Husband and wife team, Matt and Cynthia, met as music majors at Butler University in Indianapolis. Married in 1997, they started running their own performing business in 2005.
Cynthia Fortune Gruel
Matt Gruel takes on many roles within Festive Singers (business manager, resident pianist and singer). He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Theory and Composition (with an emphasis in Piano) from Butler University.
For the past eighteen years, he has been on staff at churches as Minister of Music, where he has sung, played piano, directed and arranged music. He has also been seen playing piano at Tommy Guns Garage Dinner Theatre and aboard the Spirit of Chicago Cruise Lines.
Last season he music directed the musical The Spitfire Grill at Steel Beam Theatre in St. Charles. This coming season he will music direct two more shows, You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Ordinary Days. As a professional composer, he has written and arranged both traditional and contemporary music for a number of different venues.
Cynthia is a Chicago-based actress, singer, dancer, and spokesperson. On stage, her work includes productions with Paramount Theatre, Chicago Folks Operetta, Light Opera Works, Theater at the Center, Steel Beam Theatre, Drury Lane Evergreen Park, Music on Stage and Northbrook Musical Theatre for Young Audiences. Some of her favorite theatrical roles include Shelby in “The Spitfire Grill”, Daisy in “Ball at the Savoy,” Kate in “Kiss Me, Kate,” Sally in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and Ilona in “She Loves Me.”
As a trade-show spokesperson, she has presented for many corporations including Konica Minolta, Fed-Ex Kinkos, Agilent Technologies, Abbvie, Aastra, US Cellular and Optum. Regularly, she “kicks up her heels” playing Trixie at Chicago’s long-running Tommy Guns Garage Dinner Theater. She can also be seen gigging around Chicagoland with the likes of Redmink Productions, Mystique Productions and Route 66 a cappella womens quartet. She is a proud graduate of Butler University with a degree in Vocal Performance and Theatre minor. Visit her website at www.cynthiafortunegruel.com.
Katie graduated from Luther College in Decorah, IA with a BA in Music Education. After teaching middle school choir for two years she moved to Chicago to pursue performing. Katie has continued to teach theater, music, and dance with Elmhurst Park District, Metropolis Performing Arts Center and Northbrook Theatre. She has performed with Light Opera Works, Metropolis, White Horse Theatre Company, American Girl Theatre, Buffalo Theatre Company, Tommy Gun’s Garage, and Northbrook Theatre for Young Audiences.
Marie holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theatre from Millikin University, where she had the wonderful opportunity to play such roles as Carlotta in PHANTOM, Sara Jane Moore in ASSASSINS, and The Witch in HANSEL AND GRETEL. She has been teaching private voice for the past15 years in and around the Chicago area. In addition to teaching, Marie has performed extensively with many theaters locally and regionally including Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Theatre at the Center, Light Opera Works, Porchlight Music Theatre, Steel Beam Theatre, and two consecutive seasons with Music Theatre of Wichita in Wichita, Kansas. Some of her favorite performance credits include Maria inWEST SIDE STORY at Drury Lane Oakbrook, Aldonza in MAN OFLAMANCHA, Marsinah in KISMET, Sylvia in SWEETHEARTS, Anna Heldin TINTYPES, Tzeitel in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and Sara Stone in NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY all at Light Opera Works, and Claudia in NINE with Porchlight Music Theatre (Jeff Recommended). Aside from her musical theatre performing, Marie also spent a year singing with the Big Band, Swing Assembly and has been singing with The Festive Singer’s as a Dicken’s Caroler for the past 11 seasons.
Mark has been a professional actor and singer for the past 25 years. Mark has appeared in over 100 plays and musicals including the longest running musical in Chicago, Forever Plaid, which he performed over 1,000 times. Other regional theatre credits include, Evita, Fiddler on the Roof, Into the Woods, Singin' in the Rain, Anything Goes, and South Pacific, television appearances on General Hospital and Days of our Lives, films such as, Legit and The Waiting Room. You may currently see Mark at Tommy Guns Garage interactive dinner-theatre-speakeasy as the emcee of the show “Vito Calamari”. He is grateful to The Festive Singers for the chance to sing these beautiful Christmas songs every year.
Amanda is thrilled to be singing her 9th season with the Festive Singers! She holds a B.M. in Voice Performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Amanda was most recently seen as Mother in "Ragtime" with Big Noise Theatre Company, and will be leading the Chicago premiere of an off-Broadway rock musical with Bailiwick Chicago this spring. Past Chicago credits include: Petra/Malla/Lieder Singer u/s in A Little Night Music (Writers Theatre), Young Heidi u/s in Follies (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), Grandma Tzeitel/Ensemble in Fiddler on the Roof (Light Opera Works), Mae/Madeline/Sally/Nadine u/s in The Wild Party (Bailiwick Chicago), Marie in Voice Check: A Woyzeck Cabaret (Chicago Opera Vanguard), Yum-Yum in The Mikado (CCPA), Cloclo Moustache in Cloclo (Chicago Folks Operetta), Lucy Lockit in The Beggar's Opera (DuPage Opera Theatre), and Scaramouche in We Will Rock You! (U.S. Premiere, JPAC). With the College Light Opera Company summerstock, she was seen in roles including Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me, Kate, Eva Peron in Evita, Huguette in The Vagabond King, and Lalume in Kismet. Amanda also sings with ABBA Salute: A Tribute to the Music of ABBA, and Cowboy Jukebox, a contemporary country band.
