Refuge Theatre Project has announced leadership changes and programming for its third season, according to company co-founder Ross Egan. Christopher Pazdernik, who directed and choreographed the company’s breakout production of High Fidelity: The Musical in February 2016 and more recently directed the Chicago premiere of Wicked City by Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar for Chicago Theatre Workshop, has been named Artistic Director, a position previously held by Egan. Egan, who founded the company two years ago with Morgan Egan, will move to Executive Director, a new position. Morgan Egan will continue as Managing Director.
The expanded leadership team will allow the now Jeff-eligible company to increase its programming from two to three major musical theater productions per season, as well as to continue its “Audition Diaries” cabaret series. The new season will open in late January with a remount of High Fidelity, again directed and choreographed by Pazdernik and featuring most of the original cast. Continuing its mission of showcasing the work of a new generation of musical theater writers, Refuge will follow High Fidelity with Things to Ruin: The Songs of Joe Iconis. Called a “theatrical rock concert,” Things to Ruin features the work of Iconis, the writer of numerous off-Broadway musicals as well as multiple songs for the hit television series Smash. Refuge will close their season with the professional Chicago premiere of Lysistrata Jones, the updating of Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata by Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn that enjoyed a Broadway run in 2011.
The company broke on to the Chicago musical theater scene in a big way in 2016. High Fidelity: the Musical, staged in a River North pop-up location that was dressed to resemble the independent record store “Championship Vinyl” setting of the story, earned across the board raves and quickly sold out its five-week run. Refuge scored another home run in October 2016 with its environmental staging of bare: a pop opera in the sanctuary of Epworth United Methodist Church. The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones, in awarding bare 3-1/2 stars, said of Refuge’s bare “…what matters most in the musical theater — truth, vulnerability, promise — are all on display in abundance… exceptionally well sung.”
High Fidelity cast members returning for the remount include Jeff-nominee (for Theo Ubique’s Jesus Christ Superstar) Max DeTogne as Rob, Liz Chidester as Laura), along with Nick Druzbanski, Caitlin Jackson, Lewis Rawlinson, Noah Berman, Lizzie Schwarzrock, Amy Stricker, Britain Gebhardt, Will Wilhelm, Bradley Halverson and Jacob Fjare. Joining the cast are Jameson Wentworth and Janelle Villas. High Fidelity will play from January 27 – March 5, 2017 at a venue to be announced.
The second show in Refuge’s 2017 season will be Things to Ruin: The Songs of Joe Iconis. Described as a “theatrical rock concert,” the piece, which has been performed in NYC venues including the Second Stage and Joe’s Pub, features songs by the 35-year-old musical theater writer Iconis. Iconis is the songwriter of the 2015 musical Be More Chill, The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks, and We the People: America Rocks, which in 2011 was nominated for the Lucille Lortel Award for outstanding musical. Associate Artistic Director Matt Dominguez, who directed bare for Refuge, will direct. Things to Ruin will be staged in summer 2017 at a venue to be announced.
Refuge’s 2017 season will close with the Chicago professional premiere of Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn’s Lysistrata Jones. The show will be directed by Justin Brill and choreographed by Shanna VanDerwerker, a real-life couple who met working on the original Broadway production of High Fidelity and subsequently travelled the country together performing in the 1st National Tour of Wicked. In this rock musical updating of the Greek comedy in which women withhold sex in order to persuade their men to stop making war, the women of the fictional “Athens University” refuse to make love to the men of the school’s basketball team until the hoopsters break their 30-year losing streak. The musical will be staged in fall 2017 at a venue to be announced
Christopher Pazdernik is director/choreographer with “a near encyclopedic knowledge of musicals” (NewCity Stage). Christopher’s recent Chicago credits include The Rink, Anyone Can Whistle, City of Angels and Applause (Porchlight Revisits), Wicked City (Chicago Theatre Workshop), Planted (Chicago Musical Theatre Festival), Make Me a Song (Eclectic Theatre Co.), High Fidelity (Refuge Theatre Project), Story of A Story (The Untold Story) (Underscore Theater Co.), Bette, Live at the Continental Baths (Hell in a Handbag) and a Jeff Award nomination for co-choreographing Spamalot with Nightblue. An openly HIV+ artist, Christopher was named a 2016 Windy City Times 30-Under-30 honoree for his contributions to Chicago’s LGBT community.
ABOUT REFUGE THEATRE PROJECT
Refuge Theatre Project was founded in 2014 by Ross Egan and Morgan Egan. Their first season included the Chicago premiere of the off-Broadway musical Next Thing You Know, and the Chicago premiere of the Broadway musical Glory Days.
Refuge Theatre Project strives to utilize the appeal of musical theatre to foster a broader and more accessible theatre community. We aim to further our mission by bringing new and under-produced contemporary musical theatre to the city of Chicago in traditional and non-traditional theatrical spaces. Refuge brings its audience an exciting, affordable, only-in-Chicago theatrical experience.