Close your eyes and imagine you’re back at the original Moulin Rouge—seated at a cabaret table in the midst of vibrantly dressed can-can girls and all the Belle Epoque spectacle of Paris at the turn of the last century. Add some circus-inspired (think jugglers, stilt walkers, contortionists, magicians … clowns) entertainment, a glamorous setting under a big white tent, and you’ll have a pretty good idea for what you will be stepping into on July 14 for Citadel Theatre’s 5th annual gala—Cirque de Citadel.
Lake Forest designer Lori Lennon, who is leading the decoration committee for the fundraiser, says the concept was to bring a taste of the Moulin Rouge to the Marriott Resort in Lincolnshire, where the event will be hosted in the facility’s big white tent. “I want the venue to capture the spirit of the original Moulin Rouge—from the spectacle of the can-can dancer to flashes of vivid color to elegant extravagance,” she explains.
Scott Phelps, Citadel’s co-founder and artistic director, is building on this theme with an entertainment lineup unlike anything Citadel gala attendees have seen before. “Lori is such an incredible creative force—she, together with a team of talented and dedicated committee members—has designed the last two gala events for us and these events are made so much better thanks to her vision and design skills,” explains Phelps. “This year, Lori is looking to bring the spirit of the Moulin Rouge to the Citadel gala by working with Samantha and Scott Falbe of Intelligent Lighting Creations to create the lighting mood that is essential to this French circus theme. The floral décor will also support this theme as will the props, sound, performances, and guests.”
In what could be the nonprofit Equity theater company’s most ambitious gala project yet, entertainers will be brought in to mingle with the guests and keep them amazed—culminating in an over-the-top finale.
“The evening will build to a dramatic crescendo as multiple entertainers fill the tent with performances that are sure to surprise and delight,” adds Phelps. “We strive to be the most anticipated event of the summer by bringing extravagant spectacle to our gala events. We think this year’s event will do just that.”
Currently in its 16th year producing professional theater in Lake Forest for theater-goers across Lake County, the nonprofit performing arts organization also provides acting class scholarships to low-income students and conducts regular community outreach activities to bring live theater to those who would not normally have the experience.
The gala, now in its fifth year, is the primary fundraiser for Citadel’s productions and its theater education classes and camps. Guests at Cirque de Citadel will thrill as circus entertainers perform feats of wonder and awe set amid a multi-colored, sparkling feast for the eyes. And there will be delicious, decadent hors d’oeuvres, dinner, and dessert with guests dancing the night away to the musical stylings of the popular Stanley Paul Orchestra.
“We are asking guests to come dressed in color,” says Kevin Sherman, managing director of Citadel. “We expect some guests will come in lavish outfits while others will come dressed in formal and semi-formal attire. It will be a beautiful event, one that is critical to the future of our organization.”
Proceeds from the annual gala comprise roughly 40 percent of Citadel’s operating budget and are what allow the nonprofit entity to do the outreach work in the community. From free performances to community groups and individuals who could not otherwise afford, to attend to alliances with the USO of Illinois and other charitable organizations, Sherman emphasizes that Citadel does much more than put on shows in its Lake Forest theater.
Phelps adds that the success of galas such as this one are what will allow Citadel to grow and expand programming.
“We have big plans on the horizon, including a new Theatre for Young Audiences program in which we will perform children’s theater to the local community utilizing the terrific Gorton Community Center,” he says. “We also are holding the first annual Citadel 10-Minute Play Contest in which we are taking submissions from playwrights across the country.”
As Cirque de Citadel prepares to present the event of the summer, Phelps and Sherman are looking ahead to the fall season. With two recent Joseph Jefferson Recommendations in hand, Citadel heads into fall with The Little Foxes, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Sentimental Journey: A Musical WWII Love Story by Robby Lehman.
If that’s not enough of a reason to don a Moulin Rouge-inspired ensemble for a summer evening unlike any other, we don’t know what is. The magic of Paris awaits …
The 5th Annual Citadel Summer Gala will be held from 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, July 14 under the big white tent at Lincolnshire Marriott, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. For more information and to purchase event tickets, tables, and/or advertising/sponsorships, visit citadeltheatre.org/gala or contact Managing Director Kevin Sherman at 847-735-8554 or [email protected]