Menlo News November 08, 2022

Middle School Drama Presents Million Dollar Baby

A tale of good versus evil, brother against sister, and the Great Chicago Fire will have audiences booing and cheering in this rowdy ensemble!

The villains are heckled and the hero is cheered in Craig Sodaro’s Million Dollar Baby, the Middle School’s first production of the 2022-2023 school year. Set during the Great Chicago Fire of 1817, this over-the-top tale of good versus evil takes the stage at the Spieker Center for the Arts on November 12-14. First produced in 1987—and written in collaboration with middle school students in Torrington, Wyoming—Sodaro’s play is a tale of greed and family rivalry that pits Nellie Cavendish against her brother Creepstone in a race to inherit their father’s fortune, all while the Chicago Fire Department battles the flames that threaten to destroy the city.

Nellie and Creepstone’s father wills them each $1,000 with the stipulation that the one who increases their inheritance the most in 30 days will inherit his entire fortune. With Nellie, the Chicago Fire Department, and the Clark Street Mission on one side, and the vicious Creepstone, with his gang of hoods and gamblers on the other, Million Dollar Baby is not just an epic battle of sibling rivalry, it’s a story about how compassion and collaboration can triumph over evil.

“I chose this play because it’s fun, it’s completely over-the-top, and it’s overacted,” says Middle School Drama teacher Sarah Cloward. “Each character is acted best when it is pushed to the point of ridiculousness. The audience gets involved too. You are going to be asked to cheer when the hero comes on and boo when the villain cackles and tells you his evil plans. It’s a really fun experience for the students and everyone who comes to see it.”

“You’re going to be introduced to a ton of characters who help tell the story,” adds Cloward. “It’s not the story of one person. It’s the story of all these different people and their little stories kind of all woven together with the backdrop of this huge fire. I’m interested in doing ensemble shows that don’t necessarily have lead characters. Working within a group creates a sense of belonging and with the audience participation too, you’re building community right there in that moment on stage. When one person laughs, someone else across the room laughs, then everyone is laughing—that’s the best place to be!”

For tickets, please visit