Chicago Opera Theater Reschedules All Performances of QUEENIE PIE After Harris Center Fire

Performances of Chicago Opera Theater's "Queenie Pie" have been rescheduled due to an electrical fire that damaged a portion of the Harris Theater's operational and mechanical equipment in the late afternoon of February 19, 2014. The Chicago Opera Theater Box Office will be contacting patrons who purchased tickets with rescheduling options. The new "Queenie Pie" performance date and times are:

  • Wednesday, March 19, 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 20, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 23, 3 p.m.

"We are committed to the satisfaction of our patrons and are working closely with the Harris Theater to ensure that they are rescheduled for one of the new performance times," said Andreas Mitisek, General Director of Chicago Opera Theater. "We appreciate everyone's patience as we work to accommodate patrons as quickly as possible as we too are eager to see 'Queenie Pie' resume its run."

Chicago Opera Theater (COT) in collaboration with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra (CJO) presents the Chicago premiere of Duke Ellington's only opera "Queenie Pie." Featuring a rousing musical score that blends Ellington's signature big band sound and clever lyrics with the musical styles of opera, jazz and musical theater. "Queenie Pie" is conducted by CJO Artistic Director Jeff Lindberg, with direction and choreography by Ken Roht. Originally commissioned by New York PBS affiliate WNET as a television piece for Lena Horne and featuring a libretto by Betty McGettigan, "Queenie Pie" was unfinished at the time of the Ellington's death in 1974. Chicago Opera Theater's production, like the handful of productions mounted by other companies in the past, interpolates additional songs from Ellington's canon to complete the score, and features a new adaptation of the libretto by Ken Roht, as well as new orchestrations by Jeff Lindberg.

"Queenie Pie' is a neglected gem, fascinating musically, dramatically and historically," said Andreas Mitisek, COT's General Director. "In keeping with our mission of producing adventurous opera experiences, particularly new and rarely performed work, we are excited to bring Chicago audiences a largely unknown piece by one of America's greatest composers."

Ellington's "street opera" tells a story inspired by the life of Madam C. J. Walker, the first female African-American self-made millionaire, who developed and sold a line of hair and beauty products. Queenie Pie's business is challenged by competing entrepreneur Café Au Lait, a younger, light-skinned beauty from New Orleans. Set in the Harlem Renaissance, the story has been refocused for COT's production by the creative team. "The goal is to contemporize the piece, and also to make the piece timeless, while dealing with challenging social issues that seem to persist," says Director/Choreographer Ken Roht.

Reviewing a 1986 production of the opera, Robert Palmer, writing for the New York Times, called "Queenie Pie" a "wonderfully vital and coherent work. In fact, it is something of a marvel. One could justifiably call it a comic opera, since the narrative is advanced primarily through song and recitative.... a superior evening's entertainment, but, more importantly, it is an evening worthy of Duke Ellington's talents."

Los Angeles-based director and choreographer Ken Roht has staged Long Beach Opera's productions of Poulenc's "The Breasts of Tiresias," Bohuslav Martinu's "Tears of a Knife" and Robert Kurka's "The Good Soldier Schweik." Roht relishes the opportunity to work on "Queenie Pie" saying, "It is an honor to lend my perspective to the original libretto...It remains an ebullient melodrama due to Mr. Ellington's amazing, multi-faceted music and the story's dreamlike, highly allegorical plot of two vastly different women, who are very much the same."

Queenie Pie is the second co-production shared between Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera, both of which are under the direction of Andreas Mitisek. The cast of "Queenie Pie" includes Karen Marie Richardson, best known for her Chicago performances in "Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz Gospel Messiah" in the title role; Anna Bowen as Café Au Lait; Keithon Gipson as Holt Faye/King; and Jeffrey Polk as Lil' Daddy. The conductor is CJO Artistic Director Jeffrey Lindberg; stage direction and chorography is by Ken Roht. The design team includes Danila Korogodsky (sets); Brandon Baruch (lights) and Dabney Ross Jones (costumes).

"Queenie Pie" will be performed at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, March 19 at 7:30 p.m.; March 20 at 7:30 p.m.; March 23 at 3 p.m. Tickets are priced from $35 - $125 and can be purchased by calling 312.704.8414 or via Tickets also can be purchased at the Harris Theater box office. The running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes, including one intermission.

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