Mickey and Judy have nothing on us . . .
Our story begins almost 25 years ago when ABC children's programmer
Michael Eisner green-lighted the Schoolhouse Rock Emmy award-winning
cartoon series that seeped its way into the consciousness of an
Fast forward 20 years when five young Northwestern and Theatre
School at DePaul graduates realized the series would make a great
stage show. We formed the not-for-profit company Theatrebam Chicago
and, after two years of frantic letterwriting, acquired the rights
to adapt Schoolhouse Rock. Schoolhouse Rock Live! opened in 1993
in the basement of Cafe Voltaire in Chicago where the actors shared
their "dressing room" with frozen tomatoes and lettuce.
The show quickly became a cult favorite and attracted the attention
of reporters and critics. SRL! had to move to a larger theatre
to keep up with growing audiences and took up residence at the
Body Politic Theatre. After a two-year sold-out run in Chicago,
the company decided to hook up with another young company and
move Schoolhouse Rock Live! to New York for the summer of 1995.
In an effort to retain creative control of SRL!, we financed
the production ourselves and avoided more established producers
who didn't understand the spirit of the production or wanted to
turn our arts and craft project into a spectacle and a parody
Producing in New York was a maze of unwritten codes and policies.
"We not only successfully mounted the show, but brought the impossible-to-reach
couch potato generation into the theatre," says New York producing
partner, Michelle Cohen. As in Chicago, we carved a niche. We
were both children's fare and a late-night adult attraction. We
gained national media attention, appearing on Good Morning America,
MTV News, National Public Radio, and CNN.
Just as we were gaining the momentum we needed, our short-term
New York lease ended and we found ourselves without a home. Enter
the Lamb's Theatre, a theatre complex and community center owned
and operated by The Lamb's Manhattan Church of the Nazarene. Our
missions complimented eachother. The generous staff at the Lamb's
offered us their theatre and would not take no for an answer.
Their support made it possible for us to reopen in November of
The show triumphantly returned to Chicago in 1996 and ran at
the Victory Gardens Theatre and the Theatre Building until it
closed on March 2, 1997.
Theatrebam Chicago has always been dedicated to reaching out
to school audiences and our abbreviated version of SRL! has been
on the road at least eight times a month since 1993. The production's
diverse audiences have included students from the Cabrini Green
Tutoring Program, the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School, and 3,000
high school students at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival
at the University of Illinois.
ABC has finally begun to realize the potential of their own cartoon
and the Schoolhouse Rock phenomenon is in full force: CD-ROMs,
a cover album with bands like Blind Melon and Pavement, greeting
cards, toys, hats, and brand new songs on Saturdays along with
the release of remastered cartoon videos.
Theatrebam Chicago is thrilled that SRL! is now also available
to other theatre companies and school drama departments through
Music Theatre International. Productions for 1997 include a national
tour, the Canadian premiere, and even a production in London's
We think we can... we think we can...