Barry Norton of Rolling Meadows brings his years of experience in both community and professional theater to his latest role, as director of A Grand Night for Singing at St. Edna’s Parish in Arlington Heights. The musical revue is the 12th production of the church’s Snack Theatre.

Barry Norton directs the cast in one of the many ensemble scenes. (Photos by Nancy Panzarella)

Performances take place at 7 p.m. April 12, 13, 19 and 20, and at 1:30 p.m. on April 20. The dinner theater event takes place in the church’s Parish Center, which was built in 2019 in part to accommodate Snack Theatre shows.

As its name implies, the show is a 1992 Tony-nominated musical comedy revue featuring beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein songs. Think songs from Carousel, Oklahoma, Cinderella and Sound of Music, to name just a few.

Norton formally served as Artistic Director for the Woodstock Opera House, where some of the shows he directed included Mamma Mia, Nunsense, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Annie and Oliver, for which he was nominated for the Broadway World Award for best direction of a musical.

At St. Edna’s he is directing a cast of 22 performers, who range from relative newcomers — for some it’s been years since they sang in their high school or college musicals — and several returning performers whom Norton has worked with in the past.

“The show was originally written for five performers,” Norton says. “It’s what you would call a book show, and includes many of the classic songs of Rodgers and Hammersteins library. I have taken the songs and divided them up among the cast creating some small story lines with the songs using them as dialogue.”

He also has served as set designer for the show, which is divided into two acts. Act I takes place in a nightclub, with an art deco setting in the 1940’s. It includes tables, chairs and pillars with a sequined curtain as its backdrop. Act 2 features a change of scenery, with an outdoor scene of trees, tables and chairs, and benches.

Of course the set leaves plenty of room for dancing — and there’s a lot of it in the show. Susan Pritzker is the choreographer. She has choreographed as many as 30 musicals across the suburbs, including with the Buffalo Grove Park District, Highland Park Players, Northbrook Park District, Oakton CommunityCollege, the North Shore Theater Company, Des Plaines Park District and Hersey High School to name some of them.

Team members from Gerry’s Cafe will be serving up sandwiches like these.

Currently, Pritzker teaches dance lessons at the Arlington Heights Senior Center and she has convinced some of her students to audition for the show.

Allison Blomeke returns as choral director in her eighth Snack Theatre production, while Jim Pauwels, who is a deacon in the parish, is making his first appearance as music director.

As a special treat, Snack Theatre is partnering with partnering with Gerry’s Café to offer a pre-show café meal, which is a signature part of this dinner theater tradition. Gerry’s team members will be on hand to serve sandwiches and salads in one of their first ventures with their new catering offering.

“This gives us a chance to showcase the community theater within St. Edna,” says Maureen Durack, producer and performer. “We simply want to show our hospitality.”




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