Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week! We’re back with a new CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law. This week’s Meet a Mom interview is with Glencoe mom of two teens and the Assistant Director & Choreographer for Highland Park Players “School Of Rock!” Alexis Armstrong! Alexis is a gorgeous dancer, singer and performer, lover of the arts, and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Alexis studied theater and dance at Sarah Lawrence College and the British American Drama Academy. Other performing credits include “Mamma Mia!” (Donna), “Ragtime” (Ensemble, Mother U/S), and “Into the Woods” (Baker’s Wife) with Music Theater Works, “Jane Eyre” (Jane), “Drowsy Chaperone” (Janet), and “Urinetown” (Ensemble) with Big Noise, and “Chicago” (Velma), “Sweet Charity” (Charity), and “Brigadoon” (Meg) with North Shore Theater. Alexis is telling us about her personal theatrical journey, her history with Highland Park Players and, of course, the upcoming smash, must-see musical, “School of Rock” going on at Northbrook Theatre November 11 – November 20, 2022.
Hi Alexis! Please introduce yourself. Where are you from originally? What city do you live in now? What brought you here?
Hi, I’m Alexis Armstrong. I was born and raised in Montville, NJ. I went to Sarah Lawrence College and then moved to NYC to be an actress. While auditioning and, of course, waiting tables, I was offered a show here in Chicago, so I sublet my apartment, hung up my apron, and made plans to come to Chicago for the summer. Well, the show was cancelled and I had nowhere to live in New York, so I came anyway. I auditioned for some stuff, got a show and an agent, made some friends, and that was that! I flew home and packed my belongings into a U-Haul.
Four months later I met my husband in an audition for Twelfth Night. We moved up to Glencoe in 2005 after we had our first kid. Once I started looking into schools, I got completely overwhelmed. That was the beginning of the end for me.
I always thought I’d be a city mom, but I fell in love with the idea of my kids riding their bikes to friends’ houses or to Glencoe’s downtown after school. Plus, it’s so quiet and beautiful-I immediately felt like I was on vacation.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they? Feel free to brag here!
I am the proud mama of two gorgeous humans! Our eldest is now a Freshman at U of I. She’s 19 going on 35. It has been a great transition for her-finding the balance between work and play-and she is navigating it all with such grace! She has been dancing since she was 2, done a bunch of theater, can draw and paint, loves to read, is a scholar, and is so much fun to hang out with.
Our youngest is a non-binary sophomore at New Trier. They are this beautiful blend of empathy and strength with a dash of sass. They work with people with special needs for the NSSRA, are involved in theater, and love to ride and work with horses. I learn something from this kid every day.
What are one or two things people would be surprised to know about you?
I think most people would be surprised to hear that I’m a gamer. I love playing video games. I mean, I really, REALLY, love video games. Like I-stayed-up-way-too-late-trying-to -slay-a-boss kind of love. Right now I’m deep into Elden Ring.
What are your favorite North Shore places to spend with the family?
Now that our kids are teenagers, we tend to take our dogs for a walk to downtown Glencoe for a coffee and a bagel sandwich at Hometown or sit outside at Guildhall when weather permits. We ride our bikes to the Botanic Garden a lot-that’s one of my faves for sure. I also love getting on the train to the city and spending the day wandering around. We also go to Guanajuato’s in Winnetka about once a week. I highly recommend their margarita’s-but be careful! They pack a punch!!
Love Guanajuato’s! Finish this sentence: When work/life/parenting gets difficult you….
… Go for a run. I can’t tell you how many overwhelming thoughts and feelings I have worked out by hitting the pavement. I think for me, it’s the forced deep breathing, the sunlight, the rhythm of my steps, it all calms my nervous system. Walking does the same thing.
Another way I cope is to meet my friend for a coffee…or a glass of wine. I always find it’s way worse letting difficult things spin around in my head. Once I talk about them, there tends to be a shift in the weight of it all. My husband is also a really good girlfriend. I lean on him a lot.
I’m a walking girl, myself. Guilty pleasures?
Did I mention video games?? I also love puzzles, knitting, and dark chocolate. And travel. I will drop everything for a trip to France.
Congratulations on being a part of 35 years of success for HPP! Tell us a little bit about the history of this local theatre company.
