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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for July 18th, 2012



by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

As if the last two Sundays at Ravinia weren’t cool enough! Now, I’m not talking about the air temperature, of course, but rather of the appearances of Idina Menzel and Barbara Cook in the Pavilion, singing their hearts out to Chicago fans new and old. And the showtune madness continues at the venerable Highland Park outdoor venue this Saturday night, July 21, 2012, as the annual (the 50th annual) Women’s Board Gala concert and dinner takes place, this year featuring Broadway star Patti LuPone (she’s a “vocalist,” in Ravinia’s parlance), in tandem with opera star Patricia Racette (a “soprano”) and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I believe Rob Fisher will conduct Patti’s songs, and James Conlon will do the honors for Patricia’s. You’ll remember that the Women’s Board Gala (a one-act early evening concert at 7:00) is followed by a formal dinner in tents on the lawn, and that two years ago, an evening honoring Stephen Sondheim got many a showtune folk upset with the brevity of the program, and the fact that folks were incorrectly forced from the lawn before the sun had even set, unless they made their way to the pricy tents. Hopefully these facts and circumstances are well known now, by patrons and by Ravinia staff. So, if you are willing to pay $100 or $70 for the Pavilion, or $10 for the lawn, this Saturday at 7:00 is for you. I’d advise you to double check all the details. But LuPone has performed there a lot, and has many fans in our area, of course….

Ravinia Festival - Official Site

And there’s at least one more Sunday afternoon of note at Ravinia, on Sunday, August 5 in the Pavilion, as Ann Hampton Callaway, the John Pizzarelli Quartet and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Ted Sperling, conducting) will present “Over The Rainbow – A Tribute To Harold Arlen” at 5:00 pm. Callaway, a Chicago native and sister of Liz, performs here frequently, and I’m sure this evening will be great. Just look at the line-up! What’s not to love?

Ravinia Festival - Harold Arlen Tribute

Speaking of songwriters tributes in the northern suburbs, Northwestern University has created “With A Song In My Heart: The Romance Of Richard Rodgers,” which premiered last weekend and will play for two more, directed by Dominic Missimi. It’s in three parts: Rodgers with Hart, Rodgers with Hammerstein, and all the men’s work presented in a World War II canteen setting. It’s in the Ethel M. Barber Theater on the Evanston campus. And Northwestern is also presenting screenings of the film versions of “Oklahoma!” and “South Pacific,” on July 19 and 28, respectively. (We note the passing this week of the original Broadway Ado Annie, Celeste Holm, RIP.)

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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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