More Details Announced for Ravinia's 2007 Musicals Season

Ravinia Festival Chairman Michael E. Lavin and President and CEO Welz Kauffman today announced details of the 2007 season of music theater and dance events. Highlights include new productions of the musicals The Most Happy Fella and West Side Story; a Broadway night featuring powerhouse vocalists and Ravinia favorites Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald; the Martinis at the Martin series showcasing Heather Headley, Hershey Felder, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Lillias White; diverse dance events by such companies as Mark Morris Dance Group, Rubberbandance, The Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theater and Concert Dance, Inc.; and two national radio broadcasts of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion and Christopher O'Riley's From the Top.

"The one thing that I love about this festival is that it is just that, a festival where you can enjoy every kind of art including music theater, dance, cabaret and even live radio. We're not limited to what we can present to people, and we enjoy watching our patrons have the full Ravinia experience, whether that's sitting in the pavilion during a Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert, listening to a Broadway singer in the Martin Theatre or watching dancers create visual art to wonderful music," said Kauffman.


Based on Sidney Howard's 1924 play They Knew What They Wanted, Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella revolves around the complications that arise when Tony, an aging Italian vineyard owner, proposes by mail to Rosabella, a young waitress who once served him in a San Francisco restaurant. Rosabella has no recollection of Tony, but accepts his proposal, largely because he has sent her a picture of Joe, his handsome ranch hand.

Tony Award-winner George Hearn, who won raves in Ravinia's productions of Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music and is fresh from his triumphant role as the Wizard of Oz in the Broadway production of Wicked, will return to the festival to play Tony for the first time. Two-time Grammy Award-winner Sylvia McNair will play Rosabella. With over 70 recordings and two Grammy Awards, McNair's repertoire has included classical and cabaret, opera and Broadway musicals. This performance marks her sixth consecutive season at the festival. Rod Gilfry, who will play the role of Joe, in Fella has established himself as one of today's most sought-after and compelling baritones. He was last seen at Ravinia's 2004 centennial season-ending concert "Carousel of the Animals" along with McNair.

Marking his 29th Ravinia season since his 1978 festival debut, conductor Erich Kunzel has appeared on the podiums of nearly every major orchestra in North America and conducts Ravinia's annual "Labor Day Spectacular" concert. He will lead the Ravinia Festival Orchestra in this musical theater project. The Most Happy Fella will be directed by Marc Robin, who has staged over 40 productions for the Drury Lane Theatre and has directed/choreographed extensively throughout the region, garnering eight Joseph Jefferson Awards (27 nominations) and eight After Dark Awards.


Ravinia presents a fully staged revival in honor of the 50th-anniversary of the landmark musical West Side Story, with music by Leonard Bernstein, book by Arthur Laurents and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, for one performance only. Conductor John Mauceri, chancellor of the North Carolina School of the Arts, will bring a cast and crew who have been coached by veterans of the original Broadway production of the seminal hit, including Carole Lawrence and Chita Rivera. The NCSA is famous for such theater alumni as Chris Parnell, K. Todd Freeman, Tom Hulce, Mary-Louise Parker and Jada Pinkett Smith.

The tunefulness of the score has earned numerous songs a permanent place in the roster of great Broadway hits, including "Maria," "Jet Song," "One Hand, One Heart," "Somewhere," "I Feel Pretty," "Tonight" and "America." This seminal American musical features the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, whose works Ravinia has explored over the past six seasons including Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Passion, Sunday in the Park with George, Anyone Can Whistle and Gypsy to rave reviews. The original book was penned by famed American playwright, novelist, screenwriter and stage director Arthur Laurents. Jerome Robbins conceived, choreographed and directed the original production. Hailed as a groundbreaking classic, West Side Story earned Robbins his second Tony award for choreography in 1958. The new production will be directed by Gerald Freeman, who originally assisted Robbins for the world premiere. Long-time Bernstein protégé John Mauceri conducts this musical masterpiece.

Patti LuPone AND Audra McDonald

After delighting Ravinia audiences in the monumental role of Mama Rose in last summer's hit Gypsy, Patti LuPone returns with Audra McDonald, a four-time Tony Award winner and star of last year's Gala Benefit concert, for a night of musical theater delights on Aug. 26. This unstoppable team of vocalists have starred together in the festival's performances of Sondheim's Passion, (the Lincoln Center's performance with Ravinia's lead cast was later broadcast live nationally on PBS) Sunday in the Park With George and Anyone Can Whistle and are currently appearing in Los Angeles Opera's production of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. The Aug. 26 performance also features the Ravinia Festival Orchestra conducted by Ted Sperling.


Opera sings at the festival as Ravinia Music Director James Conlon brings Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Zelminsky's A Florentine Tragedy to life in two one-night-only concert performances.

One of the world's most popular operas, Madama Butterfly passionately explores the consequences of romantic devotion of a delicate Japanese geisha for an American naval officer. Soprano Patricia Racette, internationally acclaimed for her sensitive portrayal of the title role, joins tenor Frank Lopardo as Lieutenant Pinkerton along with baritone Fred Burchinal, mezzo-soprano Ning Liang, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago and Conlon conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for this masterpiece on Aug. 11.

