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Actress traces her love of theater to Viator roots
By Jack Helbig | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 10/8/2009 12:01 AM

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Pert, energetic, singer/dancer/comic actress Dina DiCostanzo was born to be a Wonderette, one of the perkier members of the perky, funny, totally fictional group of singing high school friends who make up the cast of the jukebox musical "The Marvelous Wonderettes" at the Northlight Theatre.

"'The Marvelous Wonderettes' is a nostalgia trip back to 1958," DiCostanzo says, "The show is about four high school girls (class of '58) on their way to the prom. They get the chance to sing at the prom and they are all up for prom queen."

The songs they sing are hits of that long-gone Eisenhower era: among them, "Sincerely," "Mr. Sandman," "Lipstick on Your Collar," "It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To."

"I play Cindy Lou Huffington, self-proclaimed most popular girl in the school," DiCostanzo says, "She is most certain she will win. She wears lots of pink and diamonds. She is the most competitive in the group."

Off-stage, DiCostanzo, who grew up in Palatine, seems anything but competitive. Still, this role seems like a natural culmination of a career in theater that began in high school, and kicked into high gear after she graduated.

"I was a drama person at St. Viator (in Arlington Heights). That's where I got my love of theater, from Mrs. Calzaretta.

DiCostanzo credits St. Viator with giving her lots of that all-important stage time.

"I was able to be in shows right away," DiCostanzo says. "At bigger schools some people don't get a chance to do theater. My class was only 175. I was really into the singing and dancing."

After high school DiCostanzo went to Columbia College in Chicago, where she majored in theater.

"I stayed in Chicago because I had an interest in getting started right away," DiCostanzo says. "I knew going to a school in the city would let me get started on a career. I moved downtown into a little studio and went to school in the big city. And it happened; I started my professional career at 18."

Less than a decade after she graduated Columbia College, DiCostanzo's star is still rising in Chicago's competitive music theater scene.

"Even though I majored in the classics in college, about 80 percent of my work is in music theater," DiCostanzo says. "I just found it easier to make a living in music theater, though I do some straight theater."

DiCostanzo says she tends "to play a lot of people who aspire to be glamorous."

In past shows, DiCostanzo has played Frenchie in "Grease" and an aspiring Hollywood actress in the Drury Lane Oakbrook production of the musical "Grand Hotel." Now she is playing another ingénue with visions of glamour and grandeur, albeit they are of prom not Hollywood.

"Cindy Lou Huffington is definitely a heightened character, over the top," DiCostanzo says. "But at her center, and at the center of all the Wonderettes, there is something that is very sincere."

"The Marvelous Wonderettes" runs through Sunday, Oct. 25, at Northlight Theater, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. For tickets visit the theater, call (847) 673-6300 or go to