Gypsy – Reviews and More
Chicago Tribune – Chris Jones
FOUR OUT OF FOUR STARS
“…far and away the best piece of direction of Weber’s long career in Chicago musicals.”
“So on fire is Butler’s Mama Rose that her own mouth can barely keep up with feelings. So furious is her drive — so palpable her assumption of an American foot soldier who wants nothing more than to be noticed — that everyone who shares the stage with her digs all the way down to their boots, all night long, just so they don’t, by comparison, disappoint.”
“All in all, this is one of those rare Chicago theater moments truly to savor. This work is hard; rarely does it come up roses quite like this.”
Chicago Sun-Times – Alex Huntsberger
FOUR OUT OF FOUR STARS
“What to make of Mama Rose? She’s a loving mother and a tyrant, a striving dreamer and a terrible bully, a wild-eyed maniac and a tragic hero — or maybe it’s a tragic villain. As played by Chicago stage treasure E. Faye Butler, the indomitable Rose is all of these things, both maelstrom and delicate flower that, like her namesake, loses its petals in the slightest breeze. Oh, and she’s also a star. Something that Butler never lets you forget.”
“In this moody, magnificent production from Porchlight Music Theatre, director Michael Weber understands the Shakespearean forces at play.”
“… in the hands of stars like E. Faye Butler, “Gypsy” remains as powerful as ever”
NewCity – Amanda Finn
“For E. Faye Butler, the dream has been to play Mama Rose in “Gypsy” and, by God, she does.”
“It’s clear from the moment Jillian-Giselle opens the show by staring, mesmerized, at the instruments performing around her, that what is about to take place at Porchlight is a wonder. When is there going to be an E. Faye Butler cast recording of this show?”
PicksinSix – Ed Tracy
““Gypsy” will take your breath away!”
AroundtheTownChicago.com – Al Bresloff
FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS
“If you were down near Division and Dearborn last night , and felt the earth moving, it was not an earthquake. It was the Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of “Gypsy” and the unbelievable E. Faye Butler bringing Mama Rose to life!”
“Under the spirited direction of Michael Weber, who adds a lot of creativity to this timeless classic, this is a version that will make you forget all others you have witnessed before.”
“Songs such as “Let Me Entertain You”, “Small World”, “You’ll Never Get Away From Me”, “Together, Wherever We Go”, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and many others are surely classics and this energetic cast does every number to perfection.”
TheFourthWalsh.com – Katy Walsh
“E. Faye Butler (Mama Rose) owns this stage from the moment she steps on it. Her pipes, whether screaming for her way or lifting the rafters in song, are undeniably extraordinary. Butler is a tour de force in her non-stop, dynamic performance! Her commanding presence is palpable. … E. Faye Butler is irresistable!”
“Director Michael Weber masterfully cast Butler in the lead and gave her a terrific supporting ensemble.”
“I highly, highly recommend it!!”
PictureThisPost.com – Susan Lieberman
BEST PLAY PICK
“Chicago’s own E. Faye Butler takes charge with a tight grip.”
“If you need a break from the “orange” holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving), Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of GYPSY might just be the ticket.”
ChiTheatreAddict.com – Robert Bullen
“Butler has always been a force. For decades she’s been stopping shows – either as the star, supporting roles or in solo acts. She’s a performer’s performer. She knows how to deftly set up an emotional moment and knock it out of the friggin’ park.”
“This is a one-of-a-kind staging that goes down as one of my favorites. Director Michael Weber has truly rethought the piece from the ground-up, with his star’s energy as the guiding focus. Just like Butler, this production is unfussy, bold, and brassy.”
“But back to Miss Butler. She is the reason for the season. Never have I seen a Rose that’s so unabashedly ferocious and funny – and swinging between the two extremes like a prize fighter. The woman is fearless.”
“I don’t think I’ll see a more thrilling performance of this number as long as I live.”
StageandCinema.com – Lawrence Bommer
“LET HER ENTERTAIN YOU!”
“In Michael Weber’s superb staging for Porchlight Music Theatre, the life force known as [E.Faye] Butler rents the part to buy. A born belter when she sings, but almost carnivorous when she strikes out to defend her dreams, Butler sinks her show-stoppers (“Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Small World”) in a character as non-negotiable as hunger, and as basic as breathing. “A pioneer woman without a frontier,” Rose is every striver who’s sick of second billing when she can taste the marquee.”
“Weber’s elaborate staging surrounds Mama Rose with tailor-made triumphs, namely José Antonio García, down-to-earth and feelingly frustrated as Rose’s patient suitor Herbie, Aalon Smith as the temperamental ex-Baby June, and, above all, Daryn Whitney Harrell, a self-effacing Louise until she blossoms into Gypsy Rose Lee.”
“…everything feels natural, like Marco Tzunux’s awesome semi-solo as dance-happy Tulsa crooning how “All I Need Is the Girl” and the never-more-hilarious trio “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” vaudevillian overkill strutted to the skies by Melissa Young, Dawn Bless, and Chicago favorite Honey West. Tzunux’s too-brief song-and-dance and, yes, even the novelty number with trumpet, lights and pasties remind us exactly why we sit in our seats or, more importantly, don’t. Everything’s coming up Gypsy.”
Performink.com – Kelsey McGrath
“It’s Rose’s World and We’re Just Living In It. Rather, E. Faye Butler’s world and we should all be HONORED to live here. Porchlight’s GYPSY kicks off their 24th season and it’s a masterpiece. With Butler as Mama Rose, everything comes up Roses, whether we’re ready or not.”
