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Book and Lyrics by Fran Zell

Music by Karena Mendoza

Five women at a gym turn their obsession with weight into a steady diet of friendship. Each focuses on her appearance while harboring a secret she is afraid to share. During the course of a rigged game of Truth or Dare, everyone has the opportunity to come clean and test her own capacity for friendship. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.


1133 W Catalpa Ave

February 5 at 8 pm 

February 8 at 3 pm 

February 11 at 8 pm 

February 14 at 7 pm and 10 pm

February 16 at 3 pm

February 20 at 8 pm

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Creative Team

Fran Zell (book and lyrics) Fran Zell got the idea for VERVE while working out to music and side chatter at a women's gym. She is a freelance journalist, and also writes fiction and poetry. Her musical, Midsummer Night’s Scream, with composer Sidney Friedman, had staged readings in summer 2018 with Hyde Park Community Players in Chicago. Other plays include Minister of Loneliness, Reading Ann K, and Meat Marketing, which was produced at the Love Creek Productions festival of one act plays in New York. She is a former feature writer for the Chicago Tribune and author of The Marcy Stories, which won the Banta Award for literary achievement from the Wisconsin Library Association. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, and ASCAP, and was affiliated with the former Midwest New Musicals, which produced staged readings of VERVE at Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago and Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, IL.

Karena Mendoza (music) Karena Mendoza's award-winning music reflects the vibrant atmosphere of her native South Africa and richness of Vienna, Austria where she furthered her training. Her musical, Reasonable Terms, was featured in Underscore Theatre's 2014 Chicago Musical Theatre festival and won the 2013 Art of Adaptation Festival sponsored by City Lit Theater. Other awards include Best Song Writing at the New York International Fringe Festive for Africa & Plumbridge and the Parents' Gold Choice Award for the children's CD, On the Loose (with Pomes in a Pail). She was commissioned to compose music for Dario's Archangels Don’t Play Pinball at North Park University. Other musicals include The Gift of Mrs. Magi with Charmaine Spencer; Marcie the Marvelous Tree with Larry Carpenter; and Requiem for a Refugee, a choral work. Mendoza was affiliated with the former Midwest New Musicals, where VERVE was developed.

Joan Mazzonelli (Director)

Mo Yeh (Music Director)

Angela Allyn (Choreographer)

Sophie Goddard (Stage Manager)


Erin Renee Baumrucker (Carrie)

Elizabeth Rentfro (Monica)

Marian Kaderbek (Jeanette)

Samantha Jo Russell (Amy Rose)

Maiko Terazawa (Linda)

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