Illinois Theatre Center’s delayed ‘Showtune!’ does go on
By Don Snider April 11, 2012 3:52PM
Illinois Theatre Center veteran Joe Lehman is part of the cast of Illinois Theatre Center's "Showtune!"
◆ April 18-29 with performances at 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sundays
◆ Illinois Theatre Center,
371 Artists Walk, Park Forest
◆ Tickets, $22 on Fridays and
Saturdays, $20 at all other times
◆ (708) 481-3510; ilthctr.org
◆ This revue is based on the songs of Jerry Herman.
Updated: May 14, 2012 8:06AM
Those at the Illinois Theatre Center intended for its April production “Showtune!” to be a celebration of the words and music of Jerry Herman.
Instead, the production also will be more of a tribute to ITC co-founder and artistic director Etel Billig.
She died unexpectedly at age 79 of a brain aneurysm while at her desk at the end of the first day of rehearsals.
The show will go on, but it has been delayed and shortened a week.
“Showtune!” will open April 18 and run through April 29 at the theater in Park Forest.
“It turns out to be a fitting show for a tribute to my mom,” said her son Jonathan who is taking over as artistic director.
“It’s a very sentimental show, although it has some silly, lighthearted moments.”
“Showtune!” is a revue of Herman’s five-decade Broadway musical career.
He composed scores for such classics such as “Hello, Dolly!,” “Mame” and “La Cage aux Folles.” He was nominated for five Tony Awards and won twice.
Herman, still active at age 81, was one of Billig’s favorite composers, Jonathan said. She even performed some of his songs herself in ITC shows.
For example, she sang songs from “Dear World,” “Mame” and “Hello, Dolly!” in ITC productions in the 1990s.
“Showtune!” features Herman’s best-known songs as well as many little-known gems — some 40 numbers in all since he burst on the scene with “Milk and Honey” in 1961.
The cast of “Showtune!” includes four ITC veterans and two newcomers.
The foursome have all starred in previous ITC musicals and include Jeny Wasilewski.
A versatile audience favorite, Wasilewski has performed in the troupe’s last four shows — “Archy and Mehitabel,” “Cabaret,” “The Glorious Ones” and “The Spitfire Grill.”
Also there are Joe Lehman, who was last seen at the ITC in “Boeing Boeing”; Caron Buinis from ITC’s production of “The Glorious Ones” and Frank Roberts, who also starred in ITC’s “Archy and Mehitabel.”
Making their ITC debuts will be Khaki Pixley and Steve Greist.
All cast members reside in Chicago.
Billig originally named Roberts to direct as well as sing in “Showtune!,” with Jonathan as the music director and keyboardist.
The quickly paced show will have the actors mostly changing hats, hairpieces and a few props to represent the various Broadway shows they represent.
“Showtune!” was set to end the ITC’s 36th season.
The theater started by Billig and her husband, Steve, who died in 1996, is the Southland’s only equity theater.
The ITC also was the site of yearly children’s drama classes and a Summerfest production designed especially for high school and college students.
The classes have been canceled, and the Summerfest show is pending a review by the ITC board of directors, Jonathan said.
Meanwhile, especially for Etel Billig, it’s showtime for “Showtune!”
Don Snider is a local freelance writer.