'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 24th, 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:
It’s that season of the year again….the season for the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards! Our very own version of the Broadies was the very first to kick off in the U.S. outside of New York, in 2010, and I found out last week that we have had more nominees submitted for the 2012 awards than any other region--over 4,600 and counting! But you don’t have long to get your submissions turned in. Nominations for the 30 categories officially close this Friday, October 26, 2012. Be sure to stay tuned (or I guess you can log in, read smoke signals, adjust the rabbit ears, or whatever else you do to read BroadwayWorld!) on Monday, November 5, when the second most important election this November gets underway. Voting will run until December 15, 2012, and then it will be full steam ahead to the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards Celebration at The Call nightclub on Wednesday night, January 9, 2013. It’ll be a blast!
And what say ye about “Kinky Boots?” The pre-Broadway tryout that people really are talking about has gotten pretty good reviews and positive word of mouth, given that most people realize that it can and should get even better before it is frozen in its final form next spring. The word is that it’s second act trouble--hardly a surprise and even understandable when you think about how complicated an animal a modern musical is. But folks are having a good, enjoyable, meaningful time (through November 4 at the Bank Of America Theatre), and we all hope that the show becomes everything it has the potential to be. Cyndi Lauper, Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Mitchell, Stark Sands, Billy Porter and company have much to be proud of. Remember where you got your start when you’re big and famous elsewhere, you guys!
Speaking of Broadway In Chicago, the presenting entity is bringing to us the national tour of the recent Broadway revival of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” exactly six months from now (opening April 23, 2013 for two weeks at the Cadillac Palace Theatre). And guess who is currently co-starring as Billy Crocker in the tour cast? Erich Bergen, who played the titular lead in the new musical “Hero” at the Marriott Theatre in the second part of the summer, and who left the production rather quickly, it seemed. Well, this may explain why he had to leave! Rachel York (you may remember her from Tommy Tune’s “Turn Of The Century” at the Goodman Theatre) stars as Reno Sweeney, and Chicago veteran actor Dennis Kelly is Elisha Whitney. Let’s hope they are all still with the production when it arrives here on our friendly Lake Michigan shores!
Speaking of the Marriott Theatre, the next production that will open at the Lake County four-sided legit venue is “My One And Only,” originally written and choreographed by that same Tommy Tune and not seen as often as it once was. This time around, Jeff Award winner Tammy Mader directs and choreographs the 1983 Gershwin musical, which will begin performances on November 7 and run through December 31. Andrew Lupp and Summer Naomi Smart will take on the roles originated by Tune and by Twiggy, with Tony Award nominees Ted Louis Levy as Mr. Magix and Felicia P. Fields (surprisingly enough) as Reverend Montgomery. Other leads will include Roger Mueller and Paula Scrofano, and such familiar names as Jameson Cooper, Dina DiCostanzo, Zachary L. Gray, Matt Raftery, Stephen Schellhardt and Tiffany Topol will help comprise the ensemble. Michael Mahler will music direct. It’s “Strike Up The Band,” only much cooler. And this show paved the way for the Tony-winning “Crazy For You” and the current “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” in that Broadway has now seen three different Gershwin musicals with new (or mostly new) plots, characters and what-nots, more re-workings than for any other long-dead composer. Good going, George!
Speaking of the dead, the musical named for them, “The Dead,” opened on Broadway in 2000 and is being mounted for (I believe) the third time by the Court Theatre, the professional troupe on the campus of the University Of Chicago. The musical by Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey, based on the book by James Joyce, will be directed by Charles Newell, choreographed by Katie Spelman and musical directed by Doug Peck. The show will run November 8-December 9, with opening night scheduled for November 17. Jim DeSelm, Mary Ernster, Susie McMonagle, Lara Filip, Rebecca Finnegan, Anne Gunn, Rachel Klippel, Rob Lindley, J. Michael Finley, Suzanne Gillen, Philip Earl Johnson, Regina Leslie and Steve Tomlitz make up the cast, also playing all the instruments. And the design team? Scott Davis, Linda Roethke, Jennifer Tipton and Joshua Horvath. A-List and award winners all the way on this one, you guys….
