CHICAGO – Legendary Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and the sultry and mysterious actress Greta Garbo will return to life this winter, when actress-playwright Jillann Gabrielle brings her two original one-woman musicals to the Athenaeum Theatre. HEDDA! A MUSICAL CONVERSATION and THE GARBO THE MUSICAL will run in rotating rep between February 15 and March 17.
Jillann Gabrielle will star in both pieces. She wrote the book, music, and lyrics for both shows with help from Michael Termine on the book/lyrics for HEDDA! and from Howard Pfeifer on the music and arrangements for both shows.
Gabrielle’s style of presentation blurs the line between musical theatre and cabaret. She and her company, Paradise Playhouse, have been touring the Midwest in both shows for three years and this is the Chicago theatrical debut for both pieces. Off-Broadway agents have expressed interest in both pieces.
HEDDA! A MUSICAL CONVERSATION takes place in the living room of Hedda Hopper, the hat-crazed gossip columnist and political pundit of Hollywood’s Golden Age who has recently returned to the public consciousness as a character in the feature film TRUMBO and in the TV mini-series FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN.
Through a series of lively phone conversations, thirteen clever and engaging songs, and chats with the audience, Gabrielle brings to life Hedda’s story…from her Quaker upbringing, to her run as an MGM bit player, to her meteoric rise as the hat-crazed Hollywood gossip columnist. The audience is made privy to: her legendary feuds with Hollywood’s elite; the use of her column to promote her own political and moral agenda; her smear campaigns against Charlie Chaplin and other Hollywood Communist sympathizers; and the Liz/Eddie/Debbie debacle. Scores of her legendary hats live on stage with her.
THE GARBO THE MUSICAL. Considered by many to be the greatest film actress of all time, Greta Garbo had an image of androgynous glamour. A worldwide phenomenon in her glory days, she shunned the limelight. Dissatisfied with the scripts Hollywood offered to her as her natural beauty was beginning to fade, she retired from the screen at the age of 35 and eventually became a recluse in Manhattan. Set in the mid-1970s, THE GARBO THE MUSICAL finds her in the middle of a nightmare with two of her obsessed long-term lovers: the Spanish-American poet, playwright, screenwriter and adamant lesbian of her day, Mercedes de Acosta; and the acid-tongued, witty, bi-sexual British theatrical designer and photographer to the stars, Cecil Beaton. This Victor/Victoria-esque trio – all played by Gabrielle – unfolds Miss G’s spicy and revealing story and answers all the burning questions the world wanted to know about “The Garbo.” Thirteen scintillating songs and humorous monologues make this one-woman musical insightful, fun, and compelling.
HEDDA! A MUSICAL CONVERSATION and THE GARBO THE MUSICAL will run in rotating rep opening on Thursday, February 15th and closing Sunday, March 17th. Showtimes are: 7:30 on Thursdays and Fridays, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 on Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Ticket price is $30. Please consult the Athenaeum website for the performance dates for both shows: www.athenaeumtheatre.org
Jillann Gabrielle has been a successful singer/actress/producer/instructor her entire professional life and has now realized her dream of becoming a writer. She has performed extensively as a cabaret artist/comedienne/emcee, in musical (and non-musical) theatre, film, TV, and in voice over. She has also been one of the leading voice/acting instructors (30+ years) in Chicago, NYC and LA. Paradise Playhouse (founded in 1989) has produced many book and revue stage shows.
Jill has also appeared with other companies for a total of 35+ leading roles in musicals and comedy/drama including: Evita, Peter Pan, Into the Woods, and Born Yesterday. Her third original musical, Joan & Bette Bette & Joan, is on Joan Crawford and Bette Davis…hopefully ready sometime late in 2018. She also has two screenplays she has recently submitted to a major literary agency in Los Angeles: Frederick the Great, and Michi: Hedda Hopper’s Houseboy. She travels to Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere as her projects require.
Jill recently spent a year and a half in Los Angeles. While there she created and produced a high-end open mic in Beverly Hills, L.A. She had a cast of L.A. regulars L.A. and “stars” who appeared from time to time. She also produced and directed an AIDS Beneﬁt for “Hollywood Remembers.” Her co-host was Alan Rachins (LA Law and Dharma and Greg) and her performers included Ray Jessel (Carol Burnett and Dean Martin Shows). In L.A. she also appeared recently in a critically acclaimed new play, OJALA! at Casa 0101 for which she received a Los Angeles theatre award for her performance. The play is currently in negotiations for being turned into a ﬁlm.
Jill’s other projects include: performing her unique dinner show, THE UPTOWN/DOWNTOWN DIVA, in which she is glamorous and funny as she showcases her dual talents as an operatic and Broadway singer and shares the stage with some of her “star” students and other professionals; producing, hosting, and marketing an open mic for opera singers, SPAGHETTI ARIAS, at the historic Italian Village Restaurant in Chicago’s loop; performing her one-woman cabaret show STARSTRUCKER! in Manhattan and Chicago; and producing and hosting dinner showcases for her vocal students. Jillann currently lives in Crystal Lake where she and her husband have rehearsal spaces and studios and regularly commutes to the Oak Park area twice a week to teach voice and acting students. She has been a leading Chicago vocal instructor since 1981.
Jill has appeared on TV in “Pregnant and Injured”, “Unusual Suspects”, “Blue Movies” (short ﬁlm spooﬁng Forrest Gump), the “Hellbent for Hollywood” web series, and on Chicago’s CBS-TV Morning Show, “CBS-TV News with Steve Baskerville” ‘Voice Lesson’ segment, and NBC-TV reality show hit “Starting Over” (stage presence instruction two episodes).