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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 22nd, 2012

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 22nd, 2012




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Monday night at midnight, the 2012 Equity Jeff Award nominations were announced! And it's a very long list. There are 197 nominations in 34 categories for the 44th annual Joseph Jefferson Awards, for Chicago area Equity productions which opened between August 1, 2011 and July 31, 2012. 118 productions were eligible, and 96 were declared "Jeff Recommended." From that list of productions, this week's nominations were decided. In addition to a whole host of plays, 24 musical productions received nominations, led by the Broadway World Chicago Award-winning production of "Follies" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier, which appears on Jeff's list 7 times. Besides being up for Production – Musical – Large, the production's Caroline O'Connor and Alex Sanchez are Jeff nominees now as well, paralleling their wins at the BWW Awards last December (she for principal actress and he for choreography).

Some other leading contenders in the Large categories include the Drury Lane Theatre's "Hairspray," the Marriott Theatre's "The Pirates Of Penzance" and Writers' Theatre's "A Little Night Music," each of which received 6 nominations. The Drury Lane's "Sweeney Todd" and "The Sound Of Music," both of which were directed by Rachel Rockwell and musical directed by Roberta Duchak, received 5 nods apiece, including 2 each for Rockwell and Duchak.

Musical productions with 4 nominations include Porchlight Music Theatre's "Putting It Together" (it was the BroadwayWorld Award winner for Best Revue, and it's up for Production – Revue here), the Marriott's "White Christmas" and Lookingglass Theatre Company's "Eastland," the latter a rare instance of a new musical work that was also nominated for best production in its class. The Marriott's new "Hero" and the commercial "The Doyle And Debbie Show" (Royal George Cabaret Theatre) received 3 nominations apiece. The awards ceremony takes place at the Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace on Monday night, October 15, 2012. Break a leg, everyone!


The aforementioned Drury Lane Theatre is the one large musical house whose upcoming casting was missing from last week's Showtune Mosh Pit! So, here is the rundown on Rachel Rockwell's production of "Xanadu," which begins previews on September 6, and runs September 13-October 28.  Gina Milo (memorable as the Lady of the Lake in DLO's "Spamalot" 18 months ago) will star as Kira, and New York-based Chris Critelli will be Sonny. Others in the cast include Gene Weygandt, Nancy Voigts, Tammy Mader, Christine Sherrill, Stephanie Binetti, Sean Blake, Gary Carlson, Robin Childress and Jake Klinkhammer. And who doesn't love a Kevin Depinet set lit by Jesse Klug, with projections by Mike Tutaj? That sounds awesome!


Not to be outdone, Porchlight Music Theatre (which previously announced the cast of its upcoming "A Class Act") has announced the leads and key artistic personnel for the remainder of its 2012-2013 season! "Lady Day At Emerson's Bar And Grill" will star Alexis J. Rogers as Billie Holiday (she lists "Dreamgirls," "Crowns" and "Porgy And Bess" as some of her accomplishments in the last year or so). Rob Lindley will direct. And Adrian Aguilar (a newly-minted Jeff Awards nominee for starring in Porchlight's "tick…tick…BOOM!") and Susie McMonagle ("Black Pearl Sings" and "Snapshots" at Northlight Theatre, and Mrs. Wilkinson and Mum in "Billy Elliot" at the Oriental Theatre) will be Joey and Vera in Rodgers and Hart's "Pal Joey," to be directed by Porchlight artistic director Michael Weber and choreographed by Brenda Didier. "Lady Day" is scheduled for February 2-March 10, and "Pal Joey" is April 20-May 26, 2013.


Speaking of Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (one of Didier's other frequent haunts), she is currently prepping "Smoky Joe's Café" for its debut September 24 (through November 11) at the company's No Exit Café home. Didier is both directing and choreographing the Leiber and Stoller Broadway musical revue. But the cast hasn't been formally announced! Aargh!!!! We're dying to know, you guys! Also, note that Theo announced this week that their/its spring production (after a couple of original revues) will be Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Aspects Of Love" (March 11-April 21, 2013). If this show does half as well as the last European-set modern operetta that Theo mounted, it will be extended about four times. Just saying!


