FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, April 15, 2013
Watch a short video of rehearsal highlights
“The musical that changed musicals” marks its 70th anniversary!
Oklahoma! opens May 4 at Lyric Opera of Chicago
A brand-new production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s spectacular musical
with original choreography by Agnes de Mille
Oklahoma! launches Lyric’s groundbreaking five-year
AMERICAN MUSICAL THEATER INITIATIVE
16 performances Saturday, May 4 through Sunday, May 19
at the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive
starring Broadway sensations
Ashley Brown as Laurey and John Cudia as Curly
and featuring David Adam Moore as Jud, Tari Kelly as Ado Annie, and Curtis Holbrook as Will Parker
Additional principal casting includes:
Paula Scrofano (Aunt Eller), Usman Ally (Ali Hakim),
Matt DeCaro (Andrew Carnes), and Andrea Prestinario (Gertie Cummings)
Director: Gary Griffin
Conductor: James Lowe
Choreographer: Gemze de Lappe (living link to original production!)
Set Designer: John Lee Beatty Costume Designer: Mara Blumenfeld
Lighting Designer: Christine Binder Sound Designer: Mark Grey
Chorus Master: Valerie Maze Original Choreographer: Agnes de Mille
Associate Choreographer: Victor Wisehart
Diction & Dialect Coach: Jill Walmsley Zager
Fight Director: Nick Sandys
37 members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra
Tickets $32-$153 – 312.332.2244 or lyricopera.org
“It’s the musical that changed musicals – the show that set the bar for all musicals that followed.”
So says Gary Griffin, the acclaimed director whose new production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! will premiere at Lyric Opera of Chicago Saturday, May 4. The new production, which includes the original choreography by the legendary Agnes de Mille, will have 16 performances (including seven matinees)
May 4 -19 at the Civic Opera House, with tickets ranging from $32 to $153.
“This Pulitzer Prize-winning musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II—their debut collaboration—marks its 70th anniversary in 2013 and is one of the greatest American musical stage works,” says Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director. “We are delighted to have Oklahoma! make its Lyric Opera debut in a new production by Gary Griffin as part of Lyric’s American Musical Theater Initiative. We are also excited to have this first-rate cast and production team currently in rehearsal at Lyric for this company premiere.”
Freud notes that 37 members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra will perform the original orchestration by Robert Russell Bennett. The production will feature a 24-person singer-dancer ensemble (including 12 members of the Lyric Opera Chorus) plus three solo dancers.
Lyric’s groundbreaking AMERICAN MUSICAL THEATER INITIATIVE
is the first of five classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals that Lyric will present with its American Musical Theater Initiative. No other opera company in the world has made a long-term commitment to producing American musical theater on an annual basis.
“This is the first series of its kind,” declares Ted Chapin, president and executive director of The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization: an Imagem Company. Lyric will premiere The Sound of Music (2014), Carousel(2015), The King and I (2016), and South Pacific (2017). Casting and artistic teams for each of the musicals will be announced in the future.
“I am thrilled that this major American opera company would devote the same sort of passion and artistry to the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein that they already give to Mozart, Verdi, and Wagner,” says Chapin. “Lyric’s plan to present five completely new productions of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals over five consecutive years is unique and monumental. It’s a great way to launch Lyric’s American Musical Theater Initiative. For Lyric Opera to recognize the role that musicals from Broadway’s Golden Age have in the world of 21st-century lyric theater is remarkable – and a great honor for us.”
Director Gary Griffin, conductor James Lowe, choreographer Gemze de Lappe, and costume designer Mara Blumenfeld tell the cast and company what’s in store with this new production of Oklahoma!
10 Things You May Not Know About OKLAHOMA!
10) Oklahoma!—now celebrating its 70th anniversary!— marks an important turning point in the history of musical theater. It was brilliantly ahead of its time in its seamless integration of dialogue, song, and especially dance.
9) Chicago has always loved Oklahoma!—just 6 months after the show’s triumphant 1943 Broadway premiere, it opened at Chicago’s Erlanger Theater, playing to sold-out houses for a year!
