Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters

March 19 – April 24, 2016 (No performances Easter Sunday, March 27)
Saturdays & Sundays at 11am & 1pm

THREE AND A HALF STARS – When it comes to children’s theater, Lifeline knows what they’re doing… Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters is a satisfying treat for families.”  –Chicago Theater Beat

Recommended – Snappy and engaging musical numbers… The small and talented cast plays dual roles and did a great job of it… Discovery’s a thrill so explore this show and have fun with your friends and family.”  –Chicago Critic

Recommended – A silly, sweet, story with much of the pleasure coming from adapter/costume designer Aly Renee Amidei’s hilarious, truly dreadful sweaters.”  –Chicago Reader

One terrible morning, Cousin Clara presents young Lester with the gift of a hand-knit sweater… and it is DREADFUL: shriveled yet saggy and smothered with pom-poms. Lester (who likes things just so) is mortified to wear it, but his parents insist and the kids at school tease him relentlessly. When he ruins the sweater “by accident,” Clara just makes others, each more ghastly than the last. To restore his neatly ordered life and save face on the playground, Lester must find a way to stop the endless parade of horrifying sweaters once and for all. Enter a fashion nightmare and embrace your inner clown in this world premiere musical based on the charming 2012 book by K.G. Campbell.

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

Based on the book by K.G. Campbell 
Script by Aly Renee Amidei 
Lyrics by Aly Renee AmideiJulie Tallarida & Scott Tallarida 
Music by Scott Tallarida 
Directed by Heather Currie

Special Performances
Audio Description and Touch Tour
Saturday, March 26
   Touch tour: 10:00am
   Performance: 11:00am

Open Captioning
Saturday, April 2 at 1:00pm

Autism-Friendly Performance
Sunday, April 17 at 3:00pm

Visit our Accessibility page for more information.

Special thanks to Theatre Development Fund‘s Autism Theatre Initiative for service as an advisor.

Excerpt from Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters.
Music by Scott Tallarida. Lyrics by Aly Renee Amidei, Julie Tallarida & Scott Tallarida

Join us any Saturday or Sunday at noon during the run of Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters(following the 11am show, or before the 1pm show) for our Stories Come Alive! Hour. (No session Easter Sunday, March 27.)An interactive storytelling session with on-your-feet theatre games exploring the book behind the play — all designed to make positive connections between your children and literature that will last a lifetime.Only $5 per child for the workshop! Reservations are recommended (though not required).
Contact the box office at 773-761-4477 for more information.
  • Sam Button-Harriso (Lester)

    Sam is thrilled to be performing in his first Lifeline production. Some favorite Chicago theatre credits include: Book of Merman (Aaron) for which he received a Non-Equity Jeff Award Nomination, WOZ: A Rock Cabaret (Tinman), Assassins (Balladeer/Lee Harvey Oswald), and Under a Rainbow Flag (Jon Phillips). Outside of theatre he also performs in the acapella group, No Big Deal. Thank you to the Lester team for putting together this goofy, awesome production, and also to Nicky for all her love and support. Enjoy the show!

  • Elizabeth Levy (Cousin Clara, Enid)

    Elizabeth is thrilled to be making her Lifeline debut. She is proud to have appeared with many Chicago theater companies, including Dog and Pony, the Factory, the House Theatre of Chicago, InGen Productions, Red Tape, Steppenwolf, and Strawdog. Elizabeth is the Program Director and a company member of Barrel of Monkeys, and she performs regularly in their critically-acclaimed show That’s Weird, Grandma, now in its 15th year at the Neo-Futurist Theater.

  • Amanda Roeder (Mother)

    Amanda is overjoyed to work with Lifeline Theatre once again! Other Lifeline credits include Mr. Poppers PenguinsThe True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, and The Emperor’s New Threads. Amanda has worked with Factory Theatre, Interrobang Theatre Project, Rivendell Theatre, the Plagiarists, City Lit, Nothing Special Productions, Hubris Productions, Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, and Circle Theatre. Amanda received her BA in acting from Illinois State University and has completed Studio training at Black Box Acting Studio. Many thanks to Heather for this opportunity and to the incredible Lester and Lifeline team!

