Porchlight Music Theatre announces Porchlight ICONS: Celebrating Ben Vereen, Friday, Sept. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at The Athenaeum Center, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Porchlight ICONS: Celebrating Ben Vereen is a new special event featuring the presentation of the 2023 ICON Award to the legendary Ben Vereen+ and the 2023 Luminary Award to WGN’s Paul M. Lisnek+ with performances directed by Artistic Director Michael Weber+ highlighting Mr. Vereen’s incredible career along with an on stage interview between our award recipients.


$500 –– includes a pre-show cocktail reception, priority reserved seating on the main floor of the theatre and an after party with a DJ and cash bar

$250 –– includes main floor seating and an after party with a DJ and cash bar

$100 –– includes seating in the front balcony of the theatre


Sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, please contact Evin Rayford, Development Director, at evin@porchlightmusictheatre.org.



Porchlight ICONS: Celebrating Ben Vereen will be co-chaired by the director/choreographer and star of our Jeff award-winning production of Blues in the Night, Kenny Ingram and Felicia P. Fields.

The evening will include performances by Adrian Aguilar (Broadway in your Backyard, Double Trouble, tick, tick…BOOM!, Porchlight Revisits Chess, Pal Joey); Kayla Boye (Billy Elliot, Porchlight Revisits Can Can and Little Me, New Faces Sing Broadway 1969); Kelly Felthous (2022 ICONS Gala with Donna McKechnie); David Robbins (Chicago Sings Rock & Roll Broadway) and Ciarra Stroud (Broadway in your Backyard, Porchlight Revisits The Apple Tree, New Faces Sing Broadway 1947).

Directed by Porchlight Artistic Director Michael Weber, Porchlight ICONS: Celebrating Ben Vereen includes music direction by Linda Madonia, musical staging by Isaiah Silvia-Chandley and Robert Reddrick (drums), Greg Strauss (trumpet) and Chuck Webb (bass) as the onstage band.

Adrian Aguilar (he/him, performer) In his career, Adrian has performed on screens and stages all over the midwest and on Broadway and is truly, incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of PMT ICONS: Celebrating Ben Vereen. So much love and thanks to his always amazing wife Brie, his hilarious and perfect son, Ian, and their goofy meatball of a new pup, Ahsoka Doggo.



Kayla Boye (she/her, performer) is thrilled to return to Porchlight Music Theatre where she previously appeared in Can-Can, Little Me, Billy Elliot and New Faces Sing Broadway 1969. Chicago credits include: “Winnie” in Happy Days (City Lit Theater), The Wizard of Oz (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Pippin (Mercury Theater Chicago), South Pacific (Drury Lane Theatre) and  Anything Goes (Music Theater Works). Regional: Holiday Inn, Guys & Dolls, A Christmas Story (Fireside Theatre), On the Town (Capital City Theatre), Chicago (The Youngstown Playhouse). Off-Broadway/Touring: Call Me Elizabeth. Web: KaylaBoye.com


Kelly Felthous (she/her, performer) has performed for Porchlight’s Icons Gala in years past and is honored to be back. Chicago credits: “Roxy” in Chicago and “Audrey” in Little Shop of Horrors (Drury Lane), “Sally Bowles” in Cabaret (Paramount), “Zaneeta” in The Music Man (Goodman) and “Charlotte” in Oliver and “Gertrude” in Seussical (Marriott). Off Broadway: “Mayzie” in Seussical (Lucille Lortel/OOBCR), originated “Caroline” in Trip of Love (Stage 42) and “Ruby” in Max and Ruby (Lucille Lortel). National Tours: “Marty” in Grease, “Galinda /Nessarose u/s” in Wicked and originated “Gloria” in Flashdance. Web: KellyFelthous.com

David Robbins (he/him, performer) is a Chicago native. Select Chicago credits: “Soloist” in Chicago Sings Rock n Roll Broadway (Porchlight Music Theatre), “George Washington” in Spamilton: An American Parody (Forbidden Broadway/Royal George – Jeff Award Nomination), Jesus Christ Superstar (Lyric Opera Chicago), “Gary Coleman” in Avenue Q (Mercury Theatre Chicago). Select Regional Credits: “Ken” in Ain’t Misbehavin ( Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Great Lakes Theatre Festival), “Bobby Dupree” in Memphis (Phoenix Theatre, Ivoryton Playhouse, Cape Fear Regional Theatre – AriZoni Award; BroadwayWorld Nomination), “Mr. Bones” in The Scottsboro Boys (Theatre Raleigh – BroadwayWorld Nomination), “Frankie” in Forever Plaid (Theatre Raleigh). TV/Film: guest star/”Henry” in “Fargo,”  S3E4(FX), featured dancer in “LoveCraft Country” (HBO). Commercial: AutoZone, Target. 

