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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 5th, 2012





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

It’s finally here! Or HE is. Who? Yes, many whos. Not “The Who,” but, “The Whos.” Anywho, him! It! I’m talking about “How The Grinch Stole Christmas!,” or, I suppose its exact title is probably, “Dr. Seuss’ ‘How The Grinch Stole Chistmas!’: The Musical.” It’s here! But I hate that sort of thing. Not the show! But when they name a person before the title, and put the words “The Musical,” afterwards--that sort of thing. Like with “Shogun.” I hate that….

Anyway, I digress. This 2006 Broadway musical, which originated in Minneapolis as a children’s show in 1994 and was first staged by Jack O’Brien in San Diego in 1998, is making its LONG-awaited Chicago debut this week, running through December 16 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Based on the 1957 children’s book and the phenomenally popular 1966 animated television program, which featured songs with music by Albert Hague (“Plain And Fancy”) and lyrics by Dr. Seuss (along with his script), I hope it isn’t also based on the 2000 live action film. Anyway, with book and lyrics by Timothy Mason and music by Mel Marvin, and including those original television songs, the Broadway version was directed by Matt August, presumably based on O’Brien’s lead. It’s been seen somewhere every year since 2006. And now, with two New York-based national tours criss-crossing the northeastern quadrant of the country this holiday season, Chicago finally gets it. You’re going, aren’t you? Or are you a mean one, like the Grinch?

How The Grinch Stole Christmas!

Not to be outdone, another perennially popular 1960s animated Christmas television special is also on the boards here, “Rudoph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Well, sort of. It’s not an authorized version of the original stop-action program from 1964, but a parody of the same, and we’ve had it every year for the last 15 holiday seasons, courtesy of Hell In A Handbag Productions. Now open through December 29 at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville, the satirical musical, “Rudolph The Red-Hosed Reindeer,” with gender-bending and pan-orientation orientation, has book and lyrics by David Cerda, and music by Cerda, Scott Lamberty and Taylor E. Ross. AJ Wright directs a gala cast, starring 2011 BroadwayWorld Chicago Award-winner Michael Hampton reprising his role as Santa, with Ed Jones as Ruth Claus, Alex Grelle as Rudolph, Chad Ingold as Herbie and Lori Lee as Yukon Cornelia. Chicago has had a long history with Rudolph, starting with the origin of the story in 1939 as a holiday offering by our Montgomery Ward company. Is it any wonder that we have embraced a contemporary retelling of the story so strongly?

Last week in the Mosh Pit, we talked about several local mountings of “A Christmas Carol,” the amazingly long-lived short novel by Charles Dickens. And there are more! Steel Beam Theatre in west suburban St. Charles is remounting their production of “Scrooge” (aka “Scrooge: The Musical”). Leslie Bricusse’s film version of the tale runs live on stage through December 23rd.

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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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