  • Scott Sawa (Father)

    Scott is ecstatic to be working with Lifeline! Credits include: Ten Dollar House (Pride Films and Plays); Nightmare in ParadiseFight NightThe Most Ado: A Party PlayBreathing Up (Nothing Special Productions); Monday Night Live (iO); Hey! Dancin! Hey! Musical! (The Factory Theater); The Cherry Orchard (Piccolo Theater); Poseidon! (Hell in a Handbag). Web: RedLine to Howard. When not acting, Scott is Associate Artistic Director of Nothing Special Productions, and is currently writing a play that will be produced in NSP’s 2016-2017 season. Love and Gratitude to Mom, Always.

  • Chris Vizurraga (Mr. Twist)

    Chris returns to Lifeline, where he was last seen in Miss Buncle’s Book. Other Chicago credits include A Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Pr0ne (Underscore Theatre Company), The Drowsy Chaperone (Metropolis), and Tamer of Horses (Stone Soup Theatre Project). Other credits include RagtimeNoises OffA Christmas CarolEnd of the RainbowThe History of Invulnerability (Milwaukee Rep), Julius Caesar and Two Gentlemen of Verona (Back Room Shakespeare Project). Thanks for coming to see the show!

  • Mara Dale (Understudy)

    Mara is thrilled to be working with Lifeline for the first time. Recent credits include Pinocchio: A Folk MusicalFog Island, and Lifeboat(Filament Theatre). Locally, she has performed with First Folio, Emerald City Theatre, Muse of Fire, Jedlicka Performing Arts Center, Towle Theatre, and Waltzing Mechanics. Regionally, she’s worked with New York Stage And Film, as well as Syracuse Stage. Mara is an alumna of Syracuse University (BFA Acting) where she studied at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. She’s an ensemble member with Barrel of Monkeys and Imagination Theatre.

  • William Marquez (Understudy)

    William is thrilled to be working with Lifeline for his first time. He holds his BFA in Musical Theatre from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Recent Chicago credits include Hansel and Greteland Jungle Book with Alphabet Soup Productions. William is an Arizona native and is excited to be hitting the ground running here in Chicago!

  • Dustin Rothbart (Understudy)

    Dustin is making his Lifeline Theatre debut. Broadway World Awards for Best Revival: Ragtime (Big Noise Theatre); Parade (Harper Ensemble Theatre). Other Chicago credits: Oliver! (Citadel Theatre); Buffy: Once More with Feeling (Mary’s Attic); Kiss of the Spiderwoman (Benevolent Theatre); Hair (Big Noise Theatre); The Wedding (Red Theatre Chicago); Cabaret (Brightside Theatre); The Rocky Horror Show (Underscore Theatre Company); Electra (Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.); and Man of La Mancha (JPAC). Regional credits: A Year with Frog and Toad and I’m Just Wild about Harry (Canterbury Summer Theatre). Upcoming: The Little Mermaid at JPAC. B.S. in Theatre from Illinois State University.

  • Aly Renee Amidei (Adaptor, Co-Lyricist, Costume Designer)

    Aly is so pleased to bring this fun story to the stage. As a playwright, she adapted Carmilla and Walkers Vs. Runners for WildClaw Theatre. At Strawdog, she has been an active member of the Hit Factory creating the Stella Stargirl radio play series. Her Lifeline costume design credits include Soon I will Be InvincibleWoman in WhiteThree MusketeersCount of Monte CristoOne Came HomeWatership Down, and the upcoming Northanger Abbey. She is also a member of Strawdog and WildClaw theatre. You can see her costumes across town in Irish Theatre of Chicago’s production of Spinning this spring. Her costume and makeup designs have been seen at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, Buffalo Theater Ensemble, Stage Left, Artistic Home, House Theater, Piven Workshop, and Vitalist Theater. She is the Assistant Professor of Costume Design at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

  • Scott Tallarida (Composer, Co-Lyricist)

    Scott came to the wonderful world of Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters through a 20-year journey in the Chicago music scene. He played in scores of local bands and produced many, many records over the years, but also did some work for Chicago theater along the way. He sound designed a handful of shows for WildClaw Theater in the last few years and has not gotten tired of scary, scary noises. Recently, Scott and his wife Julie opened Trigger, a collaborative art and event facility where he records everything from theater companies to bands to voiceovers.

