"Chicago Celebrates Sondheim!"

Nov 16, 2019


The Auditorium Theatre salutes Stephen Sondheim, America’s greatest living composer and lyricist who celebrates his 90th birthday this season, with a one-night-only performance. Directed and produced by Chicago’s own Joan Curto, who offers “an illuminating way to celebrate the riches of Sondheim’s art” (Chicago Tribune), singers from across the city bring their unique voices to selections from Sweeney Todd, Follies, Company, West Side Story, and more. The legend’s beloved music will be performed by the Chicago Philharmonic, conducted by Rich Daniels.

Join us for our 2019 Annual Fall Gala, honoring Patti Eylar and Charlie Gardner, which includes a ticket to the performance and a Gala reception and dinner at the Palmer House. For more information, contact Kelly at 312.341.2364 or [email protected]


Anyone Can Whistle
Merrily We Roll Along
West Side Story
Evening Primrose
Marry Me a Little
Sweeney Todd
Into the Woods
A Little Night Music
Sunday in the Park with George


Cast & Creative Team



 Joan has been called a “cabaret icon” by NBC news Chicago, and “an artist with clout” by the Huffington Post. She has appeared across the nation in concerts and clubs, often celebrating the music of the Great American Songbook. Chicago based, she is a familiar face to Chicago audiences, garnering a reputation for her thoughtful interpretations and powerful voice. Joan has performed in many Chicago theaters and clubs including: The Auditorium Theatre, The Harris Theater, The Empire Room, Victory Gardens, Davenports, The Drury Lane Theater, Park West, The Thorne Auditorium and the Claudia Cassidy Theater. She has been seen in numerous Chicago Humanities Festivals and the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s Cabaret Conventions. Nationally, Joan has performed in some of the top cabaret clubs and concert series including New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Metropolitan Room, The Sharon Lynne Wilson Center in Milwaukee, and The Overture Center in Madison, The Gardenia in Los Angeles and the Colony Hotel, Palm Beach.

In 2016 Joan was recognized and awarded with the Gold Coast Award by Chicago Cabaret Professionals for her contributions to the art of cabaret, and awarded the Chicago After Dark Award for Outstanding Cabaret Artist. She continues to explore the songs of both the Classic and the New American Songbook, and has developed and performed shows across the country featuring the music of Cole Porter, George & Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim. Howard Reich from The Chicago Tribune has praised Joan’s work describing her as “a seasoned interpreter who makes every note count”.   You can find her music on, ITunes and Amazon or through her website:

Chicago Theatre credits: Wicked (Nessa Broadway In Chicago) and work with Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Court Theatre, Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook and Evergreen Park, Writers’ Theatre, American Theatre Company, Theatre At The Center, Chicago Commercial Collective, and Porchlight Theatre.

Regional: Indiana Repertory Theatre, Fulton Theatre, Maine State Music Theatre, Peninsula Players, TheatreWorks, Hangar Theatre, and Clarence Brown Theatre. National

Tours: Disney’s Beauty And The Beast. Heidi has sung concerts for Artists Lounge Live, Ravinia Festival, with the Pensacola and Chicago Symphony and with Kevin Cole.

Film and television: Man Of Steel, Chicago Fire and Cupid.

Heidi has received the Joseph Jefferson Award, 8 Jeff Nominations, The Sarah Siddons’ Award, an After Dark Award, The Richard M. Kneeland Award. and two Broadway World Awards. She is a proud member of AEA and a Northwestern Graduate.



Beckie Menzie has appeared at the legendary Carnegie Hall, Jazz At Lincoln Center and Birdland in New York, Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre and Park West, as well as at concert halls and art series across the country.  Hailed by Chicago’s WGN Radio as “indispensible to Chicago cabaret,” Beckie was featured in Michael Feinstein’s Now & Then Series for her Carnegie Hall debut. She has been featured at many Mabel Mercer Cabaret Conventions in New York, The Hamptons, and in Chicago, as well as performances for the Chicago Humanities Festival, where she has served as a performer, director and musical director.

Beckie serves as a Musical Director for Michael Feinstein’s Songbook Academy. She performs regularly with Tom Michael and as a duo they have toured their many concerts across the country, including Carnegie Hall’s 100th birthday celebration for Cole Porter, they’ve performed with the Rich Daniel’s City Light’s Orchestra and headlined with the Chicago Chamber Orchestra and many other symphonies with their holiday show.  Beckie is one third of the GIRLS LIKE US group that includes Laura Freeman and Marianne Murphy Orland who entertain sell out audiences across the Midwest. Beckie is the co-host for Monday Night Live at Petterinos and is an award winning songwriter who coaches Chicago’s young musical talent. For more info please visit



Sophie Grimm is the fourth and final child of the Grimm and Raye family, which was cooking long before she was born. Her sizzlin' mom, Colleen Raye, and poppin' dad, Steve Grimm, started their own show (THE STEVE GRIMM AND COLLEEN RAYE SHOW, if you can imagine that) and began traveling in and outside of the country. Before this, Steve played as a "New Christy Minstrel" and Colleen as part of the "Peter Polzak Jazz Trio", but now, in the heyday of lounge acts, the two played as one of the most successful show-bands of the country, doing extended contracts in places like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Puerto Rico. While doing all of this, they found time to have Trey, Jennifer, Reed, and of course, Sophie Grimm, who inevitably (and happily!) became a part of the traveling act. 

