'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for February 22nd, 2012
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
It’s the Chicago premiere of “A Catered Affair!” Harvey Fierstein and John Bucchino’s 2008 Broadway musical, winner of the Drama League award for Distinguished Production of a Musical and originally starring Faith Prince and Tom Wopat, has opened to a great degree of interest at Stage 773, for its Chicago premiere production. Brought to us by Porchlight Music Theatre, under new artistic director Michael Weber, it’s been directed by TimeLine Theatre’s Nick Bowling, with musical direction by bon vivant Doug Peck and a crack design team led by Brian Sidney Bembridge and Bill Morey. After a weekend of previews, the official opening night was yesterday, with the regular run scheduled for weekends from now until April 1, 2012.
The show, based on a Paddy Chayefsky short story and set in The Bronx in 1953, depicts the choices a family must make in celebrating the wedding of their beloved daughter during trying economic circumstances. Multi-Jeff Award-winning musical star Rebecca Finnegan and respected Chicago actor and teacher Craig Spidle star, supported by Kelly Davis Wilson (“The Original Grease”), Jim DeSelm (“Pump Boys And Dinettes”) and, in Fierstein’s role as Uncle Winston, Jerry O’Boyle, who played Edna Turnblad in “Hairspray” over 1,000 times in a four-year period. You won’t want to miss this show, as Porchlight really does live into its slogan with this one (“American Musicals. Chicago Style.) Awesome.
And Porchlight isn’t even done with opening shows for this month! “Best Musical!,” called “a completely improvised musical comedy,” will play for five Wednesdays, beginning on Leap Day, February 29, also at Stage 773, conceived by Matthew Loren Cohen and directed by Amanda Blake Davis. The cast of six will improvise songs (with audience input, of course) and then create a musical which includes those songs. Now, Chicago is home to several troupes specializing in exactly this sort of thing, but the roots of this particular production are in New York, I am told. Dangerous to bring an art form back to its hometown, but it’s a mild winter, so the Mosh Pit peeps may be ready for anything. And with Chicago actors/improvisers in the cast, I’m sure we’re in good hands.
Something that sounds a little unusual is going on at St. Gregory the Great Church in Andersonville, courtesy of the Quest Theatre Ensemble. Already two weeks into their performances, which end March 18, the company is presenting what I think is the rarely-seen-anymore musical “Barnum,” though it is billed here as “The People’s Barnum.” Quest is “The People’s Theatre,” so this might just be semantics, but it makes me worried that the show has been overly adapted or something. Still, authors Cy Coleman, Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble are listed in the credits, and the production photos include P.T. Barnum, Charity, Tom Thumb, Jenny Lind and a chorus of acrobats and sideshow attractions, so perhaps all is well. And the tickets are free! How does that happen, exactly? Let’s ask founding artistic director Andrew Park. Jason Bowen stars.