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Jim Corti leads a life in the theater — as first artistic director at Paramount Theatre in Aurora, unveiling its debut Broadway series and directing ‘Aida’ at Drury Lane Oakbrook

Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

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Sitting on the stage of his new creative home is Broadway and Chicago theater veteran Jim Corti, newly named artistic director at the landmark Paramount Theatre in Aurora, where he will produce a series of four major musicals beginning in September.
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Grant Thomas (from left), Monique Haley, Stephanie Umoh (as Aida, center) and Jared Zirilli (Radames, right) star in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Tony Award-winning musical “Aida” at Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook Terrace.

Audiences and performers are celebrating the appointment of Broadway veteran Jim Corti as artistic director at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, where he will produce a four-musical series with live orchestra, opening in September with “My Fair Lady.” His role and the creation of shows in-house are both firsts for the 80-year-old, Art Deco landmark, offering big discounts to early subscribers. Corti was tapped based on a career that includes being the only person to have won Chicago’s prestigious Jeff award in the categories of directing, choreography and acting.

You’ve worked with Bob Fosse and Hal Prince; have they been artistic influences? They have been great teachers. I spent as much time around (them) as I could, even if I wasn’t in a scene or on stage. (I’d stay) near them and watch them work, and soak in as much as I could of the process.

Is dancing one of your talents? I was a professional dancer. I toured for several years with Bob Fosse’s ‘Dancin.’

Is musical theater always your arena? It’s just that I do well at it. I love to do world drama and world literature, (but) you become sort of a commodity. You develop a specialty, and I get called on to do musical theater. I have had opportunities (doing) Victory Gardens Theater’s ‘Lost Boys of Sudan,’ (a) very globally and socially conscious piece; I (worked on) Steven Dietz’ ‘Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.’ That’s a rare opportunity where I get to deal with scenes and ... speaking great language. I love words and I love using that in musical theater — how to lift a lyric, how to lift a line.

Describe the Paramount’s new series. It opens with ‘My Fair Lady’ and closes with ‘Hair’ … quite a spectrum of shows [also ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ and ‘A Chorus Line’]. Really fine music, really fine stories, and thought-provoking — very relevant to our culture and … the way we behave — but very entertaining, as well.

You’re currently directing Elton John’s ‘Aida’ at Drury Lane? Will you be able to continue outside projects? I hope so. My work at Drury Lane is what got me here in a way.

How so? Tim Rater [Paramount executive director] gave me a call. I was stunned to hear from him. He had been following my work at Drury Lane and Writers’ Theatre and Victory Gardens, and proposed this whole idea. It just seemed to feel right in terms of timing. Having an artistic home is something you think about as you mature in your practice. I’m very happy to be here.

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