Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

March 14 – May 3, 2009
EXTENDED through May 17, 2009!!!

“[An] energetic musical filled with finger-snapping, toe-tapping, hand-clapping music… that’s sure to please.”  –Jennifer Burklow, Chicago Sun-Times
“Remarkably entertaining… shines with an outstanding ensemble, wonderful music… and charming staging. It is a captivating continuation of Lifeline’s commitment to producing exceptional theatrical options for younger audiences.”  –Robert Andersen, Chicago Stage Review

Who’s that crazy lady who wears the funny hats and lives in the upside-down house? Why, it’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! Kids love her because she always has time to play and her house smells like cookies. Parents love her, too – because she’s got hilarious cures for Answer-Backers, Selfish-Selfers and mean-spirited Whisperers. This KidSeries favorite returns to our stage by popular demand!

Recommended for kids 5 and up. Children under 2 are not permitted.

Based on the popular bestseller by Betty MacDonald, illustrated by Hilary Knight 
Adapted by Christina Calvit 
Music by Paul Gilvary 
Directed by John Hildreth

  • Gillian Bellinger (Mrs. O'Toole, Mr. Thompson, Evelyn Rover, ensemble)

    Gillian is making her first appearance in a Lifeline production. Gillian has a BFA from Hamline University and studied at The London Academy of Theatre and The National Theater Institute. She was an ensemble member with The Second City Musical House Ensemble, Minneapolis ComedySportz, Chicago ComedySportz, Improv Kitchen and was an Acme Comedy Club’s Twin Cities Funniest Stand-up Semi-finalist. Gillian currently performs with Laugh Out Loud Theater, at the Playground Theater with Damascus Steel, and the occasional stand-up show. In addition to several independent sketch groups, she has done a variety of commercials, short films, and industrials.

  • Rachel Boller (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Cornelia, ensemble)

    Rachel is super-duper-dippy excited to be doing her first show with Lifeline Theatre! She graduated with a BFA Musical Theater degree from Millikin University in 2004 and has been performing around Chicago and the Chicago suburbs for the past 20 years. Favorite roles include Susan in Narnia (Emerald City Children’s Theater), Jane Donner/choreographer in Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer (Hell in a Handbag Productions), Roz in Moon over Buffalo (Steel Beam Theatre), and Grace Farrell in Annie (Schaumburg Onstage). Rachel is a proud founding member of the Resonants Theater company.

  • Scott Allen Luke (Betty Lou, Mr. O'Toole, Pete Thompson, Mrs. Crackle, Corinthian Bop, ensemble)

    Scott makes his debut with Lifeline Theatre. Most recently Scott originated the role of Carsten Mashburn in the world premiere of Offsprung, by Bridget Fallen, with Rubicon Theatre Project. In Chicago, Scott has also performed with Next Theatre, Light Opera Works, Raven Theatre, Circle Theatre, The Mill Theatre Co., Keyhole Theatre, Chase Park Theatre, Lincoln Square Theatre, and Rubicon Theatre Project. He has also appeared in the film Secrets of the Clown for BadMan Productions/Maxim Media. Scott also directs and sound designs for Rubicon Theatre Project, which he co-founded and currently serves as Managing Director.

  • Nicole Pellegrino (Mary O'Toole, Mrs. Thompson, Cindy Crackle, ensemble)

    Nicole is thrilled to work with Lifeline for the first time. Previous Chicago credits include The Snow Queen at Victory Gardens, Amelia Earhart: Jungle Princess as Amelia with The New Colony, Be More Chill with Griffin Theatre, The Truest Tale of Robin Hood at Actors Gymnasium, and Side Show with Boho. She is a proud ensemble member of BeTheGroove, a Chicago-based rhythmic performance ensemble, and recently appeared in their mainstage Embrace the Fire. Nicole is also a teaching and performing artist with AfterSchoolMatters, the Actors Gym, and Lookingglass Theatre.