The upcoming Viaduct Theatre production of "Assassins" is getting folks excited about its run of October 10-November 10, directed by Billy Pacholski and musical directed by Robert Ollis. And a prominent sneak peak will take place on Monday night, September 17, when the cast performs selections from the Stephen Sondheim musical at 10:30 pm during Show Tunes at Sidetrack. Y'all come!


However, the show will have more than one prominent Monday night in Chicago this fall! The Chicago Humanities Festival will present a completely separate, concert version of the show on Monday, November 5 (the night before this year's presidential election) at the Francis W. Parker School in Lincoln Park, directed by Nick Bowling, musical directed by Doug Peck and starring Rob Lindley as The Balladeer. The rest of the cast has not yet been announced. But, since the Viaduct production is dark on Mondays, will there be any overlapping casting for this completely separate endeavor? Don't count on it, but the CHF presentation is likely to boast some pretty big Chicago names. Eh, I say, go to both!


Far northwestern Crystal Lake is the home of the longest running off-Broadway musical in history right now, as the Williams Street Repertory presents "The Fantasticks" at the Raue Center For The Arts. T. Paul Lowry directs Matthias Austin as El Gallo, Dana Parker as Luisa and EVan Johnson as Matt. The show opened on August 10, and runs through August 26. Better act fast!


There's a fascinating, true life musical being hatched at the Second City Training Center, and going up on the five Saturday nights in September in Donny's Skybox Theater in the Second City complex at Piper's Alley on North Avenue. Called "The Mighty Ted," it's based on the life of Ted Waltmire, who survived a stroke in April of 2009 and learned to thrive through classes at Second City and the love and support of friends. In addition to Waltmire, the cast includes Alexandra Vanover, Wink Stone, Dale Galiniak, Ren Bautista, Karen Revekant and Cheryl Szucsits. Jay Sukow directs, with musical direction by Stephanie McCullough. And dig this--as I'm writing this, there are only 19 tickets left for the entire run of the show. Act fast!


The Brown Paper Box Co. will be presenting the first Chicago professional production of "Godspell" since the recent Broadway revival. It plays September 20-October 7 at the Collaboraction Studio in the Flat Iron Arts Building in Bucktown. Andrew Lund and Jake Mahler star, with Veronica Garza on hand to sing "Day By Day" and Nick Shoda to sing "All Good Gifts." M. William Panek directs, with choreography by Daniel Spagnuolo, and the team is promising no juggling, face painting or clowns. Interesting!


And lastly, let me make a small point about summer theater, travel and unpredictability. Some of you Mosh Pit peeps know that I was in Michigan last week, and who should I stumble upon, but Sean Allan Krill. The Chicago and New York actor, a Best Ensemble Jeff Award winner for "Forever Plaid" at the Royal George Cabaret Theatre in the mid-1990s, one of the stars of that "Spamalot" at the Drury Lane Theater in 2010 and who recently stood by for Harry Connick, Jr. in "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever" on Broadway, is starring in the comedy "Boeing-Boeing" at the Mason Street Warehouse in the resort town of Saugatuck. I never dreamed I would go there, see it, or see him, not to mention the Chicago actors Kate Young and Kayla Peabody and three Equity actors from New York, on a Friday night in west Michigan. According to the reaction of the knowledgeable opening night audience, the production is delightful (it runs through September 2nd). And we know that there are shows in parks, field houses, pavilions, neighborhoods, small towns and downtowns all over the Midwest. You just never know where theater will thrive in an environment of short-sleeve shirts, lazy sunsets, warm breezes and clean air, do you? I highly recommend that it thrive everywhere.


So, let's go out and find some theater! Do it, watch it, write it and rehearse it, or volunteer to stuff programs with those marketing inserts. You know you love it! And soon, if we're both lucky, I'll see you someplace, like under those showtune video screens.....-PWT

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