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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for February 13th, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

And so the Grammys happened! In case you were under a rock on Sunday night, you may be aware that the National Academy Of Recording Arts And Sciences presented their annual bash in Los Angeles, and that hours before Mumford And Sons and Kelly Clarkson et al. took to the stage, the winner of the Best Musical Theater Album was announced. Yes, it was "Once," the 2012 Tony Award winner for the Best Musical on Broadway, based on the successful indie film of the same name. The reigning Tony winner wins the Grammy about half the time (as did "The Book Of Mormon" last year). But the two prior years did not see "Memphis" or "Billy Elliot" take home the Grammy. They weren't even nominated, and "American Idiot" and the Broadway revival of "West Side Story" took the recording trophy. This year, the recordings of the Broadway revivals of "Porgy And Bess" and "Follies" were thought by many to have a shot, but the funky Irish vibe and quirky non-love story with the onstage instrumentalists won instead. What say ye, oh Mosh Pit peeps?

Complete List of GRAMMY Winners

Which brings us to the Oscars, those film awards given by that other Los Angeles-based Academy, which will be handed out on February 24, 2013. Is Anne Hathaway a lock for Best Supporting Actress (is that what it's officially called?) for her performance as Fantine in "Les Miserables" (the role that none other than Patti LuPone created in London, winning an Olivier Award for it)? Will the film account for any other Oscar wins? Will we really be able to buy it on DVD next month? Has it really passed "Grease" and "Mamma Mia!" and become the highest grossing screen musical of all time? Does that count for the change in ticket prices since "The Sound Of Music?" Don't you wish I'd stop saying everything in the form of a question? May I have Musical Theater for $100, Alex? Ok, next topic!


Neatly tying all this together (video viewing habits, television broadcasts, cast recordings, DVD releases, award winners and the like) is a discussion herein of "Smash," the NBC drama set in the backstage world of the creation of a new Broadway musical or two. At the Grammys this Sunday, the show's breakout song, "Let Me Be Your Star" was nominated for Best Song Written For Visual Media, but did not win. Last Tuesday night was the big second season premiere of the show, and a lot of you folks watched it! Unfortunately, not a lot of the rest of the country did, apparently. Let's hope that the ratings improve, or at least stabilize, or a lot of work by a lot of Broadway industry folks won't see the light of day. Well, let's stay positive!

And in between Tuesday night viewings of new episodes, I believe that last season is out on DVD, and that the recording of "Bombshell," the Marilyn Monroe musical that the show's characters have been working on, was released this week on CD! Now, this presents a quandary. Exactly what it is again? It's the songs from a musical that has never been staged, but was conceived and written so that the script writers of "Smash" would have songs and dialogue and dances to give to the show's characters. And now that show has a recording, made by the cast of "Smash," singing as their characters' characters. The materials I've seen are calling it a "soundtrack." But isn't it more accurately a "studio cast recording?" (Or at least a "concept recording.") I mean, it's culled (in whole or in part) from recordings made for a TV show, even though I don't think all of every song has been or will be broadcast. So, it is one of the soundtrack recordings of music from "Smash," but I prefer to think that it's a recording of "Bombshell" made in a recording studio, by performers who are not actually staging "Bombshell" in a theater someplace. I mean, it IS a show, right? That's what we've always been told. And there is a very detailed plot synopsis. To me, that makes this a studio cast recording of a new Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman musical. Will it be eligible for next year's Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album? Or am I reaching? What say ye, Mosh Pit peeps?

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Paul W. Thompson Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com 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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