'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 21st, 2014
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
As I announced online last week, the annual BroadwayWorld Chicago Tony Award Viewing Party is on for Sunday evening, June 8th! Chicago's theater community (professionals and fans alike) will come together to enjoy the televised broadcast of the 68th Annual Tony Awards from New York. The biggest night of the year for live theater is a great chance to root for your favorites, glimpse a colleague in the audience, plan your future theatrical experiences, or just enjoy the company of like-minded folks from all across the Chicagoland area. We will gather at The Call Bar in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood , at 1547 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue (between Clark and Ashland). Begin arriving at 6:00 pm, because the telecast begins on CBS promptly at 7:00 Central Time, and you won't want to miss the opening number! It's a three-hour telecast, until 10:00, but why leave then? The Call Bar is open until 2:00 am that night, and will feature showtune videos spun once again by VJ Michael Hogan. Admission is free, and no tickets are necessary, though of course the bar is a 21+ venue only.
And we'll have Trivia! Once again, the theme is "Chicago At The Tonys!" If somebody shouts out the correct answer, they win that round! If no one does, whoever comes up to the Party table with the correct answer during the next televised segment will win. And what can you win? We're amassing an impressive array of free ticket offers from a cross-section of Chicago theater companies. Lucky winners can choose a prize, usually consisting of two free tickets for one of the following Chicago productions (with more in the works): American Blues Theater (tickets to both "GROUNDED" and "HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY"), Brown Paper Box Co. (tickets to "PROUD AT MARY'S"), Chicago Shakespeare Theater (tickets to one of the following: "KING LEAR," "PERICLES" or "SENSE AND SENSIBILITY"), First Folio Theatre (tickets to "THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR"), Jedlicka Performing Arts Center (tickets to "BIG FISH"), Kokandy Productions (tickets to "ASSASSINS"), Lyric Opera of Chicago (tickets to one of the following: "DON GIOVANNI," "CAPRICCIO," "IL TROVATORE," "PORGY AND BESS," "ANNA BOLENA," "TOSCA," "TANNHAUSER" or "THE PASSENGER"), Raue Center for the Arts (tickets to "SUDS THE MUSICAL"), and Wayward Productions (tickets to "BURN THE BLACK DOG"),
So, we look forward to seeing you there and then. Come one, come all, to The Call!
With so many different physical spaces where theater happens in this town, and with nimble budgets and distinctive performance styles differentiating many of our theater companies, we frequently have the pleasure of producing works of musical theater here in vastly different ways than the New York productions most folks are familiar with. Such is the case with the American Theater Company production of "Hair," running now through June 29th. It's garnered national attention, not only for its use of cut-and-restored material from the show's development period in the late 1960s, but for such things as the scenic concept and the character of the orchestrations. It's apparently an old-yet-fresh take that works, at least in the eyes of most observers. I mean, get a load of these reviews!
Such will apparently also be the case with Adam Guettel's song cycle, "Myths And Hymns," in a production from the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble now in rehearsal. BoHo will mount the 1998 work (produced off-Broadway as the revue "Saturn Returns") "with an original narrative concept," directed by Peter Robel and music directed by Nick Sula. The cast includes Sydney Charles, Matt McNabb, Stephanie Souza, Neil Stratman, Elizabeth Telford and Kevin Webb. The company had great success in 2012 with Guettel's "Floyd Collins;" will success strike again? Can Greco-Roman mythology and traditional Christianity co-exist? Find out for yourself from June 13-July 13 at the Heartland Studio in the Glenwood Avenue Arts District in Rogers Park.
Speaking of traditional Christianity, I mentioned in last week's Mosh Pit the preo-Broadway tryout of Sting's "The Last Ship," coming to the Loop next month. It's certainly not the last tryout we'll have, even just in 2014! Because the cast of a new musical with an unlikely subject matter (unlikely until it's a smash hit, I suppose) was announced a few weeks ago, coming here to the Bank Of America Theatre from October 9-November 2. It's "Amazing Grace," and it tells the story of the man who wrote the text (but not the tune) to perhaps the most widely known non-Christmas song in Christianity today. And he wrote it in England in 1772, after spending some of his early days involved in the Atlantic slave trade. His name was John Newton, and his life has been turned into a musical by one Christopher Smith (with an assist on the book by Arthur Giron). Gabriel Barre will direct, and Christopher Gattelli will choreograph. Starring as Newton will be Josh Young ("Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Evita"), supported by Erin Mackey ("Sondheim On Sondheim"), Tom Hewitt ("Dracula") and Chuck Cooper ("The Life"). Interesting. How sweet the sound.
