Cast Announced For THE BOYS IN THE BAND at Windy City Playhouse

Windy City Playhouse (3014 W. Irving Park Rd.) is thrilled to present Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking play, “The Boys in the Band,” directed by Playhouse Associate Artistic Director Carl Menninger, beginning January 29, 2020. The Playhouse invites audience members to sit inches from the characters who helped spark a revolution by putting gay men’s lives onstage during the pre-Pride era.

Fresh off its Tony Award-winning Broadway revival, this landmark play comes to Chicago for the first time in 20 years at Windy City Playhouse Flagship. Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at windycityplayhouse.com or by calling 773-891-8985.
 
The cast of “The Boys in the Band” includes Sam Bell Gurwitz as Harold, Christian Edwin Cook as Alan, Jordan Dell Harris as Donald, Jackson Evans as Michael, James Lee as Larry, Kyle Patrick as Cowboy, Ryan Reilly as Hank and Denzel Tsopnang as Bernard. The role of Emory will be announced at a future date.
 
The creative team for the show includes William Boles (Scenic Designer), Uriel Gomez (Costume Designer), Erik Barry (Lighting Designer), Sarah Espinoza (Sound Designer), Mealah Heidenreich (Properties Designer & Set Dressing), Max Fabian (Violence & Intimacy Diretor), Jenniffer Thusing (Production Stage Manager), Spencer Fritz (Assistant Stage Manager), Jonah White (Master Electrician), Jonathan Schleyer (Technical Director) and Ellen White (Production Manager).

Set in 1968, the play takes place at the birthday party of Harold, who is turning 32. Luckily, friend-enemy Michael is there with six mutual friends to help him ease into the big three-two. The party is all jokes and quips until the host proposes a harmless game of truth or dare. Suddenly, each must reckon with his sexual identity — out, closeted, flamboyant, or “passing” — in an oppressive world where self-love is a luxury. At this party, the cake tastes like truth, and everyone gets a slice.
 
“Coming out, living in the closet, being discriminated against because someone is queer is still a problem in this country (and even more so in the world),” said Director, Carl Menninger. “We’re looking forward to presenting such a historic and important piece that began the journey of gay theatre in America. ‘The Boys in the Band’ was relevant in 1968 and is just as relevant today.”
 
In true Playhouse fashion, guests will be invited to sit on the various couches, chairs and love seats that make up the quintessentially mid-Century, sunken living room in which the show takes place. Patrons will be welcome to move from seat to seat as they wish but will be otherwise seated throughout the show. Guests will be offered small cocktail samplings (with non-alcoholic options available) and party snacks will be available for the taking throughout the show.
 
“Having the chance to transport audiences to Michael’s living room in 1968 New York is a unique and special opportunity for us,” said Playhouse Artistic Director, Amy Rubenstein. “We search for stories that we want to jump inside of and this is a party that I certainly want to be a fly on the wall for. As we delve deeper and deeper into ‘The Boys in the Band,’ we learn how far we’ve come, how far we still have to go and how lucky we are to have this perspective.”
 
The 2018 Broadway revival production of “The Boys in the Band” won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. Variety said, “It not only reminds us of where we’ve been, it also serves as a warning about whatever forms of social oppression are still here and yet to come.” Reviewing the recent revival, Dave Quinn of People raved, “If there were ever a time to revisit ‘The Boys in the Band,’ it’s now.”
 
The performance schedule for “The Boys in the Band” is as follows: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tickets ($75-$95) are on sale now.  
 
About the artists in “The Boys in the Band”:
Carl Menninger (Director) has lived and worked in Chicago for many years and directed the 2016 production of “This” at Windy City Playhouse. Currently, he is the Associate Artistic Director at the Playhouse as well as an Assistant Professor of Theatre at American University, in Washington, D.C., where he ran the Theatre and Musical Theatre program for eight years. Menninger is one of the co-creators of the Playhouse hit “Southern Gothic.” While in Chicago, he worked with Victory Gardens and Chicago Dramatists. In addition to working with D.C.’s Ford’s Theatre, Studio Theatre and Adventure Theatre, his play “Everything but You: A Modern Romance” received a staged reading at Keegan Theatre in D.C.  He is currently working on a play about silent film stars Ramon Novarro and Billy Haines. Carl is the co-author of “Minding the Edge: Strategies for a Fulfilling, Successful Career as an Actor.”
 