Yes! The Highland Park Players (HPP) was founded in 1988 and we are celebrating 35 years! They do a big fall musical and a Theater for Young Audience musical every year. I first worked with them when my dear friend, Brad Rose, asked me to help out with a show. As of now, I have worked on over 10 shows in 20 years with HPP, as choreographer for Avenue Q, and as a performer in CATS, Mamma Mia!, Billy Elliot, and Annie to name a few. This company has been a vital part of my community. I found it very difficult to find a creative outlet once I had children. HPP ticks all of the boxes; a talented team putting on a fun show with an amazingly professional product. I’m proud to be a member of the team this time around.
This fall season the Highland Park Players will be presenting the Adult/Full version of School Of Rock at Northbrook Theatre November 11 – 20, 2022. Featuring new songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber and all the original songs from the movie, it’s really going to wow audiences. I hope you’ll all come out to see it!
What is a typical audition experience like?
I was a late addition to the team, so I wasn’t actually a part of the auditions this time around. I know from past experience that the actors sign up for an audition online and come prepared to sing an excerpt from a song of their choosing. If they are called back, the actor will usually sing from the show and read a few scenes, then learn a short dance combination. This time there was an added element of playing instruments.
Auditions are both nerve wracking and exciting. It can be difficult for an actor to remember that the people on the other side of the table are in their corner. We want you to feel comfortable and have fun and show us what you can do! Not getting called back or cast doesn’t mean you failed. It just means you didn’t fit this particular puzzle. I have a huge amount of respect for anyone willing to walk in that door and perform for a bunch of strangers.
Who is in this production of School of Rock?
I can definitely tell you that this staff has been amazing to work with! I had the pleasure of performing with the director, Connor Giles, in Mama Mia at Music Theater Works, but I had no idea how much I would love working with him on the other side of the table! He’s one of the most organized people I know. His spreadsheets are beautiful. Then in rehearsal, he’s insightful and generous with the actors. The Music Director, Hannah Rose, is one of my besties (I have coffee with her A LOT), so no surprises there. I’ve been music directed by her, I’ve choreographed her, we’ve performed together, and we teach together. She’s a dream to work with in every capacity. T.J. Anderson, Assistant Music Director and Band Leader, is new to me-and I must say a very pleasant surprise indeed! He’s calm and clear, and a joy to work with.
(L to R) Alexis Armstrong (Choreographer & Assistant Director), T.J. Anderson (Assistant Music Director and Band Leader), Connor Giles (Director) and Hannah Rose (Music Director)
The cast is a very talented bunch. Our ensemble has to play a variety of roles-and they make me laugh every rehearsal. Our adult principles bring depth, commitment, humor, and amazing vocals.
Then there’s the 15 kids. Wait until you see these children. Every one of them is a gem. They play instruments! They act and sing! They dance around on stage! Henry Allan, playing Dewey Finn, has this amazing camaraderie with the kids-part goofy uncle, part mentor, and all heart.
Alexis, what is your role in this production?
I am the choreographer and assistant director. Basically, I staged the majority of the musical numbers and supported Connor whenever and wherever needed.
What is your theatrical journey? I’m sure that many of our parents and parent’s children will relate!
I started off as a ballet dancer, then slowly found my way to theater as a teenager. My first role was Sandy in Grease, and after that I was hooked. I studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse in high school, and then studied theater at Sarah Lawrence College and at the British American Drama Academy in London. I did not return to musicals until after moving to Chicago, where I got back to dancing everyday. After I had both of my children, I started teaching ballet and jazz, and then began choreographing and developing a performance based class for kids called Broadway Bound in Glencoe through Sarah Hall Theatre Company. I choreographed over 20 shows, and now have taken over as director for the past 3 years. I love working with children and seeing them grow confidence and skills. And every once in a while I still get on stage.
We’re excited to see this! What are the details of School of Rock performances?
This show is the perfect introduction to the Highland Park Players! Here is the 411:
November 11, 12, 17, 18, 19 at 7:30 PM
November 13, 20 at 2:00 PM
Performances are at the Northbrook Theatre (3323 Walters Ave, Northbrook, IL 60062)
Running Time 2 hours 30 minutes which includes a 15-minute intermission
Appropriate for children ages 10 and above
All Tickets – $30
Children 13 and under – $27
Tickets are date specific but general seating
Group rates available: contact us
Purchase Tickets Online See you there!
About Our Meet a Mom Sponsor
A very heartfelt thank you to CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom sponsor, Lake Forest mom of three and owner of Gifford Law, a solo Estate Planning Firm (wills and trusts). Mary, we appreciate your support of local moms in our North Shore communities! Learn more about Mary by visiting her Meet a Mom spotlight here! Contact Mary directly here: [email protected].