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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 19th, 2012




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Musical theater in Chicago sure is booming these days! And the Showtune Mosh Pit is booming right along with it. We've got new readers by the hundreds joining the peeps every single week this month, and more shows and items of interest than we've got column inches for! It's a great time to be a Chicago showtune fan. So let's get right to it, shall we?

I don't know if they are musicals or what, but we've got these dueling radio play productions of "It's A Wonderful Life" every year, and there's music in them somehow! I think that other cities have similar productions, but the city of Chicago has got two, with both claiming their right to perform a theatrical adaptation of the script of the classic Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart/Donna Reed film, set in a radio studio in the 1940s: "It's A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play" at the American Theater Company, and "It's A Wonderful Life: Live At The Biograph" at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, presented by the American Blues Theater. The "Radio Play" one has the legendary Mike Nussbaum as both Clarence and Mr. Potter, and the "Live" one has Michael Mahler and Dara Cameron leading Christmas carols and singing commercial jingles, with John Mohrlein as Clarence and Mr. Potter. Both productions run through December 30. It's an abundance of riches! And the plays are about that, too...



Not to be outdone, but on a smaller scale, there's "It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" at the Oil Lamp Theater in Glenview through the 29th. I'm not sure if there's music, but why quibble?


There are two very similar-looking shows in the far western suburbs right now--so similar that I'm pretty sure it's the same show. But I think there are two different casts. It's the "Dysfunctional Holiday Revue," courtesy of The Second City, Chicago's famous comedy school and performance venue and acting troupe of sketch comedy whizzes. Both the Paramount Theatre in Aurora and the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles are offering this show, as side offerings to their current mainstage shows, "Annie" and "The Winter Wonderettes," respectively. Paramount's revue runs December 13-23 in the Copley Theatre, and St. Charles' version has been on Friday nights this month (including this weekend) and will return on New Year's Eve. It's nice to know that Kane County is receiving some improve and sketch comedy love from Old Town, isn't it? Touring companies are a brilliant invention.

second-city-dysfunctional-holiday-revue in Aurora

Second City's Dysfunctional Holiday Revue in St Charles

Speaking of touring shows, a certain New York holiday tradition has opened once again in a touring incarnation in northwest suburban Rosemont, hard up against Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. It's racking up really good reviews, too--a well-reviewed revue. I'm talking about "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular -- starring The Rockettes," at least that's what I think the show is officially called. No, they aren't the same Rockettes that are currently performing at their namesake venue on Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, nor is this exactly the same show, reportedly. But our critics are loving it. The leggy ladies and all the holiday cheer they and their sister dancers have dispensed for 85 years are at the Akoo Theatre (formerly known as the Rosemont) until December 30. I'm not even sure that what they do is a musical revue, because it might be a dance concert. But it's in a theater and it's all popular and all, and there's holiday music, and why not! Again, why quibble? And there's nothing else like it. Just go....

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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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