“WILD WOMEN OF PLANET WONGO” INVADES CHICAGO SUMMER 2018
“Wild Women of Planet Wongo” (Wongo) invades Chicago starting June 8at the Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division, following a long-term successful New York run. This immersive sci-fi musical comedy spoofs madcap 60s B movies while placing the audience into the middle of the experience. “Wild Women of Planet Wongo” was written by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes and Dave Ogrin and is directed by David Rigano. The first block of tickets are on sale on April 20 for shows June 8 through July 14. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. The show is recommended for those over 16-years-old except for Saturdays at10:30 p.m. which is strictly 21-years-old and over. Tickets range from $20 to $40. Visit www.PlanetWongo.com for tickets and information.
In “Wild Women of Planet Wongo”, the audience encounters a world of Amazonian warrior women and their alluring Queen who first meet men when two bumbling astronauts crash onto their purple and green planet. While the guys think they’ve discovered paradise, hilarity ensues as the Wongo women plan surprises for their captive guests. This zany musical comedy is performed in three acts with no seats or stage. Audience members are encouraged to come dressed up in purple and green and to engage with the actors as they move around the space. During the two intermissions, audience members can further become part of the show by participating in the Wongo Game Shows where they can win prizes, while others can simply observe the fun, dance or replenish their green Wongotini cocktails.
“Wild Women Of Planet Wongo” was originally presented in NYC at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, premiered at the New York Musical Theatre (NYMF) and then ran successfully at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West, Florida. In 2015, Composer Dave Ogrin reconceived and produced Wongo as an immersive experience in Brooklyn at Brooklyn Fireproof and later at Parkside Lounge in New York City, where it ran for 10 months. The New York Theatre Review called Wongo “a retro-futuristic immersive musical, this delightful romp wields zany charm and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned escapism….silly and sophisticated.”
Ogrin is bringing this immersive version to Chicago, hiring an all Chicago-based cast and crew. In his career prior to the theater, Ogrin worked as a producer, writer, musician and engineer with musicians such as The Beastie Boys, Paul Simon and Public Enemy. He has since turned his talents to writing musicals which have been produced at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, the NY Fringe Festival, the O’neill Musical Theater Conference and at various theatres around the country. Rigano, who directed the show in Brooklyn and Manhattan is directing the Chicago production.
“Wild Women of Planet Wongo” features Jen Connor (Queen Rita), Freya Falkenstein (Croquette), Sabrina Harms (Annette), Takesha Meshe Kizart (Barbette), James Mann (Louie), Sissy Ann Quaranta (Game Show Host), Michael Hayden Sprenger (Ric) and Katherine Wettermann (Georgette).
The crew includes production manager Greg Kolack, stage manager Daniel Parsons, assistant stage manager Molly Weaver, technical director Nic Belanger, musical director Kyra Leigh, associate choreographer Chelsea Ward, set designer Alec Long, lighting designer Michael Rathbun, assistant lighting designer Jake Engram, sound and video designer Robert Hornbostel, animations Rudy Agresta, wig construction Keith Ryan, costume construction Kate Setzer Kamphausen, and makeup designer Sydney Genco.
The Chicago Premiere of “Wild Women of Planet Wongo” is June 8 at the Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division. The first block of tickets are on sale on April 20 for showsJune 8 through July 14. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. The show is recommended for those over 16-years-old except Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. which is strictly 21-years-old and over. Tickets range from $20 to $40. Visit www.PlanetWongo.com for tickets and information.
Ben Budick (Lyrics) also co-wrote the lyrics to Hell Hole Honeys, chosen for development at the Eugene O’Neill Music Theater Conference. He was a veteran of over 20 years in the music business. Ben was lead singer-songwriter for a number of groups in the 70’s and 80’s. He passed away in 2016.
Jen Connor (Queen Rita) is a singer, actor, comedian, and voiceover artist. A classically trained soprano, she became interested in improv after being mercilessly heckled by drunk audiences around New Jersey when she played “Janet” in The Rocky Horror Show. She’s performed improv on the high seas with The Second City aboard the Norwegian Gem, has improvised musicals at the Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals with Baby Wants Candy, and has re-imagined your favorite karaoke tracks Off-Broadway with Happy Karaoke Fun Time. Connor was most recently seen playing the role of Adele Dazeem in the Chicago premiere of “Wicked Frozen”. She has sung lead roles with Chicago’s Floating Opera, the Liederkranz Opera Theater, New Jersey State Opera, The Theater Company of Hoboken, NJ, and in the world premier of John Eaton’s “operization” of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.
Freya Falkenstein (Croquette) – has performed as a Playlist Performer on Carnival Cruise Lines. She has also performed as Grandma in “The Addams Family” and Vibrata in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”.
Sabrina Harms (Annette) has previously worked with The Goodman, Chicago Dramatists, Waltzing Mechanics, The Onion, and Saltbox Theatre Collective. She starred in the indie feature film “The Immediate Unknown” and can currently be heard on the comedy podcast House Brew Heroes. She and her writing partner, Cory Kahane, are currently working with Factory Theatre to adapt her solo musical comedy piece ”That Dirty Disney Princess” into a full-length show.
