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Lombard actor brings laughter to rotating stage

Published: Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 11:16 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Aug. 25, 2014 1:54 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Provided photo)
Johanna Miller stars as Claire in the "On the Town" musical comedy, which opens Aug. 20 at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. (Provided photo)

LOMBARD – Would you spend 24 hours in New York City helping a friend find the love of his life?

Claire, a character portrayed by Lombard resident Johanna Miller in the musical comedy, “On the Town,” travels through the city with three sailors in the 1940s to help one of the sailors find his crush.

Miller describes Claire as a scientist who likes to have fun and said her character experiences a conflict with the sailor who’s searching for love.

“I think all of the characters feel the clock ticking of the 24 hours,” Miller said of The Marriott Theatre production in Lincolnshire. “She has to be around him for the amount of time she can.”

Miller, who has lived in Lombard nearly 10 years, began acting in theater as a child and has been a professional actor for 12 years.

She started a local theatre called Lombard Children’s Theatre Workshop, which includes a four-day intensive camp for youth.

“We had 50 kids this year. They write their own show, come up with their characters’ names, costumes and we guide them through it,” Miller said. “They all work with professional actors. It’s really fun and a great location for what I do.”

Storytelling and building relationships fuels Miller’s passion for acting. She said she’s had a wonderful time working with her cast members.

“This has been a delightful and sweet group of people,” Miller said. “They’re hardworking and willing to take chances.”

Alex Sanchez, choreographer for the musical, said Miller is funny both in person and on stage.

“Whenever she’s in the room, there’s always laughter,” he said. “We have a humor approach to the work, but we still get our work done.”

“On the Town” first came to Broadway in 1944. It was written by choreographer Jerome Robbins and contains music from composer Leonard Bernstein. Sanchez said it’s the first set of showings for the musical in the Chicago area.

Miller said rehearsal for the play is like a full-time job, with cast members rehearsing eight hours a day, Monday through Saturday, the last three weeks. She’s eager to finally see what audiences think about her complicated character.

The theater, which seats nearly 1,000 people, features arena seating.

“The audience is on all four sides and there’s no backstage. You’re very exposed on the stage,” Miller said. “It gives the audience a different perspective.”

Miller doesn’t experience stage fright but said she’s nervous about the technical elements involved in the musical.

The actors must dance on a giant, rotating turntable. Miller compared it to the sensation of gliding on a moving walkway at O’Hare Airport.

“There’s some hard dancing happening on it while it’s moving,” Miller said of the stage. “The timing gets very tricky. It has to end in a specific place on the stage.”

Fortunately, Miller said she’s surrounded by gifted dancers who make it look easy.

“It’s a lot of dancing,” Sanchez added. “It’s part of the language in the show.”

– – – –

If you go

WHAT: "On the Town"

WHERE: The Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire

WHEN: The show previews Saturday and Sunday and continues Wednesdays through Sundays until Oct. 12

TICKETS: Prices range from $40 to $48, call the theatre box office at 847-630-0200 for more information.

INFO: Visit  for showtimes

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