Artists’ Ensemble, Rockford College present ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’

Alex Smith (left) and Katherine Kuehner in Meet Me in St. Louis at Artists’ Ensemble Theater — the professional theater in residence at Rockford College. (Photo by John Cobb)

Staff Report

Meet Me in St. Louis, the musical opening April 25, marks the first co-production between Artists’ Ensemble (AE) and the Performing Arts Department at Rockford College.

We’ve had our sights set on this for quite a while,” said AE Artistic Director Richard Raether, who directs the musical based on the classic Judy Garland film. “The cast is a wonderful mix of professional actors, both local and regional, and the talented performing arts students.

It’s a win-win scenario,” Raether added. “Sharing production expenses allows us to mount a more lavish production and gives the students a chance to play their own ages in a cast with the adult roles played by professionals.”

Produced under AE’s Equity contract, Meet Me in St. Louis also offers students the opportunity to join the Equity Membership Candidate program, putting them on track to earn their union card as professional actors one day.

Rockford College faculty members Timm Adams and Jeff Hendry serve as musical director and costume designer, respectively. Another faculty member, Angelo O’Dierno, also an AE member, is designing scenery and lighting.

Meet Me in St. Louis follows the Smith family in 1903 as they eagerly anticipate the St. Louis World’s Fair. The score features “The Boy Next Door,” “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Additional songs added to the Broadway score, including “A Day in New York” and “A Touch of the Irish,” with Katie, the family’s Irish maid, advising Esther and Rose on how to handle men.

The Smith family patriarch is played by Scott Chachula with Janet Bracken as his wife, Anna. Grandpa Prophater is played by AE member Gary Wingert, well-known locally as Jeeves in AE’s popular Wodehouse comedies. Katie Kuehner, a junior musical theater major, plays Esther Smith (the Garland role), and senior Katy Jenkins, who appeared in AE’s Brooklyn Boy, plays her sister, Rose. Dakota Bryant, an acting/directing major from Texas, plays their brother, Lon.

Katie, the feisty Irish maid, is played by Milwaukee actress Debra Babich. Agnes and Tootie, the youngest members of the Smith family, are played by Kate Homan, a fourth-grader at Prairie Hill School and Anjali Cannel-Puri, a fifth-grader at Washington Gifted Academy. AE member John Chase plays several roles, including the trolley conductor during one of the show’s most famous songs.

Meet Me in St. Louis runs for just five performances, April 25-28 in the Maddox Theatre at Rockford College. Performances are Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Thursday tickets are $15. All other performances are $25, $20 for seniors and $7 for students. Tickets may be purchased through the Rockford College box office at (815) 226-4100.

From the April 24-30, 2013, issue

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