Passing Strange (April 21 - May 29, 2011)

Book and Lyrics by Stew / Music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald

Directed by Lili-Anne Brown

Musical Direction by James Morehead

Performed April 21 – May 29, 2011
Chicago Center for the Performing Arts
777 N Green St, Chicago

With book and lyrics by Stew, music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, and created in collaboration with Annie Dorsen, PASSING STRANGE is a daring new musical that takes audiences on a journey across boundaries of place, identity and theatrical convention. Loaded with soulful lyrics and overflowing with passion, the show takes us from black, middle-class America to Amsterdam, Berlin and beyond on a journey towards personal and artistic authenticity. PASSING STRANGE electrified Broadway in 2008, winning a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and numerous other awards.

Passing Strange tells the story of a young black man from Los Angeles, rebelling against a loving, church-going family and breaking out on his own to follow the call of art and search for “the real”. It’s a universal coming-of-age tale about the explosive intersections and epic synergies of race, class, individuality, sex, drugs, rock… and the place we can’t help but call home. The New York Times said: “[Passing Strange] is far richer in wit, feeling and sheer personality than most of what is classified as musical theater these days…Call it a rock concert with a story to tell, trimmed with a lot of great jokes…I’ll just call it wonderful.”

  • “Passing Strange… is staggeringly good. And anyone in need of a reminder of how Chicago theater continues to reinvent itself is advised to head directly to The Chicago Center for the Performing Arts to catch it.” Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
  • “[A] savvy, simple, honest and rockin’-good-time…In the hands of the Bailiwick, it’s also a great night out.” Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
  •  ”Director Lili-Anne Brown’s Midwest premiere of this 2008 Broadway musical is an energetic, electrifying event for the new Bailiwick.” Colin Douglas, Centerstage Chicago
  • “★★★★…An extraordinary cast…a production that does full justice to this fascinating, inspiring work.” John Beer, TimeOut Chicago
  • “★★★★…nothing short of terrific.” Lawrence Bommer, Chicago Theater Blog 

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound harnesses the Uptown Sound’s post-punk take on JB’s moves and MG’s grooves to unleash sweaty on-the-one workouts, dance-punk booty shakers, garage rock thump humps, and aching R&B ballads without a missed step in between. Since releasing their debut album “Beat of Our Own Drum” in 2009, the group has toured the US, Canada, and Spain, scored a viral hit with their electrifying take on Wilco’s “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” (which they had the pleasure of performing with Jeff Tweedy this past January), collaborated with soul greats Syl Johnson and the Impressions’ Nate Evans, and received critical praise from the New York Times, MOJO, Chicago Tribube, and the Onion.  JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound are for the people remaining awake through a great revolution, for people who want to move and not just sit tight.  Guaranteed to make you dance by any means necessary, JC Brooks is the new sound of Chicago.  The Uptown Sound is comprised of Ben Taylor (bass), Kevin Marks (drums), and Billy Bungeroth (guitar). With special guest David Keller (keys/guitar).

Jayson Brooks

Jayson Brooks

Jayson Brooks (NARRATOR) is a Chicago artist who acts, writes and makes music and he is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do theatre again.

Steven Perkins

Steven Perkins

Steven Perkins (YOUTH) Steven is excited and honored to be working with Bailiwick Chicago.  He recently moved to the city and couldn’t be happier to be working with such talented artists.  Some favorite roles include Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Jesus in Godspell.  He would like to thank his cast mates and director for being so incredibly supportive; also his mother for loving a child who was far too similar to the character he is now playing.

LaNisa Frederick

LaNisa Frederick

LaNisa Renee Frederick (MOTHER) is thrilled to work with Baliwick Chicago. Previous credits include The Gimmick (Jeff/BTAA nominated, Pegasus Players),  Stage Black (MPAACT), Doubt (Red Twist Theatre), Letters Home (Griffin Theatre), The Exonerated (Raven Theatre), A Street Car Named Desire (Know Theatre Tribe, Cincinnati), Alexander Projekt 1 (Splitmoon Theatre, London), A Winters Tale and The Heidi Chronicles (Corbett Theatre, London). An artistic associate of MPAACT Chicago LaNisa received her B.A. from Loyola University Chicago and M.A. from University of Essex, England.