“The intentional choice to cast Mama Rose, Louise, and June as women of color was the most eye-opening, refreshing musical theatre experience I’ve ever had.”
“Butler is heartbreaking and passionate and genuine and and and she is everything.”
“Porchlight’s GYPSY needs to be seen by everyone. #representationmatters and with GYPSY, Porchlight once again uses their musical theatre platform to tell a gorgeous, incredibly human story.”
Dueling Critics on WDCB “The Arts Section” – Kelly Kleiman and Jonathan Abarbanel
https://wdcb.org/program/arts-section (section begins at 19:00)
“Oh my. Oh my. Oh my. I have seen a number of wonderful actors play and sing Mama ERose including the original Ethel Merman… I’ve never seen anyone like E. Faye Butler… and it is a phenomenal performance.”
“This is an astonishing performance and one certainly that is not to be missed and one of the performances of the year or several years on the Chicago stage.”
“Send it to New York – it is an unbelievably great performance…. This is above and beyond!”
“She is one for the ages..And the rest of the cast is really wonderful.”
“This is so great, if you have seen it before, you will see it anew. I hope there is a producer that takes this to New York.”
Chicago Reader – Tony Adler
“If race matters at all in this staging, it’s to demonstrate that Gypsy has crossed a cultural line. That it’s entered so far into the American canon that it’s beyond biography and impervious to petty conventions. That it’s accrued enough resonance over half a century that it’s no longer a showbiz tale, but one about children, parents, and unexpected transformations.”
“And thank God for that, because I’d hate to think mere verisimilitude might’ve kept E. Faye Butler from playing Rose. … Her Rose is one great, ferocious growl—the human embodiment of guts, grit, starch, brass, and spunk, not to say loneliness, pain, and compulsion. As the Porchlight folks well know, since they’ve put her name over the title, Butler by herself is worth the price of admission.”
“Yet she’s far from by herself. José Antonio Garcia is poetically hapless as Herbie. Dawn Bless, Honey West, and Melissa Young are a collective hoot as Louise’s mentors in the art of the ecdysiast. Aalon Smith conveys a deep frustration as the grown June, and Izzie Rose a perfect (and therefore somewhat disturbing) charmer as the Baby June. Daryn Whitney Harrell takes a while to metamorphose from Louise to Gypsy Rose Lee, but when she finally bites back at Rose she’s convincing.”
WTTW – Hedy Weiss
“a production remarkable in countless ways … with her force-of-nature personality, powerhouse voice and galvanic emotional range, Butler clearly was born to play Mama Rose.”
“The brilliance that marks Weber’s production is evident from the moment the rousing overture begins.”
“Izzie Rose, an apple-cheeked, clarion-voiced dynamo of a tot, turns in a hilarious, cartwheel-turning performance that makes her the most convincing Baby June I’ve yet to see.”
“Along the way there are the wonderfully over-the-top antics of the three past-their-prime, bump-and-grind-style strippers – Tessie Tura (Melissa Young), Mazeppa (Dawn Bless) and Electra (Honey West); a romantic song-and-dance number, “All I Need is the Girl,” winningly performed by Marco Tzunux (and expertly choreographed by Chris Carter); several turns by Larry Baldacci as various addled theater producers; and a deft ensemble.”
“But of course it is Butler who once again brings down the house with “Rose’s Turn” – that bitter confessional, exorcism and torrent of rage. Rose is not lovable, but like the actress playing her, she is indomitable.”
ChicagoTheatreReview.com – Colin Douglas
“The most recent Rose in Chicago is an actress who was born to play this role: E. Faye Butler. This gifted actress is an absolute force of nature.”
“E. Faye Butler uses her strong vocal talent to gently caress and coax Sondheim’s brilliant lyrics from Styne’s melodies. The result is that most of her songs play like musical monologues (“Small World,” “Some People”); the actress brings a richer, deeper understanding to the music that’s become so familiar to theatre fans.”
“The rest of the cast is stellar. The children are all excellent, especially Izzie Rose and Jillian-Giselle, as Baby June and Young Louise. Melissa Young, Dawn Bless and Honey West (who also plays a droll Miss Cratchitt) play a trio of strippers, Tessie Tura, Mazeppa and Electra, who bump and grind the bejesus out of “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” David Fiorello’s musical direction, including his full, brassy, six-member onstage orchestra, is outstanding. Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s flexible scenic design, dominated by a gigantic movable, proscenium arch, complete with an act drape, provides the icing on this delicious theatrical cake.”
“Once Chicagoans hear about this fabulous production, every savvy theatergoer will be following her example by getting up and out to the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in order to experience Michael Weber’s never-to-be-forgotten production. This is a chance to see the fabulous E. Faye Butler, one of Chicago’s finest musical actresses, in role that seems written especially for her. It’s is a production of a show that keeps its musical promise to Entertain You and Make You Smile.”
“Backstage,” Comcast Network & “Behind The Curtain,” WGNPlus – Paul Lisnek
“E. Faye Butler’s performance as Mama Rose in “Gypsy” is that rare theatrical moment when Actor meets character role in a way that is kismet, meant to be. If you did not know “Gypsy” was written in 1959, you would swear that this role was written specifically for E. Faye Butler. Sometimes seeing an actor perform a particular role is something that theater lovers just have to do….like Bette Midler in “Hello Dolly” or Angela Lansbury in “Sweeney Todd”….well, E Faye Butler as Mama Rose is one of those moments you must experience and cherish for a lifetime.”
Rescripted Reviews – Sherri Allender
“The production of Gypsy by Porchlight at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, represents the very best of musical theatre.”