Speaking of literary classics, several generations of young readers, and their parents, would no doubt rank Crockett Johnson’s “Harold And The Purple Crayon” right up there with anything that James Joyce fellow dreamed up. I know I would. And the Chicago Children’s Theatre has brought us their version of a new children’s musical based on Johnson’s picture book, which is onstage now through November 4 at the Ruth Page Center For The Arts in the Near North/Gold Coast neighborhood. Sean Graney directs and Tommy Rapley choreographs, with musical direction by Nicholas Davio. Nate Lewellyn, Bethany Thomas and new Jeff Award winner Alex Goodrich comprise the cast.
And yes, I am aware that Halloween is lurking just around the corner! While holidays are always a good time to go to the theater, it does seem as if this particular calendrical event is second only to “the holidays” in terms of theatrically specific entertainment. King (or is it Queen?) of all of these shows must be “The Rocky Horror Show,” though I’ve never understood what’s supposed to be particularly scary about it. (They’re just unusual, right?) And I know of three versions of Richard O’Brien’s magnum opus hereabouts, though the buyer should beware that you know what you are getting.
Awkward Pause Theatre has been presenting what I believe is the full, original stage musical, “The Rocky Horror Show,” at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. There are two performances left, on Friday, October 26 and Wednesday, October 31, both at midnight. The cast includes show veteran Michael Buonincontro as Dr. Frankenfurter, Corey Mills as Brad and Erin O’Shea as Janet, with Kevin Buswell as Riff Raff. Nick Vidal is Rocky himself.
Even further up north, in suburban Wilmette, you can catch the very popular film adaptation of the show, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” complete and with what is called “live shadowcast,” at the Wilmette Theatre. I think this means that actors act out the film, or most of it, while it is being shown, in much the same way that the film first became a cult hit in the 1970s and well into the 1980s. Audience participation is encouraged. Toast, newspapers and water pistols, anyone? It’s Friday and Saturday night, October 26 and 27, at 9:30.
And in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, Mary’s Attic has been hosting the Chicago Cabaret Project (now calling itself “The Cabaret Project”) on Thursdays at 10:00. There’s only one chance left to see the “Rocky Horror Cabaret Show,” the troupe’s version of the material, which, I take it, emphasizes the songs and costumes and characters and de-emphasizes the sets and the dialogue. So, if you’re looking for something new, neither the show nor the movie, this sounds like it’s for you, but you better hurry! Thursday, October 25 is tomorrow.
And lastly, there is the new ABC-TV series “Nashville,” named for and filmed (at least in part) in Music City, my home town. (It has no relationship to the Robert Altman film of the same name, which starred future “The Will Rogers Follies” leading man, Keith Carradine.) Airing on Wednesday nights, and premiering two weeks ago, the show presents to me the question, “What is a musical?” Now, the series is about singers in Nashville’s country music industry. So, specifically then, does a television series in which all the foreground songs (i.e., background songs excluded) are sung by characters as if they know they are singing (in the recording studio, on stage, etc.) qualify as a “musical”? Or is it just a drama?
Well, one could argue that there are many different types of musicals, and that format (stage, film, television, etc.) is just one (fairly unimportant) differentiating characteristic. A more crucial characteristic is whether characters know they are singing and dancing or not. (Actually, many properties have it both ways on this, as do “Guys And Dolls” and “South Pacific,” and the series “Glee,” to name just a few.) Don’t forget that all the characters in last season’s Tony winner, “Once,” know they are singing, but I’m not sure they know they are playing instruments. And I’m not even getting into what separates a musical from an opera (“Sweeney Todd” or “Rent,” anyone?), but what separates a musical from a play, dramatic series or dramatic film. And I’m also not talking about what separates a musical from a concert (“American Idiot,” “Smokey Joe’s Café” and Chicago’s own “Alien Queen” blur this line). Yes, I do believe that musicals occupy the space in the middle of the circle established by plays, operas and concerts. But where is the dividing line? And where does dance fit in? Aye, there are so many rubs! Conversation, anyone?
And so, at this juncture of Halloween and (apparently) global warming, I hope I will see you soon, in one venue or other. Get those nominations in for the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards, won’t you? And I hope you have a grand old time, until I see you under the video screens.....—PWT
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