Tim Rater recently made the Newcity Stage website’s list of the top 50 players most influential in the development of Chicago theatre. (At #7, mind you)! Last week The City of Aurora’s Mayor Tom Weisner personally invited us to attend his State of the City address and asked us to stand and be recognized by the over 400 attendees there. I got choked up standing there beside Tim, really thought I was going to lose it save for the fact that I was stunned by the emotion of the moment. All these important contributors to the social, political and economic growth of my adopted hometown vigorously applauding our progress over the last four years; their eyes smiling; voices raised cheering the achievement of Paramount Theatre and RiverEdge Park. I’m thinking something in the moment like “thank you but you really don’t have to do this”! I am overwhelmed all the time now by individuals stopping to thank me for the experience they are having at our theatre…and the emails, posts and messages full of praise, gratitude and congratulations. I receive them on behalf of everyone here working so hard in this company to make a difference and do something meaningful for those who pass through our doors. Working in the arts is a reward in itself, a privilege and a responsibility to do something that matters culturally and even civically. What is being accomplished is inspiring.

At our Gala Fundraiser, those making donations could not say enough about the work we do and it’s effect on them and the community. I deeply felt the optimism, the feeling that this has to continue and be supported and that all of it speaks to something exceptional in all of us. New store front businesses in Downtown Aurora are popping up: a women’s boutique, an interior design service, a fitness/wellness facility, art galleries, a bike shop and others.  It’s beginning slowly, but it is beginning! Paramount drew crowds of over 300,000 compared to 50,000 the year before the Broadway Series began. I learned at the mayor’s address that Aurora’s reputation is growing and being referenced as a budding arts and business center.

On Sunday, I watched both shows of Paramount’s LES MISERABLES. I admit I basked and teared up as I admired this cast and the growth of their performances during the run. Several patrons have seen it more than once and stop me to tell me how much they perceive the richness of the actors’ work over time. They appreciate the refinement that is a natural progression when the acting and singing is deeply, personally felt. The commitment from the actors on stage dazzles. It’s aliveness and immediacy impresses and moves. I hear time and again how we have the distinction of being a truly distinguished production of Les Miz to those who have seen it many times in many places. I have to say, we have a magnificent play here that captures the heart and mind; that entertains as it makes one think and feel. Tomorrow’s matinee begins the final week of this 6-week run. We’ve come a long way from the original 3-week runs of our first season four years ago. Exciting as that is to think about, I can’t help feeling that tinge of melancholy anticipating watching this cast and crew and orchestra take their glorious final bow on Sunday night!