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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for April 8th, 2015



by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

This Sunday at 11:00 is one of Chicago musical theater's spotlight event of the year, Porchlight Music Theatre's annual "ICONS Gala" and fundraiser. Taking place in the Grand Ballroom of the Magnificent Mile's InterContinental Hotel, this year's event honors the memory of the late Elaine Stritch, with performances of many of her signature songs by Chicago theater greats E. Faye Butler, Meghan Murphy and Hollis Resnik, with Beckie Menzie and Doug Peck at the keys. And the winner of this year's Guy Adkins Award for excellence in the advancement of music theater in Chicago is none other than Dominic Missimi, longtime teacher at Northwestern University and director around town, most notably at the Marriott Theatre. He literally influenced EVERYONE, me included. I would say that if you can make it there, you should. Dominic and Stritch. Good choices, Porchlight!


The two days following, FWD Theatre Project is presenting the third of its staged readings in this, its inaugural season. After making a splash at City Winery, the Project is utilizing the brand new Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park Road, for "Love And Other Fables," on Monday and Tuesday evenings, April 13-14. With book by Jay Jeffries and John McMahon and music by McMahon, the reading based on Aesop's life and work is being directed by prominent Broadway casting director Jay Binder. Stephen Strafford and Landree Fleming star, with assists from a large cast, including Chicago theater legends Dale Benson and Barbara Robertson, plus folks like Harter Clingman, Hillary Marren, Shea Coffman, James Nedrud, Rus Rainer and others. FWD is also presenting an audition workshop with Jay Binder on Saturday morning, April 11, at the new Uptown Underground space on N. Broadway (nice use of new venues, Amber Mak!). Slots are filled, but watching is incredibly valuable, too. It's Jay Binder of Binder Casting!

Christopher Pazdernik and Aaron Benham's "Option Up!" musical theater talk show and cabaret has its April edition this Sunday night, April 12, at 7:30 (Stage 773). Pazdernik just returned from New York, and will give a report on the ten shows he saw while he was there. And this month, "Option Up!" will feature actress and singer Lauren Paris, who was Yitzak in the Haven Theatre production of "Hedwig And The Angry Inch" and who just won the advanced student division at the Chicago Chapter Of NATS's musical theater voice competition, for the second year out of the last three (that's the National Association Of Teachers Of Singing, and I am the Chicago Chapter Treasurer). I don't this Paris has ever sung anything badly, ever.


Paris is currently in rehearsal at Evanston's Piven Theatre Workshop for the Midwest premiere of "Melancholy Play" by Sarah Ruhl, based on her 2002 play of the same name, which world premiered at Piven. Only now, the "Play" is a chamber musical, with music by Todd Almond, and is being directed by Polly Noonan. In addition to Lauren Paris, the cast includes her "Hedwig" co-star Ryan Lanning, Emily Grayson (replacing the announced Kelli Harrington) and Chris Ballou, and the show stars Stephanie Stockstill as Tilly, "a melodramatic bank teller." The aforementioned Aaron Benham is music director for "Melancholy Play," the musical, which runs from April 30-June 7.


So what's running now? Well, the press opening was last night for Bailiwick Chicago's immersive four-hander, "Murder Ballad." And this Chicago premiere production is Jeff Recommended! But I can't find any online reviews yet. Just those steamy photographs that we here at BroadwayWorld Chicago posted yesterday. The 2013 off-Broadway musical by Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash is playing at the Flat Iron Arts Building in Bucktown, directed and choreographed by James Beaudry and music directed by Nick Davio. Starring is Amanda Horvath (a BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner for last year's "Ragtime," but now in decidedly different clothing), Chris Logan, Matt W. Miles and Camille Robinson. I'm not sure what a hipster is, but I bet they (you?) will be all over this show. It runs through May 9th, peeps.


This weekend and next (April 10-19) will see the run of "Spring Awakening" at Loyola University Chicago's Newhart Family Theatre in Rogers Park, directed by Mark Lococo and music directed by Michael McBride (he's pictured above, in rehearsal with the student cast). It's nice to see this Tony-winning show performed by folks near in age to the characters.

Speaking of university productions, Luis Perez will direct Andrew Lippa's version of "The Wild Party" at Roosevelt University's O'Malley Theatre (on the 7th floor inside the Auditorium Theatre Building) from April 16-19. It must be the year for this show, as Northwestern University presented it in February.

"Fancy Nancy" is a children's musical that has been running at the Apollo Theater since January 31, in a production by the Emerald City Theatre Company. Extended several times, it is now announced through June 6th. And after that? Well, the show with book and lyrics by Susan DiLallo and music and lyrics by Danny Abosch, and directed by Ernie Nolan, will transfer to the Broadway Playhouse on Michigan Avenue from July 11-August 23, 2015. The successful collaboration between Emerald City and Broadway In Chicago continues! The show's cast includes Katrina Kiss, Micah Kronlokken and Claire Kaiser, with Angela Alise, Samantha Mitchell and Hayley Reynolds.


And things are certainly cooking at the Chicago Children's Theatre as well. The company is now in preparation for the world premiere of "Wonderland: Alice's Rock And Roll Adventure," a collaboration of writer-director Rachel Rockwell and composer-musical director Michael Mahler. When two of our leading folks get together to reimagine a classic story, hold onto your proverbial hats. The show plays April 22-May 24 at the Ruth Page Center For The Arts. Isabelle Roberts and Ariana Burks alternate as Alice, with an impressive adult cast: Molly Callinan, Lillian Castillo, Matt Deitchman, Jed Feder, Regina Leslie, Jake Mahler, Adam Michaels, Andrew Mueller and Matthew Yee.


And the company has already announced the first show of next season, "The Miraculous Journey Of Edward Tulane," to star Jessie Fisher, a rising star on Broadway after her appearance in the Tony Award-winning musical "Once." Fisher worked with CCT in 2011 and is returning to star in Dwayne Hartford's new stage adaptation of this Newberry Award-winning book. The production will run in October and November at the Ruth Page. But is it a musical? Time will tell.


So, with the spring holidays wrapping up, there's a lot of theater on our boards right now, and more to come in the next few weeks! That's cool. And hot! I hope you see you around and about. And of course I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of the Loyola University Chicago Department Of Fine And Performing Arts.

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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...)