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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 31st, 2011





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 Then go and buy a ticket already!

Sweeney Todd - Drury Lane- Oakbrook - Play Detail

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.

Drury Lane's The Sound of Music; Cast Announced - 

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. 

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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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