  • Julie Tallarida (Co-Lyricist)

    Julie is the mom of 2 awesome daughters, Ava and Ruby, and loves to use her glue gun, sing, and shop for vintage clothes. She has performed in multiple bands over the years and was thrilled to be writing lyrics again. She is the owner of the modeling agency, Planet Earth Agency, and a co-owner with Scott, of Trigger studio, where she produces casting for commercial video and photography, and assists in planning events there from fundraisers to weddings.

  • Heather Currie (Director)

    Heather has been an ensemble member with Lifeline since 2013. She has appeared in the Lifeline MainStage productions of Jane Eyre (2014) and One Came Home, and the KidSeries productions of Duck For President(2008 and 2012); Click, Clack, Moo; Cows That TypeDooby Dooby MooHow To Survive a Fairy Tale; and Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat. Most recently, she was seen as Mrs. Popper in Mr. Popper’s Penguins. In Chicago she has worked with Stage 773, Victory Gardens Theatre, Circle Theatre, American Blues Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, Stage Left Theatre, Whiskey Rebellion Theatre’s Whiskey Radio Hour, Abbie Fest, and Handbag Productions. Favorite past directing credits in musical theatre include: The FantasticksSouth Pacific, and Schoolhouse Rock Live! Heather currently teaches screenwriting in the department of Cinema Art + Science at Columbia College Chicago, as well as the department of Motion Picture/Television at College of DuPage.

  • Kate Reed (Stage Manager)

    Kate is excited to be working with Lifeline again after most recently stage managing last fall’s Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Previously at Lifeline, she stage managed Fillet of Solo 2015 and 2016 at Heartland Studio and assistant stage managed Soon I Will Be InvincibleOne Came HomeJane Eyre, and Monstrous Regiment. Her other Chicago area credits include work with The Fine Print Theatre Company, The Side Project, and the Northwestern University Theatre and Interpretation Center. She has a degree in Performance Studies from Northwestern.

  • Alan Donahue (Scenic & Properties Designer)

    Alan has designed numerous Lifeline shows over the last 25 years. Most recently, he designed scenery and properties for Miss Buncle’s Book and scenery, projections and properties for Soon I Will Be Invincible. He is already working on Christmas and bringing It’s a Wonderful Life to patrons of Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. Last spring, Alan received a Broadway Theatre World Chicago award for his 2014 scenic design (Resident Equity Theatre) for Avenue Q at the Mercury Theatre Chicago. And in years past Alan adapted Donald E. Westlake’s Trust Me on Thisand Adam Langer’s Crossing California for the Lifeline MainStage and Daniel Pinkwater’s Bongo Larry & Two Bad Bears and Eileen Spinelli’s Sophie’s Masterpiece: A Spider’s Tale for the KidSeries. In Winter 2015, he’ll return to design a returning Lifeline favorite title last seen in 1998.

  • Diane D. Fairchild (Lighting Designer)

    Diane is thrilled to be working with Lifeline again. Diane’s design work was seen previously at Lifeline in One Came HomeThe Velveteen Rabbit(2014), and A Tale of Two Cities. Other design credits include productions with Rivendell, Raven, Sideshow, Boho, Babes with Blades, TimeLine, Northlight, Chicago Dramatists, City Lit, Court Theatre, INTIMAN, Trinity Rep, Wheaton College, and the Michigan Shakespeare Festival. She is a proud member of USA829, and an ensemble member with Rivendell Theatre.

  • Kate Kamphausen (Assistant Costume Designer)

    Kate is so happy to get to work on Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters! She is a Non-Equity Jeff Award-winning costume designer and company member of Hell in a Handbag. Her recent designs include Christmas Dearest with Hell in a Handbag; Story of a Story (The Untold Story) with Underscore Productions; and Loving Repeating with Kokandy Productions. Kate has pink dreadlocks and four sewing machines and loves the Muppets.

