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updated: 10/28/2011 10:58 AM

Feline Friends' Cabaret to warm up Winter Stage

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Ten years since its inception, the Fox Valley Park District's Winter Stage is strong as ever.

That will be evidenced in January, when the theater arts program unveils its production of "Cats," which, according to performing arts supervisor Kyle Donahue, will be one of the grandest shows in the proud tradition of Winter Stage.

In pursuit of that higher level, Winter Stage is hosting the Feline Friends' Cabaret next Saturday (Nov. 5) as a warm-up. And, just as the production of "Cats" is aiming for the spectacular, this unique cabaret has similar designs.

For one evening, the Prisco Community Center will bring the atmosphere of La Chat Noir Club (The Black Cat), the famous 19th century cabaret in bohemian Paris. The event will feature musical theater vocalists performing with a live musical trio of piano, drums and bass guitar.

"The money raised will be used to make the production as big as we can," Donahue said. "Donations will go toward making a bigger set, more extravagant lighting and more exciting costumes."

In all, eight adult singers and a trio of musicians are donating their time to help raise money. Vocalists include Polly Ludena of North Aurora, Stephanie Leo of Aurora, David and Christine Pfenninger of Lombard, Brittany Schmutzler of Aurora, Zach Gibson of Lisle, Joseph Rigaud of Aurora and Kyle Donahue of Geneva. Accompanying the piano will be musicians Greg Bizzaro of Lisle on drums and Marc Ludena of North Aurora on bass.

This cabaret benefit will feature musical theater productions with "9 Lives;" musicals and composers that have been constantly revived on Broadway or produced into films.

Performers will sing hits from "Anything Goes," "Chicago", "Showboat," "Wicked," "Guys and Dolls," "The Producers," "The Music Man," "Mary Poppins," "Porgy and Bess," "Spamalot" and more.

Gift baskets from local businesses will be raffled off to lucky ticket buyers, and guests can bid on silent auction prizes from places such as Jump Zone, Massage Envy, Huntoon's Stables, Patrick's Tavern, Luigi's and the Paramount Theatre.

This night of entertainment in a casual, family-friendly atmosphere features an opportunity to purchase additional snacks and drinks. And … drumroll, please … as a capper, the Fox Valley Park District also will announce and reveal the title of the 2012 Summer Stage production to be produced in July!

All proceeds from the event will go directly to the stage production of "Cats" in January at the Prisco Community Center. Tickets are $8 and available at any Fox Valley Park District community center.

And, speaking of "Cats," auditions for the January show will be held Friday, Nov. 4, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Prisco Center. Actors, singers, dancers, gymnasts and performers of all kinds are needed -- ranging in age from 7 to adult.

To prepare for your audition, visit and pick from one of six audition songs -- these are the only songs that may be performed for audition. Practice your song at home and you'll be ready to give it a go. The cast of "Cats" will consist of approximately 75 members.

"The focus will be on the kids, but with adult roles involved as well, it will provide a great intergenerational experience for everybody involved," Donahue said.

Visit for more details -- and get those vocal cords warmed up.

Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at

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