'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 8, 2012

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for August 8, 2012


by Paul W. Thompson

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

Let’s go chronologically this week, shall we? From the recent past to the distant future. Here goes!

It was a big weekend in Chitown, and in some ways an even bigger Monday night, as Broadway In Chicago presented its now traditional season preview in Millennium Park, headlined by Cyndi Lauper (composer-lyricist of “Kinky Boots”), Cathy Rigby (star of “Peter Pan”) and Joey (the horse, er, puppet star of the play “War Horse”). According to many friends of the Mosh Pit, they all acquitted themselves in fine form (Lauper by traipsing out into the crowd, and Rigby and Joey by doing handstands), as did the stars of the upcoming tours of “Catch Me If You Can” and “Sister Act,” and as did Chicagoans in various roles throughout the show. Oh, and there’s a relatively late addition to the fall BIC line-up, “Potted Potter,” a two-man show straight from off-Broadway and including some songs among its fast-paced satire of J.K. Rowling’s astoundingly successful series of books. We also got our first glimpse of Californians Sirena Irwin and Bill Mendieta from this fall’s “I Love Lucy Live On Stage” at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, and our own Emerald City Theatre’s production of “Cinderella,” which will follow “Lucy” into the BPAWTP come November. But when, oh when, will there be formal, official and complete announcements of the casts of all the non-touring BIC productions? Chicagoans are in them! Inquiring minds want to know!


Among the late-night places to be on Monday was Sidetrack, which played host to live performance of two numbers from the Circle Theatre production of Kevin Murphy’s and Dan Studney’s “Reefer Madness.” Musical director Jon Landvick introduced the proceedings, after which Eric Lindahl and Liz Bollar tore down the house, with an assist from a bevy of attractive chorus boys and girls. The well-received show, which is becoming quite a successful property hereabouts, runs through August 26, 2012 in Oak Park.


This weekend will see the opening of one of the last of this summer’s highly anticipated local productions, the Light Opera Works mounting of “Man Of La Mancha.” Once again, James Harms will take on the role of Cervantes/Don Quixote, which he played in 2009 at both Chamber Opera Chicago and the Theatre At The Center. (Harms’ last gig before this one was in “The Iceman Cometh” at the Goodman Theatre at the start of the summer.) Colette Todd will be Aldonza/Dulcinea, with Cary Lovett as Sancho Panza. As I understand it, these people can SANG. Rudy Hogenmiller’s production runs August 11-26 at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, with the original 16-piece orchestration.


Also this coming weekend, for one night only, will be the appearance of pop icon Olivia Newton-John at Northalsted Market Days, the midwest’s largest two-day street fair. The star of the films “Grease” (made from the 1972 Broadway musical and its earlier Chicago production) and “Xanadu” (source of the 2007 Broadway musical) will sing on Saturday, August 12 at 9:05 pm on the Rivers Casino-sponsored North Stage, near the intersection of Halsted and Addison, directly east of Wrigley Field. It’s her only performance anywhere in the world during the month of August! But let’s not forget that Tony Award-winner Levi Kreis, the original, break-out star of the still-running Chicago production of “Million Dollar Quartet”) will also sing on the same stage, on Saturday, August 11 at 3:30 pm. No matter how free the street fair, THAT’S a bargain!


The show that actually has “One Night Only” in it, of course, is “Dreamgirls,” and the Marriott Theatre’s upcoming production of the Henry Krieger-Tom Eyen classic is, for many folks, the beginning of Chicago’s fall theater season, the true start of this year’s Super September (it opens August 29 after a week of previews, and runs until November 4). Marc Robin will direct and choreograph, with musical direction by Doug Peck. The cast is a mixture of Broadway veterans, East Coast residents and Chicago area talent, as is usual for the Lincolnshire tuner house. Raena White (alternating with Eleasha Gamble) will take on the legendary role of Effie, fresh in the minds of many Chicagoans who went to St. Louis last month to see Jennifer Holliday perform the role that made her reasonably immortal. Britney Coleman, Rashidra Scott and Darilyn Burtley play the other Dreams, with Eric Lajuan Summers as James “Thunder” Early, Byron Glenn Willis as Curtis as Travis Turner as C.C. Familiar Chicago names like Kevin Barthel, Brian Bohr, James Earl Jones II, Evan Tyrone Martin, Brian-Alwyn Newland, Alexis J. Rogers and Kelvin Roston, Jr. help populate the ensemble. It’s “Dreamgirls,” people!


