytale collections which originally included much creepier versions of the familiar stories we know and love. For example, the evil stepsisters in “Cinderella” cut off their heels and toes trying to make the slipper fit, and themes of mutilation, child abuse, incest, murder, and dismemberment run rampant throughout their folktales. 

One of our friends was speechless by the end of the show, and claimed to need time to process what she just saw. Another said it was an uncomfortable, awful audience experience, but the other 3 of us enjoyed it and found the story telling evocative and fascinating. If you enjoy the creepy side of human nature, heavy industrial and ethereal music, and creative storytelling, don't miss this. Recommended.

We caught up with musician Charlotte Wilde of for a casual, post-show conversation. where she told us that she met puppeteer and puppet maker Michael Vogel in college in the late 90s, when she was studying to become a music teacher. The puppetry took off, as a viable career, and they never looked back. 

These collaborators from Germany/Poland live around a 10 hour drive from one another, which makes rehearsals complicated. Flights are shorter, but not conducive to hauling puppets and set pieces, so they generally do end up driving. Nevertheless, they have collaborated on quite a few productions and the melding of companies is impressive. 

My husband, who's a location sound engineer for TV/film, was intrigued with the low tech mechanics used to create the ambient sound and lighting effects. He even stayed after the show to confirm his theory about the mill shadows, and rhythmic scraping and thumping, created by a lighted, rotating wheel with a phono needle, pictured in the center, below.

We particularly loved the light and shadows, the quirky gears, and the way the puppet, Krabat was pulled around the stage by a string. The play of light and water, as well as the bits with floating plastic were visually gorgeous and accompanied by an equally eerie and beautiful score. The show does eventually have a happy ending, with the redemption of a love story, but it's an intense and gory road to get there. Recommended. 

Full Puppet Fest Schedule, including video clips of the productions HERE

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





Krabat

Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel and Grupa Coincidentia

Germany/Poland

The Biograph Theater's Začek-McVay Mainstage, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park

January 25-28

Four shows: Thursday, January 25 at 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, January 26 and 27 at 9 p.m.; Sunday, January 28 at 3 p.m.

70 minutes

13 and up

Tickets: $35-$45

Based on the classic German children's book “Krabat and the Sorcerer's Mill,” a stray war orphan finds shelter with eleven millers and their Master. Strict rules, dark practices, black magic…anything can be endured as long as the bowl is full and the bed is dry. Krabat grows closer and closer to the Master. Finally, it is not heroism, but disobedience - the motive of gaining a friend and a girl who loves him - that breaks the power of the spell. A play about hard times, human falls and the power of first love, Krabat goes straight to the heart with penetrating clarity, power of image, stage humor and a minimum of words. Dark, bold and at the same time incredibly light, it’s a carousel of feelings spinning among great musical landscapes.

Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel was founded in 1997 by musician Charlotte Wilde and puppeteer and puppet maker Michael Vogel, first in Stuttgart, from 2003 in Leipzig, where Wilde and Vogel are co-founders of the International Centre for Animated Theatre Westflügel. Their repertoire includes classical drama, adaptations of novels, poetry and original works. Figurentheater-wildevogel.de *see longer bio above

Grupa Coincidentia was founded in 2009 by Dagmara Sowa and Pawel Chomczyk, graduates of the Bialystok Puppet Art Department of the Theater Academy. Coincidentia has produced over a dozen performances in collaboration with artists such as Michael Vogel, Lukasz Kos, Christiane Zanger, Pawel Aigner, Michal Walczak, Robert Jarosz, Christoph Bochdansky, Pawel Passini, Robert Drobniuch and Konrad Dworakowski. Coincidentia's shows have been presented at numerous festivals in Europe, Asia and North America and have been honored with many awards (including The Bank of Scotland Herald Angel, Total Theater Award Edinburgh, Grand Prix of the Konteksty Festival, the Grand Prix of the MFTL in Torun). Coincidentia collaborates on a permanent basis with the German independent scene Lindenfels Westfluegel in Leipzig and the Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel. In 2016, Grupa Coincidentia established Siedlisko Kultury Solniki 44 - an independent cultural center located in the forest in Podlasie region, which has hosted dozens of theatrical performances, artistic and educational workshops, works in progress, concerts and panel discussions. In 2018, the center initiated LasFest - International Theater Festival in the Forest, and in 2020, LasKids - a festival addressed to children's audiences. Both include independent theaters, laboratory works, concerts, student shows, meetings with artists, film screenings and unconventional events combining art with nature. grupacoincidentia.pl


