People are active in theater for many reasons. There are those who do it as a profession – either as an actor, director, stage manager, lighting designer, or one of the endless number of job titles associated with treading the boards.
Then, there’s community theater. These are actors and actresses, directors, choreographers, conductors, musicians, and support personnel who have careers or school that occupy their daily lives, but who enjoy the camaraderie of sharing their talents with friends and neighbors in their spare time.
Summer Place Theatre has been providing community theater opportunities to the Naperville community since 1966. Over the years they’ve developed their own unique level of quality that friends and neighbors love coming to show their support for as they cheer enthusiastically from the comfortable seats of the exquisite Naperville Central High School Auditorium.
NO RIGHT OR WRONG
Every community theater is different. That’s part of the beauty of theater in general – there are those who get to create with high ticket ingredients and others who have to beg, borrow, and steal to put a final product on stage. There is no right or wrong, as long as the participants have fun and grow from the experience.
The Pajama Game is a standard among community theaters. It is a light and playful musical that was written in the 1950s with a script by George Abbot and Richard Bissell and music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. Ross and Alder are also the duo behind Damn Yankees.
Based on Bissell’s 1953 novel 7½ Cents, the musical is a romantic comedy set amid a labor strike at the Sleep-Tite pajama factory. The factory’s handsome new superintendent and one of the female leaders of the labor union pursue love despite being on opposite sides of the workplace crisis.
Throw in a few dance numbers, some peppy songs, and the right cast and you have a Tony-winning musical. That’s what happened when the show first premiered on Broadway in 1954. Then, it happened again in 2006 with the revival starring Harry Connick Jr., Kelli O’Hara, and Michael McKean.
NEXT STOP: NAPERVILLE
The Summer Place Theatre company under the artful direction of Barry Norton may not feature the likes of Harry Connick Jr and Kelli O’Hara, but it has local stars that the community really showed a liking for.
The production stars Jason Peck as factory superintendent Sid Sorokin and real-life spouse Christina Peck as union representative Babe Williams. The other romantic couple key to the story features the comic relief talents of Bob Bullen as factory timekeeper Vernon Hines and the song stylings of Taylor Weisz as his love interest Gladys.
Other members of the cast include Paige Coe as Mabel, Jeff Harding as Prez., Steve Zeidler as Mr. Hasler, Julie Abud as Mae, and Kathy Musselman as Poopsie. Additional cast members Devin Koshay, Ethan Chan, Gregory J. Kontos, Rick Love, Angela Clark, Katherine Hart, Nicole Gruenberg, Elena Lazarov, Laura Miller, Erin Manuel, Jasmine Quijano, Katie Kostner, Evalynn Colin, and Maddie Greunberg.
Assisting Norton on the artistic staff are music director Kitty Karn, vocal director Ted Waltmire, choreographer Marianna Kontos, rehearsal accompanist Amy Steele, and producers Ted Waltmire and Steve Zeidler.
Norton is a director who pours his heart and soul into making each production he helms the best it can be. His fingerprints are all over this production, ranging from the set design and scenic painting to supplementing Kontos with aid on some of the dance numbers.
The production team includes Sam Dempsey (technical director), Nick Torres (master carpenter), Deb Holman (lighting designer), Bill Ryden (sound designer), Tamara Djukic (costume designer), Patty Meier (properties designer), Giana Salerno (stage manager), Chris Knight (assistant stage manager), Tamara Djukic (photography), and Riley Tomes (graphic designer). Marketing and publicity efforts were provided by Matt Whalen, Taylor Weisz, Christina Peck, Bob Bullen, and Riley Tomes.
BUILT TO IMPRESS
The set nicely fits the stage and features splashes of bright colors at strategically planned times to add to the wow factor. The set was built by a construction crew of Sam Dempsey, Nick Torres, Bequita Dempsey, Marriana Kontos, Angela Clark, Ethan Chan, John Salerno, Jeff Harding, and Chris Hayman.
When The Pajama Game premiered on Broadway, it was the first time that Bob Fosse had been entrusted with creating the dance numbers for a full production of this magnitude. Now regarded as one of the greatest choreographers in Broadway history, Fosse won the Tony for best choreography for his freshman effort.
Thanks to the standard set by Fosse’s original choreography, production numbers like Steam Heat and Hernando’s Hideaway always have the potential to thrill audiences. Following Fosse’s lead, Kathleen Marshall won the Tony for best choreography for the 2006 revival.
Famous songs that audiences will find find themselves humming along to when attending the Summer Place Theatre production of The Pajama Game include Hey There, I’ll Never Be Jealous Again, Her Is, Hey There, and Small Talk. The orchestra includes Thersa Lam and Christian Kuckie (reeds), Matthew Cole and Christina Morris (trumpet), Vanessa Gronke (trombone), Elizabeth Romanyuk and Luke Dufner (violin), Canchen Li (viola), Michelle Akin (cello), Danny Aten (bass), Josha Chan (keyboard), Corey Strode (guitar), and Jami Hockensmith and Bill Winters (percussion).
All the players involved with The Pajama Game at Summer Place Theatre are in high spirits and strutting their stuff with confidence on their faces and joy in their eyes. And that is what community theater is all about.
Performance dates for The Pajama Game are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 3 PM through June 25.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.SummerPlaceTheatre.org or by calling the Box Office Voice Mail at (630) 355-7969. Tickets are also available at the door.
Peace. Love. Trust.
Rikki Lee Travolta
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