Published: November 6, 2019

Meet our "Chicago Celebrates Sondheim!" Cast!

On November 16, Chicago’s best performers come together for a one-night-only performance celebrating the greatest living composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim. Learn more about the cast of Chicago Celebrates Sondheim!

Photo of Joan Curto.Joan Curto (Director) is honored to return to the Auditorium Theatre for her third production, following 2016’s Cole Porter 125 and 2017’s Ella and Lena: The Ladies and Their Music. Curto has been called a “cabaret icon” by NBC-5 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. As a Chicago-based performer, she is a familiar face to Chicago audiences, garnering a reputation for her thoughtful interpretations and powerful voice. She has performed at many Chicago venues, including the Auditorium Theatre, the Harris Theater, the Empire Room, Victory Gardens, Davenport’s, Drury Lane, Park West, the Thorne Auditorium, and the Claudia Cassidy Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center. She has participated in numerous years of the Chicago Humanities Festival and appeared at many of the Mabel Mercer Foundation’s Cabaret Conventions. Nationally, Curto has performed in some of the top cabaret clubs and concert series, including Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Room in New York City, NY; the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center in Milwaukee, WI; the Overture Center in Madison, WI; the Gardenia in Los Angeles, CA; and the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, FL.

In 2016, Curto 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 and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Jerry Herman, and Stephen Sondheim. Howard Reich from the Chicago Tribune has praised Curto’s work, describing her as “a seasoned interpreter who makes every note count.” Her music can be found on, at iTunes and Amazon, or through her website.

Photo of Beckie Menzie.Beckie Menzie (Musical Director) has appeared at the legendary Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Birdland in New York; the Auditorium Theatre and Park West in Chicago; and concert halls and art series across the country. Hailed by WGN Radio as “indispensable to Chicago cabaret,” Menzie 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 Chicago, and performed at the Chicago Humanities Festival numerous times, where she served as a performer, director, and musical director. Menzie serves as a Musical Director for Michael Feinstein’s Songbook Academy and performs regularly with Tom Michael. As a duo, they have toured their many concerts across the country. They performed at Carnegie Hall for Cole Porter’s 100th birthday celebration and appeared with Rich Daniels’ City Lights Orchestra and many other symphonies for their holiday show. Menzie is part of the group Girls Like Us with Laura Freeman and Marianne Murphy Orland, which entertains audiences across the Midwest. She 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 information, visit

Photo of Rich Daniels.Rich Daniels (Conductor) has been creating and conducting memorable concerts and events since 1974, when he began his professional journey as a high school freshman on the South Side of Chicago. Music was always a passion for Daniels, as he realized at a very young age that it was possible to captivate an audience with a live performance while touching their hearts and minds in an indelible way. With the City Lights Orchestra, Daniels has been given a chance to participate in thousands of programs nationwide for associations, corporations, and non-profit organizations. Additionally, Daniels and his colleagues have had the chance to take the stage and perform in concert with some of the greatest musical artists of the past half-century, including Ray Charles, Garth Brooks, Mel Tormé, Rosemary Clooney, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Michael Bublé, and David Foster. In recent years, Daniels has also been busy in the studio composing and producing recordings for a wide range of projects. He composed music for the pilot of the Emmy Award-winning show Boss starring Kelsey Grammer, and served as the on-camera music supervisor for Empire on Fox, starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. He also conducted regional orchestras, including the Baltimore Symphony, the Berkeley Symphony, the Richmond Philharmonic, the Hartford Philharmonic, and others, performing a symphonic celebration of Jerry Garcia with legendary guitarist and vocalist Warren Haynes.

Daniels is proud of the various charitable organizations he has worked with throughout his career, especially the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls in Chicago (former board chairman), the DePaul University School of Music (current board chairman), and the Archdiocese of Immigrant Affairs (treasurer). He is also a board member of the Chicago Federation of Musicians and a delegate to the Chicago Federation of Labor. He was appointed to the board of the Illinois Arts Council for a four-year term by Illinois governor Pat Quinn in 2013. Daniels and his lovely wife Kathy have four beautiful children: Rich, Mary Kate, Emily, and Maggie.