  • Daniel Hickey (Understudy)

    Daniel returns to Lifeline Theater following his debut in the title role of Rumpelstiltskin Revisited a few years ago. Over time he’s amassed a number of other roles, from a dying Donegalese nun (Abelard And Heloise– Lincoln Square) to the diabolical Emcee (Cabaret– Black Hills Playhouse). Currently his projects include prepwork for his upcoming sommelier exam, plus a collection of oral histories derived from interviews with many of Chicago’s greatest maitre d’s.

  • Amanda Link (Understudy)

    Amanda is happy to be back at Lifeline where she previously performed in Duck For President and Half Magic. Other Chicago credits include Desdemona, A Play About A Handkerchief with The Mill; The Landry Newswith Griffin Theatre Company; The Prometheus Myth with The Anatomy Collective; and Bottle Can Draft with Sandbox Theatre Project. A graduate of the Conservatory at Second City, she has also performed in many sketch shows at Donny’s Skybox. Amanda currently tours with Healthworks Theatre.

  • Christina Calvit (Adaptor)

    Christina is a Lifeline Theatre ensemble member. She has written over a dozen awarding-winning theatrical adaptations which have been performed throughout the United States, including Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal SnoggingPistols for Two and Pride and Prejudice (all Joseph Jefferson Non-Equity Award winners for adaptation) as well as The Talisman Ring(Joseph Jefferson Equity Award for Adaptation, 1996). She also adapted Queen Lucia: A Musical Romp with composer/Lyricist George Howe, which received a 2005 After Dark Award and 2006 Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for best new musical. Her original plays include Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday AdventureChaos (co-writer) and Several Voices from the Cloud (Agnes Nixon Award, 1981).

  • Paul Gilvary (Composer)

    Paul is very happy to work on this remount of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, as this was the first show he composed music for at Lifeline Theatre in 2000. Since then, Paul has written and been the musical director for Puss in BootsBongo Larry and Two Bad Bears, and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! for Lifeline’s KidSeries. For Lifeline’s MainStage, Paul has written music for Cat’s Cradle and Crossing California. Paul has also worked for Strawdog Theatre, playing bass for Marathon 33 and Old Town. In the daytime, Paul teaches music at Oriole Park Elementary School.

  • John Hildreth (Director)

    John has been an ensemble member at Lifeline since 1999. Previously for the KidSeries, he directed Rumpelstiltskin Revisited, and performed in the 2004 productions of Bunnicula and Snowflake Tim’s Big Holiday Adventure. He has also recently directed at The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, Live Bait Theater, Emerald City Theatre, Theatre on the Lake, iO, Donny’s Skybox Studio, The Athenaeum, and at Columbia College. Currently, John is adapting Treasure Island for the upcoming 2009-10 season.

  • Ellen Willett (Stage Manager)

    Ellen loves working with Lifeline, where she has previously stage managed Duck for PresidentTalking It OverHalf MagicCrossing CaliforniaStrong Poison and Sophie’s Masterpiece. Other Chicago credits include shows with Emerald City Theatre Company, Theatre Seven, Viaduct, Stage Left, Terrapin Theatre Company, Irish Rep, and many more. She also serves on the board of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), a unique and vibrant music ensemble dedicated to advancing the music of our time.

  • Cathleen Bentley (Choreographer)

    Cathleen returns to Lifeline having acted in Jane EyreGaudy NightThe Stinky Cheese ManBongo Larry and Two Bad BearsRumplestiltskin Revisited, and A Cricket in Times Square. Cathleen also served as Assistant Director for the Lifeline productions of Gaudy Night and Crossing California. Previous choreography credits include How I Became a Pirate with Emerald City Theatre Company. Cathleen is a professional figure skating coach and choreographer. She has choreographed over 20 Ice Shows and her private students compete in competitions throughout the Midwest.

