The Garbo the Musical
When: Thu., March 8, 7:30 p.m., Fri., March 9, 7:30 p.m., Sun., March 11, 2 p.m., Sat., March 17, 2 p.m. and Sat., March 17, 7:30 p.m. 2018
Phone: 773-800-1703
Price: $32, $27 students and seniors, $17 children under ten
For this original one-woman musical, Jillann Gabrielle has assembled abundant juicy material on the singular Greta Garbo, impoverished daughter of a day laborer who became an international superstar at 22, cultivated a masterfully enigmatic persona that inspired a thousand wannabe Hollywood sphinxes, challenged gender norms with iconoclastic flair, then abruptly retired at 35 in tortured pursuit of anonymity. Add potent insights into Mercedes de Acosta and Cecil Beaton (two of Garbo’s obsessed lovers who show up repeatedly in the show), a gracious presence, a flexible voice, and thirteen crafty musical numbers, and she should have a hit. But apparently overtaxed (Gabrielle is book, music, and lyric writer as well as director, designer, and star), she hasn’t shaped the material into a discernible arc, leaving Garbo in static anguish for 90 minutes. Playing in repertory with Hedda! A Musical Conversation. —Justin Hayford
Theatre World
Chicago is a city full of movers and shakers. We’re people who work hard and dream big and we never give up. The reason we’re so confident and hopeful is because most of us are blessed with mentors, people who help us tap into the best we have to offer. Jillann Gabrielle is a singer and actress, with a glorious flair for comedy. She has empowered countless people, from all walks of life, realize their dream of singing in front of an audience. With her patience and guidance, her students find their inner opera, jazz or popular music singer and share that gift with everyone who lends an ear. She’s recently picked up the pen and written two provocative and delightful one-woman musicals, which she also stars in, has created the sets for and the fabulous costumes. She wrote the book and lyrics for both shows with a hand from Michael Termine on the book and lyrics for Hedda! and from Howard Pfeiffer for Garbo. Hedda! A Musical Conversation and Garbo the Musical – pay homage to two powerful women – with all their weaknesses and strengthes – who epitomize the Golden age of Hollywood.

Hedda! A Musical Conversation takes place in the living room of the notorious gossip columnist, Hedda Hopper, famous for wearing outrageous hats. The show takes place through a series of phone conversations that chronicle her Quaker upbringing, her lackluster acting career and finally her rise to fame and power as a gossip columnist with dish on some of Hollywood’s brightest stars. The column came to represent her own political agenda and she became a threat when she waged a smear campaign against Hollywood Communist sympathizers. She banters about Liz Taylor and her ruined marriage to Eddie Fisher by Debbie Reynolds. Jill sings thirteen original songs and she never wears the same elaborate hat twice.

“Hedda Hopper was a force to be reckoned with” says Jillann Gabrielle. “Hedda wanted an acting career, but she didn’t have the acting chops. So she did the next best thing…she created her ‘star’ as a gossip columnist. Not just any gossip columnist, the most iconic, and some say, the most vicious.” Gabrielle says.

Garbo The Musical is even more complex, with Jill playing Garbo, one of the world’s greatest film stars, and two of her most significant others – the photographer Cecil Beaton and Mercedes de Acosta, the Spanish-American poet, screenwriter, playwright and very out lesbian. Garbo is set in the mid 1970’s, long after she had shunned the tinsel and glamour of Hollywood at the age of 35 because she simply “wants to be alone.” As Jill morphs from one character to the next through a series of insightful songs and dialogue, she reveals a wealth of little known facts about the mystery woman called “The Garbo.”

After countless of hours of research, Jill came to the conclusion that “it was easy for Garbo to leave Hollywood. She was truly tortured by her work, even though the studio tried to make it as easy as possible for her. She was a manic depressive and obsessive-compulsive, passive-aggressive, insomniac and life anywhere, under any circumstances was a challenge beyond belief.”

