'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 12th, 2012
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:
It's 12/12/12! And in honor of this auspicious day, I bring you...a December Mosh Pit without ANY Christmas musicals in it! I was wondering if it could be done, but it can, indeed. There is SO much theater in Chicago this time of year, that all kinds of performances are on the boards. So let's get to it! And you know where I'm going to start, don't you?
With the 300 pound gorilla in our living room, of course! "The Book Of Mormon" has finally, indeed, begun public performances in Chicago, at the Bank Of America Theatre (the BOAT) on Monroe Street in the Loop. Technically the second national tour of the hit Broadway show (and nine-time Tony winner), we can be forgiven for thinking of it as our very own company, can't we? It does feature Chicago actors James Vincent Meredith and Jackson Peter Evans in key roles. And it's officially sold out of tickets until March 3, 2013, and tickets are on sale through June 2nd, making a six-month run that some commercial "sit-down" productions here never attain. Let's just hope that no other tour cities are announced for a long, long time. Will it challenge the long run of "Jersey Boys" in the same theater? Only time will tell.
But in the meantime, there's GREAT news on the ticket front. Just yesterday, Broadway In Chicago announced a day-of-show drawing at the box office, reminiscent of the one held for an even longer Chicago run, that of "Wicked." Every morning when the BOAT box office opens, they will begin taking entries for that day's drawing, which will be held two hours prior to curtain time. You must be present at the drawing if your name is called. And these tickets, should your name be drawn, will only be $25 each! So, enjoy the show, Chicago. These tap-dancing Mormon missionaries and the Africans they meet will be around for a long time, I bet. Add "South Park," "Avenue Q" and "Spamalot" (the prominent credits of the artistic team) and you do indeed get something like this show (it's irreverent, it's about finding your purpose, and it's "safe" for people who don't like musicals). But the hilarity has to be seen to be believed....
And the other big event of the week is the end of the voting for the 2012 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards! You've already voted, haven't you? If not, you have until Saturday, December 15 to get your votes recorded, and to encourage your friends. While a few vote-getters have been in the lead since the get-go, many races are still fairly close, and I know of two categories where the nominee in last place is now in first place! That's the power of social media, folks. So it's not too late! Motivate your peeps, and you just may swing the vote your way. Best of luck to all the nominees in the 30 categories! And I hope that everyone is making plans to attend our BroadwayWorld Chicago Award Celebration at The Call nightclub in Andersonville, on Wednesday night, January 9, 2013. It will be a blast!
Speaking of awards, the nominees for the Best Musical Theater Album at the Grammy Awards were announced last week. The nominees are all cast albums of Broadway shows which opened last season: the new musicals "Once," "Newsies" and "Nice Work If You Can Get It," and the revivals of "Porgy And Bess" and "Follies." Interestingly/sadly, only a handful of songs on the first two albums consist of newly-composed material. But the recordings, and the productions they capture, are all pretty much the ones you'd expect to be nominated. Which ones are YOUR favorites? You've heard them all, haven't you?
Chicago's reputation as a town for new works of musical theater is certainly being utilized and enhanced as of late. This past week saw workshop performances at the Athenaeum Theatre of the musical "Kennedy," a reworking of "One Shining Moment," a show which enjoyed a long run at Chicago's Drury Lane Water Tower Place Theatre in 1983 (and had Megan Mullally as Jackie!). It's by Allan Jay Friedman and Leslie Bricusse (not unknown names, I trust), and the new workshop was quite the buzz in some circles over the weekend. I even heard some people talking about it on the #22 bus....
On Sunday night, the "Off The Porch" series at Porchlight Music Theatre presented a reading of another polical bio-musical, "The Chicago Story--Daley To Daley." Parrish Collier, Jeff Dumas and Nancy Voigts starred, directed by Walter Stearns. Seems like they had a nice crowd on hand. And not to rest on their laurels, Porchlight geared up the very next night for a publicity performance at Sidetrack of two numbers from their current mainstage show, a Christmas show I said I wouldn't mention this week! (Good job, you guys.)
Next Monday night, December 17, 2012, Midwest New Musicals of Light Opera Works will present a concert reading of the new musical "The Last Storyteller," book and lyrics by Caroline Lee and Christina Biggs and music by Margaret James. It's a show aimed at kids, directed by Joan Mazzonelli and starring Joseph Foronda, leading a cast of eight. It will take place at the Light Opera Works Second Stage, on Maple Avenue in Evanston. Kids ages 7 and older get in free! But you do need a reservation.
Speaking of shows aimed at the younger set, there are two musicalizations of "Cinderella" about these days. The higher profile one is at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (the aforementioned Drury Lane Water Tower Place Theatre), presented by Emerald City Theatre. It began performances November 23, and is slated for a seasonal run only (through January 6). Ernie Nolan directs the script by Alyn Cardarelli, with music by Steve Goers and musical direction by Marta Johnson. Missy Karle inhabits the title role, with Blake Reddick as her Prince. Mark Kosten and Tommy Bullington seem to have gained the attention of most of the critics as the stepsisters, along with the prerecorded music.
Running through December 30 up in Lincolnshire is a children's version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's version of the tale, originally written for television starring Julie Andrews, and opening on Broadway for the very first time (with yet again a different script) this winter. The Marriott Theatre has Dara Cameron and Brian Bohr as the title girl and her boy, directed by Matt Raftery with musical direction by Ryan Nelson. Other notable names in the cast include George Keating, Jameson Cooper, Iris Lieberman, Susan Moniz, Ericka Mac, Kelley Abell and Stephen Schellhardt. Rob Rahn and Stephanie Binetti are the King and Queen.
And, last but not least for today, we have... "Hannukatz The Musical!" (Well, it's a holiday show, but it's not for Christmas, so I kept my word!) Back for a return engagement at the National Pastime Theater on Lawrence Avenue in Uptown, with rock and roll music by Michael Carlson and book and lyrics by Terry Abrahamson, Shifra Werch has directed and choreographed a cast of five, with musical direction by Larry Rothbard. And yes, it's about a family of Jewish cats (in Skokie, no less). The previous production of this show was on Broadway, and this production is a reboot of sorts for the show (and the company). It runs through December 30.
Who will win a BroadwayWorld Chicago Award? Will the Mormons convert the villagers? Will there be any Christmas musicals in next week's Showtune Mosh Pit? These and many more questions will surely be answered in future weekly editions of the Midwest's leading musical theater column! Is this the Midwest's only musical theater column? Only time will tell. Until then, stay on task, and if you're a ballerina, stay on point. And I hope to see you soon, under the video screens.....—PWT
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From This Author Paul W. Thompson