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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 4, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Welcome to your all-non-holiday Mosh Pit! In the wake of Kim Zimmer and company wowing the Showtune crowd as Sidetrack on Monday night (a fundraiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS), we've realized that there are a lot of shows that have nothing at all to do with tinsel, Wise Men or jolly red elves. Especially those shows opening early next year. So let's put the eggnog and wassail on hold, and dive into what's going on in locally-based productions that have year-round appeal.

The much-lauded production of "The Mikado" directed by Sean Graney for The Hypocrites has returned for a second year. At the Chopin Theatre last December, it is now in the Steppenwolf Garage through December 29. Choreographer Katie Spelman and music director Andra Velis Simon lead a cast of 11 through their paces in this non-traditional staging of a beloved masterpiece of English music theatre. Last year's production is nominated for a BroadwayWorld Chicago Award. Better catch this year's version to figure out what you missed!

The little-seen Broadway musical "Triumph Of Love" is making what may be its Chicago area debut this weekend and next, in a concert production by the Music Theatre Company in Highland Park (December 6-15). Directed by James Beaudry and music directed by Kory Danielson, Jeffrey Stock and Susan Birkenhead's musical stars Elizabeth Telford and Nathan Gardner, with Sawyer Smith, Meghan Murphy, Bill Chamberlain, Garret Lutz and Katherine L. Condit in Betty Buckley's role of Hesione. Rare, indeed!

Kokandy Productions' "Sweet Smell Of Success" will trod the boards at Theater Wit in Lakeview from January 10-February 2, 2014, directed by John D. Glover and music directed by Aaron Benham, with choreography by Steven Spanopoulos. Brian Rooney leads the cast of the Marvin Hamlisch tuner as J.J. Hunsecker, with David Schlumpf as Sidney and Victoria Blade as Susan. Nathan Gardner (name sound familiar?) will co-star as Dallas, with Christina Hall as Rita and a talented ensemble of thirteen.

The huge Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire will be mounting the legendary musical "Cabaret" after the holidays, for a run from January 15-March 16. David H. Bell is directing, with choreography by Matt Raftery and music direction by Ryan T. Nelson. Starring as Sally Bowles will be Broadway performer Megan Sikora, with Broadway and Marriott veteran Patrick Sarb as Clifford Bradshaw and Stephen Schellhardt as the Emcee. Others in the cast include but are not limited to Annabel Armour, Craig Spidle, Christine Sherrill and Jameson Cooper. Hot time!

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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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