Started the day watching the morning news with Ana Belaval on WGN and caught preview footage of Rachel Rockwell’s Shrek at Chicago Shakes. What a blast! And what is just as impressive is the quality of Rachel’s prolificity. Yesterday, before her auditions for Hello Dolly! at Drury Lane, I attended Paramount’s auditions for 42nd ST. which Rachel is directing here this winter. Tap dancing makes me smile! Choreographer, Tammy Mader, expertly taught an excerpt from the thrilling opening number to the young men called back and I found myself uncontrollably cheering them on! “Break down that maxi ford for them” Rachel confers to Tammy, to get it a little cleaner and sharper, and I just wanted to get out of my seat and join in! To think I used to be able to do that!
Once her day in Oakbrook wrapped up, Rachel arrived at Paramount to audition Nick Demeris for the In The Heights leading role of “Usnavi,” and I’m gonna scoop here, Nick won the role and is being offered it today! Demeris is an exceptional, humble young man, a teacher as well as an actor, he conducts classes in Hip Hop & Shakespeare! Talk about chops, he has the rapper and the literary technical skills to deliver the rhythms and the words with finesse and clarity. Another big plus is his emotional accessibility. Vulnerability. He will make us root for Usnavi. Comic chops and showmanship don’t hurt either as well as a smile that lights up the stage with its pure joy. Rachel worked with Nick on a particularly moving passage about the neighborhood’s Grandmother, “Abuela”…”you’ll get there” she says to him as I turn to her wiping tears from her eyes.
I find myself so proud to know and work with Rachel. Of our eight productions in our first two seasons, she has directed three: Hair, Annie, & The Music Man. These are Paramount Theatre productions I know our audience takes pride in as well. This season, In The Heights and 42nd Street will give us more reason to admire and appreciate her special touch in one show that represents the future of Broadway musical theatre and another that brings back The Golden Age of Broadway!
All in a day’s work!
And get your tickets! Do not miss Idina Menzel at RiverEdge Park this Friday, folks! The Paramount Orchestra, all 55 pieces, accompany this talented beauty’s stunning vocals from Broadway and pop and the American Songbook!
All the best,