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  • Kim Piekos

Citadel Theatre Boasts Hollywood-Level Technology in New Show

By Kim Piekos

Though Lake Forest’s Citadel Theatre may feel intimate with its 144 seats, prepare to be transported to a high-tech megachurch with a congregation of thousands when you come see The Christians, opening Feb. 10 and running through March 12.

Artistic Director and founder Scott Phelps has incorporated 100 of Pangaea Technology’s large-scale LED panels, frequently used in large concerts, television shows and movies, into the set.

Scott Phelps stands in front of the large-scale LED panels that will be part of Citadel Theatre's show that opens Friday. “This mind-boggling medium complements the story we’re telling perfectly,” Phelps says. “The audience will be astounded by the atmosphere created.”

Typically, such technology costs about $80,000 to purchase and $15,000 to rent per week. “We couldn’t have afforded to work with this dynamic medium without my brother-in-law, who works in the movie business,” Phelps says.

Lake Foresters will recognize Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart’s chapel and rooms in the historic David Adler-designed home of Nancy and David Smith on Green Bay Road, which appear as backdrops on the large panel screens. Though Phelps was worried about finding the right tech people to put together such advanced technology, it all worked out.

Phelps believes The Christians is a must-see and serves the ultimate purpose in theatre.

“It does what theatre should do – it tells both sides, doesn’t take a side, lets the audience decide for themself and creates conversation.”

The Christians follows the journey of Pastor Paul, played by Phelps, as he considers whether a non-Christian boy in a Third-World country who dies saving the life of his younger sister is worthy of heaven or destined for hell. The pastor’s benevolent sharing of his new perspective brings surprising outcomes within his congregation.

“The show is not about questioning anyone’s faith,” Phelps emphasizes. “The show creates dialogue because everyone has questions. Theatre should be a safe place where we can tell a story and talk about us.”

To encourage conversation about the show, Phelps has reached out to a variety of local spiritual leaders to facilitate talkbacks after some shows.

“We can all get so much more out of the show by listening to each other and discussing what we experienced together,” Phelps explains.

Phelps’ passion for theatre runs deep. Both he and his wife, Ellen, are both graduates of the highly esteemed Actors Theatre of Louisville and acted professionally in New York and Chicago before taking jobs in the corporate world and raising their children in Lake Forest. The desire to return to theatre after this 20-year hiatus led Phelps to create Citadel Theatre in 2002. Since then, Phelps has produced hundreds of shows.

“Culturally, music, dance, theater and visual arts greatly enhance a community,” Phelps believes. “Having a well-regarded theatre located in the community adds to the quality of life in Lake Forest for all residents. You don’t have to go downtown to get your theatre fix.”

Each spring, Phelps selects a range of types of shows for the following season. This year, Citadel has produced the musical Little Shop of Horrors, the British farce It Runs in the Family and Junior Claus, a holiday show for children.

Last up for the Citadel season this spring from April 21-May 21 is Airness, an entertaining show based on the characters who participate in air guitar competitions.

“These air guitarists are bigger-than-life characters that have 60 seconds to try to win a competition complete with outrageous names, hair, make-up and costumes,” Phelps says. “This show will be a hoot!”

Tickets are available online at


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