Yaw Agyeman and More Star in CCT's New R&B Family Musical MR. CHICKEE'S FUNNY MONEY, Now thru 3/2

Yaw Agyeman and More Star in CCT's New R&B Family Musical MR. CHICKEE'S FUNNY MONEY, Now thru 3/2
Yaw Agyeman as Mr. Chickee. Photo by Tyler Core.

Chicago Children's Theatre has announced casting for its world premiere of Mr. Chickee's Funny Money, an all-new, rhythm and blues family musical playing tonight, January 18 - March 2, 2014 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, Chicago. Press opening is Friday, January 24 at 7 p.m.

Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, critically acclaimed for his portrayal of Benny in Paramount Theatre's fall opener In the Heights and currently playing the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol at Theatre at the Center, leads the A-list cast of Chicago's top professional musical theater performers as 10-year old Steven. Ashley Elizabeth Honore, seen in Southbridge at Chicago Dramatists and Home at Court Theatre, plays Steven's friend Richelle. Travis Turner, who played the title role last season in CCT's Bud, Not Buddy, and appeared in Porgy and Bess, Tartuffe and The Misanthrope at Court Theatre, will play Steven's friend Russell. Acclaimed Chicago soul singer Yaw Agyeman is cast as Mr. Chickee. Alexis J. Rogers, 2013 Equity Jeff Award winner as Billie Holiday in Porchlight's Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, will play dual roles - Steven's mother Lynetta and Madame Director. Bear Bellinger, who appeared in Paramount's Miss Saigon and Court's Porgy and Bess, will play Steven's father, Elmwood. Elena Flores, Lisa in the Broadway production and national tour of Mamma Mia, will play Agent 2. BrIan Grey, recently in The Wheel at Steppenwolf and a veteran of CCT's Bud, Not Buddy, plays Agent Fondoo. Puppeteer Sam Deutsch (Redmoon's The Cabinet) will bring fun, funky life to Steven's loyal dog, Zoopy.

CCT's newest family musical is adapted from the best-selling young adult book of the same name by Christopher Paul Curtis, who also penned Bud, Not Buddy, the Newbery Award-winning book which spawned Chicago Children's Theatre's 2013 smash hit play Bud, Not Buddy. Mr. Chickee's Funny Money features music and lyrics by Motown legend Lamont Dozier and his son, co-music writer/lyricist Paris Dozier. The book is by David Ingber, with musical supervision, orchestrations and arrangements by Brian Usifer. Kevin Iega Jeff (co-founder and artistic director of Deeply Rooted Dance Company) will choreograph. Derrick Sanders (director of CCT's recent smash hits Bud, Not Buddy and Jackie and Me) will direct.

Mr. Chickee's Funny Money follows the misadventures of 10-year-old Steven, a self-proclaimed spy and president of the "Flint Future Detectives Club." At the heart of this whimsical story is a highly intelligent, out-of-the-box thinker, and entrepreneurial boy, who discovers that family, friends, imagination and determination are the true keys to success and that sharing the spotlight with others can make one even richer.As Steven and his friends plot to save Flint from financial ruin, Mr. Chickee's Funny Money grooves to a diverse new set list of original songs all played by a live band and so high-energy and entertaining that kids won't even know they're being treated to a celebration of contemporary African American music through the decades, including Motown, disco, rap, rock, soul, jazz and hip hop. Mr. Chickee's Funny Money brings generations of music lovers together in an adventurous story of mystery.

Single tickets to Mr. Chickee's Funny Money are on sale now, and start at $25. To purchase, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (872) 222-9555. For information on discounted group rates for schools, playgroups, birthday parties and scouting organizations, visit GroupTix.net or call (773) 327-3778. Mr. Chickee's Funny Money is recommended for ages 6 and up.

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

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

Born in Flint, Michigan, Christopher Paul Curtis (author, Mr. Chickee's Funny Money) was always a great reader, but as a youth he could not find books "that were about me." He spent his first 13 years after high school on the assembly line of Flint's historic Fisher Body Plant #1, hanging 80-pound car doors on Buicks. He wrote during his breaks to escape the noise of the factory, while attending college at night. Curtis made an outstanding debut in children's literature with The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963. His second novel, Bud, Not Buddy, is the first book ever to receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award. His books include Mr. Chickee's Funny Money, its sequel Mr. Chickee's Messy Mission and Bucking the Sarge.