Sharriese Hamilton

Sharriese Hamilton

Sharriese Hamilton (MARIANNA, SHERRI, SUDABEY) is pleased as pudding to be working on Passing Strange. Although she is now based in Chicago, she hails from Okemos, Michigan, receiving her B.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University. Chicago credits include Rona Lisa Peretti/The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Cathy/The Last Five Years, Apollo Girl/Buddy:The Buddy Holly Story, and various roles with the Chicago based children’s theatre, Great Works. Some of her  favorite Michigan credits include Crystal/Little Shop of Horrors, Yitzach/Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Benvolio/The People VS Friar Laurence, Queen/The Life, Beatrice/Much Ado About Nothing, Maria/Twelfth Night, Wife/See What I Want To See, Mrs.Butterworth/The Book Of Liz, and Mother/Hymn and Carol. Sharriese considers herself extremely lucky to  work on a such a cool project. Thanks to Lil for putting faith in me and working harder than I thought humanly possible. Thanks to friends for being you. Thanks to the family that gives me constant inspiration, support, and love.

Aaron Holland

Aaron Holland

Aaron Holland (TERRY, CHRISTOPH, MR. VENUS, REVEREND) is grateful and excited to be working on this show with this group of amazing and hilarious people. Recent credits include A Christmas Carol (Goodman), Understudying The Brother/Sister Plays (Steppenwolf) , AIDA, F*#@#$ Men (Bailiwick Chicago). Aaron is proud to be a new part of the Bailiwick Collective and an Equity Membership Candidate! Aaron received his BFA in Theatre Performance from VCU in 2003. Love and thanks to Mom, Papadeux and Rus.

Osiris Khepera

Osiris Khepera

Osiris Khepera (MR. FRANKLIN, JOOP, HUGO) A self described Renaissance Artist with gifts ranging from linguistics to the visual sphere, Osiris Khepera is an accomplished entertainer, host, and Master of Ceremonies.  He has spent the last several years tending his crafts on stages, in clubs, speakeasies, basements, living rooms, and jook joints the world over.  His U.S. Credits include productions with Next Theater, Victory Gardens, Lookingglass Theater, Blindfaith Theater, Dog and Pony Theatre, and MPAACT.   His spoken word EP ‘2 Trade Blood 4 Ink’ is currently available, and he is currently writing new material.   He attended Northern Illinois University where he studied theatre under the tutelage of the incomparable Kathryn Gately.  Thank you SO Much to Lil, Kevin, and everyone here at Bailiwick Chicago for this opportunity. I am truly grateful to be getting back on stage as a part of this Very special production. Cause we are a Family, Like a Big Ass Tree. Thanks, Ya’ll, for teaching me the secret ways of No Ticket, No Tow.   Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.  Daddy, I made you a promise.  Mommy, I Love You.

Whitney White

Whitney White

Whitney White (DESI, EDWINA, RENATA) is a Chicago native and recent Graduate of Northwestern University. She is so excited to make her debut with Bailiwick Chicago in Passing Strange. Recent regional credits include: RENT (NightBlue), HAIR (LTOTS), Girls v Boys (The House), Caroline or Change (Court) and Ruined (U/S, A/S The Goodman). Eternal love and gratitude to her amazing family and friends.

Daniel Riley

Daniel Riley

Daniel Riley (UNDERSTUDY – NARRATOR) Daniel is thrilled to be working with Bailiwick Chicago. He was last seen as Bustopher Jones/Gus in the extension of Theo Ubique’s CATS. Other favorite roles include Othello (Othello), Coalhouse (Ragtime), and Jim Conley (Parade). He is also a member of The Lakeside Singers (lakesidesingers.com), and The Embraceables (facebook.com/theembraceables). Special thanks to Lil, Katie, Jayson and the entire company.

Lili-Anne Brown (DIRECTOR) is a proud Founding Member of Bailiwick Chicago.  Ms. Brown is a diverse participant in the Chicago theatre community.  Directing credits include Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Timber Lake Playhouse, where she’ll direct Sweet Charity this summer.  She served as A.D. of the Jeff-winning Ragtime (Porchlight) and Side Show (BoHo).  Onstage, Lili-Anne has appeared at Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Victory Gardens, Writers’ Theatre and many others.  Currently you can catch her across town at the Mercury Theater in Route 66′s hit new play A Twist of Water, in which she originated the role of Tia.  Lil has also spent most of the past year working at The Second City; she traveled to DC to perform in A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics, and understudied The Absolute Best Friggin’ Time of Your Life on the e.t.c. Stage.  She is also one of the authors of the musical sketch comedy Blacktacular! which is currently seeking a producer.  Lil would like to thank Kevin and her wonderful cast and staff for putting their hearts into Team Strangé, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound for the SOUL, and Kate for being Pink.

