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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for February 29th, 2012





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

We learned since last week that Chicago will be the location of not one, but two pre-Broadway productions next year! One is a traditional commercial out-of-town tryout, but with no New York dates firmed up (as of yet). And the other is a less traditional, first mounting of a show, at an established non-profit regional theater but with ties to commercial producers and a clear (though as-yet unknown) afterlife. But there we are, in the midst of it!

The first is “Kinky Boots,” adapted from a 2005 film by Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper, to be directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell to run at the Bank Of America Theatre beginning in October, 2012. Fierstein, the author of the books for “La Cage Aux Folles,” “A Catered Affair” (now at Porchlight Music Theatre) and “Newsies” (opening on Broadway soon) and Lauper (the rock legend and star of the most recent Broadway revival of “The Threepenny Opera,” making her debut as a theater writer) are taking on this story about a shoe factory and a drag queen, in what sounds on paper like either a brilliant show or a disaster. (Wait. Don’t ALL shows sound like this on paper?) So, of course we reserve judgment, and of course we hope it does well. So why can’t we buy tickets yet, Broadway In Chicago? It’s the world premiere of a Cyndi Lauper musical!


The other show, perhaps even more exciting because of the source material and the history of those involved, is “The Jungle Book,” based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling and the 1967 Walt Disney animated film (the Academy Award-nominated “The Bare Necessities” is by Terry Kilkyson, with the rest of the film’s songs by the Sherman brothers). The Goodman Theatre has announced the show for the tail end of next season, to play June 27-July 28, 2013 and to be written and directed by Mary Zimmerman, with the blessing of the Walt Disney studios and with her ability to use discarded film songs and, presumably, whatever else the Tony and multiple Jeff Award-winner wants. Similarly to “The Lion King,” Zimmerman is reported to be interested in using native (in this case, Indian) music in addition to the songs written for the film, and, of course, she will have to contend with how to depict bears, tigers and what-not on stage. But returning to the home of her success with rewriting and staging “Candide” should be familiar turf for the “Metamorphoses” and “Arabian Nights” auteur, and the eyes of the world will be on Chicago’s theater scene 16 months from now, I can assure you. Awesome. It’s “The Jungle Book!”

Goodman Theatre 2012-13 Season

Speaking of “A Catered Affair,” I understand that its composer-lyricist, the cabaret writer John Bucchino, was in town last weekend to see the performance of his musical at Porchlight Music Theatre and to take part in a master class by some lucky musical theater and cabaret performers. A visit to our environs for a different reason will occur this summer, when “The Addams Family” composer Andrew Lippa returns to our town, this time to be one of the master teachers at the Johnny Mercer Foundation Songwriters Project at Northwestern University, along with Craig Carnelia and Lari White. Those dates are June 18-23. Get your application in now--they are due March 30th!


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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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