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posted: 8/26/2011 6:00 AM

Artistic director brings 'Boys' to Marriott stage

Hard work pays off for 'Boys' artistic director

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  • Aaron Thielen adapted the 1991 film "For The Boys" as a stage musical.

    Aaron Thielen adapted the 1991 film "For The Boys" as a stage musical.
    Courtesy of Peter Coombs and The Marriott Theatre

  • Michele Ragusa stars as Dixie Leonard in the world premiere of "For The Boys" at Marriott Theatre.

    Michele Ragusa stars as Dixie Leonard in the world premiere of "For The Boys" at Marriott Theatre.
    pHOTOS Courtesy of Peter Coombs and The Marriott T


Aaron Thielen claims he never intended for his musical adaptation of the 1991 film "For The Boys" to actually make it to the stage.

"I began the adaptation as a kind of exercise," says Thielen, of Crystal Lake. "I wanted to learn how to write a show, and I thought this would be a good way to learn."

What started as a learning project, however, will make its world premiere Friday in a production at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

The musical, like the movie, revolves around the tempestuous relationship between entertainers Dixie Leonard and Eddie Sparks, played in the film by Bette Midler and James Caan. Over the span of 30 years, through periods of war and peace, Dixie and Eddie entertain America's troops -- all the while fighting their own personal battles.

"I have seen the movie many times," Thielen recalls. "And I always thought it was a really good fit for theater."

Thielen began his career as an actor and then, as opportunities arose, moved into the administrative side of things. At the same time, he began his "hobby" of turning a movie he loved into a musical.

Thielen had a blast working on the project. "There was no pressure because there was no chance it would be put on the stage," he insists.

So why did he keep at it?

"If you are a Chicago actor, half the time is finding the work, and half the time is doing the work," Thielen explains. "I found out no job is permanent. So I was always wanting to do something new.

"I had no ego in working on this show," he continues. "I figure, if I fail, I fail, I will move on to the next thing. Who cares if I fail? No one is going to see this."

His thinking changed when a lawyer Thielen had worked with at the Marriott caught the movie on cable. She loved it and mentioned that she thought it would make a good musical. One thing led to another, and Thielen showed the finished script to her, and eventually, to executive producer Terry James.

Then, as artistic director of the show, Thielen set to work with director/choreographer Marc Robin and an ensemble of actors to bring his musical to life.

Doing a new musical, as opposed to a time-tested favorite, has its own set of stresses and thrills, he soon found out.

"When you do 'Oklahoma' you just get out of the way and let it do its work," Thielen says. "Here, we are finding out what works, and where it works, and where it needs work."

Thielen is already at work on another show, "Hero," which is slated to run at a showcase of new musicals next month in New York City. So, his little "exercise" continues to pay off.

"This project has been a wealth of experience and knowledge," Thielen says of "For The Boys." "It has been very exciting."

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