Ciarra Stroud (she/her, performer) is a graduate from the University of California, Irvine with a BFA in music theatre. Her past credits include “Eve” in The Apple Tree and Broadway In Your Backyard (Porchlight Music Theatre), “Frenchy” in Grease (Drury Lane Theatre), “Brie” in Catholic School Token (Northwestern University), “The Girl With the Date” in Blues in the Night (North Coast Repertory Theatre), “The Witch” in Into the Wood, (Myers Dinner Theatre), “Catherine” in Pippin and “Armelia” in Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Timber Lake Playhouse).




Meet the 2023 Scene Changers, community leaders recognized by Porchlight for their impact on the business, civic and cultural life of Chicago. 

They have not only made a difference in their own organization, but in the wider community and industry in which they work. The arts have always been at the forefront of social advancement; Porchlight would like to honor those within and outside of the arts community who are moving the needle to make our world a better place.

This year’s Scene Changers include Ranjana Bhargava, Rev. Scott Donahue, César Lostaunau, Dr. Nitha Fiona Nagubadi, Eva Penar, Lisa Russ, Roz Stuttley and Chief Valdimir Talley.

The ICONS Gala was launched in 2012 and many icons have been honored throughout its history including Hal Prince, Elaine Stritch, Bob Fosse, Ethel Merman and Fred Astaire among others. In 2020, the ICON Award was established to celebrate a notable artist who has made an indelible contribution to American entertainment and has since been presented to living legends Joel Grey+, Chita Rivera* and in 2022, Donna McKechnie*. Porchlight will welcome, in-person, the 2023 recipient of the ICON Award, Ben Vereen, to accept this award. 

The Luminary Award is bestowed annually at the ICONS Gala and this year it is presented to Paul M. Lisnek. This honor recognizes an outstanding individual, family or family foundation with a history of philanthropic and volunteer leadership on behalf of Porchlight and music theater in Chicago, and whose generosity inspires others to philanthropic action. Past honorees include Rick+ and Deann* Bayless and the Bayless Family Foundation, Elaine Cohen* and Arlen D. Rubin+, Jim Jensen+, Jean Klingenstein*, Dan Ratner+ and the Ratner Family Foundation.


Over his nearly 60-year career, few entertainers today are as accomplished or versatile as Ben Vereen. As an actor, dancer, singer, instructor, spokesperson and more, Mr. Vereen has graced stages on Broadway and around the world as well as television, most notably as ‘Chicken’ George Moore in Alex Haley’s landmark TV miniseries “Roots,” for which he received an Emmy nomination in 1977, and film. On Broadway, Mr. Vereen has starred in Wicked, Fosse, I’m Not Rappaport, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin, Grind, Jelly’s Last Jam and A Christmas Carol. His role in Pippin garnered him both the prestigious Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for “Best Actor in a Musical”. In addition to those accolades, he has received a number of awards for his humanitarian contributions including The Community Mental Health Council’s “Lifeline Celebration Achievement Award”, Israel’s Cultural and Humanitarian Award,; three NAACP Image Awards, an Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award and a Victory Award. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Arizona, Emerson College, St. Francis College and Columbia College in Chicago. In 2001, Medgar Evers College created the Ben Vereen Scholarship for the Performing Arts, and in 2004, he received an Achievement in Excellence Award from his alma mater, the High School of the Performing Arts. Mr. Vereen was the first simultaneous winner of the “Entertainer of the Year,” “Rising Star” and “Song and Dance Star” awards from the American Guild of Variety Artists. He also has garnered a coveted spot in the Casino Legends Hall of Fame.

Mr. Vereen has also worked tirelessly to raise awareness for multiple causes including UNICEF and Abundance International’s Ukraine efforts, diabetes prevention, drug rehabilitation, educational programs and inner city community-based projects, houseless support, arts advocacy and has served on the boards of Ballet Florida, the American Red Cross and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Association. As a lecturer, he has become one of the nation’s most requested speakers among audiences of all ages. 


Paul Lisnek is a multi Emmy, Beacon, Telly, Cablefax and Communicator award-winning television personality. He anchors “WGN-TV Political Report” and is the political analyst for WGN-TV appearing on all of WGN’s # 1 rated newscasts. He hosts the WGN Podcast “Paul Lisnek Behind the Curtain,” featuring interviews with entertainment figures like Joel Grey, Lucie Arnaz, Anthony Michael Hall, Richard Thomas and Beth Leavel. He anchors “Newsmakers” and “Broadway in Chicago Backstage” where he sits with the casts of leading Broadway shows like Hamilton, Wicked, Paradise Square, Moulin Rouge and others. The Museum of Broadcast Communications is home to The Paul M. Lisnek Gallery, a permanent tribute to Lisnek’s work in television and radio. He has written 15 books, including two works of fiction, Assume Guilt and Assume Treason, which was named an Indie Award Best Mystery of the Year finalist.

Pronoun Key: + he/him/his, * she/her/hers, ^ they/them/theirs