Schaumburg singer returns to his roots for Prairie Center’s “Broadway Rocks”

Many Schaumburg-area performers have cited their experience at the Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts as a stepping stone to a professional career in the business. But for Jon Cunningham, who appears there Nov. 11 and 12 on “Broadway Rocks,” the Prairie Center has been a welcome homecoming for more than two decades as a famous singer and actor.

“Playing here allows me to lead my full life,” says Cunningham from Schaumburg, where he and his wife Michelle are raising their three children Liam, Kyle and Veronica.

It was also where he had his first professional gig, working for the Schaumburg Park District street theater company while still in high school. Although his non-theatrical liberal arts degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provided security for his career in the financial industry, Cunningham never strayed from the theater spotlight, where his voice of clean, powerful tenor and his natural charisma on stage have kept him in demand as a performer. . With the unwavering support of his family, Cunningham has appeared in more than 75 productions throughout the Chicago area for Marriott Theater in Lincolnshire, Drury Lane Theater in Oak Brook, Bright Side Theater in Naperville, Big Noise Theater in Des Plaines, Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) in Evanston, and other companies. His resume features an impressive list of starring roles: the title character in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Seymour in “Little Shop of Horrors,” the Devil Applegate in “Damn Yankees,” Nicely Nicely Johnson in “Guys and Dolls,” and most notably Charley Kringas in Stephen Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” where he was nominated for a prestigious Chicago Jeff Award for Actor in a Principal Role (Musical) in 2005.

Along the way, Cunningham made time to perform at the Prairie Center regularly enough to be considered its unofficial resident artist, appearing in the center’s popular Mystery at the Theater series, Schaumburg Youth Orchestra concerts and, most recently, as a guest artist in the Schaumburg Summer Theater’s 2018 production of “Ragtime.”

His latest Prairie Center offering, “Broadway Rocks,” has Cunningham belting out tunes from rock musicals spanning the past five decades, including “Hair,” “Spring Awakening,” “Hamilton” and “Catch Me if You Can.” Rounding out the series cast are Angela Carrington, Sarah Inendino, Michael Pirovano, Danielle Smith and Chris Zeglin, backed by a full cast led by Marc Beth.

To date, Cunningham has honed the balance between career, family and performing, which has had a profound effect on his theatrical work.

“It just got better,” Cunningham said. “There’s no more performance anxiety. From the moment I step on stage to the bow, I’m having a great time.”


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Part of that balance includes Cunningham’s current tenures as assistant director of Schaumburg High School Musicals, as well as a seat on the board of the Schaumburg Cultural Commission.

And the shows keep coming. A continuing testament to his theatrical versatility, Cunningham will move from rock musicals to Borscht Belt comedy this winter when he stars as Felix Ungar in Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” in Naperville early next year.

Just another little burst of fun in the balancing act.

Broadway Rocks plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 11 and Saturday, November 12 at the Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts. Tickets, $28 ($22 for students and seniors), can be purchased online at www.prairiecenter.org or by calling (847) 895-3600.

The Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts is located at 201 Schaumburg Court in Schaumburg, Illinois.

“Broadway Rocks” is a production of Schaumburg’s Department of Cultural Services.

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