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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for April 18th, 2012




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

And let's get to it! "Hairspray" hit the western suburbs in a big way last week, courtesy of the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. The eight-time Tony Award winner is arriving in a bright, new staging by Jeff Award-winner Tammy Mader, starring newcomer Lillian Castillo as Tracy Turnblad, the girl with the high hair and even higher hopes and dreams for her hometown of Baltimore. Michael Aaron Lindner and Tim ("Saturday Night Live") Kazurinsky co-star as Tracy's parents, with Rod Thomas as Corny Collins and Felicia P. Fields (Tony-nominated for "The Color Purple") as Motormouth Maybelle. Other prominent members of the large cast include Holly Stauder, George Andrew Wolfe, Alexis J. Rogers and Dina DiCostanzo. After this week's official opening for the press, "Hairspray" will run through June 17, 2012. You can't stop the beat!

DLO Hairspray

The other big news from last week is the double good news from Team StarKid, the Chicago-based new media theater company founded by a group of University of Michigan students who hit it big on the internet with "A Very Potter Musical" just three years ago this month. Their latest online parody musical, "Holy Musical B@man!," taped last month at Lakeview's Hoover-Leppen Theater (Center on Halsted), was released online April 13. As big a piece of news as that is, the group's diehard young fans may be even more stoked to find out that Team StarKid will embark on its second live concert tour quite soon, starting at our very own House Of Blues on May 9-10. I believe that songs from all five of the Team's online musicals will be performed, including the BroadwayWorld Chicago Award-winning "Starship." The "Apocalyptour" will have a cast of nine and a band of five. They'll hit 21 cities in a month.



One of Team StarKid's founders is Darren Criss, though the actor-singer-songwriter will not be appearing in the tour. You can catch him on his day gig, FOX-TV's "Glee," these days, as the show wraps up its third season with the impending graduation of several key characters (though the show has been renewed for next season). He was featured on last week's episode, alongside guest star Matt Bomer. This week's episode was based on disco music, and next week's show will be a tribute to Whitney Houston. You're still watching it, aren't you?

And "Hairspray" songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman are the songwriters for NBC-TV's "Smash." (See how I did that?) The fairly new show, set in the world of modern Broadway, has also been renewed for next season, and unveiled guest star Uma Thurman ("The Producers") this week. Perhaps the biggest news of all: the show's season one soundtrack album will be released May 1st. I wonder if the tracks will be arranged in the order the songs were broadcast, or the order in which they appear in the show-within-a-show, the one about that Marilyn Monroe ("Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Some Like It Hot"). You're watching it, aren't you?

The 2008 Off-Broadway musical "Hostage Song" is receiving its Chicago debut May 5-June 9, at the Signal Ensemble Theatre. Ronan Marra is directing, and Jon Steinhagen is musical directing, a cast of five (Brigitte Ditmars, Steve O'Connell, Simone Roos, Dave Skvarla and Joseph Stearns) and a bad of four (Steinhagen, Dolan McMillian, Brent Moore and Chris Wysoglad). Anyone looking for an indie?

From indie to glam, the Mosh Pit now has a new show to talk about that is entering its third weekend of previews, a show with a "Blair Witch"-style PR campaign so underground that the two theater companies involved are at risk of going unnoticed! The theaters are Bailiwick Chicago and The New Colony, and the show is "Rise Of The Numberless." It's a science-fiction environmental concert musical about folks who are undocumented and live underground, because their births weren't sanctioned by the government, or something like that. Important stuff these days. It will officially run April 24-May 26 in the Collaboraction Studio 300 in the Flat Iron Arts Building in Bucktown (1579 N. Milwaukee Avenue). It's about time some musical theater showed up in that neighborhood (just up the street from Davenport's, the cabaret venue). But, can I find out who wrote this show, who's in it or who's directing it? Ah, that conceptual PR campaign!!

Behold, an article on BroadwayWorld, from March 12! Ah, a traditional press release! The show is by Andrew Hobgood, Patriac Coakley and Evan Linder, with music by Chris Gingrich and Julie B. Nichols and lyrics by Gingrich and Hobgood (who also directs). Choreography is by Katie Spelman (who is also responsible for the choreography for the latest Team StarKid projects mentioned above). Aaron Benham is Music Supervisor, and the cast of fourteen includes such names as Harmony France, Michael Harnichar, Ryan Lanning and Eric Martin. Awesome.


And the Midwest New Musicals program of Light Opera Works is presenting a concert reading of its latest product, "My Dead Irish Mother," by Pat Byrnes and Rich Prezioso, directed by Tin Salamone and musical directed by Jessica Hunt. There is one performance only, on Monday, April 23, at the McGaw YMCA Children's Center Auditorium in Evanston. It's inspired by a New Yorker cartoon of a wake, with the caption, "You couldn't put on a tie?" LOL.

The city of Naperville is going one better, though. There's a new professional theater there! Yay! The BrightSide Theatre performs in the Theatre At Meiley-Swallow Hall at North Central College, and will have "My Way: A Musical Tribute To Frank Sinatra" from June 15-July 1 (its third production and first musical), staged by Bobby Johnson and starring Amy Brophy, Ian Rigg, Michael Rivera and Kathleen Wrinn. And next season, the play "God Of Carnage" will be flanked by two leading musical titles, "Company" and "Rent," with the Sondheim show in October and the post-Sondheim show in June of 2013. Yay!


In concert news, the fifth annual "Bab Fab: A Barbra Streisand Celebration" will take place on Tuesday, April 24 at the Wilmette Theatre in, uh, Wilmette. Hosted by Rob Dorn and with musical direction by Beckie Menzie, ten Chicago theater and cabaret stars will perform Streisand standards, in a benefit for Three Cat Education, a summer theater camp company for kids and teens. "Bab Fab" admission is $25 ($20 for seniors), and performers like Scott Gryder, Tom Michael and Christine Bunuan will serenade you. And why not?


Lastly this week, we ask you, "What do theater artists who work both here and elsewhere do when they are elsewhere?" We got a glimpse of that last week, when an announcement with the name Gary Griffin came out. The director of last fall's phenomenally successful production of "Follies" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier, and the guy who will bring us a "Sunday In The Park With George" there this fall, is busy in New York right now, at a place called Carnegie Hall (practice, man, practice). On that same April 24, Carnegie will present a gala performance of "The Sound Of Music," the Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lindsay and Crouse masterpiece, benefitting its Weill Music Institute. Griffin will direct, and Rob Fisher will conduct, a cast including Laura Osnes (Maria), Tony Goldwyn (Captain), Brooke Shields (Elsa), Patrick Page (Max), Stephanie Blythe (Mother Abbess), Nick Spangler (Rolf), Joel Hatch (Franz), Mary Michael Patterson (Liesl) and Veanne Cox (Frau Schmidt). Seems like a pretty good gig to me! Bravo, Gary.


And that's the Showtune Mosh Pit for this week! Thank you very much for bringing this column to new records of readership the last few weeks, and it's not even awards season! But you know Chicago's musical theater scene--there is always something new going on. Always. So, I'll see you there, won't I? And I know I'll see you under the video screens, too.....-PWT

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From This Author 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 (read more...)