And there's more in the pipeline! We've known for some time about "Dee Snider's Rock And Roll Christmas Tale," coming to the Broadway Playhouse November 4, 2014 through January 4, 2015. (Yes, THAT Dee Snider.) But it was announced just yesterday that the life story of husband and wife Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan will be turned into "On Your Feet!" Its pre-Broadway engagement will take place somewhere in Chicago, sometime in the summer of 2015. We are promised new songs as well as familiar hits ("Conga," "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You," etc.) from the Latin superstar singer and her producer-impresario spouse. Jerry Mitchell ("Kinky Boots") will direct, with choreography by Sergio Trujillo ("Jersey Boys"). Those guys know Chicago well. Casting? My money is on Karen Olivo.
I don't usually talk about closed-door table readings of future musicals here. But it's been on social media, and on Monday a short item appeared about it on the website for the writing team of Neil Bartram and Brian Hill ("The Story Of My Life"). I'm talking about the reading of a stage version of the 1971 Walt Disney film "Bedknobs And Broomsticks," which originally starred Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson, with songs by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman. The reading took place last Saturday at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and surviving Sherman brother Richard was there (he came to town last summer, too, to help with "The Jungle Book" at the Goodman Theatre). You may remember that Brian Hill is working on the book to Lerner and Loewe's "Brigadoon," which has begun rehearsals at the Goodman for its June opening. Well, Brian Hill has also written the script for "Bedknobs And Broomsticks," and Neil Bartram has contributed additional songs to join the Sherman originals ("The Age Of Not Believing," "Portabello Road," "Eglantine," "Substitutiary Locomotion," etc.). Some of our top Chicago musical theater performing talent was reportedly involved in the reading.. Those Mosh Pit peeps of a certain generation (OK, mine) would love to see this film make a successful screen-to-stage transfer. But how are you gonna do the flying suits of armor??? And who is Broadway's best amateur witch? Seriously, this is exciting news!
You have only until this Saturday to see the world premiere of the musical "Hang Your Hat At Mister Kelly's," which opened April 25th and was extended to include this weekend. With book by Jarrin Davis, music by Gary Gimmestad and lyrics by Rob Dorn, it was directed by Jason Paul Smith of Three Cat Productions. The show concerns the famous Rush Street supper club of the titular name, and features cast members Jason Michael Hammond, Nicole Haskins, Todd Neal, Paul Pasulka, Sara Reinecke, and Demetrous White, Jr. Performances are at the Berger Park Coach House Theater in Rogers Park, on the lakefront at Granville.
Beginning previews next Wednesday, May 28, and running through July 13, will be a remount of the 2006 original musical parody of film noir prison films, "Caged Dames," written by David Cerda for his Hell In A Handbag Productions. He stars as Warden Hope Jenkins, along with usual cohort Ed Jones as Matron Elsie Emerson, directed by AJ Wright at Theater Wit on Belmont Avenue. The cast of 12 also includes Elizabeth Morgan as Mary Anderson, and Sydney Genco and Cheryl Snodgrass as Big Lorraine and Bigger Lorraine.
My discussion last week of upcoming film musicals needs updating, as I neglected to mention a film version of the early Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty off-Broadway musical "Lucky Stiff." The 1988 work has been filmed by director Christopher Ashley, and it will be launched at this year's Cannes Film Festival, in preparation for a 2015 release. Jason Alexander and the late Dennis Farina star, along with Nikki M. James ("The Book Of Mormon") and Northwestern University graduate and former Miss America Kate Shindle ("Legally Blonde").
And even as "The Last Five Years" readies for film release this year, local productions of the song cycle-ish two-hander continue. The Metropolis Performing Arts Center in Arlington Heights has a production on the boards now (May 15-June 15), directed by Lauren Rawitz. Matt Edmonds and Elissa Newcorn star, I believe. The characters go in two different directions. Get it? Two different directions....
And lastly, the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus is midway through a four-performance run of "Bouncing Off The Walls: Broadway Our Way." It's the chorus' twice-a-decade go at the latest Broadway songs, this time featuring tunes from "The Book Of Mormon," "Newsies," "Kinky Boots," etc., many in unique arrangements. They've already performed in Rockford and Skokie, with just Chicago and Naperville to go (May 31 at the Harris Theater, and June 1 at Wentz Concert Hall). If you like showtunes and comedy (and I think you do), you'll have a blast. Go!
So that's it for this long-winded edition of this Windy City column. Stay safe this holiday weekend, won't you? I look forward to seeing you under the video screens.....-PWT
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