Sunday, March 10, 2024

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Marriott Theatre's Highly Recommended JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH Through March 30, 2024

ChiIL Mama’s Chi, IL Picks List: 

Family Friendly Shows On Our Radar

Roald Dahl’s 

Peter Blair, Executive Producer 

Peter Marston Sullivan, Artistic Director 

Katie Johannigman, Associate Artistic Director 


A delightfully offbeat adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl adventure 

Two of ChiIL Mama's lucky readers will win 4 tickets each!

ChiIL Mama and Marriot are partnering up on 2 giveaways, once again. Marriott's Theatre for Young Audiences James and the Giant Peach: 2 winner/4 tickets each ($60 value) And/Or Marriott Theatre's In The Heights: 2 winners/a pair of tickets each ($120 value). Winners' choice of any dates through March 17th pending availability. Enter at the end of this feature for your chance to win. 


By Bonnie Kenaz-Mara 

Highly Recommended. ★★★★ Four out of four stars. Bonnie Kenaz-Mara,

Roald Dahl’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is imagination incarnate. The book, film, and stage adaptation have long been family favorites of ours. In the capable hands of director/choreographer, Tommy Rapley, this story comes alive on stage at Marriott in all it's glory. Adults will adore this colorful cast and stellar storytelling as much as the kids do. Kudos to all the humans and bugs on cast and crew for a truly delightful production. When we caught opening weekend, the young kids in the audience were laughing often and entirely engaged with the on stage magic and mayhem. 

I had the special delight of sharing the experience with 3 recent graduates of Northwestern University's theatre program, including my son, who had director/choreographer, Tommy Rapley, as their acting professor for 4 years. They were all enthusiastic fans of the production, and I can't tell you how jazzed I am to still be able to bring twenty somethings to a Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences show! My kids grew up on Chicago regional children's theatre and I'm so excited that my oldest is now working in the industry and getting the next generation of kids introduced to the wonder and joy of live theatre. Studies show exposing kids to theatre increases empathy and creativity. And you never know what a show might spark and what future plans may unfold. 

ChiIL Mama, Bonnie Kenaz-Mara (left) with 3 of director/choreographer, Tommy Rapley's students who recently graduated from Northwestern University, including my son, Dugan (right). 

Marriot's JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is such a fun show. The costumes, puppets, props, music, and staging are playful and a joy to see. We particularly loved the unique choreography for Marriott's theatre in the round configuration which played out on multiple levels and directions so even the youngest audience members have great sight-lines. 

We also dug the steamer trunks lining the perimeter of the stage, providing a treasure trove of props and costume changes. 

The entire cast is hilarious and crazy talented. Special shout out to Kai Edgar as “James,” Andrés Enriquezas “Earthworm,” Lucy Godinez as “Aunt Sponge,” and Leah Morrow as “Aunt Spiker”.

The puppets are a must see. Don't miss this! 

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

Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences invites theatergoers of all ages on a remarkable voyage with Roald Dahl’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. Roald Dahl’s beloved story is brought to fantastical musical life, running through March 30, at 10 Marriott Drive. The one-hour musical journey is directed and choreographed by Tommy Rapley with music direction by Ryan T. Nelson. Each performance will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the cast.  

“I am thrilled to be bringing  James and the Giant Peach  to Marriott Lincolnshire families,” said director Tommy Rapley. “This whimsical musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic contains the perfect blend of playful, spooky, heartwarming, mysterious, imaginative, and downright hilarious storytelling that I love as a director. The themes of forgiveness, the importance of family, and the boundless love between parent and child are particularly moving and vitally important to share with young audiences. At the heart of our story, James is the ideal character to welcome young people into adventure, as he leads young audiences on a journey that blends grief, hope, love, and joy." 

When James is sent by his aunts to chop down their old fruit tree, he discovers a magic potion that launches an expedition of enormous proportions. Suddenly, James finds himself in the center of a gigantic peach, among human-sized insects with equally oversized personalities. After the peach rolls into the ocean, the group faces hunger, sharks and plenty of disagreements. Thanks to James' quick wit and creative thinking, they learn to live and work together as a family. Featuring a wickedly tuneful score by the Tony Award-nominated team of Pasek and Paul (La La Land, Dear Evan Hansen, The Greatest Showman) and a curiously quirky book by Timothy Allen McDonald (Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka, Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas). JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is the perfect voyage for young theatergoers.   

