Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13



THEATER When growth is paramount: Jim Corti helps fuel Aurora theater expansion
by Scott C. Morgan

This article shared 14100 times since Fri Mar 1, 2024
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out actor/director/choreographer Jim Corti made his Broadway debut in 1974, in the ensemble of Leonard Bernstein's musical Candide. Director Harold Prince's acclaimed Tony Award-winning revival is often cited as a textbook example of an "environmental" staging, having featured actors and musicians popping up throughout a series of ramps, platforms and audience seating areas within the then-gutted Broadway Theatre.

Now, 50 years later, as the artistic director of the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Corti will help oversee the summer opening of the new 98-seat Stolp Island Theatre. The former Fox River-facing office space will open as a flexible theater with a revival of the hit jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet. But don't quite call it an "environmental" staging.

"'Environmental' is one way to look at it," Corti said. "But I think we're calling this inaugural production an 'Experience.'"

Million Dollar Quartet re-imagines the legendary recording session when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins teamed up in Memphis on Dec. 4, 1956. Though Corti previously directed Million Dollar Quaret at the 1,834-seat Paramount in 2017, he said this summer's revival will be more far intimate, with the audience seated within the recording studio of Sun Records.

Corti said the Stolp Island Theatre "will morph into however the experience it's configured and conceptualized to be. Where the audience sits will always change, and the performance areas will always change."

The flexible Stolp Island Theatre is being added to the roster of entertainment venues run by the Aurora Civic Center Authority. With an annual budget of around $30 million, this non-profit organization already operates the 1931 art deco Paramount Theatre, the RiverEdge Park which hosts outdoor concerts and festivals, and the renovated 165-seat Copley Theatre which launched in 2022 with a separate subscription BOLD Series of intimate plays and musicals.

"We're expanding because we can, and we have an audience that wants it," Corti said. "What we're doing differently from anyone else? I cannot tell you. That's just the plain fact that people are loving just coming to the theater."

Corti and Paramount Theatre President and CEO Tim Rater were the masterminds behind the hugely successful decision to create a homegrown Aurora season of professional Broadway caliber musicals starting in 2011. In subsequent seasons, the runs of each Paramount musical kept on expanding from three weeks to seven.

For example, the Paramount's next season features the regional premieres of the hit Broadway musicals Waitress and Frozen. The hugely popular Disney stage adaptation of the 2013 animated blockbuster will run even longer, for 12 weeks around the holidays.

The Paramount Theatre has also racked up an impressive number of Jeff Awards since it became eligible for the Chicago-area live theater awards in 2015. Corti has won three directing awards for the Paramount, while the company itself won Best Musical for a large theater four times for Les Miserables (2015), West Side Story (2016), Sweeney Todd (2017) and Kinky Boots (2022).

Though a New Jersey native with several Broadway and national touring credits, Chicago has been central to Corti's theater career. In addition to his schooling at Loyola University, Corti kept returning to the Chicago area to act in, choreograph and direct many professional productions.

Corti permanently settled in the area in 2008, and was suggested to Rater as a contender for the Paramount Theatre's artistic director job in 2010. Rater remembers the first time Corti saw the expanse of the Paramount, and his very mixed feelings of awe and terror.

"(Corti) was properly scared of the task [of filling] the stage with something that would resonate with everyone in this large, beautiful, historic theater," Rater said. "From that moment, I knew he was the right guy, because he was afraid of the job. He just knew how hard it was going to be."

Rater proudly mentioned that, in 2023, the Paramount became the largest subscription-based theater in the nation with 36,823 subscribers. He and Corti credit that to Chicago-area audiences who were willing to come back in force following the COVID-19 shutdown.

Corti is currently in the midst of rehearsals for A Streetcar Named Desire at the Copley Theatre. While the 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Tennessee Williams is unquestionably an American theater classic, it's something of an outlier. So far, every other BOLD series show has been a contemporary play or musical written within the past two decades.

But A Streetcar Named Desire fits in with a recent Paramount Theatre trend of Corti increasingly sharing co-directing duties with other Chicago-area theater artists. For example, A Streetcar Named Desire is being co-directed by Elizabeth Swanson, the former artistic director of Bohemian Theatre Ensemble. The Paramount's upcoming spring run of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical also features Johanna McKenzie Miller as co-director.

"I've felt that I've got to bring new directors to the company," Corti said. "I'm also enjoying the collaboration, and why not share the credit? I'm stressing that this is a team effort."

A Streetcar Named Desire was initially announced for the Paramount's first BOLD series season, but the pandemic forced it to be pushed back until now. But another Paramount pandemic casualty with deep ties to Corti has yet to reemerge: Ragtime. This epic Broadway musical was initially announced for the 2020-21season, but has not been programmed for future Paramount seasons.

As an actor, Corti notably created the role of legendary escapologist Harry Houdini in Ragtime for both its 1996 Toronto world premiere and its 1998 Broadway bow. Corti also starred as Tatah in the scaled-down national tour of Ragtime.

According to Corti and Rater, they're waiting for the right time for the Paramount to produce Ragtime. Not only is it a difficult work in terms of its emotionally challenging material, Corti feels that Ragtime requires a big budget.

"I don't think there's a way to do a minimal production of Ragtime," Corti said. "It's a very large cast and epic scenically, and I think that's what had us considering putting it aside."

Corti also made a one-night-only return to Broadway last year with other original cast members for a Ragtime Reunion Concert. It functioned as both a celebration of the musical's 25th anniversary, and as a benefit for The Entertainment Community Fund (formerly The Actors Fund).

