Late last year I announced my top ten Chicago theatre moments, which included the surprisingly well-realized production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at Actors Theatre Company. As I discussed in my review of that production, Follies is a rarely-produced musical — a trend that stems from its sheer scope and size. It’s Epic with a capital “E.” So, it was a real treat to finally see a production of this show, and one done so well — especially considering this is a community theatre group.
In response to mentioning their production in my top ten list, Actors Theatre President Marlon Barden, who also directed Follies, recently sent me a lovely email thanking me for recognizing their hard work:
“While you rightly note that ours is a ‘community theatre,’ we have always striven for artistic excellence, and in that endeavor we are aided by the incredible talent that abounds throughout Chicagoland,” she said. “Follies was a labor of love for us all, and we so appreciate that you recognized the heart and soul that everyone involved in the production poured into it.”
However, in this note, Ms. Barden shared some disappointing news: “Unfortunately, Follies will be our last production at Loyola University; with no warning, they committed our time slot to Next Theater from Evanston.”
(Don’t worry – I already received confirmation from her that it was okay to share this information on my blog.)
The space, Kathleen Mullady Memorial Theatre, is a lovely venue, featuring state-of-art equipment, including scrims, lighting, sound, projection equipment, and an elevating orchestra pit — which was used to great effect in Follies. Previous productions ATC staged there include Sweeney Todd, Guys and Dolls, and 1776. “It is really a shame,” added Barden. “We loved their facility and treated it with respect, and we had a great relationship with their on-site staff.”
While I’m not sure why Loyola would kick out a great group like Actors Theatre, one can only assume it was a decision based on money. While they aren’t the largest group, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a press release or poster announcing one of their shows, the word of mouth among my theatre friends has been strong. That’s how I discovered Follies.
However, this isn’t the end for this passionate troupe. Actors Theatre’s next production, Maltby and Shire’s Baby, will be produced at the Theatre Building, and is set to open June 10.
“Our new space is far more limited, of course, so we will be taking most of the ‘epic’ out of our productions,” she said. “However, the people there are great, and they seem very happy to have us on board. We are hoping that this will be the start of a beautiful friendship!”
I hope so, too! This group deserves a respectful home.