8) Unlike most Broadway musicals today, Lyric’s Oklahoma! features a world-class, 37-member orchestra —the lush sound imagined by Rodgers & Hammerstein. The amazing duo went on to create Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music.
7) Renowned sound consultants collaborated with Lyric Opera on a new sound system this season especially for Oklahoma!
6) Oklahoma! bucked the trend of starting with a big chorus number, instead opening with the now-famous “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” for a single character, Curly – a role that has been portrayed by stars including Alfred Drake, Howard Keel, Gordon MacRae, John Raitt (Bonnie’s dad!), and Hugh Jackman.
5) Composer Richard Rodgers was the first ever of only 11 people to have won all four top show business awards including the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony (EGOT). Other EGOT winners include Audrey Hepburn, Rita Moreno, Mel Brooks, and Whoopi Goldberg.
4) Agnes de Mille’s legendary Oklahoma! choreography marked the first time dance was used to move the story forward—especially in the thrilling "Dream Ballet" and the rousing "The Farmer and the Cowman.” Her choreography is supervised at Lyric by her close associate, Gemze de Lappe—who danced the “Dream Laurey” in the national company in 1943.
3) The year before Oklahoma!, Agnes de Mille—niece of the great Cecil B. de Mille—created the celebrated American ballet, Rodeo with music by Aaron Copland. De Mille danced the leading role of the Cowgirl in Rodeo’s premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House.
2) Oklahoma! was based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs, who was born on a farm near Claremore, Oklahoma (the setting of the show). The same year that Oklahoma! premiered, he was the Hollywood screenwriter for two Sherlock Holmes films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.
1) Lyric Opera’s Oklahoma! team reads like a Broadway & operatic “Who’s Who,” with:
-Director Gary Griffin (Broadway’s The Color Purple and The Apple Tree, both Tony-nominated; brilliant productions of The Mikado and The Merry Widow at Lyric; associate artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater with a long list of award-winning Sondheim and other productions)
-John Cudia, best known as the star of Broadway’s Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera
-Ashley Brown, star of Disney’s original Mary Poppins on Broadway and Magnolia/Show Boat at Lyric
-David Adam Moore has starred as Demetrius/A Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Scala, and made his Lyric Opera debut as Stanley/A Streetcar Named Desire
-Tari Kelly, featured in Anything Goes and How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Broadway
-Curtis Holbrook recently starred as Sonny Malone in Broadway’s Xanadu
-Conductor James Lowe (Broadway’s Tony-winning revival of Anything Goes)
-Choreographer Gemze de Lappe (Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater)
-John Lee Beatty, designer of more than a hundred Broadway productions since 1976
-Costume designer Mara Blumenfeld (Broadway transfer of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses) and The Merry Widow at Lyric
PERFORMANCE DATES, SYNOPSIS, PRODUCTION SPONSORS
Lyric Opera Premiere / New Production
OKLAHOMA! / Richard Rodgers (music) and Oscar Hammerstein II (book and lyrics)
16 performances beginning at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted. May 4, 5 (2pm), 8 (2pm & 7:30pm), 9 (8pm), 10, 11 (2pm & 7:30pm), 12 (2pm), 15 (2pm & 7:30 pm), 16, 17, 18 (2pm & 7:30pm), 19 (2pm).
Premiered on Broadway in 1943, Oklahoma! was the first musical written by the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It ran for 2,243 performances with many songs becoming American classics, including “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning,” “People Will Say We’re In Love,” and “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top.” Based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, Green Grow the Lilacs, the story is set in the Oklahoma Territory of 1906 near Claremore and tells the story of two pairs of young lovers.
Curly McLain (John Cudia/debut) and Laurey Williams (Ashley Brown) are too stubborn to admit their attraction for each other. Laurey attempts to ignore the attention paid to Curly by flirtatious Gertie Cummings (Andrea Prestinario/debut). Laurey’s surly farmhand, Jud Fry (David Adam Moore), has a crush on her, and when he asks her to the box social, she’s too intimidated to say no. At the box social, competitive bidding between Curly and Jud culminates in a fight. Fueled by jealousy, Jud threatens Laurey until Curly comes to her rescue, prompting the pair to confess their love and plan their wedding.