More Fabulous Puppet Fun From Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel 

from Germany:

Spleen 

 at The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival 

Ages: 16+ 

REVIEW:

By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara

If dissonant amplified violin, brutally loud electric guitar, creepy puppets, and esoteric 19th century poetry recorded by children is your jam, you have found your happy place! Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel's Spleen is wonderfully weird. This dynamic duo melds puppetry and an original score to breath new life into text well over a century old, and completely relevant today. Spleen inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s collection of poems “Le Spleen de Paris,” published posthumously in 1869. 

Baudelaire's words, paired with an eerie assortment of puppets, is the show you never knew you needed to see. Charlotte Wilde arranges, composes and plays the music (violin, guitar and keyboard instruments) and brings compelling emotion and punctuation to the performance.  

We couldn't look away from the demonic, little creature that seemed self propelled, and others that moved unaided. We also adored the puppets animated by the shockingly limber and talented puppeteer and puppet maker, Michael Vogel. The craft and design of these puppets is fabulous and leaves a lasting impression. The plot may be too baffling and esoteric to ever be mainstream, but we enjoyed it immensely. Recommended.

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



Spleen

The Biograph's Richard Christiansen Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Park

January 19-21

Four shows: Friday, January 19 at 9 p.m., Saturday, January 20 at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sunday, January 21 at 5 p.m.

70 minutes

16 and up

Tickets: $20-$30

Spleen is a kaleidoscope of pictures, songs and miniatures, inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s collection of poems “Le Spleen de Paris,” published posthumously in 1869. Mankind on the threshold to modernity is described in scenes played out between thirst for life and longing for death, between a romantic search for infinity and a brutal triviality. The performers are on the stage with puppets and musical instruments, while Baudelaire’s texts are spoken by children recorded on tape. The magic of this kaleidoscope develops in the imagination between actors, material and audience - a sequence of pictures and live music that wants to counterpoint Baudelaire’s vision of the world and open it for a new understanding for the present.

Figurentheater Wilde & Vogel was founded in 1997 by musician Charlotte Wilde and puppeteer and puppet maker Michael Vogel, first in Stuttgart, from 2003 in Leipzig, where Wilde and Vogel are co-founders of the International Centre for Animated Theatre Westflügel. Wilde, who studied music, English and history in Karlsruhe, arranges, composes and plays the music (violin, guitar and keyboard instruments). Vogel studied in Prague with Milos Kirschner and the Spejbl & Hurvinek Theatre, and studied puppet theater in Stuttgart at the University of Music and Performing Arts. Today, puppetry and live music are the artistic means of Wilde & Vogel’s theater, with a repertoire including classical drama, adaptations of novels, poetry and original works. Themes and dramatic material for the productions are manifold, and are always reduced to the essence, to open space for imagination beyond the visible for the audience. figurentheater-wildevogel.de


Everything you need to know about the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival January 18-28, 2024

January in Chicago isn't all dreary, cold, and grey. Puppet fest is back to put some color and joy into your January. Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows, we've covered the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival every year since it's inception. We're elated that they're now an annual fest instead of every other year, and we'll be out to review as much of the fest as possible once again in 2024. Check out the schedule below to save the dates. There'll be plentiful family friendly and adult puppet fun and we'll have the scoop right here. 

Tickets are now on sale for the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, the largest of its kind in North America, returning January 18-28, 2024, at venues large and small throughout the city. 

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival is the largest event dedicated to the art form in North America. In the heart of winter, the Festival spans 11 days and dozens of Chicago venues, sharing 100+ puppetry activities with 14,000+ guests. The festival includes performances, the Free Neighborhood Tour, a Puppet Hub open throughout the festival on the fourth floor of the Fine Arts Building, a symposium, the Catapult Artist Intensive, workshops, and more. 

Visit chicagopuppetfest.org for tickets and information about the 6th Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, and sign up for the festival’s e-news.

Follow the festival on Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, hashtag #ChiPuppetFest.



Filament Theatre presents Constellation Points’ Cloud Man March 17 through April 14, 2024

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List: 

Family Friendly Shows On Our Radar

Cloud Man 

The production is thanks to a new partnership between Filament and the Scottish theatre company Constellation Points.


Cloud Man has been specifically designed for audiences members between 4-7 years old, but Filament welcomes family members of all ages.

