For the 2010 telecast of the 61st Annual Tony Awards, I recall how the next day, a number of Times readers called or emailed me to alert about a local face who was all smiles on stage as one of the winners.
The Tony Awards, honoring the best in live performance, is one of the best ways to get a sneak preview of shows and talents likely to visit Chicago thanks to the thriving theater district.
Actress Katie Finneran, 41, accepted the award that year for "Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical" for the play "Promises, Promises." She was up against both Barbara Cook and Angela Lansbury in this same category.
Finneran has some wonderful regional ties.
Reader Jay Blackburn was kind enough to send an email to me explaining just how "close to home" this young talent is to our Times readership.
Katie's parents Kathy and Denny Finneran were born and raised in Calumet City, Ill. They graduated from Thorton Fractional North and lived in Calumet City for some time after college. Their house was next door to my home in Calumet City, which they later sold to Denny's brother Doug. Her parents then later moved to Homewood/Flossmor area, before relocating to Miami. I think Katie was born while they still lived here, so there is certainly some region connection. Thanks, Jay Blackburn"
Earlier this week, I gave a glowing review to a Chicagoland Broadway-worthy production of "Annie" at Paramount Theatre in Aurora, which reminded me it's also time to give readers an update on Katie and her busy Broadway career in New York City.
A 35th Anniversary production of "Annie" opened at the Palace Theatre on Broadway with previews starting Oct. 3 and the official "red carpet" opening earlier this month on Nov. 8. Thomas Meehan revised the musical, with James Lapine directing. It stars Lilla Crawford stars as Annie and Anthony Warlow playimg Daddy Warbucks, with our own Katie Finneran as mean Miss Hannigan running the orphanage.
And for those who know nicer-than-imaginable Katie, playing the gin-swigging, tyrant of tykes must take some very good acting. In 2010, she married actor Darren Goldstein.
I still remember the great speech she shared after winning her Tony, which was especially directed to young audience members and viewers.
"Most of all, I want to talk to the kids at home, watching," she said.
"I was a kid, and I watched this show, and it seemed so far away for me. I want to tell you that all of us up on this stage and in the audience, we felt the same way. And, with the world being so fast right now, I want to remind you to focus on what you love, because it is the greatest passport and greatest road map to an extraordinarily blissful life. Just focus on that one thing. Don't listen to anyone else. And you will run into the right people, the right teachers, the right moments and right circumstances. And you will meet the same people who share this love of the theater."