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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 15, 2011





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!" 

The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards® 

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! 

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Paul W. Thompson Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com 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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