The Northwest Side theater for young audiences invites audiences to follow the clues to the top of Cloud Mountain March 17 through April 14. Expect magical puppets, inventive storytelling, and lots of clouds and surprises.

Filament Theatre, the Northwest Side’s premier theater for young audiences, is delighted to present the magical Constellation Points’ Cloud Man from March 16 to April 14.

Cloud Man features exquisite puppetry and invites audience members to follow the clues to the very top of Cloud Mountain, where the views are always surprising. The story is told by cloud expert Cloudia, who always had her head in the clouds. All of her life, she has dreamt of seeing a Cloud Man–an extremely rare creature who lives a quiet life up high in the sky.

A cleverly staged show featuring one performer, puppets, storytelling and lots of clouds, Cloud Man explores the ways we try to make sense of the world. It encourages audiences to notice the beauty and wonder to be found in everyday life. It’s a gentle lesson in the ways we can care for the world without controlling it.

 “We are thrilled to partner with Constellation Points to bring Cloud Man to Filament. It’s been a delight to imagine all of the ways that we can enjoy the enchantment of nature and all its mystery while we think thoughtfully about what it means to care for the world around us. “ Producing Artistic Director, Reji Simon

Central to Filament’s mission is its effort to create new work not only for, but with, young audiences. Via school residencies and Filament workshops, young people will explore themes from the play to create pre- and post-show activities.

 CLOUD MAN: Cloud Man will be performed on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. from March 17 through April 14. There is no performance on March 31. A sensory friendly performance will be held April 6 at 11 a.m. Field trips are available. Tickets: www.filamenttheatre.org

By Ailie Cohen and Lewis Hetherington

Directed by Alasdair Satchel

Soundtrack by Niroshini Thambar and Nik Paget-Tomlinson Illustrations by Ailie Cohen

Performed by Molly Bunder Understudy Tia Pinson

ABOUT CONSTELLATION POINTS: is the collaboration between Ailie Cohen and Lewis Hetherington, with Producer Sarah Gray. Constellation Points create playful, curious and engaging work for audiences of all ages. They create theatre which uses visuals, music, text and more to tell beautiful original stories which are full of heart, fun and magic. They create work which encourages us to reflect and think deeply and creatively about the world we live in and the challenges we face. The name Constellation Points reflects the deeply collaborative nature of the company's work. Each show is carefully constructed by a team of makers, each one being a vital and beautiful point of light in creating the constellation of that show. Work includes Cloud Man, The Secret Life of Suitcases and Rocket Post! Their work has traveled all over the world delighting audiences in China, Dubai, Egypt, Japan, America, Australia and more, as well as extensively throughout the UK.

ABOUT FILAMENT THEATRE: Filament Theatre, on Chicago’s Northwest Side, has been creating innovative theater for young audiences since 2007. Filament’s mission is to create a more equitable society by celebrating and amplifying the perspectives and experiences of young people through the performing arts. Awards: Chicago Tribune Best Off-Loop Theatre (2016), Illinois Theatre Association Award of Excellence in Theatre for Young Audiences (2020), Bayless Family Foundation Stepping Stone Grant Recipient (2022).

4041 N MILWAUKEE AVE. CHICAGO IL 60641 - (773) 270-1660 - www.filamenttheatre.org

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List: 

Adult Shows With Family Themes On Our Radar

 RAVEN THEATRE COMPANY WORLD PREMIERE

“brother sister cyborg space” 

Futuristic Climate Parable Runs February 12 - March 17, 2024

Chicago’s Raven Theatre Company today released two first look images of their upcoming World Premiere of Paul Michael Thomson’s brother sister cyborg space, set to run February 12 - March 17, 2024 (previews February 8 - 11). Directed by three-time Jeff Award winner Terry Guest, the timely tale of climate crisis appears on Raven Theatre’s stage at 6157 N. Clark St. Tickets ($45) on sale now at www.raventheatre.com. I'll be out for the press opening February 12th, so check back shortly after for my full review. 


Photo credit: Jenn Udoni (Franco Images)

In the too-close-for-comfort future, an environmental justice organizer named Giselle and her billionaire baby brother Elon are (unsurprisingly) at odds. She believes the earth and her people are worth saving; he marvels at the potential in starting over somewhere new. Meanwhile, his virtual assistant Ava has some very nuanced opinions of her own. (Who programmed her to talk so much?!) Set against the backdrop of a rapidly-accelerating climate crisis, brother sister cyborg space explores political divisions within families, an expanding definition of humanity and what we’ll do when time runs out.

