'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for July 11th, 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:
It’s a veritable parade of divas! The leading ladies of many showtune generations are parading through Chicago this summer, and a lot of them will be here this week! Let’s get to all the fun and loveliness, shall we?
This past Sunday afternoon, July 8, 2012, an outdoor concert of epic proportions took place at the Ravinia Festival in north suburban Highland Park. It was there that Idina Menzel sang a concert (with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra), and everyone I know was in attendance! I lost count of the number of online postings I saw from friends about the event, which featured a packed crowd in the pavilion and on the lawn, perfect summer weather, and an under-the-weather Tony-winning star who not only delighted the crowd with her talent and her charm, but who reportedly stayed around for more than two hours to sign autographs for fans. That is stardom, people, from one who has been a star (“Wicked”) for almost a decade and a Broadway legend (“Rent”) for even longer than that. And I’m proud to report that a few of my friends were in awe of the talent of conductor Marvin Hamlisch, too. Nice to know.
Next up on the Mosh Pit radar at Ravinia is the truly legendary Barbara Cook, making her Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut this coming Sunday, July 15. The original star of “Candide” (“Glitter And Be Gay”) and a Tony winner for “The Music Man” (“Till There Was You” and “My White Knight”), and always memorable in shows like “Flahooley” in 1951 and “The Grass Harp” in 1970 (you have heard “Chain Of Love,” haven’t you?), Cook is celebrating her 85th birthday this year with a tour that is bound to become as legendary as the woman herself. How many stars of the golden age of Broadway are still performing? She’s been amazing for over 60 years. She’s met everyone. For God’s sakes, go!
A diva of newer vintage will be performing in downtown Chicago this very evening, July 11, 2012, as part of the opening day of the Taste Of Chicago. The Oscar and Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson, all Chicago native and diet spokesperson of her, will be at the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park at 5:30 pm. But you already knew that, didn’t you? And I am telling you, she is going to be there.
Jennifer Hudson at The Taste
This weekend, just a few blocks north and west of Petrillo, two divas and two divos will appear at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park, part of “Perfectly Frank: From Broadway To Hollywood.” It’s a two-night concert (Friday and Saturday, July 13 and 14) of the Grant Park Music Festival, conducted by Chicago native Kevin Stites and directed by former Chicagoan Gary Griffin, New Yorkers now but always true to the town that gave them their start. Rebecca Luker (“The Secret Garden”) and Marin Mazzie (“Ragtime”) will be joined by Howard McGillin (“The Mystery Of Edwin Drood”) and Mazzie’s husband, Jason Danieley (“The Full Monty”), along with the Grant Park Orchestra and members of the Grant Park Chorus. Songs from all of Loesser’s significant Hollywood and Broadway scores will be sung, and his widow, Jo Sullivan Loesser (the original star of his “The Most Happy Fella”) will sing a special song as well. That makes TWO golden age stars performing here in the same weekend!
Broadway comes here in many guises, of course. This fall, we will receive an old-fashioned pre-Broadway tryout, when “Kinky Boots” has its world premiere at the Bank Of America Theatre, from October 2 through November 4, 2012. The show, with music and lyrics by Grammy winner Cyndi Lauper and book by four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein, will be directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, and is sure to be eyeing the Big Apple in a major way. And now we know the cast! Stark Sands (“American Idiot”) and Billy Porter (“Smoky Joe’s Café”) head the cast of 32, which will also include Annaleigh Ashford, Marcus Neville, Paul Canaan, Jen Perry, EuGene Barry-Hill, Adinah Alexander and more. Based on the film of the same name, “Kinky Boots” is about a young man forced to step in and save his family’s shoe factory in the north of England, with the help of a drag performer named Lola. Do you have your tickets yet? Cast of 32….
Two shows which played Broadway in recent years will bring traditional national tours to Chicago in early 2013. “Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert” will play the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University for the last two weeks of March, to be followed immediately by “Catch Me If You Can,” playing the first two weeks of April at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. I believe the tours will not be all that old by the time they reach us, and it’s a good sign that both runs are multi-week stints. Both shows are based on films, with “Priscilla”’s score a collection of disco-era hits, and “Catch Me”’s newly composed (by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman of “Hairspray” fame).
“Kinky Boots,” “Priscilla” and “Catch Me” will be among the shows whose cast members are included in the annual “Free Broadway In Chicago Concert” at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, this year taking place on Monday, August 6 at 6:15 pm. ABC-TV’s Janet Davies will host the awkwardly named concert, which will also include a performance by rock legend Cyndi Lauper herself! Cathy Rigby (touring once again as “Peter Pan”) will perform also, as will the horse Joey (the amazing puppet, I assume) from the play “War Horse” and cast members from Chicago’s long-running “Million Dollar Quartet.” Also slated to appear are cast members from the up-coming Broadway In Chicago touring productions “I Love Lucy Live On Stage,” “Les Miserables” and “Sister Act,” plus “The Verona Project” (from Northwestern University’s American Music Theatre Project and the children’s musical “Cinderella,” from Emerald City Theatre. As a bonus to this popular concert event, the two winners of the Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards, Nathan Salstone from suburban Northbrook and Meadow Nguy from downstate O’Fallon, will also appear. Sounds like a great concert! Get there early, Mosh Pit peeps!
Lest we think Chicago musical theater is all glamor and famous names in downtown locations, August will also bring us a local production of “The Great American Trailer Park Musical,” by David Nehls and Betsy Kelso, mounted at Stage 773 by Kokandy Productions and performed August 2-26. Alex Grelle and Danni Smith appear in the cast list, alongside Christina Hall, Jonathan Hickrson, Bri Schumacher, Ashley Braxton and Jennifer Wisegarver. I bet it’s great.
And “Fame: The Musical” had better be nearly ready for its close-up as well, as its performances are this weekend and next (July 14-22 only) at the Ruth Page Center For The Arts on Dearborn. Joe Marabotti directs a cast of 22 for his Real Clear Productions. The show’s score is by Steve Margoshes and Jacques Levy, and includes the title song, written for the 30-year old original film by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore. Has it really been that long? (Longer.)
And lastly for this week, another local production of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s “Little Shop Of Horrors” has made an appearance, performing July 12 through August 19 at the Theatre At The Center in Munster, Indiana. Stacey Flaster is directing and choreographing, and the Equity cast includes Jon Cunningham, Peter Kevoian, Rod Thomas, Tiffany Trainor, Stan White, Eva Ruwe, Reneisha Jenkins, Chadae McAllister and Scott Stratton.
So, welcome to the last six months of the year, right? Lots of concerts, outdoor musicals in parks, summer theaters and summer theater camps going on. And gearing up for the fall, though it’s behind the scenes at the moment. Before too long, we’ll all be in the riches of another Super September! But for now, enjoy the shows, and keep cool. Travel safely! And before too long, I'll also see you under the video screens.....—PWT
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From This Author Paul W. Thompson