CHICAGO – Firebrand Theatre, the first musical theatre company committed to employing and empowering women by expanding opportunities on and off the stage, is pleased to announce its inaugural season, featuring two fully-produced musicals. Firebrand’s 2017-18 season kicks off this fall with the Chicago premiere of LIZZIE, a rock musical based on the true-life story of accused axe-murdereress Lizzie Borden. Directed by Victoria Bussert with music direction by Andra Velis-Simon, LIZZIE features music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner, book by Tim Maner.
The season concludes in spring 2018 with the musical comedy 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL, based on the hit movie of the same name about three working women fighting for equality in a sexist workplace. With music and lyrics by Grammy Award-winner Dolly Parton and a book by Patricia Resnick, 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL will be directed by Artistic Director Harmony France with music direction by Andra Velis-Simon. The cast includes Sharriese Hamilton as Doralee, the role originated by Parton in the 1980 film.
Firebrand’s 2017-18 Season will be presented at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Season subscriptions are currently available at firebrandtheatre.org.
Firebrand is also pleased to announce its season kick-off benefit: NOTHIN’ LIKE A DAME: A CELEBRATION OF WOMEN IN MUSICAL THEATRE on Monday, February 27, 2017 at 7 pm at The Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago. Twenty-eight of Chicago’s fiercest divas take the stage for one-night-only to honor female composers and lyricists, pay tribute to iconic female roles and give audiences a sneak preview of Firebrand’s upcoming inaugural season.
Directed by Harmony France with music direction by Diana Lawrence and Andra Velis Simon, NOTHIN’ LIKE A DAME will feature performances by Brianna Aguilar, Kasey Alfonso, Neala Barron, Karla Beard-leroy, Becca Brown, Christine Bunuan, Lillian Castillo, Rashada Dawan, Lara Filip, Sophie Grimm, Christina Hall, Amanda Therese Horvath, Michelle Lauto, Donica Henderson, Courtney Mack, Laura McClain, Christine America Mild, Leah Pawlik, Sara Reinecke, Camille Robinson, Cassie Slater, Danni Smith, Bethany Thomas, Tiffany Tatreau, Andra Velis Simon and Lina Wass. The band includes Jennifer Grubb (bass), Lauren Vogel (banjo, fiddle) and Danielle Davis (drums). The evening is hosted by Sharriese Hamilton and Sara Sevigny.
Tickets for NOTHIN’ LIKE A DAME: A CELEBRATION OF WOMEN IN MUSICAL THEATRE priced at $40 (regular admission) and $75 (VIP – premium seats, 2 drink tickets, gift), are currently available at firebrandtheatre.org. Silent auction and complimentary wine/beer prior to the performance with a reception following.
FIREBRAND THEATRE’S 2017-18 SEASON:
November 11 – December 17, 2017
LIZZIE – Chicago Premiere!
Music and Lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner
Book by Tim Maner
Directed by Victoria Bussert
Music Direction by Andra Velis-Simon
at The Den Theatre’s Upstairs Main Stage
“Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one.” So goes the nursery rhyme describing the crime of the century that took the nation by storm when Lizzie Borden murdered her parents with an axe in 1892. Or did she? LIZZIE is a musical that reimagines that bloody legend with four women fronting a female rock band. LIZZIE is American mythology set to a blistering rock score with rage, sex, betrayal and bloody murder.
April 7 – May 20, 2018
9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL
Music and Lyrics by Dolly Parton
Book by Patricia Resnick
Directed by Artistic Director Harmony France
Music Direction by Andra Velis-Simon
Featuring Sharriese Hamilton as Doralee
at The Den Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre
Based on the 1980 hit movie of the same name, 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL follows three unlikely friends as they take control of their office and learn there is nothing they can’t do, even in a man’s world. Filled with Dolly Parton’s signature songs and packed with laughs, this heartfelt story still rings true today. 9 to 5 THE MUSICAL is about women shattering stereotypes, lifting each other up and succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.
About the Artists
Victoria Bussert (Director, Lizzie) balances the professional and academic worlds working as an award-winning freelance director while serving as Director of Music Theatre for Baldwin Wallace University. Her work has been seen at the Manhattan Theatre Club, Goodspeed Opera, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Dallas Theatre Center, Cincinnati Playhouse, Portland Stage, Cleveland Playhouse, Dobama Theatre, Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, Pegasus Players, Beck Center for the Arts, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, among others. Victoria serves as Resident Director for Cleveland’s Great Lakes Theatre and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. She has directed seven national tours including Into The Woods, Once on This Island and The Who’s Tommy. Her international directing credits include The Adventures of Friar Tuck in Russia, the Danish premieres of Avenue Q and [title of show], as well as the European premiere of Lizzie for Fredericia Theatre which moves to London in February 2017. Victoria received a BA in Theatre and Dance from Barat College and an MFA in Directing from Northwestern University.
Harmony France (Director, 9 to 5 The Musical) is artistic director of Firebrand Theatre, founding artistic director of Blue Moon Studio Theatre, a freelance casting director and a teaching artist at Actor’s Training Center. Harmony has traveled the world with the Broadway National/International tour of Sister Act. She has been nominated for two Jeff Awards for Best Actress and is the recipient of a Broadway World Award. Harmony has worked with Paramount Theatre, Peninsula Players, Theatre at the Center, Bailiwick Chicago, Porchlight Music Theatre, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, Windy City Playhouse, The New Colony, Timber Lake Playhouse, Route 66 and Chicago Children’s Theatre. She studied opera at Brenau University and acting at Columbia College Chicago.
Andra Velis-Simon (Music Director, Lizzie and 9 to 5 The Musical) is a music director, adapter, arranger, vocal coach and pianist based in Chicago. She is Firebrand Theatre’s resident music director. Regionally, her work has been seen at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, A.R.T. in Cambridge, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Berkeley Rep, Olney Theatre Center in Maryland and Three Oaks in Michigan. In Chicago: The Goodman Theatre (The Iceman Cometh and Camino Real), Theater Wit (Mr. Burns: a post-electric play and the upcoming 10 out of 12), Chicago Children’s Theatre (The Hundred Dresses, A Year with Frog and Toad, Goodnight Moon), The Hypocrites (Cinderella at the Theater of Potatoes, American Idiot, Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, HMS Pinafore), Windy City Playhouse, and many others. Andra is an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches several musical theatre performance courses, and where she served as the staff Musical Director for the Theatre Department from 2008-2016.
FIREBRAND THEATRE is a musical theatre company committed to employing and empowering women by expanding their opportunities on and off the stage. Firebrand is a 501(c)(3) Equity theatre.
Company members: Artistic Director: Harmony France, Advisory Board: Lili-Anne Brown, Emjoy Gavino, Kate Garassino, Amber Mak, Danni Smith, Company Members: Kasey Alfonso, Sydney Charles, Carly Glenn, Amanda Horvath, Jon Martinez, Eric Martin, Andra Velis-Simon.