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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 4th, 2012





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

And here we are again, with your favorite bi-annual Showtune Mosh Pit feature: the Mosh Pit “Top Ten Hot Topics!” With your indulgence for what may be the very last theater entry in the “look back sweepstakes” for last year, let’s take a gander at the items of interest that I (and that means you) have been talking about from July through December of 2011. Of the 190 different topics that have graced these pages (screens?), here is the countdown of the 10 hottest.

10. West Side Story.” The 1957 musical by four of our greatest talents (Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents) appeared in two guises for Chicago audiences this half-year. First it took the form of a lengthy summer stop at Broadway In Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre for its national tour cast, and then came a Thanksgiving weekend screening of its galvanic movie incarnation at Orchestra Hall, accompanied live by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The touring stage show was the last directorial work by Laurents before his death on May 5, 2011, and the movie screening marked the Natalie Wood/Robert Wise landmark’s fiftieth anniversary. Not a generation has gone by that hasn’t fallen in love with this work, one way or the other. There must be something for everyone!

"West Side Story" National Tour site

Chicago Symphony Orchestra site

9. “A Christmas Story” at the Chicago Theatre. The last half of December saw a tremendous amount of theatrical activity in the Loop, as is usually the case. This year, however, a new musical (not a world premiere, but one on the cusp of Broadway itself) landed at the landmark Chicago Theatre for almost three full theater weeks, full of Chicago talent that had rehearsed here before heading off for a tryout tour. Their return was hailed by critics and audiences alike. Directed by John Rando, choreographed by Warren Carlyle, and written by a very lucky playwright (Joseph Robinette) and a very young composer-lyricist team (Benj Pasek and Justin Paul), this show may well become a staple everywhere, and we were an audience they really, really wanted to win over. I think they did. “Ralphie To The Rescue” of the family-friendly holiday musical comedy!


8. “Follies” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. An almost universal cry of acclaim from critics and audiences alike welcomed Gary Griffin’s production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman’s 1971 musical about the mid-century decay of American theater and the American marriage when it opened this fall. A cast headed by Broadway veterans, supported by local theater legends, rode directorical, choreographic and theatrical inspiration to dizzying heights. National, even international attention came to the production, too, due to the timing of its arrival even as a Kennedy Center production of the same show transferred to Broadway. Those who saw both seemed to take Chicago’s side, at least in the view of those who scrutinized every online word and media tidbit for such an apples and oranges comparison. But “bravo” toChicago. And weren’t we lucky to have been here for this extraordinary stage happening?

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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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