Sam Bell-Gurwitz (Harold) is very excited to be making his Windy City Playhouse debut! Other Chicago credits include “A Shayna Maidel” (Timeline) and “Three Sister” (UV Theatre Project). He is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan where he earned his BFA in Acting. He is represented by Stewart Talent. Love and gratitude to Savanna and his family.
Christian Edwin Cook (Alan) is delighted to make his Windy City Playhouse debut in “The Boys in the Band.” Last seen in “Brooke Astor’s Last Affair” at the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, Cook earned his MFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University and holds a BA in Theatre from Drury University (Springfield, MO). He is proudly represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.
 
Jordan Dell Harris (Donald) makes his Windy City Playhouse debut! Chicago credits include: “Sundown Yellow Moon; A Little Night Music” (BoHo Theatre); “Homos, Or Everyone in America” (Pride Films & Plays); “Leave Me Alone!” (The Story Theatre); “Evil Dead: The Musical” (Black Button Eyes); “Wonderful Town” (Goodman Theatre); “Bat Boy: The Musical” (Griffin Theatre – Jeff Nomination, Best Ensemble). Regional credits include: “Falsettos,” “Spring Awakening” and “Six Degrees of Separation” (Actor’s Express). Harris is proud to be represented by Gray Talent Group. www.JordanDellHarris.com
 
Jackson Evans (Michael) makes his Windy City Debut! Regional credits include: “My Fair Lady” (Lyric Opera of Chicago); “Ride the Cyclone,” “Seussical,” “Short Shakespeare! The Taming Of The Shrew” (Chicago Shakespeare); “Bunny Bunny” and “Avenue Q” (Mercury);  “Spamalot,” “Hairspray,” “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers,” “The Boys From Syracuse” (Drury Lane Oakbrook); “Singin’ In The Rain”, “High School Musical,” “Pinocchio,” “Cinderella” (Marriott Lincolnshire); “Peter and The Starcatcher” and “The Full Monty” (Peninsula Players);  “The Producers” (McLeod Summer Playhouse);  “Matilda,” “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” “Big,” “Seussical” (First Stage Milwaukee);  “Knute Rockne: All American,” “La Cage Aux Folles,” and “Crazy For You” (Theatre at the Center) and touring the country with “The Realish Housewives” with Second City. Television credits include: “Chicago P.D.” and “Sirens.” He is a proud graduate of Northwestern University and Equity member.
 
James Lee (Larry) is truly grateful and honored to tell the story of these men in his Windy City Playhouse debut. Credits include working at About Face Theatre, Paramount Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Marriott Lincolnshire and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Lee was also seen in the Las Vegas sit-down production of “Mamma Mia!” He is an instructor at Black Box Acting Studio and is a School at Steppenwolf and Cincinnati CCM grad. He is represented by DDO Artists Agency. Love to Dad and Laura. For Mom.
 
Kyle Patrick (Cowboy) is ecstatic to be making his debut at Windy City Playhouse! Some of his recent theatre credits include: “Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales” (The Griffin Theatre); “Into the Woods” (Stagecrafter’s Theatre); “42nd Street” (St. Dunstan’s Theatre); “Antigone” and “Dunsinane” (Carolina Performing Arts Center). Additionally, some of his recent TV/Film credits include “Now and Not Yet” (Redleg Films), “Deliver Me” (Columbia College Chicago), “A Bennett Song Holiday” (Auburn Moon Productions/Painted Creek Productions), and “The Girls of Summer” (FilmAcres). For a comprehensive look at Kyle’s previous work, feel free to access his official website (https://kylepatrickacting.wixsite.com/website), or even his social media pages — where you are also sure to be updated on his upcoming work! Much love to Tiff, for her unwavering support, Lauren, for her endless motivation, Zach, for his unconditional brotherhood, and Tori, for her endless compassion. Kyle is represented by Gray Talent Group. Instagram – @_kyle_patrick, Facebook – @KylePatrickActor
 
