Not your average theater benefit

Open Door has put together a high-powered cast for this Saturday's fundraising event

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By Doug Deuchler

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'The thing I'm really thrilled about the most is that all of these amazing performers will be here on the same night in the same place in Oak Park," says Open Door Theater's artistic and managing director, Mary Pat Sieck. "It's really going to be an incredible evening."

 She is talking about "Broadway in Oak Park: A Benefit Concert for Open Door Repertory Co." at 8 p. m. this Saturday, Oct. 25, at Open Door Theater, 902 S. Ridgeland Ave., just south of Harrison Street. Thirteen well-known entertainers will be appearing in a special one-night-only performance. Tickets are $30.

 Sieck, a founding member of Open Door who has directed at least 16 shows for the company, explains their mission as a professional, non-equity company in the Harrison Arts District. The intimate theater is truly community-based, she says, and from their earliest days, the company has been devoted to diversity. They present a full season of theatrical productions ranging from classics to new works and in the open slots between there's an ample offering of events, ranging from evenings of improv and stand-up comedy to jazz ensembles and featured vocalists. 

But running a theater company, as always but even more so these days, is often a steep financial challenge. That's where Open Door's new board member, Ashton Byrum, comes in.

 Byrum, known for a wide range of acting experiences — from his performance as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man to a Broadway tourof The Producers, came up with the idea of producing a benefit for the company. He rounded up a number of comrades from both Chicago and national theater as well as other media to mount an exciting evening concert this Saturday to support Open Door.

 "It's a great feather in our cap to be able to host this event," Byrum says. "Many of these performers are legendary and all of them are top-notch talents. It's an impressive lineup, including Patrick Martin [South Pacific, Marriott], Sharon Carlson [WTTW On-Air host], Landree Fleming [Spelling Bee, Drury Lane], Robert Duchak [Ragtime, Broadway], Ilana Atkins [Carrie, Bailiwick], and Jeff Award winner Michael Mahler. Many of the performers live in the area, such as Paul Amandes, and they are all excited about performing for the community. 

"We've got Paula Scrofano and her husband John Reeger, a couple of Chicago theater landmarks, plus James Lee [Mama Mia, Las Vegas] and Dara Cameron [Wizard of Oz, Marriott]. They're all reaching out to support Open Door," said Byrum, an Oak Parker with a young family. "I'm thrilled to invest in my town with a show that's so affordable, considering it's a benefit. Our ticket price is a gift to the community for their generous, long-standing support." 

Both Byrum and his co-star from the Broadway tour of Cats, Gina Valentine, will be performing Saturday night at Open Door.

 The caliber of talent in this one-night-only event is exciting. Dara Cameron, for instance, has worked with everyone from Tom Jones to Patti Lupone. She has performed in opera satires and in cabaret. Michael Mahler is a Chicago-based composer, lyricist, and actor.

 "I don't know if most folks in Oak Park realize how lucky we are here in Oak Park to have a year-round theater company like Open Door right in our community," Byrum says. "We've all got to hold up their efforts. Our lineup of talent is thrilled to be performing Saturday night to support this cause." 

 "We are all so excited about this wonderful event," adds Sieck. "It will be pretty wonderful."

 Tickets for Broadway in Oak Park are $30. Phone 708-386-5510 for reservations.

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