'John & Jen' a 'heartfelt show' about families

Photo ProvidedCharlie Johnson, portraying a son, and Mallory Williams as his mother rehearse a scene in DLO Musical Theatre's "John & Jen." They're at a Little League game; he's sliding into base and his mother is cheering him on. DLO offers a dinner show Thursday through Saturday and a dessert only performance at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Harrison Park Clubhouse in Danville. The show will be performed at 7 p.m. Feb. 22-23 in Hoopeston's Lorraine Theatre.

DANVILLE — A DLO Musical Theatre play about relationships will make its debut on Valentine’s Day.

“John & Jen” will open at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with a dinner performance at Harrison Park Clubhouse. Dinner-shows also will be presented at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and a dessert-only performance will be at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, all at the clubhouse.

Also, a show-only performance will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 22-23 at the Lorraine Theatre in Hoopeston. Learn more at its website.

“This musical will grab you by the heart,” Director Paul Strain said. “There are moments here that we can all see a piece of ourselves in.”

He described “John & Jen” as a drama, but added, “It has funny moments.”

It’s rated PG for mature audiences.

The show features just two people: DLO veteran Mallory Williams as Jen and Charlie Johnson as John (both the brother and the son). Music is directed by Chrissy Sparks.

Strain said DLO decided to present a small show in light of the fact that so many people are involved in the upcoming “Beauty and the Beast.” That show will be presented March 16-17 in collaboration with the Danville Symphony Orchestra at Danville High School.

“John & Jen” follows Jen and her relationships with the two Johns of her life: her younger brother and his namesake, the son who is trying to find his way in a confusing world. Jen and her younger brother, John, are growing up in a dysfunctional home in mid-century America.

As the country becomes divided over the war in Vietnam, so does the family, and battle lines are drawn between the once-close siblings. As an adult, Jen must deal with the realities of a fractured upbringing, divorce, and an increasingly strained relationship with her son.

Johnson, who’s starring in his first DLO show, said, “It’s a heartfelt show about how cultural events of the late 20th century changed how families interacted with each other.”

It’s so touching, he said, that he and Williams sometimes cry a little bit at the end when they’re rehearsing.

He plays two roles— as Jen’s brother in flashbacks to their childhood and as her son.

Being in a two-person cast is “definitely a lot more work and a lot more draining,” he said. But it’s also good in that he can go at his own pace.

Johnson encouraged people to come to the dinner-theater, saying the food is amazing. Also, the Harrison Park Clubhouse is an intimate venue with such good acoustics that the actors don’t need microphones.

For the dinner, diners will have a choice of entrees: pork chops, stuffed chicken breast and vegetarian pasta; green beans, potato, rolls and drinks.

The dessert will be chocolate lava cake, bread pudding, cherry pastry pockets and toffee.

Title sponsor is Royal Donut.

The music is by Andrew Lippa, who also wrote music for several Broadway hits such as “Big Fish,” “The Addams Family,” and “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Lyrics are by Tom Greenwald, and the book is a collaboration of both men.

“John & Jen” had off-Broadway runs, in 2005 and 2015.


Tickets for the dinner performances are $38 for adults and $25 for students. The dessert performance is $25 for adults and $15 for students.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.dlomusicaltheatre.com, by phone at 431-1660, or at the Village Mall weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon.

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