Bonding over ‘Baby’: At Citadel Theatre, actors feel like family

It’s about two weeks before the first preview of Citadel Theatre’s revival of the musical “Baby” and there’s some indecision about a dance step in the opening number. First the step-ball-change was in. Then it was out. Then it was in again.

Ensemble member Julie Bayer says it’s become a running joke among the cast, along with another uncertainty regarding the presence of a Teddy bear. It’s made for some laughs during rehearsal, said Bayer, who plays 40-something empty-nester Arlene, who learns she’s pregnant not long after she and her husband send their daughter off to college.

The 1983 rom-com tuner by composer David Shire, lyricist Richard Maltby Jr. and writer Sybille Pearson chronicles how that middle-aged couple and two others — 20-something college students Lizzie and Danny and 30-somethings Pam and Nick — react to the news they’re going to become parents.

Julie Bayer, left, Madison Jaffe-Richter and Katie Engler play expectant moms in Citadel Theatre's revival of the musical “Baby.” Courtesy of North Shore Camera Club

“I have so enjoyed this process,” said Bayer, a Batavia resident and a veteran of Metropolis, BrightSide and Paramount theaters.

She says the show is deeper and more relevant than she realized.

“No matter what stage the audience is in their life,” she said, “I think there will be parts of this show and things within the characters that (audience members) will say to themselves: ‘I remember that. I had that conversation.’”

“I think it will surprise them how truly heartfelt it is,” she said. “I think they will really enjoy what (director) Scott Schallenbarger and (music director) Roger Bingaman are bringing to the show to make it present-day and relatable.”

Mark Yacullo, who plays track coach Nick, says working on “Baby” has taught him something about himself, about families and about love.

“It’s not just about parenthood,” said the former Naperville resident and North Central College graduate. “It’s about how far you will go to show your significant other how much they mean to you.”

Joe Lehman, left, Mark Yacullo and Ben Ballmer play expectant dads in Citadel Theatre's revival of the musical “Baby.” Courtesy of North Shore Camera Club

Actor/director Joe Lehman grew up in Libertyville and has worked extensively in the suburbs at Drury Lane, Metropolis, Marriott, First Folio, Music Theatre Works, Oak Park and other theaters. Lehman, who has directed several Citadel productions, describes “Baby” as “an authentic, heartwarming, life-affirming show” showcasing empowered women and supportive men.

“You’ll enjoy spending time with these characters. I root for all of them,” said the actor, who plays Arlene’s husband, Alan.

The cast quickly established a camaraderie, Yacullo said.

“I feel we’ve all been able to connect with each other,” he said.

“The other night we were doing coloring books because we had down time,” he laughed.

All three actors praised actor/directors Scott and Ellen Phelps, who founded Citadel Theatre 22 years ago. A six-time Joseph Jefferson Award nominee, the Lake Forest theater received a 2018 costume design award for its production of “The Explorer’s Club.”

“They are great collaborators,” said Bayer of the couple. “They treat their actors so well.”

Yacullo, who first performed with the company two years ago, says Citadel artists and associates welcomed him and made him feel “part of the family.”

“Every theater to me is about creating community,” Lehman said, “for the people in the community to enjoy a group experience and find a safe place to explore their feelings and what it is to be human. Citadel has done a great job fostering that environment.”

• • •


When: Previews at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, April 17-18. The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 19, and runs through May 19

Where: Citadel Theatre, West Campus Building of the Lake Forest School District, 300 S. Waukegan Road, Lake Forest, (847) 735-8554,

Tickets: $20-$45

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.