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic and Props Designer)

    Alan is a Lifeline ensemble member and veteran scenic designer for Lifeline MainStage and KidSeries. He most recently designed Mariette in Ecstasy and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. When not designing scenery or props he does the occasional lighting design (Killer AngelsThe Talisman Ring[2005]) or adaptation (Trust Me on ThisCrossing CaliforniaBongo Larry & Two Bad BearsSophie’s Masterpiece). During the holiday season, his designs for two holiday classics graced far-flung stages: A Dickens’ Christmas Carol at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO and Babes in Toyland at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. He returns to Dollywood this spring with designs for Sha-Kon-O-Hey, a modern day fable set in the Great Smoky Mountains, and locally joins with Infamous Commonwealth Theatre for the first time for The Grapes of Wrath.

  • Mikhail Fiksel (Sound Designer)

    Mikhail is delighted to be back at Lifeline after having a blast doing Talking It Over. He is an ensemble member of Strawdog Theatre Company (where he recently received the 2008 After Dark Award for Original Score for Old Town and the 2008 Non-Equity Jeff Award for Original Incidental Music, A Lie of the Mind), Serendipity Theatre and Teatro Vista (2006 Jeff Award For Sound Design, Blindmouth Singing). In addition, he is an Artistic Associate with Collaboraction, with whom he received a 2007 Orgie Award for Original Composition, The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow. Other recent projects include The Cherry OrchardR.U.R. (Strawdog); Stupid Kids (AboutFace), Living GreenA Park in Our House and My Children, My Africa (Victory Gardens); Maria’s FieldRomeo & Juliet and Uncle Vanya(TUTA), Jon (Collaboraction); Fake Lake (Neofuturists), Winter Pageant ReduxHunchback of Notre DameThe Princess Club and Once Upon a Time (Redmoon Theatre); Massacre (The Goodman Theatre), and various productions with Adventure Stage Chicago, where he is a resident designer, and Loyola University where he teaches Sound Design. Outside of theatre stages, he can be found recording and performing with his bands Seeking Wonderland and The Denizens or as a solo artist, sometimes under the moniker “dj white russian.”

  • Joanna Melville (Costume Designer)

    Joanna is making her Lifeline debut. Other Chicago credits include costume design for The Glass Menagerie and The Little Foxes at Shattered Globe Theatre; Little Shop of Horrors and Into The Woods for Quest Theatre Ensemble and costume design assisting for Lookingglass and the British Stage Company. Other credits include Renaissance Theaterworks of Milwaukee, American Players Theatre, the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and the Santa Fe Opera. Currently, she is designing costumes for Busman’s Honeymoon at Lifeline, and Buried Child at Shattered Globe. Joanna is an alumna of Illinois State University (BA), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (MFA).

  • John Sanchez (Lighting Designer)

    John is happy to be back with Lifeline Theatre. Past shows there include The ShadowSirens of TitanJohnny TremainA Room With a View, and The Mark of Zorro, along with several children’s shows. In the past he has worked with the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and many other theatre and dance companies. Currently he is the master electrician/ designer for the Oprah Winfrey Show.

  • Cortney Hurley (Production Manager)

    Cortney is excited to be working with Lifeline Theatre for the ’08-’09 season. Previous and current production management positions include Ellen Under Glass with the House Theatre of Chicago; One False Note with Plasticene; Old TownRichard IIIAristocratsA Lie of the Mind, and Marathon ’33 with Strawdog Theatre, where she is the mainstage production manager; as well as the Assistant Production Manager at Theater on the Lake since 2004. During the school year Cortney can be found at St. Scholastica Academy, where she has been the resident designer (scenery and lighting) and technical theatre instructor/director for the last nine years.

  • Ian Zywica (Technical Director)

    Ian moved to Chicago about a year ago after completing his M.F.A. He has really enjoyed it thus far, designing and picking up freelance work along the way.

From the Chicago Sun-Times

‘Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’ a model of good musical behavior
March 20, 2009
By Jennifer Burklow

What would we do without Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle? For decades — since 1947, in fact — she’s been dispensing antidotes for the ill manners that plague the children who populate Betty MacDonald’s children’s classic, much to the relief of their bewildered parents.

