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BWW Blogs: 'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 1st, 2010





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and the Call:

I was so eager to tell you about "Tangled" and "Burlesque" last week (and was I right, or was I right?) that I totally forgot to mention the PBS broadcast of "Sondheim!: The Birthday Concert" last Wednesday! I have been properly chastised for this oversight. Now available on DVD, the all-star gala concert from New York's Avery Fisher Hall (taped March 15-16, 2010) was hosted by David Hyde Pierce, and the New York Philharmonic was conducted (of course) by Paul Gemigniani. Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin have gotten a lot of attention from folks in the Mosh Pit for recreating their performance  of "Move On" from "SITPWG." (I know I don't have to tell you what that stands for, right?) Patti LuPone's "The Ladies Who Lunch" and Elaine Stritch's "I'm Still Here" have also been mentioned as faves. What's yours? And will we see these performances in our favorite bars anytime soon? Just sayin'.... 

Sondheim!: The Birthday Concert DVD (2010) 

In my discussion of the busy Monday night event scene last week, I was concentrating on karaoke nights and open mic cabarets, and as a result, I neglected a new and fun performance venue on Halsted Street, the reconstituted Rehab. Now appearing there on Mondays from 7-10 pm is chanteuse Honey West, and up and coming Michael Scott McBride follows her from 10 to midnight. It's a nice, funky room, too, right next to Circuit Nightclub. Have you visited? 


Now that the mea culpas are out of the way, it's onward light operas! Chicago is abuzz with them this year. First on most folks' lists is Lyric Opera of Chicago's brand new production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado," directed by Gary Griffin and starring James Morris, Stephanie Blythe and Neal Davies. It opens December 6, 2010 and plays intermittently through January 21, 2011. This production is a major international story in the operetta world, and the willingness of Morris (who's made a career out of Wagner's Wotan worldwide) and Blythe (whose voice seems to literally come out of the back of her head, it's so enormous) to get into Griffin's sandbox as The Mikado and Katisha speaks volumes about Lyric's growing expertise in the light opera vein. Can't wait! Get thee to the Civic Opera House

Lyric Opera of Chicago 

On a slightly more modest scale (and even more surprising), The Hypocrites is mounting Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates Of Penzance" this month! Performances of G&S's "American operetta" (it debuted in New York before opening in London, for legal reasons) are December 9-January 30 at the Chopin Theatre at Division, Milwaukee and Ashland Avenues. It's a "new arrangement" of the show by Kevin O'Donnell, directed by Sean Graney. Two professional English comic operas mounted locally at the same time. Who knew? The Mosh Pit knew! 

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Paul W. Thompson Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to since 2007, is a Chicago-based singer, actor, musical director, pianist, vocal coach, composer and commentator. His career as a performer, teacher and writer is centered at Paul W. Thompson Music, located in Chicago’s historic Fine Arts Building, where he teaches the great songs of Broadway to the next generation of musical theater performers. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Paul was raised in a family of professional musicians and teachers, steeped in classical, gospel, country, pop, sacred and show music. Dubbed a “thin, winsome lad” at the age of 13 by a critic for the Nashville Banner, he earned two degrees in musical theater (a B.F.A. with Honors from Baylor University and an M.M. from the University of Miami, Florida), plus an M.B.A. with Distinction from DePaul University. Paul’s memberships include Actors’ Equity Association, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (proud voter for the Grammy Awards!), the National Association of Teachers of Singing and New York’s Drama League.

Moving easily between the worlds of classical music, religious music, classic pop and musical theater, Paul has appeared onstage or in the orchestra pit in concerts, musicals, operettas and operas in 30 states and in Europe, in a career spanning more than 35 years. His Chicagoland stage credits include “Forever Plaid” at the Royal George Theater and twenty mainstage productions at Light Opera Works. Paul joined the Chicago Symphony Chorus in 1995 (he was Tenor I Section Leader for four years and sings on two Grammy-winning recordings), and is one of Chicago’s foremost liturgical singers, marking 20 years as a member of the choir at St. James Cathedral (Episcopal) in 2011.He has composed and arranged a number of anthems, hymns and songs for worship and concert use, and collaborates on the creation of new works of musical theater. Paul can be found on Monday nights watching showtune videos at the world-famous Sidetrack nightclub, the inspiration for his weekly column, “The Showtune Mosh Pit.” His proudest achievement is that he has seen the original Broadway production of every Tony Award-winning Best Musical since “Cats.” No, really. Since “Cats!”

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