Starring Matt Bowdren as “Elon,” Brittney Brown as his sister “Giselle,” and Charence Higgins as the voice of AI virtual assistant “Ava,” the production marks the second show in Raven’s 41st season.

Raven Theatre’s brother sister cyborg space runs February 12 - March 17, 2024, with previews February 8 - 11. Performances are held Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. on the Johnson Stage at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. Tickets are $45, with discounts available for students, military, and industry ($35 previews); to purchase tickets and for more information about Raven Theatre’s 41st season, visit www.raventheatre.com

Dates: February 12 - March 17, 2024 (Previews February 8 - 11)

Schedule: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m.

Location: Raven Theatre (6157 N. Clark St.)

Tickets: General Admission: $45; Student, Military, and Industry tickets $15. Previews $35.

Box Office: www.raventheatre.com.


ABOUT RAVEN THEATRE COMPANY

Raven Theatre tells stories of today and the past that connect us to our cultural landscape. Through its plays, as well as its educational programming, Raven is committed to serving our communities’ needs through the arts. Raven Theatre Company is funded in part by Polk Bros Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, S&C Electric Company Fund, Paul M. Angell Foundation, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. For more information: www.raventheatre.com

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Aurora’s Paramount Theatre leaps into 2024 with Billy Elliot: The Musical, February 7-March 24, 2024

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List: 

Family Friendly Shows On Our Radar

Billy Elliot: The Musical 

Inspired new production of the coming-of-age tale 

directed by Trent Stork

February 7-March 24, 2024




Paramount Theatre’s Billy Elliot: The Musical features “triple-threat” actors/singers/dancers Neo Del Corral (left) and Sam Duncan alternating performances in the role of Billy. Photo credit: Amy Nelson

 Neo Del Corral (left) and Sam Duncan. All Advance Production Photos by Amy Nelson


Combating prejudice with dance

Do what you love no matter what other people think. That’s the message that leaps from the stage in Billy Elliot: The Musical, originally nominated for 15 Tony Awards and a winner of ten, including Best Musical. 

I'll be out for opening night, February 16th, so check back soon for my full review. I'll always hold a soft spot for Billy Elliott, since it was the first Broadway touring production I ever reviewed reviewed for ChiILMama.com, back in 2010. My family was invited behind the scenes, to meet the four boys playing Billy on the national tour, and I got to bring my children to their first Broadway musical, at the ripe old ages of 7 and 9. I've been reviewing theatre ever since and couldn't love it more. 

      My daughter Sage, Daniel, my son Dugan, and Billy Elliot--AKA:  J.P.Viernes

Speaking of coming of age stories... Fourteen years later, these littles are now 20-22 year olds and my son has a theatre degree from Northwestern University! You never know how early exposure to theatre arts will grow. And in that wonderful 6 degrees of separation, we're still friends with Daniel's mom, Amy Bizzarri, who is now the author of many fabulous travel books and writes for Choose Chicago. 

In more 6 degrees of separation news, we're also friends with this photographer, Amy Boyle. Her younger 2 sons were in Lane Tech's theatre production of Chicago with my son, Dugan, in 2019, and her oldest son shot photos at Northwestern with him. In 2020, Amy featured me in her series the 52 Phenomenal Women Project, a social platform and community celebrating everyday women. Through portraiture and the subject’s own words, she’s shown what makes them phenomenal right now. Now all 3 of her sons are talented photographers, and her oldest, Colin's work can be seen weekly at Block Club Chicago. 

Who knows what the future holds for these young Paramount Billy Elliot actors and this photographer, Amy Nelson... You could be seeing the future famous! We've covered Broadway's touring Billy Elliot in 2010 and Drury Lane's Billy Elliot in 2015. We can't wait to see what 2024 and Paramount Theatre's Billy Elliot brings.

Aurora’s Paramount Theatre's 
Billy Elliot: The Musical 

Meet Billy Elliot, an 11-year-old English boy who stumbles upon a ballet class during his weekly boxing lesson. His surprise love for dance must be hidden at all costs, especially from his coal miner father. With help from his sharp-tongued teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy gets the chance to attend a prestigious ballet school and must decide what is most important: doing what he loves or doing what other people want. 