James Morehead (MUSICAL DIRECTOR) is music director for VOX3, choir master/organist at St. Helena’s Episcopal Church in Burr Ridge, IL, accompanist for the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and resident coach for Watson Studios www.watsonvoicestudios.com. He primarily works as a coach, accompanist and music director for the Theater Conservatory of Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, where he has also served as Adjunct Professor of Music Theory/History and German Diction. James received his MM in Piano Performance and Music Theory from Roosevelt University and his BM from Duquesne University. As a Music Director, James has worked on Jerry Springer- the Opera (Jeff Award: Best Show), bare (Jeff Nominated: Music Direction), AIDA, Trouble in Tahiti, The Rainbow Connection, the Mikado, The Impresario, Barber of Seville, The Old Maid and the Thief, Two Gentlemen ofVerona, Sondheim in the Park, The Wandering Scholar, The Bear, Reagan’s Children, Something Schwartz, The Way We War, Copacabana, Cupid and Psyche, Promises, Promises , Screwed Up People, and The Tony Goes To, The Tony Goes II, and Once, Twice, Three Times a Tony. He has also appeared as a featured cabaret pianist at Gentry on Halsted, Spin Nightclub, Davenport’s, the 410 Club, the Spot and the Casino.

Katie Faltus (STAGE MANAGER) Katie is honored to be making her Bailiwick Chicago debut!  Regional credits: BABY, Animal Crackers, Jekyll and Hyde, Six Degrees of Separation, American Buffalo, Camino Real.  Thanks to the production team, cast, band, crew, and everyone involved in bringing Passing Strange to the CCPA stage!  Love to Mom, Dad, Libbi, and Rick!

Kevin D. Mayes (EXECUTIVE PRODUCER) Kevin started as an assistant to director Lloyd Richards at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference after graduating from Yale. While in NYC, he worked as an actor at various theater companies. Portraying Hyppolytus in kabuki makeup, diaper and a wheelchair at the Living Theater was a… highlight?  Another was coordinating music for the original production of Wendy Wasserstein’s The Sisters Rosensweig at Lincoln Center. He moved to Chicago and co-founded a web start-up, then became a muckety-muck at Aon Corp. Ten years ago he married the love of his life Javid. Their son Ahkeem is now 17 (YIKES!), and is the coolest kid he’s ever met. Period. Really. Kevin left “corporate” and returned to the theater just in time for the recession. Favorite projects include The Adding Machine at Next, Gross Indecency at Boho, End Of The Tour at 16th street, and My Favorite Year and A Man Of No Importance at the old Bailiwick Repertory (Jeff-nominated for both). He’s currently developing an original musical titled Bloom about “tulipmania”, works as the VP of Product Development at RemCare (www.remcareinc.com), and is doing everything he can to keep Bailiwick Chicago up and running.

Jonathan Verge (ASSOCIATE PRODUCER) is a Director, Actor and Producer who came to Chicago from New York City in 2005. Jonathan graduated from Syracuse University with a BFA in Musical Theatre, and trained at The Globe Theater in London. Jonathan served as Producing Intern at American Theater Company, helping to produce the Chicago premier of YEAST NATION: THE TRIUMPH OF LIFE and the touring production of IT’S A WONDEFUL LIFE. Other credits include assisting Daisy Prince on the premier of John Bucchino’s IT’S ONLY LIFE at the Beckett Theater in New York, as well assisting Lonny Price on the Ravinia Festival Production of ANYONE CAN WHISTLE staring Patti LuPone and Audra MacDonald. Jonathan is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and looks forward to his continued work with Bailiwick Chicago as a member of the Collective.

Varris Holmes (ASSISTANT DIRECTOR) is excited to work with Bailiwick Chicago again after last performing in AIDA. Varris is a sometime teaching artist, writer, singer and actor here in Chicago and has taught for several awesome local companies including Lookingglass Theatre, Free Street Programs and About Face Theatre.  He is also a former company member of HealthWorks Theatre and occasionally does solo performance work around town. Varris also spends much of his time (the Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 part) extolling the many virtues of coffee for Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters, so please drink some.

