Chris’ Birthday Belt Fest, Annual Benefit Concert for Howard Brown Health, returns May 16

Jeff Award-nominee and HIV+ director/producer Christopher Pazdernik returns with the second annual Chris’ Birthday Belt-Fest, a benefit concert for Howard Brown Health on Monday, May 16, 8:00 PM at Uptown Underground, 4707 N. Broadway, Chicago. Featuring award-winning musical theater performers from across Chicago, the evening will be co-music directed by Dustin Struhall and Jeff Award-winner Aaron Benham. Tickets are $20 and are available by calling 773-867-1946 or visiting

In 2015, director/producer Christopher Pazdernik was looking for a way to give back to Howard Brown Health, where he has received his medical care since being diagnosed HIV+ in 2009. With his network of musical theater performers in Chicago, he launched Chris’ Birthday Belt Fest as the May edition of Option Up!, the monthly cabaret he co-hosts at Stage 733. (The concert’s name refers to vocal belting, a specific technique of singing by which a singer brings their chest register above its natural break at a loud volume.) That inaugural concert featured 16 performers, sold out The Cab at Stage 773, and raised $500 to benefit Howard Brown. For the 2016 edition, the concert has moved to a larger venue, Uptown Underground, and expanded to 30 singers in celebration of Pazdernik’s 30th birthday.

Once again, leading ladies from every theater in town, including numerous Jeff Award winners and nominees, will join together to belt for a cause! Currently scheduled to perform are Missy Aguilar (Porchlight Revisits City of Angels),Charissa Armon (Porchlight’s Ragtime), Neala Barron (Hypocrite’s Adding Machine), Elya Bottiger (Porchlight RevisitsApplause), Lillian Castillo (Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Ride the Cyclone), Liz Chidester (Refuge Theatre Project’sHigh Fidelity), Broadway veteran Katherine Condit (original cast, Chess), Kyrie Courter (Porchlight’sDreamgirls), Candace Edwards (Porchlight’s Dreamgirls), Landree Fleming (American Theatre Company’sXanadu), Kristen Freilich (Second City’s Jewsical!), Veronica Garza (Kokandy’s Heathers), Britain Gebhart (Refuge Theatre Project’s High Fidelity), Sophie Grimm (Paramount’s Les Miserables), Sarah Hayes (Mercury Theatre’s Addams Family), Amanda Horvath (Porchlight’s Far From Heaven), Angela Ingersoll (Judy Garland in I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues), Callie Johnson (Drury Lane’s Next to Normal), Jessica Kingsdale (Paramount’s Grease), Donica Lynn(Porchlight’s Dreamgirls), Emilie Lynn (world tour, Phantom of the Opera), Courtney Mack (Kokandy’s Heathers), Hillary Marren (Paramount’s Tommy), Samantha Pauly (Marriott’s Evita), Lauren Paris (Underscore’s The Story of a Story), Camille Robinson (American Blues Theatre’s Little Shop of Horrors), Laura Savage (Paramount’s 42nd Street),Colette Todd (Theatre at the Center’s Big Fish), Janelle Villas (Porchlight Revisits Applause), and Wisconsin actress Amanda Petersen Fails, one of Christopher’s life-long best friends. (Line-up subject to change.)

About Howard Brown Health

Founded in 1974, Howard Brown Health is one of the nation’s largest health care and research organizations, primarily serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) community and its allies. It is the largest such organization in the Midwest and serves adults youth and children throughout the region. An innovative and patient-centered health home, Howard Brown provides primary medical care, behavioral health services, and specialty chronic and infectious disease services, and conducts nationally-renowned clinical and behavioral research.

Chris’ Birthday Belt Fest performs one night only on Monday, May 16, 8:00 PM, at Uptown Underground, 4707 N. Broadway, Chicago. Tickets are $20 and are available by calling 773-867-1946 or visiting Underground is a 21+ venue; advance reservations strongly recommended.