A Little Birdie Told Me - Petite Opera Speaks with Woodstock

As Woodstock, Caroline Zavislak Proves that Actions Speak Louder Than Words in Petite Opera's upcoming production


Yes, you could say that a little birdie told you, and if you're Snoopy, and your friend Woodstock is the little birdie, it's 100% true.  In Snoopy!!! The Musical, Woodstock takes on a whole new dimension, falls in love, and helps propel the story, and Snoopy, to the greatest he can be.  The challenge of Woodstock that is the character doesn't speak at all, so conveying the plot, emotions and emotional intensity all occurs through pantomime. Petite Opera reached Caroline Zavislak before the early bird, and learned her impressions on her character, Woodstock.

Caroline, what roles have you performed, which groups have you worked with around Chicago and beyond?
In opera and operetta, I have performed Papagena/Magic Flute (American Chamber Opera), Ensemble/ Amahl and the Night Visitors and Sound of Music in for (Chamber Opera Chicago), Satirino and Destino/Cavalli’s La Calisto and Suor Infermiera/Puccini’s Suor Angelica (Bay Area Summer Opera Theatre Institute), and Peep Bo/The Mikado (Chicago College of Performing Arts). My musical theatre credits include Liesl/The Sound of Music, Guenevere/Camelot, Hope Harcourt/Anything Goes, Belle/Beauty and the Beast, and Dorothy/The Wizard of Oz. In addition, I perform regularly with the Chicago Chorale and in 2012 had the privilege of performing with the North Shore Chamber Arts Ensemble. I'm a native of Georgia, and also performed a lot of soprano oratorio solos there with the Rockdale County Chamber Chorus (Metro-Atlanta area), including Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.

Which role have you most enjoyed portraying, or are you most proud of and why?
As a young emerging artist, my pool of roles performed is still expanding! However, one of the roles I most enjoyed developing and performing was Satirino in La Calisto, a baroque opera by Francesco Cavalli. Satirino is one of the main sources of comic relief in the opera. The character is a satyr which is a Greek Mythological being that is half human half goat! There must be a pattern of being cast as some kind of animal, as I play a bird in our fun story of Snoopy!!! However, there is no denying that I have an enormous soft spot for Musical Theatre, and I have loved every single musical theatre role I’ve had the opportunity to perform.

What fascinates you about the WOODSTOCK character in Snoopy?
It has been such a delight developing the character of Woodstock, the other “animal” in the show. Exploring the physicality of the flitty, flighty, furiously clumsy little bird has been both challenging and a so much fun.

What is the most enlightening thing WOODSTOCK learns through the course of the show?
Since Woodstock is often times so very clumsy (although he does have his more graceful moments), I think one of the things he learns and is most excited about in the show is that he can in fact dance! He doesn’t really have two left bird feet after all, and he loves it! When Snoopy receives the letter declaring him “Head Beagle,” it is a huge boost of confidence. With Snoopy’s new found confidence, I think Woodstock also gains great boldness and spunk as they begin to dance together in The Big Bow-Wow.

How are those characteristics embodied in you as a performer?
I certainly relate to Woodstock in that I am always tripping over my own two feet, falling up the stairs, and breaking things.

What do you find most difficult about portraying WOODSTOCK?
Character-wise, the challenge has come in finding effective and believable ways to convey Woodstock’s emotions. Birds have feelings too! I love the dynamic of the relationship between Woodstock and Snoopy. It’s a best friend-like relationship with complete loyalty. Woodstock definitely thinks the world of Snoopy and would do anything in the world for him, which I love. Isn’t that how dogs typically feel about their human? And Snoopy, too, has his own loyal pet-like best friend--Woodstock.

Why do you think patrons should come see this show over any other options they have for Apr 25-May 4, 2014?
Snoopy!!! is an all-around fun, high energy show great for adults and kids alike. I think audience members will leave not only singing the catchy tunes, but also with a feeling of light-heartedness, nostalgia, and a burst of energy all in one! Snoopy!!! is a truly delightful show performed by cast with exquisite talent.