"We were on tape the very minute we walked into the very first rehearsal and the tape did not stop rolling until we left the theater the night of the concert," said Corti, who returned to portray Houdini. "We did not know about the documentary until we arrived, and we had to sign a waiver."

Last month, it was announced that the Ragtime Reunion Concert would be screened in select movie theaters on March 13 and 17. But then it was pulled from cinema schedules, even though tickets had briefly gone on sale.

Corti did not know why this happened, nor was he sure if it was just a screening of the concert or a documentary about the concert.

"It's not like it's been canceled. It's just been delayed, from my understanding." Corti said. "I imagine it's just the complexity of the production of it."

A Streetcar Named Desire begins previews March 13, with press openings on March 20 and 21 at the Paramount's Copley Theatre, 8 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora. The run continues through April 21. Tickets are $40-$55. Subscriptions for the 2024-25 season for the Paramount Theatre (The Full Monty, Frozen, Waitress and Cats), and the BOLD Series (Peter and the Starcatcher, An Act of God and The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee) are on sale now. The new Stolp Island Theatre at 5 E. Downer Pl. in Aurora is slated to open in summer 2024 with an open run of Million Dollar Quartet. For more information, call 630-896-6666 or .

This article shared 14100 times since Fri Mar 1, 2024
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

The importance of becoming Ernest: Out actor Christopher Sieber dishes about the Death Becomes Her musical
Out and proud actor Christopher Sieber is part of the team bringing Death Becomes Her to life as a stage musical in the Windy City this spring. Sieber plays Ernest Menville, who was originally portrayed by ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Celine Dion, 'The People's Joker,' Billy Porter, Patti LuPone, 'Strange Way'
I Am: Celine Dion will stream on Prime Video starting June 25, according to a press release. The film is described as follows: "Directed by Academy Award nominee Irene Taylor, I Am: Celine Dion gives us ...

Gay News

Kokandy Productions now accepting submissions for Chicago Musical Theater Fest returning Aug. 8-11
--From a press release - CHICAGO (April 18, 2024) — Kokandy Productions is pleased to open submissions for the 2024 Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, returning this summer following a four-year hiatus. Kokandy is thrilled to ...

Gay News

THEATER Blue in the Right Way's 'Women Beware Women' offers feminist, trans take on a troubling Jacobean tragedy
"Problematic" is a great go-to adjective to describe Women Beware Women. This 1621 Jacobean tragedy is by English playwright Thomas Middleton, who is probably best remembered as a collaborator with William Shakespeare on their pessimistic tragedy ...

Gay News

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago announces programs for May 17-19 season finale
--From a press release - CHICAGO — Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) announced program selections for Spring Series: Of Joy, the final installment of Season 46, Abundance. The engagement will include four unique works, once ...

Gay News

LGBTQ+ film fest Queer Expression to feature Alexandra Billings in 'Queen Tut'
--From a press release - CHICAGO — Pride Film Fest celebrates its second decade with a new name—QUEER EXPRESSION—and has announced its slate of LGBTQ+-themed feature, mid-length and short films for in-person and virtual events in April and May. QUEER EXPRESSI ...

Gay News

Open Space Arts's COCK offers a complex but compelling take on relationships
By Brian Kirst - Premiering in 2009, Mike Bartlett's COCK was a comic revelation, exploring notions about fluidity and sexual labelling long before they became commonplace discussions. Granted, conversations about these issues will always ...

Gay News

Jeff Awards launches submission period for Impact Awards
The Jeff Awards announced the opening period for applications submissions for its 2024 honors to help inspire early career artists of color in the Greater Chicagoland area. Two recipients will be selected for awards of $10,000 ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Outfest, Chita Rivera, figure skaters, letter, playwright dies
For more than four decades, Outfest has been telling LGBTQ+ stories through the thousands of films screened during its annual Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Film Festival—but that event may have a different look this year because ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Dionne Warwick, OUTshine, Ariana DeBose, 'Showgirls,' 'Harlem'
Video below - Iconic singer Dionne Warwick was honored for her decades-long advocacy work for people living with HIV/AIDS at a star-studded amfAR fundraising gala in Palm Beach, per the Palm Beach Daily News. Warwick received the "Award of ...

Gay News

WORLD Israel court, conversion therapy, death sentences, Georgia bill, fashion items
Israel's Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Population Authority must register female couples as mothers on the birth certificates of their children they have together, The Washington Blade reported. The decision was made following a petition ...

Gay News

City Lit Executive Artistic Director Brian Pastor talks theater, comics, queerness
City Lit Theater has announced its programming for the 2024-25 season—which will be the company's 44th. It will also be the first season to be programmed under the leadership of Brian Pastor (they/them), who will assume ...

Gay News

The Jeff Awards announces the 50th anniversary awards for non-equity theater
--From a press release - A complete list of recipients can also be found online in the Non-Equity and News and Events sections at (March 25, 2024 - Chicago) — Celebrating its 50th anniversary awarding recognition for Non-Equity theater, the ...

Gay News

After 30 Under 30: MAP Executive Director Naomi Goldberg
NOTE: In this series, Windy City Times will profile some of its past 30 Under 30 honorees. Windy City Times started its 30 Under 30 Awards in 2001, presenting them each year through 2019. This year, ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Queer musicians, Marvel situation, Elliot Page, Nicole Kidman
Queer musician Joy Oladokun released the single "I Wished on the Moon," from Jack Antonoff's official soundtrack for the new Apple TV+ series The New Look, per a press release. The soundtrack, ...


Copyright © 2024 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.