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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 5th, 2011





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:


Here we are again, with our twice yearly list of the Mosh Pit "Top Ten Hot Topics!" It's the biannual list of those subjects and shows that have kept our brains all occupied for the last six months (in this case, from July to December of 2010). As the holidays fade away, and the countdown begins to spring break, let's have our own little countdown, shall we? 

With no further ado, here are the most commonly mentioned items, out of the 132 distinct topics the last 26 columns have included. Is your obsession on the list?

10. "Cats." Once so 1980s-bound that it usually sported the same spandex and hair-band aesthetic that brought us the Jane Fonda workout videos, this Andrew Lloyd Webber spectacle spawned a litter of recordings of "Memory," and brought environmental staging successfully to Broadway for the first time. It has now been reinvented as sort of an intimate children's story by emerging director-choreographer Brenda Didier and Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, at the No Exit Café in Rogers Park. It's been extended into February, too. The possibility of actually liking a show that most youngsters think is passé and most old folks have memorized has us all as fascinated as does catsup-flavored catnip! 

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre 

9. Theaters Announce Their 2011 Seasons. We love to plan ahead, I guess. And fall is, of course, the traditional time for theater companies to tell us what to plan to see for the coming year. For instance, we learned that Bailiwick Chicago will produce "Violet" and "Passing Strange" this coming spring, and that Broadway In Chicago will finally be bringing us "Next To Normal." The suburban Equity theaters will bring us two productions of "Guys And Dolls," among other hits, and Light Opera Works will have "Brigadoon" and "The Secret Garden." And don't forget Court Theatre's take on "Porgy And Bess" or the new version of "Working" at the Broadway Playhouse. Get your calendars out! Here's a website to help with your scheduling needs: 

Shows Coming Soon - Theatre In Chicago 

8. Theatrical Real Estate. Speaking of the Broadway Playhouse, the newly renamed and renovated Drury Lane Theater at Water Tower Place is only one of several new or changed theatrical spaces in town right now. Whether as a result of changing economic conditions or just coincidence, several of the places we hang out are changing. Actors' Equity Association completed its move to new digs in the West Loop, the former Theatre Building Chicago (now Stage 773) completed its new signage and announced a major renovation, Theater Wit opened up its renovations to the old Bailwick building, and Noble Fool Theatricals is now called Fox Valley Theatricals. Here's a list of performance venues: 

Chicago Theatre Map 

7. Fall Shows at the Marriott Theatre. Lincolnshire's enormous musical theater house, one of the country's most visible showtune venues outside of the biggest downtown areas, packed a one-two punch this fall with very well-received productions of "A Chorus Line" and "The Music Man." Not only are Terry James, Aaron Thielen and Andy Hite (and company) experts at putting proscenium musicals into the in-the-round format, they put classic musicals into your lap, and into the lap of about a thousand of your closest friends. And we like nothing more than a legendary show made fresh and exciting one more time. 

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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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