Mister Rogers inspired Heidi Kettenring to update her show

Heidi Kettenring has played female leads in almost every musical you can name from Nancy in “Oliver!” to Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl,” Eliza in “My Fair Lady,” Anna in “The King and I,” and Nessarose in Broadway in Chicago’s “Wicked,” to name a few.

“Doing a play or a musical, I get to lose myself in the character,” Kettenring said. “It’s a common misconception about many performers that we’re very outgoing and love being the center of attention. I don’t.”

Nevertheless, the multitalented performer will brave the stage as herself for the Artists Lounge Live show “Something Wonderful: Heidi Kettenring in Concert” Aug. 22 at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre.

“The only thing more lovely than Heidi’s voice is the warmth she exudes as a person and a performer,” said Michael Ingersoll, producer of the Artists Lounge Live Series. “She’s funny, whip smart, and real — everything I want when I’m in the audience myself.”

Kettenring said she always enjoys singing for audiences but what she loves most about doing solo concerts is “the storytelling aspect of it.” She noted that this show isn’t focused on a particular artist or genre. Instead it’s about “a hundred years of music and how we’re all connected by music. It’s a common language.”

Kettenring will share “stories about how these songs that I have chosen have affected me and how music is so important to me.”

She performed this show only once before — three years ago at the Metropolis. Kettenring has made several changes, including adding a few more songs which expanded the show to include an intermission.

One of the additions was inspired by Kettenring seeing the documentary about the children’s television performer Mister Rogers. “One of the many things about Fred Rogers was his love of music,” she related. “I went home and put together a medley of Mister Rogers’ songs from his television show.”

Other songs featured are from Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Dolly Parton, and Roberta Flack, among others.

In creating the program, Kettenring said, “I wanted to do songs that were special to me but that were also, for the most part, songs that the audience knew — with my own twist on them. I googled the 100 top hits of every decade of the last century and scanned through them with my list of songs I like to see which ones intersected. I wanted to make sure that there was songs that the audience would know and love, as well as songs that mean something to me. Because that was sort of the point — how music can connect us.”

Kettenring has won critical acclaim for her performances and many honors, including a Jeff Award (seven Jeff Award nominations), two Broadway World Awards, an After Dark Award, and the Sarah Siddons Leading Lady Award. But the honor that means the most to her is the Richard M. Kneeland Award given to her by Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

“Because it’s for having generosity of spirit — basically for being a good person to work with,” she said. “I’m always pleased when people recognize my talent and my work but that was a lovely, surprising gift to me.”

Kettenring will only be in town one day for the concert because she will be in technical rehearsal for “Candide” with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, which runs through mid-September. After that, she returns to Chicago to perform in “Mansfield Park” at Northlight Theatre.

‘Something Wonderful: Heidi Kettenring in Concert’

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22

Where: Artists Lounge Live Series, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights

Tickets: $45; stage tables $50

Information: 847-577-2121; www.metropolisarts.com

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

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