20-year legacy continues for Emily McCabe Musical Theater Program


MOKENA, IL — The Emily McCabe Musical Theater Program is back and celebrating its 20th year of productions with children in kindergarten through eighth grade. This year’s lineup will include productions from “The Music Man Jr.” and “It’s a jungle out there!”

According to Meg McCabe, co-producer of the program for Emily McCabe, the Emily McCabe Musical Theater Program, or Camp, was started 20 years ago by the Curtain Call Theater in Mokena to fill the need for a performance venue for children.

The program was named after Meg McCabe’s daughter, Emily, shortly after her death when the program was first developed, McCabe said. Emily McCabe had been involved in Curtain Call Theater productions before her death.

“Because of his enthusiasm and love for the theater, after his passing [Curtain Call] asked us if they could name the camp after him,” McCabe said.

McCabe said it was a fitting tribute to her daughter’s life.

“It was the perfect memorial to her,” McCabe said. “It was something she loved. It’s something that’s been very near and dear to our whole family’s hearts for 20 years.”

And now, 20 years later, the tradition lives on. The Emily McCabe Musical Theater Program offers young actors in two age groups the opportunity to take the stage and showcase their talents. “It’s a jungle out there!” features children in kindergarten through third grade, while “The Music Man Jr.” is intended for children in grades four to eight.

McCabe said the productions are chosen based on the number of roles available for children so that each participant has the opportunity to speak in the productions. There is also a learning component in the productions, McCabe said.

“Some of the old musicals are a period piece of a space in time that they may not be familiar with, so we also believe that children benefit and learn by doing something over a period that they do not may not know,” McCabe said.

McCabe said she’s proud of the fact that for the past 20 years, the Emily McCabe schedule has been consistently packed each year, and people often comment on the quality of each production the group performs.

“A lot of people said they really looked like high school productions,” she said. “We pull out all the stops for costumes, sets and sets. And we challenge the kids to perform to the best of their abilities for their dancing and singing.”

McCabe added that staff who work with children deserve a lot of credit. Many of the staff are high school educators with extensive experience in plays and musicals, she said. Some staff even took the Emily McCabe program when they were younger and came back to pass it on to the next generation.

The productions are divided into two camps: “The Music Man Jr.” is a five-week camp that begins June 13 and “It’s a Jungle Out There!” is a four-week camp that also begins June 13. Each camp meets Monday through Thursday at St. Mary’s School in Mokena. The camps have a morning session and an afternoon session.

“It’s a jungle out there!” is set to take place July 7 at Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox. “The Music Man Jr.” is scheduled to take place July 15-17, also at Lincoln-Way Central.

Registration is open for the camps of both productions. Each camp has two groups: one that rehearses in the morning from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the other in the afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Entry cost is $425 for “The Music Man Jr.” and $325 for “It’s a Jungle Out There!” Registration is open to any child in the southern and southwestern suburbs who wants to participate, regardless of past experience or where they live, McCabe said.

For more information or to register for any of the productions, visit the Curtain call theater website.

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