'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 31st, 2011
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
How about that "Sweeney Todd," hunh? The production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's bloodbath-cum-lovestory that opened a few weeks ago at the Drury Lane Theatre (Oakbrook Terrace) has received the most rapturous reviews of any Chicago musical production since "Ragtime" at the same theater nearly 18 months ago. And they were both directed by Rachel Rockwell. Hm. That certainly sounds like a trend! If you don't believe what a great show is going on out in the western suburbs, just read the review summaries posted at theatreinchicago.com. Then go and buy a ticket already!
Next up at the DLO, and also directed by Rockwell, will be "The Sound Of Music," in a production that a little bird told me was supposed to star Jessie Mueller as Maria. Imminent Broadway stardom for Mueller seems to have changed that plan, but New York actress Jennifer Blood will, I'm sure, make a fine nun. But it's the rest of the casting (announced last week) that has me intrigued. Larry Adams, Chicago stalwart leading man, will play Captain Von Trapp (a role he played at Light Opera Works not too long ago). And Patti Cohenour, legendary as Sarah Brightman's alternate in the original "The Phantom Of The Opera" on Broadway, as well as the original Rosa Bud in "The Mystery Of Edwin Drood," will be the Mother Abbess, a role she played on Broadway in the 1990s revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein modern operetta. The rest of the cast ain't slouches either, including McKinley Carter as Elsa, John Reeger as Franz and Paula Scrofano as Frau Schmidt. Brandon Springman will play Rolf, but he'll still be appearing in "For The Boys" at the Marriott Theatre while rehearsing "The Sound Of Music," as SOM opens October 27, 2011 and runs through December 23.
And the Drury Lane announced its next season this past week as well. After "Gypsy" concludes the 2011-12 season (January 19-March 25, 2012), DLO will present "Hairspray" in the April through May slot, directed and choreographed by Tammy Mader. The play "The 39 Steps" will play through next summer, and then the newly revised version of "Promises, Promises," which played Broadway throughout 2010, will hit our western suburbs one year from now (September 6--October 28). "Singin' In The Rain" will play for November through January, and then from January through April of 2013, Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Sunset Boulevard" will take to the boards, directed by DLO artistic director William Osetek and choreographed by Mader. Get out your calendars now.
So that's the next 18 months in Oakbrook! Heading south from there, there seems to be a new community theater in the far, far southwestern suburb of Plainfield, on the way to Joliet. It's called the Encore Dinner Playhouse, and it opens on October 6 with a revue called "Hits Of Broadway!" (running through November 13). Then comes "The Christmas Show" (I kid you not) from November 17--December 31, and "Hello, Dolly!" from January 5--February 12, 2012. Apparently, a husband and wife named Gary Giacomo and Jenny Giocomo are behind this new venture, and it looks like they've relocated to our area from Denver. They've been holding auditions, and they've got a website that looks like they know what they're doing. Anybody know any details?
Just when you thought I couldn't go any further far afield, I'm going to report on word I received about the upcoming season from the Fireside Theatre in FT. Atkinson, Wisconsin. They currently have "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" up (through October 23), and their specialty, "A Fireside Christmas," runs October 27--December 22. In 2012, they'll mount a "live band revue" called "Viva Vegas" from January 19--March 4, the musical "9 To 5" from March 8--May 6, "Legally Blonde" from May 10--July 1, a return of another Fireside specialty, "The Rock And The Rabbi" from July 12--August 19, their own "Hello, Dolly!" from August 23--October 21, and, in a surprise, "Scrooge, The Musical" from October 25- -December 23, 2012. That's quite a lineup.
Just a little bit closer to home, in Evanston, musicals on tap at the Theatre And Interpretation Center in the Northwestern University School of Communication include Jonathan Larson's "Rent," to be directed by Dominic Missimi (November 4-20, 2011) and "Spring Awakening" (February 10-26, 2012), directed by Geoff Button. I guess the kids up there are all rock and roll, hunh? And Northwestern's American Music Theater Project will sponsor two musicals in development this fall, "Triangle," on October 1st and 2nd, and, prior to that, the next musical by Aaron Thielen, author of "For The Boys," the new show that just premiered at the Marriott Theatre this past weekend. If "Hero" (music and lyrics by Michael Mahler) does well from September 16-18 of this year in Evanston, it wouldn't surprise me to see it as a full production at Marriott in the next available new season. Northwestern will have produced another "Waa-Mu" before then, of course!
Also in Evanston, the Savoyaires are at it again, keeping the Gilbert and Sullivan tradition alive. And they have an interesting trifecta of comic operas coming up for the early part of October! Sullivan's "The Zoo," (written without Gilbert), Gilbert's "Eyes And No Eyes" (written without Sullivan) and "Trial By Jury" (written together) will be performed in rotating rep. A. J. Wester directs all three shows, and Tim Semanik returns as musical director.
In Oak Park, the Evanston of western Cook County, the Circle Theatre is about to open its production of "Urinetown," directed and choreographed by Kevin Bellie. It begins previews September 9, and runs through October 23, starring Creg Sclavi and Kirk Swenk. The company's follow-up to the satire of greed, big business and musical theater is the rarely performed "The Baker's Wife," the Stephen Schwartz/Joseph Stein musical for which "Meadowlark" was written and excised, again and again. It runs November through January.
And lastly, the Alliance Sketch Group has been hard at work creating a work called "There Goes The Gaybarhood," a new musical revue to be presented in the de Maat Studio Theatre at Piper's Alley on Fridays from September 2nd to October 14th. Meredith Melville directs, with musical direction by Amanda Murphy. A cast of six will present all the ins and outs of gay bar and gay hood life, all in about an hour. It's under the The Second City umbrella, have no fear! Sketch comedy with a musical twist is here!
Next week, I'll have my analysis of the musical nominees for the Equity Jeff Awards, being announced as I type. And of course, Labor Day awaits! So, get yourself to some appropriate, end of summer locale, and make some memories. Or, see some theater. And, when it's all said and done, come and see me, under the video screens.....-PWT