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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 27th, 2012




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Bravo to “Eastland!” 97 years after the ship of the same name listed and capsized in the Chicago River, taking 800 people to their deaths in an unmatched tragedy in American history, the new show of the same name has proven quite successful in its maiden outing at Lookingglass Theatre Company. I haven’t seen it, but it’s gotten some very favorable reviews, and just yesterday the Tony-winning company announced a three week extension! That puts its closing at August 19, in the Chicago Water Works on Michigan Avenue (and within walking distance of the site of the tragedy). The show was written by company artistic director Andrew White, with music by the accomplished team of Andre Pleuss and Ben Sussman. Amanda Dehnert has directed what seems to be a show which may have a few glitches to iron out, but is still striking the hearts and imaginations of its audiences. I’m excited by the extension! Aren’t you?


And up north in Lincolnshire, the Marriott Theatre is again entering the world of original musicals, this time with “Hero,” opening this week (also running through August 19). I’ll be there tonight to review the show, and my review will be posted on BroadwayWorld Chicago before the end of the week. The musical in this timeslot last year was “For The Boys,” and we are all eager to see what’s cooking in Lake County this year. The Marriott’s Aaron Thielen has joined with theatrical polymath Michael Mahler to craft a musical comedy about a young adult comic book fan who has to deal with life’s real challenges. Former “Jersey Boy” Erich Bergen stars, alongside Chicago stalwarts Heidi Kettenring, Don Forston, Dara Cameron, Jonah Rawitz (Zachary Keller at certain performances), Alex Goodrich, Summer Naomi Smart, Michael Aaron Lindner, Jameson Cooper, Alex Goldklang and Kelley Abbell. David H. Bell directs.


Another major opening of a non-New York title (though something tells me this particular production is dying to end up there) is “Crowns” at the Goodman Theatre, which begins performances this weekend (June 30) and runs there through August 5, 2012. Based on a coffee table book about church hats and the African-American women who wear them, this “gospel musical” by playwright ReGina Taylor (and directed by her) stars Felicia P. Fields (a Tony Award nominee for “The Color Purple”) and E. Faye Butler, Chicago stage stars of the highest rank and sure to be in top form here. Will a Big Apple transfer be in the offing? Stay tuned!

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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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