Jill felt a special bond with both these larger than life characters. “They both lost their fathers at age 14. Garbo’s died of kidney failure and Hedda’s deserted the family to seek fortune in the Klondike. My father and mother were divorced when I was 11. I never had a lot of contact with my father and then he died when I was 24. There is plenty of research to support the over achievement of women who lose their fathers early on. Hedda had something to prove. She did not have the emotional miss-wiring that Garbo had so she fully flowered until she died. Garbo, unfortunately, could not overcome her faulty wiring.

Hedda! A Musical Conversation and Garbo The Musical are teeming with the passion and vigor of two spectacular personalities. Jillann Gabrielle, ever the Cabaret performer, has a knack for creating an instant bond with every audience and ends each show with a lively Q&A. Both shows run in rotating repertory at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. To purchase tickets and find out more about these two exciting shows visit or phone the box office at 773-935-6835.
Chicago Reader on The Garbo:
“abundant juicy material…a gracious presence, a flexible voice, and thirteen crafty musical numbers…she should have a hit”
Chicago Theatre and Arts on Hedda!: “Gabrielle’s performance as Hedda is superb!”
Theatre World on Hedda! and The Garbo: “glorious flair for comedy…two provocative and delightful one-woman musicals!”
Hedda! A Musical Conversation
When: Sat., March 10, 2 & 7:30 p.m., Thu., March 15, 7:30 p.m. and Fri., March 16, 7:30 p.m. 2018
Phone: 773-800-1703
Price: $32, $27 students and seniors, $17 children
Actor-singer Jillann Gabrielle portrays Hedda Hopper—the fabled gossip columnist who reigned over Hollywood from the 1930s through the 1950s—in this one-woman show, which Gabrielle cowrote with librettist Michael Termine and composer Howard Pfeifer. Conversing directly with the audience the night after hosting a party in her home, a slightly wobbly Hedda fields phone calls from movie stars and moguls, right-wing politicos, and her family back in Altoona, Pennsylvania, as well as from her mentor and rival, Louella Parsons, with whom she maintains a public feud in order to boost both their followings. Hopper, known to some as “the mad hatter” because of her huge collection of bizarre bonnets, dishes the dirt about her celebrity friends and foes, including Charlie Chaplin, whom the arch-conservative Hedda despises as “a pedophile and a communist.” Playing in repertory with The Garbo the Musical. —Albert Williams
Hedda Hopper revealed
‘Hedda! A Musical Conversation’ is a very entertaining one-woman show at the Athenaeum Theatre starring Jillann Gabrielle as legendary Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.

Written by Gabrielle with book and lyrics co-written by Michael Termine and music co-written by with Howard Pfeifer, ‘Hedda’ is a one-act play that takes place from the mid 1940s through the late 1950s in Hedda Hopper’s living room.

Jillann Gabrielle is Hedda Hopper. Photo by Paradise Playhouse Tasteful furniture, a rolling cart of favorite drinks , clothing racks with dozens of the hats she was famous for wearing and that prime necessity for a gossip columnist, a phone, set the scene for a fun 90 minute peek into the life Hedda Hopper.

Gabrielle’s performance as Hedda is superb as she walks and sings the audience through a life that went from Quaker upbringing to bit MGM player and then famed columnist. Lively phone conversations and clever songs such as as “Hedda! Queen of Hollywood,” “Off the Record” (there’s audience participation), “Elizabeth, “Hats!” and ‘Don’t Drink the Punch” reveal much of her story.

Among the many things that makes this play interesting there is her interaction with the audience. When the phone or doorbell rings, she looks out at the crowd and says, “I’ll be right back.” And when the audience hears her say, “Hello, Elizabeth” or “Joan,” or “Marlene” and others, everyone knows who’s there.

Hedda had an amazing effect on not only the motion picture industry, but on politics, as well. Her song “I’m Political” describes her conservative values and moral views as her columns go after Charlie Chaplin and other Communist sympathizers.

She also had famous heated discussions with many of Hollywood’s elite including the Elizabeth Taylor/Eddie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds trio. Her column had a readership of over 30 million, and it set the stage for many types of columns today.

DETAILS: ‘Hedda! A Musical Conversation’ is at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, Chicago, through March 17, 2018. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information, call 773-935-6835 or visit AthenaeumTheatre.