Paramount Theatre took home two trophies last night at the Jeff Awards: Joseph A. Burke for his expansive, eye-popping projection design in Elf the Musical, and Gavin Rohrer for his Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet! Gavin and the full ensemble rocked out on “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” and brought the house down! I mean, they left behind a yelling, screaming mob who could not get enough of them! And Joe Burke spoke so thoughtfully in appreciation especially to Paramount’s production and creative teams, “they do things right!” Director of Paramount’s Cabaret, Katie Spelman (who couldn’t be there) would have been proud of her “Emcee” Joseph Anthony Byrd singing “I Don’t Care Much.” During Joseph’s performance, the packed house was held in a “holy hush” (as described by our Production Manager Jonathan Allsup), an unforgettable high point in an unforgettable evening.
These are prized moments, like awards themselves, and there were many more. Standout performances for me (of the one’s I caught) were the nominated ensemble of men in Five Guys Named Moe directed by nominee Ron OJ Parson at Court Theatre (I could have listened to these guys sing all night!) And as well, the luminous soprano of young Katherine Thomas singing “Your Daddy’s Son” from Ragtime directed by Jeff winner Nick Bowling at Marriott (who also directed Paramount’s A Christmas Story). As a presenter, I got the honor of announcing the directorial nominees and the award to Nick. Issues of representation for more women and more diversity stir controversy in all award shows and the Jeffs are no different. As grateful as he could be, Nick compassionately made his personal plea for change and I could not have been more proud to be standing there. The crowd cheered. Voices were heard. It was a great night full of courage and talent. That pretty much defines Chicago theatre. We have a community that doesn’t compete within.
Our purpose isn’t to get awards or to be better than anyone else. We’re not in a contest. We do what we love to do, what we have to do. And that’s a quality that makes a difference in people’s lives.
At Paramount, every individual plays to their strengths and is valued for their initiative and creativity dedicated to do the best we can do together. This is the greatest prize of all.
And I gotta say how much I will miss Legally Blonde which closed in rose gold glory Sunday evening! So much about this new, inventive and inspired production will live on and on. Director Trent Stork, Music Director Kory Danielson, and Co-Choreographer Megan Farley, made this show feel like it was written yesterday and addressed social issues head-on. This cast and orchestra led by our magnificent leads, Casey Shuler and Gerald Caesar, brought infectious fun and spirit to the stage in a production full of life and positive energy. Scenically designed so smartly by Jeff Kmiec with Nick Belley’s lighting, Mike Tutaj’s projections, and Theresa Ham’s costumes, audiences rave, “This is my favorite show!” But how can you say that until you see the next one?
Love & thanks,