“The complex and bawdy role of Rose has been played by greats such as Ethel Merman, Bernadette Peters, Patti Lupone, and Angela Lansbury, and Butler steps into the shoes with ease and grace, sending the audience on a roller-coaster ride of laughter and emotion.”
“And when she [E. Faye Butler] opens her mouth to sing – brace yourself as the heavens break open with triumphant glory.”
“Casting Rose as a black woman adds a level of deliciousness to the story for anyone who has had the pleasure of having been raised by, or is friends with, a certain kind of black woman. The experience of having an unconventional mother is a universal one, and non-traditional casting extends the tent of belonging in a beautiful way.”
“Across the board, every element of the musical is spectacular. Michael Weber’s elegant staging is highlighted by the simple and stunning set (Jeffrey D. Kmiec) The band led by music director David Fiorello is absolutely magnificent, and the jokes crackle and pop with lively energy.”
“Gypsy at Porchlight is one of the best shows you will have the opportunity to see this season…”
ChicagolandMusicalTheatre.com – Barry Rezel
“In Porchlight Music Theatre’s current production of the musical fable, Gypsy, it matters not whether Louise sings out (she does); because this stage belongs fully to her mother, the muther of all stage mothers, performed to stylized perfection by a true Chicagoland treasure.”
“Butler owns the Porchlight production with a nuanced performance of musical theatre’s most complex character, the outed, vaudevillian mommie dearest of famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.”
“Together with massive, ensemble cast of more than 30 talented actors, they combine to make this Gyspy a must-see production.”
ChicagonStage.com – Karen Topham
““Gypsy” is a showcase for E. Faye Butler and a dynamite cast”
“From the moment she[E. Faye Butler] steps onto the stage in the iconic lead role of Porchlight Theatre’s magnificent new production of Gypsy, she just dominates it as if the role has simply been out there waiting for her to take it on (and this is a role originated by the great Ethel Merman).”
“Both actresses playing June are perfect as the effervescent child star, and Smith gets to add the layers of disappointment and frustration with her mother’s dictatorial methods that come with growing up. Dawn Bless, Melissa Young and Honey West have a hilarious turn as three strippers that Louise meets in a burlesque gig. Marco Tzunux delivers a memorable performance as the talented dancer Tulsa. And García is solid as Herbie, who only wants to make Rose happy but discovers that nothing short of the limelight is ever going to be capable of doing that.”
Let’s Play – Chicago Now – Rick and Brenda McCain
“E. Faye Butler who leads the cast in ‘Gypsy’ as ‘Mama Rose’ Broadway’s legendary “stage mother.” Like so many before her playing the character of Mama Rose she brought her feisty persona to life with a lot of zest.”
“Director Michael Weber showcases this dynamic fast-paced musical as it follows the dreams and hardships of Mama Rose to raise her two daughters to perform on stage; as it casts an affectionate eye on the struggles of business life during the vaudeville era!”
BroadwayWorldChicago – Rachel Weinburg
“Butler commands the Porchlight stage with a presence that’s both larger-than-life and also at the same time a deeply revealing character study. To say that Butler’s portrayal of Mama Rose is a star turn is almost not enough. Butler seems to live and breathe this role; she does not appear to be acting but rather fully inhabiting this iconic character.”
“Vocally, Butler’s performance is equally jaw dropping”
“Butler’s masterful performance is reason enough to see Porchlight’s GYPSY, but she’s also in great company. This entire production will entertain you, indeed. Artistic Director Michael Weber’s taut direction makes the musical move at captivating pace; though GYPSY is close to three hours long, the “action never drags.”
“As Louise, Daryn Whitney Harrell showcases her beautiful vocals without giving away the ending. Harrell’s Louise is necessarily timid and withdrawn in her earlier scenes, which makes her transition to the famous Gypsy Rose Lee all the more captivating. Harrell allows us to see the character truly come into her own. Along with Aalon Smith as June, both actors enable us to see the immense pressure that Mama Rose’s demands put on the sisters. Harrell and Smith also have a winning moment in their duet “If Momma Was Married.” They harmonize beautifully and also maximize the comedic beats in the number.”
“As talent agent and Rose’s love interest Herbie, José Antonio García is perfectly affable and just a little gruff. These acting choices precisely suit the role. Kudos must also be given to Marco Tzunux as Tulsa, who dances up a storm, and Elya Faye Bottiger as Agnes, who has daffy and delectable comedic timing. In the second act character number “You Gotta Get A Gimmick,” Dawn Bless, Honey West, and Melissa Young have wonderful turns-though I won’t spoil exactly how they take on this song.”
“Butler’s magnificent portrayal of Mama Rose makes this GYPSY a must-see. Look out, Chicago. It’s Butler’s turn. And she is making the most of it.”
Windy City Times – Kerry Reid
“Let’s be honest—E. Faye Butler as Rose in Gypsy is a dream come true for musical-theater lovers. But although she’s undoubtedly the best reason to see Michael Weber’s staging for Porchlight Music Theatre ( few star turns get, well, starrier than this role ), this Rose is surrounded by a bouquet of flowering talents…”
“Although the production doesn’t make a single change to the book or lyrics to reference it, seeing Rose and her family played by Black actors adds extra poignancy to their story as they scramble to find work on the dying vine of Depression-era vaudeville. When Louise ( Daryn Whitney Harrell ) takes off the blonde wig meant to conjure her more-talented sister June ( Aalon Smith ), who has eloped, and tells Rose “I’m not June,” it registers at a deeper level. She’s not her sister—and she’s not a white blonde girl, either.”