Meanwhile, Will Parker (Curtis Holbrook/debut) is eager to earn the hand of his sweetheart, Ado Annie (Tari Kelly/debut). While Will is away, Annie is courted by a Persian peddler, Ali Hakim (Usman Ally/debut); being “a girl who cain’t say no,” she’s unable to decide between the two. Will has won $50 at the Kansas City state fair to prove to Annie’s father, rifle-totin’ Andrew Carnes (Matt DeCaro/debut), that he’s worthy as a potential son-in-law. Unfortunately for him, Will spends the money on wedding gifts for Annie, and without the cash in hand, he’s lost his chance to marry her. Andrew is impressed with Ali’s efforts to woo Annie, and arranges for them to be married. Ali, a well-known ladies’ man, does everything he can to avoid marrying Annie. He offers Will $50 for the gifts he bought for Annie; with his wealth returned, Will finally gets engaged to Annie.
At a town gathering to celebrate the marriage of Laurey and Curly, Jud makes an unwelcome appearance. In a drunken rage, he picks a fight with Curly, falls on his own knife, and is killed. Laurey is devastated, but her stalwart Aunt Eller (Paula Scrofano/debut) helps her to get past this tragedy and go on with life. To keep Curly from going to jail, the town holds a trial for him and he is acquitted. Laurey and Curly finally are able to ride off for their honeymoon in their “surrey with the fringe on top.”
Gary Griffin directs the new production. Members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus will be conducted by James Lowe (debut). John Lee Beatty (debut) is set designer, Mara Blumenfeld is costume designer, Christine Binder is lighting designer, and Mark Grey is sound designer. Renowned choreographer Gemze de Lappe (debut) has set the original choreography by Agnes de Mille. Victor Wisehart (debut) is associate choreographer. Jill Walmsley Zager (debut) is English diction and dialect coach. Nick Sandys is fight director.
New Lyric Opera production of Oklahoma! generously made possible by an Anonymous Donor, Robert S. and Susan E. Morrison, The Negaunee Foundation, Northern Trust, Mrs. Herbert A. Vance and Mr. and Mrs. William C. Vance, and Jim and Vicki Mills/Jon and Lois Mills.
* Lyric Opera debut
Ashley Brown (Laurey Williams) debuted at Lyric Opera last season as Magnolia/Show Boat. She originated the title role/Mary Poppins on Broadway, receiving Outer Critics, Drama League, and Drama Desk nominations for Best Actress. Brown also starred in that role on the national tour (2010 Garland Award for Best Performance in a Musical). She has played Belle/Beauty and the Beast on Broadway and has starred in the national tour of Disney’s On the Record. Brown has been featured with the Boston Pops, New York Philharmonic, New York Pops (Carnegie Hall), Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at Disney Hall, Pittsburgh Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, Cincinnati Pops, Philadelphia Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Philly Pops, and BBC Orchestra. She made her solo concert debut at Washington’s Kennedy Center (Barbara Cook’s Spotlight Series) and her cabaret debut (Feinstein’s at the Regency, New York). Other projects include Limelight (La Jolla Playhouse), The Sound of Music (The Muny in St. Louis – 2011 Kevin Kline Award), and her own PBS special, “Ashley Brown: Call Me Irresponsible” (2011 PBS Telly Award). Brown is featured on several albums including her critically acclaimed debut release of Broadway and American Songbook standards, “Speak Low.”
