Actor Ross Lehman shares his parents' musical love story in Citadel Theatre's World Premiere of Sentimental Journey, opening April 26
As one of Chicago's most successful actors of the last several decades, Ross Lehman has made a career of telling other peoples' stories. He has appeared on stages from Broadway to London's West End to Chicago's leading theatres, performing in plays by writers from Shakespeare to Mel Brooks and John Waters. Lehman's many theatrical credits include musicals like KISS ME, KATE, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, and HAIRSPRAY
On Friday, April 26, with the World Premiere of SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY: A MUSICAL TALE OF LOVE AND WAR, Lehman will take the stage at Lake Forest's Citadel Theatre to tell a story of his own family in his own words. This celebrated actor will perform his original one-man musical about his parents Ross and Katey, whose courtship and engagement survived the interruption of World War II.
Lehman's parents met as students at Penn State University during the lead-up to the war. They became engaged in January 1944 shortly before his father was sent to Europe where he served as a bombardier flying B-17's, and was wounded. Ross and Katey married after Ross returned from the service, and together raised their son who was named after his father.
"They felt this mandate to get on with their lives after the war," said Lehman. "To get everyone back to normal after the Great Depression and a devastating World War."
Growing up in the 1950s, Lehman had little understanding of the trauma his parents had experienced, but he remembers that when they would sing songs from their youth -- whether popular songs of the '30s and '40s or bawdy soldiers' ditties picked up while in the military - their spirits seemed to return to happier times. Lehman found sheet music for their favorite songs in a filing cabinet when he was just 10 years old, and incorporated his parents' favorite songs into SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY.
Five years ago, a family friend poking around an attic found a box of letters between Lehman's parents, who died in 1977 and 2003. Those correspondences gave Lehman the insight to better understand them and their lives. The stories that emerged from these letters were ones he says he first shared with his friends before seeing them as a stage play he might perform himself.
"I've tried to write this several times in different forms," said Lehman. "I've written 24 different versions so far."
Citadel's production of Lehman's script will be a sentimental journey in its own right. This "musical tale" is being directed by Lehman's husband of six years, Mark Lococo, who like Lehman teaches theater at Loyola University. Lehman's niece, Carlyn Hudson, is choreographer. The premiere of SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY at Citadel brings Lehman back to the North Shore -- home of his early successes at Highland Park's now-closed Apple Tree Theatre and his many roles at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and Writers Theatre in Glencoe.
SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY will open at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, on Friday, April 26. It will run through Sunday, May 26. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m., plus two Wednesday matinees at 1 p.m. on May 1 and May 15. Tickets are available online at www.citadeltheatre.org or by phone at 847-735-8554, ext. 1