“Chris Carter’s choreography nails the awkwardness of Louise’s back-up dancers ( even through that cringey “toreador” number ) and the we-suck-at-dancing-but-we-don’t-care bravado of the You Gotta Get a Gimmick trio. ( Terrific turns by Melissa Young, Honey West and Dawn Bless as Tessie Tura, Electra and Mazeppa, respectively, showing off Bill Morey’s cunning costumes ). Like Rose herself, David Fiorello’s six-piece band knows how to pull off a driving tempo with a hint of underlying sadness.”
SANIYAH AS-SALAAM (Baby Renee / Newsboy) is extremely excited to join the cast of Gypsy in her debut acting performance. Saniyah is an 11-year-old native Chicagoan who attends Medgar Evers Fine & Performing Arts School. She is in the sixth grade, an honor roll student, and her favorite subjects are English and music. Saniyah has been a part of Maywood Fine Arts Associations: Stairway of the Stars Dance Studio for six years, performing each year in multiple dance productions; most recent productions include In It to Win It, Swan Lake and Santa’s Christmas Bake Off. She joined the B.FLI Productions Performing Arts Camp six week summer intensive program this year at the ETA Creative Arts Theater, where she performed in From One to All: There’s Power in Numbers. Saniyah also enjoys singing, tumbling, swimming and writing poetry.
LARRY BALDACCI (Uncle Jocko / Mr. Weber / Mr. Goldstone / Pastey) is thrilled to be back working with Porchlight Music Theatre where he was last seen in Merrily We Roll Along and A Catered Affair. He has also appeared in West Side Story, Oklahoma, 42nd Street and The Music Man (Paramount Theatre); West Side Story (Drury Lane Oakbrook); Ragtime (Non-Equity Jeff Award for Best Ensemble and Best Musical), Spring Awakening and Company (Griffin Theatre); 1776 (Signal Theatre); and The Crucible (Steppenwolf for Young Adults); among many others. As always, this is for Ray.
JOSHUA BISHOP (Angie / BougeronCochon) is excited to be making his Chicago debut! His Wisconsin credits include “Jack” in Into the Woods (Hysterical Productions), “Ren McCormack” in Footloose (Riverside Players), and “Warner Huntington III” in Legally Blonde the Musical (Riverside Players). Proud graduate of AMDA NYC.
DAWN BLESS* (Mazeppa) is excited to be part of her third production with Porchlight Music Theatre. She is a Jeff-nominated actress, and has recently appeared in The Black Clown at the American Repertory Theater of Harvard University. Other theatre credits include: The Second City, Congo Square Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Theo Unique, Music Theater Works, West Virginia Public Theatre, and others. In addition to being an actor and singer, Dawn is also a teaching artist, poet, director and playwright. Later this season, Dawn looks forward to continuing her writing for an upcoming Jazz musical special with The Second City. She is also a member of the comedy duo TOP HEAVY, as well as a founding member of the vocal jazz quartet, The Bronzeville Express.
ELYA FAYE BOTTIGER (Agnes / Showgirl) is thrilled to be returning to her Porchlight Music Theatre family. Her recent Porchlight credits include Porchlight Revisits Little Me, Babes in Arms, and Applause, and New Faces Sing Broadway 1972. Chicago credits: The Little Mermaid (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), The Marvelous Wonderettes (Open Door Repertory Theatre), At Mister Kelly’s, Holiday Stories (Three Cat Productions). Regional credits: The Wizard of Oz, Happy Days (The Palace Theater), Gypsy, Rock of Ages, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Titanic, Mary Poppins, Ah, Wildrness!, Evita, Scapino!, Carousel, and Little Shop of Horrors (Timber Lake Playhouse). Ms. Bottiger is a proud graduate of Columbia College Chicago and is represented by Shirley Hamilton.
TATIANA BUSTAMANTE (Marjorie May) is pumped to be making her Porchlight Music Theatre debut in Gypsy! Tatiana is originally from Miami, Florida and recently received her BFA in Musical Theatre from the Chicago College of Performing Arts. Tatiana is very proud of her Mexican/ Peruvian heritage and is actively working to improve Latinx representation in the arts. She sends her love and gratitude to the family, friends and teachers who support and inspire her work. Allons-y!
E. FAYE BUTLER* (Rose) has performed as an actress-singer for more than 35 years. Most importantly, she is an entertainer with an extraordinary gift to capture an audience and put them in the palm of her hands. Butler performs in concert halls, club venues, corporate events, cabarets and theatres across the country and internationally and continues to create and develop new and captivating shows. In her theatre career, Goodman Theatre, Arena Stage, Victory Gardens, Northlight Theatre, Court Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, Yale Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, Steppenwolf Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Signature Theatre, Centerstage, Chicago Shakespeare, Congo Square, Marriott’s Lincolnshire Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Fulton Theatre, Maine State, Sacramento Music Theatre, Chicago Children’s Theatre and PaperMill Playhouse are among the theatres where Butler has performed. She has also performed in the Off Broadway national and regional tours of Mamma Mia, Ain’t Misbehavin, Dinah Was, Nunsense and Nunsense II. She is the recipient of six Joseph Jefferson Awards, two Helen Hayes Awards, R.A.M.I. Award, John Barrymore Award, Ovation Award, Sarah Siddons Leading Lady Award, After Dark Award, Excellence in the Arts, four Black Theatre Alliance Awards, Black Alliance Award, Lunt-Fontaine Fellowship, Kathryn V. Lampkey Award, and has been inducted into the Women in the Arts Museum in Washington, D.C.
