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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for April 3rd, 2013

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for April 3rd, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

As I write this, the world is waiting with bated breath for the first words on social media and chat boards about the pre-Broadway tryout of "Big Fish," giving its first public performance (and rumored to be its first complete run-through) on Tuesday night, April 2nd, at Chicago's Oriental Theatre. The press opening is still two weeks away, and the Broadway opening is seven months away. Ironic that our last pre-Broadway tryout, "Kinky Boots," is opening on Broadway this same week, on Thursday, April 4th! And sad that another Broadway In Chicago offering, "I Love Lucy Live On Stage" at the Broadway Playhouse, cut its half-year run short and closed this past weekend, a week shorter than announced. Ah, well. With "Big Fish" and the "Catch Me If You Can" tour (at the Cadillac Palace Theatre) both starting performances here this week, and T-BOM ("The Book Of Mormon," natch) still going strong at the Bank Of America Theatre (or IS IT?), I guess the powers that be at BIC decided things were going well enough. There's been quite a flurry of shows too, with "Jekyll And Hyde" and "Priscilla Queen Of The Desert" just barely gone. Such a busy spring!

And yet, the best-reviewed show in town is arguably a show that it's arguable whether or not it's a musical. (I haven't seen it, so I officially--and actually--have no idea.) It's "Othello: The Remix," the hip-hop adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy now at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier through April 28, 2013. The work of Chicago's Q Brothers (that's GQ and JQ), who have previously adapted "Much Ado About Nothing" and "The Comedy Of Errors" to the hip-hop genre, it premiered last year in London, and is making its American debut here. There's a cast of nine, who leave not a word of Shakespeare's text behind and not a critic unmoved. It's apparently quite something. People are going crazy for it! But is it a musical???

A show that's definitely a musical, and one that I've definitely seen, is the world premiere show "Under A Rainbow Flag," playing through April 21 at the Main Stage at Broadway and Buena, courtesy of Pride Films And Plays. The book, music and lyrics are by the same man, Leo Schwartz, who based his tale of gay GIs in World War II on the story of Jon Phillips, still alive and well and living in Evanston. While the setting and themes of the show echo those of the 2010 Off-Broadway musical "Yank!," by the brothers David Zellnik and Joseph Zellnik (which starred "Big Fish" co-star Bobby Steggert and was aiming for Broadway with direction by our own David Cromer), I don't see why the world isn't big enough for both of these shows. World War II was a pretty big war, and yes, there are gays in the military.


And the premieres just keep on happening. Next week on April 10th, with a sneak preview on Sunday the 7th, the new review "Let Them Eat Chaos" will open as the 101st revue by The Second City, the world famous sketch comedy venue and school in Old Town. Matt Hovde directs a cast including Jeff Award winner Edgar Blackmon, Holly Laurent, Tawny Newsome, Katie Rich, Steve Waltien and Ross Bryant, with Julie N. Nichols as music director. I believe it's an open run. This is as big as it gets, peeps, unless television or film comes calling. But guess what? It's not theater then anymore, is it?


Also beginning performances on April 10, and running through May 26, is a world premiere of a collaboration between the Chicago Children's Theatre and the Redmoon performance art troupe called "The Elephant And The Whale," running at the Ruth Page Center For The Arts at Dearborn and Oak Streets. Seth Bockley and Kevin O'Donnell have written the script and score, directed by Leslie Buxbaum Danzig (of 500 Clowns) and Frank Maugeri (of Redmoon). Kurt Brocker, David Catlin, Kasey Foster and Becky Poole are the actors in this multi-media, circus, shadow puppet "family fable" about the largest animals on the planet. This project sounds, and looks, fascinating.


Yet another new work by composer Kevin O'Donnell will premiere in the latter half of the month, on April 19, officially opening on April 28 and running through June 9. It is "Ploughed Under: An American Songbook," from The House Theatre Of Chicago, performing at the Chopin Theatre on Division Street. The show is about American folk stories and native folk music, though the score is all original. O'Donnell is a company member at House, and he has taken the lead of this concert-style work, something that sounds very important to him as an artist. Again, fascinating!


Among local productions of non-premieres is the upcoming presentation of "Spamalot" at the Jedlicka Performing Arts Center in Cicero, on the campus of Morton College. Dante J. Orfei is directing (and designing the lights), and Christopher Pazdernik is choreographing. John Warren will conduct a cast of 21 and an orchestra of 14, with Patrick Perry as King Arthur and Jamie Szynal as The Lady Of The Lake. The production runs weekends from April 19-May 4.


Also from the first decade of the 21st century comes the musical "Little Women," and the Jason Howland-Mindy Dickstein tuner will be performed in the Libertyville High School Studio Theatre next weekend, April 12-14, courtesy of Liberty Town Productions. Sydney Hamilton and Lorraine Branham star as Jo and Marmee, with Christian Klepac as Laurie, Camille Michelotti as Meg and CJ Spear as John. Linda Klepac directs, with musical direction by Dustin Helvie and an orchestra of eight. Astonishing! Aw, you knew I was going to say that!


There's a new company in town, "dedicated to presenting concert readings of obscure and forgotten musicals," and it has announced its first production, "I Can Get It For You Wholesale," the 1962 musical that introduced Broadway to Barbra Streisand, and Streisand to her first husband, Elliot Gould. The Lost Note Theater Company will present ICGIFYW for three performances only, April 27-May 1, in the Strawdog Theater Company's Hugen Hall space in East Lakeview. Stephen Murray will direct, with musical direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster. The cast of nine is headed by Paul G. Miller as Harry Bogen, with Erin Daly as Miss Marmelstein. Gee, I could bust!


And lastly, we are proud to report that Chicago native and close friend of the Mosh Pit, Christian Ketter, has been selected as one of the twelve finalists in this year's Lotte Lenya Competition, competing for the top prize on April 13 in Rochester, New York against other singers ages 19-32, some of whom have Broadway performing credits. More impressive are the names of the judges: opera star Patricia Racette, conductor James Holmes and producer Theodore S. Chapin, head of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization (Broadway star Rebecca Luker and composer Jeanine Tesori were the judges for the semi-final round, held last month in Manhattan). The Lenya Competition, named of course for the star of the original Broadway production of "Cabaret" and the wife of composer Kurt Weill ("The Threepenny Opera"), is perhaps the oldest important international competition for music theater singers, and at least three Chicagoans have been named among the winners in previous years (opera singers Nicole Cabell, Paul Corona and Rodell Rosel). Cooper Grodin, who played Billy Bigelow in "Carousel" for Light Opera Works in 2010, is a previous winner, too. Ketter played Enoch Snow, Jr. in that same production. Fascinating!


So it's April! Soon there will be no more heat on the CTA train platforms, and we'll all have to provide our own. Maybe the heat of a Chicago theater production will do it for ya. If not, there's always those video screens! Perhaps I'll see you soon, under one of them.....-PWT

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