Last Spring, we were doing some work in Aurora IL, a community that some might call a western suburb of Chicago, despite it being the second largest city in the State. We went in the night before our presentation, noted that the stunning Paramount Theatre was featuring the classic musical Rent and were lucky enough to score a couple tickets for closing night.
We've both seen Rent a number of times. During the performance, we kept looking at each other, stunned at the calibre of the performance. This cast was so above what we had seen in other iterations that we were shaking our heads in awe.
As the cast came out for their curtain call, several had tears on their cheeks. I remember thinking, "what the hell...they're just going to jump on the bus and take the show to Des Moines. Why the tears?"
Except...this wasn't a traveling company. These performers had been assembled specifically for this show, for this theatre. Closing night was the end of a magnificent coming together of an amazingly creative set of talent.
When Tim Rater took the reigns of The Paramount a few years ago, he could have gone the route of booking traveling shows for his Broadway Series. That would have been easy and expected. Instead, he challenged convention by doing his own shows with the best talent from Chicago...and around the country.
We were so suitable impressed that we couldn't wait to experience his version of Les Miserables...which we did yesterday afternoon.
He and his incredible crew had us the moment we saw the sensationally unique gyrating post-industrial yet oddly 19th Century set (click image to enlarge)...and then thrilled us with actors that could sing instead of singers that tried to act. The Paramount's production of Les Miz is by far our new favorite...and we've collectively seen the show at least 8 times (the movie doesn't count).
The two hour drive from Madison? We'll do it several times for next season as well. If it were a 4 hour trip, we'd think nothing of it. We'd be there.
If you're anywhere near...treat yourself to the most original version of this classic we've ever seen. And, marvel at the artistic risk takers at the simply gorgeous Paramount.
It runs through April. Go.