Ryan Reilly (Hank) Credits include: “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” (National Tour); NYC: “Within the Law” (Metropolitan Playhouse); “The Short Fall and Woyzeck” (Toy Box Theatre Co.). Regional highlights: Sky Materson in “Guys And Dolls” (Broadway Rose Theatre, OR); Beast in “Beauty and The Beast” (Alaska Center for the Performing Arts); Tom in “The Glass Menagerie” (Theatreworks, Colorado Springs); “Cabaret” (Music Theatre of Ct); “The Boys From Syracuse” and “Mame” (Drury Lane); “A Christmas Carol,” “The Light in The Piazza” and “Hairspray” (Marriott Theatre); “It’s A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play” (Alhambra Theatre, Fl). TV: “Sorry for Your Loss” starring Elizabeth Olsen. Reilly holds a BFA from UW-Stevens Point and is represented by Paonessa Talent. Thank you to Mart Crowley for this historically significant work and to everyone at Windy City Playhouse for allowing the boys to live on.
 
Denzel Tsopnang (Bernard) Hailing from Batavia, IL, Tsopnang holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Millikin University and is thrilled to be making his Windy City Playhouse debut with this wonderful team and cast! Some of his favorite Chicago credits include: “South Pacific” (Drury Lane); “Five Guys Named Moe” (Court Theatre); “Ragtime” (Griffin Theatre); “The Scottsboro Boys” (Porchlight Music Theatre); “Annie Warbucks” (Theatre at the Center);  “Smokey Joe’s Café” (Drury Lane Oakbrook); “Velveteen Rabbit” (Marriott Theatre); “Heathers: The Musical” (Kokandy Productions) and “Northanger Abbey” (Lifeline Theatre).
 
Christopher Davis (u/s Hank and Alan) was honored to go on for Jackson Wellington and Charles Lyon in last year’s Jeff Award-winning “Southern Gothic” for Windy City Playhouse! Other recent credits have included “Dames At Sea,” “Cabaret,” and “It’s A Wonderful Life” (Theatre at the Center); “Merrily We Roll Along” (Porchlight); “A Little Night Music” (BoHo Theatre); “Bunnicula,” (Lifeline Theatre) two years with Rocky Mountain Repertory and nearly a dozen productions at Williams Street Rep, with whom he is a proud company member. Never-ending thanks go out to Davis’ Mom and his Aunts for their support and encouragement.
 
Brian Huther (u/s Donald and Larry) is a Chicago-based creator and performer. Acting credits include: “Fire in Dreamland,” “Our Town” (Kansas City Repertory Theatre); “I’m Not Rappaport” (KC Actors Theatre); “Love and Information” (Trap Door Theatre); “The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe” (Underscore Theatre Company); “Eurydice,” “The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe,” “Milking Christmas,” “The Mistakes Madeline Made” (The Living Room). Film/TV: “Chicago P.D.”, “Goodland”. Huther is a cofounder of viral comedy collective Friend Dog Studios (Online: “G.O.P. Jesus”, “Drunk Trump”, “2016 The Movie: The Trailer, etc”. Onstage: The Ballad of Lefty and Crabbe, H4CKS, Milking Christmas).
 
Bernell Lassai III (u/s Bernard) Born and raised in Chicago, IL. Lassai is delighted to be making his debut with Windy City Playhouse understudying in “The Boys in the Band.” His most recent credits include: “The Producers” (The Paramount Theatre); “Curve of Departure” (Northlight Theatre); “Memphis,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” and “Billy Elliot” (Porchlight Music Theatre). “Giggle, Giggle, Quack” (Lifeline Theatre). Regional Credits include: “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (The Little Theatre on the Square); “A Christmas Carol” (Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre); “Antony and Cleopatra” at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis; Bigfork Summer Playhouse; Hope Summer Repertory Theatre. Lassai is a graduate of The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University.
 
