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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 27th, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 27th, 2014


by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Nominations for the 2014 Joseph Jefferson Awards (Equity version) were announced last Thursday by "Glee" star Jane Lynch, (The awards night gala for the Jeffs will take place on October 13 at the Drury Lane Theatre.) Two big, recent shows led the pack of nominees of the best from August 1, 2013 through July 31, 2014. The Drury Lane's "Les Miserables" and the Goodman Theatre's revised "Brigadoon," both directed by Rachel Rockwell, will be attending the big dance with nine nominations apiece, including Production - Musical - Large. Rockwell is a double nominee for those producions, up against fellow double nominee William Osetek, who helmed the Drury Lane's "Next To Normal" (four nominations in all) and "Young Frankenstein" (five nods in all) to Production nominations. The fifth nominee in that category is "Gypsy" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (four nominations), led by nominee Gary Griffin. Only, Griffin, the director of the upcoming Broadway musical "Honeymoon In Vegas," isn't nominated for "Gypsy," but for "Road Show" (four nominations), "Gypsy"'s companion production at CST this winter.

A sixth nominee for Director - Musical is Damon Kiely, cited for "Hank Williams: Lost Highway" from American Blues Theater. It's nominated in the Production - Musical - Midsize category, and star Matthew Brumlow and Musical Director Malcolm Ruhl picked up individual nominations as well. Ruhl is up against double nominee Roberta Duchak (for "Les Miserables" and "Brigadoon"), "Gypsy"'s Rick Fox, "Road Show"'s Michael Mahler (a "Hank Williams" cast member, by the way) and Robert Reddrick for "Chicago's Golden Soul" at Black Ensemble Theater.

The competition for midsize musical production is stiff, with Mercury Theater Chicago leading the way with "The Color Purple" (five nominations) and "Avenue Q" (four nominations). The four nominations for "Hank Williams" are also matched by the four for Porchlight Music Theatre's "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying." Porchlight's "Ain't Misbehavin'" is out in front of the Production - Revue nominees with seven. The Second City's "Depraved New World" has four, and the commercial production of "Old Jews Telling Jokes" (Royal George Theatre) has three.

Other interesting nominations are three for "The Old Man And The Old Moon" at Writers Theatre (including Ensemble), Larry Adams for "A Christmas Carol: The Musical" at Theatre At The Center (Actor in a Principal Role - Musical), Summer Naomi Smart for "Mary Poppins" at the Marriott Theatre (Actress in a Principal Role - Musical) and Marc Robin and Jesse Klug for the Choreography and Lighting of "Cats" at the Marriott. "Pullman Porter Blues" at the Goodman Theatre received three nominations in Play categories.

What and who will win???


Porchlight Music Theatre's annual performance gala "Chicago Sings..." took place on Monday night at the Mayne Stage, and no sooner had the Disney-themed festivities ended than hosts Rob Lindley and Doug Peck turned their attentions to their next concert venture, part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. Partnering with choreographer Katie Spelman, the team will produce "A Night At The Tonys" at Lincoln Park's Francis W. Parker School on Monday night, November 3rd. One song from each Tony-winning musical is promised, and will performed by some original cast members like Andre DeShields, Ernestine Jackson and Karen Mason. Well done, fellas!


You no doubt heard the "Boom!" emerging from Lincolnshire last Wednesday evening, as "On The Town" opened at the Marriott Theatre with universally praised choreography by Alex Sanchez and that thrilling, virtually unheard score by Leonard Bernstein and the team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green. My review and pretty much everyone else's are calling this a production everyone should see, and a show that every theater should devote its resources to. How is such an important show in danger of falling out of the repertoire? Crazy!


Marriott favorite and newly crowned Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller will soon make her first appearance in Chicago since starring in the Carole King musical "Beautiful" on Broadway (she's still in it). On September 22, Mueller will perform at a benefit for a new new-musical venture here in the Windy City. Jessie and her sister Abby Mueller (who's currently appearing in "Kinky Boots" on Broadway), along with the aforementioned Karen Mason and others, will perform on behalf of FWD Theatre Project at City Winery in the West Loop. FWD stands for "Festival Of New Works In Development," and it's the brainchild of actress Amber Mak and others. Its goal is to foster and bring to development new works of musical theater, joining an ever-growing list of Chicagoans who are taking a part in doing just that (including the new Chicago Musical Theatre Festival sponsored by Underscore Theatre and John Sparks' Midwest New Musicals sponsored by Light Opera Works). And FWD has already held its first competition and selected five scripts and scores for further development! It's a diverse list of styles and subject matters, too. This is exciting stuff!


