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Amateurs happy to pay the price of fame as part of Chicago Casting Auction

Lili-Anne Brown Bailiwick Chicago artistic director Amy Robbins Northbrook (cast as Rachel) Bailiwick Chicago Theater’s Chicago Casting Aucti| Phoby Jeremy

Lili-Anne Brown, Bailiwick Chicago artistic director, and Amy Robbins of Northbrook (cast as Rachel) at Bailiwick Chicago Theater’s Chicago Casting Auction | Photo by Jeremy Rill

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‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’

◆ Bailiwick Chicago Theater, Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.,

◆ Previews are 7:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; regular run is 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31-Feb. 2.

◆ $20 previews ($15 ages 12 and under), $45-$55 regular run.

◆ (773) 969-6201;

Updated: January 25, 2013 6:25PM

Fran and Harvey Kaluzna and Amy Robbins have had some of the best roles on stage that money can buy.

That’s because the three suburbanites are annual participants in the Chicago Casting Auction, an event where non-professional actors can bid for a part in a popular show.

The Kaluznas, who live in Buffalo Grove, are playing the Pharaoh and his Queen in this year’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Bailiwick Chicago Theater. Northbrook resident Robbins has a heavenly role of Rachel the Angel.

“They’re fun roles,” Fran said of the parts she and her husband are playing. “We’re going to try to be as outrageous as we possibly can. We’ve got big headpieces and Harvey’s wearing an Elvis wig.”

This is the ninth show that the Kaluznas have been in through the auction. “One of our friends was in the show a couple of years earlier and she invited us to see her,” Fran said. “We thought, ‘Boy, this is a lot of fun,’ so we decided we wanted to do it, too.”

Although Harvey has sung and played the guitar since he was a teenager, neither he nor Fran had previously been in any shows.

The first show for the Kaluznas was “My Fair Lady.” Fran was in the chorus; Harvey was a Cockney bum and a butler.

“It was great,” Fran said of the experience. “We were so outside of our comfort zone. In a lot of ways it was my favorite show because it was all so new. I’ll never forget the feeling I had of awe and wonder.”

Harvey said he felt comfortable being in the spotlight because he conducts many seminars through his job. “The cast built a tremendous camaraderie,” he said. “All of us still get together throughout the year.”

Amy Robbins counts “Joseph” as her 11th show. “Theater was in my blood forever,” said Robbins, a former physician who served as director of Cardiothoracic Anesthesia at Montefiore Medical Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. (She currently does domestic abuse advocacy.)

Robbins discovered the Chicago Casting Auction while visiting her then fiancée. They saw a production of “Once Upon a Mattress” at Victory Gardens Theater, which previously held the auction.

Robbins’ first show as a cast member was “Guys and Dolls” in 2002. One of her favorite roles was her second one: the lead in “Kiss Me Kate.” Another special memory was the production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” a couple of years ago.

“I have a tendency to do comedy character roles,” Robbins explained. “I was the villainess, Mrs. Meers. One of the delicious things about that, of course, was this over-the-top, very politically incorrect Asian ridiculous accent that she used.”

Robbins jokingly refers to her angelic character in “Joseph” as Dead Rachel. “Rachel is Joseph’s mother,” she explained. “I’m singing in a lot of spots with the narrator. As an angel, I observe a lot of the action. There’s a lot of comic angst reaction to what’s going on because Joseph is a favorite child of mine. And, thankfully, I do not do any dancing.”

Myrna Petlicki is a local free-lance writer.

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