Chicago Shakespeare Begins Rehearsal for Sondheim Double Bill: GYPSY and ROAD SHOW

Chicago Shakespeare Begins Rehearsal for Sondheim Double Bill: GYPSY and ROAD SHOW
Louise Pitre as Rose. Photo by Bill Burlingham.

Rehearsal begins today at Chicago Shakespeare Theater CST) for an unprecedented pairing of productions that will illuminate the work of composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim: Gypsy (CST's Courtyard Theater, February 6-March 23) and Road Show (Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, March 13-May 4), both directed by CST Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin.

With Sondheim's characteristic depth and musicality, Gypsy and Road Show each explore the ambitious pursuit of the American Dream during the defining period in our nation's history between the two world wars. Both casts gathered today at the theater to kick-off the rehearsal process and were addressed by Griffin and members of his creative teams.

"I look forward to sharing with the audience these two works side by side-revealing the American pioneer spirit in the first half of the twentieth century through the lens of two, real-life family journeys," Griffin reflected.

The stories behind Gypsy and Road Show first captivated Sondheim's interest at the same time early in his career, although audiences have only recently come to know his newest musical Road Show. Gypsy, for which he wrote the lyrics, received its Broadway premiere in 1959; whereas most of the music and lyrics he wrote for Road Show initially appeared under different titles in 1999 (Wise Guys) and 2003 (Bounce). Sondheim's lasting fascination with the themes and time period present in both works has intrigued Griffin, and suggests that the pairing could allow the musicals to inform one another and shed new light on each piece. "Much in the way that Chicago Shakespeare Theater is committed to the entire Shakespeare canon," Griffin points out, "this pairing is consistent with the Theater's commitment to fully exploring a writer's work-bringing together a company of artists to embrace the most beloved works as well as those that are lesser known."

With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Gypsy was inspired by the memoirs of famed burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee. The musical fable is a vibrant look at larger-than-life stage mother Rose, performed by Tony Award nominee Louise Pitre, who thrusts her ambitions for show business stardom onto her daughters: June, performed by Erin Burniston, and Louise, performed by Jessica Rush. Criss-crossing the country on the fading vaudeville circuit, the mother and daughters are accompanied by Rose's patient boyfriend Herbie, performed by Keith Kupferer. Family relationships are put to the test, culminating in Louise's surprising transformation into "Gypsy Rose Lee." This jewel of American musical theater boasts one show-stopping song after another-including "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Let Me Entertain You"-which will be performed by a fourteen-piece orchestra onstage.

The cast of Gypsy includes: Molly Callinan (Mazeppa), Barbara E. Robertson (Tessie Tura), Rengin Altay (Electra/Miss Cratchitt), Rhett Guter (Tulsa), Caroline Heffernan (Young Louise), Emily Leahy (Baby June), Joseph Sammour (Yonkers), Adam Fane (Angie), Brandon Haagenson (LA), Landree Fleming (Agnes), Dana Parker (Dolores), Betsy Farrar (Marjorie May), Matt DeCaro (Weber/Kringelein/Pastey), Marc Grapey (Jocko/Cigar/Phil) and John Reeger (Pop/Goldstone/Bourgeron-Cochon). The ensemble consists of Kelly Anne Krauter, Lauren Roesner, Alex Grace Paul, Maddie DePorter, Jared Rein, Cullen J. Rogers, Nate Becker, Killian Hughes and Benedict Santos Schwegel. The creative team includes Music Director Rick Fox, Choreographer Mitzi Hamilton, Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet, Costume Designer Virgil C. Johnson, Lighting Designer Philip S. Rosenberg, Sound Designers Ray Nardelli and Dan Mead and CST's resident Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal.

Road Show, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by John Weidman, is based on the true story of colorful and charismatic brothers Wilson and Addison Mizner and follows the duo on a freewheeling adventure as they scheme for success. Wheeling and dealing their way across North America, the brothers travel from the Alaskan gold Rush to the Florida real estate boom, all while reinventing themselves, separating and reuniting.

