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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 1st, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

A Very Happy New Year from the Showtune Mosh Pit! And it's time for our semi-annual round-up of what we've talking about, the "Top Ten Hot Topix" for the last half of 2013. What's been on your collective mind since July 1st? Well, these....

10. "Next To Normal." The regional premiere of the Pulitzer Prize winner (it took home some Tonys too) was big news in August, when Drury Lane Theatre Artistic Director William Osetek put Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's devastating look at marital bliss and mental illness onto the Oakbrook Terrace stage. The conservative suburban audiences didn't know what hit them. Or did they? Great reviews for leading lady Susie McMonagle didn't hurt, either. And the rest of the small cast more than held their own.


9. "Hello, Dolly!" Osetek's follow-up at the Drury Lane, the classic musical comedy "Hello, Dolly!," also caught our imagination, if only slightly less positive reviews from critics. Running through this Sunday, director-choreographer Rachel Rockwell's production starred Broadway notable Karen Ziemba, and a whole host of Chicago's finest performers backed her every step and high kick of the way.


8. "The Color Purple." The first regional production of a show close to many Chicagoans (including ex-residents Oprah Winfrey and Gary Griffin, its Broadway director) was mounted by Mercury Theater Chicago in August, and was extended into November. The director and choreographer, L. Walter Stearns and Brenda Didier, led Trisha Jeffrey, JaSondra Johnson, Evan Tyrone Martin and company into an intimate telling of the story, moving audiences and crtics alike. "Where do it come from?...See what God has done!"


7. "The Story Of Curtis Mayfield: It's All-Right To Have A Good Time." A show even closer to Chicagoans is the story of one our own, soul legend Curtis Mayfield. And Black Ensemble Theater's production of "It's All-Right To Have A Good Time" has proven so popular, it has been extended multiple times, now running from September all the way to the end of March, 2014 (albeit with fewer performances per week). Mayfield, Jerry Butler and others of the 1960s and 70s are depicted by both younger and older performers, and musical director Robert Reddrick's smokin' onstage band delivers the goods when it counts, doing the multiple Grammy honoree proud.


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Paul W. Thompson Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com 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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