'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 28th, 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:
It's next Monday night! Chicago's non-Equity Jeff Awards, honoring the best in town from the smaller-resourced, but certainly creative, theater companies, will host its annual soiree at the Park West on Monday night, June 2nd. And I'll be there to be your eyes and ears! You can go to, btw, and it's a blast. Will the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble pick up some awards to go with its field-leading 12 nominations (most for "Kiss Of The Spider Woman")? Will Bailiwick Chicago's "Dessa Rose," the most-nominated production, attain some or most of its 8 nods? Will Theo Ubique's "Passion" or Kokandy Productions' "Sweet Smell Of Success" be remembered? There are 128 nominations in 24 categories. And Griffin Theatre Company will be receiving a special award. Something for everyone! See you there!
You may be aware that it's awards show season in New York as well. In honor of the upcoming Tony Awards (on June 8th, you remember), Pride Films And Plays will be presenting its annual early June benefit performance at Sidetrack, this year on Tuesday, June 3rd. "Tony Tunes" is the theme, with songs from Tony winners past and Tony nominees present. Music director Robert Ollis is assembling the cabaret evening, featuring guest artist Jayson "JC" Brooks. Other singers will include Ryan Lanning, Sydney Charles, David Schlumpf, Harmony France, Jill Renn, Nicholas Foster, Amy Arbizzani, Scott Gryder, James Nedrud, Kim Lawson, Kevin Webb, Sharriese Hamilton, Edward Fraim and Jordan Phelps. That's a lot of Jeff nominees and BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winners right there!
I've been talking lately about a lot of local production of "Cabaret." Of course, there's one more. BrightSide Theatre in Naperville is also producing the John Kander-Fred Ebb gem, from June 13-29 at Meiley-Swallow Hall, on the campus of North Central College. Jeffrey Cass will direct a cast of 16, choreographed by Jeni Donahue. Jonas Davidow will be Cliff, with Jillian Weingart as Sally and David Geinosky as the Emcee.
Another, even more infamous musical that also starts with the letters C and A is "Carrie," the Broadway flop from 1988 that was resurrected off-Broadway and has now made its way to Chicago for the first time, courtesy of Bailiwick Chicago. Performances begin tomorrow at the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, and run through July 12, 2014. Starring Callie Johnson as Carrie and Katherine L. Condit as Margaret White, her mother (leading a cast of 14), the Michael Gore-Dean Pitchford musical is directed by Michael Driscoll, with music direction by Aaron Benham and choreography by Brigitte Ditmars. It's based on the Stephen King novel that inspired the Sissy Spacek film. When the theater's website features the company providing the stage blood for the show, you sort of know what you're getting into. This is a major event for Chicago's showtune community, to be sure. Thought lost to the ages, and now (hopefully) as good as it can get, it really is here! "Carrie."
Decidedly on the other end of the good versus evil debate in religiously-themed off-Broadway musicals is "Godspell," the early work from Stephen Schwartz that was revived and revised for Broadway in 2011. That version of the otherwise well-known show will premiere locally at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, where previews begin June 4 and the run lasts until August 10. Matt Raftery directs and choreographs, with the new Broadway arrangements and orchestrations music directed by Ryan T. Nelson. Brian Bohr (who was Joseph in another Biblical musical at the Marriott) stars as Jesus, with Devin DeSantis as John and Judas. Also in the cast are Lillie Cummings, Elizabeth Lanza, Nate Lewellyn, Christine Mild, Eliza Palasz, Samantha Pauly, Zachary Piser and Tom Vendafreddo.
Speaking of the northern suburbs, Glencoe's Writers Theatre sounds like they've produced a winner in the world premiere of the new musical "Days Like Today," which has opened to very strong notices for Alan Schmuckler's music and lyrics (in the Jason Robert Brown/Adam Guettel/Michael John LaChiusa mode of chamber operas for the theater). You have until July 13th to catch it. Though I have a feeling it will turn up again, somewhere else. Emily Berman stars as a young woman in love, with Jonathan Weir, Susie McMonagle, Jarrod Zimmerman, Jeff Parker and Will Mobley. Michael Halberstam directs.
In nearby Highland Park, another type of original musical is set for performances from June 7-22. It's "Saudade: Dreams And Longing" at The Music Theatre Company. It's a dance musical, conceived, directed and choreographed by artistic director Jessica Redish, with story and book by David Simpatico. The cast of seven is led by Amber Mak and Joey Stone.
Chicago excels in sketch comedy, and many times this world produces original, scripted musicals, developed and fleshed out "on their feet," as it were. Satire is often the tone, and weekly performances are often the schedule. Such is the situation with "Flux Capacitor: A Very McFly Musical," now playing on Friday nights at 9:30 at the pH Comedy Theater in Andersonville. With book, music and lyrics by BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Amanda Murphy, and directed by Jason Geis, this "Back To The Future" tribute has a cast of 11. Who knew?
A longtime stalwart in the sketch and improv world, the Annoyance Theatre, has relocated from Uptown to a newly renovated building near the very visible corner of Belmont Avenue and Clark Street in Lakeview. Home of long-running, late lamented musical "Co-ed Prison Sluts," as well as other well-remembered offerings like "The Real Live Brady Bunch," Annoyance was founded by artistic director Mick Napier in 1987, and held an open house in its new digs this past Sunday. Classes are currently being held in two storefronts across the street and around the corner, but the new space will be active with shows and classes before too long. Well done, you guys!
And, since it is now summer in the minds of most, folks have turned their attention to outdoor activities. And that includes the Chicago Park District's Movies In The Parks series, which begins tomorrow night and takes place all over town. And there are all sorts of offerings, of course! As regards movie musicals, I see "Dirty Dancing" at the Mary Bartelme Park on June 25, "Gypsy" at Kathy Osterman Beach on June 27 (yes, that's right), "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory" at Armour Square Park on June 29, "The Wiz" at the South Shore Cultural Center on August 27, and "The Wizard Of Oz" at several spots throughout August. And there's more. Check out the whole list, and enjoy!
And so, June is about to bust out all over, and the lusty month of May is drawing to a close. I hope your spring has sprung successfully, and I look forward to seeing you at our Tony Award Viewing Party at The Call Bar in Andersonville (June 8) for ticket giveaways and all the fun of watching the Tonys with people who care! And I'm sure I will also see you, there and elsewhere, under the video screens.....-PWT
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