WILLIAM “PIERCE” CLEAVELAND (Clarence / Newsboy) is thrilled to be making his Porchlight Music Theatre debut! Most recently Pierce played “Ben/Lisa” in Chicago Theatre Workshop’s Disaster. This spring he appeared in season six of MasterChef Jr. on Fox. He has also performed nationally with the award-winning Bravo! and Ovation Performing Arts Academies in Oak Park. Pierce wants to thank his family for their support and give a big shout out to Emi, Katie and Ragan for all their encouragement.
JOSÉ ANTONIO GARCÍA* (Herbie) is thrilled to be making his Porchlight Music Theatre debut with Gypsy. Tony (preferred name to go by!) has had the honor of working with some of the best theaters in and around Chicago, including Chicago Dramatists, Shakespeare Project of Chicago, Windy City Playhouse, The Goodman Theatre, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Steep Theatre, Factory Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, BoHo Theatre Ensemble, Adventure Stage Chicago, Collaboraction, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival and Illinois Shakespeare Festival. TV/Film credits include: The Chi, Chicago Med, Chicago PD, Empire, Win It All, Captive State, Pages, Working Man, Animator, Shameless, Written Off, Easy, Sense8, Cleveland Abduction, Consumed, Chicago Fire, Mob Doctor, Boss, and Prison Break. He holds a BFA from The University of Connecticut and an MFA from Indiana University. He is represented by Stewart Talent.
JILLIAN-GISELLE (Baby Louise) is a 10-year-old from Chicago currently represented by Paonessa Talent. She is very excited to make her Porchlight Music Theatre debut. Her favorite credits include “Young TiMoune” in Once On This Island (Columbia College Chicago), “Young Kangaroo” in Seussical the Musical (Beverly Theatre Guild), and “Scuttle” in The Little Mermaid (The Drama Group). When not on stage she can be found on YouTube and Instagram @JiGiFabulous.
JARED DAVID MICHAEL GRANT (Georgie / Mr. Kringelein / Phil) is a Chicago entertainer and 2013 graduate of Columbia College Chicago. Originally from Rochester, New York, Grant moved to Chicago 10 years ago. Grant is returning to Porchlight Music Theatre where he has been seen
in Memphis, The Scottsboro Boys and Dreamgirls. Some other credits include: Christmas in Chicago: A Musical Revue (Fine Print Theatre), Jesus Christ Super Star (Paramount Theatre), Our Town (Redtwist Theatre), Nine Lives the Musical (Chicago Musical Theatre Festival), and Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play (Theatre Wit). Grant was a company member with Childs Play Touring Theatre. He thanks his family, select friends, and the beautiful people of Wakanda (You know who you are!). #WakandaForever
DARYN WHITNEY HARRELL* (Louise) is honored to be playing such an iconic role in her Porchlight Music Theatre debut! Regional credits: Queenie Pie (Chicago Opera Theater), Aida (Bailiwick Chicago), and “Lorraine” in All Shook Up (Fireside Theatre). National Tour credits: The Book of Mormon and “Jovie” in Elf. TV credits: Empire. Featured vocalist: Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. She received her BA from North Central College. Many thanks to God, family, and friends for the constant love and support, and to GYPSY casting for this great opportunity! Represented by Paonessa Talent. @DarynWHarrell
MICHELLE HUEY (Dolores / Showgirl) is so excited to be making her Porchlight Music Theatre debut! Previous credits include: “Audrey” in Little Shop of Horrors (Columbia College Chicago), “Margot” in Legally Blonde (Montgomery County Dinner Theater), and “Cheryl Ann/Ensemble” in Catch Me If You Can (Montgomery County Dinner Theater). Endless thanks to family and friends for their support and to Porchlight for this opportunity! www.michelle-huey.com
HANNAH LOVE JONES (Balloon Girl / Newsboy) is thrilled to join the Porchlight Music Theatre family in Gypsy. Other Chicago credits include Norma (Lyric Opera Of Chicago). Commercial credits include: Chrysler, among others; and print work includes companies such as American Girl, Huggies and Lunchables. Hannah is a Spanish immersion elementary school student who (in addition to performing) loves swimming and sailing, her pet stuffed dog Lexi, and making slime! Hannah is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.
J. MICHAEL JONES (Pop / Cigar) is thrilled to return to Porchlight Music Theatre in the musical Gypsy after a very successful run of Dreamgirls. He has performed in such productions as The Wiz, Bingo Long and His Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings, Porgy and Bess (Ravinia-Conducted by Bobby McFarren), and Fences to name a few. Thanks so much much for the opportunity to continue my craft.
MARVIN J. MALONE II (Yonkers) is a native of Cleveland, Ohio and is excited to be working again with Porchlight Music Theatre and this amazing cast and crew. His other Chicago credits include “male ensemble swing” in Memphis (Porchlight) and “ensemble, u/s Jimmy The Goat” in Something in the Game (American Music Theatre Project). He is currently a senior Music Theatre, BFA student at Columbia College Chicago. Follow Marvin @marvinmaloneii or at MarvinMalone.com. Jeremiah 29:11.
DESMOND MURPHY (Arnold / Newsboy) is new to the theatre and so happy to be making his debut with Porchlight Music Theatre. In addition to performing with the School of Rock on guitar in shows at Wire in Berwyn, he also enjoys playing piano, singing and being a part of the backstage crew for Bravo Performing Arts in Oak Park. Desmond thanks his family and Shirley Hamilton Talent for all their support!