This production of JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH stars Kai Edgar as “James,” Andrés Enriquezas “Earthworm,” Lucy Godinez as “Aunt Sponge,” Alex Goodrich as “Ladahlord,” Christopher Kale Jones as “Green Grasshopper,” Garret Lutz as “Centipede,” Leah Morrow as “Aunt Spiker,” Juwon Tyrel Perry as “Spider”, and Elizabeth Telford as “Ladybug” with understudies Emily Ann Brooks, Crystal Claros, Milla Liss, Tommy Thurston and Annie Yokom.  

The Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences team is led by Associate Artistic Director Katie Johannigman and Interim Artistic Associate Annie Yokom, with Costume Design by Amanda Vander Byl, Lighting Design by Ben Carne, Scenic Design by Milo Bue, Wig Design by Ray Sanchez, Props Design by Leo Bassow, and Sound Design by Michael Daly. The creative team also includes Assistant Director & Choreographer Emily Ann Brooks, Dialect Coach Sammi Grant, and Stage Manager Marcus Carroll. 


JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH plays most Wednesdays through Sundays at 10 am with select 12:30 pm performances and plenty of Spring Break performances. An ASL interpreted performance will take place on March 16 at 10am. Visit or call 847.634.0200 for the exact schedule, as show times and dates vary. Tickets are $15.75 (plus tax and handling fees). Call for substantial group discounts on over 20 tickets. Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets, please call  The Marriott Theatre Box Office at  847.634.0200  or visit 

Also Now Playing Through March 17th: 

Lin-Manuel Miranda's In The Heights 

Highly Recommended!

 ★★★★ Four out of four stars, Bonnie Kenaz-Mara,


Marriott's Theatre for Young Audiences James and the Giant Peach: 2 winner/4 tickets each ($60 value). Winners' choice of any dates through March 30th (see below) pending availability. 

Enter for your chance to WIN James and the Giant Peach Tickets HERE

*Your information will never be shared or sold and will only be used in the fulfillment of this contest.

Marriott Theatre's In The Heights: 2 winners/a pair of tickets each ($120 value). Winners' choice of any dates through March 17th (see below) pending availability. 

Spring forward and WIN big, Chicago! ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows are giving away tickets to some of the hottest shows in town! Enter through midnight Monday 3/12. Winners emailed and announced Tuesday morning on both sites and social media.

Enter like we vote in Chi, IL... early and often! Good luck, and thanks for reading &, your guide to fun in Chi, IL and beyond.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Batman 1989 35th Anniversary Concert With 50-piece orchestra One night only Saturday, April 13, 2024

ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar 

'Batman 1989' Live in concert 

with 50-piece orchestra at the Auditorium Theatre Apr. 13th for film's 35th Anniversary

What’s Batman’s favorite instrument? The Bat Cymbol! 


continues with Batman 1989 35th Anniversary concert

 One night only Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 PM

At the Auditorium Theatre 

See the classic film as the Chicago Philharmonic performs the iconic score live on stage

ChiIL Mama will be there... will you?! Can't wait to catch this. 

What? A melding of pop culture and high culture... Heck yeah. We're in! Come April 13th, we'll be ChiILin' at Chi, IL's gorgeous, iconic Auditorium Theatre for Batman 1989 – 35th Anniversary Concert! 

The Auditorium Theatre (Chicago’s landmark stage at 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive) continues the inaugural season of its Auditorium Philms Concert Series, a new multi-media experience presenting iconic films brought to life with scores performed in concert by the Chicago Philharmonic, with a 35th Anniversary Celebration of the DC Superhero film Batman 1989 in concert. The movie will play on the big screen while a 50-person orchestra made up of members of the Chicago Philharmonic orchestra and conducted by James Olmstead perform the score live to the film. Audience members are encouraged to dress up as their favorite DC superhero. The one-night-only performance takes place at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E Ida B Wells Dr, Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 PM. Tickets start at $69.00 and are available at

Directed by Tim Burton and starring Hollywood all-stars Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, the classic 1989 version of Batman re-positioned the DC comic book character as one of the most popular superheroes and laid the groundwork for the popularity of superhero films today.  Scored by long-time Burton collaborator and former lead singer of Oingo Boingo Danny Elfman, the soundtrack to Batman garnered a best Album GRAMMY nomination and a GRAMMY win for the main theme.   