Paramount Theatre rings in 2024 with an inspired new production of this popular coming-of-age tale, set to the music of Elton John, book and lyrics by Lee Hall, directed by Trent Stork. Performances are February 7-March 24, 2024. 


Trent Stork

Director Trent Stork, Paramount’s Artistic Producer and Casting Director, won their first Jeff Award, Director-Musical-Large, in 2022 for Paramount’s Kinky Boots. Stork also helmed Paramount’s current holiday season blockbuster, the Chicago Regional Premiere of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, along with last season’s School of Rock, and Into the Woods with co-director Jim Corti. 

Stork has assembled another stellar design and production team, on point to create a dazzling night of theater: Isaiah Silvia-Chandley, choreographer; Kory Danielson, music director, conductor and music supervisor; Michelle Lilly, scenic designer; Izumi Inaba, costume designer and wig, hair and makeup designer; Greg Hofmann, lighting designer; Adam Rosenthal, sound designer; Mike Tutaj, projection designer; Jesse Gaffney, properties designer; Ethan Deppe, electronic music designer; Susan Gosdick, dialect coach; John A. Tovar, fight director; Max Fabian, intimacy director; Devon Hayakawa, dramaturg; Amanda Raquel Martinez, associate director; Alex Mitchell, associate choreographer; Cameron Tragesser, associate music director and associate conductor; Jinni Pike, stage manager; Maegan Burnell and Lanita VanderSchaaf, assistant stage managers; and Bailey O’Neil and Madeline Scott, young performer supervisors.

Billy Elliot: The Musical, based on the 2000 film, features music by Elton John. Book and lyrics are by Lee Hall, who also wrote the film's screenplay, inspired in part by A. J. Cronin's 1935 novel about a miners' strike in North East England, “The Stars Look Down.” The musical premiered at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London's West End in 2005 and was nominated for nine Laurence Olivier Awards, winning four, including Best New Musical. The production ran through April 2016. Its success led to productions in Australia, Broadway, and numerous other countries. In New York, it won ten Tony Awards and ten Drama Desk Awards, including, in each case, Best Musical. It was originally directed by Stephen Daldry. Orchestrations are by Martin Koch.

Times, dates and ticket information

Previews start Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at 7 p.m. Opening Night is Friday, February 16 at 8 p.m. Performances run through March 24: 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 paramountaurora.com, 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, melissas@paramountarts.com or (630) 723-2461. 

Pay What You Can Performances

Paramount will offer two Pay What You Can performances of Billy Elliot: Thursday, February 8 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, February 10 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 paramountaurora.com/pay-what-you-can 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 open captioning on Thursday, March 21 at 7 p.m., and American Sign Language interpretation on Friday, March 22 at 8 p.m.

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

Sponsors

Billy Elliot: The Musical is sponsored by Clear Perspective Advisors. Paramount Theatre Broadway Season sponsors are the Dunham Foundation, the City of Aurora, BMO, ComEd and the Illinois Arts Council. 

Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora. Single tickets are $28-$79. For tickets and information, visit paramountaurora.com or call (630) 896-6666. For the latest updates, follow @paramountaurora on Facebook and Instagram, and Paramount Theatre on LinkedIn. 

Neo Del Corral (left) and Sam Duncan. All Advance Production Photos by Amy Nelson


Places please: 

Behind the scenes of Paramount’s Billy Elliot: The Musical 

Performing the title role requires a “triple-threat” young performer who can act, sing and is a highly-trained ballet dancer. Paramount has found their Billy, two of them in fact, Neo Del Corral and Sam Duncan, who will alternate in the role. 

Paramount's Billy Elliot: The Musical will feature “triple-threat” actors/singers/dancers Neo Del Corral (left) and Sam Duncan alternating in the role of Billy.


Del Corral, a veteran dancer at Miami City Ballet, has played Billy in productions in Florida and California. Duncan, from Connecticut, making his Billy debut, has many credits including John in Fun Home, the young prince in Public Theatre’s Richard III, plus TV appearances on Saturday Night Live and What We Do in the Shadows.

Principal cast members include (top, from left) Michelle Aravena (Mrs. Wilkinson), Ron E. Rains (Dad), (bottom) Barbara Robertson (Grandma) and Spencer Milford (Tony).

