Over 1,400 guests packed the Harris Theater in Millennium Park for the red carpet opening night of rock fusion world musical Sita Ram in December. A multi-layered collaboration between the Chicago Children's Choir, the critically-acclaimed Natya Dance Theatre and the Lookingglass Theatre Company, Sita Ram retold the sacred Hindu love story, Ramayana, through song, dance, drama, fashion and design by talent from around the world all on one stage.
Chicago Children's Choir president and artistic director, Josephine Lee, commissioned Lookingglass Theatre's founding ensemble member and artistic director David Kersnar to write Sita Ram with a score by Grammy-nominated world musician Jai Uttal to reflect the cultural diversity of Chicago and the world in 2002.
"The story behind Sita Ram is just as exciting as the action-adventure Star Wars, has just as much love in it as Shakespeare's Romeo and Julietand is as popular in East Asia as Homer's The Odyssey is in Western culture," director David Kersnar said. "It tells the tale of how all the world's creatures lie down their differences and come together for a common goal."
Fusing ancient Eastern and modern Western culture, the ambitious production featured seven scenes and nearly 200 principle players. Costumes designed by the visionary behind the Atelier AZZA line, Azeeza Desai Khan, nearly stole the show, as her high-fashion aesthetic brought glamour to the stage. AZZA's signature silks and Swarvorski crystal embellishments shimmered as the players moved under the spotlights. An extraordinary feat for an emerging designer, Khan created 1,000 couture clothing pieces and oversaw 30 costume changes throughout the musical. Not a single outfit was repeated.
The show opened with a celebration spectacle: dancing choreographed by Natya Theatre's award-winning Krithika Rajagopalan, choir choreography by the Chicago Children's Choir's Judy Hanson and acrobats from the Inappropriate Theatre Company all took the stage simultaneously without missing a beat.
Scott Neale designed the set with simple scaffolding that served as a skeletal frame for the whirlwind of color and life on stage. For the grand finale, the set unveiled a backdrop painting of the monkey-like god, Hanuman, who had been behind the scenes the whole time.
VIP guests enjoyed a pre-party cocktail reception at the Harris Theater that featured hand-crafted sweets by Sugar Hills Bakery, Cattier Champagne, Purus vodka, complimentary Indian-inspired costume jewelry and post-performance transportation to the private after party at Embeya. After the show, guests mingled with the cast at Embeya and celebrated a successful opening night with authentic henna art, food and drinks.
The show was made possible by the host committee, generous donors and sponsors that included Walgreens, AVision Chicago, PUBLIC Chicago, KBE Entertainment, Rachel DeMarte and Jim and Ginger Meyer.
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