“After a successful kickoff to the new Auditorium Philms Series with Blade Runner in concert this past month, we are looking forward to once again collaborating with the Chicago Philharmonic for Batman 1989,” said Auditorium Theatre CEO Rich Regan. “Batman is the first superhero film of the series. Fans of movies based on comics can also look forward to Marvel Studio’s Black Panther in concert this June.”

Added Chicago Philharmonic Executive Director Terell Johnson, “We are excited to once again work with the Auditorium Theatre to bring yet another iconic film to audiences in this unique way. At the Chicago Philharmonic, we believe in expanding the concept of what an orchestra concert can be, and we love to give fans and new viewers alike the opportunity to engage with these masterpiece movies in a new and musical way." 

The inaugural 2024 Auditorium Philms Concert Series continues with Marvel Studios’ Black Panther; the North American debut of Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and the pop holiday fan favorite, Love Actually. Subscription packages with discounted tickets are available for as few as two or up to five films. Find out more information about the series at


About The Chicago Philharmonic Society 

Founded by musicians of the Lyric Opera Orchestra in 1979, The Chicago Philharmonic Society is a collaboration of nearly 200 of the highest-level classical musicians in the Midwest. The orchestra, known as the Chicago Philharmonic, has been called one of the country’s finest symphonic orchestras. The brilliance of Chicago Philharmonic’s structure is in its versatility - the organization curates the best ensemble for each concert from an exceptional pool of musicians, be it classical, jazz, pops, movie concerts, outreach programming, and everything else. Find out more about Chicago Philharmonic at

About The Auditorium Theatre

The Auditorium Theatre, located at 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive at Roosevelt University in Chicago, is an Illinois not-for-profit organization committed to presenting the finest in international, cultural, community, and educational programming to all of Chicago and beyond as The Theatre for the People. The organization also is committed to the continued restoration and preservation of this National Historic Landmark that originally opened in 1889. 

The Auditorium Theatre’s 2023-24 performance season features a dynamic mix of cultural events from ballet to rock and roll and everything in between. For more information on the Auditorium Theatre and a complete listing of events at the Auditorium Theatre, please visit


ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List: 

Family Friendly Fun


Fri Apr 26 - Sun Apr 28

Credit for all 2023 photos: Dugan Kenaz-Mara

Got your cosplay ready? It's that time of year again! Here at ChiIL Mama & ChiIL Live Shows, we've had press credentials to cover C2E2 for years. It's one of our favorite annual events to shoot as folks go all out on the costumes. We dig rampant creativity, and from Artists' Alley to handmade items in booths, C2E2 has got it in spades. 

We've had press credentials to cover since 2012, when my kids were just 10 & 12! 

We always look forward to the rampant creativity! During the pandemic, we missed the chance to get our geek on, and we were so excited to get back to covering C2E2 the past couple years. As usual, C2E2 is one of ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List for Family Friendly Fun.

My littles loving C2E2 in 2015 & 2016

ChiIL Mama as The Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff, 2023


Fri Apr 26 - Sun Apr 28 10:00AM at McCormick Place. 

From April 26 to April 28, C2E2 returns to Chicago for an unforgettable celebration of comics, cosplay, anime, wrestling and gaming for the whole family. We're pretty jazzed to meet celebrities from Stranger Things and Dune 2! Celebrities are also on tap for 2024 from Hannibal, One Tree Hill, Back to the Future, The Addams Family, Rick and Morty, Star Wars Rebels and more.

Meet celebrities from Stranger Things, Dune 2, Hannibal, One Tree Hill, Back to the Future, The Addams Family, Rick and Morty, Star Wars Rebels and so many more.

We have friends who do different characters every day and it's ahhhhmazing. 

Click here to check out our 2023 slideshow recap via my son, Dugan Kenaz-Mara (now 23), and a more of our 2023 favorites below.

Click Here for our 2023 slideshow recap 

Photo Credit: ©Dugan Kenaz-Mara 

Round up your friends and do a group theme:

Meet artists in action:


Rock your inner superhero, villain, or pop culture favs:

Even R2D2 Loves C2E2!

 C2E2 is Marvelous. Don't miss this! Get your C2E2 tickets HERE.