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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for November 21st, 2012




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

It’s a little more than a month away. Can you stand it? We’ve been eagerly awaiting this for a year now, if not for 27 years, and it’s almost here! I’m talking of course about the release of the film version of “Les Miserables,” arguably the most popular musical ever written and staged. And on Christmas Day, director Tom Hooper’s vision of Claude-Michel Schoenberg’s and Alain Boublil’s legendary version of Victor Hugo’s novel will finally hit big screens everywhere. For two more weeks, a well-received touring version of this show (not the original staging, but apparently a great one) is ensconced at our Cadillac Palace Theatre, and of course a theater-going and a movie-going experience are different. I say, enjoy both!

The chief buzz about this film is director Hooper’s decision to have all the actors sing live during every take of filming, singing to a piano accompaniment that was later replaced with an orchestra track. The results are raw, not pure, and visually connected to the sound in a way not usually experienced in a Hollywood musical. People seem thrilled by the trailers. And the cast itself is the second biggest buzz--Australian Tony winner Hugh Jackman and Australian Oscar winner Russell Crowe (vocal coached by Chicago’s Roberta Duchak, you remember) headline as Valjean and Javert, with the film world’s Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried as mother and daughter, film oddities Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the despicable Thenardiers, and the theater world’s Eddie Redmayne and Aaron Tveit as the young revolutionary heroes. London stage star Samantha Barks is Eponine the waif. Can you hear the people sing? Yes, you can. Or will, on December 25th.


Chicago’s legendary Music Box Theatre is offering a different kind of Hollywood movie musical experience this weekend, when the popular “Sing-a-long Sound Of Music” takes place on November 23, 24 and 25. “The Sound Of Music” is the most popular film musical ever made (so far!), starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer and whole host of kids who became superstars to folks of my age (it came out the year I turned four). So go, and sing along! And there’s a costume contest, and who knows what else. “The Lonely Goatherd,” anyone? (Rhymes with “throat heard,” by the way.) Sounds like a blast!


Speaking of musicals with children, “Annie” has been revived on Broadway this fall, you know, with Tony winner Katie Finneran as Miss Hannigan and Australian stage star Anthony Warlow finally debuting on Broadway as Daddy Warbucks. So? Well, our very own Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora is debuting its own production of the perennial pleaser tonight! I guess they had the rights secured before the Broadway production firmed itself up (like the Drury Lane Theatre did when they had “Ragtime” at the same time New York did). Ours will run through December 30, directed by Rachel Rockwell and starring young Caroline Heffernan in the title role. Christine Sherrill is Miss Hannigan, with Gene Weygandt as Daddy Warbucks and Maggie Portman as Lily St. Regis (like the Hotel!).

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Paul W. Thompson Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com 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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