The Scene

Theatre 121 in Woodstock plans engaging lineup

Hit musicals part of troupe’s season headed to Woodstock Opera House

Pictured left to right: Christina Giorgi (Shelby), Tracey Lanman (M'Lynn)  in Theatre 121's "Steel Magnolias" in 2024 at Woodstock Opera House.

A lot of heart is evident onstage and behind the scenes as Theatre 121 continues its fourth season with “Steel Magnolias” from April 12 to 28.

Pictured left to right: Tracy Parr (Truvy), Nora Brown (Annelle) in Theatre 121's "Steel Magnolias" in 2024 at Woodstock Opera House.

The poignant and humorous play, anchored in the power of friendships, is set in a small-town beauty salon in Louisiana. Written as a tribute to the playwright’s late sister, it resonates deeply with director Jordan Rakittke, vice president of the Theatre 121 board.

Pictured top to bottom: Tracey Lanman, Nora Brown, Alison Hage, Julie Brouton, Tracy Parr, Christina Giorgi  in Theatre 121's "Steel Magnolias" in 2024 at Woodstock Opera House.

Rakittke said she asked to direct it “to share this story the way I felt it should be shared. When I was an early teen, my neighbor passed away [at age] 22 from ovarian cancer. I watched her mom go through that with her with strength I’d never seen another [person] show.”

Shortly thereafter, Rakittke viewed the “Steel Magnolias” film, not anticipating a similar set of circumstances.

“The connection between the story of Shelby and the story of my neighbor was just so connected for me that it’s held a special place in my heart,” she said. “It’s a tribute to everyone we ever lost. It’s an emotional show.”

She describes the women starring in the play as brilliant actors, who tap into hurtful, traumatic parts of their own lives to give the story the emotional integrity it deserves. In the characters, audience members will see bits of their own circle of women, she said.

Pictured left to right: Julie Brouton (Ouiser), Alison Hage Clairee)  in Theatre 121's "Steel Magnolias" in 2024 at Woodstock Opera House.

People who purchase tickets to the opening night performance of any production automatically are invited to the evening’s reception, offering light snacks and photo ops, along with the chance to meet cast and crew.

Rakittke, who has been hooked on performance since the age of 3, became part of the theater world in Woodstock a decade ago, initially with TownSquare Players, which would merge with Woodstock Musical Theatre Company to form Theatre 121. The experience prompted her to move to Woodstock.

“This [is] my Theatre 121 family, and they mean the world to me,” she said.

Capping the current season will be a Stephen Sondheim musical thriller, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” playing June 21 to 30.

“This show is going to be awesome,” she said.

The director and choregrapher will be Billy Seger, who oversees theater productions at Woodstock High School, Rakittke said. For “Sweeney Todd,” Seger teams up with voice coach Alayna DeVar, who operates The Vocal Academy in Crystal Lake.

“They are a fabulous team,” Rakittke said.

Theatre 121 will benefit from planned renovations at its home base, the Woodstock Opera House. Already, the troupe has a new LED wall that enhances set capabilities, she said.

The theater company recently revealed the lineup for the 2024-25 season, featuring one swashbuckling play, “The Three Musketeers,” and three fresh musicals: “A Christmas Story,” “Groundhog Day” and “The Prom.”

“We only use live orchestras – it contributes to the experience of seeing a performance,” Rakittke said.

She added that theater auditions are open to anyone.

“We try to make auditions accessible for everybody,” she said. “You can come in and be comfortable and show us what you have. Theater is for everybody who’s ever dreamt of performing on a stage. If you fit the part, we’ve got a spot for you.”


• WHAT: Theatre 121 presents “Steel Magnolias”

• WHERE: Woodstock Opera House, 121 Van Buren St., Woodstock

• WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, April 12-28


Renee Tomell

Renee Tomell

Covering the arts and entertainment scene in northern Illinois, with a focus on the Fox River Valley.