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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 11, 2012





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

The biggest brouhaha in many a day occurred around the Showtune Mosh Pit this past week, as word spread far and wide and quickly that a certain country-pop singer had been cast in a certain big screen adaptation of a certain megainternational popera superhit of the 1980s (the decade when she, and half of the film’s reported cast, were born). I’m referring of course to Taylor Swift and to “Les Miserables.” You would have thought that nobody had ever considered the notion that being 22 and an extremely popular and photogenic singer would have put her in the running for a role in the Tom Hooper film of the Schonberg-Boublil musical, probably the most popular stage musical of all time, and whose film version is due in theaters on December 7, 2012. I’m not going to judge the merits of her casting, or that of anybody else, at least not in print! But I’m really glad that people care so much, however. Is this shock that the role didn’t go to Lea Michele? Perhaps. But obviously, this is a project that we will all be seeing a lot of, probably for the rest of our natural lives! Just for the record, the cast is apparently set as follows:  Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Russell Crowe (Inspector Javert), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), Taylor Swift (Eponine), Sacha Baron Cohen (Thernardier), Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras), Anne Hathaway (Fantine) and Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thenardier). And no, I don’t know what order to list them in! Thoughts?

Amanda Seyfried & Taylor Swift Complete LES MISERABLES Film Cast

On Monday of this week, Chicago was the site of not one but two major events in the showtune video world. It’s true! The more talked about one (and the one with a better marketing strategy to boot) was the “VIP” sneak preview of the upcoming NBC-TV series “Smash,” at the ICON Showplace movie theaters on Roosevelt Road (one of a handful that occurred simultaneously, nationwide). Brian D’Arcy James, a Northwestern University graduate and one of the series’s stars, was on hand, as were producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan. In case you’re not yet aware, the series is set in New York, and concerns the production of a musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Some of the stars, in addition to James, include Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty as candidates for the leading role, Anjelica Huston as the producer, and Debra Messing and Christian Borle as the writers. Oh, and “Hairspray” writers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman have written the score for the Marilyn musical, which will be unveiled as the season progresses. And the whole thing was Steven Spielberg’s idea. Advance word from those at the screening is that the show is very good, indeed! We all have to wait until February 6 at 9:00 pm Central Time to see it for ourselves. 

Also in Chicago, somewhat more exclusively (both in the number of people who knew about it, and the number of venues where it played), was the debut of the video of an orchestral concert event by Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel, courtesy of PBS’s WTTW, channel 11. Filmed in Toronto last summer, and conducted by Marvin Hamlisch, Menzel’s concert, “Barefoot At The Symphony,” was a mix of pop and theater material, though apparently there will be four of five songs on the DVD release which were not shown on channel 11 (it was a pledge drive thing, don’t you know). But even more exciting is the fact that Idina was present in Chicago and appeared live on the pledge drive, and that along with the Chicago-only nature of the broadcast (it won’t be shown on other PBS stations until March) was the announcement last week that Menzel and Hamlisch will be performing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival this coming July 8! (Early birthday for me……) That is big news, and it’s not on video! Btw, I’m told that she sang beautifully on the concert. 

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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!”

StinkyKIDS the Musical
(Runs 4/17 - 4/17)
Oklahoma! in ChicagoOklahoma!
(Runs 4/11 - 4/18)
American Idiot in ChicagoAmerican Idiot
(Runs 4/23 - 4/23)
Sleeping Beauty in ChicagoSleeping Beauty
(Runs 4/15 - 4/25)
The Sound of Music in ChicagoThe Sound of Music
(Runs 4/25 - 4/26)
Side Effects May Include in ChicagoSide Effects May Include
(Runs 4/26 - 4/26)
Jesus Christ Superstar in ChicagoJesus Christ Superstar
(Runs 4/18 - 4/26)

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