'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 20th, 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:
Things have really been cooking at Sidetrack this past week! On Monday, June 18, 2012, the peripatetic theater troupe Theatre-Hikes entertained the crowd with live performances of songs from “Legally Blonde” and “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” plus the novelty song, “You’ve Got To Get Under, Get Out And Get Under,” which I don’t think is from a show, but probably should be. The point of this company is to create theater in venues where it wouldn’t ordinarily exist, and their current play “The Hound Of The Baskervilles” (performing this weekend at the North Park Village Nature Center and weekends in July at the Morton Arboretum) is a good example. We note that from August 18-September 2, they are performing the Jeff Award-winning musical “Streeterville,” about the birth of that Chicago neighborhood, back at North Park and at two venues in the south suburbs.
On the previous Monday, June 11, I marked a personal milestone in my attempt to bring you the very best gossip and most up-to-date news about musical theater in Chicago--it was my third anniversary of being at Sidetrack every single Monday--157 weeks in a row now, and counting. (I do leave town, but not on Mondays!) But it was Wednesday night, June 13, that was of greatest interest for most people, for that was the night of Sidetrack’s 30th anniversary celebration! The bar celebrated by counting down the 30 most popular videos in its entire history, from all genres and all nights of the week, but wouldn’t you know it that showtune videos dominated the top ten of the list! After videos 30-11 included such showtune favorites as “Hairspray”’s “You Can’t Stop The Beat” (edited together from four different televised performances by the original Broadway cast), Liza Minnelli’s “Cabaret” from the Academy Award-winning film, “A Lil’ Ole Bitty Country Place,” featuring Dolly Parton and the film cast of “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas,” and the “Glee” Cast version of “Don’t Stop Believin’” (and there were others), I believe the Top Ten was as follows (if I’ve gotten it wrong, somebody correct me!):
10. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Diana Ross (she did sing showtunes, but this isn’t one!)
9. “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked,” by Idina Menzel and the original Broadway cast, from the 2004 Tony Awards broadcast
8. “Think” by Aretha Franklin, from “The Blues Brothers” film
7. An Olivia Newton-John medley, which included excerpts from “You’re The One That I Want” (with John Travolta) from the “Grease” film and “Xanadu,” from, well, the “Xanadu” film (and she will be performing in Lakeview at Northalsted Market Days in August, btw)
6. A Cher medley, which included “Welcome To Burlesque” from the film, “Burlesque”
5. The Oscar-winning song “The Morning After,” by Maureen McGovern, from the film “The Poseidon Adventure” (an original Sidetrack video edit, I’m sure)
3. Sidetrack’s version of memorable (memorably campy?) highlights from the film “Mommie Dearest,” starring Faye Dunaway
2. The film version of “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina” from “Evita,” sung by Madonna
1. “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from “Dreamgirls, as performed by Jennifer Holliday on the 1982 Tony Awards broadcast
And there you have it! If you’ve never seen these clips, then you just haven’t been in the Showtune Mosh Pit!
I don’t toot my own horn very often (ok, never), but since I already did, I might as well finish it by mentioning my two free solo cabaret appearances this month, on successive Thursday afternoons. On June 21 at 3:00 pm, I’ll be in the concert hall at DePaul University in Lincoln Park, part of the Make Music Chicago festival. And on June 28 at 5:30 pm, I’ll be in the south garden at St. James Cathedral in River North, part of the Music In The Neighborhood series. My show is called “Songs I’ve Never Sung Before,” and it’s true! Also, please note that on the 21st, Make Music Chicago is sponsoring an opera and showtunes sing-along in Daley Plaza from 12:45-1:30 pm! I’m pretty sure it won’t be of the Sidetrack variety (no napkin tosses, please), but I will be in attendance anyway. Will I see you there?
We in Chicago do love our showtune divas, and many in the Mosh Pit were devastated this past Saturday night when Kristen Chenoweth cancelled her sold-out concert at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (she cancelled her Minneapolis show as well). But the Chicago stop of her summer tour has been rescheduled, to Friday night, June 29th. Thank goodness!
In the meantime, you might be interested in catching Ann Hampton Callaway at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston, on Saturday, June 23. It’s the “Johnny Mercer Celebration Concert,” with Craig Carnelia, Andrew Lippa and Lari White joining Callaway. That’s quite a lineup! One night earlier, the “Johnny Mercer Songwriters Showcase” will feature emerging musical theater writers (in the Josephine Louis Theater). Both venues are on the Northwestern University campus.
