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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 12th, 2011





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

The 2011 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards are here! Well, almost. But it is time to submit names of shows, artists and theaters for possible nomination for the Broadies, the BWAs, or whatever other nickname you care to use. Last year was the first year for the awards, the only ones in the Chicago area determined by online fan voting for both Equity and Non-Equity productions. And it was a big hit! We're using the same 25 categories this year as well, and productions which opened from September 1, 2010 through October 31, 2011 (a 14-month window) are eligible to be nominated. Click here to submit your suggested nominations (through October 31st), and be sure to check back the week of November 1st to see the full slate of nominees. Voting will be mid-November through mid-December, and the winners will be announced before Christmas. On Wednesday, December 28, 2011, we'll have our second annual BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards Party at The Call nightclub in Andersonville. Everyone (over 21, that is) is invited!!

Nominations Now Being Accepted For 2011 BWW Chicago Awards!

It's a fascinating time to be in the Chicago theater community. I say that every six months or so, I know, but I really mean it this time! Because three theaters are opening newly renovated facilities this fall, and coming out of a recession, this is simply amazing! The funding they have secured, and the futures they will have, are just staggering.

On Thursday, October 6, I was privileged to be part of a press "hard hat" tour of the new Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, now entering the final phase of renovation and new construction on Clark Street, between Montrose and Wilson (4450 N. Clark, to be exact). On this corner site, a former two-story auto showroom and a large new connecting building are coming together to produce a truly impressive theater complex, the new home of the 35-year-old Black Ensemble Theater. BET has made a specialty of producing homemade scripts (most by founder and executive director Jackie Taylor) that celebrate the life and music of black entertainment icons like the Nicholas Brothers, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, blues singers, soul singers, you name it. And the company will do that in even more spectacular fashion in its new 299-seat, two-story mainstage theater (pictured above) that will open on Friday, November 18, 2011, with the return of "The Jackie Wilson Story," the musical that set Chester Gregory ("Sister Act," "Hairspray") on his way to Broadway from his native Gary, Indiana. The complex will also include a 150-seat experimental stage (not yet complete), educational and rehearsal space, full dressing room, company offices, a rooftop terrace and a spectacular lobby staircase. This facility will be the envy of almost every theater company in town, I promise you. It's a truly exciting project (57,800 square feet), nearly complete and (even with a few large donors still pending) is expected to cost some $19 million. It includes some indoor parking!


At 1225 W. Belmont Avenue, the former Theater Building Chicago, having been rechristened Stage 773, is ready for its renovation coming out party, this weekend, Sunday, October 16, at 7:00 pm. It's a benefit gala, celebrating the now four-theater complex, new bathrooms (!) and all. The building's website has been renovated as well. After a 35-year history of its own, the venerable facility will play host many Chicago theater companies, cabaret artists and special events, and along with the fairly-new Theater Wit space just next door and the 100-year-old Athenaeum Theatre within walking distance down Southport, it forms quite an anchor for the arts in Central Lakeview. Stage 773 will even produce works of its own. Like I said, it's an awesome time for theater in the Windy City.

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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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