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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 31st, 2012




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

And, so, Barbra happened! The legendary Barbra Streisand made her once-a-decade appearance in Chicago last Friday night at the United Center, singing showtunes, movie songs and pop songs for several generations and stripes of fans, who reportedly loved every minute of it. (Come to think of it, when she sings “People,” she’s singing a showtune, a movie song AND a pop song. Not bad, Babs, not bad!) I didn’t hear or read one negative word about Streisand’s performance at this concert. Sure, not everyone enjoyed the other performers on the bill (though Jason Gould impressed a lot of folks). And yes, she no longer sounds like a young singer. But when fans begin crying at the mere sound of your voice, you’re doing something right. And when your tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch comes off as a truly heartfelt moment, rather than exploitative or treacly, then your audience realizes why you’ve been a star for fifty years. Fifty years! This lady knows who she is and what she is all about. She’s an actress with a miraculous, natural singing voice. Fifty years! If you are a younger reader of the Showtune Mosh Pit, and haven’t given this woman a chance on your favorite mode of music consumption, I urge you to give her a try. Start anywhere. Each song is a master class in connecting voice, song, emotion, dramatic action and audience. Fifty years!

Speaking of songs, the Chicago theater community has done itself very proud with the release of “Season Of Carols,” an 18-track CD of holiday songs featuring over 100 Chicago music and theater stars, recorded as a benefit for Season Of Concern. Pianist/musical director Eugene Dizon and singer/actress/songwriter Cory Goodrich were the producers of this project, and worked on it tirelessly through the summer. Season Of Concern is the Chicagoland theatre community’s fundraising effort in providing compassionate care to those in our community who are experiencing the effects of catastrophic illness, including HIV/AIDS. And the casts of ten recent Chicago musical productions, along with top Chicago cabaret stars like Beckie Menzie, Tom Michael and The Lincoln Squares, sing a wide variety of carols and Christmas songs, in a grab-bag of musical styles. Everyone worked for free, so that 100% of the $20 sale price goes directly to Season Of Concern. There will be a special concert of music from the recording too, at the Mercury Theater on Monday, December 3, 2012. And you really should get this recording. I’ve heard some of the tracks, and there is great music-making going on--great singing, great arrangements, great and unique work, and dripping with talent. And scrolling through the credits on the track list is like a “Who’s Who” of the folks I talk about in this column week after week. It’s for a good cause. Only eight weeks till Christmas, folks!

Speaking of going to the movies, a film of the recent UK arena tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” starring reality show star Ben Forster, “Matilda” composer/lyricist Tim Michin and former Spice Girl Mel C, was supposed to be shown on movie screens in the US on Monday and Thursday of this week. However, it seems to have been cancelled everywhere, due (perhaps?) to the onslaught of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy on the east coast. Ah, well. Perhaps it will be rescheduled?

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Paul W. Thompson Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to 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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