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G-K grad ‘making waves’ in Chicago theater scene

Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

The first time Callie Johnson saw “Next to Normal,” she knew this was the musical she really wanted to do.

“I was just blown away by it,” the 2008 Genoa-Kingston High School graduate said. “I knew it was the show I wanted to do. It’s my dream role.”

Johnson, who earned her B.F.A. in musical theater from Columbia College last year, plays Natalie in the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, which runs until Oct. 6 at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. Recommended for mature audiences, the groundbreaking rock musical centers around a mother dealing with biopolar disorder.

Johnson said it’s not a happy show, but it does have “a hopeful ending. It’s a touchy, edgy show. There are a lot of emotional connections on the show. Every time we do it, we are just in tears. It’s about relationships and family and love. It’s a roller coaster ride.”

“Callie is an amazing actress,” director William Ostetek said. “From her first audition for us it was clear that she brought something unique. There is no question that she has the ‘it’ factor.  I believe that one day we will all say we knew her when.”

Jon Fromi, the director of the Genoa-Kingston drama department, said Johnson’s talent was evident even when she was a young student. Since graduating, Johnson has come back to help choreograph dance sequences in some G-K productions, he said.

“She is very well rounded. She’s talented, hard working and very motivated,” he said. “I know the drama department is very proud of what she has done. I knew she had the drive to make good on her goals, which is evident. She is making waves in the Chicago theater scene.”

Johnson played Melba Snyder in the Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of “Pal Joey,” which Chris Johnson of the Chicago Tribune hailed as one of the best female performances of the year. She also spent two summers at the Peninsula Players, performing in “Chicago,” “Murder on the Nile” and “Saloon.”

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