WESTERN SPRINGS — Tracey Ford has performed with operas in venues stretching from Chicago to Salzburg, Austria. But her latest task is to bring singing to the Theatre of Western Springs, which has featured mostly drama and comedy productions since its founding in 1929.
“Passport to Broadway” will take place Saturday and Sunday in the theater’s mainstage auditorium and serve as a fundraiser for TWS. The show, which Ford labels a “musical revue,” will sample songs from musicals set in different parts of the world, such as “The Sound of Music” (Austria), “Man of La Mancha” (Spain), “Oliver” (England), and several American musicals, including “Oklahoma” and “Annie Get Your Gun.”
Some of the show’s 65 singers — about 40 adults and 25 kids — are experienced singers, but for others, it’s a chance to test their pipes after years without singing. And for some people who were “afraid they couldn’t sing but like to sing,” the show offers a chance to perform for the first time, Ford said.
Producers Sandra Rasnak and Bob Baker, who sings with Ford in the choir at St. John of the Cross Parish, tapped Ford as the show’s musical director because of her musical talents, but also for her communication and leadership skills. The 37-year-old completed her doctorate of musical arts in voice performance and literature at the University of Illinois and teaches private voice lessons in Chicago and the western suburbs.
Originally from Michigan, Ford moved to La Grange a couple of years ago and has worked out of her own studio in Western Springs since last year.
In addition to offering lessons, Ford teaches music appreciation at Joliet Junior College. In 2012, she co-founded the Chicago Broadway Studio, which develops young singing actors. She also offers her own introductory foreign language classes, called Speak Art, which gives kids ages 6 to 12 the chance to learn French or Italian through creating art and singing.
Not to mention that Ford has performed in various roles in shows across the globe, from the First Lady in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in Austria to a chorus member at the Chamber Opera Chicago.
But Ford said she’s never done anything like lead “Passport to Broadway,” which is giving her the chance to work with a variety of people of different music backgrounds. Voice tests were held for the show, but they were not auditions.
“We wanted to invite everyone in the theater to participate,” she said.
To accompany the diverse group, Ford picked music from well-known shows that could be learned quickly.
“Because I know voices really well, I was able to hear people and pick things that were really appropriate for them and highlight their strengths,” she said.
Ford is in charge of the show’s musical efforts, but the show is unique in that it doesn’t feature a star. Although it will include solos, there are eight big chorus numbers that all singers will participate in, Ford said.
Singer Tim Gannon, who is new to the theater, said Ford has made herself available to help all of the cast’s members.
“She’s got a lot of energy, and she knows what she’s talking about,” Gannon said.
The cast has been rehearsing on Thursdays and Sundays, but Ford has also worked with people outside of rehearsals. Ford said she has been struck by the dedication of the show’s cast.
“These people that are singing are putting so much time and effort into it,” she said.
“Passport to Broadway” will take place at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $18 for subscribers and CTWS parents; $20 for the public; and $8 for people high school age and younger. For tickets, call the box office at 708-246-3380 or visit theatreofwesternsprings.com.