'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 15, 2011
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:
Oh, my, what a telecast! And what's that you say? A show based on a book of Merman songs won the Tony Award for Best Musical? Oh, Mormon songs, got it. Sorry.... No, no, not Mormon songs???
Well, "The Book Of Mormon" (not the holy book of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but a musical with the same name) won nine Tonys in New York on Sunday night, as if you didn't know! The musical, by some of the same geniuses behind the "South Park" television series and the Tony-winning best musicals "Avenue Q" and "Spamalot," took home quite a haul. Trey Parker actually won four awards, as a producer, director, songwriter and bookwriter, which I think approaches Mel Brooks territory ("The Producers"). And Chicagoans who've seen the satirical, post-modern gem seem to echo the critical, popular and industry bravos that have honored this show (one that's a totally original story, and did not open out of town, off-Broadway or at a not-for-profit theater before hitting the Main Stem--crazy!).
The show was also honored for its scene design, lighting design, sound design and orchestrations, and actress Nikki M. James was honored for her featured role. Even though there are more Tony categories than there used to be, the show's nine awards is still extremely impressive. "The Book Of Mormon" won more statuettes than any show since "The Producers" won a record twelve awards a decade ago. Altogether now--"I Believe!"
And there was pretty much a positive vibe about the telecast itself (three hours), including a shout-out to our very own Lookingglass Theatre Company and some pretty great live musical performances--four from host Neil Patrick Harris among them. The casts of all the Best Musical nominees performed live, as did both of the nominated musical revivals and "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark," whose official opening was just yesterday (making it eligible for Tony consideration next season). If Andrew Rannells in "The Book Of Mormon," Sutton Foster in "Anything Goes," Norbert Leo Butz in "Catch Me If You Can" and Daniel Radcliffe in "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" were highlights, "Spider-Man" and its peaceful love duet were described by more than one observer as "boring." Paul Shaffer and Martha Wash performed "It's Raining Men" along with the cast of "Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert," in a direct play for a certain demographic.
And VJ Michael Morehead played at least four Tony clips that I know of this week at Sidetrack, on what has come to be known as "Tony Monday." A big crowd of Tony Awards fans (and Cubs fans, too, apparently) cheered for "It's Not Just For Gays Anymore," NPH's opening number. I wonder what VJ Michael Hogan will play Wednesday and Sunday night at The Call for Mosh Pit night there (um, I mean Showtune Night)? I'm telling you, there are a lot of new clips to choose from!
Speaking of Neil Patrick Harris's musical performances, one of them was in the legendary number "Side By Side By Side" from "Company," alongside the cast of this spring's New York Philharmonic performances of the Stephen Sondheim/George Furth musical. Guess what filmed version of "Company" is opening tonight at the Century Center Cinema in Lakeview, in a VERY limited run? And guess which Lakeview bar had "Company" paper napkins and paper coasters for use all last weekend? I knew you could do it!
The big news on local stages this week is the final casting for another Sondheim masterwork, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street," running mid-August through early October at the high-flying Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook. Broadway star (and Northwestern University alumnus) Gregg Edelman will star as the murderous VictorIan Barber, with Broadway and tour veteran Liz McCartney as Mrs. Lovett, directed by the award-winning stager Rachel Rockwell. Local stars Kevin Gudahl, George Keating, Heidi Kettenring and George Andrew Wolff will portray Judge Turpin, Pirelli, the Beggar Woman and the Beadle, respectively, and such luminaries as Larry Adams, Kevin Barthel, Sean Effinger-Dean, Natalie Ford, David Girolmo, Cory Goodrich, Cathy Lord and Ann McMann are among those in the ensemble. This one could be extraordinary, folks.
Two more local musicals (both world premieres, by the way) announced extensions this week! The two-hander "Murder For Two," in the small theater at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, will now run an impressive six more weeks, to July 31, 2011. Alan Schmuckler and composer and co-bookwriter Joe Kinosian make up the whole whodunit cast. And they both play the piano! It's a 90-minute show, directed by Northwestern's David H. Bell. Kellen Blair is the lyricist and the other bookwriter.
And "Trogg!" has added two more weekends to its schedule, now set until July 16. Mostly by David Cerda (artistic director of Hell in a Handbag Productions) and starring him, it's running in the studio space at the Chopin Theatre at Ashland, Milwaukee and Division. Look out, Joan Crawford!
There's a lot of theater by, for and in consideration of children in the summertime, as kids need things to do and places to go. Up in Lake County, Stage 48 Productions and Wishing Star Theatre are presenting their take on the Sondheim/James Lapine "Into The Woods," this coming weekend and the next. Kevin Wiczer directs, with musical direction by Jon Landvick and choreography by Kara Williams.
And out in Kane County, the Fox Valley Rep's Youth Ensemble is staging the Alan Menken/Howard Ashman "Little Shop Of Horrors" on July 2, 9, 10 and 16, directed by Aaron Henrickson and musical directed by Ken Jones. Kyle Schwichtenberg and Hanna Telander star as Seymour and Audrey. In a great community service idea, the theater is partnering with the Northern Illinois Food Bank ("Feed Me") to collect donations after each performance. We think that's pretty cool.
Last but not least--zarzuela! You know, Spanish operetta. Most popular in the 17th and 19th centuries, as I understand it, but you know, operetta, only from Spain. Well, if you need an introduction to this cousin of the American musical, North Shore Opera Hour is bringing you "Viva La Zarzuela," starring Luis Antonio Galvez, on Sunday, July 17 at 7:30 pm, at the Skokie Theatre on Lincoln Avenue in Skokie, sponsored by the Skokie Theatre Music Foundation. Actually, this is only one of several music theater-related events there this summer. In Skokie. Check it out!
And that's it for the week! The spring Jeffs and the annual Tonys have come and gone, and summer stock is in full swing, somewhere. What's a city-bound showtune fan to do? I know! (Wait for it...wait for it!) I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT
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