  • Laura McKenzie (Music Director)

    Lifeline credits include Sparky! (Composer/Lyricist/Music Director); Soon I Will be InvincibleThe True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! (Music Director); and Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time. Previous music directing credits include Hey! Dancin’! Hey! Musical! (Factory Theater); That’s Weird, Grandma (Barrel of Monkeys); and Beer (Neo-Futurists). Laura was half of the comedy facemelt duo The Laura OnLaura Comeback Tour and is currently an ensemble member with Barrel of Monkeys and Factory Theater.

  • Eli Van Sickel (Sound Designer)

    Eli is thrilled to be working on another show at Lifeline Theatre! He previously sound designed Sparky! When not working on shows, Eli is on the Lifeline staff as a Front of House Associate. In Chicago, he has worked with such companies as The Neo-Futurists, Mercy Street, and InGen Productions. Elsewhere, he has designed sound for the University of Pittsburgh, Actors Bridge–Nashville, and Crossroads Rep. Eli holds degrees from Illinois State and Indiana State universities. He hopes you enjoy the show and come back again soon!

From Chicago Theater Beat

Charming and delightful
April 13, 2016
By Lauren Whalen


When it comes to children’s theater, Lifeline knows what they’re doing. Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters is my first foray into Lifeline’s KidSeries, but if this charming and delightful production is any indication, the company provides young children with a fitting introduction to theater. Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters is a sweet and fast-moving musical adaptation of K.G. Campbell’s book. Pleasing to kids and adults alike, it’s a lovely way to spend an weekend morning.

Little Lester (Sam Button-Harrison) likes things just so. He keeps alphabetized checklists, his hobbies include sorting laundry, and his knee socks are always pulled up and coordinated with his sweater vests and bow ties. But when Lester’s Cousin Clara (Elizabeth Levy) – who may or may not actually be a relative – enters the picture, Lester’s ordered world is turned upside down with a side of pom-poms. Not only is Clara a very fast knitter, she thrills in unconventional patterns and embellishments, and takes the shape of a normal sweater as a suggestion rather than a pattern. Clara gives Lester sweater after sweater, and Lester doesn’t want to hurt her feelings, but they’re just not his style. What’s a perfectionist to do?

Scriptwriter Aly Renee Amidel, who also co-wrote the lyrics with Julie Tallarida, keeps the dialogue light and fun with the occasional aside for the adults in the crowd. Scott Tallarida’s score is lively and clever, packing a Disney-like punch. While I haven’t read the original book, I can safely assume that its spirit has been well-preserved in this Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters. The kids in the theater, many of whom were quite young, were equal parts giggly and riveted, their eyes shining and their occasional commentary short but insightful. Director Heather Currie keeps the pacing quick but not frenetic, with a deep understanding of and appreciation for the KidSeries audience. Amidel’s costumes are both artistic and functional – four of the five actors play multiple roles, and Amidel accurately conveys children’s book illustrations while ensuring actors can easily move and change. Alan Donahue’s scenic design is sweetly storybook-reminiscent, all fine lines, soft colors, and two-dimensional props the actors use with aplomb.

The cast is energetic and engaging, skilled at singing, dancing and storytelling with childlike glee. The performance I reviewed featured understudy Mara Dale as Lester’s Cousin Clara and his friend Enid – her bouncy spirit fit in incredibly well with the regular cast members. Amanda Roeder displays excellent physical comedy and timing as Lester’s mother, and Scott Sawa, as Lester’s father, would be right at home on Sesame Street. Chris Vizurraga has some funny moments as Lester’s teacher Mr. Twist, who reveals a surprise about himself to his students. And Button-Harrison is a true children’s theater standout, taking the audience through Lester’s journey with boundless curiosity and optimism.

Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters is a satisfying treat for families. This parable of open-mindedness and creativity has a great message, and this winning musical adaptation is sure to be a favorite. Head to Lifeline on a weekend with your favorite little one in tow.

