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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 23rd, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

And so it begins! Whether it's coincidence or not, the week which marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of "The Phantom Of The Opera" on Broadway is also the week in which Chicago's unofficial Andrew Lloyd Webber festival swings into high gear. Two of our most important suburban Equity houses are opening ALW shows virtually simultaneously, and I can't imagine the last time that happened. Perhaps the more significant of the two is the Marriott Theatre's world premiere revue, "Now And Forever: The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber," which began previewing last week and officially opens tonight, January 23, 2013, for a run through March 17th. The Marriott was given permission to create a show based on Lloyd Webber's musicals, and promptly enlisted one of its most popular and successful director-choreographers, Mark Robin, to helm it all, alongside the Marriott's Lead Artistic Director, Aaron Thielen. Fascinatingly, Robin brought in two additional co-choreographers from the Chicago area, young hoofer Matt Raftery and veteran modern dancer Harrison McEldowney, to help flesh out the different musical and dance styles revealed in Lloyd Webber's extensive output of musicals. And so, despite the presence of the superb and well-credentialed singers Linda Balgord, Erin Stewart, Susan Moniz, Stephanie Binetti, Max Quinlan, Ben Jacoby, Brian Bohr, Travis Taylor, Jameson Cooper and Raftery, this show just might be shaping up into something of a dance show, what with eight dancers with legit credits a mile long doing the duties. Northwestern University's Ryan T. Nelson is the musical director, and the show will be the first one in the United States to use songs from the sequel to "The Phantom Of The Opera," "Love Never Dies." Stay tuned, Mosh Pit peeps! We will know all about this show in the next few days!

Marriott Theatre's NOW & FOREVER: THE MUSIC OF Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lord Lloyd-Webber's last Tony-winning musical was 1995's "Sunset Boulevard," the show that's been referred to as "Andrew Lloyd Webber's gift to show queens everywhere," due presumably to the opportunity it provides star ladies of a certain age to cavort with a younger male co-star while delivering high-powered ballads--or something like that. The Drury Lane Theatre is mounting the first Chicago revival of this show, perhaps the last in the string of British megamusicals which stretches back to Lloyd Webber's "Evita," if not to "Jesus Christ Superstar," in who knows how long, and it begins performances on Thursday, January 24 (running through March 24th). William Osetek and Tammy Mader are directing and choreographing, respectively, and Roberta Duchak, the Chicago musical director who was the vocal coach for Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe on the "Les Miserables" film, is doing those duties here (loyal Mosh Pit readers may remember that I interviewed Duchak about "Les Miz" one year ago, in January of 2012, in what may have been the first journalistic mention of her involvement in the film). Christine Sherrill, who just played Miss Hannigan in "Annie" at Aurora's Paramount Theatre, is fading silent screen diva Norma Desmond here, with Will Ray as Joe Gillis, Don Richard as Max, and Adrian Aguilar and Dara Cameron as Artie and Betty, leading an impressive ensemble cast.

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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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