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Petite Opera performs SNOOPY!!! the musical April 25-27, May 2-4, 2014 at Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium, part of St. Mary's Episcopal Church campus, 306 S Prospect Ave at Crescent Ave (enter on Crescent Ave), Park Ridge, IL.  Call 847-553-4442 to reserve tickets, or purchase tickets online via credit card (convenience charges apply to credit card orders). 
Petite Opera is a professional 501c3 opera company



Brutally Honest Blond - Petite Opera Speaks with Sally Brown

Helen Knudsen Brings Refreshing Honesty to Sally Brown in Petite Opera's upcoming production 

Helen Knudsen
What roles have you performed, which groups have you worked with?
I have recently performed with the G&S Opera Company in H.M.S. Pinafore, and with kor/ Productions in Bohème in a Bar. I have also worked with Piven Theatre (u/s Cassie in the American Premier of Tusk, Tusk) where I will be apprenticing this summer.

Which role have you most enjoyed portraying, or are you most proud of and why?
Although every role as I’m playing it is my favorite, my recent experience in H.M.S. Pinafore with Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company is definitely a highlight. I was cast as a cabin-girl among the all-male sailor’s chorus, and had a lot of freedom to develop my own little  character within the ship’s crew. Another role I have to mention was as Kala in Tarzan; it was fascinating to get inside the mind of a mother gorilla. And I can’t forget my experience in Godspell, working with a very close and talented ensemble to create a beautiful story.

Tell us about your upcoming engagements.
This summer, I will be directing a sixth season with the theatre company I founded, DIY Teen Theatre. We will be producing Seussical and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, two very different shows, both of which I am very excited for! (www.diyteentheatre.com).

What fascinates you about the SALLY BROWN character in Snoopy?
I love that Sally is the most typical little kid in this show. She is brutally honest, and doesn’t see anything wrong with that. Her loyalties change throughout the show depending on what fits her own motives best. She is incredibly lazy, and yet will expend an enormous amount of effort in search of the easiest way to achieve her goals.

What do you think the other SNOOPY characters feel towards SALLY?
Funny enough, most of the characters ignore Sally most of the time.This enables her to shoot off one-liners and not get caught up in sandbox politics.

What is the most enlightening thing SALLY learns through the course of the show?
The interesting thing about comic strip characters is that in their purpose, they don’t evolve at all. Sally stays the same age over the run of the comic strip, and the simple fact that the character learns nothing from her experiences, inspires the audience to do that learning. The audience “grows up” while Sally and her fellow Peanuts stay the same.

How are those characteristics embodied in you as a performer?
Sally’s personality exaggerates characteristics that many little girls share. Stubbornness, inconsistency, and the ability to rebound instantly from anything life throws at them. She is the ultimate problem solver, and is not afraid to go after what she wants, two traits I admire.

What do you find most difficult about portraying SALLY?
As an actor who is used to taking a character off a script and make her multi-dimensional. It is an entirely different challenge figuring out how to portray Sally as a two-dimensional comic book character. The more I get to know her, the more she refuses to stay on the page. It’s tough sometimes to get into the psyche of a little cartoon character, but I honestly take all my cues from an 11-year-old who I directed as Sally in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. She had a natural connection to Sally, and inspires me to bring out my inner child.

Why do you think patrons should come see this show over any other options they have for Apr 25-May 4, 2014?
This show is fun for all ages. Little kids can teach us so many life lessons that some adults spend their lives trying to figure out.
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Petite Opera performs SNOOPY!!! the musical April 25-27, May 2-4, 2014 at Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium, part of St. Mary's Episcopal Church campus, 306 S Prospect Ave at Crescent Ave (enter on Crescent Ave), Park Ridge, IL.  Call 847-553-4442 to reserve tickets, or purchase tickets online via credit card (convenience charges apply to credit card orders). 
Petite Opera is a professional 501c3 opera company


Our Favorite TomBoy - Petite Opera Speaks with Peppermint Patty

Katherine Dalin Moves From Opera Pant Roles to Musical Theatre TomBoy in Petite Opera's upcoming production

Katherine Dalin
The delightful and refreshingly honest enthusiasm of Peppermint Patty, and her TomBoy nature set against her professed position as Charlie Brown's wannabe love interest puts a unique twist on the character. Katherine Dalin, who recently portrayed Prince Charming in Petite Opera's Cinderella (Cendrillon), speaks with Petite Opera's staff on her newfound cartoon dimension.


