'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 14th, 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:
This past weekend saw the Broadway debut of one Jessie Mueller, daughter of Roger and sister of Abby and Andrew, and the Chicago Showtune community is abuzz about it! Just six months ago this Chicagoan from a quintessential performing arts family was appearing in “Shout” at the Marriott Theatre, and just weeks ago she won this year’s Joseph Jefferson Award for Actress in a Principal Role – Musical for starring in “She Loves Me” at the Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe (she was nominated for a BroadwayWorld Chicago Award for the same performance). But now, Mueller is starring opposite Harry Connick, Jr., in the reconception of the 1965 Alan Jay Lerner-Burton Lane musical “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.” One great thing about all this is that the original leading lady back in the day was Chicagoan Barbara Harris, and another great thing is that Connick’s standby for the male leading role is none other than Chicagoan Sean Allan Krill (he was in last Christmas’s “Spamalot” at the Drury Lane Theatre). The best thing of all is that, whether a particular review is negative or less so about the “On A Clear Day…” production as a whole, nearly everything coming out ofNew York about Jessie Mueller is very positive. Thanks for doing us proud, Jessie! And if you haven’t seen a clip of her in this show, here is one of the ending of her big solo, “Ev’ry Night At Seven.” Good Lord, such pipes!
Speaking of the Broadies… the second annual BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards, the Chicago area’s only theater awards voted solely by the fans, are heating up the holidays in a big way! Voting ends at midnight on Thursday evening, December 15, 2011, so if you still can, get your votes counted! Other media outlets have been announcing their end-of-year top ten lists, but Chicago.BroadwayWorld.com lets the fans have a voice! And once the winners are officially announced online, make your plans to attend the Awards Celebration at The Call nightclub in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood on Wednesday evening, December 28th! It will be a fun night of seeing old and new theater friends and colleagues, and all nominees for the awards (and everyone affiliated with nominated productions) will be given a yellow nominees’ ribbon at check-in. Winners will receive certificates (new this year), and many theater folk will be given the opportunity to address the crowd. I’ll be hosting the event, assisted by The Call’s Ashley Morgan, along with BroadwayWorld Chicago contributors M. William Panek and Misha Davenport. The Call is at 1547 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, and owner and VJ Michael Hogan will be spinning his regular Wednesday Showtune videos! Come one, come all, to The Call! I look forward to seeing you there.
Um, ok, “Glee.” We haven’t been talking about it in the Mosh Pit lately, though we love the videos and I know a lot of folks have been watching the FOX TV series. This week was this year’s Christmas episode. But I have to ask, is the bloom off the rose? A lot of peeps seem to have given up on the show, and those who love it have been keeping it to themselves. Am I wrong? Here’s BroadwayWorld’s recap of this week’s episode. Do we still like it? Let me know!
Or are we waiting for the next TV show to feature song and dance? That would be NBC’s upcoming series, “Smash,” from executive producer Steven Spielberg and starring Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty as rivals for the lead role in a new Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. That cliché, and that musical, have been done before, but will this be good? At least it’s about Broadway. (I point out that “Glee” is, after all, about show choirs, and high school ones to boot. And most of what they sing is, after all, pop music--not that there’s anything wrong with that.) I think there will be different kinds of music on “Smash,” but the songs from the fictional Marilyn musical are being written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“Hairspray”). There are a lot of other Broadway names involved, too. And it debuts on February 6, 2012, after the Super Bowl, whatever that is…. ;-)
While Christmas caroling last weekend, I was brought into mind that from the 7th floor food court at Macy’s on State Street (I call it “Field’s), you can see the marquees of three of our most important Loop touring houses, the Oriental Theatre, the Chicago Theatre and the Cadillac Palace Theatre. And it so happens that all three of them are hosting musical attractions designed to capture as audience members many of those same folk now shopping at the landmark State Street Macy’s (if not a few stragglers as well). At the Oriental for another two weeks you will find “Donny and Marie - Christmas In Chicago,” a theatrical concert starring the two best-known Osmond siblings in an evening of holiday cheer and musical nostalgia. Both of them have starred on Broadway (“Little Johnny Jones” and “The King And I,” respectively) and Donny headlined the Chicago Theatre for a couple of years in the 1990s in a Garth Drabinsky production of “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” So, their theatrical props are secure, if not prominent. Anyway, they do seem to know what they are doing. Through December 24.