Paul Michael Thomson (u/s Emory and Cowboy) is so grateful to be involved in the telling of this seminal queer narrative. Chicago credits include: “Ms. Blakk for President” (Steppenwolf Theatre); “Birds of a Feather,” Machinal (Greenhouse Theatre); “Beauty & The Beast,” “A Christmas Carol” (Drury Lane Oakbrook); “The Nutcracker” (House Theatre of Chicago); “Romeo & Juliet” (Teatro Vista); “Shakespeare In Love” (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre). TV credits: “Chicago Med”, “Chicago Justice”. Thomson graduated summa cum laude with a BFA in Acting and a BA in Africana Studies from The University of Arizona. Published playwright, co-founder of The Story Theatre. Grateful for good people, Gray Talent and God.
 
Shea Petersen (u/s Michael and Harold) hails from Richmond, TX and is extremely grateful to be working with Windy City Playhouse. Past theatre credits include: “Mr. Kotomoto is Definitely Not White” (Nomads Art Collective), “Mike Pence Sex Dream” (First Floor Theater); “Treefall” (Exit 63 Theatre), “Enemy of the People” (Goodman Theatre). Film credits include: “First Dance and Pride, Prejudice, and Gays”. Shea received his BFA in acting from The Theatre School at DePaul and is also a graduate of the William Esper Meisner Studio in NYC. Petersen is also an EMC candidate and a freelance photographer and you can see more of his work at www.dsheapetersen.com Instagram: @d.sheapetersen 
 
William Boles (scenic designer) CHICAGO: Goodman, Steppenwolf, Paramount Theater, Second City, Lyric Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Victory Gardens Theater, The Hypocrites, American Theater Company, A Red Orchid, Chicago Children’s Theatre, Sideshow (artistic associate),  First Floor Theater, Emerald City. NYC: The Cherry Lane, La Mama. REGIONAL: Kennedy Center, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Children’s Theatre Company, Actors Theater of Louisville, Pig Iron Theatre Company, Huntington Theater Company, Wolftrap Opera, Minnesota Opera, Cincinnati Opera. Milwaukee Rep, Artist’s Rep, Theatre Squared, Adirondack Theater Festival. INTERNATIONAL: Stockholm Vocal Academy and Opera Siam in Bangkok. MFA, Northwestern. Website: wbdesigns.carbonmade.com
 
URIEL GÓMEZ (Costume Designer) Design credits include: the Chicago premieres of “The Madres,” “The Wolf at the End of the Block,” “Parachute Man (Teatro Vista); “Small World,” “PUNK!” (The New Colony); “Wolves,” “Dark Matter” (Exit 63 Theatre); “De Troya” “The River Bride” (Halcyon Theatre);  “Mike Pence Sex Dream,” “Refrigerator,” “Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea” (First Floor Theatre) and many more. He would like to thank his friends and family for all their support. For more information & designs please visit ugomez.com.  
 
Erik Barry (Lighting Designer) is a freelance Lighting Designer based in Chicago. He recently received the Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for 2019 for “The Displaced” with Haven Theatre. His designs have been seen at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall, Harris Theatre (Chicago), and the Detroit Music Hall. He is the Resident Lighting Designer for Underscore Theatre Company and the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. MFA – Lighting Design: University of Wisconsin-Madison. eriksbarry.com
 
Mealah Heidenreich (Properties Designer & Set Dresser) is pleased as punch to be propping with Windy City Playhouse. Some of her previous designs include: “The Old Friends and Crumbs from the Table of Joy” (Raven Theatre); “A Wonder in my Soul, “Native Gardens” and “Fun Home” (Victory Gardens); “In the Heights” and “Dreamgirls” (Porchlight Music Theatre); “City of Conversation” and “Faceless” (Northlight Theatre). Heidenreich is an ensemble member with Hell in a Handbag Productions.
 