Speaking of Super September, and sadly marking the death of “A Chorus Line” composer Marvin Hamlisch, one of the fall’s most anticipated productions in my book is the Porchlight Music Theatre production (and Chicago premiere) of the 2001 Broadway musical “A Class Act,” the musical about the lyricist of that legendary show, Ed Kleban. Bill Larkin will embody the brilliant and quirky Kleban, accompanied by such talents at Michael Glenn, Tina Gluschenko, Sharriese Hamilton, John Francisco and Dana Tretta, in the show put together after his death by friends and fellow Broadway professionals Linda Kline and Lonny Price, using Kleban’s own songs, both music and lyrics. Actor Zach Spound will play Hamlisch, among other characters. The hot Stacey Flaster will direct and choreograph, with musical direction by veteran cabaret star Beckie Menzie. September 1-October 7 at Theater Wit--be there!


Skokie’s Northlight Theatre, with a long history of presenting American roots music in theatrical context, will bring us a quirky musical theater entry in September, when “Woody Sez” opens the company’s 2012-2013 season on September 14 (running through October 21). Devised by David M. Lutken with Nick Corley (originally for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) and directed by Corley, this production will honor the legendary American folk singer and folk hero Woody Guthrie, during the year celebrating the 100th anniversary of this birth. Subtitled “The Life And Music Of Woody Guthrie,” this production stars Lutken, along with Darcie Deaville, David Finch and Helen Jean Russell.


This week, just a few hours before the world learned of the passing of the legendary Marvin Hamlisch, a woman with whom he worked regularly over the last 49 years announced that she would be performing this fall in Chicago, one of only a handful of cities to be the beneficiary of her fall concert tour. Of course, I’m speaking of the HUGE star Barbra Streisand, who will do what may very well be her last Chicago concert ever at the United Center on October 26, 2012. It’s also the last announced date of this very limited, six-city tour. Take note! Tickets go on sale next Monday, August 13, at 10:00 Central Time, though they have not yet announced where to go for tickets. I can’t tell you how big this is, or how fortunate Chicago is to be on this list! It’s BARBRA………


I have a clarification for you Mosh Pit peeps about my lead item from two weeks ago, the spring 2013 production of “Oklahoma!” at Lyric Opera Of Chicago. We know now what the performance schedule will be, and it does seem kind of theatrical. The seminal Rodgers and Hammerstein work will first be performed on Saturday night, May 4, 2013, a month after the last opera of the company’s subscription season, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” closes on April 6. After a Sunday matinee on May 5, the musical will then run seven times each week for the two following weeks, twice on Wednesdays and Saturdays, evenings on Thursdays and Fridays, and matinees on Sundays. That puts the closing performance on the afternoon of May 19. And I heard a rumor that Nathan Gunn (Gaylord Ravenal in the company’s recent “Show Boat”) was being sought as Curly, but that that casting is not happening. No official word on anything. (The production’s page o Lyric’s website is virtually blank right now!) But it’s about time that a Chicago company presented “Oklahoma!” again. An internet search showed me that the last professional Chicago production of the work was done by Light Opera Works at the end of 2007. It’s about time.


Lastly, the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace has announced its 2013-2014 season, and there is joy in Mudville!!! Finally, we will have a local production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Next To Normal,” the rock/shock musical that toured here to such controversy in the spring of 2011. First for the year, though, will be the beloved and zesty “Oliver!” (just a few months after Light Opera Works will present it, actually), on stage in Oakbrook from April 4 through June 2, 2013. After the comedy “Boeing-Boeing” (June 13-August 4, 2013), DLO will mount Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s “Next To Normal,” from August 15 through October 6, 2013. The perennial “Hello, Dolly!” will follow (October 17, 2013 through January 5, 2014), and Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein” will round out the season (January 16-March 23, 2014). Boy, it feels weird to type “2014!” And note that artistic director William Osetek and popular director Rachel Rockwell will each helm two musicals for the west suburban commercial success story.


So summer’s end is in sight, and our future is bright! September’s riches will be here soon, and there will be even more news about that abundance in next week’s “Showtune Mosh Pit.” Until then, have a great week and weekend, and I’ll see you soon if not sooner, under the video screens.....—PWT

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