WINTER GUIDE 2013 Articles

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 25th, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Merry Christmas, and welcome to a holiday-foreshortened edition of the Showtune Mosh Pit! It's been nuts around, what with all the performing....

You may have been aware that Broadway's Karen Mason ("Wonderland," "Mamma Mia!," "Sunset Boulevard," "Hairspray") is a performer who got her start here in Chicago and has deep roots here. And she performed at Davenport's last weekend (as she does very nearly every year) for three well-received Christmas shows. I know of folks who went twice! Next up at the prime Wicker Park venue: Miriam Plotkin's Jewish-themed "Anxiety Tonight! (Pigtails Are Kosher)" on Saturday night, December 28. And performing there for two shows on New Year's Eve? Musical theater veterans both onstage and off, Cheri Coons and Beckie Menzie in "The Best Of Days." If I weren't performing elsewhere that night, I would be highly tempted....

Last January, the No Exit Café got into the cabaret game with the weekend January Cabaret Series from Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. And the company will be back presenting a second round this coming January. Appearing January 3-5 at the Rogers Park venue will be Theo veteran Chris Logan in "Home Again: The Songs Of Carole King." January 10-12 will bring Scott Gryder in "Life Is A Cabaret: The Music And Words Of John Kander And Fred Ebb" (Nick Sula at the keyboard). Amanda Batcher will appear in "Finding Beauty" from January 17-19. And "Chicago's Progressive LGBTQ Theater Company," MidTangent Productions, will present six performers from January 24-26 in "Dirty Little Secrets," about New Years' resolutions.


Speaking of this weekend, there is a major documentary premiering on PBS this Frirday night, December 27, celebrating the life and work of Marvin Hamlisch, PEGOT winner and composer of "A Chorus Line" and "The Way We Were." And Chicagoan and pianist Kevin Cole, the Jeff Award-winning musical director of the long-running "Forever Plaid" (1994-2002 at the Royal George Cabaret Theatre) appears in the telecast, playing Hamlisch's music and talking about him. Others who appear include, well, you know, Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Carly Simon, Idina Menzel.... You know. Bravo, Kevin!


Annually viewing the "Kennedy Center Honors" telecast is a tradition held dear by many Mosh Pit peeps at holiday time. And this year's broadcast, on Sunday night, December 29 on CBS, will honor Broadway dancer and film star Shirley MacLaine and "Movin' Out" songwriter Billy Joel, alongside keyboardist Herbie Hancock, guitarist Carlos Santana and singer Martina Arroyo. And the broadcast will include a performance by Anna Kendrick, Patina Miller, Sutton Foster and Karen Olivo! I'm just not sure why at this point. Maybe after I see it....

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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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