Max Fabian (Violence & Intimacy Designer) studied at the Rapier Wit fight school in Toronto, Ontario and is an Advanced Actor Combatant with The Fight Directors of Canada.  Past works include “Pericles” (Chicago Shakespeare); “Stick Fly,” “The Explorer’s Club,” “Southern Gothic,” “Noises Off” (Windy City Playhouse); “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “Sita Rahm,” (Lookingglass); “Sunset Boulevard” (Porchlight Music Theater).  Max is the proud recipient of The Chicago Hawk Theatre Award 2018 for his work in “Southern Gothic” at Windy City Playhouse.
 
Jonah White (Master Electrician) is proud to be working with Windy City Playhouse on their production of “The Boys in the Band.” White’s past credits as Master Electrician include; “Be Here Now” (Shattered Globe); “The Man Who Was Thursday” (Lifeline Theatre); and “Shrew’d!” (First Folio Theatre). He also works as a lighting designer, with past credits including “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” (Lifeline Theatre); “I am My Neighborhood” (Piven Theatre Workshop); and “Parfumerie” (Moody Bible Institute).
 
Jenniffer Thusing (Production Stage Manager) Jenniffer is happy to join Windy City Playhouse, again, after working on “Southern Gothic.” In her almost 20 years of stage managing, she has worked for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, About Face, SoloChicago, Chicago Dramatists, Chicago Commercial Collective, Noble Fool, Nuns for Fun, Emerald City and Light Opera Works. Thusing’s work as a set designer, with her partner Bob Groth, has been seen at Irish Theatre of Chicago (formerly Seanachai), Mary Arrchie, The Royal George, Metropolis Performing Arts, The Broadway Playhouse, The Apollo Theater, and Emerald City’s Little Theater. She is a proud member of Actors Equity Association.
 
Spencer Fritz (Assistant Stage Manager) Fritz is excited to be working with Windy City Playhouse for the first time.  Recent credits include: “Shadows of Birds” (Glass Apple Theatre); “Admissions” (Theatre Wit); “Dark at the Top of the Stairs” (Eclipse Theater) and a few projects with Silk Road Rising.  He is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago where he has worked on numerous productions including: “Caroline, or Change,” “Peer Gynt” and one of the only productions of “Make Me Bad: A Musical Thriller.”
 
Amy Rubenstein is the Artistic Director and co-founder of Windy City Playhouse. Since the theater’s premiere in March 2015, she has overseen 15 mainstage productions, including the recent smash hit, world premiere “Southern Gothic,” of which she was also a co-creator. During her tenure, the Playhouse has been lauded for its uniquely contemporary approach that focuses on audience experience and has received numerous industry accolades, including 15 Joseph Jefferson Award nomination including three subsequent best production nodes for 2018’s “Southern Gothic,” 2019’s “Noises Off” and 2019’s “The Recommendation, 11 Chicago Theater Awards, including the 2018 Trailblazer Award, and three International Centre for Women Playwrights’ 50/50 Awards. Under her leadership, the theater has proudly been a three-time finalist for the Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theater Award. Prior to her current role at the Playhouse, Rubenstein’s credits include performing with Long Beach Playhouse, Human Race Theatre and Center Stage Theater, among others. She is a proud graduate of Brandeis University.
 
About Windy City Playhouse
Windy City Playhouse is a professional theater and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, located on Chicago’s northwest side. Premiering in March of 2015 with a mission to present contemporary, relevant, and approach art, the Playhouse has quickly become a mainstay of the Chicago theater scene. In 2018, its runaway hit, the immersive SOUTHERN GOTHIC, solidified the Playhouse as the first choice in Chicago theater for one-of-a-kind audience experience. “Experience driven. Audience first.”
For more information, visit WindyCityPlayhouse.com and follow on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.