Christina Calvit adapted “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” for Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries in 2000. An updated version of the energetic musical filled with finger-snapping, toe-tapping, hand-clapping music by Paul Gilvary returns to close the 26th KidSeries season. Gilvary has added a song and Calvit has freshened the dialogue for this lively production — deftly directed by John Hildreth — that’s sure to please its target audience of 5- to 10-year-olds and their parents.

Set in a small town of pastel hues, “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” is the tale of a warm-hearted woman who is a friend to parents and children alike. Her heart’s desire is to have everyone follow the golden rule, and her wacky cures manage to do just that while creating lots of laughter along the way.

Four actors new to the Lifeline stage take on multiple roles and perform with aplomb. Clever costume changes and various accents help young audience members differentiate between the characters each actor portrays.

From under the brim of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s funny hats, Rachel Boller exudes calm assurance as she guides desperate parents through hilarious cures for dish-washing-hating runaways, answer-backers, selfish-selfers and mean-spirited whisperers. She also does an understated turn as the rag-wearing Cornelia, the target of two sharp-tongued gossip girls.

Bouncing between roles of different genders — and species (his squawking parrot is awfully effective) — Scott Allen Luke delights with his expressive mugging and supercilious portrayal of the toy- and food-hoarding Pete Thompson.

Nicole Pellegrino and Gillian Bellinger aptly capture the angst of mothers weary of their offspring’s misbehavior and nail the cattiness of the style-conscious girls who turn their claws on Cornelia in “Whisperers.”

Alan Donahue’s colorful set puts Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s upside-down house center stage, sandwiched between two right-side-up houses. The homes, which initially appear to be facades, surprise with doors and windows that provide entrances and exits for the show’s many characters.

Cathleen Bentley’s jump-and-jive choreography adds to the energy generated by this 50-minute show, ably aiding its aim to “Make life a giggle with Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.”



From Chicago Stage Review

March 18, 2009
By Robert Andersen

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle returns home!

Lifeline Theatre’s KidSeries favorite returns by popular demand to their fabulous repertoire. First staged over nine years ago, Lifeline ensemble member Christina Calvit’s adaptation of Betty MacDonald’s delightful children’s bestseller (illustrated by Hilary Knight) still holds water. The original book has been a favorite of my two daughters for years. Sometimes compared to Dr. Seuss, because of the fantasy appeal, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle makes its lessons relatable with more realistic characters and without all of the rhyming.

The closest analogy that I can draw to Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle would tie her to the popular Nanny McFee character. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle possesses a strange insight into the minds of children and comes up with some unorthodox remedies to their, sometimes unorthodox, behaviors. The lesson Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle brings to parents is – find a way to make children change without knowing you’re changing them.

The lesson she brings to children is – learn quickly from your mistakes and you’ll get more friends and sweet treats.

Or to quote another famous witch, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

My suggestion to children would be to watch out for kindly neighbor ladies that always smell like cookies, or ugly hags that carry a big stick, or any temp help that arrives by flying umbrella with a bottomless carpetbag.

Lifeline has always been concerned with bringing the theatre experience to all ages and for this I commend them. Their creative forces have never failed to entertain. Sometimes I’ll take a chance and bring my 3-year-old to a show with me, never quite sure of her reaction. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle had her sitting on the edge of her seat. Each song had her yelling for more, and at the end of the show she looked at me and said, “Let’s do it again Daddy.”

It might serve the storytelling well to update some of the references of Pete Thompson’s. This is not to say that Scott Allen Luke did not give a wonderful performance, but rather, I don’t think that kids today understand the value of a coonskin cap.

Director John Hildreth presents a remarkably entertaining Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle that shines with an outstanding ensemble, wonderful music, (by Paul Gilvary) and charming staging. It is a captivating continuation of Lifeline’s commitment to producing exceptional theatrical options for younger audiences.

Special note: I would like to point out that all four of the primary actors are debuting their talents for Lifeline Theatre. While they have all performed with various Chicago theater companies, there first experience with Lifeline is a children’s show and I think their previous experience proves to be a win for Lifeline and the audience.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is delightfully appropriate for boys and girls from 3 to 13. Adults will also enjoy the 50 minutes of toe-tapping, finger-waving fun.