What roles have you performed, which groups have you worked with?

Petite Opera (Prince Charming/Cinderella (Cendrillon), Verismo Opera Theater (Flora/La Traviata), Fury Theatre (Mischievous Minstrel/Much Ado About Nothing) , Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company (Ruth/Pirates of Penzance), Sugar Creek Symphony & Song (Mother Abbess/Suor Angelica; Zita/Gianni Schicchi), Elgin Opera (The Aunt/Madame Butterfly; Prince Orlofsky/Die Fledermaus; Papagena/Die Zauberföte), SouthEast Wisconsin Performing Arts (Sorceress/Dido; Witch/Hansel & Gretel) Chorus with Florentine Opera, Dupage Opera Theatre, Chamber Opera Chicago & da Corneto Opera Company.


What are your upcoming engagements?
In June, I will be performing my first ever solo cabaret at Davenport's Piano Bar "Not a Fairy Tale Princess" will be a lighthearted look at life in mezzo-land, where the closest I get to playing fluffy romantic leads...is a pants role!

What was is the favorite role you've played?
Choosing one favorite role is a such a challenge with a wide range of characters to pick from, so I hope you indulge me as I opt to choose not just one, but two!

Last year, I have the enormous privilege to play Ruth/Pirates of Penzance for the first time.  This show has long been near and dear to my heart, and playing Ruth--a bawdy pirate lass--and building a both touching and hysterical portrayal was an immense joy.

On the flipside, my previous performance with Petite Opera, as Prince Charming/Cinderella (Cendrillon) was equally fulfilling, though a wholly different show and character.  The show is not often performed, and it was a pleasure to study this rarely performed, but thoroughly beautiful piece of French opera.  The role was a vocal challenge, but bore a more distinctive play in my heart as my first ever "romantic lead" while also a pants role.  This challenged me to find a loving tenderness with a masculine edge, and has fed well into my physicality as Peppermint Patty.

What fascinates you about the PEPPERMINT PATTY character in Snoopy?
Patty is such a delightful collection of opposites. I sense a real ugly duckling syndrome. She desperately wants to belong and be accepted by her peers, but she doesn't quite fit in with the "girly" stereotype. She finds better understanding of her awkward, "ugly duckling" mentality from the boys--then starts to find that maybe, just maybe, she "likes" someone...

What do you think the other SNOOPY characters feel towards PEPPERMINT PATTY?
Lucy doesn't particularly care for Patty, beyond wanting another person to lord over...but, then again, Lucy doesn't like much anyone except Lucy. Sally definitely does NOT understand where Patty is coming from. After all, Sally wonders what isn't to love about fluffy dresses? Snoopy likes Patty well enough, even if she DOES call him Fuzzy Face. She gives pretty much the best belly rubs ever, and he doesn't judge her, just accepts her for who she is. It is with the boys that Patty finds her true bosom buddies. Linus and Patty share inside jokes (many at Lucy's expense) and, though Patty might tease Linus from time to time, it is in a pretty good-natured way. Likewise, Chuck and Patty have a pretty genuine friendship, and open up to one another in unique ways throughout the show. Neither of them is very good at expressing themselves, but maybe, just maybe, something builds between them.

What is the most enlightening thing PEPPERMINT PATTY learns through the course of the show?
Patty begins to find self acceptance.  Yes, she is awkward at times, both physically and socially, and gets herself into strange situations.  However, she starts to find out who she really is, and that there is much more to her than a limited "tomboy" stereotype. Also, boys might be cute.

How are those characteristics embodied in you as a performer?
Growing up with three brothers and no sisters or female cousins near my age, I have always been very at home with being "one of the boys." Though in real life, I often did and do wear skirts and jewelry, I am equally comfortable climbing a tree, catching a newt and can throw overhand better than my husband. Just like Patty, I adore baseball, but I literally could not throw underhand to save my life! Every ounce of awkward self-discovery in Patty is authentic to my own experience. Even her dry sense of humor and no-nonsense attitude resonate with me! I like to think I might be a pretty good example of who Patty might grow up to be.

What do you find most difficult about portraying PEPPERMINT PATTY?
Saying the words "up" and "Chuck" in immediate succession, and just in general, keeping a straight face!

