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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 22nd, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Because of the short, limited runs of most Chicago theatrical endeavors, the gods of musical theater and the rights houses in New York (their agents on earth) sometimes accidentally conspire together with Chicago artistic directors to produce unofficial mini-festivals of the work of particular musical theater creatives. Such is the case this spring, when we will have a Stephen Sondheim fest on our hands. Not surprising? Well, it's certainly welcome.

The deck is stacked in the legendary composer-lyricist's direction due to Gary Griffin and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The successful director and the multiple award-winning productions of Sondheim he has helmed for ChiShakes will be extending their grip on Navy Pier with two coordinated Sondheim productions, one the very first Sondheim show to play Broadway, and the other the very last to open in New York, albeit off-Broadway. And the twin productions are in rehearsal now.

As I've mentioned before, "Gypsy" will star "Mamma Mia!" star Louise Pitre as the legendary Rose Hovick, in the show scheduled from February 6-March 23 in the mainstage Courtyard Theater. I for one and looking forward to Rhett Guter's Tulsa, Barbara E. Robertson's Tessie Tura, and Mitzi Hamilton's choreography. This is a very highly anticipated production, and it won't last forever!

"Road Show," known previously as "Gold," "Wise Guys" and "Bounce," has a long, twisted creative history, which includes our Goodman Theatre. But now, in one of the first post-New York productions of the story of the Mizner brothers, Griffin will direct Michael Aaron Lindner, Anne Gunn, Larry Adams, McKinley Carter, Matt Deitchman, Jim DeSelm, Derek Hasenstab and more, in the March 13-May 4 production in the Upstairs Theater. Michael Mahler will musical direct, with costumes by BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Mara Blumenfeld ("The Jungle Book"). Don't miss it!


Sondheim's last Broadway musical, winner of the 1994 Tony Award for Best Musical, was "Passion," and Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre will produce the tale of love and obsession March 7-April 27 at its home in the No Exit Café. Jeff Award winners Danni Smith and Peter Oyloe will portray the sickly Fosca and her handsome soldier, Giorgio, with Jeff nominee Colette Todd as Clara, John Leen as Colonel Ricci and Sean Knight as Ludovic. Artistic director Fred Anzevino directs, with music direction by Kory Danielson.

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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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