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posted: 11/11/2012 6:00 AM

Curtain goes up on local children's theater

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  • Dara Cameron stars as the title character in "Cinderella," running from Saturday, Nov. 17, through Monday, Dec. 31, at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

      Dara Cameron stars as the title character in "Cinderella," running from Saturday, Nov. 17, through Monday, Dec. 31, at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
    Courtesy of Peter Coombs and The Marriott Theatre

  • Eight-year-old Killian Hughes is one of two cast members playing Tiny Tim in the Drury Lane Theater for Young Audiences production of "A Christmas Carol."

      Eight-year-old Killian Hughes is one of two cast members playing Tiny Tim in the Drury Lane Theater for Young Audiences production of "A Christmas Carol."
    Courtesy of Scott Calcagno

  • Caroline Heffernan, seated, portrays the title role of "Annie" at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. At her feet is her canine sidekick Sandy, played by "Mikey," a rescue dog from William Berloni Theatrical Animals.

      Caroline Heffernan, seated, portrays the title role of "Annie" at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. At her feet is her canine sidekick Sandy, played by "Mikey," a rescue dog from William Berloni Theatrical Animals.
    Courtesy of the Paramount Theatre

  • Dara Cameron stars as "Cinderella" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

      Dara Cameron stars as "Cinderella" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
    Courtesy of Peter Coombs and The Marriott Theatre

 
By Laura Stewart
lstewart@dailyherald.com

Heading out to the theater can be a special family outing, especially around the holidays.

For youngsters, in particular, it can be a chance to step into a magical world of lights, costumes and make believe.

Here is a sampling of some upcoming local children's theater productions.

'Cinderella'

A young girl's dreams of meeting her own handsome prince and finding true love come to life onstage as the Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences presents Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella."

A cast of 12, including actress Dara Cameron in the title role of Cinderella, perform the original score.

"It's the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein -- who could improve upon their work?" said Andy Hite, artistic director at the Marriott Theatre. "It's incredibly romantic and fun -- it combines the story, orchestra, the lights and world-class actors to create the magic of theater."

Along with Cameron, other cast members include Brian Bohr as the Prince, Susan Moniz as the Fairy Godmother and Iris Lieberman as the wicked Stepmother. Cast members come from nearby suburbs such as Wheaton, Des Plaines and Naperville and as far away as Peoria, Hite said.

Children, parents and grandparents can enjoy the classic tale and the theater experience together, Hite said.

"It's so nice being in the theater on a Saturday morning and seeing three generations," he said. "Theater is so important -- especially for young audiences. We know that we are planting a seed for future theatergoers. It's important for our art -- for the future of theater."

"Cinderella" runs Saturday, Nov. 17, through Monday, Dec. 31, at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Single tickets cost $15. Call (847) 634-0100 or visit marriotttheatre.com or ticketmaster.com.

'Annie'

A curly haired, 11-year-old orphan girl has been winning the hearts of audiences since she first hit the Broadway stage with the musical "Annie" back in 1977.

"It's such a wonderful family show, particularly when our country has been in a recession," said Jeff Award-winning director Rachel Rockwell. Rockwell directs "Annie," which will run Wednesday, Nov. 21, through Sunday, Dec. 30, at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora.

"Annie's positive outlook is something we all need to hear," Rockwell, said. "Sometimes it takes the voice of a child to say the truth -- to find the light in the middle of the darkness."

Thirty-five cast members (a double cast of children, except for the role of Annie, played by Caroline Heffernan) and a full orchestra are part of the production.

"It's a really big show. We have 18 orchestra members, and the audience will hear the original orchestration, exactly as it was written (in 1977)," Rockwell said.

The story focuses on young Annie and her journey from living in an orphanage run by the child-hating Miss Hannigan (played by Christine Sherrill) and into the heart and home of billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Gene Weygandt). Along the way, cast members perform favorites, such as "Hard Knock Life" and "Tomorrow."

Annie's faithful sidekick, Sandy the dog, is played by "Mikey," a rescue dog from William Berloni Theatrical Animals.

"Mikey has probably done 3,000 performances of 'Annie,'" Rockwell said. "He is in every major theatrical production of this show. He's probably the biggest 'Annie' veteran in our company."

"Annie" runs Wednesday, Nov. 21, through Sunday, Dec. 30, at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. Tickets cost $34.90-$46.90. (630) 896-6666 or paramountaurora.com.

'A Christmas Carol'

"A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens' classic tale of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey to a new life of love and generosity, once again comes to the stage Friday, Nov. 23, through Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.

Director Scott Calcagno, in his fourth year directing the Drury Lane Theatre for Young Audiences production, said that "A Christmas Carol" appeals to all ages -- "from 5 to 95."

"It's a timeless tale of redemption and hope," Calcagno said. "We find there is still hope for Scrooge, and hope is the message that people will carry out of the theater."

Thirteen adults and two children (8-year-olds Charles Babbo and Killian Hughes share the role of Tiny Tim) make up the cast. Everyone except for Scrooge, played by Michael Joseph Mitchell, plays more than one character onstage throughout the show.

"We tell the story with as much honesty and poignancy as we can," Calcagno said. "We only stray a bit to further some of the underlying themes. It's a great telling of the Dickens novel. I love telling this story."

"A Christmas Carol" runs Friday, Nov. 23, through Saturday, Dec. 22, at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Showtimes vary. Tickets cost $12 (special group rates available). Some performances also offer a breakfast or dinner with Santa Claus. Performances including meals with Santa range from $22-$35 per person. For information, call (630) 530-0111 or visit drurylaneoakbrook.com or ticketmaster.com.

Here are a few other family-friendly productions:

'Harold and the Purple Crayon'

A 4-year-old boy uses a purple crayon to draw an imaginative world of his own in "Harold and the Purple Crayon" at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. The production, which uses puppetry, animation and music, is based on the best-selling 1955 children's book "Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crockett Johnson. Showtimes are 10 a.m. and noon Wednesday, Nov. 14; 10 a.m., noon and 6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16; and 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18. Tickets cost $16.50-$42.50. (847) 673-6300 or northshorecenter.org.

Emerald City Theatre Chicago's 'Cinderella'

Emerald City Theatre Chicago presents its own version of the classic tale of "Cinderella" from Friday, Nov. 23, through Sunday, Jan. 6, at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago. For showtimes and ticket information, call (800) 775-2000 or visit broadwayinchicago.com.

'Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical'

See the famous Dr. Seuss tale of the green-tinted, Christmas-hating Grinch who tries to steal the holiday from the Whos of Whoville onstage Wednesday, Dec. 5, through Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago. "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical" features songs from the 1966 animated television special, including "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and "Welcome Christmas." (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.

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