When settling down at the ripe age of 3 in a Wisconsin town outside of Minneapolis, MN, Sophie started becoming talent for regional & national commercials including Target, Kodak, Cambridge Datebooks & Edina Realty, as well as for independent & industrial films. As she grew up through childhood & adolescence, Sophie continued singing with her family at clubs, convention centers & casinos, while acting on stage in school. Through these years she picked up the trumpet, started her business of wedding and church cantoring, continued delving into theatre & furthered her love for vocal jazz performance. During this time, she won awards & high praise for Storytelling through Wisconsin State Forensics, Improvisation & Musicianship for voice & trumpet through Wisconsin Classical & Jazz Solo Ensemble & competed in & won a myriad of talent shows, including Radio Disney's Minnesota Idol when she was 15, earning a trip for herself & 3 family members to Disney World! She also performed in plays & musicals & performed for a summer at age 16 on a private cruise ship through the Caribbean, singing jazz, pop & R&B. Of course, all of this could only lead to one thing…COLLEGE!

When she was 18, she didn't know whether she loved music or theatre more, so she decided...not to decide quite yet. She flew to the Windy City and began majoring in Musical Theatre at Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts, where she would learn her craft in a new way. She continued to sing in clubs, churches & parties alike, but three years into college, decided to take a year off to perform in the 39-city National Tour of THE GIRL SINGERS OF THE HIT PARADE, as well as THE GIRL SINGERS OF THE HIT PARADE: CHRISTMAS EDITION, with her mother, Colleen, (the show's creator), her aunt, Debbie & sister, Jennifer. As she has always been a big lover of learning & teaching (teaching drama at 16 to children at JCC in St. Louis Park [MN] Musical Theatre Camp, teaching music & heading drama at Auditorium Theatre's Hands Together Heart To Art camp, among others), Sophie also took this year go back to her hometown & teach in the high school as a special guest director, coaching, directing, and vocal music directing in a season of shows. Lastly, during her year off from school, she joined THE PHIL MATTSON SINGERS & performed as an ensemble member & soloist with this 6-part jazz group, in places like St. Paul's Artists' Quarter & New York City's Carnegie Hall.

She returned to Roosevelt's CCPA for her last year, performing as Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD, as a featured soloist in their vocal jazz ensemble, bringing her original music to the school's showcase stages. After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre, as well as graduating from the Honor Society of Roosevelt University, Sophie continued to sing, act, teach, write & perform throughout the country. She is now based in Chicago, IL. 

 As a musical theatre actor, her theatrical credits include The Paramount Theatre, Marriott Lincolnshire, Drury Lane, Chicago Children’s Theatre, & The Music Theatre Company but also you may have heard her voice as Desdemona in the Q Brothers & Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of OTHELLO: THE REMIX & at The Globe! As a singer, she has performed & continues to perform with groups like Colby Beserra's GREAT LIFE MUSIC, THE MATT REED BAND & THE BROTHERS AND SISTER GRIMM, joining her siblings, Trey Grimm, Jennifer Grimm & Reed Grimm & her mother, Colleen Raye, in various venues & shows. She also performs alongside her cousin, Caleb Hawley, whenever possible, performs in many churches as a choral member & soloist, at clubs, weddings, cabarets & at special events across the nation. She continues to be excited for life & what it brings, anticipating the continuation of bringing joy & love to the world through performance - & hopes to meet you someday if she hasn't already!       




Johnny Rodgers is an internationally celebrated singer-songwriter, pianist, Broadway veteran, and recording artist who is described by Stephen Holden, from The New York Times, as an entertainer “who has show business in his bones” with “fused elements of Billy Joel, Peter Allen and Johnny Mercer.”

As an Ambassador of American Music, Johnny Rodgers dazzles audiences with his Americana mélange of original songs and classic favorites. He tours for the State Department to places such as the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Johnny has toured Russia and performed with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, with Igor Butman and his Jazz Orchestra as well as for the US Embassy Independence Day Celebration and the Grodno Jazz Festival in Minsk, Belarus.

Rodgers doubled as Music Director and piano man for Liza Minnelli performances/tours and starred in and wrote the song “I Would Never Leave You” for Liza’s Tony Award®-winning Liza’s At ThePalace, which was filmed and released by PBS television. Johnny has earned New York’s Nightlife, Bistro and MAC awards for his performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Jazz At Lincoln Center, Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, and other premiere clubs. His songwriting has been recognized with Billboard and ASCAP Foundation awards.



