• Shelby Birnbaum

A Successful Gala Behind It, Citadel Looks Forward to Performances

By Shelby Birnbaum As a new season beckons this fall, Artistic and Managing Directors Scott and Ellen Phelps of the Citadel Theatre are thankful the 8th Annual Summer Gala was a big success. Taking place at the David Adler Estate in Libertyville, A Night at The Moulin Rouge welcomed more than 300 Citadel supporters – some of whom jumped into the pool off the diving board at night’s end. The theater raised enough money to be “good to go for another season” Phelps said. That’s good news, with new productions of Little Shop of Horrors slated for September and It Runs in the Family playing in November.

Ellen and Scott Phelps dressed to the nines for the Citadel Theatre Gala this summer.

The Phelps started the theater 21 years ago. After putting on performances in the basement of the Gorton Community Center for seven years, they moved to the 144-seat auditorium at the Lake Forest Schools Administration Building, where they still reside. Phelps believes that “theater can be done just about anywhere” and they put on their new production of Winnie the Pooh outside in Lake Forest Open Lands.

Before Citadel was created, Phelps wanted to make a career out of acting. He procured his equity card in New York City, which allowed him to be a part of the actors' Equity Association. But he decided to leave the theater for 20 years to help raise his four children in Lake Forest before founding Citadel. Through the years, the theater has put on various shows, such as musicals and dramas. The cost of shows started at $5,000 and now they are putting on $50,000 shows.

Phelps has decided to add more plays for younger audiences, saying he wants to “include more grandparents and kids.” With shows like Annie, Winnie the Pooh and now Junior Clause -- a story about the son of Santa Clause, which will take place in December -- the theater audience has become more diverse.

For Citadel, the pandemic was a rough time, but it didn’t stop them from putting on shows. “Last year was kind of tough” Phelps said. “The first three shows probably had half the amount of people we did before the pandemic. The box office was way, way, way down, but thankfully we got enough grants that we were able to sustain the year.” And now with a successful gala, Citadel is poised to entertain audiences well into 2023.