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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 18th, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

We're looking ahead in the Mosh Pit this week!

And the first thing we see is the opening of Light Opera Works' holiday production of Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun," which begins this Saturday and runs through New Year's Eve (Dec. 21-31) at Evanston's Cahn Auditorium. Colette Todd stars as the real-life star of the "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" shows, with friend-of-the-Mosh-Pit James Rank as Frank Butler. Both are Light Opera Works veterans, as are Jim Heatherly and Jenny Lamb (Charlie Davenport and Dolly Tate). Rudy Hogenmiller directs and choreographs the 1946 Ethel Merman tuner, with music direction by Roger L. Bingaman. There's no business like show business, you know. It's wonderful, so they say. You get the sun in the morning and the moon at night, and you might get lost in his arms--even though you can't get a man with a gun. Ah, life lessons from Golden Age musical theater!

The Paramount Theatre in Aurora is following its very well-received production of "Miss Saigon" with "42nd Street," running January 15-February 9 at the remarkable, renovated movie palace "on the island" in downtown Aurora. Rachel Rockwell directs and choreographs. And yes, there's a full orchestra there, too. Come and meet those dancin' feet!

Hot on the heels of the universal rave reviews that this year's production of "The Christmas Schooner" has received, Mercury Theatre Chicago announced its 2014 season, which of course will end with another reprise of John Reeger and Julie Shannon's heartwarming tale, based on the true story of Chicago's beloved "Christmas tree ship." Starting off the season on Southport will be a guest production, Stephen Sondheim's much-loved "Into The Woods." (Can you wait another year until the Meryl Streep-starring film version is released?) The Mercury's production will be supplied by The Hypocrites, whose production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" is still packing them into the Steppenwolf Garage Theatre through December 29. ITW by The Hypocrites will be in residence at the Mercury from February 6 through March 30. Between it and the return visit of the "Schooner," the Mercury will mount the first local Equity productions of two 21st century Broadway titles, "Avenue Q" (April through June) and "The Addams Family" (September through November). "Avenue Q," you'll remember, was co-written by Robert Lopez, as was the Walt Disney animated film "Frozen," whose power ballad "Let It Go" wowed the crowd at Sidetrack this past Monday night. See how I did that?

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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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