Avoiding the Commute – Bringing the Best of Downtown Chicago Professional Theatre to Suburban Audiences

A colleague recently commented that when it comes to the entertainment industry, I might be considered a jack of all trades. Their point was that I kind of dabble in a lot of different areas.

I never really thought about it before, but once I started putting together an informal list of the roads I’ve traveled, it made me realize that I’ve been fortunate to enjoy success in a pretty wide range of specialties. My entertainment resume includes work as an actor, director, singer, dancer, recording artist, lyricist, composer, playwright, television producer, record producer, screenwriter, college instructor, radio host, product spokesperson, publicist, marketing director, journalist, and theater critic.

It is in that last capacity as theater critic that I stumbled upon an absolutely wonderous new show. It was funny and poignant; it made me laugh; it made me reminisce and get misty eyed. In fact, it was one of the best nights of theater I have had in years – and as a theater critic I see a lot of shows.


The show to which I am referring is The Princess Strikes Back: One Woman’s Search for the Space Cowboy of her Dreams. And while it has enough Star Wars references to tickle any fan’s fancy, it is so expertly crafted that even someone who has never seen a single Star Wars movie or TV show would enjoy it.

The writer and star of the show, Victoria Montalbano, is a storyteller with a natural charm. And her stories are magical and totally relatable at the same time. Honestly, it is a show that anyone over the age 15 would find something to relate to – men and women. It is feel-good entertainment.

I raved about The Princess Strikes Back in my review. Not only that, I was so entertained and impressed that I told all my friends and colleagues about the show. I told them that they just had to go see it.

Every single person who took me up on my recommendation thanked me profusely. That is not an exaggeration. But here’s the interesting thing – they were all residents in the city of Chicago. Almost none of my friends and associates from the suburbs made the trip to the city to see the show.

This perplexed me. I have an inquisitive mind, so I did some inquiries. What I found out was it had nothing to do with the show, it had everything to do with the location.


The general consensus was that a lot of people who live in the suburbs don’t like to travel into the city if they can avoid it. The reasons cited weren’t surprising.

  • Stop-and-go traffic sitting on the expressway to get downtown was the top reason given.
  • The hassles and expense of parking was another common complaint.
  • The general time commitment of traveling downtown, sitting through a show, and then trekking home again was also listed as a common deterrent.

As someone who is not a big fan of spending hours behind the wheel myself, I understood where these people were coming from. It disappointed me though, because I knew that if they saw the show they would love it. In fact, they would love it so much that they would be like me and tell all their friends to see it. But I get it – sitting in traffic sucks.

Then I got an idea. If people in the suburbs won’t go into the city to see a surefire blockbuster, what if we brought the show to the suburbs?

As a theatre critic, I work with a large network of theaters throughout the Chicagoland area. I decided to see if I could use those relationships to do just that – bring an award-winning, smash hit Chicago play to the suburbs.

The first theater I approached is Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles. Steel Beam Theatre is an award-winning professional theater ….and as I always point out, they have the most comfortable seats of any theater I have been to in the Chicago area.

(Let me just say that until live theater venues start installing reclining lounge chairs like movies theaters have now, Steel Beam Theatre is your best bet for comfort.)


Steel Beam Theatre has a strong reputation of consistently putting on great work. They don’t have elaborate sets like they have at the beautiful Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Nor do they have Broadway stars like the always incredible Marriott Theatre imports. What they have is a commitment to quality, and it shows in each and every show that appears on their stage.

If I had to compare Steel Beam Theatre to any of the well-known Chicago institutions, I would have to equate it to the early days of Chicago Shakespeare Theater with a touch of mid-life Steppenwolf Theatre.

Steel Beam is led by a brilliant visionary in Marge Uhlarik-Boller, the theatre’s Artistic Director who works in tandem with an incredible staff headed by Managing Director Catie Early and a Board of Directors led by President Paul Anderson. They attract quality directors and first-rate talent. I knew they would perfect venue to bring The Princess Strikes Back to suburban audiences.

And so…. I happily and proudly invite you to your chance to see an award-winning Chicago play in the comfort of the suburbs:

The Princess Strikes Back will be presented at Steel Beam Theatre for an evening delight on Friday, May 19th and in the afternoon on Sunday May 21st for a relaxing matinee. 

Don’t delay on ordering your tickets for The Princess Strikes Back.


As my special gift to you for being supporters of The Life and Times of Rikki Lee Travolta, I am thrilled to be able to offer you Buy One Get One Free Tickets. That’s right – bring a friend or a date and you get one free ticket with every ticket purchased. If you’re like Fonzie you can bring a few dates. Use code LEIA at checkout when you order online.

The Princess Strikes Back is complimented by the brilliant performers of Any Suggestions? Improv – one of the top improv groups in the Chicagoland area. Any Suggestions? will be presenting the hilarious improv show May The Laughs Be With You on Saturday May 20th.

If you’ve never seen Any Suggestions? then you don’t know what you are missing. Come to the show and plan to have an incredible time. I promise you will be laughing the night away.

For tickets to see Any Suggestions? on Saturday, May 20th visit:



Hey – I understand about not wanting to drive into the city from the suburbs. I would much rather travel an hour on open roads than spend that same hour bumper-to-bumper on the expressway.

Now the problem is solved though – you can see the award-winning hit Chicago show The Princess Strikes Back and top improv group Any Suggestions? in both comfort and convenience in the suburbs May 19-21st.

I’ll be on hand at all the shows, so when you come to the theater, please make a point to say hi to me so I can personally thank you for supporting the arts.

I can’t stress how important it is to support the arts, especially small theatres like Steel Beam Theatre and new productions like The Princess Strikes Back. You may think your one or two ticket purchases don’t amount to much in the grand scheme, but I can tell you that they do. Your ticket purchases matter more than you could imagine. Each and every ticket helps – so please make plans to come and have a great time laughing with friends.

Peace. Love. Trust.

Rikki Lee Travolta


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