John Cudia (Curly McLain) is remembered in Chicago for his Jeff Award-winning portrayal of Jean Valjean/Les Misérables (Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre), and for the title role/The Phantom of the Opera in that production’s national tour (Cadillac Palace Theater). Cudia has the honor of being the only actor to have performed as both the Phantom and Jean Valjean on Broadway. His most recent Broadway run in The Phantom of the Opera counted him as only the 12th performer to play the role in the production’s record-breaking 25 years. In the years since his Broadway debut in Les Misérables, Cudia has performed some of the most famous musical-theater roles, including Jesus/Jesus Christ Superstar, Tony/West Side Story, Freddy Eynsford-Hill/My Fair Lady, and Lt. Joseph Cable/South Pacific. Cudia is now emerging as a classical crossover artist. As a featured soloist he has sung with The Broadway Tenors, in concert nationwide with The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Omaha Symphony and also with the Orchestra of Saint Peter by the Sea in his home state of New Jersey. Following Oklahoma!, Cudia will sing his first Alfredo/La traviata with Lyric Opera of the North.
David Adam Moore (Jud Fry) debuted at Lyric earlier this season as Stanley Kowalski/A Streetcar Named Desire (Student Night performance). Also this season, in his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut, he reprises his portrayal of Prior Walter/Peter Eotvos’s Angels in America (previously a great success with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Fort Worth Opera). Last season the baritone debuted at Geneva’s Grand Théâtre as Catesby and Rivers/Battistelli’s Richard III. He also sang his first Silvio/Pagliacci, along with Carmina Burana (New Orleans), Papageno(Austin), Mercutio(Palm Beach), and further performances of Carmina Burana (Orchestra of Saint Luke’s at Carnegie Hall). He joined La Scala for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merry Widow, and Candide (he has sung the latter work at Paris’s Châtelet and in Japan). Other roles include Billy Budd (Tel Aviv, Pittsburgh), Don Giovanni (Hannover, Kiel, Mannheim), Marcello (Pittsburgh), and Rossini’s Figaro (Seattle, Hannover). Moore has also appeared with the major companies of San Diego and St. Louis; and with the American Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, and St. Louis Symphony.
*Tari Kelly (Ado Annie Carnes) is returning to Chicago, where she attended The Theatre School at DePaul University. She recently appeared on Broadway in the starring role of Reno Sweeney/Anything Goes. Other Broadway credits include Mama Who/How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Liza Minnelli/The Boy From Oz (starring Hugh Jackman), and both Ellie and Kim/Show Boat (Hal Prince revival). Kelly’s national tour appearances include Audrey/Little Shop of Horrors, Sally/Cabaret, and Ellie/Show Boat. Chicago audiences will remember her in the title role/Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Marriott Lincolnshire (Jeff Award nomination – she reprised that portrayal at The Fulton in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and most recently at The Muny in St. Louis), Janet/The Drowsy Chaperone (Marriott) and Leda and Galinda/Everything’s Ducky (Northlight Theatre – Jeff nomination). Other regional credits include Janet/The Drowsy Chaperone, Edythe/My One and Only, and Fran/Promises, Promises (all at Stage St. Louis); Sally/Cabaret and Aldonza/Man of La Mancha (The Pittsburgh Public); Velma/Chicago and Princess Leonide/Triumph of Love (Milwaukee’s Skylight Music Theatre); and Princess Winnifred/Once Upon a Mattress (The Fireside in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin).
*Curtis Holbrook (Will Parker) began his career at 17, dancing on Broadway in Fosse and Footloose. Subsequent Broadway appearances have included The Boy from Oz, Taboo, Xanadu (as Young Danny), All Shook Up (as Dean Hyde), and most recently West Side Story (as Action). He has also been seen off-Broadway in Radiant Baby (Public Theater) and as Roland/Saved. The 2007 Encores! production of Sondheim’s Follies included his portrayal of Young Buddy. He played Gregory in the 2011 world premiere of It Shoulda Been You at The George Street Playhouse (New Brunswick, New Jersey). In 2007 Holbrook was seen on film in Hairspray (playing the dancer Brad on the Corny Collins Show) and Across the Universe. He has also appeared in several television episodes which include Law and Order SVU, All My Children, Sesame Street, Nurse Jackie and As the World Turns.
