Singer Darren Criss gives the Goodman Gala a “Teenage Dream”

Wed. May 24, 2023 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

Goodman Theatre has thrived in the Chicago theater scene for over 80 years and returned to its annual fundraiser gala on May 20, 2023, at Fairmont Chicago.

After a brief cocktail reception, attendees moved into the Imperial Ballroom to be entertained by the dynamic Darren Criss. He sang songs from one of his favorite musicals Cabaret for the crowd and was backed by a three-piece band.

The night continued with delicious desserts and dancing to cover tunes from the Gentlemen of Leisure while Criss chatted backstage about filming one day in Chicago for The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, “Even though it was a very grim subject matter, it was wildly exciting for me because I got to come out to Chicago on somebody else's dime and see my friends. I did a scene then ran to iO Theater to see my friend's show. It was the greatest day ever because it was beautiful out.”

At the dinner, Criss sang his cover of Katy Perry's “Teenage Dream” for the donors and later described the historic gay scene on Fox's Glee, “I'm glad that song has had a positive effect on the audience. That is a proud badge of honor and I consider it a privilege. That is why I love playing the song.”

His vast catalog of work includes many holiday songs and he stated, “Christmas music is great music. I think every musician wonders if they will make a Christmas album and the opportunity presented itself to me so I did it.” Criss had not seen Goodman Theatre's classic rendition of A Christmas Carol, but he reminisced about performing the show as a kid at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. He exclaimed, “I love A Christmas Carol!”

His tips for young singers who would like to make their own versions of songs had him quoting Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George “Let it come from you. Then it will be new.” “That is the bedrock of artistry to me, to be yourself and your work is a new thing,” he explained.

The talented singer described the Goodman Theatre Gala crowd as supportive, “It was all theater people. We are here for each other and speak each other's language!”

Director of Goodman's education and community engagement Willa J. Taylor spoke a bit about the musical theater program for young people, “The students will soon be able to talk to the creators of Tommy The Musical opening on June 13. They will learn to write and direct their own pieces when enrolled in the program. There is also an opportunity to learn about podcasting this year. Shure Incorporated has donated equipment to help us do that. It is really wonderful and this will be an exciting summer!”

Find out more about upcoming classes and ticket opportunities for Tony Award winner Pete Townsend's musical at