Robert Sims has been highly praised for his moving interpretations of African American spirituals, and has given numerous recitals of them throughout the United States, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. He has appeared with many orchestras in the U.S., and toured Japan with the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra where he was featured in a nationally televised performance of Bernstein's Opening Prayer. In 2005, Sims made his recital debut at Carnegie Hall and was invited by Jessye Norman to participate in Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy at Carnegie Hall in 2009 and has returned to Carnegie in 2012 and 2018.  He has appeared with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in two international telecasts and recently sang in Europe with the Gibraltar Philharmonic. Mr. Sims has appeared at New York's Lincoln Center, the Ravinia Festival, Chicago's Symphony Center, Auditorium Theater, Harris Theater and Goodman Theater. 



Vocalist Paul Marinaro, dubbed as having “one of the most beautiful vocal instruments in the business today” by Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune, is a modern classic. With Chicago as his home base, Paul has become one of the most in-demand and respected male vocalists and has “taken his place among the top five male jazz singers active today.” (Scott Yanow, LA Jazz Scene)

Paul demonstrates a mastery of and an infectious passion for the material he chooses, allowing him to successfully command audiences with his fresh interpretations. At home, he is currently enjoying sold-out engagements in Chicago’s world-famous venues, including Joe and Wayne Segal’s Jazz Showcase, The Green Mill, Andy’s Jazz Club, and at Winter’s Jazz Club where he is currently in residence. He has been a featured performer at The Chicago Jazz Festival in 2014 and again in 2017 for an audience of 10,000 on the stage at the massive Pritzger Pavilion, where his performance with jazz legend Sheila Jordan earned rave reviews and was named “Best of 2017” (Chicago Tribune). He has earned “Best Performance of the Year” in the Chicago Tribune in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018; and “Best of Chicago 2015” in NewCity Magazine.

In 2013, Paul celebrated his widely acclaimed debut album Without a Song, a carefully crafted concept album stemming from and inspired by his father’s unfulfilled dream to have been a professional singer. For this album, Paul incorporated the beginnings of his love affair with music, when at the age of five, he found his father’s homemade 78rpm acetate discs in the attic, heard him singing “That Old Black Magic”, and was mesmerized. This scratchy recording of his father’s voice was Paul’s first musical inspiration…and it was restored and used to open his debut album 66 years later. Without a Song has gone on to receive widespread acclaim and national airplay, was named among the “Best of 2013” in the Chicago Tribune and has been prominently featured on NYC DJ Jonathan Schwartz’s “The Jonathan Channel”. Now in its third pressing, the album was re-issued in late 2015 as a deluxe, limited-edition, audiophile 2 LP Vinyl set. The album and its story went on to inspire acclaimed choreographer, Ron De Jesus, who premiered his original dance suite “Without a Song: Mic Check 1, 2” in April 2014, with Paul and his quartet performing the music live. Released in October, 2015, his first live album, One Night in Chicago, has also been critically acclaimed, being called “…a shining example of male jazz vocal at the top of its game.” (Midwest Record).

Since 2016, Paul has grown in national visibility and acclaim. He has enjoyed many highly regarded debuts across the US and Canada, including regular appearances at Toronto’s Jazz Bistro, and most notably at the world-famous Birdland Jazz Club in NYC, where Paul performed to sold out and enthusiastic crowds. In Chicago, at the stunning Auditorium Theatre, Paul appeared in an all-star celebration of Cole Porter in 2016, and of Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne in 2017, and an upcoming Stephen Sondheim program in 2019.

Paul is also a featured vocalist with The Chicago Jazz Orchestra, appearing in many festivals and concerts, including a recreation of the live album “Sinatra at the Sands” at the historic Studebaker Theater in May 2018 for which he received rave reviews, again earning the “Best of the Year” distinction in the Chicago Tribune.

For his July 2018 birthday concert, Paul returned to Birdland Jazz Club featuring special guest Sheila Jordan. The duo immediately demonstrated an uncanny and effortless rapport with one another and have several concerts scheduled together in 2019. Paul has also been chosen to be the sole vocalist in “The Oscar Peterson Story” at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Feb 2019 and will also be actively touring throughout 2019 for various Nat King Cole Centennial concerts, including appearances in Barbados and Copenhagen.

When he is not performing live, he will be busy in the studio recording his next album.



Susan Werner has written 12 Albums in a range of styles, from folk and rock to gospel, country, and chamber music. She is renowned as a charismatic performer and has appeared on NPR’s World Café and Mountain Stage. Her songs have been recorded by Tom Jones, Michael Feinstein, Betty Buckley, and Christine Ebersole, among countless others.



Rodrick Dixon is a powerful tenor who stars in the Auditorium Theatre’s annual production of Too Hot to Handel. He has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, among others. He recently performed at the inauguration of Mayor Lori Lightfoot with his wife Alfreda Burke.