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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for February 16th, 2011





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

"Working" is here! Stephen Schwartz's new version of the 1978 Broadway musical (based on Chicago raconteur Studs Terkel's book of the same name) begins performances on Tuesday, February 15, 2011, and is scheduled to run at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place through May 8th. While the show has not officially opened to the press yet, advance word from those lucky enough to be invited to the show's last dress rehearsal on Sunday is very positive. And clearly, this production is one that New York investors will be invited to see, so that the show (though perhaps not this cast) can be seen in New York in the foreseeable future. With two new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda ("In The Heights"), new orchestrations by Miranda/Schwartz associate Alex Lacamoire and a scene design by Broadway's Beowulf Borritt, Chicago is in for some work by top-notch professionals, including the local cast (six-time Jeff Award-winner E. Faye Butler, "Wicked"'s Barbara Robertson and Gene Weygandt, wunderkind Michael Mahler and newcomers Emjoy Gavino and Gabriel Ruiz). Direction is by Gordon Greenberg, and choreography is by Josh Rhodes, also New York talent. It's fascinating to know that Schwartz has chosen to devote his time and energy to this particular project in the wake of "Wicked"'s phenomenal success. We'll know soon enough if he was right to do so! And here is the production's phenomenal website: 

WORKING: A Musical Based on the Book by Studs Terkel 

Also on Sunday were the 53rd annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, where Julie Andrews won a competitive award and an honorary one, Barbra Streisand won a special award and sang on the telecast, and "Glee" and Justin Bieber didn't win. A recording of the "Requiem" by Giuseppe Verdi featuring the Chicago Symphony Chorus (members include yours truly and many, many other showtune-loving creatures--trust me) won two awards. And the award for Best Musical Show Album went to "American Idiot," featuring the original Broadway cast of the show, accompanied by the members of the band Green Day, upon whose albums the show is based. Not a surprise, in that the current Tony Award winner for Best Musical, "Memphis," was not even nominated, and that two recordings with scores by Stephen Sondheim may have split the vote for this 80-year-old Grammy favorite. What say you, Mosh Pit peeps? Is the Best Musical Grammy Award meaningless in the grand scheme of things? Many folks in New York think so. I think that we "west of the Hudson" types may think differently about recordings and other documentation of Broadway productions. Or am I wrong? 

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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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