Creator of A Tale of Two Cities, the Musical, Visits Prairie Ridge

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Creator of A Tale of Two Cities, the Musical, Visits Prairie Ridge

Tale of Two Cities musical author Jill Santoriello (first row, second from left) poses with the musical's directors.

Tale of Two Cities musical author Jill Santoriello (first row, second from left) poses with the musical's directors.

Photo provided by Mr. Dusenske

Tale of Two Cities musical author Jill Santoriello (first row, second from left) poses with the musical's directors.

Photo provided by Mr. Dusenske

Photo provided by Mr. Dusenske

Tale of Two Cities musical author Jill Santoriello (first row, second from left) poses with the musical's directors.

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The students involved in Prairie Ridge’s spring musical, A Tale of Two Cities, received a very special visit from the award winning composer, lyricist, and author of the musical, Jill Santoriello. Jill came for a surprise visit on the last day of performances to watch the show and speak with the cast and crew before rushing back to her life in New York.

David Jensen, the director, reached out to Jill over email, informing her about Prairie Ridge’s production. He expected a response from a publicist stating that Jill was too busy, not a direct reply from Jill, herself. She said that she regrettably could not come to see the show due to her many engagements in New York. However, she did post a shout-out on Facebook to all involved in the production, wishing them good luck.

The interaction between Jensen and Santoriello did not stop there. Jill sent a message during the second weekend’s Friday night show saying that a flight to O’Hare had just become available and it seemed possible that she would be able to attend the final matinee, after all.

The surprised looks on the students’ faces were priceless as Jensen introduced Jill and she walked into the room. Sylvia Hensley, a sophomore in the cast stated that she was “so surprised and excited [that she] immediately started crying tears of joy and shock.”

Jensen even made time for a Q & A session and the students were able to ask her about the show and life in New York. Sylvia asked Jill about her favorite songs from the show and the response was “Let Her Be A Child” closely followed by “Everything Stays the Same.”

Nick DesBiens, a senior who played the devious John Barsad, asked about her current project. Jill explained that she was working on the music and lyrics to something called It Happened in Key West, a romantic comedy based on shocking events that occurred in the 1930s.

There were even some funny questions thrown in the mix. Sophomore Jared Arkell asked Jill if she had ever gone to the Tony Awards. She responded with “No, can you take me?” which received many laughs.

The main take away for many of the students was the impact A Tale of Two Cities had on all who saw it and how inspiring it was to meet the brain behind such an influential show. AJ Weber, a junior who played Dr. Alexander Manette, expressed that “Jill had some wonderful insight into how we portrayed her production. I also thought it was really cool that she flew out here on a whim to see a random high school perform her show.”

Tim Blakewell, the pit band director, showed his appreciation for the experience in saying “I thought it was great that she was able to relate to the students so well and that she was willing to give so much time to meeting the students and talking to them.”

Jensen explains that “as exciting as it was for us to meet Jill and have her in attendance for our interpretation of her show, it was equally as exciting for her to see her show brought to life again. She said that the joy of watching performances of her show is discovered in that the story is only alive when it is being performed. This transparency made her both approachable and allowed all of us who love breathing life into stories to connect with the author and enjoy the process just a little bit more. We were able to give her a gift that multiplied her joy, just as she gave us a gift in the authoring of this rendition of A Tale of Two Cities and sharing our closing day with us.”

It is clear that this rare opportunity was not lost on the students or the directors and they will take this memory with them as an inspiration for future endeavors.

Photo provided by Mr. Dusenske

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