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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for February 12th, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Two shows by Stephen Sondheim have every Mosh Pit peep's attention this week, as they officially open after short preview periods. And the buzz is deafening! First of all, I'm talking of course about "Gypsy" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Sondheim), directed by Gary Griffin and starring Louise Pitre as the famous (infamous?) "Momma" Rose Hovick. Running through March 23, with choreography by Mitzi ("Val") Hamilton and music direction by Rick Fox, the show features Keith Kupferer as Herbie and Rhett Guter as Tulsa, with Jessica Rush and Erin Burniston as Louise and June, and Caroline Heffernan and Emily Leahy as their younger counterparts. With old Chicago hands like John Reeger and Barbara E. Robertson on board, and young adult Chicago-area talents like Adam Fane and Landree Fleming strutting their stuff, how can the show that gave us "Some People," "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Sing out, Louise" go wrong?

And second of all, I'm talking of course about "Into The Woods" from The Hypcrites, playing at the Mercury Theater Chicago through March 30, directed by Geoff Button in the company's whimsical, playful and ensemble style of theater. Folks are being blown away by the photographs that have been released. Not looking like any other production of this Tony-winner for Best Score (music and lyrics both by Sondheim), it certainly looks as if the aesthetic of The Hypocrites (think of their recent forays into Gilbert and Sullivan and their award-winning 2010 production of "Cabaret") has been fully realized once again. Wonder if the reviews will show forth the promise that word of mouth has been stirring up? (Musical direction by Matt Deitchman and choreography by Katie Spelman)


Running through March 16 in Oakbrook Terrace's Drury Lane Theatre is "Young Frankenstein," which opened three weeks ago to reviews that, more than once, called it "better than the Broadway original." Now, nobody thinks that this show is as good as its Mel Brooks predecessor, "The Producers." But it has not one but two legendary films to try and evoke on stage (the 1931 James Whale masterpiece, "Frankenstein," and Brooks' 1974 satire of it). William Osetek's production here reported does well enough, and Jeff Dumas' Igor apparently stands out ("What hump?). Roberta Duchak and Tammy Mader handled the music direction and choreography assignments. I have a feeling that if you think you will like it, you better go now. It may not get any better than this, folks!

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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!”

StinkyKIDS the Musical
(Runs 4/17 - 4/17)
Oklahoma! in ChicagoOklahoma!
(Runs 4/11 - 4/18)
American Idiot in ChicagoAmerican Idiot
(Runs 4/23 - 4/23)
Sleeping Beauty in ChicagoSleeping Beauty
(Runs 4/15 - 4/25)
The Sound of Music in ChicagoThe Sound of Music
(Runs 4/25 - 4/26)
Side Effects May Include in ChicagoSide Effects May Include
(Runs 4/26 - 4/26)
Jesus Christ Superstar in ChicagoJesus Christ Superstar
(Runs 4/18 - 4/26)

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