The Marriott Theatre (10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire) presents HERO, a new musical written by Aaron Thielen with music and lyrics by Michael Mahler, previewing June 20, opening June 27 at 8 p.m. and running through August 19, 2012. Eleven-time Jeff award-winner David H. Bell directs and choreographs. Erich Bergen (JERSEY BOYS, Nat'l Tour) stars as Hero Batowski. In addition to Bergen, the production features an all-star Chicago cast including Heidi Kettenring as "Jane", Don Forston as "Al", Alex Goodrich as "Kirk", Dara Cameron as "Susan", Jonah Rawitz as "Nate" (Zach Keller at matinees), Summer Naomi Smart as "Adele", Michael Aaron Lindner as "Kyle", and ensemble members Kelley Abell, Jameson Cooper, and Alex Goldklang.
HERO tells the story of a talented young artist living anything but a superhero life. After a life changing event his senior year in high school, Hero still finds himself living at home with his dad, Al, who runs the family comic book shop in Milwaukee. Things start to change for him when he bumps into an old girlfriend, and with the encouragement of his dad, and his best friend and cousin, Kirk, Hero finally has a chance to realize his own dream. HERO is an endearing musical that explores those extraordinary moments in ordinary life…when there are no superheroes to the rescue.
In the creative spirit of the piece, the Marriott Theatre is working with website and comic book designer and illustrator Charles Riffenburg of Grab Bag Media. Throughout the rehearsal process, Riffenburg will document the process in comic book fashion. Additionally, the Marriott Theatre is collaborating with Riffenburg on the show's website, www.heromusical.com, which offers audiences an in-depth look into the creation of the show and the world through Hero's eye. This interactive website will innovatively follow the entire creative process of bringing this new work to the stage, complete with audio, videos and a blog.
The Marriott Theatre has long been recognized nationally for fostering new works and producing thrilling World Premiere musicals. "Though it's certainly unusual for a commercial theatre to risk a new work, our subscribers have always embraced them over our 35 year history" said Terry James, Executive Producer of the Marriott Theatre. "In theatre, there is really nothing more exciting than playing an active role in the birth of a new musical. Our subscribers enjoy playing that role!"
The first reading of HERO took place in the spring of 2009 and was enthusiastically received; so much so that a staged reading took place in spring of 2010 at the Marriott Theatre for 600 subscribers. Thielen and Mahler then had the opportunity to present the work as a part of the American Musical Theater Project in conjunction with Northwestern University in the fall of 2011, wherein the production was presented to two very enthusiastic audiences, garnering incredible feedback.
"The inspiration for HERO started with a visit to one of my favorite shops in my hometown of Milwaukee. There is this great old store across the street from the Allen Bradley building on 1st Street," says Thielen. "I've always had a love for comics and superheroes, so I started creating this story and placing it in this shop. I thought, 'what a great set for a show': the store, the little yard and the family home - their whole world in one block."
"To me, HERO is the reverse of a piece like SPIDERMAN: THE MUSICAL," says lyricist and composer Michael Mahler. "It's about real people, with real problems, and how they measure their lives against the comic book heroes they grew up loving. Sometimes things don't always measure up, but it's about learning to see the wonder not just in comic books, but in the everyday world all around us."
"The score to HERO is a traditional musical theatre score in the best sense of the term. The songs spring out of scene to drive the plot and characters forward, so book, music and lyrics are working in tandem to tell the story in the clearest and most exciting way," says Mahler. "It's true to the traditions and values that have made American musical theatre so great. This score has a contemporary pop / rock drive and edge that makes it feel fresh and exciting."
As the current Co-Artistic Director for the Marriott Theatre, Aaron Thielen has long been an advocate for the creation of new musicals. Most recently he adapted the Twentieth Century Fox film FOR THE BOYS for the Marriott Theatre stage. He was one of the creative forces in bringing the 2008 world premiere musical THE BOWERY BOYS to Marriott. He co-authored the award-winning ALL NIGHT STRUT, A FASCINATIN' RHYTHM with Marc Robin. He is currently working on another exciting new work for the Marriott Theatre's 2013 Season. As Artistic Director, he led the creative teams of the record-breaking hits A CHORUS LINE, JOSEPH…, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, THE PRODUCERS, LITTLE WOMEN, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, STATE FAIR, and another new work, MARRIED ALIVE. He co-founded a theatre company in Milwaukee dedicated to community outreach, and is a former company member of Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Company.
Michael Mahler, a Chicago-based composer, lyricist and actor, began his career at Northwestern University, where he wrote nearly 50 songs for the annual Waa-Mu Show. His songs have been featured in STATUS and WHAT U WILL (The Music Theatre Company); THE AMERICAN DREAM SONGBOOK (Next Theatre Company); MOVING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK (Beechman Theater); and BALLADS. Also, UPTEMPOS (Ars Nova); as well as various songwriter showcases around the world, including the National Alliance for Musical Theatre New Works Summit, the MAC/ASCAP Songwriter Showcase, Monday Night New Voices, and an evening at the Kennedy Center. Mahler teamed up with Alan Schmuckler to write HOW CAN YOU RUN WITH A SHELL ON YOUR BACK?, a critically-acclaimed family musical commissioned by the Tony Award-winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Michael is also a Jeff-nominated actor and musical director.
Lead Artistic Director and Playwright Aaron Thielen heads the Artistic Team of HERO, with Direction and Choreography by David H. Bell, Music Direction by Ryan T. Nelson, Lighting Design by Jesse Klug, Scenic Design by Thomas M. Ryan, Costume Design by Nancy Missimi and Erin Wuorenma, Sound Design by Robert E. Gilmartin and Properties Design by Sally Weiss. Comic Book Illustrations and Designs are by Charles Riffenburg. Patti Garwood serves as the Musical Supervisor and composer Michael Mahler will conduct the Marriott Theatre Orchestra.
The performance schedule is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00pm, Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 1:00pm and 5:00 p.m. Ticket prices range from $40 to $48, plus tax and handling fees. Seniors and Students receive $5.00 off a full price theatre ticket on Wednesday 1:00pm, Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00pm and 5:00pm. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings a limited number of Dinner and Theatre tickets are available for only $55.00 per person plus handling fees. Dinner is at the King's Wharf Restaurant or the Fairfield Inn (based on dining availability). Free parking is available at all performances. To purchase tickets with a major credit card, call the Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or www.Ticketmaster.com . Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com or www.HeroMusical.com for more information.