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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for February 5th, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for February 5th, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

The Tony Award-winning Best Musical of 1978, "Ain't Misbehavin'," began lighting up Stage 773 last week, and this week the Fats Waller musical officially opens, bringing Porchlight Music Theatre into 2014 with a splash. Robin DaSilva, Sharriese Hamilton, Donterrio Johnson, Lina Wass and Lorenzo Rush, Jr., are the cast, backed by a five-piece band under the musical direction of Jaret Landon and the piano lead of Austin Cook. Multiple award-winning director-choreographer Brenda Didier does those honors here. The show runs through March 9, and the advance word is very positive. Apparently during the first preview, the piano broke or something, and the cast improvised in Waller's style until Cook fixed the problem! Nothing like a cast that has thoroughly internalized their material....


Director Stacy Flaster's cast for the highly regarded "Ragtime" has been announced at Big Noise Theatre Company in northwest suburban Des Plaines. The Flaherty/Ahrens masterwork runs April 25-May 11, starring David Simmons as Coalhouse, Amanda Horvath as Mother, David Lundholm as Tateh, Sydney Charles as Sarah, Kevin Kirkpatrick as Father, Ryan Dooley as Mother's Younger Brother, Marian Kaderbek as Emma Goldman, Maddy LaRoche as Evelyn Nesbitt and Kris Hyland as Houdini. There's a big supporting cast, too, all under the musical direction of Robert Deason. It's "Ragtime!" A show frequently produced here, with good reason.

A world premiere musical aimed at the younger set will bow in March at Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park. It's "Lyle Finds His Mother," based on the book by Bernard Waber, adapted by Jessica Wright Buha, with music and lyrics by Michael James Brooks. Lyle, the Crocodile, will be portrayed by Anthony Kayer, alongside performers Linsey Falls, Deanna Myers, Erin O'Shea and Brian Tochterman, Jr. The show runs March 22-April 27, directed by Lifeline Theatre's artistic director, Dorothy Milne.


A well-established children's title with a Chicago pedigree will play up in Lake County at the Marriott Theatre from February 28-May 4. It's "Schoolhouse Rock Live!," based on the ABC-TV cartoon series of the 1970s that taught a generation of kids basic math, grammar, politics and more. One of the show's original creators, George Keating, will direct a cast that includes Brian Bohr, Jackson Evans, Zachary Gray, Holly Stauder, Rose Le Tran and Brandi Wooten. "Conjunction Junction," anyone?


Of course, that's daytimes. At the usual matinee and evening times, the Marriott's production of "Cabaret" continues through March 16, directed by David H. Bell and including the film version's "Maybe This Time," but not its "Mein Herr." Most critics seem pleased with Megan Sikora, Stephen Schellhardt, Patrick Sarb and company, choreographed by Matt Raftery.

But will audiences ever tire of the 1966 show, Kander and Ebb's first masterpiece? Even as a revival of a revival of "Cabaret" readies itself for Broadway, the show is receiving not only the Marriott in-the-round treatment, but also a college production, at Northwestern University's Ethel M. Barber Theater, courtesy of the Theatre And Interpretation Center. Running February 14-March 2, it's being directed by Nick Bowling (the Associate Artistic Director of Chicago's TimeLine Theatre Company). Might be interesting to compare and contrast....

The best-reviewed show in town right now is "42nd Street" at the Paramount Theatre in the heart of downtown Aurora. And by "in town," I mean anywhere in the Chicagoland area! But hurry, you've only got this week remaining, as the 1981 Tony winner closes this Sunday, February 9. As directed by Rachel Rockwell, choreographed by Tammy Mader and music directed by Doug Peck, this production got a string of rave reviews from critics. And I've heard nothing but superlatives from social media types. It's apparently well cast, well staged, well performed, well everything. What are you waiting for? Shuffle off!! Larry Adams and Laura Savage star.

Speaking of Sunday the 9th, that evening is the first edition of "Option Up!" at Stage 773's The Cab, the new monthly musical theater cabaret, comedy and variety show hosted by BFFs Christopher Pazdernik and Aaron Benham. Along with Lina Wass (from "Ain't Misbehavin') and Henry McGinniss (a senior at Roosevelt University), Chris and Aaron's additional guests will be big-time indeed, as Cooper Grodin and Ben Jacoby from the current Broadway In Chicago tour of "The Phantom Of The Opera" will be appearing! That's The Phantom and Raoul, you guys! In a very intimate room on Belmont Avenue. I'm not sure who else has announced this, but I'm assured it's happening. Wonder if some fellow cast members will be in the audience. What are you waiting for? Get your tickets now!


In a similarly intimate vein, though with less comedy, I think, will be the appearance of highly regarded New York cabaret artist and Broadway leading lady KT Sullivan at the University Of Chicago's Logan Center Penthouse Salon Series, in Hyde Park a week from Saturday (February 15, 2014). Sullivan will honor legendary singer Mabel Mercer in her set on the ninth floor of the still-new Logan Center For The Arts. She knows a thing or two about Mercer, as she serves as the artistic director of the Mabel Mercer Foundation. And she knows her way around a cabaret space, let me tell you. Lessons will be learned.


Lastly this week, we are proud at the Mosh Pit to announce that the formal unveiling of the long-awaited Belmont Theater District finally occurred last week. Long the home of Chicago's largest concentration of small theaters, the corridor of Belmont Avenue from Broadway west to Southport (and a few blocks north and south) has now received official recognition, thanks to a partnership between the Lakeview Chamber Of Commerce and Lakeview East Chamber Of Commerce, and it includes not only the obvious Stage 773 and Theater Wit facilities (formerly the Theatre Building Chicago and Bailiwick Repertory Theater buildings, respectively, side by side and multi-faceted), but also such prominent venues as the Briar Street Theatre (home of "Blue Man Group"), the Athenaeum Theatre (the city's oldest continuously operating theater), Mercury Theater Chicago, TimeLine Theatre Company, The Laugh Factory (formerly the Broadway Theatre) and the future home of the Annoyance Theatre, opening next winter in a former store and athletic facility. It's about time! And let's hope this designation and partnership produces increased visibility, synergy, joint marketing, restaurant and parking deals, and more. This is a very good thing, and years in the making. YAY!

Check out the new BELMONT THEATER DISTRICT's website!

So it's February! And, you know, a certain Winter Olympic thingy is about to come on the telly. If past history serves as any indication, theater attendance might lag a bit for the next couple of weeks. Now, is that fair, I ask you? No, it is not! Folks whose shows are running right now deserve at least as much attention as curling. If you've got a mind to, throw them some support, won't you? And I hope to see you, in close proximity to the Belmont Theater District, under the video screens.....-PWT

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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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