Jeffrey Cass

January 2023 View more

Celebrating 11 seasons with Naperville’s BrightSide Theatre

Jeffrey Cass

As it turns out, it was a high school field trip that led Jeffrey Cass to his career path. Specifically, a matinee of The Phantom of the Opera.

Sitting in the audience, he had the realization he needed to be a part of the theater world somehow. So, he started performing in Morton West High School productions in Berwyn and later earned his degree in musical theater performance from Roosevelt University. He acted and toured locally after college, but his a-ha moment came when he was given the opportunity to direct a kids’ production. Instead of only telling a story from one character’s point of view as an actor, he loved telling the story collaborating with an ensemble of artists as the director.

He’d found his place.

Cass has been the artistic director of Naperville’s BrightSide Theatre since its 2011 debut and helmed such productions as Cabaret, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Mamma Mia! Next up for Cass and the professional company is City of Angels in Concert, running January 13 to 21 at Madden Theatre (171 Chicago Ave.)

Clockwise from left: BrightSide Theatre’s ‘Cabaret,’ ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’ and ‘Mamma Mia!’—all directed by Cass.
Clockwise from left: BrightSide Theatre’s Cabaret, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Mamma Mia!—all directed by Cass.

Q: How is this concert version of City of Angels different from BrightSide’s usual fully staged productions?

A: Our concert series allows us to celebrate musicals that are brilliant works that are not often produced. This year’s production is the witty detective thriller and glorious celebration of film noir set in the late 1940s with a jazz score by Cy Coleman. We’ll transform the Madden Theatre into a cabaret-style setting with tables and a bar.

Q: What’s your directing process like?

A: I tend to take an actor-first approach while keeping focus on the storytelling that will be delivered to the audience. I love taking a script and working with actors, breaking down the characters and discovering all the subtext and intentions of the author to build honest performances. Being able to work with set, costume, lighting, and sound designers to create the physical world that we will be playing in is always a joy.

Q: Any advice for someone wanting to break into theater?

A: If you’re interested in theater—either performing, designing, crew, or administratively—explore it. Take every opportunity you can get to perform or work in the theater. Every experience is a learning experience that will further your talent and knowledge. Be professional in all aspects of your work, not just when you’re on stage but at auditions, accepting roles, and in rehearsals. Be respectful of all your fellow artists who are working together with you. Theater is a collaborative art form. You will be told “no” more than you will hear “yes,” and you must continue to go to auditions and applying for jobs. Don’t give up.


Photos courtesy of Aaron Gang (headshot), CM Stage Photography (Mamma Mia! and Joseph), and BrightSide Theatre (Cabaret)