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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for March 21st, 2012





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Oh, my goodness there’s a lot to talk about! What an amazing time for musical theater in Chicagoland. Well, let’s get to it!

First up this week in the Mosh Pit is the word out of the western collar-county city of Aurora, where director Rachel Rockwell has whipped up what’s reported to be an rock-solid production of “Hair,” cast entirely with Chicago area talent and garnering very upbeat reviews. The pictures of the Paramount Theatre production look awesome, and the cast, led by Adrian Aguilar (“The Original Grease”) and Skylar Adams (“The Adventures Of Pinocchio” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater), seems perfect. Many observers are happy to see non-Equity storefront stars Maggie Portman (“Chess” and “Evita”) and Dana Tretta (“Cabaret” and “Pippin”) getting their due here. And yes, that’s Bethany Thomas (“Porgy And Bess”) doing the honors on “Aquarius.” You better get your sunshine in gear if you want to see this, though, as the run lasts only until April 1, 2012. The next mainstage production there, “Grease” (the familiar version, not the “original” one) doesn’t open until the fall, but auditions are being held this week.

HAIR at the Paramount

The Paramount in Aurora is just the first of the four big suburban musical houses that I want to survey this week. A little closer to the Loop, but still in the western suburbs, is Oakbrook Terrace, where that well-received production of “Gypsy” starring KLea Blackhurst is also wrapping up on April 1st. Next up for the Drury Lane Theatre will be “Hairspray,” staged by Tammy Mader and running April 12 through June 17, with the press opening set for April 17. And the cast was just announced! Lillian Castillo will be Tracy Turnblad, with local and national favorite Michael Lindner as Edna and “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Tim Kazurinsky as Wilbur. Tony nominee Felicia P. Fields will be Motormouth Maybelle, with Erik Altemus as Link Larkin, Jon Michael Reese as Seaweed and Holly Lyn Laurent as Amber. Local favorites George Andrew Wolff, Rod Thomas, Holly Stauder, Jackson Evans, Dina DiCostanzo and Alex McCrary help round out the large cast. Also to be found will be Donica Lynn, who will rush over straight from Paramount’s “Hair.” How many actors can say that they went from “Hair” to “Hairspray?” I mean really! Awesome.

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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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