The cast of Road Show features: Michael Aaron Lindner (Addison Mizner), Robert Lenzi (Hollis Bessemer), Anne Gunn (Mama Mizner) and Larry Adams (Papa Mizner). The ensemble includes McKinley Carter, Matt Deitchman, Jim DeSelm, Derek Hasenstab, Regina Leslie, Jake Mahler, and Bri Sudia. Complete casting will be announced soon. The creative team includes Music Director Michael Mahler, Scenic Designer Scott Davis, Costume Designer Mara Blumenfeld and Lighting Designer Greg Hofmann. In addition to lending their talents to Gypsy, Sound Designer Ray Nardelli and Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal will also design for Road Show.

Road Show features the same Sondheim-Weidman writing partnership behind Pacific Overtures (2001), the first Sondheim musical at CST directed by Griffin, which began the Theater's exploration of Sondheim's work more than a decade ago. That production went on to win the Joseph Jefferson Awards for Best Production and Best Director and transferred to the Donmar Warehouse in London where it was recognized with three Laurence Olivier Awards, including Outstanding Production of a Musical. Since that first, storied production, Griffin's interpretations of Sondheim at CST have included Sunday in the Park with George (2012, 2002), Follies (2011), Passion (2007) and A Little Night Music (2003).

Find a complete performance listing and bios of the cast and creative teams on the production home pages for Gypsy (www.chicagoshakes.com/gypsy) and Road Show (www.chicagoshakes.com/roadshow).

Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of Gypsy runs February 6 through March 23 in CST's Courtyard Theater. Road Show runs March 13 through May 4 in the theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare. Tickets are on sale now for $40-$78 with special discounts available for groups of 10 or more, as well as CST for $20 tickets available for patrons under 35. All patrons receive a 40% discount on guaranteed parking in Navy Pier garages. For more information or to purchase tickets or a season subscription, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater's website at www.chicagoshakes.com.

CST is committed to providing free and varied enrichment programming in conjunction with every production through Open Door programs, introducing patrons to the rich world of ideas embodied on its stages. Interactions with scholars, theater artists and CST's professional staff in Pre·Ambles, Cast Calls and Post-Show Discussions offer audience members the opportunity to dig deeper into great plays and the art-making behind them. Learn more about Open Door programs here for Gypsy and Road Show.

CST strives to make its facility and performances accessible to all patrons through its Access Shakespeare programs, including ASL Duo-interpreted for audience members with hearing impairments, and Audio-described performances and touch tours for patrons with visual impairments. Schedules for Access Shakespeare performances can be found here for Gypsy and Road Show.

ABOUT Chicago Shakespeare Theater: A global theatrical force, Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) is known for vibrant productions that reflect Shakespeare's genius for storytelling, language and empathy for the human condition. CST has evolved into a dynamic company, producing award-winning plays at their home on Navy Pier, throughout Chicago's schools and neighborhoods, and on stages around the world. Chicago Shakespeare serves as a partner in literacy to Chicago Public Schools, working alongside English teachers to help struggling readers connect with Shakespeare in the classroom, and bringing his text to life on stage for 40,000 students every year. And each summer, 17,000 families and audience members of all ages welcome the free Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks into their neighborhoods across the far north, west and south sides of the city. Reflecting the global city of their Chicago home, CST is the leading producer of international work in Chicago and has toured their own plays abroad to Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.

The Theater's tradition of excellence and civic leadership has been honored with numerous national and international awards, including the Regional Theater Tony Award®, three Laurence Olivier Awards, and seventy-seven total Joseph Jefferson Awards. CST was the 2012 recipient of the Folger Shakespeare Library's national Shakespeare Steward Award for innovative teaching of Shakespeare in American classrooms. Among its many international engagements, CST participated in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2006 Complete Works Festival and was selected to represent North America at the Globe to Globe festival as part of London's 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

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