Why do you think patrons should come see this show over any other options they have for Apr 25-May 4, 2014?
This is a truly delightful show and production. The cast is tremendous and all are bringing their characters to life in a deep and joyful manner. This is a thoroughly heart-warming show, and enjoyable for kids of all ages!

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Petite Opera performs SNOOPY!!! the musical April 25-27, May 2-4, 2014 at Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium, part of St. Mary's Episcopal Church campus, 306 S Prospect Ave at Crescent Ave (enter on Crescent Ave), Park Ridge, IL.  Call 847-553-4442 to reserve tickets, or purchase tickets online via credit card (convenience charges apply to credit card orders). 


Petite Opera is a professional 501c3 opera company

The Blue Blanket Strikes Again - Petite Opera Speaks with Linus

Brandon Wilhelm Brings a New Dimension to Our Favorite "Intellectual with the Blue Blanket" in Petite Opera's Upcoming Production

It's a security blanket, a weapon, a cloak, and his individual trademark--that Blue Blanket represents the dichotomy of Linus, and in Petite Opera's production of SNOOPY!!! The Musical, Brandon Wilhelm brandishes it like a conductor's baton.  Petite Opera's staff interviewed Brandon to learn about the performer behind the boy with the blue blanket.

Brandon Wilhelm
Brandon, we know you're originally from Texas. What roles have you performed, and which groups have you worked with?
Achille Di Rosalba in The Italian Strawhat (Amarillo Opera); Charles Wallace in A Wrinkle in Time (Dallas Children's Theater), Peter in Pinkalicious the Musical (Casa Mañana), and Ralph in A Catered Affair (Theatre Three).

Which role have you most enjoyed portraying, or are you most proud of and why?
Charles Wallace has been my favorite role I've played thus far as well as the most daunting.  He is most people's favorite character in A Wrinkle in Time and everyone has their own idea of how he should be.  He's such a beautiful old soul with the innocence of a child… a marvelously written character.

What fascinates you about the LINUS VAN PELT character in Snoopy?
I love how Linus is a sort of a know it all and feels so much more mature than the others at times with his philosophical knowledge.  However, he still carries his blanket around and has quarrels with his sister in a very juvenile way.  I find this very ironic.

What do you think the other SNOOPY characters feel towards LINUS?
I feel that others can be annoyed with Linus especially in the classroom setting--he's quite the brown-noser.  I also think that others may feel that he is amusing with his outlandish ideas, particularly the Great Pumpkin.

What is the most enlightening thing LINUS learns through the course of the show?
He learns that even though others may tear you down for things that you're passionate about or believe in, it is still worth it to be your own person and have your own set of beliefs.  It is better to be an individual than let people force you to confirm to their way of thinking.

How are those characteristics embodied in you as a performer?
Like Linus, I have a need to have my own beliefs and passions, which are sometimes different than others’ beliefs.  I have an urge to dream big and stick to it.

What do you find most difficult about portraying LINUS?
Linus has a quiet wisdom about him.  I sometimes find it challenging to play some moments truthfully without the help of microphones in our space.  It makes me have to find another approach at times to convey what Linus has to say with the correct motivation.

Why do you think patrons should come see this show over any other options they have for Apr 25-May 4, 2014?
I think Snoopy!!! is a beautiful show that is great for the whole family.  It offers nostalgia for the parents who grew up with the Peanuts characters, as well as humor for the little ones.  Plus, it reminds us of the fundamental, simple life lessons we often forget about in our busy day-to-day lives.

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Petite Opera performs SNOOPY!!! the musical April 25-27, May 2-4, 2014 at Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium, part of St. Mary's Episcopal Church campus, 306 S Prospect Ave at Crescent Ave (enter on Crescent Ave), Park Ridge, IL.  Call 847-553-4442 to reserve tickets, or purchase tickets online via credit card (convenience charges apply to credit card orders). 
Petite Opera is a professional 501c3 opera company

Not Bossy but Authoritative - Petite Opera Speaks with Lucy Van Pelt

Rena Ahmed Plays a Spunky, Strong-Willed Lucy Van Pelt in Petite Opera's upcoming production

Rena Ahmed
She's not bossy, she just has good ideas. The know-it-all who really just means well, Lucy represents the spunky kid in every crowd.  Petite Opera sat down with Rena Ahmed to see what it's like playing the strong-willed Lucy Van Pelt.


