'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for November 30th, 2011





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

The Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” is open once again, and all’s right with the world. What “Messiah” is to classical music and “The Nutcracker” is to ballet, the many stage versions of Charles Dickens’ immortal short novel about Scrooge, Marley, Cratchit and the rest are to the legitimate stage. And the one at Chicago’s most established resident theater company has been popular for decades now. It opened again this week, and will run through December 31, adapted by Tom Creamer and directed by Steve Scott. It once again, after a year off, stars Larry Yando as Ebenezer Scrooge (Yando is perhaps best known outside of Chicago for his Scar in the national tour of “The Lion King”). Ron Rains is again Bob Cratchit, Ross Lehman is Fezziwig and Jarrod Zimmerman is the younger Scrooge. The women in their lives are Karen Woditsch, Ora Jones and Nora Fiffer. The music for the show was composed by Andrew Hansen, and there are three live onstage musicians. It is a musical? Maybe yes, maybe no. But it’s a toetapper, just the same.

Goodman Theatre : Chicago's award-winning regional theater

Speaking of “The Nutcracker,” the E.T.A. Hoffmann story that spawned the famous Tschaikovsky ballet is also the source for another perennial holiday favorite in these here parts, also called “The Nutcracker” and staged since 2007 by the House Theatre of Chicago (November 3-December 30). With book by Phillip Klapperich and Jake Minton, lyrics by Minton and music by Kevin O’Donnell, Clara, Drosselmeyer, the Rat King and more come to life with actors and puppets in this musical at the Chopin Theatre (downstairs space) on Division Street. It sounds interesting, and has been very well received.

The Nutcracker » The House Theatre of Chicago 

Not quite as well received, perhaps, but starring some formidable showtune talents (Hollis Resnik and Don Forston) is the Chicago premiere of “Another Night Before Christmas,” a two-hander holiday musical by Sean Grennan  (book and lyrics) and Leah Okimoto (music), directed by the old pro himself, William Pullinsi. It’s on the boards at the Theatre At The Center in northwest Indiana until December 18, and has been Jeff-recommended. Resnik, you may remember, is now a ten-time Jeff Award winner, thanks to her recent win for playing The Old Lady in “Candide” at the Goodman. It’s always a joy to see her, as Mosh Pit peeps well know! 

Theatre at the Center 

For the second year in a row, Bohemian Theatre Ensemble is presenting “Striking 12” for the holidays, opening this weekend and running through January 1, 2012. It’s at the Heartland Studio, the tiny theater in the Glenwood Avenue Arts District in Rogers Park. Directed by Lara Filip (fresh from her triumph as the Narrator in “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora), its book, music and lyrics are by Brendan Millburn, Rachel Sheinkin and Valerie Vigoda, and its cast of actor-musicians consists of Matt Deitchman, Jed Feder, Mallory Nees and Amy Steele. It’s about a grumpy bachelor and a lightbulb salesgirl. It’s The “Un-holiday” Holiday Musical! Their publicity materials say so…….

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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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