While we were all staring at our phones Alex Grelle was quietly becoming the star of underground spectacle theater. Year after year Chicago’s in-the-know types jammed themselves into a bar that smells of Fabuloso and stale beer to stand on their feet to watch a two hour show that felt bigger than any Kate Bush show ever could. That illusion was held up with cardboard sets and borrowed wigs, a light-show of clamp bulbs and rope lights and the all-star band was crammed into a corner. You thought you were entertained by that TikTok, but Grelle is a master of the anti-viral, Chicago’s most celebrated secret, the city’s punk rock queer theater queen.
Growing up in suburban Missouri, Alex Grelle was born a star. Infatuated with films and music, Grelle’s ambition brought him through an unlikely set of circumstances to where he is today. He was a breakout star at the now infamous incubator event Salonathon, eventually setting up the first production of his own show: Women Under the Influence at Steppenwolf Theater in 2016. This was an exploration into some of his favorite roles where Alex inhabited the world he saw on his television growing up. Line-for-line parodies and elaborate musical numbers choreographed by sought-after pros defined a run of Tuesdays to fill a residency at the storied Hideout Inn for his next feat, The Grelley Duvall Show. Refashioning his favorite movies and showing them through the lens of a queer kid coming up in central Missouri, Grelle is a triple threat as he stars in his own show: actor, singer, dancer. This initial run of Tuesdays soon turned into the hottest show on the Hideout’s calendar annually, and would continue to sell out weekday residency events over the next 3 years.
He may always be the star of the show, though Grelle has successfully collaborated for memorable videos for Chicago’s hot new band Dehd, and alt-comedy breakout sweethearts Sarah Squirm and Megan Stalter. His most recent live show, Floor Show, was something more than a tribute to the late David Bowie, saw an expanded run after overpacked nights at the Chopin Theater. His first live-streaming film adaptation of The Grelley Duvall Show, In My Home in My Prime, was groundbreakingly early in the pandemic and was every bit better as a film as Grelle continues to master mediums. Expect a sequel to his film late this spring, a tour of The Grelley Duvall Show nationally, as Chicago’s darling is ready to break out.