'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for November 2nd, 2011
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
The Joseph Jefferson Awards are here once again! The Equity Jeffs will be handed out next Monday night, November 7, 2011, at the Drury Lane Theatre in west suburban Oakbrook Terrace. Awards will be given in 35 categories (wow, that's a lot!). Additionally, a special award will go to Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times for her nearly three decades of work as a tireless advocate, reporter, critic and cheerleader of theater in the Chicago area. Favorite musical productions like the Goodman's "Candide," the Court's "Porgy And Bess" and the Marriott's "A Chorus Line" vie for the top awards in the large theater categories, and Drury Lane's "Hot Mikado," Porchlight's "The King And I" and Chicago Shakespeare's "Murder For Two" keep popping up in the nominations listings too. There was so much good theater this past year. It sounds like a great night!
Speaking of awards..... Altogether now: "Stephen Sondheim's Coming To Town!" Whether he be God or Santa Claus, or some mixture of both, the legendary composer-lyricist will be in Chicago this coming Sunday morning, November 6th, at Symphony Center, to receive the Chicago Tribune Literary Prize during this year's Chicago Humanities Festival. He's been here several times recently, so sightings are not rare. However, he is 81 years old, after all. The writer in our field against whom all others are compared, whether justified or not, Sondheim's work is acclaimed by audiences and critics alike, studied, savored, emulated, satirized and adored. And, unfortunately, I'm pretty sure we won't see his like again in this world. The prize is well deserved. Bravo, Mister Sondheim!
At least two local Catholic universities are offering Sondheim samples this month. The Department of Fine and Performing Arts at Loyola University Chicago is presenting "Into The Woods" for the next two weekends in the Kathleen Mullady Theater on the Chicago Lakeshore campus. Sondheim's score and James Lapine's book both won Tony Awards, defeating a little show called "The Phantom Of The Opera."
And Dominican University in River Forest is presenting "Gypsy," with lyrics by Sondheim, music by Jule Styne and book by Arthur Laurents, in the 1,170-seat Lund Auditorium in the school's Performing Arts Center, November 11, 12 and 13. Yours truly is the musical director, and the stage director is Krista Hansen, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts. 22-year-old senior Jackie Travers is legendary stage mama Rose.
After New Year's, beginning January 19, 2012, there'll be another "Gypsy" in the western suburbs, this time at the aforementioned Drury Lane Theatre. The cast has not yet been announced. Until then, now through January 8th, Oakbrook audiences are making more than do with one of the shows that defeated "Gypsy" for the top prize at the 1959 Tony Awards, "The Sound Of Music," by Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Reviews have been ecstastic. Director-choreographer Rachel Rockwell has apparently done it again. And Broadway star Patti Cohenour singing "Climb Every Mountain?" Priceless.
Speaking again of the Drury Lane, it is hosting special performances in mid-month that will include some showtune selections, or I'll eat my hat. Seven performers who were once series regulars on "The Lawrence Welk Show" (1951-1982) will perform three shows at the theater on November 14 and 15. Included among them is star ballroom dancer Bobby Burgess (he was already a television star from his days on "The Mickey Mouse Club" when he joined Welk's show in 1961) and ragtime pianist Jo Ann Castle. For a taste of showtune mosh pit madness from your grandparents' time, and a type of show business performance style that is all but extinct, head on over to Oakbrook Terrace for some nostalgia, and be the youngest person in the room. I guarantee it.
Speaking again of Richard Rodgers, there's a well-reviewed revue of his work with Lorenz Hart still on the boards in Evanston (through November 6 only). It's "Rodgers And Hart: A Celebration," part of the Second Stage series from Light Opera Works. That small-cast, composer songbook genre can be pretty predictable, but every once in a while, a show gets put together that shows why show folks keep trying. And oh, the singing (Bethany Thomas)! And oh, the dancing (David Geinosky)! And then there are those songs......
Looking into December, Chicago will play host to a four-day intensive workshop on song interpretation and monologues by none other than the legendary Betty Buckley (original Broadway casts of "1776," "Cats" and "The Mystery Of Edwin Drood" and replacement casts of "Song And Dance" and "Sunset Boulevard," among other career highlights). La Buckley will be here December 12-15. We just don't know where yet!
And, from December 14-30, the Chicago Theatre will play host to the final leg of the national tour of the new musical based on the now-classic 1983 film, "A Christmas Story," after it stops in Hershey (Pa), Detroit, Raleigh and Tampa. The show has rehearsing here for the last couple of weeks, and includes several Chicago actors in the cast (for instance, Gene Weygandt, Adam Pelty, George Andrew Wolff and Karen Mason). Co-composer-lyricist Benj Pasek was spotted at a certain showtune video locale a week ago, too. This show could be a good one, folks, I'm just sayin'!
And so, with another Halloween under our belts, we begin the inexorable slide toward holiday entertainments. That's not a bad thing! That's a lot of joy, a lot of happy audiences, and a lot of employment. I'll see you at a holiday musical or two, I'm sure. And afterwards, or some evening or other, I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT
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