*Paula Scrofano (Aunt Eller) has starred at the Goodman Theatre (Desirée/A Little Night Music, Dot and Marie/Sunday in the Park with George – Sarah Siddons Award); Drury Lane Oakbrook (Lily Garland/On the Twentieth Century – Jeff Award); Marriot Lincolnshire (Norma Desmond/Sunset Boulevard, title role/Evita – Sarah Siddons Award, title role/Victor/Victoria and Mona/The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas); Court Theatre (Gretta/James Joyce’s The Dead); Candlelight Playhouse (title role/Mame); and Theater at the Center (Rose/Gypsy, title role/Hello, Dolly!). Among many other appearances have been Marie/The Most Happy Fella (Ravinia Festival); the Abbess/The Comedy of Errors and Glinda/The Wizard of Oz (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Marmee/Little Women, Golde/Fiddler on the Roof, Meg/Damn Yankees, and Carlotta/Phantom (all at Marriott Lincolnshire); Judith Bliss/Hay Fever and the Wife/Putting It Together (Jeff Award for the latter role, both at Court Theatre); and as Mme. Thenardier/Les Misérables and Mrs. Meers/ Thoroughly Modern Millie (Fulton Theatre, Lancaster, Pennsylvania).
*Usman Ally (Ali Hakim) was nominated for a 2012 Jeff Award for his lead role in Disgraced at American Theater Company, where he has also been seen in Celebrity Row. A current Fox Foundation TCG Grant Fellow, he has appeared at numerous major theaters in Chicago, including Victory Gardens (Relatively Close and the world premiere of the award-winning The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, the latter also seen at New York’s Second Stage and at The Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles), Steppenwolf (Three Sisters, Tranquility Woods), Lookingglass (Metamorphoses, Lilka Kadison, Arabian Nights), Remy Bumppo (Public Enemy, American Ethnic), Theater Wit (The Four of Us), and Red Orchid (Weapon of Mass Impact). Among his other appearances have been Around the World in 80 Days (Baltimore’s Centerstage, Kansas City Repertory) and Arabian Nights (Washington’s Arena Stage). His film credits include Star Trek: Into Darkness, Misled, Chicago Overcoat, Our Fathers, and Just Like a Woman. Television credits include Damages, Boss, Chicago Code, Blue Bloods, and the current ABC pilot Influence.
*Matt DeCaro (Andrew Carnes) most recently appeared in Pittsburgh’s Irish and Classic Theatre’s Chekhov Festival (Ivanov, The Proposal) and was seen last season at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre (Camino Real). Other Goodman credits include The Play About the Baby, Romance, Heartbreak House, Boy Gets Girl, and Spinning into Butter (the latter two reprised at Lincoln Center Theater and Manhattan Theatre Club). He has appeared recently at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Richard III, As You Like It). Other Chicago credits include The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Talley’s Folly, Dinah Was (Northlight Theatre); Glengarry Glen Ross, Perfect Mendacity, Men of Tortuga, Our Lady of 121st Street, Slaughterhouse-Five (Steppenwolf Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Mystery Cycle and The House of Blue Leaves (Court Theatre). Regional credits include five productions at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater. Recent film credits include The Last Rites of Joe May, The Wise Kids, U.S. Marshals, Eagle Eye and Mr. 3000. DeCaro has appeared on television in Prison Break, Curb Your Enthusiasm, House, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and The Office.
*Andrea Prestinario (Gertie Cummings) received a Joseph Jefferson Award as Violet/Side Show (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble), as well as a Broadway World Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical as Eliza Doolittle/My Fair Lady (Paramount Theatre). She reprised the latter role, and also portrayed Martha Jefferson/ 1776, in Frank Galati’s productions with Asolo Repertory in Sarasota. Among other roles are Louise/Gypsy (Drury Lane Oakbrook), Ariel/Footloose (Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana), Thea/Fiorello! (Timeline Theatre Company), and Daisy/How Can You Run With A Shell on Your Back (Marriott Theatre). Prestinario has also appeared with Writers’ Theatre, The Music Theatre Company, and Fox Valley Rep.
