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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 20th, 2014


by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

The "Summer Concert At Millennium Park" was once again a huge draw for Mosh Pit peeps, as everyone interested in the upcoming season's offerings from Broadway In Chicago showed up at the Pritzker Pavilion on Monday evening to hear and see stars and songs from fifteen stage shows, including "Amazing Grace," "Dee Snider's Rock And Roll Christmas Tale," "Evil Dead," "Pippin," "Cinderella" and more. And there was an unanticipated bonus! Broadway In Chicago announced that a tour of "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" would play our Oriental Theatre for 12 weeks, from December 1, 2015-February 21, 2016. Now, that's the longest in advance anybody has ever announced anything (well, almost), at fifteen and a half months from now. And nobody can predict whether Tony-winning star and Evanston native Jessie Mueller will recreate her role as Ms. King here, but wouldn't it be wonderful if she did! Actually, the real big news is that there will in fact be a tour of the Tony-nominated show. Aside from a concurrent announcement that the show would appear in Providence, Rhode Island, in September of 2015, I can't find any evidence that a tour has been confirmed previously at all. So, this is great news! Now, to pray that whatever happens with a London production of the show, or with any other property anxious to get their hands on Ms. Mueller, she is able to beg, demand and insist that this run of the show be hers. Come on, Jessie, you can do it!


One other bit of news concerning Broadway In Chicago reached our ears last week--confirmed dates for "On Your Feet: The Story of Emilio And Gloria Estefan," based on the lives and music of the Latin supercouple. The show will have its world premiere at the Oriental Theatre here from June 2-July 5, 2015, begin previews at the Marquis Theatre on Broadway on October 5 and open on November 5. Casting work is underway now in Miami and New York, in anticipation of a developmental workshop in New York from October 27-November 21 of 2014. Jerry Mitchell ("Kinky Boots" ) is directing, with choreography by Sergio Trujillo ("Jersey Boys"). The show's book is by Alexander Dinelaris, who did those honors for the London production of "The Bodyguard," starring Tony winner and former Northwestern University student Heather Headley ("Aida").


Speaking of Northwestern University, the Evanston school is part of a one-two punch that I don't know whether is a random bit of luck or some great celestial bit of planning. You remember "The Wild Party," the jazz era poem that inspired two New York stage musicals in the same season (the spring of 2000, to be exact)? Well, Chicago will have productions of both of them during our 2014-2015 season!

First up will be the Bailiwick Chicago production of the Broadway "The Wild Party," with a score by Michael John LaChiusa and book by him and George C. Wolfe. Brenda Didier will direct, with music direction by Aaron Benham, and the production will play the Richard Christiansen Theater at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater from October 2-November 1, 2014. And the show has been cast! Jeff Award-winner Danni Smith will star as Queenie, with Matthew Keffer as Burrs and Danielle Brothers as Dolores, with a cast featuring such non-Equity standouts as Sharriese Hamilton, Ryan Lanning and Khaki Pixley. The production is the start of Bailiwick's season, which will conclude next April and May with the Chicago premiere of "Murder Ballad," directed by James Beaudry of the Timber Lake Playhouse.


And the off-Broadway version of "The Wild Party," with score and book by Andrew Lippa, will be produced by Northwestern University in February of 2015, directed and choreographed by Matt Raftery. The show is part of the just-announced season by NU's Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center For The Performing Arts, which will also feature the musical "Little Women" (astonishing), directed by Dominic Missimi (November 7-23, 2014) and of course the student-written, spring "Waa-Mu Show."


"Clemente: The Legend Of 21" opens this Friday night, August 22, at Stage 773, after one preview performance tomorrow night. The run of the Chicago premiere of this musical is four weekends, produced by NightBlue Performing Arts Company. Modesto Lacen stars as the late baseball legend Roberto Clemente, with Lorraine Velez as Vera Clemente. The show is written and directed by Luis Cabellero, and reportedly features cast members from Chicago, New York and Puerto Rico.


But many folks are looking forward to next Monday, August 25, when the annual fundraising performance benefitting Porchlight Music Theatre will take place. This year's theme is "Chicago Sings Disney," and Rogers Park's Mayne Stage will be overflowing with talent, as more than 25 Chicago musical stage stars are slated to appear. Now in its 9th year, "Chicago Sings..." has become an annual end-of-summer rite of passage for Chicago's musical theater community, conceived and directed by supercouple Rob Lindley and Doug Peck. Who is your favorite singer? E. Faye Butler? Christine Mild? Meghan Murphy? Jeff Parker? Hollis Resnik? Bethany Thomas? The talent boggles the mind. Be there!


Come to think of it, we have a number of special events going on this time of year. Tony winner and sometime Chicago resident Levi Kreis ("Million Dollar Quartet"), fresh off appearing in the Broadway revival of "Violet" and the Arena Stage production of "Smokey Joe's Café" in Washington, D.C., will be appearing at Davenport's for one night only, August 29 (a week from Friday). His work as a singer-songwriter has been featured on a number of TV shows lately. Come and witness the continuation of his remarkable talents in "An Evening With Levi Kreis."


That weekend, August 29-31, will see a workshop presentation of the new musical "Toulouse," written by and starring the latest Chicagoan to prepare for a Broadway bow. Musical director, composer and performer Josh Walker, a cast member of the revival of "Side Show" at Washington's Kennedy Center (which is heading for Broadway this fall), has written the music for "Toulouse," with book by John David Nelson and lyrics by both. The life and world of poster artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec will be brought to life at the Athenaeum Theatre, directed by Derek Rienzi Van Tassel and starring Walker (who has nine editions of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular under his belt). Other cast members will include Megan Buckley, Kristine Burdi, Nathan Carroll, Zachary Drane, Meredith Freyre, Spencer Gartner, Keith Green, Kevin Grubb, Megan Householter, Kyle Hustedt, Stephanie Stockstill, Derek Rienzi Van Tassel and Justin Vidovic. You can say you were there then.


An unusual item, and a first for the Mosh Pit, is the following mention: Chicago's fabled Venetian Night is back, and this year is has a Broadway theme! Formerly in Monroe Harbor in August, the 2014 edition will take place on Saturday, September 6, but at Navy Pier, co-sponsored by the Chicago Yachting Association. All you boating types, disguise your boat as a Broadway musical, and get in on the action! Or something like that. (How would I know?)


Last but not least, I got a tip from a little Mosh Pit bird ("peep!") that told me that none other than Chita Rivera will be appearing in concert on Saturday, September 27, at the Moraine Valley Community College in southwest suburban Palos Hills. "Chita: A Legendary Celebration" will be in the college's Dorothy Menker Theater, as the kickoff for this year's Mainstage Series. Featuring numbers from "West Side Story" as well as from her Tony Award-winning roles in "The Rink" and "Kiss Of The Spider Woman," written for her by the legendary John Kander and Fred Ebb, the show sounds like required attendance, especially for the younger ones among us. If you've never seen this octogenarian in person, you owe it to yourself! She works constantly, and she knows EVERYBODY. What are you waiting for?


So that's it for this week! I'll be back next week with the latest Jeff Award nominations, and who knows what else. It'll be a lot, I can assure you! Never a dull moment in the Mosh Pit. And of course, I'll see you under those video screens in the meantime.....-PWT

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From This Author Paul W. Thompson

Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com since 2007, is a Chicago-based singer, actor, musical director, pianist, vocal coach, composer and commentator. His career as (read more...)


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