Naperville actor Johnny Rabe returns to Marriott with 'She Loves Me'

 
 
Updated 4/26/2017 11:17 AM
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  • Grant Kilian, left, and 17-year-old Johnny Rabe of Naperville take a break from rehearsals of "She Loves Me" at the Buffalo Grove rehearsal studios for the Marriott Theatre. The two actors alternate in the role of delivery boy Arpad.

    Grant Kilian, left, and 17-year-old Johnny Rabe of Naperville take a break from rehearsals of "She Loves Me" at the Buffalo Grove rehearsal studios for the Marriott Theatre. The two actors alternate in the role of delivery boy Arpad. Courtesy of Amy Boyle Photography/Marriott Theatre

  • In 2012, Johnny Rabe, right, starred in the role of Ralphie, which he shared with alternate Joe West, left, in the 2012 Broadway premiere of "A Christmas Story The Musical" in New York.

    In 2012, Johnny Rabe, right, starred in the role of Ralphie, which he shared with alternate Joe West, left, in the 2012 Broadway premiere of "A Christmas Story The Musical" in New York. Associated Press, 2012

  • Johnny Rabe and Madison Gloria Olszewski starred in Marriott Theatre's 2013 production of "Mary Poppins." Now 17, Rabe is back at the Lincolnshire theater in "She Loves Me."

    Johnny Rabe and Madison Gloria Olszewski starred in Marriott Theatre's 2013 production of "Mary Poppins." Now 17, Rabe is back at the Lincolnshire theater in "She Loves Me." Courtesy of Peter Coombs/Marriott Theatre

"Traveling" and "sharing" have been two constants in Johnny Rabe's professional theater career.

The 17-year-old Naperville actor has acted on Broadway and in Seattle, and he commutes an hour by Metra each way to attend high school at The Chicago Academy for the Arts. And nearly all of Rabe's major stage roles since 2010 have been double cast.

It's no different with Rabe's latest acting gig for the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire's first production of "She Loves Me." In the critically acclaimed 1963 musical comedy, Rabe shares the role of observant bicycle delivery boy Arpad Laszlo with 18-year-old Niles West High School student Grant Kilian.

"(Kilian) is amazing," Rabe said. "It's been fun getting to know him."

Rabe says the commute between home and the Marriott's Buffalo Grove rehearsal studio lasts about an hour. But it's something Rabe is used to, since his previous Marriott credits include Winthrop Paroo in "The Music Man" in 2010, Danny in "For the Boys" in 2011 and Michael Banks in "Mary Poppins" in 2013.

Twelve-year-old Johnny Rabe of Naperville, right, starred in the role of Ralphie, which he shared with alternate Joe West, left, in the 2012 Broadway premiere of "A Christmas Story The Musical" in New York. Now 17, Rabe is sharing the role of delivery boy Arpad in "She Loves Me" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
Twelve-year-old Johnny Rabe of Naperville, right, starred in the role of Ralphie, which he shared with alternate Joe West, left, in the 2012 Broadway premiere of "A Christmas Story The Musical" in New York. Now 17, Rabe is sharing the role of delivery boy Arpad in "She Loves Me" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. - Associated Press, 2012

Yet Rabe has traveled even further afield for his acting career. At the age of 12, Rabe made his Broadway debut in the lead role of Ralphie in "A Christmas Story The Musical" in 2012. Rabe toured with the same show in an ensemble role the previous holiday season, and later starred in a musical version of "Second Hand Lions" in 2013 at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.

But now that Rabe has aged out of cute kid roles, he's glad to have a chance to perform as a teenager in "She Loves Me." And it's just Rabe's luck that he was assigned to perform scenes from the musical in a musical theater studio class last year.

"I was not at all familiar with the show," Rabe said. "But then I did the research, did the scenes from the show and then I ended up seeing the 2016 revival in New York. So it's kind of funny that I got to be so familiar with it before the Marriott announced auditions."

Johnny Rabe of Naperville shares the role of Arpad in "She Loves Me" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. His previous credits include "A Christmas Story The Musical" on Broadway and on tour, plus Marriott productions of "The Music Man" and "Mary Poppins."
Johnny Rabe of Naperville shares the role of Arpad in "She Loves Me" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. His previous credits include "A Christmas Story The Musical" on Broadway and on tour, plus Marriott productions of "The Music Man" and "Mary Poppins."

As part of Rabe's research, he was amazed to learn that "She Loves Me" was written by the "Fiddler on the Roof" composing team of Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and "Cabaret" playwright Joe Masteroff.

"It's a brilliant creative team," Rabe said. "It's such a well-written show."

Rabe also found it interesting that the original 1930s Hungarian play "Parfumerie" by Miklós László that inspired the musical also inspired two major American film adaptations: "The Shop Around the Corner" in 1940 with James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan and 1998's "You've Got Mail" with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

In "She Loves Me," the lead characters are antagonistic store clerks Georg (Alex Goodrich) and Amalia (Elizabeth Telford), who clash in person but are falling in love as secret romantic pen pals.

While Rabe's sharing a supporting role, he sees the ambitious Arpad as significant.

"It's interesting that his last name is 'Laszlo,' which was the playwright's in the original story," Rabe said. "So of all the characters he named, it's Arpad that he chose to name after himself."

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