Derrick Sanders (director) is Founding Artistic Director of Congo Square Theatre Company, a Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year in 2005, and winner of multiple Joseph Jefferson Awards and Black Theater Alliance Awards. His most recent collaborations with Chicago Children's Theater - last season's Bud, Not Buddy and the 2011 world premiere of Jackie and Me, written by Steven Dietz, based on the book by Dan Gutman - both enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and nearly sold-out runs at the Ruth Page. CCT's version of Jackie and Me has since received productions at Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, New York's Atlantic Theatre Company, and in Seattle, Houston and St. Louis. The script was recently published by Dramatic Publishing.

Brian Usifer (music supervision, orchestrations and arrangements) was music director of Kinky Boots on Broadway, associate music supervisor of The Book of Mormon on Broadway, and played in the orchestra of Broadway and off-Broadway productions of The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee, Avenue Q, Altar Boyz, Sister Act, Wicked and Burnt Part Boys.

David Ingber (book) is a New York-based writer/composer. His musicals include Fantasy Football: The Musical and Zombies Actually. He writes video content for the Major League Baseball Fan Cave, and he has written for web series including ESPN's Mayne Street with Kenny Mayne and Microsoft's Fasterpiece Theater.

The design team is Courtney O'Neill (scenic design); Rebecca Jeffords (lighting design); Ray Nardelli (sound); Christine Pascual (costume design); Kevin Iega Jeff (choreography); Margaret Goddard-Knop (properties design); and Sam Deutsch (puppet design). Dennis Conners is production stage manager.

Mr. Chickee's Funny Money received its first staged reading at the Apollo Theater in February of 2012 directed by Kim Rubinstein. It was workshopped in Summer 2013 at the American Music Theatre Project at Northwestern University's In the Works program, supported in part by an Arts Work grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

Chicago Children's Theatre's world premiere of Mr. Chickee's Funny Money is presented in association with Funny Money Enterprises and Bisno Productions. CCT's world premiere of Mr. Chickee's Funny Money will be followed by a New York production at The Atlantic Theater Company in Spring 2014.

Mr. Chickee's Funny Money performance schedule: Previews of Mr. Chickee's Funny Money are tonight and Sunday, January 18 and 19 at 11 a.m; and Tuesday through Friday, January 21-24 at 10 a.m. Press opening is Friday, January 24 at 7 p.m. Performances that weekend are Saturday, January 25 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Sunday January 26 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Performances continue through February 2: Tuesday at 10 a.m., Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., Thursday at 10 a.m., Friday at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m., and Sunday at 11 a.m. Starting the week of February 3 through February 23, regular performance times are Tuesday at 10 a.m., Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., Thursday at 10 a.m., Friday at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and Sunday at 11 a.m. *Please note: The Friday, February 14, 6:30 p.m. performance of Mr. Chickee's Funny Money is Autism-Friendly. The entire house is reserved exclusively for families with children on the autism spectrum. This creates a safe, welcoming environment for children with autism, where nobody needs to worry if a child gets loud or active. All seats are $25.

The final week of performances are Wednesday and Thursday, February 26 and 27 at 10 a.m.; Friday, February 28 at 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 1 at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., and Sunday, March 2 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Tickets are $25 for children and adults to Friday night performances. Tickets to weekend shows are $28 for children, $38 for adults. To purchase, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call (872) 222-9555. For discounted school, scout, playgroup, extended family and other group rates, visit GroupTix.net or call (773) 327-3778. Running time is approximately 75 minutes with no intermission.

Chicago Children's Theatre (CCT) focuses on the production of first-rate children's theatre, with top writing, performing and directorial talent and high-quality design and production expertise. CCT aspires to enrich our community through diverse and significant theatrical and educational programming that engages and inspires the child in all of us. Launched in 2005, Chicago Children's Theatre strives to provide affordable and accessible theatre for families and area school children. To enhance the impact of any given production's themes, Chicago Children's Theatre offers educational materials and programs for families and educators.

Led by Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell, and Board Chair Todd Leland, the company is supported by a committed Artistic Council of Chicago-based actors, directors, musicians and designers, and a dynamic Board of Directors comprised of dedicated individuals from the fields of entertainment, philanthropy and business. Officers include David Saltiel, President; Jacqueline Tilton, Vice Chair; Lynn Lockwood Murphy, Vice Chair and Secretary; and David Chung, Treasurer. Chicago Children's Theatre is sponsored in part by ComEd, Goldman Sachs Gives, JPMorgan Chase and Target. For more information about Chicago Children's Theatre visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org.

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