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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for July 11th, 2012




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!

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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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