There are two bits of touring news to report. First off, the musical "I Love Lucy Live On Stage," that did so well here a year and a half ago at the Broadway Playhouse, will be returning to Chicago, and to the Bank Of America Theatre, from December 9-14, 2014. This is the same production, with a few of the same cast members, that we loved before. They've been touring the country, and I guess they need some holiday cheer from a winter town.


Also at holiday time, the Chicago Theatre will be the site for a touring production of the 2006 Broadway musical "How The Grinch Stole Christmas." Unfortunately, we're getting it at Thanksgiving! The show will be at the Chicago Theatre from November 20-29, prior to its appearance in the Theater At Madison Square Garden in New York from December 5-28. So, I guess we are the out of town tryout for this year's holiday remount. But at least we're getting it!


They're doing double duty at the No Exit Café these days, as Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre just can't part with its popular original summer production of "A Musical Tribute To The Andrews Sisters," even as its fall original show, "A Kurt Weill Cabaret" gears up to begin performances. The Weill show, to feature Christopher Logan, Jordan Phelps, Michael Reyes, Jill Sesso and Kellie Kundiff, will include the entire "Mahagonny Songspiel" during its run from September 19-October 19. Fred Anzevino directs, with music direction by Jeremy Ramey. And the Andrews Sisters show, which opened at the beginning of the summer, still has legs, with eleven more dates scheduled between September 5 and October 6. Hot stuff from the mid-century!



Griffin Theatre has announce the cast for its eagerly awaited production of "Titanic," the first in the US to use the revised and smaller-cast version of the Tony-winning show since its critical success in the UK in 2013. Griffin's "Titanic" will sail on from October 18-December 7 at Theater Wit, directed by Scott Weinstein. Among the cast of 20 (down from the original Broadway's 45) will be Scott Alan Luke, Peter Vamvakas, Eric Lindahl, Royen Kent, Justin Adair, Sean Thomas, Emily Grayson, Laura McClain and Kelley Abell.


Fans of another Tony-winning show, "In The Heights," won't have to wait long to see Usnavi and company again, as The Theatre School of DePaul University will be mounting the show as part of its 2014-15 season. The show will be on the Fullerton Stage in the school's new on-campus complex in Lincoln Park from October 1-12. That's early in the year for a college production! And it's a beautiful facility.


The Theatre At The Center announced its 2015 season, to include the Tony-winning "Spamalot" as well as the musical "Big Fish," making three productions of this Andrew Lippa tale in the Chicago area, when most cities haven't seen it even once (the pre-Broadway tryout was last year, and Jedlicka Performing Arts Center mounted it this year). The theater will also produce "All Shook Up," the Elvis Presley musical that tried out in Chicago in 2004 during at the same time that "Spamalot" tried out here. I'm detecting a theme! At any rate, Munster's productions will be as follows: "Big Fish" will run May 7-June 7, "All Shook Up" will run July 16-August 16, and "Spamalot" will run September 17-October 18. 2015. Got it!


And lastly, Mosh Pit peeps have been watching with interest the summer casting news surrounding the live NBC-TV telecast of "Peter Pan," set for December 4th. Allison Williams, daughter of "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams and star of the TV series "Girls," is set to star as Peter, with Christopher Walken as Captain Hook. Fans are hoping that Christian Borle will be on hand as both Mr. Darling and Smee. This will be NBC's fourth telecast of the unusual tuner (two songwriting teams, and no credited bookwriter), but the first to not star Tony winner Mary Martin. Will fairy dust fall once more? Will the show include "Oh, My Mysterious Lady" or "Ugg-A-Wugg?" Both or neither? As they say in the biz, stay tuned.


Is summer over? Not yet! Have a great Labor Day weekend, catch a show, and I'll see you under the video screens when you're done. Deal?.....-PWT

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