Heather Stuck (ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER) is excited to be with this great cast and crew.  Originally from Springfield, IL Heather  received her BA in Musical Theatre from Columbia College Chicago. Recent stage managing credits include, “Jerry Springer the Opera”, “The Awesome 80′s Prom” and various other dance and corporate events. Heather is always thankful for her family and friends for their continuous support and love.

John Holt (SET DESIGN) This is John’s second time collaborating with the Bailiwick Chicago, having designed Aida last season. A freelance scenic designer and scenic artist, John serves as production designer and technical director for the Inconvenience, an artist’s syndicate he co-founded in 2008. Favorite Chicago designs include Brett Neveu’s The Earl for the Inconvenience, Paloma Querida with Luna Negra Dance Theatre, That Sordid Little Story for the New Colony, Arrangements for Pavement Group and Paper Thin Walls for Abraham Werewolf. John is a graduate of the Theatre School at DePaul University.

Matt Guthier (COSTUME STYLIST) Matt is very pleased to be working on his 1st show with Bailiwick Chicago, and even more so that he gets to work with Lil-Anne Brown. Past credits include 11 years as resident designer for Pheasant Run Theatre, the American Country Music Awards and Second City Theater. Starting as a clothing designer in the 80’s in Paris, his proudest moment was to design the costumes for multiple videos and a world tour for the Eurythmics.

Greg Hofmann (LIGHTING DESIGNER) has recently served as lighting designer for Drury Lane Oakbrook’s Charlotte’s Web, Modofac Productions’s You Took Away My Flag, Children’s Theatre of Madison’s Most Valuable Player and The Surprising Story of the Three Little Pigs, Madison Repertory Theatre’s Permanent Collection, and numerous productions at University of Oklahoma and University of Wisconsin. He has also designed over fifteen shows for Cedar Point Amusement Park and Dorney Park. Greg holds an MFA in theatre from the University of Wisconsin.

Patrick L. Bley (SOUND DESIGNER/ENGINEER) is very excited to be working on Bailiwick Chicago’s production of Passing Strange.  A native of Galt IL, Patrick came to Chicago to study at Columbia College Chicago, where he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in Audio Arts & Acoustics in 2010.  He has spent the last three years as a Sound Engineer at the UIC Pavilion (Chicago IL), as well as the Sound Designer/Engineer at Timber Lake Playhouse (Mt. Carroll IL), and The Lookingglass Theater (Chicago IL).

Michael Dunbar (PRODUCTION MANAGER) Michael is a half-time actor and half-time techie. He is really enjoying his time at Bailiwick Chicago and has loved working on this project. He wants to thank everyone for coming out and hopes you enjoy the show.

Rachel “Goose” Haile (DIALECT COACH) received her Bachelor of Arts from Grinnell College in Iowa having studied theatre, linguistics, and cultural anthropology.  She is most accustomed to various American, Irish, Scottish and British persuasions, but she has also coached actors in Italian, Dutch, German, Lithuanian, French, Arabic, Bulgarian, Polish, Russian, and Granadian accents.  Current vocal and dialect projects include A Little Night Music (Circle Theatre), Literati (Chicago Dell’Arte), Lighthousekeeping (New Leaf Theatre), Big Love (Chicago Fusion Theatre), I Am Montana (Mortar Theatre), Brothers of the Dust (Congo Square Theatre) and Something’s Afoot (Citadel Theatre).  Past projects include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (The Hypocrites), The Pull Toy (Collaboraction), Tale of the Allergist’s Wife (Apple Tree Theatre), Charley’s Sonata (On the Spot Theatre), Dancing at Lughnasa, Cabaret, Our Country’s Good, Pentecost, and Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.  She has lived abroad in London and New Zealand and tries her hardest to get to two foreign countries per year.

As part of our creative process building up to a production, we encourage the artists in our company to capture their own interpretations of the production through the use of artwork, photography, or any other medium they feel inspired to work through. Here is our interpretation of Violet: A Musical.

For Passing Strange, we asked Jayson Brooks (lead singer of JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound) to write and record some funky new music for us. He was totally game, and the result is interesting, funky, and sometimes just plain weird. But we love them.