Takesha Meshe Kizart (Barbette) is a singer and actress who’s stage and screen credits include Spicks and Specks (ABC TV), Intimate Apparel (Lincoln Center Theater), Tosca (Opera Australia, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Dallas Opera, Colorado Symphony), La bohème (Metropolitan Opera of NY, Opera Australia, Deutsche Oper Berlin), Madama Butterfly (Deutsche Oper Berlin, Slovenian National Theatre) and Othello and Macbeth (Altamura Center for the Arts) among others. A versatile classical, jazz, soul, and oop vocal soloist, she has also appeared on stages around the world including Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, African American Museum of Philadelphia, Aspen Music Festival, Palm Beach Opera Orchestra, Knoxville Museum of Art, France Musique, MIDEM Festival, and Palais des Festivals Cannes.Recent Chicago credits include “Stellaluna” (Northbrook Theatre), “Kingdom” (Broken Nose Theatre), “Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery” (Pegasus Theatre), “Sister Africa” (Athenaeum Theatre), “Alegrías y Lágrimas” (Gorilla Tango Theatre), “Girl Gang” (iO Theater), and several short films with Second City’s Harold Ramis Film School.
Steve Mackes (Book/ Lyrics) co-conceived/wrote the musical comedy revue, “Boobs, the World According to Ruth Wallis”, which ran 10 months Off-Broadway and has had productions in New Orleans, Kansas City and New Zealand. He co-wrote the book to Prinny, a musical farce with a score by Ruth Wallis. He also co-wrote a new, original book for Cole Porter’s Nymph Errant that was developed at The Village Theatre outside Seattle, produced at the Chichester Festival Theatre in England and published by Samuel French. In addition to “Wild Women of Planet Wongo”, Mackes collaborated with Budick and Ogrin on “Hell Hole Honeys”, which was produced at the Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo. As an Artist in Residence at New York’s Tribeca Performing Arts Center, he developed the book and lyrics for “Madam Walker and The Divine Dream”. Mackes recently completed the book and lyrics for “Prince Aleph and the Path of Return”, a musical for young Audiences.
Jimmy Mann (Louie) is a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago where he performed in Cabaret (Cabaret), Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play (Matt/Homer/Scratchy), and, Tintypes (TR). Jimmy has also performed in the Minnesota Fringe Festival in Teddy Larsen’s production of Plan B (Halo).
Dave Ogrin (Producer/Music/Lyrics) has worked as a producer, writer, musician and engineer with talent such as The Beastie Boys, Paul Simon, Public Enemy, and Run DMC. He co-wrote (along with Budick and Mackes) “Wild Women of Planet Wongo”. The original non-immersive version of WONGO was first presented at the University Of Michigan’s New Works Festival, was then performed at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in NY, at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West Fl. In 2015, Ogrin re-conceived and produced WONGO in current immersive configuration, first at Brooklyn Fireproof in Bushwick, Brooklyn and later at Parkside Lounge in Manhattan, where it ran for 10 months. His other collaboration with Budick and Mackes “Hell Hole Honeys” was selected for presentation at the Eugene O’Neill Music Theater Conference and premiered at the Alleyway Theatre in Buffalo, New York. Ogrin’s musical “The Legend Of Julie Taymor Or The Musical That Killed Everybody”, co-written with Travis Ferguson, was performed at the Fringe Festival NYC. Dave’s rock opera “Mata Hari”, co-written with Jay Berkow, was presented at the University of Western Michigan in 2016.
Sissy Anne Quaranta (Game Show Host/Wongette) is a graduate from Kansas State University and has studied the improv at iO Chicago and Second City. Chicago credits: Sissy in Sleeping Around, The Public House; Girlfriend in Hellcab, Profiles Theatre; Ester (Daphne Moon) in Star Spangled Sitcoms, City Lit; Sissay In American Idiot, Surging Films And Theatrics. Regional Credits: Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby, Theatre Lawrence; Mom in Pinkalicious, Arkansas Children’s Theatre; Park Vocal Swing, Busch Gardens Europe. MCS.
David Rigano (Director) directed “Wild Women of Planet Wongo” in Brooklyn and Manhattan. As a director, he has worked on “Me the People” Off-Broadway and “Nutcracker! the Musical” in workshops and the regional premiere, both with Nancy Holson. Rigano also directed the interactive comedy “Housewives of Secaucus” and his own “You Heard It Here”. As a writer, Rigano’s work was last heard in Chicago in New Colony Theatre’s reading of his musical “Facing East”. Rigano is one half of the award-winning team The Rigano Songbook with his brother Paul. Together they have written “The Holy Cows of Credence South Dakota” and “You Heard It Here as well as the hit cabaret series “I Ought to Behave” and Other Naughty Songs and The Ides of March Extravaganza”. Their song “What Makes a Diva” (written for and sung by Christina Bianco) has been viewed over 100,000 times on YouTube.
Michael Hayden Sprenger (Ric) – is a Arizona born actor and recently graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BA in Musical Theatre and a minor in Voice Over. Recent theater credits include: Mercutio in Citadel Theater’s production of “Romeo and Juliet”, Andrew Jackson in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” with Columbia College Chicago and a member of the ensemble and the the understudy to Seymour and Orin in “Little Shop of Horrors” at Columbia College Chicago.
Katherine Wettermann (Georgette) is originally from Chicago. She was most recently seen in “Private Dicks”, the improvised noir musical at the Den Theatre. Other credits include Inga in “Young Frankenstein”, Crystal in “Little Shop of Horrors”, and Ariel in “Footloose”.