Front Row – Isabella Marotti (Alais), Jonathan Meier (Henry), Jill Reznick Meier (Eleanor)
Back Row – Will Gonzalez (Phillip), Dan Haller (Geoffrey), Troy Peterson (John), Leandro Ocampo (Richard)
The Mundelein Summer Theatre production of The Lion in Winter will be a family affair with MHS Theatre Director Jonathan Meier playing the role of King Henry II and his wife, Jill Reznick Meier, playing the role of the queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.
The remainder of the cast is comprised of alumni and current students of Mundelein Theatre. The play is being directed by Timothy Ortmann, recently the Fine Arts Department Chair at Niles North High School.
“Eleanor is a wickedly wonderful woman,” said Jill Meier. “I’ve had quite a bit of practice being Mr. Meier’s wife, so very much looking forward to playing the Queen to his King in this finely crafted piece of theatre.”
The play, which runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, July 20, 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., tells the story of the Plantagenet family, who are locked in a free-for-all of competing ambitions to inherit a kingdom. The queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, has been kept in prison since raising an army against her husband, King Henry II. Let out for the holidays, the play centers around the inner conflicts of the royal family as they fight over the kingdom during Christmas of 1183.
“Jill and I have been talking about performing in this play together for years,” Jonathan Meier said. “When we found out that Tim (Ortmann) was available to direct, that sealed the deal. And getting to perform with so many of my students is wonderful.”
Ortmann has directed or produced more than 200 productions. He was named National Teacher of the Year, and his program at Niles North was recognized as Best in the Nation by the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts.
“I love this play,” said Ortmann. “It's witty and wicked. It has all the majesty of medieval royalty and all the backstabbing of the last season of Succession - deliciously vicious.”
Ortmann is no stranger to Mundelein Theatre.
“I have had the distinct joy of seeing several Mundelein shows over the years and have always been delighted and impressed. There's so much talent in this community,” Ortmann said. “The auditions for this show were wonderful. The folks who will portray the younger royal generation are terrific. And I'm so excited to work with Jill and Jonathan Meier. I have great respect for both as artists and as human beings. What a privilege to be a part of this project.”
This is not the first time that the Meiers have appeared together onstage. They met and fell in love when they were cast together in a show in Chicago in 1985. They have been married for 34 years and have three adult children. They have twice appeared on the MHS stage, each time performing the play Love Letters as a fundraiser for Mundelein Theatre.
Portraying the sons of Henry and Eleanor are Leandro Ocampo (Class of 2024) as Richard Lionheart, Dan Haller (Class of 2018) as Geoffrey, and Troy Peterson (Class of 2012) as John. Will Gonzalez (Class of 2023) plays Phillip, King of France, and Isabella Marotti (Class of 2020) portrays Alais, a French princess.
The Lion in Winter, by James Goldman, will be performed with the audience sitting onstage in a 200-seat thrust configuration, so purchasing tickets in advance is recommended. Tickets, $15 for adults and $10 for students, can be purchased online at www.mundeleintheatre.org. Tickets will also be on sale at the door, 30 minutes prior to each performance.