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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 29th, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Last week's Mosh Pit description of Chicago's unofficial spring Sondheim festival left out a very obvious entry. My bad! The Hypocrites will present "Into The Woods" at Mercury Theater Chicago from February 6-March 30, 2014, and I think rehearsals have already begun. Directed by Geoff Button and choreographed by Katie Spelman, the production promises the "heightened and playful sense of theatricality" that The Hypocrites have brought to their celebrated versions of Gilbert and Sullivan's best-known works. And the show will feature a cast of only ten performers! Thanks to doubling up on roles (all except for the Baker and his Wife), we will see Sarah Bockel, Michael Brown, Hannah Dawe, Joel Ewing, Kate Harris, Allison Hendrix, Hillary Marren, Aubrey McGrath, Blake Montgomery and Will Skrip bring those fairy tales to life.


And there's an official festival on the horizon too! The new Chicago Musical Theater Festival, sponsored by Underscore Theatre Company, will launch its first event at the Athenaeum Theatre (June 12-22). A festival of new works and works in development, CMTF is accepting submissions now, through March 1. Eight shows will be selected for presentation in two categories, Independent Submissions and Mentored Submissions. Sounds like it could be a great new event!


First Folio Theatre is presenting a new musical of sorts, running January 30-March 3 at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in west suburban Oakbrook. It's Tom Stoppard's 1984 London play "Rough Crossing," directed by Alison C. Vesely. When originally presented, the show had three songs with lyrics by Stoppard and music by Andre Previn. But for this production, Jeff Award winner and BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Christopher Kriz has composed new music for Stoppard's lyrics for those three songs. The jazz age shipboard story stars Kevin McKillip, Rene Ruelas, Christian Gray, David Rice, Gail Rastorfer and Alex Weisman. And pictures have been released!


There was big news from Lyric Opera Of Chicago this week about the company's 2014-15 plans. We already knew that the company would be presenting "Carousel" in late spring, as part of its five-year Rodgers and Hammerstein survey. Well, we now know that that new production will be directed by Broadway's Rob Ashford ("Thoroughly Modern Millie" and the recent revival of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying", as well as the Carrie Underwood televised "The Sound Of Music"). Furthermore, it will star Chicagoan Denyce Graves (best known for her appearances as Bizet's Carmen) as Nettie Fowler, singing "You'll Never Walk Alone"). Rob Fisher will conduct. And if that's not enough for Mosh Pit peeps, the company will be bringing back its production of "Porgy And Bess," directed by Francesca Zambello, a big hit during the 2008-09 season. Yay, classic Broadway!

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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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