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After shutting Milord Studio Theatre’s doors to the public in March 2020 due to concerns about coronavirus, the Drama Group returns to in-person shows in Chicago Heights.
“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which won seven Tony Awards including best musical for its original Broadway production, runs Oct. 1-10.
“It’s terrific. We missed being onstage a lot,” Drama Group president Andy Leahy said.
“Certainly we have kept busy with online productions but it’s nothing like having an audience to react with so we’re very pleased to be here and able to be open again.
“It’s a fun show. The audience will laugh. They’ll enjoy themselves. We’ve got serious shows coming up but this opener is a good way to start our 90th season. We’re starting with a bold musical.”
Canceling the remainder of the 2019-20 season meant that “Crowns,” “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and “Matilda” were not staged and Kids Summer Theatre Camp did not take place in 2020.
The Drama Group created a YouTube channel, which presented staged readings starting with “Voice of the Prairie” in September 2020 and most recently “Keely and Du” in July, plus the “We Need a Little Christmas” program and the Black History Month virtual gallery and performance of “Being the Dream.”
“We learned that we could do it,” said Leahy about video and streaming productions.
“This is something that doesn’t have to be done just because we’re closed. This is something we might be able to do on a regular basis with our regular shows because we have Drama Group members and other people who are familiar with Drama Group who moved away.
“This way they are able to access some of our shows. The licensing houses are allowing people to do this. Of course you have to pay royalties but this might very well be a new way for the Drama Group to move into the future.”
Presently the focus is staging “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which features music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, who won a best original cast show album Grammy, and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, who won a Tony for best author (musical).
“It’s a silly story. It’s based on an actual book,” said Leahy about Shepherd Mead’s 1952 tongue-in-cheek “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune.”
“It’s about a guy who’s a window washer. Based on reading the book ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ he works his way up through management throughout the show.”
Leahy of Chicago Heights is working with actors from Beecher, Burbank, Chicago, Chicago Heights, Crestwood, Crete, Flossmoor, Frankfort, Mokena, Palos Heights and Park Forest.
“They’re terrific. They’re working hard. We’ve got great singers. We’ve got some people who never danced before but I’ve got a good choreographer who makes them look good,” Leahy said.
“We’ve got a variety of young people who are new to the Drama Group and some old-timers so it’s nice. It’s really coming together.”
The production team includes choreographer Liz Yerkovich of New Lenox and residents of Beecher, Chicago, Chicago Heights, Crete, Flossmoor, Homewood, Oak Forest, Olympia Fields, Orland Park, Romeoville, Tinley Park and the Indiana towns of Dyer and Whiting.
“Obviously being closed for over a year and a half we certainly went through our funds significantly because we have our own building and we had to pay for upkeep. We’ve had some people who donated through the year but we need to have audiences,” said Leahy, who was reelected president in August.
“We’re looking to just concentrate on producing quality shows with the money we have.”
The Drama Group’s 2021-22 season also includes “Sweat” from Dec. 3-12; “Doubt” from Feb. 18-27; “Crowns” from April 29-May 8; a British exchange production of “Run for Your Wife” presented by the Stables Theatre of Hastings, East Sussex, England, from June 10-19; and “Leading Ladies” from Aug. 5-14.
Protocol for the season of musicals, comedies and dramas requires audience members to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test result within 72 hours of the performance being attended.
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‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1-2 and 7-9; 2 p.m. Oct. 3 and 10
Where: The Drama Group’s Milord Studio Theatre, 330 W. 202nd St., Chicago Heights
Tickets: $23 adults; $21 ages 65 and older; $17 students
Jessi Virtusio is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.