*James Lowe (Conductor) served as music director and conductor of the 2011 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of Anything Goes, and is currently the music supervisor for its national tour. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for his work on that production's cast album, which he conducted and co-produced. Earlier this season Lowe led Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas at Utah Opera, where he previously conducted Carlisle Floyd's Of Mice and Men. This summer he will make his debut at the Glimmerglass Festival leading Camelot. At Houston Grand Opera he conducted the world-premiere production of Rachel Portman's The Little Prince, as well as Carmen, Le nozze di Figaro, Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Jake Heggie's The End of the Affair. He has led the Wolf Trap Opera (Sweeney Todd), the Pittsburgh Opera Center (Jonathan Dove's Flight), the Houston Symphony, the American Composers Orchestra, and the Jacksonville Symphony. Lowe conducted performances of the Broadway revival of Gypsy (starring Patti LuPone) and was music director and conductor for the U.S. tour of the Cameron Mackintosh/National Theatre production of My Fair Lady. He conducted the first national tour of Adam Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza, and has appeared in concert with Sir Elton John, Randy Newman, and Booker T. Jones.
Gary Griffin (Director) directed Lyric Opera’s acclaimed new productions of The Merry Widow and The Mikado. Griffin is associate artistic director at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, where his tenure has encompassed much-acclaimed productions of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, Follies, Passion, A Little Night Music, and Pacific Overtures. He has also directed CST’s A Flea in Her Ear, Private Lives, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His work in Chicago—honored with nine Joseph Jefferson Awards for directing—includes productions for Chicago’s Court Theatre, Apple Tree, Mariott, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Pegasus Players, and Famous Door Theatre. His productions have also been seen in London (Kismet and the Olivier Award-winning Pacific Overtures); on Broadway (The Color Purple – 11 Tony nominations, including Best Musical), Amour, and The Apple Tree (Tony nomination for Best Musical Revival). Griffin is closely associated with the Stratford Festival (Camelot, Evita, West Side Story, 42nd Street) and New York City Center’s Encores! series (six shows, including most recently Lost in the Stars and this season’s Fiorello!). In addition to off-Broadway (Saved, Beautiful Thing), he has directed at the Old Globe, Alliance Theatre, Signature Theatre, and Goodspeed Opera House.
*John Lee Beatty (Set Designer) has designed sets for more than 100 Broadway productions since 1976, including the long-running revival of Chicago; the Pulitzer Prize winners Doubt, Proof, and Rabbit Hole; The Color Purple; The Heiress; The Sisters Rosensweig; and the revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance. Other productions include: The Big Knife, Orphans, The Nance, An Enemy of the People, Venus in Fur, Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway, Born Yesterday, Driving Miss Daisy, A View from the Bridge, The Royal Family, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Finian’s Rainbow, Time Stands Still, Mauritius, Dinner at Eight, Last Night of Ballyhoo, The Heiress, The Most Happy Fella, Burn This, Penn & Teller, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Fifth of July, and Crimes of the Heart, among others. His long relationships with Manhattan Theatre Club, Lincoln Center Theater, Circle Repertory and City Center Encores! have led to Tony, Obie, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk Awards, as well as the Theatre Hall of Fame. Beatty is a graduate of Brown University and the Yale School of Drama.
Mara Blumenfeld (Costume Designer) debuted at Lyric Opera with Gary Griffin’s production of The Merry Widow (2010-11). Among her many collaborations with Griffin have been Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, A Little Night Music, and Pacific Overtures. A graduate of Northwestern University, Blumenfeld is an ensemble member of Lookingglass Theatre Company, where she has designed more than 30 productions, including The Arabian Nights, Lookingglass Alice, The Brothers Karamazov, and Around the World in 80 Days. She has also designed numerous productions for other major Chicago companies, including the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Court Theatre, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Regional credits include designs for Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Asolo Rep, McCarter Theatre, and Weston Playhouse, among many others. New York credits include Mary Zimmerman’s productions of Metamorphoses (Broadway and off-Broadway), Lucia di Lammermoor and La sonnambula (both at the Metropolitan Opera). Blumenfeld has received three Joseph Jefferson Awards and the 2012 Michael Merritt Award for Excellence in Design and Collaboration. Upcoming projects include Zimmerman’s adaptation of Disney’s The Jungle Book, premiering at the Goodman Theatre this summer.
