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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 3rd, 2011





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Yes, singer-songwriter Paul McCartney was in town. He played Sunday and Monday nights at Wrigley Field, reportedly to impressed, thrilled and exuberant audiences. I'm sure all that is true. I would have had a blast. However, if you (like me) prefer to think that he was here to entertain Lakeview with his versions of popular numbers from the Broadway musicals "Beatlemania" and "Rain," then you are reading the right column....  ;-)

Paul McCartney.COM

Onward to the topix at hand, in this, the second anniversary of the debut of the "Showtune Mosh Pit" column!

I've been chastised a bit this week for leaving Illinois' Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse out of last week's listing of area summer theaters. Well, of course I did, as it operates year round. True, but so does the Fireside Theatre up in Wisconsin, and it made my list. So, the chastisement is well taken. If your travels are taking you to the Quad Cities (specifically, Rock Island, Illinois) this month (through August 13, 2011, anyway) you can catch "Hairspray" there. And their productions through a year from now will include "The Marvelous Wonderettes," "Nuncrackers," "Grease" and "Legally Blonde."

Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse

Under the "local boy makes good" category, we learned this week that "Glee"'s Darren Criss has been tapped to replace Daniel Radcliffe in the Broadway revival of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" for three weeks next January. We note that this is less than a year after "Starship: The Musical," with music and lyrics by Criss, had its world premiere (to great internet buzz, I might add) in the Hoover-Leppen Theater at Chicago's Center On Halsted. Talk about life imitating art! I think he's tremendously talented and appealing, but two years ago he was entirely unknown, and now, well, you do the math! Amazing. 

Darren Criss to Start Jan. 3 for Three Weeks 

There was a workshop reading of another new musical this past Monday and Tuesday nights, at the Raven Theatre on NortH Clark. It was "Enough," by Kevin J. Watson II and Nathan Sabo, a serious show that touches on racial prejudice and domestic violence, previously workshopped at Theatre Building Chicago (now Stage 773). There was a cast of fourteen, directed by Pam Turlow. The writers are students at Western Michigan University, but I bet they had this much talent before they even got there.... 

Enough The Musical 

Now playing Fridays and Saturdays (from July 15--September 10) at Studio BE on North Sheffield is an original musical coming from the improve/sketch comedy world, courtesy of the troupe called 4 Days Late. The show is (you guessed it) "Jersey Shore: The Musical," and it couldn't be more timely. Erin Lane directs, as well as being one of the writers and performers. The reality show you love to hate (hate to love?) comes to life, just steps from the Red Line. 

Jersey Shore The Musical « Studio BE 

Perhaps the timeliest news of the last few weeks is the announcement of the cast for Chicago Shakespeare Theater's production of the legendary musical "Follies," by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman (winner of seven 1971 Tony Awards, but not the big prize, alas!). Simultaneously to the revival of the show currently rehearsing its transfer from Washington's Kennedy Center to New York's Marquis Theatre, Chicago Shakes is entering rehearsals with the latest in its acclaimed Sondheim series, directed by Broadway and Chicago director Gary Griffin. And what a cast! London theater star Caroline O'Connor will join Broadway veteran Brent Barrett as Phyllis ("Could I Leave You?") and Ben Stone (that's Barrett in the "Grand Hotel" Tony Awards clip, btw, alongside Tony and Emmy winner Michael Jeter). Chicagoans Susan Moniz and Robert Petkoff, who work internationally, will be Sally ("Losing My Mind") and Buddy. Bigtime Chicagoans Hollis Resnik, Marilynn Bogetich, Nancy Voigts and Mike Nussbaum are also in the cast of 29. Who needs Bernadette Peters? Seriously, I bet you that this one will be extraordinarily special (October 4--November 6 only). 

Chicago FOLLIES 

In southeast suburban Munster, Indiana, Theatre At The Center has announced its cast of "Guys And Dolls," playing September 15--October 16. Artistic director William Pullinsi is directing Norm Boucher, Angie Stemberg, Robert Hunt and Caroline  Kobylarz as Nathan, Adelaide, Sky and Sarah, with J. Chris Baum as Nicely-Nicely and Jim Sherman as Arvide. Linda Fortunato choreographs the gambling and the taking off of minks. 

Theatre At The Center Presents GUYS AND DOLLS 

Porchlight Music Theatre (with its new slogan "American Musicals, Chicago Style") announced its cast for the Sondheim compilation revue "Putting It Together," to be directed by Brenda Didier (winner of many recent Jeff Awards) and beginning previews at Theater Wit on Belmont Avenue on September 2nd. Broadway and Chicago actor Adam Pelty, Chicago favorite McKinley Carter and rising star Alex Weisman will join recent Roosevelt University graduate Michael Reckling and current Roosevelt student Aja Goes as the quintet in question. Walt Disney World veteran and recent Jeff Award winner Austin Cook is the musical director. 

Porchlight Presents PUTTING IT TOGETHER, Previews 9/2 

Northlight Theatre announced that Gene Weygandt and Susie McMonagle (both veterans of Chicago casts of Broadway productions ["Wicked" and "Billy Elliott," respectively]) will star in its world premiere production of "Snapshots," the scripted compilation musical by Stephen Schwartz and David Stern based on Schwartz's long, successful career. Directed by Ken Sawyer, the show will be on the boards in Skokie from September 16--October 23. The cast also will include Megan Long, Jess Godwin, Nick Cosgrove and Tony Clarno, and it seems that the conceit of the show is three versions of the same romantic couple. Is it me, or is Stephen Schwartz spending a lot of time in Chicago lately? Maybe he likes us! 

Gene Weygandt, Susie McMonagle, et al. Set for Northlight's SNAPSHOTS 

And Kris Vire of "Time Out Chicago" has come out with the cast of the first local production of "Spring Awakening," under the auspices of Griffin Theatre Company at Theater Wit from November 27, 2011--January 8, 2012. And it's a young cast, as one would hope. Josh Salt and Aja Wiltshire will star as Melchior and Wendla, with Larry Baldacci and Vanessa Greenway in the "adult roles." Roosevelt University has also provided two actors to this production, Adam Molloy as Ernst and Adam Fane as Hanschen. 

Casting complete for Griffin's Spring Awakening - Time Out Chicago

Last but not least, I can tell you that the future of musical theater is bright indeed, if last week's workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina is any indication. The National Association Of Teachers Of Singing, or NATS, hosted "Guy And Gals Of Broadway," a three-day workshop aimed at those who teach musical theater vocal techniques and styles. I think there were five of us there from Chicago (at least). Composer and acting teacher Craig Carnelia was the featured clinician, and he led the first of several sessions on ....  acting!  That was the most prevalent topic, to the delight and surprise of many. At any rate, it's nIce To know that an organization which once was the epitome of opera-style performance would sponsor some training for its members that was 180 degrees in the opposite direction. It was very nIce To behold. And even nicer? The announcement of their first ever National Music Theater Competition, in July of 2012. Chicago will be one of only three preliminary cities! So get your high belt mix voice going, and pick some outstanding and slightly unfamiliar songs to sing. Will I see you at the prelims? 

National Association of Teachers of Singing 

So, another month is upon us, and crazy weather abounds. It's Chicago! And I know where I'll find you weathering the storms, and the heat, this week, right? I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT 

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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...)