Photo of Heidi Kettenring.Heidi Kettenring is best known for her performance as Nessa in Broadway In Chicago’s Wicked. She has worked with Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Northlight Theatre, Court Theatre, Marriott Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Writers Theatre, American Theatre Company, Theatre at the Center, Chicago Commercial Collective, and Porchlight Theatre. She performed in the national tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Film and television work includes Man of Steel, Chicago Fire, and Cupid. She received a Joseph Jefferson Award for her performance as Anna in Marriott Theatre’s The King and I and has garnered eight Jeff nominations. She is also the recipient of the Sarah Siddons Award, an After Dark Award, the Richard M. Kneeland Award, and two Broadway World Awards. She is a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association and is a Northwestern University graduate.

Photo of Paul Marinaro.Paul Marinaro is a jazz vocalist who has performed at venues including the Green Mill, Andy’s Jazz Club, and the Chicago Jazz Festival in Millennium Park. Marinaro’s performances have been named among the best of the year in the Chicago Tribune numerous times. He is a featured vocalist with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra and was the sole vocalist in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s 2019 production of The Oscar Peterson Story. The Chicago Tribune called his voice “one of the most beautiful vocal instruments in the business today” and he has become one of the most in-demand and respected male vocalists on the scene today. He has released two albums, Without a Song (2013) and the live album One Night in Chicago (2015). He appeared in various Nat King Cole centennial concerts throughout 2019.

Photo of Johnny Rodgers.Johnny Rodgers is an internationally celebrated singer-songwriter, pianist, Broadway veteran, and recording artist who has been described by Stephen Holden of the New York Times as an entertainer “who has show business in his bones.” He tours for the State Department of the United States to places including the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands, and has toured Russia and performed with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. He doubled as a piano player and music director for Liza Minelli performances and tours and wrote the song “I Would Never Leave You” for her Tony Award-winning production Liza’s at the Palace. He has earned Nightlife, Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs (MAC), and Bistro awards for his performances at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and other venues. His songwriting has been recognized with Billboard and ASCAP Foundation Awards.

Photo of Robert Sims.Robert Sims is a vocalist who has been highly praised for his moving interpretations of African American spirituals. He has given numerous recitals of these spirituals throughout the United States, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. He has appeared with many orchestras in the United States, and toured Japan with the Pacific Music Festival Orchestra, where he was featured in a nationally televised performance of Leonard 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. He has appeared with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in two international telecasts and has appeared at Lincoln Center, the Ravinia Festival, Symphony Center, the Auditorium Theatre, the Harris Theater, and the Goodman Theatre.

Photo of Susan Werner.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 others.



Photo of Rodrick Dixon.

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.



David Edelfelt is a voice teacher, vocal coach, composer, arranger, and accompanist, as well as a talented choral conductor. He has performed at the Mabel Mercer Cabaret Convention, Park West, and others. Recently, he presented his solo show Broadway Baritones at Davenport’s.




Photo of Laura Freeman.Laura Freeman has toured the United States and Europe extensively in productions including Into the Woods and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. As a cabaret performer, she has created tributes to Doris Day, Julie Andrews, and others, and performed as a soloist at the Auditorium Theatre, Park West, and the Acorn Theatre.



Sophie Grimm is a lifelong vocalist and actor who has appeared as Paulette in Paramount Theater’s Legally Blonde, Mom in Trevor at Writers Theatre, and Desdemona in Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Othello: The Remix.




Photo of Tom Michael.Tom Michael has performed on stages including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, the Auditorium Theatre, and the Empire Room. He regularly performs in cabaret, symphony, and orchestra concerts with his musical partner Beckie Menzie.




Jaymes Osborne is a local Chicago performer who has appeared in Hairspray and Jesus Christ Superstar at the Paramount Theatre, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Porchlight Music Theatre, and Avenue Q at the Mercury Theater.




Photo of Marianne Murphy Orland.Marianne Murphy Orland is a big band singer, a cabaret artist, and a voice actor who has performed at Victory Gardens, Park West, and countless other venues. She is known for her tributes to Karen Carpenter, Petula Clark, and Dolly Parton.

"Chicago Celebrates Sondheim!"

The Auditorium Theatre salutes Stephen Sondheim, America’s greatest living composer and ly...