Christine Binder (Lighting Designer) has created lighting for 15 productions at Lyric Opera, most recently Don Pasquale and The Mikado. Highlights of her current season include Keith Huff’s Big Lake Big City (Lookingglass Theatre), John W. Lowell’s The Letters (Writers’ Theatre), and Matthew Lopez’s The Whipping Man, Northlight Theatre. Binder’s operatic credits encompass Madama Butterfly (San Francisco), Eugene Onegin (Detroit, Miami), Don Giovanni (Tulsa, Pittsburgh, Costa Mesa, New York City), I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Los Angeles, Minnesota, New York City, Pittsburgh), Dialogues des Carmélites (Vienna’s Theater an der Wien), and La tragédie de Carmen (Chicago Opera Theater). Highlights last season included Follies (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre) and Dracula (Indiana Repertory Theatre). An artistic associate at Lookingglass Theater, Binder has recently returned there for Ethan Frome and The Eastland. Her work in Chicago has also earned praise at Northlight Theatre (The Lieutenant of Inishmore, the Jeff-nominated Pride and Prejudice), About Face, and Redmoon Theater. She has designed for both Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Milwaukee Shakespeare. Binder is an associate professor, head of lighting design, and chair of the design tech program at DePaul University.
Mark Grey (Sound Designer) debuted at Lyric with Doctor Atomic and returned for Show Boat. Grey made history as the first sound designer for the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall (2002) and the Metropolitan Opera (Doctor Atomic, 2008). For two decades, professional sound-design relationships have led Grey to premiere works by such artists and organizations as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers. He designed and toured extensively with Kronos Quartet for nearly 15 years, and he has been a close collaborator of John Adams for more than two decades. Grey composed the music and sound design for Peter Sellars’s 2009 Othello production.In 2008 Grey was composer-in-residence with the Phoenix Symphony, whose recording of his oratorio, Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio, was released the next year. In March 2011 two large-scale works by Grey were premiered: Mugunghwa (at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles) and Fire Angels (at Carnegie Hall). He has recently undertaken commissions for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels.
Valerie Maze (Chorus Masterand Assistant Conductor), a member of Lyric Opera’s musical staff making her company chorus master debut, recently won an After Dark Award for outstanding music direction for Cats at Theater at the Center. She has also served as music director at Peninsula Players, Wagon Wheel Theatre, Drury Lane Theater at Oak Brook, Light Opera Works, Bowen Park Opera, and Provision Theater Company, and as a keyboardist with Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Marriott Theatre. Maze has been involved in productions as assistant conductor and pianist at the Portland Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Light Opera Works (Evanston), Harrisburg Opera, DuPage Opera, da Corneto Opera, and O.P.E.R.A. Among the recent acclaimed musical-theater productions which she has served as music director are Sondheim’s Follies (Chicago Shakespeare Theater, directed by Gary Griffin) and A Little Night Music (Writers’ Theatre—Jeff Award nomination for music direction). Formerly a collaborative pianist in the music theater department at Northwestern University, Maze is an alumna of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
*Agnes de Mille (Original Choreographer) first attracted wide attention performing and choreographing for Ballet Theatre (later American Ballet Theatre). Her success creating Rodeo in 1942 for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo prompted Rodgers and Hammerstein to invite her to choreograph the original production of Oklahoma! the following year (she also choreographed the 1955 film version). Subsequently she choreographed the Broadway premieres of the duo’s Carousel and Allegro, as well as the musicals Bloomer Girl, One Touch of Venus, Brigadoon, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Paint Your Wagon, The Girl in Pink Tights, Goldilocks, Juno, and 110 in the Shade. Her Broadway directing credits included Allegro, Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, and Cole Porter’s Out of This World. Founder of her own company, Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre, and the author of 12 books (including several acclaimed volumes of autobiography), she served as a presidential appointee to both the National Advisory Committee on the Arts and the NEA’s National Council. She received a Tony Award, New York’s prestigious Handel Medallion, the Kennedy Center Honors, an Emmy, and the National Medal of Arts. She died in 1993.
