There is something extra special about the Broadway musical "Chicago" for actor, singer and dancer Drew Nellessen.
"It was the very first Broadway show I ever saw," said Nellessen, who is once again part of a national tour, his third time touring in the stage hit, which is playing it's namesake city later this month.
Trained dancer-actors know that the jazzy moves of master choreographer Bob Fosse are critical to their education and experience.
Nellessen, a 2003 graduate of Valparaiso High School and a May 2007 graduate of Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., spent nearly two years in the spotlight for the step-by-step favorite choreography feat when "Chicago" last played the Windy City on tour in 2009.
As a member of the Broadway tour of "Chicago," Nellessen traveled the world, performing in Thailand and other exotic destinations, as part of the ensemble.
And just like the last tour, Nellessen is sharing the stage with John O'Hurley of "Dancing with the Stars" notoriety, who plays slick, singing attorney Billy Flynn. For this latest run, Nellessen is also playing an attorney, Aaron, the mouthpiece who must defend Hunyak, the Hungarian murderess who faces hanging for doing-in her husband "who had it coming."
The tour run plays Bank of America Theatre in Chicago Feb. 25 until March 02.
"Even though I live in New York City and have my apartment there, I've always known what a great theater city Chicago is," said Nellessen, son of Ann and Dan Nellessen of Valparaiso.
So when producers from Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre in Lincolnshire, Ill. put out a casting call in 2010 for a new production of the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning musical "A Chorus Line," Nellessen was ready to get in line and was cast for a plum role for the two month-run in September 2010. Nellessen in the role of Bobby, a young, quirky and promising dancer. He played Bobby, who uses humor to hide his unhappy childhood and confesses his hobby is secretly re-arranging other people's furniture.
Next, he dusted off his passport for the international tour of "West Side Story" playing the roles of Riff and Diesel.
While on this national tour of "Chicago," last September, Nellessen stopped by his college alma mater between opening engagements in St. Louis and Peoria to meet with senior musical theater majors to discuss a variety of industry related topics. He also taught a "Fosse master class" to students enrolled in Theatre Dance and Upper Level Jazz and Ballet classes.
Most recently, he also served as the performing dance captain for the recently revised production of "Good News" at the prestigious Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut.
"The focus for musicals is entirely on the ability to connect with the audience as each character shares his or her story and background," Nellessen said.
At tour stop in Chicago is also special to Nellessen, since the large and grand stage spaces served as his "outside the classroom" education preparing him for his one-day career.
"It means a lot to me because these are the Chicagoland theaters I grew up going to with my parents," Nellessen said.
He also hopeful that he could be spending this summer in Chicago, if cast in new adaptation of "Brigadoon," the musical by Alan Jay Lerner, with music by Frederick Loewe to be directed by Chicago's own Rachel Rockwell in the Albert Theatre at Goodman Theater June 27 to Aug. 3.
An unforgettable musical adventure comes alive in a bountiful hailed as an artist of “astounding and very rare talents” by Chicago Tribune.
"Brigadoon," which launched on Broadway in 1947, details the story of American tourists Tommy and Jeff, who get lost on vacation in Scotland and stumble into Brigadoon, a mythical village that appears for only one day every 100 years. As the plot details, no "outsider" can stay in Brigadoon unless they fall in love, and no resident can ever leave or the village will vanish forever. So when Tommy falls for a village girl, he is forced to choose between returning to the world that he knows—or taking a chance on life and love in the mysterious Brigadoon.