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Kidz Kabaret rolls out ‘Little Mermaid’

SavannHoffman is Ariel DeVontae Weaver is Sebastian Center Stage Players’ roller blade performance “The Little Mermaid” July 14 21 28

Savanna Hoffman is Ariel and DeVontae Weaver is Sebastian in the Center Stage Players’ roller blade performance of “The Little Mermaid” July 14, 21 and 28 at Center Stage Theater in Naperville.

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‘The Little Mermaid’

Kidz Kabaret’s Center Stage Players

♦ Noon July 14, 21 and 28

♦ Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy, No. 131, Naperville

♦ Tickets, $8

(630) 355-9212;

What started 10 years ago because of a mother’s love for her daughter has blossomed into a full-fledged children’s theater program. And it’s evident that Kidz Kabaret founder/executive director Kandiss Hernandez extends that love to the 500 kids who participate in 200 or more shows a year.

KK’s Center Stage Players — “the best of the best,” Hernandez said — are literally rolling out “Little Mermaid” at noon July 14, 21 and 28 at Center Stage Theaterin Naperville. These actors are college students who rose through the ranks at KK and return each summer to perform at Center Stage Theater. They’ll be performing the beloved Disney tale on roller blades to convey the motion of fish swimming in the sea.

A performer herself with a degree in theater from Bradley University, Hernandez settled in Naperville after living and working in Los Angeles and Dallas, Texas. When her daughter auditioned for a play and didn’t make it, Hernandez turned that negative into a positive by suggesting she and her friends do a show in their backyard.

“That’s really where Kids Kabaret started, was my own child’s interest in doing theater,” Hernandez said. “We had summer stock three days at my house and my backyard. We costumed it, built the set; had lights; the piano came outside. People came with their lawn chairs. We did a show called ‘The Manhattan Revue,’ a cabaret that I put together about the ’30s and ’40s. . . . And that’s where it started.”

The rest is history. The kids asked to continue doing shows and Hernandez obliged. She rented the Crossroads Theater in Naperville and started writing plays along with cabaret shows.

“We were able to build our company . . . by word of mouth only,” she said, to 200 to 250 kids within five years.

“The key to my Kidz Kabaret success is every child center stage . . . meaning that everyone gets a part,” Hernandez said. “I want kids to feel confident and that’s what Kidzs Kabaret does without a doubt. . . . You take that audition process out and you get all types of kids. But then you build confidence in them and they’re able to do just about anything.”

Kidz Kabaret’s troupes are rehearsing for shows later this summer. Kindergarten through fifth-graders will perform “101 Dalmatians” Aug. 6-12, junior high students will perform “Thoroughly Modern Millie” Aug. 20-26, and high school students will offer “The Putnam County Spelling Bee” Aug. 10-12 and 17-19.

Center Stage Players believes in the audition process because Hernandez believes it’s the best way to prepare them for the real world of theater where roles are earned through tryouts.

“I do that [auditions] because in the real world these actors, after leaving college, go to an equity house like Drury Lane, Marriott’s Lincolnshire — they all have children’s programs,” she said. “It’s a great way to get a foot in the door and become a children’s theater actor.”

Ultimately Hernandez believes theater allows kids to feel like they’re making a difference, which builds confidence; at Kidz Kabaret they have the opportunity to try their hand at everything from acting to set building to stage crew.

“When a kid feels like they can make a difference, they have a voice,” she said. “I’ve set a foundation for them to continue that in the real world in their life in the future. Whether they go on to study acting or not is not the point. The point is to be the best at your level, that’s how I teach. . . . If you’re doing your best and working a hundred percent at your best level, that’s good enough for me. That’s awesome.”


♦ Oneida Nation dancers will demonstrate powwow dances during an all-ages show at 2 p.m. July 14 at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian’s 3009 Central St. building, next door to the Evanston museum. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn simple dance steps and learn about Native American life. Admission is $12 and does not include admission to the museum ($5 for adults, $3 for kids 1 to 17). Call (847) 475-1030 or visit

♦ Chicago Children’s Museum is offering its popular summer dance parties from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in July at 700 E. Grand. The parties are included in admission of $12. Call (312) 527-1000 or visit

♦Elmhurst Historical Museum, 120 E. Park Ave., offers Summer Fun & Games from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Aug. 14. The drop-in program for kids 4 to 12 years old features a different craft activity each week. Cost is $2. Call (630) 833-1457 for visit

♦ The Shedd Aquarium is screening “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur — The 4-D Experience” in the Phelps Auditorium 10 times daily. Tickets are $6 in addition to general admission of $8 for adults and $6 for children. The Shedd is at 1200 S. Lake Shore. Call (312) 939-2438 or visit

♦ Clone Troopers will invade Legoland Discovery Center July 13-15 when the Schaumburg store hosts Star War Days at 601 N. Martingale. Admission is $19 for adults and $15 for kids. Call (847) 592-9708 or visit

Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.

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