'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 12th, 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 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!!
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.