Saturday December 16 4:04 pm

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Johnny Johnson

06/24/2017 - 19:30
07/09/2017 - 21:00

Main Stage Production
Johnny Johnson
June 24 – July 9
Music by Kurt Weill
Libretto by Paul Green
Based on the novel The Good Soldier Schwejk by Jaroslav Hasek
Edited by Tim Carter for the Kurt Weill Foundation
CFO version edited by Gerald Frantzen
Directed by George Cederquist
Music conducted by Anthony Barrese
Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.
Opening Night: Saturday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Performance schedule: Thursdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets: $40 for adults; $35 for seniors (65 years and older), $30 for students (with student ID) and $20 for children ages 12 years old and younger.

Chicago Folks Operetta’s 2017 season kicks off with Kurt Weill’s and Paul Green’s witty anti-war operetta Johnny Johnson. It is World War I and the United States, having pledged to remain neutral, is pulled into the fight in order to make the world safe for democracy “over there.” Lowly American tombstone cutter Johnny Johnson, has been persuaded to enlist in the U.S. Army both by his sweetheart, Minny Belle Tompkins, and by President Woodrow Wilson’s promise of “a war to end all wars.” But confronted with the horrors of the trenches in France, he is outraged at the absurdity of it all, and with a hint of laughing gas, he fools the Allied generals into calling a cease-fire. Johnson is arrested, shipped back to America, and locked up in a lunatic asylum for his “peace monomania.” After 20 years in prison, Johnson is released and makes a living selling handmade toys as the trumpets of war once more sound in the distance.

Kurt Weill, like many other European operetta composers of Jewish origins, was forced out of Germany with the arrival of the Third Reich in the early 1930’s. The show, written in 1936, was “pure Weill,” with its anti-war theme and music that drew largely upon his unique orchestrations of his earlier European works. Johnny Johnson was developed in conjunction with the famed Group Theater headed by Lee Strasberg in New York City and ran for 68 performances at the 44th Street Theater. With a book and lyrics by Paul Green, the show was loosely based on Jaroslav Hasek’s novel the The Good Soldier Svejk, and its pacifist take on the First World War. The show’s anti-war theme resonates throughout and was indeed a brave undertaking by Weill. The name Johnny Johnson was derived from the American First World War casualty lists, as it was the name that appeared most frequently. Although rarely performed, Johnny Johnson is considered an important piece of the American musical theater and operetta canon.

The production, with a 15-piece orchestra, features singers from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony and Grant Park choruses, as well as up and coming performers from throughout Chicagoland. Chicago Folks Operetta Music Director Anthony Barrese, artistic director of Opera Southwest, conducts the orchestra with George Cederquist, Chicago Folks Operetta resident director, directing the production.

“The year 2017 is the 100th Anniversary of the U.S. entry into the First World War,” said Artistic Director Gerald Frantzen, “With wars currently raging in the Middle East and new provocations by the former Cold War power Russia and in North Korea; Johnny Johnson’s anti-war and pacifist leanings are more relevant than ever. Our Midwest premiere commemorates this country’s involvement in “the war to end all wars” and the lessons to be learned from aggression on an international scale.”

Performers include: Kaitlin Galetti, Robert Morrissey, Christine Steyer, William Dwyer, Gabriel di Gennaro, Maxwell Seiftert, Jonathan Zeng, Teaira Burge, Joshua Lee Smith, Nich Radcliffe and Mary Lutz.

Production team includes: Anthony Barrese, conductor; George Cederquist, director; Eric Barry, co-lighting designer; Josh Prisching, technical director and Adam Veness, co-lighting designer.