David is very excited to be singing again with Festive Singers! Throughout his professional career, David has worked with: BoHo Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Second City, Drury Lane Oak Brook, Metropolis Performing Arts Center, and Light Opera Works. David holds a B.A. in Theatre from Saint Mary's University of Winona, MN. When not doing theatre, he spends his time with his lovely wife Michelle, his beautiful daughter Olivia, and their wonderful dog Ruby.
Justin is excited to be singing with the Festive Singers for his 7th season this year! He has had the opportunity to work with some great Chicago companies in both opera and musical theater. He is currently in rehearsals for Griffin Theatre's production of Titanic. Recent credits include Juno (TimeLine) and Les Miserables (Drury Lane). Other Chicago credits include The Light in the Piazza (Non-Equity Jeff Award - Best Supporting Actor, Musical) and Smokey Joe's Cafe (Non-Equity Jeff Nomination, Theo Ubique); Amanda and Justin Sing the Movies (Davenport's Cabaret); and Greek and The Suitcase: An Opera (Chicago Opera Vanguard). Justin holds an Associate Degree in Fine Arts from the College of DuPage and a Bachelor of Music in Voice from Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts.
Michelle graduated from Millikin University in 1999 with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal performance and then went on to complete her Master of Music degree in 2001 at DePaul University. She is a member of the Elmhurst Choral Union and a featured soloista and is currently the President of Elmhurst Childrens Theatre. She has also recently performed with StageDoor Fine Arts in Hinsdale. Some of her favorite roles include Despina in Cosi Fan Tutte, Beauty in Beauty and the Beast, Amahl in Amahl and the Night Visitors and Susanna in the Marriage of Figaro. Michelle has performed with Light Opera Works both on stage and as an Assistant Music Director. She has sung with the Chicago city Symphony Opera Orchestra and performed in concerts both in Vienna and Italy. She has also worked behind the scenes as a vocal director of the Oakbrook Academy and Elmhurst Children’s Theater. She currently teaches voice lessons in the Elmhurst area where she lives with her husband and two children.
Angela earned her M.M. in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from Northern Illinois University after completing her B.A. at Millikin University in 2005. She has been seen performing with various companies throughout the Northwest, including: The Chicago Comedy Company, KISS FM Chicago Idol - House of Blues, GreenRoom Productions, Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, Music by the Lake, and Bay Players. Angela has also made her way through the Milwaukee and NW Chicago cover band circuits, fronting numerous cover bands - most recently Liberty's Teeth from Huntley, IL. Currently residing in Wheeling, Angela is a proud teacher of voice with ArtReach Educational Theatre in Palatine, IL.
Ben has been singing/performing from his early years and is currently a member of one of the oldest volunteer, auditioned choral groups in the US (Apollo Chorus). He has sung the national anthem for the Chicago Bulls. Ben has been active in DuPage Opera Theatre and Da Corneto Opera Company for the past 5 years performing roles and chorus in Gounod’s Faust, Cosi Fan Tutte, Turandot, Elisir D’amour, the Beggar’s Opera and Tosca. Additionally, he has been a professional chorister in New Classic Singers for 6 seasons and the DePaul Community Music Chorus. This is his 4th season with Festive Singers – a wonderful highlight of the holidays that he enjoys greatly!
A Michigan native, Mary-Therese is a dynamic young performer. In January of 2011, she was seen performing with the chorus of Opera Grand Rapids in their performance of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. She made her orchestra debut under the baton of Maestro Morihiko Nakahara as winner of the first-annual South Carolina Philharmonic Idol competition. The soprano then performed with the USC Orchestra as the Concerto/Aria Competition winner. November of 2011 marked Mary-Therese’s second performance with Charleston Chamber Opera as the coloratura soprano soloist. She was first seen with Charleston Chamber Opera in May of 2011. An alumnus of University of South Carolina and Western Michigan University, Mary-Therese has received both her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Vocal Performance.
Dan earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education from Elmhurst College and went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Music (with a focus on education) from Northern Illinois University. He is in his 16th year of teaching as Band Director/Music Teacher at Hillside School in the near west suburbs of Chicago. In addition to being a teacher, Dan is a vocalist, arranger, adjudicator and trumpet player and has performed in many ensembles around the Chicago Area such as, Banda Rika (Puerto Rican Salsa/Merengue Band), The Big Cluster Jazz Band and Voices to Go (a cappella vocal octet). Dan is very happy to be performing in his 14th season with Festive Singers.