From the Chicago Reader

March 23, 2016
By Suzanne Scanlon


Fastidious, punctual Lester (Sam Button-Harrison) constantly makes lists classifying things—annoying sounds, sticky substances. It’s hard for him to play with others. Things start to change when Cousin Clara comes to town after her cottage has been consumed by a crocodile (there’s a lot of alliteration in this production aimed at younger children). Clara (Elizabeth Levy) is charming, but spends her time knitting sweaters—all for Lester—each more dreadful than the last. Finally he’s forced to tell Clara what he really thinks of her gifts. Along the way he learns to “embrace the unexpected” and even manages to make a friend. It’s a silly sweet, story, with much of the pleasure coming from adapter/costume designer Aly Renee Amidei’s hilarious, truly dreadful sweaters.

From chicagocritic.com

An outlandish, oddly humorous story about a fastidious boy named Lester and his not so snazzy sweaters!
March 23, 2016
By Sally Jo Osborne

What do you do when Cousin Clara’s cottage is consumed by a crocodile? What if she isn’t even really a cousin? Lester is simply suspicious of this ridiculous tall tale because, “Cottages aren’t meant for munching.” Add it to the list of “Suspicious Stuff Starting with a C” says Lester. Now let me explain. Lester likes his life to be in perfect order and really enjoys making lists. He measures his socks so they are exactly in the same place below his knee daily and he likes to comb his hair to the left, but then switches it back to the right. He does not enjoy skipping or having fun with other kids because it could lead to injury and he is very wise beyond his years and prefers predictability. Some would call him a bit persnickety, however, he prefers fastidious.

So when Cousin Clara moves in, his world is turned upside down a bit because he likes things just so. When she presents him with a hand knitted sweater as a gift, he is courteous and grateful yet mortified and embarrassed to wear it. A hooded yellow mustard sweater with purple pom-poms, one arm longer than the other and holes where there should not be holes. Lester is a thoughtful young man and did not want to hurt her feelings and so wears it to school as his parents instructed him to do. He was in disarray and even had one sock down way below his knee that day. He put up with relentless criticism and then “accidentally” got mud all over it when he decided to play with the other kids on the playground for the first time ever! Lester did have fun playing in the mud and destroying that sweater and went home and tell Cousin Clara the bad news.

Cousin Clara is understanding and seems to have an endless supply of dreadful knitted sweaters just waiting for Lester to wear. “Accidents” just keep happening whenever Lester wears a new sweater. This causes anxiety and nightmares for poor Lester and he needs to figure out a solution. When he gets invited to a Birthday Party he gladly accepts and wears a famously feathered hand knitted chicken suit that appeals to the hired clowns with the noisy noses. They want more of the fabulously freaky sweaters and so there was the solution to Lester’s conundrum. Cousin Clara and the Clowns hit the road (sounds like that could be a sequel). Cousin Clara has a new home, the clowns have a costume designer and Lester has his orderly life back.

There are some very snappy and engaging musical numbers such as Fastidious Life, Predictability, and Expect the Unexpected. The CD is available in the box office and is fun and worth the $10.

The small and talented cast plays dual roles and did a great job of it since my 9 year old Ella did not know they were the same people playing different roles. Cast includes: Sam Button-Harrison (Lester) a very funny and believable character reminiscent of Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors, Elizabeth Levy (Cousin Clara, Enit, Bandit) think Paula Dean meets SNL, the multi-talented Amanda Roeder (Mother, Beck, Bandit, Clown), and Scott Sawa (Father, Ben, Bandit, Clown). Lastly, Chris Vizurraga (Mr. Twist, Bandit, Clown) think Welcome Back Kotter enters the 20th Century.

Discovery’s a thrill so explore this show and have fun with your friends and family. “Life’s Like a Sweater my Friend”. Enjoy!

, http://boxoffice.printtixusa.com/lifelinetheatre/eventcalendar,
, http://lifelinetheatre.com/pdf/study_guides/lester_study_guide.pdf,