*Gemze de Lappe (Choreographer), as dancer, actress, and director, has been closely associated with Agnes de Mille and her work for more than 60 years, and has restaged her choreography in countless musical-theater productions internationally. De Lappe was de Mille’s protégée during the 1940s-50s; in addition to performances with the Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre and American Ballet Theatre, she appeared in the first national company of Oklahoma! (as the Dream Laurey) and in the show’s first London production. Her Broadway performance credits include The King and I (as Simon of Legree in the “Small House of Uncle Thomas” ballet—original production, subsequently in the 20th-Century Fox film), Paint Your Wagon (Donaldson Award), Juno, and The American Dance Machine. On Broadway she recreated de Mille’s choreography for Oklahoma! (1979 revival) and choreographed Abe Lincoln in Illinois in 1993. Also renowned for reconstructing the work of Isadora Duncan and Jerome Robbins, she continues to regularly travel the country to remount the de Mille choreography for professional, regional, and educational theater company productions of The King and I, Oklahoma!, Brigadoon, and Carousel. A former professor of dance at Smith College, de Lappe holds an honorary doctorate from Niagara University, a special Tony Award Honor for Excellence in Theater, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and The Martha Hill Dance Fund.
*Victor Wisehart (Associate Choreographer) is a magna cum laude graduate of The Boston Conservatory. An accomplished dancer and choreographer, he made his New York stage debut as Red/Pipe Dream in last season’s City Center Encores production (now on CD), his London West End debut as Diesel/West Side Story at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre (for which he received an Olivier Award nomination). He played Lt. Buzz Adams/South Pacific for the Lincoln Center production’s presentation at the Kennedy Center and for its first national tour. Wisehart was recently seen in My Fair Lady at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Additional performing credits include New Rhythm/My One and Only at Connecticut’s Goodspeed Opera House and both Dreamgirls and Oklahoma! (in which he was seen as the Dream Curly) at The Muny in St. Louis. Wisehart reproduced Christopher Gattelli’s choreography for Ogunquit Playhouse’s South Pacific (nominations for Independent Reviews of New England Award and Broadwayworld. com Boston Award for Best Choreography) and collaborated as associate choreographer with Gemze de Lappe at The Muny (Oklahoma!) and Boston’s Reagle Music Theatre (both Oklahoma! and Carousel).
*Jill Walmsley Zager (Diction and Dialect Coach) served from 2008 to 2012 as resident company voice and dialogue coach, as well as conservatory co-head of speech and dialects, as the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. She worked on more than 20 ACT productions (works of Shakespeare, Lorca, Beckett, Brecht, Pinter, and Foote, among others) by such major directors as Carey Perloff, John Doyle, and Giles Havergal. In addition to close associations with the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, she has coached productions for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Private Lives, directed by Gary Griffin), Drury Lane Oakbrook and Water Tower Theatres, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Apple Tree Theatre, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and Utah Shakespeare Festival, Zager is an alumna of Northwestern University and the internationally renowned Central School of Speech and Drama.
Nick Sandys (Fight Director) has worked on more than 35 Lyric Opera productions since 1995-96. He has created combat choreography for companies throughout Chicago, including the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens, Remy Bumppo, Lookingglass, Northlight, Timeline, Light Opera Works, and The Theatre School at DePaul University (where Sandys has taught since 1995). His work has been seen at the Metropolitan Opera (this season’s Giulio Cesare) and regionally at Florentine Opera of Milwaukee, Kansas City Rep, Baltimore Stage, Portland Opera, Indiana Repertory, Dallas Theater Center, Fort Worth Shakespeare in the Park, and the Dallas Shakespeare Festival. His fight choreography for Requiem for a Heavyweight earned him a 2008 Jeff Award. Artistic director of Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Sandys has acted with numerous Chicago area theaters, receiving six Jeff nominations and an After Dark Award.