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Porchlight Music Theatre's PorchlightPalooza Was A Success!

Porchlight's Chicago Audience and viewers from across the country celebrate Porchlight's 25th Anniversary.

Porchlight Music Theatre's PorchlightPalooza Was A Success!

Porchlight Music Theatre held PorchlightPalooza, a three-day virtual festival Friday, Aug. 21 - Sunday, Aug. 23, in lieu of its cancelled March 23 ICONS GALA.

This new virtual 25th Anniversary celebration included performances from Chicago's best talents, highlights from its award-winning history, celebrity greetings and well wishes, the presentation of the Luminary Award to Elaine Cohen and Arlen D. Rubin and culminated on Sunday, Aug. 23, with an exclusive interview hosted by legendary newsman Bill Kurtis with Porchlight's 2020 ICON Award recipient Joel Grey. PorchlightPalooza is currently available for viewing on Porchlight's YouTube page.

Porchlight Music Theatre's Executive Director Jeannie Lukow said, "PorchlightPalooza, due to its virtual format, was able to reach our loyal Porchlight fans and expand to a national audience. In terms of attendance and donations, we have exceeded any previous Porchlight gala in our 25 year history." She continued, "The response shown for PorchlightPalooza from our audience and people new to Porchlight has been unanimously positive."

Artistic Director Michael Weber added, "Trying this new format was a massive undertaking for all of us and we could not be more proud of the final result. From following social distance guidelines for filming to undertaking new technology and editing three days of one hour shows; PorchlightPalooza is something we could not be more proud of."

Porchlight Music Theatre's 25th Anniversary Season Co-Chairs Rick and Deann Bayless and Bill Kurtis and Donna La Pietra shared their highlights from this weekend. "We are so proud of what Porchlight has accomplished," La Pietra said. "We have been planning the March gala for more than a year and had to change the entire format and evening due to COVID-19. With PorchlightPalooza, we were able to still host three nights of a great event that I was able to enjoy from home with Bill and all my friends, virtually." Deann Bayless commented, "As Rick and I watched each night, singing along to each number which would not be allowed normally, we could not prevent ourselves from smiling the entire time! Porchlight's artists and staff provided three unforgettable nights of entertainment that I cannot get out of my head."

PorchlightPalooza artists included Brian Acker, Adrian Aguilar, Missy Aguilar, Charissa Armon, Neala Barron, Jayson Brooks, Caron Buinis, Lydia Burke, E. Faye Butler, Matt Crowle, Andres Enriquez, Erica Evans, David Girolmo, Lucy Godinez, Cory Goodrich, Frederick Harris, Jermaine Hill, Callie Johnson, Donterrio Johnson, James Earl Jones II, Christopher Kelley, Heidi Kettenring, Michelle Lauto, John Marshall, Jr., Alexis J Roston, Lorenzo Rush Jr, Laura Savage, Stephanie Stockstill, Joey Stone, Bethany Thomas and Gene Weygandt.

The PorchlightPalooza music directors were Michael McBride (Friday - piano/conductor) and Linda Madonia (Saturday and Sunday - piano/conductor) with Rafe Bradford (bass) and Lior Shragg (drums).

The weekend also shared well wishes and greetings from artists saluting Grey's influence on music theatre including Bob Balaban, Patrick Cassidy, Kristin Chenoweth, Raul Esparza, cast members from the recent off-Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, Josh Gad, Larry Grossman, John Kander, Tom Kitt, David Mamet, Joe Mantegna, Howard McGillin, Mandy Patinkin, Benj Pasek, Tonya Pinkins, Bernadette Peters, Lonny Price, Chita Rivera, Susan Sampliner, Susan Stroman, Paul Oakley Stovall, Ben Vereen, Bruce Villanch, Stephen Wallem and Maury Yeston.

The production team included Michael Weber (director), Shanna VanDerwerker (choreographer), Elegant Event Lighting (scenic decor), Rachel West (lighting designer), Bill Morey (costume designer, dancers, Night Three), Alex Rhyan (production manager), Austin Packard (video editor), Christopher Pazdernik (company manager and casting director), Ben Balmer (production assistant), Alma Gonzalez (production assistant), Oliva Shierback Jones (production manager) and from CastleLight Productions: Ryan Cassell (director of photography and editor), Christopher Fierro (camera operator) and Brandon Vogel (sound engineer).



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Review: TONI STONE at Goodman Theatre Photo
What did our critic think of TONI STONE at Goodman Theatre? TONI STONE is a memory play-in more ways than one. Lydia R. Diamond's play is indeed structured in non-linear (and yet, still mostly chronological order) as the titular Toni Stone recounts her memories as the first woman to regularly play professional baseball. It's also a memory play in the sense that it captures a moment in history that many audiences may not know before they see the work. In real life, Toni Stone played for the Indianapolis Clowns, a Negro League team, in 1953. The play itself never references that year-or any dates in Toni's timeline-outright (the program merely lists the setting as '1920's-1940's USA.') Instead, Toni weaves between different moments in her life, diving in and out of them-much like she might dive to catch a ball in the outfield (although she played second base).

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The Den Theatre ihas announced that comedian Ted Alexandro is playing four stand-up performances March 3 & 4, 2023 on The Heath Mainstage.


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