Winnetka-set 'Taste of Things to Come' cooks up musical about suburban women

Not too many musicals focus on suburban women, particularly those living in Winnetka. Yet these are the characters and setting for "A Taste of Things to Come," a 2016 off-Broadway musical making its Chicago debut at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

"The show is very much about the power of women's friendships," said Kara Kesselring, the Berwyn-based music director. "The four ladies of the show all graduated from New Trier High School, so there's a good, solid Midwest vibe."

"A Taste of Things to Come" begins with four friends collaborating on a recipe for a Betty Crocker cooking contest. But they get shaken up by Alfred Kinsey's 1953 study "Sexual Behavior of the Human Female." The second act jumps to the 1960s to show how the women adapted to changing times.

"A Taste of Things to Come" features an original score, and Kesselring said songwriters Hollye Levin and Debra Barsha did a great job creating songs similar to those of the 1950s and '60s.

Kara Kesselring of Berwyn is the music director for "A Taste of Things to Come."

"The four-part harmonies are fantastic," she said, "and the four actors who are executing the score do a really great job of blending and bringing the music to life."

Much of Kesselring's past professional work has involved touring with "Jersey Boys" and the male quartet Under the Streetlamp. The new musical - which features a score written for women's voices and which songwriters are still tweaking - has been a welcome change of pace for Kesselring.

Learning all of the musical's vocal and acting parts is Chicago actress Madison Kauffman, whose local credits include "The Little Mermaid" at the Paramount Theatre and Kokandy Productions' "Heathers the Musical." Kauffman is the production's dance captain and sole understudy (or "swing," to use theater jargon).

"It has been a whirlwind, but the creative team and the cast have been so supportive through the whole process," Kauffman said. "In the show we're cooking on stage, using props like baking items, so those little details are really important in this show. I'm making sure my notes are all correct."

Chicago actress Madison Kauffman is the swing, or understudy, to four roles in the Chicago premiere of "A Taste of Things to Come." The musical plays at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place.

Should she go on, Kauffman is working to put her own stamp on each of the characters. She describes Dottie (Marissa Rosen) as a proud and conservative mom, while the unattached Agnes (Linedy Genaro) is "single and ready to mingle." Connie (Libby Servais) worries about being a first-time mother, while Joan (Cortney Wolfson), the vision of "the perfect housewife," harbors an ambition to be a writer.

"It seems timely to be doing this right now," said Kesselring, noting the strong presence of women onstage and behind the scenes, including herself and the three other women musicians she hired for the production.

"We are women supporting women," Kauffman added. "It's great to be a part of a show that has women in charge."

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"A Taste of Things to Come"

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (also Sunday until April 8); 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday (also Wednesdays starting April 11); from March 20 through April 29

Where: Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, (800) 775-2000 or

Tickets: $30-$75

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