Rena, tell us what roles have you performed in and around Chicago, and which groups you have worked with.
I've played Eileen/When Angels Wept (New Lincoln Theatre), Frau Schreiman/Music in the Air (Music by the Lake), Middle Aged Woman/The People's Four Seasons (Quest Theatre Ensemble), Principessa/Suor Angelica (Emerald City Opera Institute).



Which role have you most enjoyed portraying, or are you most proud of and why?
Some of my favorite roles include The Baker's Wife in Into the Woods, Agnes Gooch in Mame, Principessa in Suor Angelica, and Suzuki in Madama Butterfly. The most fun was Agnes Gooch. I loved her complete innocence and naivety. And I got to play a pregnant woman in hideously ugly glasses! I am most proud of my recent work as Eileen in When Angels Wept. It's an original play about the fire at Our Lady of Angels church in Chicago. I was the mother of a child who died in the fire. It was my first straight acting role (no singing) and I had to connect to some very deep emotions. It was truly exhausting - especially on days when we had two performances. I also got the opportunity to try out my Irish accent and I had a very brief "mad scene". All in all it was a challenge, but very rewarding.

What are your upcoming engagements?
I have started a new company in Chicago called Third Eye Theatre Ensemble. We will be performing The Medium by Menotti this fall.

What fascinates you about the LUCY VAN PELT character in Snoopy?
I think Lucy means well. She has a genuine desire to help others. We see this in her scene with washing Linus's blanket and in her scene with Charlie Brown where she is giving him advice on his personal philosophy. Sure, she is charging money for her advice, but she really wants to help. Unfortunately Lucy doesn't have the best people skills yet, and she often ends up being insulting. It's fascinating to see such a dichotomy. She wants to help, but often she ends up hurting instead. She also sees herself as the smartest person in the room even though she regularly misuses words, or makes inaccurate historical references. She really has no idea that she isn't quite as smart as she thinks she is.

What do you think the other SNOOPY characters feel towards LUCY?
I think the other characters look up to Lucy and consider her a leader. Even though she doesn't always have the right information, none of the other kids seem to know that. She exudes confidence, and they follow her lead.

What is the most enlightening thing LUCY learns through the course of the show?
Lucy is very hard on Charlie Brown - especially in her last scene with him. In the very last song of the show she watches the other kids rally around Charlie Brown and realizes that it is important we believe in each other, in spite of our faults.

How are those characteristics embodied in you as a performer?
Lucy has a very dry wit, though I don't think she really knows it. Sometimes my wit is so dry, people don't know I'm making a joke! Lucy is also very competitive and wants to be the best at everything. I may have a small competitive streak in me…I play basketball against my husband who is 6'4". A few summers ago I played basketball with a group of 7 men and I was the only woman. Mind you, I'm not really that good. I just like to compete! And let's not forget that on the rare occasions when my husband and I disagree…I am always right. Of course! Fortunately, my husband is kind enough to let me believe that.

What do you find most difficult about portraying LUCY?
Lucy really can be quite mean. Her words are often hurtful. I don't think she often realizes how mean she can be. This has been challenging for me. Sometimes I say her lines and think - wow - that is really mean! Even though I can be sarcastic in real life, deep down I am not a mean person. I don't think Lucy is either. I just think she doesn't realize what she's saying. I think she speaks before she thinks a lot of the time.

Why do you think patrons should come see this show over any other options they have for Apr 25-May 4, 2014?
Have you ever seen Snoopy!!! The Musical before? Probably not. You'll be delighted with this show. It is fun for the whole family!


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Petite Opera performs SNOOPY!!! the musical April 25-27, May 2-4, 2014 at Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium, part of St. Mary's Episcopal Church campus, 306 S Prospect Ave at Crescent Ave (enter on Crescent Ave), Park Ridge, IL.  Call 847-553-4442 to reserve tickets, or purchase tickets online via credit card (convenience charges apply to credit card orders). 


