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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for April 3rd, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

As I write this, the world is waiting with bated breath for the first words on social media and chat boards about the pre-Broadway tryout of "Big Fish," giving its first public performance (and rumored to be its first complete run-through) on Tuesday night, April 2nd, at Chicago's Oriental Theatre. The press opening is still two weeks away, and the Broadway opening is seven months away. Ironic that our last pre-Broadway tryout, "Kinky Boots," is opening on Broadway this same week, on Thursday, April 4th! And sad that another Broadway In Chicago offering, "I Love Lucy Live On Stage" at the Broadway Playhouse, cut its half-year run short and closed this past weekend, a week shorter than announced. Ah, well. With "Big Fish" and the "Catch Me If You Can" tour (at the Cadillac Palace Theatre) both starting performances here this week, and T-BOM ("The Book Of Mormon," natch) still going strong at the Bank Of America Theatre (or IS IT?), I guess the powers that be at BIC decided things were going well enough. There's been quite a flurry of shows too, with "Jekyll And Hyde" and "Priscilla Queen Of The Desert" just barely gone. Such a busy spring!

And yet, the best-reviewed show in town is arguably a show that it's arguable whether or not it's a musical. (I haven't seen it, so I officially--and actually--have no idea.) It's "Othello: The Remix," the hip-hop adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy now at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier through April 28, 2013. The work of Chicago's Q Brothers (that's GQ and JQ), who have previously adapted "Much Ado About Nothing" and "The Comedy Of Errors" to the hip-hop genre, it premiered last year in London, and is making its American debut here. There's a cast of nine, who leave not a word of Shakespeare's text behind and not a critic unmoved. It's apparently quite something. People are going crazy for it! But is it a musical???

A show that's definitely a musical, and one that I've definitely seen, is the world premiere show "Under A Rainbow Flag," playing through April 21 at the Main Stage at Broadway and Buena, courtesy of Pride Films And Plays. The book, music and lyrics are by the same man, Leo Schwartz, who based his tale of gay GIs in World War II on the story of Jon Phillips, still alive and well and living in Evanston. While the setting and themes of the show echo those of the 2010 Off-Broadway musical "Yank!," by the brothers David Zellnik and Joseph Zellnik (which starred "Big Fish" co-star Bobby Steggert and was aiming for Broadway with direction by our own David Cromer), I don't see why the world isn't big enough for both of these shows. World War II was a pretty big war, and yes, there are gays in the military.


And the premieres just keep on happening. Next week on April 10th, with a sneak preview on Sunday the 7th, the new review "Let Them Eat Chaos" will open as the 101st revue by The Second City, the world famous sketch comedy venue and school in Old Town. Matt Hovde directs a cast including Jeff Award winner Edgar Blackmon, Holly Laurent, Tawny Newsome, Katie Rich, Steve Waltien and Ross Bryant, with Julie N. Nichols as music director. I believe it's an open run. This is as big as it gets, peeps, unless television or film comes calling. But guess what? It's not theater then anymore, is it?

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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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