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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for February 20th, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

The national tours are about to descend upon us! And yes, the world learned just yesterday that "Wicked" would be returning to Chicago once again, for the 2013 holiday season (October 30-December 21). It will be at the scene of its three and half year triumphant run during the last decade (2005-09), the Oriental Theatre, which was not the case for the show's visit in 2010-11 (it was at the Cadillac Palace). So, diehard fans will be happy.


But there are so many tours to get through before the green girl and company return again. In fact, there are seven major touring productions opening and closing here in the next eleven weeks alone! Buckle your seat beats, and your wallets, Chicago, for the buses and trucks are arriving! Let's review the proceedings, shall we?

First up, and in a non-Broadway-In-Chicago venue, is the return of "Fela!," the musical based on the life and music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Nigerian musician and political figure of the 1970s and 80s. The show is this week, February 19-23, at the Arie Crown Theater, inside the easternmost building of the McCormick Place convention center complex. Chicago area resident Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child (you saw her during the Super Bowl halftime show, didn't you?) is headlining this tour. Bill T. Jones' Tony Award-winning choreography will be on display as well.


Next up on the touring docket (and back in the fold of Broadway In Chicago we go) is the pre-Broadway engagement of the first New York revival of "Jekyll And Hyde," the early 90s pop musical that introduced Broadway to an entire generation of Miss America contestants. We will have it for two weeks (March 12-24) at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. "Rock Of Ages" star Constantine Maroulis and former Broadway "Aida" Deborah Cox (both of them with significant Los Angeles television and recording industry credits, too) are headlining this outing, directed by Jeff Calhoun and including Frank Wildhorn's first complete score to reach the Main Stem (starring his then wife and muse, Linda Eder). It reaches Broadway this time on April 5, and their pre-Broadway engagements are few in number, so we are lucky to get it! Can being a guilty pleasure strike twice?

Overlapping the run of "Jekyll And Hyde" here (March 19-30) will be the first Chicago appearance of "Priscilla Queen Of The Desert," the musical with no appositive comma in its title. But it does have over 500 costumes, and a Tony Award for those, too (echoing the Oscar for costumes that the designers won for their work on the source film). This run will be at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, so I hope they give those costumes room to breathe up there! And don't forget the score, made up of all the great disco diva anthems of the 1970s and 80s ("I Will Survive," "It's Raining Men," etc.). This show is fun and meaningful. What's the matter with that?

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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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