Petite Opera is a professional 501c3 opera company








Our Favorite Gentle Optimist - Petite Opera Speaks with Charlie Brown

Austin Illenberg Portrays the Gentle Optimist, Charlie Brown, in Petite Opera's upcoming production

Austin Illenberg
He always seems to get the wrong end of the stick, the psychiatrist's advice, or the football, and yet Charlie Brown remains gentle, optimistic, highly empathetic and a central link to his friends--even though they don't realize it.  Petite Opera's staff spoke with Austin Illenberg about his lovable, and deeply vulnerable character, Charlie Brown.

What roles have you performed in the Chicago area?  Which groups have you worked with?
Some of my previous roles have been Holmes from The Secret Garden, Ching Ho from Thoroughly Modern Mille, Dr. Einstine from Arsenic and Old Lace, and The Master of Ceremonies from Massenet’s Cendrillon.  Some of the companies I have worked for are Edge of the Wood, Glenview Theater Guild, Big Deal Productions, The Silhouette Players, and of course, Petite Opera Productions.

Which role have you most enjoyed portraying, or are you most proud of and why?
If I had to pick one role it would absolutely be Ching Ho.  I had to learn all of my dialog by ear because it was all in Chinese.  Everything I did in that show was Chinese, two dialects--Mandarin and Cantonese--to be precise.  It was also just such a fun experience to get to work off of two amazing performers in Marian Kaderbek as Mr. Meers and Steve Malone and Bun Foo.

What are your upcoming engagements?
I’m not currently slated to be performing in any shows at the moment however, I do want to promote Glenview Theater Guild’s upcoming production of Into The Woods.  They are an absolutely wonderful group and put on some of the best community theater around.

What fascinates you about the CHARLIE BROWN character in Snoopy?
I’ve always loved Charlie Brown for just never giving up no matter what happens, and sometimes I wish that I had that kind of fortitude.  It really does amaze me that such a depressing kind of character can be such an optimist at times.

What do you think the other SNOOPY characters feel towards CHARLIE BROWN?
Oh the list could go on and on for this one.  The rest of the gang can like Charlie Brown or they can hate him with a passion and there is very little wiggle room in between.  As Charlie Brown has said more than once, he’s either the hero or the goat.  Sadly for him, he is more often the goat.

What is the most enlightening thing CHARLIE BROWN learns through the course of the show?
I’m not quite sure how to answer this without really delving into the finale of the show, and I can’t do that--you'll just have to come see the show for the ending! But in broad strokes, the thing that Charlie Brown learns in this show is that no matter what, his friends are there, even if they can be a little bit crazy at times.

How are those characteristics embodied in you as a performer?
When you really look at him as a character, Charlie Brown can be rather complex since he shows quite a lot of contradiction.  If I’m being brutally honest about myself, I can be that wishy-washy blockhead at times.  But just like Charlie Brown, I am naturally an optimist despite how grim things appear.

What do you find most difficult about portraying CHARLIE BROWN?
The hardest thing about portraying Charlie Brown is to be natural about it.  It is very easy to simply turn Charlie Brown into a caricature of what I see in the cartoon specials because that is always the first thing I think of when I picture the Peanuts gang.  I grew up with these characters, became Charlie Brown for Halloween in second grade--you get the picture.  So it is very easy to get it into my head that that cartoon is how this character is supposed to be.

Why do you think patrons should come see this show over any other options they have for Apr 25-May 4, 2014?
This show is a little gem, but is not performed very frequently. For six performances, Petite Opera offers the unique opportunity to see it and share the lives of the characters. Not only that, but this cast is one of if not the most talented group of people I have ever had the privilege to work with.  And, honestly, this is the quality Petite Opera consistently produces; the company always put on amazing shows featuring amazingly talented people, and demonstrates just astounding quality.

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Petite Opera performs SNOOPY!!! the musical April 25-27, May 2-4, 2014 at Mary Wilson House Beyer Auditorium, part of St. Mary's Episcopal Church campus, 306 S Prospect Ave at Crescent Ave (enter on Crescent Ave), Park Ridge, IL.  Call 847-553-4442 to reserve tickets, or purchase tickets online via credit card (convenience charges apply to credit card orders). 
Petite Opera is a professional 501c3 opera company