Youth performers are Gabriel Lafazan (Michael), Omi Lichtenstein and Elin Joy Seiler (rotating as Debbie), Charlie Long and Archer Geye (rotating as Tall Boy/Posh Boy), Levi Merlo and Eli Vander Griend (rotating as Small Boy), Ava Barabasz and Nina Poulimas (rotating as Angela Robson), Maya Keane and Meena Sood (rotating as Julie Hope), Avelyn Choi and Asha Dale Hopman (rotating as Keeley Gibson), Jojo Nabwangu and Willa Zatzenbloom (rotating as Margaret Gormley), Annabel Finch and Katie Romanski (rotating as Sharon Percy), Alexandria Rose Bell and Kavia Suri Kakodkar (rotating as Susan Parks), and Jordyn Helvie and Piper Sobel (rotating as Tracey Atkinson).

The ensemble (at press time) features Brian Bandura, Lydia Burke, Joe Foust, Neil Friedman, Nathan Gallop, Jared David Michael Grant, Dakota Hughes, Brian Hupp, Conor Jordan, Christopher Kelley, Chris Khoshaba, Kevin Kuska, Michael Earvin Martin, Matt Miles, Liz Pazik, Concetta Russo, Jennie Sophia and Matthew Weidenbener. 


Neo Del Corral as Billy Elliot

 

Paramount Theatre’s Billy Elliot: The Musical features Michelle Aravena (left) as Mrs. Wilkinson and Neo Del Corral as Billy. Note: Neo alternates performances as Billy with Sam Duncan.

 

Neo Del Corral as Billy Elliot

 

Michelle Aravena (left) plays Mrs. Wilkinson and Sam Duncan is Billy Elliot

Sam Duncan plays Billy in Paramount Theatre’s Billy Elliot: The Musical. Sam shares the role with Neo Del Corral.









SHORT SHAKESPEARE! ROMEO AND JULIET Via Chicago Shakespeare Theater February 24–March 16, 2024

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

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents

SHORT SHAKESPEARE! ROMEO AND JULIET

75-minute adaptation of the tragic romance offers a perfect introduction to Shakespeare


Welcoming thousands of students from across Chicagoland and beyond to weekday matinees

Public performances Saturdays at 11:00 a.m., February 24–March 16

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents a perfect introduction to Shakespeare’s work for young audiences with a 75-minute abridgement of Romeo and Juliet, adapted and directed by Mikael Burke. This production reimagines Shakespeare’s tale of young love found—and tragically lost—in the 1980s. During a four-week run of weekday matinees, Chicago Shakespeare will welcome thousands of middle and high school students from across the region to the Courtyard Theater. In addition, performances are open to the public on Saturdays at 11:00 a.m., February 24–March 16, 2024. After each performance, the actors remain on stage for a question-and-answer session about the production. Tickets for public performances start at just $26 for students ages 18 and under.

Verona burns under summer's heat—and the division of two prominent families. Against a backdrop of violence and an endless cycle of vengeance, this adaptation of Shakespeare’s text poses a profound question—can true love survive in a divided community? Combining Shakespeare's original verse, dynamic staging, and a high-energy 1980s setting, Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet offers a new lens for young people to experience this enduring tale.

Adapter and director Mikael Burke said, “It's a cautionary tale that proves if we can't figure out how to disentangle love from violence in our world, violence will always win. And every time it does, we stand to lose the greatest and purest things in life. That was true 400 years ago and is certainly still true today. Love and violence are scarily and upsettingly tied together in this play in a way we don't always consider, but Shakespeare really commands us to pay attention to how closely these two things are related—and hopefully compel us to action.”

Burke is a Princess Grace Award winner and Jeff Award nominee, with credits at Goodman Theatre, TimeLine Theatre Company, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, and more in Chicago, as well as regionally with Yale Repertory Theatre, Theatreworks Hartford, Forward Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, and more. He previously served as the associate artistic director at About Face Theatre and is an adjunct faculty member at DePaul and Roosevelt Universities.

The company of Romeo and Juliet features Kenneth La'Ron Hamilton as Romeo and Felicia Oduh as Juliet. The company also includes Adeoye (Prince/Apothecary), Bobby Bowman (Gregory/Lord Montague), Ronald L. Conner (Lord Capulet), Jack DeCesare (Paris/Abraham), Barbara Figgins (Nurse), Rasell Holt (Mercutio), Carolyn Kruse (Lady Capulet), Ian Maryfield (Tybalt), Alex Benito Rodriguez (Benvolio), Donovan Session (Sampson/Peter), and Jonah D. Winston (Friar Laurence). Understudies include Diego Longoria, Carlos Olmedo, Bradford Stevens, Pricilla Torres, and Sarafina Vecchio.

