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Julia Murney, Cathy Rigby & More to Take Part in Academy of the Arts Concert


Performers also include Karen Mason, Zonya Love, Stephen Wallem and more.

Julia Murney, Cathy Rigby & More to Take Part in Academy of the Arts Concert

Academy of the Arts, a new, west-suburban, non-profit academic and art school projected to open in fall 2025, will host its first fundraiser gala and concert at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at North Central College's Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville. The concert will feature stars from some of Broadway's biggest shows.

Performers include Julia Murney who last appeared on Broadway in Wicked; former gymnast turned Peter Pan Cathy Rigby; Karen Mason who most recently played Mrs. Marsh in Ryan Murphy's Halston on Netflix; Zonya Love who played Celie in The Color Purple; Stephen Wallem known for his role as Thor Lundgren on Nurse Jackie; Chadae Nichol, a Joliet native who made her Broadway debut in Motown the Musical; and Meecah who is currently on tour with Hamilton.

"We are thrilled to see this level of support from the Broadway arts community for this event and our mission," said Academy co-founder Dylan Ladd. "We anticipate a strong level of support from the west suburban community as well."

Ladd's mission is to build and open the school for grades 6 through 12, offering the core academic areas of math, reading, language arts, social studies and science, along with a range of visual arts and performing arts programs, by the 2025-26 academic year.

"We have a lot of work ahead before we have our state-of-the-art facility and our first class of full-time students," Ladd said. "And that work moving forward is funding the project."

The facility is a planned world-class arts center: A 1,200-seat auditorium with a proscenium stage, fly loft and orchestra pit, an outdoor amphitheater, a modular black box theater and dance studios, and academic classrooms.

The non-profit Academy's year-one fundraising goal is $2 million from which it anticipates building momentum toward the $80 million needed to break ground and build the new facility.

"Community support is critical to meet our goal to fully open in fall 2025," Ladd said. "It sounds lofty, but we've done the research and have the data: This is the right location with the level of community engagement needed to bring this asset to the families of Naperville and surrounding suburbs."

Tickets to the gala are priced at $100 for the event that includes a cocktail hour, concert, silent auction and a reception, and can be ordered at Hotel Arista, Naperville's only AAA Four Diamond hotel, is offering a special group rate for gala ticketholders. Call 630-579-4100 to request the Academy of the Arts rate.

Learn more about the Academy, its gala and other opportunities to support its mission at

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