'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 16th, 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:
Last week, the Mosh Pit reported on the first annual Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards, a preliminary to the “Jimmy” Awards (named for James M. Nederlander), taking place in New York on June 25, 2012. The Illinois competition was on Monday of last week, and the winners were Nathan Salstone (Northbrook) from Glenbrook North High School, north of Chicago, and Meadow Nguy (O’Fallon) from O’Fallon Township High School, east of St. Louis. They both will receive a free trip to the Big Apple, and the chance to compete against other state representatives. Sounds pretty awesome to me! Way to go, you guys. See you in the video bars in about three years….
Speaking of the young, and those young performers performing for the even younger, Team StarKid was at it again last week, performing two shows at the House Of Blues as the kickoff to their 21-city tour, mostly at other HOB venues. Darren Criss wasn’t there, but half of the material these Chicago-based former college classmates of his performed was written by him. I was one of the few journalists or critics present, and probably the oldest person in the room who wasn’t escorting a teenage son or (who I am kidding, they were all girls) daughter to the “Apocalytour,” in which literally dozens of original musical theater songs were performed for adoring fans. Most of those present knew the songs before they got there, and all of them seemed to know the nine actors and five band members--from internet videos, from audio downloads or from merchandise sales. It’s a new day, people. Does your musical theater company have fan-generated websites? And millions of Google hits? And three Billboard-charting albums of material from your original shows? I wish we all were this successful! Their numbers (as well as their numbers) are pretty impressive.
In a more traditional vein, though it’s apparently an innovative production, Writers’ Theatre seems to have a big hit on its hands with Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music,” which opened in Glencoe last week to universal raves. But there is even more Sondheim afoot, just a little farther from the Loop. Up in Milwaukee, a significant production of “Sunday In The Park With George” is about to open at the newly renamed Skylight Music Theatre, starring Chicago’s (and New York’s) Sean Allan Krill as Georges/George, with Alison Mary Forbes as Dot/Marie. Krill’s last job was as the stand-by for Harry Connick, Jr. in a certain Broadway revival, the one that starred a certain Jessie Mueller in her Tony-nominated Broadway debut. And I have to say that the pictures I’ve seen of the Skylight SITPWG look awesome. The run is May 18-June 10.
In the southern part of our viewing area, Sondheim’s other musical with a book by James Lapine, “Into The Woods,” is also playing this weekend (only) at Ridge Park (near 95th and Vincennes), courtesy of the Munroe Park Theater Guild and the Chicago Park District. It plays Thursday through Sunday, May 17-20. Don’t worry, it’s a long way away from the NATO summit! And it features two brothers, Mathew Walsh and Brian Walsh, as the princes (Rapunzel’s and Cinderella’s, respectively). What’s not to love?
In north suburban Skokie, the Chicago-area premiere of “[title of show]” has just taken place, courtesy of Northlight Theatre (it runs through June 10th), directed by the legendary Peter Amster and musical directed by the soon-to-be-legendary Doug Peck. But this coming Sunday, May 20, is a legendary afternoon at Northlight, as the creators of the show, New Yorkers Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen, will be appearing at the theater’s Salon Series at 1:00, prior to the show’s 2:30 matinee performance. Admission is free to the Series, but you need a reservation. The guys will be discussing their lives in musical theater and their creation of the show, which is about…the creation of the show. The show is about itself. You know, like that. No, really.
Further north, in Libertyville, we will have a two-weekend dinner theater run of Jason Robert Brown’s time-twisting off-Broadway musical, “The Last Five Years,” from May 18-26 at Austin’s Fuel Room. It’s from Liberty Town Productions, starring Carley Wilson Alcorn and Jonathan Weppler. Hey, it’s closer than Milwaukee!
In Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre has a fun problem. Their hit and Jeff-nominated production of Adam Guettel’s “The Light In The Piazza” kept on getting extended, but they’re preparing their next show anyway! It’s a Jule Styne revue, “Time After Time,” which begins performances June 10. But “Piazza” (I keep trying to type “Pizza,” so please excuse me if I do, or if I get hungry) is running through June 23! How is the company pulling that off? Very carerfully, of course. It looks like a repertory arrangement will be in the works for a few weekends. And once “Piazza” is gone, “Time After Time” will have the No Exit Café to itself until July 22, unless one show or the other gets extended again! “Time After Time” is directed by David Heimann, with choreography by Emily Rogers and musical direction and arrangements by the up and coming Aaron Benham. And now I want some piazza. Er, pizza.
There’s a curious new show running at the Hydrate nighclub in Lakeview, on Fridays and Saturdays at 9:00 pm. It’s “Alex In Wonderland,” which opened April 13 and is scheduled through May 26, from MidTangent Productions and a cast of twelve. Conceived by Tony Lewis and Michael Elm, the show is a retelling of the Alice tale from a contemporary GLBTQ point of view. I believe they use pre-existing songs, a la a jukebox musical.
A show that’s ending its run this weekend is perhaps even more sui generis. It’s “The Roar Of The Butterfly,” written by and starring nationally known cabaret singer Spider Saloff, and playing at the Victory Gardens Theater’s Richard Christiansen Theater for three weeks this month (May 2-20). Saloff is credited with book, music and lyrics, with music also by Jim Sellers and Steve Ramsdell, with Sellers as music director and Jeremy Kahn as accompanist. Saloff has written a musical comedy in which she portrays multiple characters--all the characters, apparently! It sure sounds ambitious….Something about a dead Asian drag queen. I’m not making this up! (Spider Saloff is….)
Spider Saloff's Butterfly
And did you see the season finale of “Smash?” I bet you did! Or, if you did not, you’ve heard a lot about it, and you just haven’t had the time. And did you hear that the new finale song for the show-within-a-show, “Bombshell,” the song called “Don’t Forget Me,” was highly ranked on iTunes the day after its network debut? And that the show’s soundtrack is now available? You know that Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman have written the “Bombshell” score used on “Smash,” right? And that all sorts of Broadway performers have made their network debuts on the show, and that it’s been renewed for next season, in the same after-the-Super-Bowl part of the season as this year? Well, whether you like the soap opera elements of the show or not, and no matter how realistic (or not) you find the show’s depiction of a Broadway tryout process, there will be a day when your younger friends will ask you what it was like to turn on NBC and see an hour-long drama set entirely in the world of musical theater. And you will realize it was a golden time. Golden….
So, keep your heads down this weekend! NATO is a-comin’, and it could get interesting here and abouts. Or not! I guess we’ll find out soon enough. At any rate, keep those cards and letters coming, and I'll see you as soon as I can, under the video screens.....—PWT
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From This Author Paul W. Thompson