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Chicago by John Olson

Chicago's Leading Lady Comes Home for The Immigrant
An Interview with Hollis Resnik

Hollis ResnikAfter a year on the road playing Mrs. Meers in the national tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Hollis Resnik is back in Chicago to appear in a new musical. She took some time off from settling in to her new home to talk with me by phone about her current project, The Immigrant, and reflect on the opportunities for working actors based in Chicago.

It sounds like The Immigrant may be a departure from many of the musical comedy leads Chicago audiences have seen Resnik perform in the past. "It's more of a play with music," she explained. "The music is a little 'out-there', Sondheim or Copland-esque." She'll be playing Ima Perry, the wife of a Southern Baptist banker in the small Texas town to which the title character emigrates. "She's not a glamorous character, but warm hearted, and she ends up being sort of 'The Mouse That Roared'," a character development that gives her the opportunity for an eleven o'clock number. Additionally, Resnik and the rest of the four-person cast get to show their acting chops by aging 25 years over the course of the evening.

Ms. Resnik finds it a meatier role than the part of Mrs. Meers. "I had a great time with Millie, worked with some wonderful people and saved a lot of money. I don't know how the reviews were, because I never read them, but it seemed the audiences were enjoying themselves. It's not the sort of part I would like to do for a long time, though."

Indeed, she's spent much of her career doing far more challenging work, including an eight-year stay at the classically oriented Court Theater, located on the campus of the far-from-frivolous University of Chicago. There she did heavier pieces like The Little Foxes. "In my eight years there people forgot I could sing," while the audiences from her big musicals at venues like Marriott's Lincolnshire and the Candlelight Playhouse may not had the chance to see her full acting range.

"I've done everything from Moliére to Mame ... the Chicago scene has allowed me to do a bit of everything. It's a very embracing atmosphere." I asked if the opportunities in Chicago for musical theater roles were as plentiful as those in non-musicals, given the abundance of storefront theaters doing lower-budget dramas. "It was a sad day when Candlelight was lost," she admitted, but pointed to the ongoing success and prestige of Marriott's Lincolnshire and plans for a new Drury Lane theater downtown as signs of the continued vitality of professional musical theater in Chicago.

"Chicago has a little bit of everything. You can stay in Chicago and have a career and make a living. Chicago does support that." Like so many of Chicago's theater artists, she seems much more driven by "the work," than by the opportunity to make more money on one of the coasts. "If it's a good part, I'd be happy to work for $200.00. I'm always looking for good parts."

Coming up next for Ms. Resnik is a role in Molnar's The Guardsman at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta in February.

The Immigrant, with book by Mark Harelick (based on his play), music by Steven M. Alper and lyrics by Sarah Knapp, is a co-production of the Northlight Theatre and the Arizona Theatre Company, transferring here after a month's run in Phoenix. An unrelated production opened November 4th at Dodger Stages Off-Broadway in New York.

Previews begin at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie on December 8th. For performance and ticket information, call 847-673-6300 or visit http://www.northlight.org.

See the schedule of theatre productions in the Chicago area


-- John Olson



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