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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for November 14th, 2012




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

It’s a big, big week for musical theater in Chitown! Let’s get to it, shall we?

First of all, it’s not every week that a national tour opens, but it’s certainly rare when TWO tours stop here at the same time, for the same three weeks! I’ll give top billing to first-time tour “Sister Act,” the London and Broadway musical with music by Alan Menken that is now playing at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University (through December 2). Based on the popular Whoopi Goldberg film about a woman who hides out in a parish convent and transforms the nuns and their music through gospel music and personality, the tour stars the young Broadway veteran Ta’rea Campbell as Deloris Van Cartier and Chicago’s very own 10-time Jeff Award-winner Hollis Resnik as Mother Superior. She’s not just there for the Chicago stop on the tour, peeps. She works nationally, and this is her fourth national tour. Cheer her on, and raise your voice for “Sister Act,” won’t you? I knew you could do it!

Diagonally across the Loop, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, the eager Mosh Pit peep will find “Les Miserables” for the next three weeks as well. This is not the original staging, but the re-imagining done for the 25th anniversary of the show’s London debut in the fall of 1985. Yes, we’ve seen this tour before. And yes, the tours of the original production played here upteen times, including a long stand at the Auditorium 20 years ago. But this tour is now starring Peter Lockyer as Jean Valjean, with Andrew Varela as Javert and Chicago’s very own Jeff Award and BroadwayWorld Chicago Award-winner Max Quinlan as Marius! (His Jeff is for “The Light In The Piazza” at the Marriott Theatre, and his Broadie is for “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Theatre At The Center.) It’s Max Quinlan as Marius. So, you’ll go, right?

While we’re on the subject of tours, a certain Second National Tour just announced its cast, and Chicago finally got the answer we were waiting for. The Tony-winning “The Book Of Mormon,” with its “South Park” and “Spamalot” pedigree strongly in evidence, will begin performances at the Bank Of America Theatre on December 11, and will play at least through June 2, 2013 (reportedly, all performances are sold out through March 3rd). And now we know who will be up on stage! Nic Rouleau, who’s been starring in the show on Broadway, will be Elder (“I Believe”) Price, “Pitch Perfect” star Ben Platt will be the socially awkward Elder Cunningham, and Stephanie Umoh will be Nabulungi. And, wouldn’t you know it, there are Chicago actors in this cast as well! Song and dance man Jackson Evans (seen last season in the Drury Lane Theatre’s “Hairspray”) has been cast as Elder McKinley, and Steppenwolf’s James Vincent Meredith will be Mafala Hatimbi. And I recognize Jake Emmerling’s name from Facebook, too…. Congratulations, you guys!

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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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