Amazing Journey

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     July 16, 2003: SONDHEIM VETERAN PAUL GEMIGNANI TO CONDUCT PASSION AT RAVINIA

BROADWAY ROCK STAR MICHAEL CERVERIS TAKES GIORGIO ROLE OPPOSITE PATTI LUPONE AND AUDRA MCDONALD

Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman today announced that celebrated Broadway conductor Paul Gemignani will conduct the Festivals Aug. 22-23 concert production of Stephen Sondheims Passion and that actor/singer Michael Cerveris will play the role of Giorgio, opposite Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald.

Ravinia Festivals approach to the works of Stephen Sondheim is to present the music as equal to the action. The musicians of the Ravinia Festival Orchestra are front and center on stage with the actors. Not only do they share the space, but they share the goal of fully realizing the wit and drama inherent in Sondheims compositions, Kauffman said. Were excited to add two more musical explorers to a creative team dedicated to this unique celebration of one of Americas finest composers.

In 2001, Gemignani was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award for his career as musical director for over 35 Broadway musicals, including the original productions of Stephen Sondheims Pacific Overtures, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Assassins, Anyone Can Whistle, Follies and Passion. He also is the conductor on these original cast albums. Gemignani has guest conducted the Boston, San Francisco, Buffalo, and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras, and both conducted and recorded with the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras. His received Grammy nominations for Passion, Crazy for You, and Kiss Me, Kate. He also conducted the film score for A Little Night Music.

Cerveris originated the title role in the Broadway hit Tommy and starred in the cult-favorite rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch on London's West End and in Los Angeles. He is also a rock musician and former frontman of the British band Retriever. His credits also include the Tony-winning musical Titanic. Recently Cerveris starred as Giorgio in the acclaimed Kennedy Center production of Passion. The New York Times said Cerveris gave the sort of performance that makes you ask where he's been all our lives, a performance of such emotional transparency that it hurts. And you start to regard the brooding Passion not as an anomaly in the Sondheim canon but as its Rosetta stone.

Ravinia will present its original concert staging of Passion in two performances, at 8 p.m. August 22 and 23, as the third installment of its ongoing Sondheim 75 series. The series was launched in 2001 with Sweeney Todd, which the Chicago Tribune named one of the top 10 theatrical productions of the year and said, Even for such an elevated hero as Stephen Sondheim, the concert staging of his Sweeney Todd at Ravinia represents a new level of vocal and orchestral professionalism. That production, taped in San Francisco for PBS, went on to win last years Emmy Award for Best Classical Music or Dance Program. A Little Night Music followed in 2002, leading the Chicago Sun-Times to declare, Quite simply, it does not get any better than this.

Broadway, film, television and recording artist Patti LuPone starred in both of those productions and returns to play the lead role of Fosca in Passion for the first time. Three-time Tony winner Audra McDonald will star as the exquisite married woman Clara. The two Broadway stars have worked together only twice before, once in the New York Philharmonics production of Sweeney Todd and again in a Hollywood Bowl concert. Lonny Price also will return to helm Passion, the story of a love triangle among an ailing woman who demands unconditional love, a handsome, aloof soldier and a beautiful, happy young girl. Based on Ettore Scolas film Passion Amore, the action is set is 1863 Milan, and the story is told largely through letters sung by the sender and the recipient. James Lapine, who collaborated with Sondheim on Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods, wrote the book for this winner of the 1994 Tony Awards for Best Score, Best Book and Best Musical.

For ticket information, visit www.ravinia.org or call the Box Office at 847-266-5100.

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