Creating the world of Romeo and Juliet are Choreographer Frankie DiCiaccio, Scenic Designer Alyssa Mohn, Costume Designer Gregory Graham, Lighting Designer Eric Watkins, and Original Music and Sound Designer Ethan Korvne. Also joining Burke on the creative team are Intimacy Director Courtney Abbott, Fight Choreographer Rachel Flesher, Verse Coach Tyler Meredith, Assistant Director Christina Casano, Casting Director Bob Mason, Stage Manager Danny Fender, and Assistant Stage Manager Lucy Whipp.

Chicago Shakespeare’s Short Shakespeare! series is part of the Theater’s nationally recognized Team Shakespeare education programs, which have impacted two million students to date. Chicago Shakespeare brings Shakespeare’s work to life in the school curriculum—through live performance, professional learning for educators, comprehensive teaching resources, and opportunities for students to perform Shakespeare. These initiatives—in concert with the free citywide Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks tour and summer family musical series—exemplify the Theater’s steadfast commitment to young audiences.

Accessible and enhanced performances for Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet include:

ASL-interpreted & Open-captioned performance – Saturday, March 9, 2024, at 11:00 a.m. All dialogue and lyrics are translated into American Sign Language by two certified interpreters. Also, a text display of the words and sounds heard during a play, will be synced live with the action onstage.

Short Shakespeare! Romeo and Juliet will be presented to the public on Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. from February 24–March 16, 2024, in Chicago Shakespeare’s Courtyard Theater. Single tickets ($26 for audience members age 18 and under; $42 for adults) are on sale now. Special discounts will be available for groups of 10 or more. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater’s website at www.chicagoshakes.com.

ABOUT CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE THEATER

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. www.chicagoshakes.com.

Northlight Theatre's Selling Kabul January 25 – February 25, 2024

ChiIL Mama’s ChiIL Picks List: 

Adult Shows With Family Themes On Our Radar

Northlight Theatre continues 2023-2024 season with

Selling Kabul

By Sylvia Khoury

Directed by Hamid Dehghani


January 25 – February 25, 2024


Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, continues its 2023–2024 season with the suspenseful 2022 Pulitzer Prize Finalist Selling Kabul by Sylvia Khoury, directed by recent Northlight Artistic Fellow Hamid Dehghani. The production runs January 25 – February 25, 2024, at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie. I'll be out for the press opening February 2, so check back soon for my full review. 

The 2022 Pulitzer Prize Finalist is a suspenseful drama about family and sacrifice. Taroon once served as an interpreter for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Now that the Americans have withdrawn — along with their promises of protection — Taroon spends his days in hiding, a target of the increasingly powerful Taliban. On the day his son is born, he must choose between staying safe but trapped in his sister’s apartment or risking his life to see his child.

The cast of Selling Kabul includes Owais Ahmed (Taroon), Ahmad Karnal (Jawid), Aila Ayilam Peck (Afiya), and Shadee Vossoughi (Leyla).

The creative team includes Joseph Johnson (set design), David Arevalo (costume design), Maximo Grano de Oro (light design), Josh Schmidt (sound design), Mariah Bennett (props design). Juan Barrera López is the assistant director, Awesta Zarif and Sahar Sediqi are the Cultural Consultants, and Rita M. Vreeland is the stage manager.


About the Artists

Hamid Dehghani (Director) is a director, playwright, and actor, recently seen in Northlight’s Andy Warhol in Iran. He was born and raised in Iran and considers Buraki-ye Olya his hometown. Select acting credits in Iran: Barren (Iran International Fadjr Theatre Festival); Afsooskhar, The Archbishop’s Ceiling (Khourshid Theatre); Equus (Farabi Hall- best acting award at IIFUT); Charlie (Molavi Theatre), Rhinocéros (University of Tehran); The Legend of Nimrooz (Fooladshahr Theatre). Select short film: Jade Farei (best short film at Tehran International Short Film Festival); Yek Bar Se; Occasion; Unbreakable Mirrors; Night Story Of The Boulevard; Who is Going All This Way; Monologue C473; and To Die in Place of Another One. Select directing: From the Environs of Milad, Sohrab’s Transgression (original scripts); A Moment of Silence, Eurydice, and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Northwestern). In 2020, he co-founded Grass Studio Theatre. 