Pulling into the Balaban and Katz landmark Chicago Theatre this week, through December 30, is the new musical version of the cult hit 1983 film “A Christmas Story,” the Jean Shepherd memoir about life in the Midwest in mid-century. With a score written by two twenty-somethings from the University of Michigan, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and a plot that many folks know by heart (you know, Ralphie wants an air rifle, the dad gets a lamp that looks like a lady’s leg, the kid licks a flagpole, etc.), this production rehearsed here before setting out on a five-city tour, with Chicago as the fifth and final stop. Rumor has it thatNew York, or at least a lot of other cities, may see this show next Christmas. And there are several Chicagoans in the cast. Is this a major new holiday show for the repertoire? We’ll know ASAP!
At the Cadillac Palace, however, things are looking a little grim. Originally scheduled to have opened there last week, for a three week run, was the national tour of “The Addams Family,” which you will remember played a lengthy pre-Broadway tryout at the Oriental Theatre two Christmases ago. However, the production is currently on hiatus, and will play the Palace for one week only, December 27-January 1. The amazingly perfect original cast is gone, of course, and even though you’d think curiousity would send a lot of theater geeks back to the show to see it with the changes put in for the Broadway run, apparently Broadway In Chicago overestimated the appeal of this visit. That’s not like them. Anyway, catch it when you can, for you never know when it will turn up again.
Though I have to say, the audience for touring shows must be growing, or else Broadway In Chicago is going to eat its collective shirt. Depending on how you count, there are 15 major tours of musicals coming through here in the six months between December and May. Fifteen! Included in this number is this month’s just-departed “Memphis” and not yet arrived “La Cage Aux Folles,” then in January, “Come Fly Away,” “In The Heights” and “Mamma Mia!,” in February, “American Idiot” and “South Pacific,” in March, “Bring It On,” “Riverdance” and “Fela!,” in April, a long stay by “Jersey Boys,” and in May, it’s just been announced that we’ll be visited by the “Cats.” Donny and Marie, Gomez and Morticia, and of course, Ralphie, round out the lot. I’m exhausted!
But, have no fear, local shows are alive and well, too. Even original ones! I don’t know how I missed it this far, but the Provision Theater Company on Roosevelt Road has gotten some positive notices with the new children’s musical, “The Christmas Miracle Of Jonathan Toomey,” directed by its bookwriter Tim Gregory and with a folk and bluegrass score by Michael Mahler. It’s based on a children’s book by Susan Wojciechowski, and features musical direction by Nicholas Davio and a choreographic assist from Molly Curry. James Rank, Lia Mortensen and Michele McKenzie-Voigt are adults in the cast, and there is a large cast of children, headed by Michael Saguto. Concerning a woodcarver who creates a nativity scene to replace a lost one created by a boy’s dead father, the production runs through December 23.
And lastly, we look to the new year, with rehearsals already underway for the Chicagopremiere of the hit Londonplay-with-music, “Enron.” TimeLine Theatre Company will present Lucy Prebble’s work for three months (previews begin January 17, 2012) at its W. Wellington Avenue home. The show is being directed by Rachel Rockwell, on quite a roll with noteworthy productions at the Drury Lane Theatre and elsewhere, and stars Sean Fortunato, Bret Tuomi, Terry Hamilton and Amy Matheny, with an ensemble of nine more actors.
So, if it’s not the 16th yet, vote for the Broadway Chicago Awards! Once the voting is over, look for the winners online, and make your plans to join everyone else on December 28th at The Call. That’s one of the places I'll see you… under the video screens.....—PWT
[Be sure to subscribe to the Mosh Pit! Click here to subscribe to our BroadwayWorld Message Board discussion thread. Receive your e-mail notice that the weekly “Showtune Mosh Pit” is available!]
From This Author Paul W. Thompson