Last week was one for the record books! As principal rehearsals began for Oklahoma!, Earth, Wind & Fire SOLD OUT at RiverEdge Park, and Paramount’s Broadway Series Season Four swept the Joseph Jefferson Awards Nominations for excellence in Chicago Theatre, with a whopping 16 nods. Ladies and gentlemen: “Producer of the Year,” Tim Rater! If there were such an award, Tim would win! 

In the midst of rehearsal late Friday morning, Trent Stork walks in unseen by me and taps my shoulder and says, “The nominations have been announced.” My stomach knots, and I hear myself say, “Oh, no.” Trent counters, “No! It’s good!” Then very quickly he starts rattling off. “We got 16! Poppins, Tommy and Les Miz for best musical; Rachel for Poppins; you got one each for Tommy and Les Miz…” And the rest is a blur as my head spins (and Trent talks very fast as it is). Without a breath, our arms around each other, tears in my eyes. I then take off, run through the atrium, swing open the glass doors to the Aurora Civic Center Authority, sprint down the hall to Tim’s office. He looks up from his desk beaming at me, and I blurt out, “Hug me!”

Back in the rehearsal room, everyone is cheering and embracing, full of pride and joy, and then we get right back to that beat in the scene we were working on, and I realize this is where my head really is right now. Since Wednesday, I’ve been with Tom Vendafreddo working music and digging into scene work and musical staging with Trent and the likes of Kareem Bandealy, Caron Buinis, Allison Sill, Colte Julian, Lillie Cummings and Carl Draper, and I realize that I am more excited about this than anything. Choreographer Katie Spelman just knocked me out with a solo she has developed with her assistant, William Carlos Angulo, for Draper’s Will Parker in “Kansas City,” and I tell him, “Carl, it’s great to see you coming into your own.” “Yeah,” he says, having just gotten his butt kicked by the challenge of the complex combination. But he looks great doing it! And it’s only his first day at it! All around, the work is mining what has always been there in a beautifully rich way I’ve never seen before. And the laughs, the comic turns, feel honest as everything else in the remarkable work they are doing.

But I digress! The Jeffs! Here are Paramount’s nominations! Thank you Jeff Committee!

Mary Poppins scored for Production – Musical, Rachel Rockwell (Director), Theresa Ham (Costumes) and Mike Tutaj (Projections/Video Design).

The Who’s Tommy ​scored for Production – Musical, Jim Corti (Director), Devin DeSantis (Actor in a Principal Role), Brock Clawson (Choreography), Greg Hofmann (Lighting Design) and Mike Tutaj (Projections/Video Design).

Les Miserables ​scored for Production – Musical, Jim Corti (Director), Devin DeSantis (Actor in a Supporting Role), Tom Vendafreddo (Music Direction), Kevin Depinet and Jeff Kmiec (Scenic Design) and Jesse Klug (Lighting Design). 

The good people of the Jeff Committee commit to every show they see. This is a commitment to giving their time and energy to recognizing Chicago Plays and Musical Theatre as the best you will find anywhere in the country. Our Paramount Theatre in Aurora is elated to join the ranks of those theatre companies who have established excellence for decades before us.  

Now I think I’ll do a little dance before I jump in the shower and get to rehearsal! Good morning! 

Love & thanks,