Owais Ahmed (Taroon) has appeared in Guards at the Taj (Milwaukee Rep), Small Mouth Sounds (Alliance Theatre), Heartland (Geva Theatre), The Invisible Hand (Steep Theatre, Jeff Award Recipient), The Hard Problem (Court Theatre), Orange (Mixed Blood Theatre), and The Qualms (Steppenwolf Theatre). Film/TV credits include: Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (Dir. Zack Snyder), Age Of Ice (Dir. Emile Edwin Smith), Empire (Dir. John Singleton) & Chicago Fire (NBC, Dir. Reza Tabrizi). 

Ahmad Kamal (Jawid) is a resident of Washington DC and has worked as an actor and fight choreographer with numerous theater companies, including Signature Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Mosaic Theater Company, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and many more. He holds a BFA from The University of Virginia and an MA from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

Aila Ayilam Peck (Afiya) returns to Northlight where she previously appeared in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley. Other Chicago credits include: Night Watch (Raven), A Distinct Society (Writers); Hatefuck (First Floor); Shakuntala (Goodman Future Labs); This Wide Night, Five Mile Lake (Shattered Globe); Birdland (Steep); The Royal Society Of Antarctica (The Gift);  1984 (Steppenwolf for Young Adults).  Regional credits include: House Of Joy (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); Brahman/I, A One-Hijra Stand-Up Comedy Show, Proof (Kitchen Theatre); The Who And The What (Huntington Theatre); A Doll’s House, Twelfth Night, Macbeth (American Players Theatre). She is a proud graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Shadee Vossoughi (Leyla) is making her Northlight Theatre debut. Shadee is a Chicago-based actor, writer, and improviser originally from Portland, OR. Most recently she was seen in Sanaz Toossi’s Wish You Were Here at Yale Repertory Theatre. Notable collaborations include work with Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, First Floor Theater, Silk Road Rising, The Second City, iO Theatre, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. TV/Film credits include: Redwood Highway, The Bear (FX), The Big Leap (Fox). Training: B.F.A., Southern Oregon University; NBCUniversal Bob Curry Fellowship at The Second City.

Dates:

Previews begin January 25, 2024

Regular run: February 3-25, 2024


Featuring:

Owais Ahmed (Taroon), Ahmad Karnal (Jawid), Aila Ayilam Peck (Afiya), and Shadee Vossoughi (Leyla)


Schedule: 

Tuesdays: 7:30pm (January 30 only)

Wednesdays: 1:00pm and 7:30pm

Thursdays: 7:30pm 

Fridays: 7:30pm

Saturdays: 2:30pm (except January 27) and 7:30pm

Sundays: 2:30pm and 7:00pm (January 28 only)


An Open Captioned and Relaxed/Sensory Friendly performance will be held on February 16 at 7:30pm. An Open Captioned and Audio Described/Touch Tour performance will be held on February 17 at 2:30pm.


Location: Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore

Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd,

Skokie


Tickets: Previews: $39-$74

Regular run: $49-$89

Student tickets are $15, any performance (subject to availability)


Box Office: The Box Office is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie.

847.673.6300; northlight.org


Up-to-date Covid-19 related policies can be found at northlight.org/health-safety.

Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.

Founded in 1974, the organization has mounted over 240 productions, including more than 45 world premieres. Northlight has earned 217 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 36 Awards, as well as 11 Edgerton Foundation for New Play Awards. As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.

Northlight is supported in part by generous contributions from the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation; BMO Harris Bank; Bulley and Andrews; Byline Bank; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; CoBank; ComEd, An Exelon Company; Eckenhoff Saunders; Evanston Arts Council; Evanston Community Foundation; Lloyd A. Fry Foundation; Full Circle Foundation; The Gross Foundation; Gruman Butkus Associates; Hagerty Consulting; John R. Halligan Fund; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Illinois Humanities; Katten Muchin Roseman LLP; Kirkland & Ellis Foundation; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation;  Modestus Bauer Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Niles Township; NorthShore University HealthSystems; Northwestern University; The Offield Family Foundation; PNC Bank; Polsinelli; Pritzker Foundation; Ralla Klepak Trust for the Performing Arts; Room & Board; Sanborn Family Foundation; The Saints Foundation; Dr. Scholl Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; The Sullivan Family Foundation; and Tom Stringer Design Partners.


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