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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for March 12th, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for March 12th, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Chicago is on the cusp of an Andrew Lloyd Webber festival, as three of his early, essential hits will be on display by the end of this month. The Marriott Theatre announced the cast of its upcoming production of "Cats," and it's an impressive one. Chicago Leading Lady Heidi Kettenring stars as Grizabella, with Matthew R. Jones as Old Deuteronomy, George Andrew Wolff as Gus and Jake Klinkhammer as the Rum Tum Tugger. Others along for the ride in the legendary 1980s title are such folks as Brian Bohr, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Tammy Mader, Summer Naomi Smart, Buddy Reeder, Laura Savage and Melissa Zaremba. Directed and choreographed by old friend Marc Robin, as he did at the Marriott in 2003, the show will play March 26-May 25 in Lincolnshire. Ryan T. Nelson is musical director.


The Jedlicka Performing Arts Center is staging "Evita," running from March 28-April 12 in Cicero. It's co-directed by Dante J. Orfei and Christopher Pazdernik, (Orfei also provides the lighting design, and CPaz also choreographs), with music direction by John Warren. Starring as the titular legend will be Emily Goldberg, with Maxwell DeTonge as Che and John Gurdian as Peron, Jameson Wentworth as Magaldi and Samantha Pauly as the Mistress.


And the show that started it all and grew from there, "Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," will come to town in a new touring production headed by husband and wife Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo. Directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, the tour opened in Cleveland on March 4, and will play here for two weeks, beginning next week (March 18-30 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre downtown). Chicago has loved this show a lot over the years, most notably during Donny Osmond's long stint in the title role at the Chicago Theatre in the 1990s. Will lightning strike yet again?


Speaking of Broadway In Chicago and shows we've seen before, "Rock Of Ages" has returned again to our shores, for a one-week visit (this week only) to the Bank Of America Theatre (through Sunday, the 16th). This is its fourth visit here, including a two-month residency at the Broadway Playhouse in the summer of 2012. (Can you say, "demographic?") And don't forget that the rest of BIC's spring season (showtune-wise), which consists of "Peter And The Starcatcher," "Motown," "The Wizard Of Oz" and another visit from "Mamma Mia!"

Broadway In Chicago announced its full summer-fall season last week, adding "Charlotte's Web" and "Annie" to its already announced lineup of the new musicals "The Last Ship,' "Amazing Grace" and "Dee Snider's Rock And Roll Christmas Tale," plus tours of the current Broadway hits "Newsies" and "Cinderella." "Charlotte's Web" will be another local children's theater production by Emerald City Theatre, playing at the Broadway Playhouse July 9-August 17. And "Annie," now and forever, will appear at the Cadillac Palace Theatre for Thanksgiving (November 18-30). It won't be a tour of the recent Broadway revival, however, but a version more like the original 1970s megahit, and directed by its lyricist, Martin Chartin (choreography by Liza Gennaro, incorporating the work of her father, Peter Gennaro, that won him the 1977 Tony Award). Interesting.

And you've seen the trailer for the new film of "Annie," right? The project that once would have starred Willow Smith (she whips her hair back and forth) now stars Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis as the lovable orphan, updated to current-day, multi-cultural New York, with Oscar winner Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks, aka Daddy Warbucks. Jay-Z and Will Smith executive produce the film, set for a December 19, 2014 theatrical release. That puts it six days ahead of the other holiday film of interest to Mosh Pit peeps, "Into The Woods," to be released December 25. It stars Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman, Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick and a whole slew of other folks. Save your money now, folks!

Speaking of season announcements, the Paramount Theatre announced its 2014-2015 season of musicals for downtown Aurora. And it starts off with... "Cats." Small world, right? That will be September 10-October 12, directed by musical director Shawn Stengel. (Yes, you read that right!) At holiday time, the theater will offer "Mary Poppins" (November 16, 2014-January 5, 2015, directed by Rachel Rockwell). During next year's winter (which will be epic no matter what the weather does), it will be "Tommy" (January 14-February 15). And lastly, artistic director Jim Corti's powerhouse on the plains will mount "Les Miserables," one year from now, March 18-April 26, 2015. Better make those plans now.


But the big news at the Paramount is "Rent," which opens tonight in a production which by all accounts is going to be something extraordinary. Andrew Mueller and Adam Michaels headline a full and youthful cast, which from March 12-April 6 will perform Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning snapshot of the AZT era on the Lower East Side. You won't want to miss witnessing the roof being blown off the art deco movie palace. Just read Jim Corti's blog posting:

There are not one but two productions of "Songs For A New World" in the works at present, the 1995 show that represents composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown's calling card to the New York theater scene, and which (in my mind, anyway) helped usher in the current era of musical theater creation in that fair city--along with "Rent," "Jekyll And Hyde," "Once On This Island," "Floyd Collins," "Beauty And The Beast," "Hello Again" and "Violet" (don't quote me, as my proverbial book isn't finished yet!). The first production is running now at Stage 773, produced by NightBlue Performing Arts Company (March 1-30). David Walters directs a cast including Curtis Bannister, Nathan Gardner, Mary Margaret Roberts and Kyrie Anderson. "Stars And The Moon," anyone?

And the BAC Professional Theatre Series at the Beverly Arts Center will present the show from March 28-30, starring Michael Mejia, Colleen O'Connor, Andres Enriquez and Kenesha Reed. Shellee Frazee directs, with musical direction by Frederick Harris. For you northsiders, the Beverly Arts Center is near Western and 111th Street. It's lovely.


There are a couple of shows coming up at Davenport's Cabaret that I want to mention. The city's premiere spot to spot emerging solo talent is bringing back Jeff Award nominee Michael Kingston's show "50Whatever/Singin'Whatever," but for one performance only, this coming Monday night, March 17. One week later, on March 24, "Girl's Gotta Eat" will feature award-winning musical theater singer Lauren Paris, with Robert Deason and friends. Veterans perform there too. Legendary Chicago cabaret star Joan Curto will present "Once More With Feeling" on March 20, 21 and 22. Wicker Park. See you there.

Alrighty then! Our town is really hopping, snow or not. If reading this column doesn't get you excited about musical theater in Chicago, then nothing will. Except possibly going out and seeing some shows! I'll look for you. And afterwards, I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT

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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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