Category Archives: Candlelight Dinner Theatre

Follies…

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Why do I go to theatre?  To be moved, and even inspired… by what I do for sure, but also by life.

Follies is one of those shows that functions on both levels for me. It is one of the most beautiful musicals of our time. It’s also wrapped up in so many memories for me that seeing produced so gorgeously on the stage of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater is a gift. You all know one of those die-hard Sondheim Fans – they can sing “I’m Still Here” for you  – but can they say they have really seen FOLLIES? Unless they have seen this show, they have not truly experienced Sondheim and his love for the business, performers he works with, and his understanding of people and their journey through life.

For me FOLLIES was one of the shows that solidified my career. I was lucky to have worked on the production that was done, to rave reviews, at the Candlelight Playhouse over 30 years ago.  It taught me so many things, the first being that masterpieces that don’t necessarily turn into big hits on Broadway can and often are embraced in Chicago. Secondly, no one should ever talk down to or underestimate their audiences; lavish them with the most sophisticated and brilliant theatre and they will go on to be life-long theatre-goers. And third, work is life in the theatre as I remember so vividly auditioning for the cast of FOLLIES in New York with my husband and his business partner, Director Bill Pullinsi. It was August 6, 1980, the first anniversary of my marriage to Tony D’Angelo, and we were in our hotel room reviewing all the pictures and resumes from the day, balancing some NY talent with the fabulous Chicago performers available. Bill said to Tony and I:

“You don’t really want to be alone on your Anniversary – do you? Of course not, I will order room service for all of us and we can finish our casting!”

That night and this show reminds me that a life in the theatre is your life – and a grand one at that!

Eileen

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everything i learned, i learned at candlelight

I was reminded of the real secret of my success last night at a reunion of the theatre that I worked at for over 10 years ago and for 20 years of my life. Candlelight Dinner Theatre

It was a family-owned business with producers Bill Pullinsi and Tony D’Angelo, my husband of over 25 years. I did everything that you can imagine in theatre there. I started as a props mistress, earning $40.00 per week, and went on to costumes, production assistant, on stage in small roles, box office management, sales, marketing, promotions. You name it, I did it! And loved every minute of it. There I learned to love the business, love producers and was allowed to be a part of everything it takes to produce a musical. My passion and compassion for what it takes to be in this business from all sides and what it takes to bring all of these larger-than-life musicals to the stage was one of the gifts I acquired there.

Candlelight Dinner ReunionCandlelight Dinner Playhouse and Forum theatres was a family-run operation that was an icon in this city and lead the way for many actors, directors, designers and managers. So many producers in Chicago saw one of their first shows at Candlelight including Stuart Oken and Mick Leavitt, producers of THE ADDAMS FAMILY, and even the producer of SHREK who is now the president of DreamWorks Theatricals. And those that worked there including Michael Cullen (owner of the Mercury Theatre); Frank Galati (directed and acted in several shows at Candlelight); Jim Jacobs (he wrote GREASE in the basement of the theatre); Shelley Long; Mike Nussbaum; Mark Jacoby; Hollis Resnik; Paula Scrofano; Dale Benson; and so many other people and stories – too long and many to tell.

What an awesome party! Planned by Noreen Heron, Candlelight’s publicist who started at Candlelight as an usher at age 14, and now publicist to so many Chicago theatres including Marriot, Porchlight, Drury Lane and many more. The party marked 50 years since the America’s first Dinner Theatre, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, opened.

IMG_0059_4So many people have moved on, gone on to do great things, while still honoring their roots. I am happy also share with you in the midst of actors, directors and all last night – for Broadway In Chicago it was several hours of compliments on the excitement we have added to the theatre scene and how much they love the big shows coming into the downtown houses. I never realized so many people were followers of our work. Everything they said was such a validation of what we all want at Broadway In Chicago – Chicago to be special, with our theatres, talent and audiences noticed and showcased.

At Broadway In Chicago when our staff refers to their job as being part of a family, I smile. I know nothing better than loving what you do and having those that work with you as extended family – after all for many of us our theatre family see us more than our own families.

Hope you don’t mind my nostalgia. And while my past is rich, do believe me – the best is yet to be!

-Eileen

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