Chicago Shakes’ Follies casting (partly) announced — where are the Chicago actors?

After much speculation, Chi Shakes has released partial casting news for one of my all-time favorite musicals, and probably the most highly anticipated production (for me) this year: Follies, at Chicago Shakes, directed by Gary Griffin.

Here’s what’s been announced so far for Follies casting (via Chris Jones), which begins performances Oct. 4:

Hollis Resnik will perform the role of Carlotta (and sing “I’m Still Here”) in director Gary Griffin’s production. The Broadway actor Brent Barrett will play Benjamin; Caroline O’Connor plays Phyllis; Robert Petkoff plays Buddy and Susan Moniz plays Sally.

Also in the cast: Mike Nussbaum, Nancy Voigts, Marilyn Bogetich, Kathy Taylor, Dennis Kelly, Ami Silvestre, Bill Chamberlain, Adrian Aguilar, Jen Donohoo, Jenny Guse, Amanda Kroiss and Christina Myers.

Now, I had some casting ideas for Follies, which included many Chicago actresses and actors. Obviously, no one consulted me (ha), because, for whatever reason, Griffen has turned to outside talent for three of the four leads (Moniz is a Chicago favorite, and I can’t wait to hear her sing “Losing My Mind”).

Why such heavy reliance on non-local talent for big Sondheim musicals in this city? I recall Griffin’s production of Passion starred a trio of outsiders, including Ana Gasteyer as a lackluster Fosca, and his 2002 production of Sunday in the Park with George starred Petkoff as the frustrated pointalist and Broadway actress Andrea Burns as his even more frustrated muse/girlfriend, Dot.

And it’s not just Chi Shakes: Drury Lane’s Rachel Rockwell-directed production of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd stars Broadway actors Gregg Edelman and Liz McCartney.

Yes, the supporting cast and ensembles in these shows are mostly made up of local talent (woot for Resnik singing “I’m Still Here” — a song I’m sure she’ll make into the full-out showstopper that it is), but why the reliance on non-local talent to star in these high-profile Sondheim shows? Are there no other actors in the city whom we can trust to star in major productions of musical comedies? Seriously?

5 thoughts on “Chicago Shakes’ Follies casting (partly) announced — where are the Chicago actors?

  1. Chicago Shakespeare’s response would probably be that they are a world-class theater and their job is to get the best possible actor for the part, not to use Chicago actors exclusively (although the bulk of their casts are Chicagoans). If Griffin feels that the available Chicago actors aren’t the best for the parts he casts, that’s his call. And if we’re supposed to be this great theater center, we should be welcome to out-of-towners who have something to share with us and not be so provincial. Sorry, Bob, but I have to call boosterism here.

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