Children’s Theatre of Elgin celebrates ‘Simply the Best’
From Staff Reports June 21, 2012 3:40PM
GUS STUERTZE / SPECIAL TO THE COURIER NEWS Kalee Hooghkirk (left), age 14 of Elgin shares a scene with ninth-grader Clee McCracken (right) of Elgin who plays the "Genie of the Ring" at a rehearsal at Hemmens Cultural Centre of the Children's Theatre of El
If you go
What: Children’s Theatre of Elgin and Fox Valley Theatre Company’s production of “Simply the Best: 25 Years of Audience Favorites”
When: 7:30 p.m. June 22, 23, 29 and 30, and 3 p.m. June 24 and July 1.
Where: Elgin Community College Arts Center Blizzard Theatre, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin.
On the Web: cteelgin.com
Updated: July 23, 2012 6:47AM
In 1988, Children’s Theatre of Elgin founders David and Peter Akemann envisioned a theater company that would give the Fox Valley community affordable access to quality performances put on by children for children.
More than two decades and 100 performances later, CTE’s “Simply the Best: 25 Years of Audience Favorites” offers a high-energy look back at the group’s most beloved musical performances during six shows at Elgin Community College on the next two weekends.
CTE’s cast of 120 young people ranging in age from 7 to 20 will sing and dance their way down memory lane during performances at the Elgin Community College Arts Center Blizzard Theatre at 7:30 p.m. June 22, 23, 29 and 30, and at 3 p.m. June 24 and July 1. “Simply the Best” features a live band accompanying young performers singing dozens of pop, rock and Broadway favorites such as “All that Jazz,” “Fame,” “Footloose,” “Leader of the Pack,” “Proud Mary” and “Somebody to Love,” among many others.
Twin brothers David and Peter Akemann, lifelong Elgin residents and active community members, founded CTE in 1988 because they discovered a lack of opportunities in the performing arts for their own children and others in grades two through nine. Later in 1993, Fox Valley Theatre Company was added for high school- and college-age students, and in 2006 that group was incorporated as Fox Valley Theatre Company (FVTC). CTE/FVTC’s goal has been to provide meaningful live-theater instruction and experiences for all interested students. A successful scholarship program helps fund participation for children who may be economically disadvantaged.
“We are very pleased with the success CTE and FVTC have enjoyed over the past 25 years,” said Peter Akemann. “It’s rewarding to see how theater can positively affect the lives of children, their families and the community.”
“Our goals all along were to provide a healthy, creative outlet for children and youth, and to produce quality family entertainment that all could enjoy,” David Akemann said. “We are truly fortunate to have been a part of this wonderful, positive experience for so many and for so long.”
Using CTE as their springboard, dozens of young actors and singers have gone on to pursue successful careers in the arts. Broadway actress Courtney Reed and Broadway conductor David Hahn both got their start with CTE, and Joffrey Ballet member Aaron Rogers also performed with the group.
Andy Bero, who traveled with the Broadway touring version of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” is an alumnus who has returned to CTE as a choreographer for “Simply the Best.” Bero will make his FVTC directing debut with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” in September.
“CTE/FVTC provided me with a solid foundation on which to build my performing career, and it brought into my life a number of fellow performers who to this day are my best friends,” Bero said. “It is incredibly rewarding to now be part of the production staff and see a whole new generation of kids benefiting from the CTE/FVTC experience.”
Today, CTE produces two large-scale shows each year at Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin using scripts based on fairy tales, literature and historical stories, including original scripts written by CTE board members. The combined CTE/FVTC group produces a song and dance review such as “Simply the Best” each summer, while FVTC presents a full-length Broadway musical annually at the Blizzard Theater as well.
Tickets for “Simply the Best” are $10 for all performances and are available online through the ECC box office at www.elgin.edu/vpac.aspx or by phone at 847-622-0300. Tickets also may be purchased in person at the Arts Center Box Office in the Elgin Community College Arts Center, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin, during regular hours of noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and noon to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. More information about CTE is available on the group’s website at cteelgin.com.