One of the featured works involved in Conlon's Breaking the Silence series, Alexander Zemlinsky's A Florentine Tragedy tells the story of a merchant's wife involved in a love affair with a prince. When confronted, the merchant challenges the prince to a duel, in which he is victorious and his wife finally realizes her undeniable love for her husband. This one-act opera with libretto based on a story by Oscar Wilde features soprano Christine Brewer, tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, baritone James Johnson with the CSO conducted by Conlon on July 7.


Martinis at the Martin stars four Broadway stars interpreting the great American songbook. A Tony and Grammy Award-winner known most for her title role in the Elton John/Tim Rice show Aida, Heather Headley takes the Martin stage on Aug. 20 in her Ravinia debut. Fresh from his performance last year at Ravinia's Gala Benefit Evening, "Gershwin at Ravinia" and named "The Last Leading Man" by The New York Times, Brian Stokes Mitchell returns to the festival on July 9. Lillias White, star of Ravinia's 2006 music theater workshop The Princess and the Black-Eyed Pea and recipient of the prestigious Broadway "Quadruple Crown"-the Tony, Drama Desk, Peoples Choice and Outer Critics awards-opens the Martinis series on June 4 with her tribute to Cy Coleman. Actor, composer, playwright and pianist Hershey Felder returns to Ravinia after his festival sold-out debut last year with his show Monsieur Chopin. He brings his one-man show Gershwin Alone to the Martin Theater on Sept 9.

Reserved seating for these four concerts will be sold only as a series for the special price of $160. Lawn tickets will be sold for each individual concert for $10 each.


Ravinia's Ruth Page Festival of Dance this year celebrates numerous dance companies including the return of the Mark Morris Dance Group, commissioned works, world-premieres and the debut of Rubberbandance. The series kicks off with pre-season performances by Concert Dance, Inc., on May 30 and 31 in Bennett * Gordon Hall. The official performance company of the Ruth Page Foundation, Concert Dance, Inc. presents a program including Meetings Along the Edge, Etudes and the world premiere of With Timbrel and Drum. All pieces are choreographed by Artistic Director Venetia Stifler.

Ravinia Festival ventures back to the Harris Theater to present the Chicago premiere of Mark Morris Dance Group's newest sensation, Mozart Dances, for three performances Aug. 24-26. Mozart Dances received its world premiere in New York in August 2006 and has already taken critics and audiences by storm. Morris choreographed Mozart's Piano Concertos Nos. 11 and 27 and Sonata in D Major for Two Pianos for this full-evening dance. Ravinia presented the Chicago premiere of Morris's L'Allegro, il penseroso ed il moderato in 2005 to great acclaim, and as before Ravinia is staging the program at the Harris Theater in Chicago because its stage can better accommodate the technical requirements of the Mark Morris Dance Group. The piece also features Music of the Baroque conducted by Jane Glover and pianists Ursula Oppens and Amy Dissanayake.

Canadian group Rubberbandance makes their Ravinia debut in Bennett * Gordon Hall on June 7. Rubberbandance is a collection of world-class dancers from contemporary and breakdance backgrounds that innovate a mix of hip-hop dynamics and contemporary classicism and storytelling. Since its inception, the group has performed at hip-hop and contemporary dance festivals throughout North America, Europe and Japan.

Ravinia will commission three of Chicago's contemporary dance companies to create new choreographed works for a performance entitled "Splash Dance" on Sept. 5 in Bennett * Gordon Hall. Tying into Ravinia's 2007 One Score, One Chicago selection, Alexander Zemlinsky's The Mermaid, the commissions will incorporate a water theme that will be consistent with this summer's classical programming. The dance companies include Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, critically acclaimed for its exuberant, athletic and innovative repertory; Luna Negra Dance Theater, the only professional company in North America dedicated exclusively to providing Latino dance artists with the opportunities to tell their own stories; and Concert Dance, Inc.


The Joffrey Ballet returns to Ravinia during the festival's Jazz in June series to join forces with Chicago's own Ramsey Lewis Trio to fuse dance and music in the world premiere program Jazz with The Joffrey on June 22 in the pavilion. The piece is choreographed by Donald Byrd, whose resume includes works such as Broadway's The Color Purple and The Jofffrey Ballet's 2006 work Motown Suite, which was presented at last summer's festival.


Just as people enjoyed Robert Altman's film inspired by Garrison Keillor's radio classic, audiences enjoy the real show at Ravinia. A Prairie Home Companion, the cornerstone of public radio from American Public Media, will be broadcast live nationally from the pavilion on June 16. Fans who only know the show from the airwaves can get up close and personal with characters like gumshoe Guy Noir, the neighbors from Lake Woebegone and such sponsors as Powder Milk Biscuits. This sly variety show effortlessly blends eclectic musical performances with old-time sketches and local humor, all swirling around the amiable and versatile former English major, Garrison Keillor.

Pianist Christopher O'Riley brings his acclaimed radio show From the Top to Ravinia for a live national broadcast on Sept. 16 in the Martin Theatre. This public radio show introduces the next generation of classical music's most talented stars and celebrates their commitment to the arts. The show also provides interaction and education for pre-college-aged musicians, their parents and teachers. Musical guests for both shows will be named at a later date.


Tickets to all Ravinia Festival events go on sale exclusively at beginning April 19. Phone sales begin on May 20 at 847-266-5100. Please note that performances are not visible from the lawn. Ravinia is located 20 miles north of Chicago at Lake Cook and Green Bay roads in Highland Park.