BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
At Porchlight Music Theatre’s Chicago Sings Stephen Sondheim at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a wealth of Chicago voices combined to celebrate not only one of the most important figures in musical theater but also one of his muses, the late and beloved Chicago chanteuse Hollis Resnik. The annual concert benefit was a record breaker and a sold-out success.
Michael Weber, Porchlight’s Artistic Director, told us: “As we began our planning for Chicago Sings, it was immediately agreed that we would pay tribute to not only one of the outstanding music theatre divas of Chicago but one of the great interpreters of the works of Stephen Sondheim. Hollis Resnik triumphed in a number of his works, including Into the Woods, Do I Hear a Waltz?, Sweeney Todd, and Follies to name but a few, and it was our honor that she made her final stage appearance, in Sunset Boulevard, here at Porchlight.”
Porchlight Music Theatre’s annual Chicago Sings fundraising concert was directed by Weber and Producing Artistic Associate Frankie Leo Bennett, with music directed by David Fiorello and choreography by Alejandro Fonseca and Laura Savage. Jim Corti received the Guy Adkins Award for Excellence in the Advancement of Music Theatre in Chicago. Weber presented the award, celebrating Corti’s career as actor, director, choreographer, and artistic director.
For the first time in Chicago Sings history, Porchlight offered two opportunities to experience Chicago’s music theatre and cabaret performers saluting Sondheim: the “It’s a Hit” live experience that included a reception and live viewing in the Edlis Neeson Auditorium and the “Color & Light” lounge experience, hosted by the Porchlight Young Professionals, with a livestream of the performances in a lounge created on the second floor of the MCA.
The second act began with a performance from students in Porchlight’s music classes and their teachers. The funds raised at Chicago Sings support Porchlight’s education and artistic programming. Porchlight’s education and outreach programs serve schools, youth of all ages and skill levels, and community organizations, most notably the ongoing collaboration with Chicago Youth Centers. Porchlight annually awards full scholarships and free tickets to ensure accessibility and real engagement with this uniquely American art form.
The Chicago Sings Stephen Sondheim finale included two of Sondheim’s most popular songs, with the Chicago Sings company performing “Being Alive” from Company and “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George led by Evan Tyrone Martin.
“As a friend to the work we have presented, Sondheim was supportive and agreeable to our intimate approach to his musicals and, on occasion, he would personalize his approval of our efforts with an encouraging word or two,” Weber said, adding that Sondheim has been an essential force in the development and impact of Porchlight Music Theatre.
Through live performance, youth education, and community outreach, the award-winning center for music theatre impacts countless lives each season, bringing the magic of musicals to their home at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts in the Gold Coast and to neighborhoods across the city. Porchlight has built a national reputation for boldly reimagining classic musicals, supporting new works and young performers, and showcasing Chicago’s most notable music theatre artists.
Now in its 27th season, Porchlight’s production history includes more than 70 mainstage works with 15 premieres in Chicago and 5 world premieres. Their commitment to the past, present, and future of music theatre led the company to develop the Porchlight Revisits and New Faces Sing Broadway program series, both quickly becoming audience favorites.
For more information about Porchlight Music Theatre, visit porchlightmusictheatre.org.