RENELLÈ NICOLE (Gail / Renée / Showgirll) is delighted to be making her Porchlight Music Theatre debut! Some of her most recent theatre credits include A New Attitude: In Tribute to Patti LaBelle (Black Ensemble Theatre), Jesus Christ Superstar – Soul Girl (Paramount Theatre), and Last Dancer Standing (Black Ensemble Theater). She began her professional acting career at five years old, later starring in her first musical production at American Girls Theatre as “Addy”. TV credits include a recurring role on Empire (Fox), Chicago Fire (NBC), and First Dates (NBC). She proudly received her BA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She would like to thank Gray Talent, her friends and family for their love & support, and the #VBs. All glory to God! Stay connected @renellenicole.
JEFF PIERPOINT (L.A.) is delighted to be her part of Porchlight Music Theatre’s Gypsy, after appearing last season in New Faces Sing Broadway 1959. His Chicago credits include Newsies, She Loves Me, and How to Succeed… (Marriott Theatre), Grand Hotel, and Bonnie and Clyde (Kokandy Productions). Other favorite credits include “Greg Madison” in It Shoulda Been You (Actor’s Theatre of Indiana) and “Frankie” in Forever Plaid (Tent Theatre). Jeff is a proud graduate of Ball State University. He would like to thank everyone at Porchlight for this wonderful opportunity, the awesome team at Gray Talent Group, and his family and friends for their constant love and support.
IZZIE ROSE (Baby June) is an up-and-coming actress who is taking part in her first performance with Porchlight Music Theatre. Previous credits include “Ariel” in Chicago Style Nutcracker (Harold Washington Cultural Center) and “Oompa Loompa” in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Mother McCauley Theater Curtain Call). Izzie was also recently seen in film and television as “Brianna” in the film Disconnection Notice and in season five, episode one of Chicago PD. When not on stage, Izzie can be found on Instagram @izzierose919. Izzie is represented by Hayes Talent Agency.
AALON SMITH (June) is delighted to be a part of her third production with Porchlight Music Theatre, following her performances in last season’s Memphis and New Faces Sing Broadway 1975. Aalon is originally from Denver, Colorado and is currently a junior BFA Musical Theatre Performance major at Columbia College Chicago. She has performed regionally as “Tribe” in Hair (Metropolis Performing Arts Center) and some of her favorite Columbia College Chicago productions include “Helene” in Sweet Charity, “Dotty” in Caroline, or Change, “Chiffon” in Little Shop of Horrors, and “Andrea” in Once On This Island.
ARIEL TRIUNFO (Edna Mae / Showgirl / Dance Captain) is a junior Musical Theatre student at Columbia College Chicago. She most recently performed as “Sacred Spirit, Honeybee” in Stranger on the River (Bittersweet Arts Company), and as “Elaine, Frug Girl” in Sweet Charity (Columbia
College Chicago). Prior to pursuing theatre, Ariel danced professionally in Las Vegas with Nevada Ballet Theatre, and performed in many well-known ballets, in addition to choreographing her own new works. This past summer, Ariel received the 2018 Lorna Strassler Award for Student Excellence while attending the Musical Theatre Dance Program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow. She is thrilled to be performing in her first production with Porchlight Music Theatre.
MARCO TZUNUX (Tulsa) hails from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and is an alum of the Chicago College of Performing Arts. This is his second collaboration with Porchlight Music Theatre, following his appearance in New Faces Sing Broadway 1975 this past June. Chicago credits: Seussical (Drury Lane Oakbrook), TRU (the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival), Altar Boyz (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theater), and HAIR (Mercury Theater). Marco is featured in the Method soaps “There’s Good Inside” commercial, airing nationwide. #peacocknation #representationmatters
HONEY WEST (Electra / Miss Cratchitt) was most recently seen in As You Like it as a transgender version of “Duke Senior”. Honey West is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in musical theater. Most recently she appeared in Priscilla Queen of the Desert where she received a Jeff Nomination for best supporting actress and won a best actress award from Broadwayworld.com. She also starred in such notable productions as Dirty Dreams of a Clean Cut Kid, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Diva Diaries, Jerry’s Girls, Pussy on the House (Best Actress Award from Broadwayworld.com), Sexy Baby, and Tony ‘n’ Tony’s Wedding. She has been performing her own cabaret show for the last 30 years. She is very proud to be a 2012 inductee into the “Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame”. Currently she is working on a new cabaret act, as well as an autobiographical one-woman show. Learn more at facebook.com/honeywest and youtube.com/honeywestchicago.
MELISSA YOUNG (Tessie Tura) is thrilled to be making her Porchlight Music Theatre debut! Favorite past roles include “Viola” in Twelfth Night (Searchlight), “Lucious/Cinna” in Julius Caesar (Chicpeare), “Hermia” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “Rachel” in Inherit the Wind (Boxer Rebellion), “Little Becky 2 Shoes” in Urinetown, “Woman 1” in Love You, You’re Perfect…, “Prudie” in Pump Boys and Dinettes (Big Noise Theatre), “Winifred” in Once Upon a Mattress, “Nellie” in South Pacific (Valentine Theater), “Sylvie” in The Nance (Pride Films and Plays), and “Shirley” in Disaster: The Musical (Chicago Theatre Workshop). Melissa is the voice of Lily on the children’s animated series The Ebos Adventures and toured with her cabaret shows Lucky Star: Madonna at 50 and Beyond & Out and Proud. Proud alumna of Point Park University and The Second City Conservatory. Love and gratitude to Rob, FOB, and Porchlight! Thank you!
*Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in America
MICHAEL WEBER (Director) most recently directed Merrily We Roll Along for Porchlight Music Theatre as well as the Porchlight Revisits production of Woman of the Year and co-starred in Porchlight Revisits Do Re Mi. His productions of End of the Rainbow, Side Show, Forum, Sweeney Todd, Pal Joey and Assassins at Porchlight Music Theatre, Grand Hotel at Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place and She Loves Me at Theatre at the Center were each nominated for the Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production-Musical. Other directing credits include Living the History-125 Years of the Auditorium Theatre starring Patti Lupone, John Mahoney, and stars of Lyric Opera of Chicago, The Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and others, Fifth of July and Talley’s Folly at the Oak Park Festival Theatre, The Petrified Forest at Theatre at the Center, Beauty and the Beast at Marriott Theatre, Over the River and Through the Woods at Mercury Theater, and Cirque du Symphony at Sears Center Arena. The recipient of two Joseph Jefferson Awards, he has written and directed the past twelve Joseph Jefferson Awards ceremonies. Weber’s regional acting credits include The Merry Widow and The Sound of Music at Lyric Opera, 42nd Street at Paramount, Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy (both starring Patti LuPone) at Ravinia, Disney’s My Son Pinocchio at First Stage Milwaukee, Around the World in 80 Days at Cleveland Playhouse, The Winter’s Tale and Henry V at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Angel Street at First Folio Shakespeare, and The Gifts of the Magi at Indiana Repertory. He served previously as artistic director of Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place (now The Broadway Playhouse) and Theatre at the Center. Michael is proud to serve as a pledge host on WTTW, Channel 11.
DAVID FIORELLO (Music Director) returns to Porchlight Music Theatre where he most recently music directed Do Re Mi, Woman of the Year, Chicago Sings: Sinatra & The Rat Pack, and the last two New Faces Sing Broadway seasons. He was also seen on stage as “Joe Josephson” in Merrily We Roll Along. David has served as music director for the Off-Broadway hit Danny & Sylvia: The Danny Kaye Musical, and toured as music director with many productions, including John Doyle’s production of Sweeney Todd. He has also written and collaborated on several original pieces including The Language or the Kiss, featuring the music of The Indigo Girls, that he conceived, wrote the book, and starred in for multiple Off-Broadway industry readings. Fiorello has worked in Chicago with Chicago Shakespeare, Marriott, Steppenwolf, and many others. He’s excited to music direct another round of New Faces Sing Broadway this season. Visit www.fiorellostudios.com.
CHRIS CARTER (Choreographer / Associate Director) is a graduate of Grand Valley State University with a liberal arts degree in dance. Carter has traveled all over performing, directing and choreographing. Some of his credits include: Memphis (Jeff nomination), Porchlight Revisits They’re Playing Our Song, Dreamgirls and In The Heights (Porchlight Music Theatre), Five Guys Name Moe (Court Theater-Jeff nomination), Hair (Mercury Theater), The Legend Of Georgia McBride (Northlight Theater), Sweeney Todd (Grand Valley State University), Oklahoma (Lyric Opera Chicago), Show Boat (San Francisco and Houston Grand Opera), Hairspray (Drury Lane Oakbrook), Joseph . . . (Paramount Theatre), Duke Ellington’s Queenie Pie (Chicago Opera Theater), Oliver (Light Opera Works), The Wiz (Theatre at the Center), Smokey Joe’s Café (Circle Theatre), and The Wild Party (Actor’s Theater). Carter has been the choreographer/Director for the Grand Rapids Civic’s SRT for the past five years. Carter is a former Debbie Allen Dance Academy scholarship student. Other credits include national tours, commercial, industrial and concert work.
JEFFREY D. KMIEC (Scenic Designer) is an award-winning Chicago-based scenic designer. His designs have been seen previously at Porchlight Music Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Paramount Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Marriott Theatre, TimeLine Theatre, American Players Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Raven Theatre, The Artistic Home, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Heritage Theatre Festival and The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. He received three consecutive Equity Jeff Awards for his designs on The Little Mermaid (Paramount Theatre-2017), Deathtrap (Drury Lane Theatre-2016), and Les Miserables (Paramount Theatre-CoDesign with Kevin Depint in 2015). Jeffrey received his MFA from the University of Virginia and is a member of USA 829.
BILL MOREY+^ (Costume Designer) is an artistic associate at Porchlight Music Theatre where he has designed two dozen productions. He is a 15-time Jeff Award-nominee, and has received the Jeff Award for Nine, The King and I, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Dreamgirls all at Porchlight. Proud member of USA 829. www.billmorey.com.
DENISE KARCZEWSKI (Lighting Designer) is thrilled to return to Porchlight Music Theatre after designing Memphis, Merrily We Roll Along, Billy Elliot the Musical, In The Heights and Dreamgirls. Denise is the resident lighting designer at Black Ensemble Theater where she received BTAA awards for her designs of Indigo Blues and One Name Only as well as an African American Arts Alliance Award for her set and lighting design of Ella: the First Lady of Song. Denise is one of the technical directors and designers at New Trier Township High School. She would like to thank Michael for the opportunity and Daryl for all his love and support. Maya, mommy loves you!
ROBERT HORNBOSTEL (Sound Designer) is excited to be back for his fourth season with Porchlight Music Theatre and this amazing team! Recent Porchlight credits include Memphis, Merrily We Roll Along, Billy Elliot the Musical, In The Heights, Dreamgirls, End of the Rainbow, Far From Heaven, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Side Show, and Porchlight Revists Babes in Arms and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Robert is a freelance composer, designer and engineer in Chicago, including work with New Millennium Theater, Raven Theatre, Eclectic Theatre, First Floor Theater, Roosevelt University, and many others. Robert would like to thank his fellow designers, friends and family for their continued support. Selections of his previous work can be found at www.TechmagicDesigns.com. Enjoy the show!
