Billy Seger’s first exposure to the Raue Center for the Arts, in Crystal Lake, happened before it became a regional hub of entertainment, before its namesake, Lucile Raue, left a generous donation to save a historical movie house and support its restoration and rebirth.
These days, Seger serves as Raue Center’s institutional advancement associate on a team that’s celebrating the venue’s 20th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion – and the return of performers following COVID shutdowns – Raue Center is launching a bold lineup of entertainment this season.
“It seems like everybody has gotten behind us,” says Richard Kuranda, CEO. “We are so fortunate to carry on the legacy and hold these standards high.”
Kuranda and his team aim to provide a little something for everyone as they bring local dance companies, musical artists, comedians, professional actors, touring acts and more in the coming months.
Leading into a busy holiday-season lineup, Raue Center introduces its newest addition: Lynne Jordan, a singer and actress who was named the venue’s first Diva in Residence. Jordan, who first appeared with Raue this past summer, presents a series of shows over the coming months, as she shares everything from contemporary standards to her own original works, including a one-woman show where she delves into the life and work of Nina Simone. Jordan’s next appearances are scheduled for Nov. 19 and Jan. 15.
On Nov. 20, Raue Center welcomes the talented cooks of television’s “MasterChef” and “MasterChef Jr.” Their interactive show promises a messy good time for the whole family.
The following week, as downtown Crystal Lake welcomes the Christmas season with a holiday parade, Raue Center’s marquee lights up for Heartache Tonight, an authentic tribute to The Eagles.
The Christmas season begins in full on Dec. 4 and 5, when Raue Center mounts its own take on a time-honored classic, “A Christmas Carol: Panto Edition.” Adapted from the well-loved story by Charles Dickens, this production promises to be an interactive, fun, family-friendly show that includes young performers from Raue Center’s Sage on Stage education program. The show plays daily through Dec. 12.
“This ‘Christmas Carol’ gets the whole audience involved,” says Kuranda. “It’s a great active, fun show with lots of singing, shouting and overall audience joy.”
Elgin Symphony Orchestra pays its first visit on Dec. 10 with a special holiday spectacular that might include a cameo appearance from St. Nick.
Engage Dance Theater, a local dance academy for children and adults, arrives Dec. 18-19 for performances of the classic ballet “The Nutcracker.”
Closing things out for the holidays, Raue Center hosts its traditional New Year’s bash on Dec. 31 with radio personality Steve Cochran and friends. They’ll lead a comedy show before a performance by American English, an authentic Beatles cover band.
The new year brings even more excitement with the return of Lucy’s Comedy Cafe, appearances by GreenRoom Improv, and tribute acts by Blooze Brothers and Think Floyd, among other shows.
On the horizon, keep an eye out for the return of Raue Center’s in-house theatrical troupe, Williams Street Repertory. They’re planning to return March 18-April 16 with “Always…Patsy Cline,” a moving musical about the country star and her friend, Louise Seger.
Meanwhile, the team at Raue Center is also investing in the future of theater with the debut of a new performing arts school. The Raue Center School for the Arts now gives students a performative experience, where they take classes but also join in actual productions on the Raue Center stage. Through this process, the students learn not only how to perform, but how to be complete workers in the industry. Classes include topics on acting, singing and dancing as well as theater production, lighting and sound.
What’s perhaps most beneficial is that this practicum puts youngsters onstage alongside professional performers.
“It’s a cool experience for these local youths to be led by these professional actors and have a chance to be a part of a professionally produced production,” says Seger.
Looking toward the future, Kuranda and his team are eager to build upon this community within a community.
“With what we’ve been through the past 18 months, to see that we’re still standing and growing, and that we’re still strong, our team is incredible,” says Seger. “I love everything that the Raue Center stands for.” ❚
Raue Center for the Performing Arts is located at 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake, (815) 356-9212, rauecenter.org.