You couldn't ask for a better audience than a room full of nuns.
They're happy, they're accepting, and for nearly six decades they've been coming back to Drury Lane Theatre one night a year.
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That tradition continues Thursday, when more than 500 sisters of the faith converge on the Oakbrook Terrace venue for an on-the-house performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard."
Drury Lane patriarch Tony DeSantis started the tradition 58 years ago, inspired by the dedication of nuns who taught his daughters in Catholic school, said theater artistic director William Osetek. After DeSantis' death in 2007, his family kept the annual event going.
"(Tony) always had a strong affiliation with the Archdiocese of Chicago and Catholic Charities," Osetek said. "He saw it as a way to give back to them. In addition, he felt nuns -- unlike priests -- don't have a lot of opportunities for social events and outings."
"Sunset Boulevard," which officially opens Friday and runs through March 24, is a seven-time Tony Award winner based on the 1950 American film noir starring directed by Billy Wilder. More than 500 nuns from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin are expected to attend a preview and dinner.
Osetek said cast members probably look forward to it as much as the nuns do.
"You couldn't have a happier audience," he said. "They are so thrilled to be here that a more warm and accepting audience you just have not met. They're extremely supportive."
Last year's production of "The Sound of Music" drew about 560 nuns, many from the Chicago and Joliet archdioceses. For more information, visit drurylaneoakbrook.com.