Unfortunately, Karen Mason’s show at Davenport’s ended Monday night (she ran there June 13-18 in “The Secrets Of The Ancient Divas”). This Chicago favorite and frequent visitor is now off to New York, to prepare to star as Mrs. Danvers in “Rebecca” on Broadway.
But up north in Lake County, you can still catch Idina Menzel and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park on July 8th, and you can catch Linda Eder at the new venue Viper Alley in Lincolnshire, on July 28th. Yes, one of Broadway’s defining voices of the 1990s, Linda Eder herself. Viper Alley. I’ve not been there.
Two of Broadway’s most popular puppet musicals are having summer lives in our area. Palatine’s Music On Stage has just ended a successful run of “Avenue Q” at Cutting Hall. And on the other end of our geography, Munster’s Theatre At The Center will be presenting “Little Shop Of Horrors” from July 12 through August 19, directed and choreographed by Stacey Flaster and starring Jon Cunningham, Tiffany Trainer, Peter Kevoian and Rod Thomas, with Stan White as Audrey II.
Two major titles in significant local productions had extensions I haven’t previously noted. The very well-received “A Little Night Music” at Glencoe’s Writers’ Theatre (directed by William Brown) will now run for three and a half months, all the way through till August 12. However, the David Cromer-directed production of “Rent,” a co-production of American Theater Company and About Face Theatre, was unable to run all the way through its announced extension into July, and closed on Sunday, June 24, still one week later than originally announced. The next musicals for Writers’ and ATC, both in 2013, will be “Sweet Charity” and “Hair,” respectively. Can’t wait!
Route 66 Theatre Company has mounted a world premiere musical in a limited run of four performances, Monday and Tuesday of this week and next week (June 18-26). It is “Next Stop,” with music by Diana Lawrence (Diana And The Dishes) and book by six Chicago-affiliated playwrights, all around the theme of different CTA L stops. It’s been directed by Erica Weiss, and the impressive cast includes Adrian Aguilar, Harmony France, Emjoy Gavino, Zach Kenney, Geoff Rice and Blair Robertson. Performances are taking place at Theater Wit in Lakeview. It sounds awesome!
A world premiere musical we saw this winter has moved from Chicago to New York with its entire (two-person) original cast! “The Hunchback Variations,” the Theater Oobleck production from the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, is in one of the 59E59 Theaters in Manhattan for the month of June, now extended for one more week, through July 7. Larry Adams and George Andrew Wolff portray Quasimodo and Beethoven, in a discussion about a vague sound effect from Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” The script is by Mickle Maher (based on his play), with music by Mark Messing (accompaniment is piano and cello). Bravo, you guys. Represent!
And last, a few comments about “Hairspray.” A well-received production of the mega-smash musical has just concluded a two-month run at the Drury Lane Theater in Oakbrook Terrace, starring Lillian Castillo, Michael Aaron Lindner, Tim Kazurinsky and Felicia Fields. And many readers of this column may already know that a member of that cast had to leave the show early, in order to join the cast of the “Hairspray” production aboard the Oasis Of The Seas cruise ship, operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises. I think the show has been running on the ship since 2009, and it’s my understanding that there are several Chicago performers associated with the production. Two weeks ago the cast of Royal Caribbean’s “Hairspray” performed live on the Tony Awards broadcast, for which the cruise line was a paid sponsor. And I know you watched it! The attached blogpost captures the controversy about the segment (too commercial? non-union? etc.), but not the fact that talented performers work very hard to get a spot on a cruise ship, and work even harder while they are there. And yes, I think they are well paid. Cruises have provided musical theater entertainment for many decades, and the Tony broadcast, in my mind, merely put a specific show in the spotlight, representing the dozens or hundreds of such shows on boats worldwide. It’s a significant part of the international musical theater industry. Bravo to these seaworthy souls!
So, are you warm enough? And do you have plans for the Pride parade? I’m pretty sure these are the topics at the front of many folk’s minds. However, I hope you have a Little Room in the back somewhere for some musical theater topics too! We do have a lot going on, and more to come next week! So, I’ll see you out and about, and at some point, I'll see you under the video screens.....—PWT
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