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BWW Blogs: 'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 1st, 2010





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and the Call:

I was so eager to tell you about "Tangled" and "Burlesque" last week (and was I right, or was I right?) that I totally forgot to mention the PBS broadcast of "Sondheim!: The Birthday Concert" last Wednesday! I have been properly chastised for this oversight. Now available on DVD, the all-star gala concert from New York's Avery Fisher Hall (taped March 15-16, 2010) was hosted by David Hyde Pierce, and the New York Philharmonic was conducted (of course) by Paul Gemigniani. Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin have gotten a lot of attention from folks in the Mosh Pit for recreating their performance  of "Move On" from "SITPWG." (I know I don't have to tell you what that stands for, right?) Patti LuPone's "The Ladies Who Lunch" and Elaine Stritch's "I'm Still Here" have also been mentioned as faves. What's yours? And will we see these performances in our favorite bars anytime soon? Just sayin'.... 

Sondheim!: The Birthday Concert DVD (2010) 

In my discussion of the busy Monday night event scene last week, I was concentrating on karaoke nights and open mic cabarets, and as a result, I neglected a new and fun performance venue on Halsted Street, the reconstituted Rehab. Now appearing there on Mondays from 7-10 pm is chanteuse Honey West, and up and coming Michael Scott McBride follows her from 10 to midnight. It's a nice, funky room, too, right next to Circuit Nightclub. Have you visited? 


Now that the mea culpas are out of the way, it's onward light operas! Chicago is abuzz with them this year. First on most folks' lists is Lyric Opera of Chicago's brand new production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado," directed by Gary Griffin and starring James Morris, Stephanie Blythe and Neal Davies. It opens December 6, 2010 and plays intermittently through January 21, 2011. This production is a major international story in the operetta world, and the willingness of Morris (who's made a career out of Wagner's Wotan worldwide) and Blythe (whose voice seems to literally come out of the back of her head, it's so enormous) to get into Griffin's sandbox as The Mikado and Katisha speaks volumes about Lyric's growing expertise in the light opera vein. Can't wait! Get thee to the Civic Opera House

Lyric Opera of Chicago 

On a slightly more modest scale (and even more surprising), The Hypocrites is mounting Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates Of Penzance" this month! Performances of G&S's "American operetta" (it debuted in New York before opening in London, for legal reasons) are December 9-January 30 at the Chopin Theatre at Division, Milwaukee and Ashland Avenues. It's a "new arrangement" of the show by Kevin O'Donnell, directed by Sean Graney. Two professional English comic operas mounted locally at the same time. Who knew? The Mosh Pit knew! 

The Hypocrites 

It may be a one-act grand opera, but it's American, it was written for television and it's about Christmas. So, Gian-Carlo Menotti's "Amahl And The Night Visitors" is perhaps the most accessible and most widely seen opera in America. One live production of it this year is courtesy of Chamber Opera Chicago, directed by the composer-librettist's son, Francis. It plays just twice, December 4-5, in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium of the Chicago Public Library's Harold Washington Library Center. It's the company's fifth annual presentation of the story of the Three Kings, the lame little boy and the mother who risks everything for her beloved. 

Chamber Opera Chicago 

The Chicago Gay Men's Chorus has a holiday treat lined up, if you are so inclined. It's "Christmas Follies: Unplugged," on December 3 and 4 at Chicago's Athenaeum Theatre and December 5 at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in west suburban Oak Brook. Is is a concert, a musical, or something in between? They always keep us guessing, don't they? 

Chicago Gay Men's Chorus 

Now that it's December, it's worth noting that, amid the crush of holiday themed performances crowding streets and calendars, the most positively-reviewed theater production in Chicagoland right now according to is "The Music Man" at the Marriott Theatre  in Lincolnshire. Coming on the heels of the even more rapturously received "A Chorus Line," it sure seems like they are doing something right up in Lake County these days. Bernie Yvon and Johanna Mckenzie Miller star, as does Matt Raftery's pulsing, effervescent choreography. (Word to the wise: he directs and choreographs their next show, "Guys And Dolls," opening in late January.) 

Marriott Theatre In Lincolnshire 

Perhaps the only locally produced show to challenge "The Music Man" for Mosh Pit fascination right now is the postage-stamp production of "Cats" that has gotten such good reviews for Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. I'm sure that Lord Lloyd-Webber of Sydmonton never imagined his early '80s megamusical could fit successfully into a 60-seat theater, but I'm equally sure he'd be proud that it does. Director-choreographer Brenda Didier and musical director Ethan Deppe have reportedly wrought something magical and definitely buzzworthy in the tiny Rogers Park No Exit Café (now through January 2nd). 

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre 

December 1st will bring the announcement of the nominees for the 53rd Grammy Awards. Which albums will be nominated for "Best Musical Show Album?" Well, statistics tell us that the original cast album of most recent production to win the Best Musical Tony Award wins the Grammy Award about half the time, so "Memphis" would logically be nominated, then. The next most likely Tony result that produces a Grammy winner is the Best Actress category (Idina Menzel's "Wicked" and Bernadette Peters' "Annie Get Your Gun" are examples of this correlation), so that would bode well for the recording of the Catherine Zeta-Jones production of "A Little Night Music," in this Sondheim gala year. But what else? Well, recording industry ties would seem to indicate nominations for "American Idiot" (Green Day) and "Fela!" (Fela Anikulapo-Kuti), as well as for the cast album (recorded here, I believe) of "Million Dollar Quartet." That's five nominees right there, but doesn't take into consideration the well-received "La Cage Aux Folles" revival, the popular "The Addams Family" or the revival of Burt Bacharach's "Promises, Promises." There are other possibilities, too. I'm telling you, this category is hard to predict! "American Idiot" may very well wind up taking the prize on February 13th, but the nominees are tricky! What do you think? 

And, a little closer to home, remember to vote (if you haven't) for the first annual BroadwayWorld Chicago Theatre Fans' Choice Awards! Voting in the 25 categories is open through December 20th, so vote and let your voice (and your choice) be heard. You'll want to stay involved in the process, believe me, so once you've voted, check back and see how your favorites are faring in the competition. It's democracy in action, and you can see the real-time results. That's pretty awesome! 

Here's the voting link for the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards! 

With snow flurries in the offing and holiday food on the brain, we have a lot of theater going on around town, don't we? I hope you can catch some this week, in between the shopping and the holiday gatherings. Speaking of which, I know a holiday gathering where I am guaranteed to see you! Just go to a showtune video bar, and I'll see you there. I'll be one of the guys under the video screens.....--PWT

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