'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 17th, 2012
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:
Congratulations to all the winners of the 2012 Equity Jeff Awards! And to the Chicago theater community in general, for being so awesome, full of quality, generosity of spirit and willing to have a great time! The Joseph Jefferson Awards, Equity wing, handed out 36 awards in 35 categories on Monday night at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. As expected, the Goodman Theatre’s “The Iceman Cometh” and Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier’s “Follies” dominated the play and musical categories, respectively, with six wins apiece. “Follies” took home Production--Musical--Large, Director (Gary Griffin), Principal Actress (Caroline O’Connor, repeating her win at the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards), Supporting Actress (Hollis Resnik), Music Direction (Brad Haak) and Costume Design--Large (Virgil C. Johnson). Other musicals to win the trophy included two wins each for “The Doyle And Debbie Show,” the commercial production at the Royal George Cabaret Theatre which won for Production--Musical--Midsize and Principal Actor (Bruce Arntson), “We’re All In This Room Together” at The Second City e.t.c. (Production--Revue and Revue Director--Ryan Bernier) and “Hero” at the Marriott Theatre (New Work--Musical and Supporting Actor--Alex Goodrich). And there were single wins for the Drury Lane’s “Hairspray” (Tammy Mader’s Choreography) and for the Goodman Theatre’s “Crowns” (Maya Ciarrocchi’s Projections/Media Design). Did your favorites triumph? I kind of think they did--because they succeeded in being your favorites….
Earlier in the day on Monday, Chicago Shakespeare let it be known that its current Stephen Sondheim production under Gary Griffin’s direction, “Sunday In The Park With George,” would be extending by one week (no surprise there, except for how long it took for them to announce it). The extremely well-received production will now close November 11, rather than November 4. That’s the same pattern we saw with “Follies” one year ago. Will we be celebrating similar Jeff Award accolades around this time next year? Does lightning strike?
Moving on to other shows in the current crop on the boards…did you see the reviews for the revue “Smokey Joe’s Café” at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre? Pretty spectacular, I’d say. Brenda Didier (direction and choreography) and Jeremy Ramey (musical direction) have apparently put together a great production of one of the longest-running Broadway revues of the 1990s. If you like rock and roll, rhythm and blues and all their variant styles, the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are for you. Like SITPWG, it runs through November 11, 2012.
That long-awaited production of “Assassins” has finally opened, from producer-director Billy Pacholski and music director Robert Ollis. Reviews are more mixed here, but that’s usually the way this dark, conceptual Sondheim-Weidman piece goes. The cast is reportedly quite impressive. It’s at the Viaduct Theater on Western Avenue near Belmont, through November 10th. And maybe you won’t have to wait in line in freezing temperatures, hoping for a turn-back ticket, like I did at New York’s Playwrights’ Horizons two decades ago. But it was SO worth it….
Also closing November 10 is that even more non-traditional presidential musical, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” playing in Uptown, at the National Pastime Theater, courtesy of Bailiwick Chicago. (Is it just me, or should the title have a comma in it?) This is the Chicago premiere of the emo-rock retelling of the story of the president from my hometown of Nashville, and it too has garnered some diverse reviewer reaction. Scott Ferguson (direction) and James Morehead (musical direction) have crafted this production, which is to Generation Y what “Assassins” is to Generation X. The Greatest Generation got “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” I suppose, and Baby Boomers got “Annie.” Consider your own fate…
But there’s more! The Millennials have their own presidential musical, running at Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park from October 20-November 25. It’s the children’s musical “Duck For President,” with book by James E. Grote and music and lyrics by George Howe, directed by Shole Milos. This is a remount of a Lifeline original musical, starring Nathaniel Niemi, Derek Czaplewski, Heather Currie, Amanda Link and Amy Malcolm. Is being President easier than being a governor? Is it easier than being a farmer? Find out soon, in the Glenwood Avenue Arts District!
Chicago’s northern suburbs, specifically Evanston, have been a hotbed of operetta and light opera activity for decades and decades. (Don’t forget that the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire produced “The Pirates Of Penzance” this year.) For the last two weekends, the Savoyaires presented Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience” at Chute Auditorium on Oakton Street. They’ve being doing G&S for 48 years, so it was all business as usual for the venerable community troupe. Kingsley Day, no slouch in the professional musical theater world, was Reginald Bunthorne, Daniel Berry was Archibald Grosvenor and Olga Bojovic was the title lady. ChiArts high school teacher A.J. Wester directed, with musical direction by Timothy Semanik. What’s not to love? And what’s up next, you guys?
And yet, Evanston is also a center of new work for the light Lyric Stage, due to the presence of Midwest New Musicals, a program of Light Opera Works. And a reading of the new musical “Now And Then A Hero” will take place this coming Monday night, October 22, at LOW’s Second Stage venue on Maple Street. The show, with music by Jake Anthony and book and lyrics by Larry Todd Johnson, will be directed by Jeff Dumas and musical directed by Linda (Slein) Madonia. The cast, with some impressive credits, includes James Rank, Katherine Condit, James Earl Jones II, Audrey Billings-Stone, Elizabeth Lanza and Michael Swisher. It’s ten short musicals in one, about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Awesome. And it’s the first of six such Monday night readings during this season, one per month (except skipping January). Awesome!
And we in the Mosh Pit haven’t forgotten that it’s Halloween season! Another scary musical going up this month is “Musical Of The Living Dead,” book and lyrics by Marc Lewallen and Brad Younts and music by Mary Spray, a send-up of the zombie movie genre now in its third yearly appearance here. Lewallen and Younts direct, with choreography by Carisa Barreca. With Mary Spray herself, others in the cast include Jacob Clausen, Ashley Bush, Vance Brinkerhoff, Jonathan Hymen, Liz McArthur, Billy Sullivan, MAndy Whitenack, Adam Yencho, Jill Valentine and Quinton Guyton. The show in all its gory fun takes place at the Charnel House on West Fullerton Avenue, October 4-November 17. Go! Run! There are zombies!
Last but not least, did you know that next Friday, October 26, is the date that the Center On Halsted’s Hoover-Leppen Theatre will host a benefit to honor the birthdays of the two benefactors and namesakes of the theater, Miriam Hoover (age 99) and Michael Leppen (age 60)? It’s true! The event is “An Intimate Evening With Ann Hampton Callaway,” the Chicago area native, cabaret star and Broadway veteran who could school just about anyone in the ways of a showtune, a Broadway song and a classic standard. Her performance is at 6:30 pm, with a VIP reception after. If you can make it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. It’s Ann Hampton Callaway!
So, how did October get to be half over? Wasn’t it warm just recently? Oh, like NOW. Yeah, I hear you. It’s crazy to be wearing shorts while tromping through fallen orange leaves. But I don’t hear anyone complaining! As soon as we get our weather bearings, we’ll be wearing our layers and scarves like pros. And running into theaters to catch the latest shows! I hope to see you at one soon. And until then, I'll see you under the video screens.....—PWT
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