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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 9th, 2012





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Chicago is now home to both of the musicals with book, music and lyrics by the late Jonathan Larson. You probably know that he wrote “Rent,” and that a highly anticipated production of the same has opened this week at the American Theater Company, in a co-production with About Face Theatre. You should also know about his other work, re-written after his death by playwright David Auburn. It’s called “tick…tick…BOOM!,” and it, too, is now on the boards in our fair city. It’s a Larsonfest! And thanks to Porchlight Music Theatre, “ttB” is getting its time in the spotlight, and reportedly a very good time, indeed. It’s playing now through June 10, 2012 at Stage 773, directed by Adam Pelty and music directed by Diana Lawrence. And the cast of three consists of Jenny Guse, Bear Bellinger and, receiving some superlative reviews indeed, Adrian Aguilar in the autobiographical role of Jon. With leading roles in last summer’s “The Original Grease” (at American Theater Company) and this winter’s “Hair” (at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora) and now this, is Aguilar now Chicago’s go-to actor for leads in rock musicals? A rumor has it!

Another highly anticipated local production is the Writers’ Theatre of Glencoe’s mounting of “A Little Night Music,” opening on May 10 after a week and half of previews at the company’s Tudor Court location. Directed by William Brown and music directed by Valerie Maze (she handled those chores for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater production of Sondheim’s “Follies” last fall), this ALNM stars Shannon Cochran and Jonathan Weir (Chicago stage veterans with Hollywood credits) as Desiree and Fredrick. However, the biggest casting news is that Tony (and Jeff) Award winner Deanna Dunagan (“August: Osage County”) is Madame Armfeldt! From one domineering materfamilias to another! Different types, of course, but still. Should be fascinating. Also in the cast are Mosh Pit favorites Cory Goodrich, Brandon Dahlquist and Brianna Borger, aka Mrs. Adrian Aguilar. And the production runs through July 8th. Everybody does this show at this time of year!


Remember that production of “Avenue Q” that was supposed to open this spring in Chicago, that everybody auditioned for? Well, it didn’t happen. And yet, there is indeed a production of the Tony-winning musical in the Chicago area this spring--in Palatine. Music On Stage, the prominent community theater performing at Cutting Hall in the northwest suburbs, the group that brought us Frank Wildhorn’s “Dracula,” is presenting “Avenue Q” from June 2-17, directed by Mark Mahallak. And I think they postponed “Damn Yankees” to do it. Mike Miserendino is Princeton, with Deric Gochenauer as Rod and Don J. Orlando as Nicky. Teresa J. Arnold is Kate, with Veronica Garza as Lucy and Steven Lugovsky as Trekkie. Human-wise, Matt Scharlau is Brian, Christine Pfenninger is Christmas Eve and Kaela West is Gary Coleman. Sarah Weinstein and Krist Neumann are the Bad Idea Bears.

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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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