JENNIFER WERNAU (Co-Properties Designer) is a recent graduate from DePaul University and is freelancing here in Chicago as a properties designer. Select shows she has worked on include The Shipment (Red Tape Theatre) and Richard III (DePaul Theatre School). Shows coming up this fall include Darkness After Dawn (The Factory Theatre), HOODED, or being black for dummies (First Floor Theater), and A Christmas Carol (Metropolis Theatre Company). Keep a look out for more.
AARON SHAPIRO (Co-Production Manager) has worked throughout Chicago as a freelance production manager. For Porchlight, where he is an artistic associate, he has production managed Memphis, In The Heights, Dreamgirls, Far From Heaven, Sweeney Todd, Funny Thing Happened…, Side Show, and Jeff Award winning productions of Ain’t MisBehavin’ and Sondheim on Sondheim. Other credits include: Hand to God and Fun Home (Victory Gardens); DISENCHANTED and UNSPEAKABLE (Broadway Playhouse); commercial productions of Splintered Soul and Twisted Knots (Chicago Commercial Collective); Jeff Award-nominated productions of Heathers and Tomorrow Morning (Kokandy Productions); Jeff Award-nominated productions of The Rainmaker and Buddy – The Buddy Holly Musical (American Blues Theatre); and Stupid Fucking Bird and Caught (Sideshow Theatre). Aaron was the founding Artistic Director for Oracle where he served for four years. He is also the co-founder of Studio BE/MCL Chicago in Lakeview where served as Executive Director for five years. Aaron has worked for over 100 different theatre and production companies, and educational institutions as an electrician, carpenter, sound engineer, designer, tech director, director, production manager and producer.
CODY WESTGAARD (Co-Production Manager) is thrilled to join Porchlight Music Theatre for this season. He is the production manager at Peninsula Players Theatre and has worked as assistant stage manager for 42nd Street, White Christmas, Saturday Night Fever and Hazel (Drury Lane Theatre), Mamma Mia! (Paramount Theater), and The Joseph Jefferson Awards (2006-2017). Other credits include assistant production manager (APM) at NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama (2011-2015), APM at Williamstown Theatre Festival (2009-2011), PM at Noble Fool Theatricals (2007-2008). Cody also works for MACE (Movement and Combat Education) as the operations manager and co-created the stage management intensive. Cody earned a BA in Theatre at Loyola University Chicago and MFA in Production Technology and Management at Carnegie Mellon University. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.
SEAN McSTRAVICK* (Stage Manager) is delighted to return to Porchlight Music Theatre after stage managing last season’s production of Billy Elliot the Musical. They have been a member of the stage management team on over a hundred productions at companies including: Music Theater Works, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Marin Theatre Company (four years as PSM), the Reduced Shakespeare Company, North Coast Repertory Theatre, R.H. Orman Inc., 42nd Street Moon, and the Willows Theatre Company. Sean is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.
ANDREW ASHLEY HATCHER* (Assistant Stage Manager / Co-Properties Designer) is an Austin, Texas transplant stage manager, props designer and general theater-maker. He is happy to return to Porchlight Music Theatre where he previously worked on Memphis and Merrily We Roll Along. Other Chicago credits include Frost/Nixon (Redtwist Theatre) and Becky Shaw (Windy City Playhouse). Austin-area credits include numerous award-winning shows with Salvage Vanguard Theater (where he remains a company member), Austin Playhouse, Breaking String Theater, Doctuh Mistuh Productions, Fusebox Festival, Mary Moody Northen Theatre, TexArts, Texas Performing Arts, Trouble Puppet Theater, and Zilker Theatre Productions.
SHANNON DESMOND (Assistant Stage Manager) is thrilled to be back at Porchlight Music Theatre where she was part of the team for last season’s Billy Elliot the Musical, Memphis and New Faces Sing Broadway 1975. Other credits include Resolution (Pride Films and Plays), Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue, Charles Ives Take Me Home (Curious Theatre Company), How the World Began (Rivendell Theatre Ensemble) and productions with Chicago Dance Crash and Chicago Reparatory Ballet. She is also a Vinyasa Yoga instructor and a proud Northwestern University graduate.
MATT NADLER (Assistant Stage Manager) is excited to return to Porchlight Music Theatre where he has previously worked on Side Show, Dreamgirls, In The Heights, The Scottsboro Boys, Marry Me A Little, Billy Elliot the Musical, Merrily We Roll Along and Memphis. He received his BFA in Stage Management from Emerson College. Thank you to his family for always supporting him in his passion.
JEANNIE LUKOW (Executive Director) is a founding member of Porchlight Music Theatre’s board of directors serving on the board for 19 years, six of them as its president. She was thrilled to join the staff in September 2014 as the company’s first Executive Director. Prior to taking the helm at Porchlight, Jeannie ran Bespoke Cuisine, one of Chicago’s leading cooking party venues, which she co-founded/owned for 12 years. Before the hospitality/food business, Jeannie built a 15-year career in marketing communications, much of it spent in association management. Her most recent position was as Managing Director of Marketing Communications for the National Association of Realtors, one of the nation’s largest trade associations. She is a native Michigander and a graduate of Michigan State University
*Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in America
^Denotes members of the United Scenic Artists IATSE, the Union and Professional Association of Designers, Artists, and Craftspeople
+Denotes Porchlight Music Theatre Artistic Associate