Highland Park Players Mark 25 Years

The Highland Park Players celebrate their first 25 years of theater with a visit to “42nd Street.”

The all-singing, all-dancing, all-extravaganza is a musical theater classic.

“It’s a special occasion, so we wanted to do something special, a big Broadway musical with lots of really great production numbers,” said Players president Brad Rose of Highland Park, who is also serving as executive producer. “We wanted to put on a show that would have people walking away in amazement, and I believe we have. I think this is going to be the best production we’ve ever staged, top to bottom.”

“42nd Street,” began as a 1933 movie musical about Broadway then became a long-running Broadway hit 50 years later. The Players’ show opens Oct. 12 at the Leisure Center in Northbrook.

For the last two and a half decades, the Players have staged Broadway musicals each fall (and a children’s theater production each winter) along the lines of “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Annie” and “The Wizard of Oz,” none of them slouches when it comes to spectacle. But “42nd Street,” Rose said, is in a class by itself, one that called for an all-out effort on the part of the company.

Rose went to the Players board for an increased budget, which largely went toward hiring a production staff with professional credits including director Catherine Davis of Northbrook, choreographer Jennifer Cupani of Buffalo Grove and music director Ken Preuss of Palatine. The production will also feature a 12-piece orchestra conducted by Preuss and original costumes designed and created for this cast.

All that for an advance ticket price of $16, Rose noted, which is far less than the cost of professional productions.

“If you want to take the family out to see a show in the city, you’re looking at a couple hundred dollars,” he said. “We’re able to keep high-quality entertainment very affordable.”

In addition to spending more on this production, Rose said the Players were unusually rigorous about finding the best possible performers for the show, which presents considerable casting challenges.

“No one’s staged ‘42nd Street’ around here for a long time,” he said. “And one reason for that is that it’s not easy to find the right performers. In addition to everything else, the actors in this show have to tap dance extremely well.”

Featured performers in the Players production include Geoff Isaac of Northbrook, Annie Jo Fischer of Glenview plus Alex McCrary and Mary Jessica Mausser of Chicago.

Rose credits quality productions for the longevity of Players, of course. But he also believes the company has thrived because the board strives to make it a supportive and collaborative environment for people to work in.

“Sometimes, theater can be a little cut-throat and clique-y, but we take pride in creating our shows in an almost family-like atmosphere,” he said, adding that he met is wife Hannah during a Players production of “Big: The Musical.” “But we take pride in creating our shows in an almost family-like atmosphere. We think it’s important to make this an inviting place for good performers.

“They show up for auditions and finish a few months later feeling they’ve formed a special bond with the other people in the production. When you can connect with performers like that, they want to keep coming back — and that’s good for everyone.”

This article originally appeared in the Mundelein Review on October 10, 2012.