'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 4th, 2012
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
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!
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?