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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 16th, 2015


by Paul W. Thompson

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

More that halfway from Thanksgiving to Christmas, you guys! And some holiday shows have closed already! (I'm looking at you, "Hershey Felder Is Irving Berlin.") But others are still to open. "Gotta Dance," the pre-Broadway tryout now in preview performances at the Bank Of America Theatre, is taking shape. In recent days, the production has announced a press opening date (Monday, December 28), has announced an extension of its run here for one additional week (now through January 17, 2016), and has announced that it will open on Broadway in the fall of 2016 (i.e. not this spring, as most observers had assumed). These announcements may be related, or they may not. Do they need more time? Want to sell more tickets? Want to open when they can maximize factors like public relations, theater availability, awards consideration, etc.? Maybe, yes, who knows, probably or how is any of this unusual? They're doing the best they can for their production and their artistic property. Wouldn't you?


Another show that has announced an extension is the production of "My Way...A Tribute To Frank Sinatra" from Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. The company has taken advantage of the Chairman's 100 birthday anniversary this week (and some pretty solid reviews) to announce a three-week extension, through January 31, 2016. Chris Logan and Carl Herzog, Kyrie Anderson and Caitlin Boho (pictured) star, with BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Jeremy Ramey leading a three-piece band in Rogers Park's intimate No Exit Café. Fred Anzevino directs.


A show that also got great reviews, and got extended, is one that I didn't realize had songs. But it's from Hell In A Handbag Productions, so what was I thinking! Of course "Christmas Dearest" sings. It's Joan Crawford (in the perennial persona of playwright David Cerda) learning what her life adds up to in this satire loosely based on "A Christmas Carol." It's now through January 2nd at Mary's Attic in Andersonville. Of course!


Another twist on Dickens is provided by the Terra Mysterium troupe, whose "A Midwinter Mummers Tale" is debuting this weekend (December 18-20) at Lincoln Loft in Lakeview. And the run is already sold out! Esmerelda Pennywise reflects on her life in this Pagan-based version, a holiday entertainment in the English tradition of mumming, and honoring the pre-Christian mid-winter festivals of Britain and elsewhere. And there's wassail! And new arrangements of traditional English songs. Deb Miller stars.

One major holiday show will be left to open, as is true every December. Light Opera Works fits its mainstage shows into Evanston's Cahn Auditorium when the venue's owner, Northwestern University, doesn't need it. And so, this year's schedule charmer is the December 26-January 3 run of "Guys And Dolls," directed by Rudy Hogenmiller and choreographed by Clayton Cross. Shawn Stengel conducts a full orchestra and cast led by Justin Adair and Elizabeth Telford as Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown, and Sarah Larson and Steve Silver as Miss Adelaide and Nathan Detroit. "My Way" scene designer Adam Veness does the honors here as well.


Looking into 2016, we see that a new musical for children based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest" will premiere at The Theatre School of DePaul University, running daytimes from January 14 through February 20 at the Merle Reskin Theatre in Chicago's South Loop. Called a "vaudeville adaptation," "Prospero's Storm" is adapted and directed by Damon Kiely, with music and lyrics by Mark Elliott. The cast of 14 is led by Adam Welsh as Prospero, Raven Whitley as Miranda, Gail Tierney as Ariel and Clint Campbell as Caliban.


Back on the topic of Northwestern University, one of the more famous Wildcats working on Broadway stages these days is Brian D'Arcy James. And the "Something Rotten" star has been named one of two recipients of the Actor Of The Year Award presented by Chicago's Sarah Siddons Society. The other recipient is none other than the legendary Sutton Foster. The sole winner of last year's award, you may recall, was Jessie Mueller, and the ceremony honoring her is now nominated for Best Special Theatrical Event at the 2015 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards. James and Foster will receive their statuettes on May 16, 2016, at Northwestern's Pick-Staiger Concert Hall.


Have you submitted your votes for those BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards? Races are close enough that a social media push by a trailing candidate really is enough to change the standings. And there's only two weeks left to vote! You'll want to make your mark on our 36 categories while you still can. Literally dozens of productions and hundreds of theater artists are nominated. Is your favorite on the list? The polls close on New Year's Eve. Come on, Chicago. Vote!


And here's an item I truly never saw coming. "Nunsense" is being developed as a weekly comedy series, and the pilot has already been shot! There is no broadcast or streaming deal yet in place, but Dan Goggin's Little Sisters of Hoboken have never been far away since their debut off-Broadway in the 1986. And now, Mary Stout, Beth Leavel, Karen Ziemba, Phyllis Smith, Dee Hoty, Christopher Sieber, Lee Roy Reams, Darlene Love and more are hoping to come to your screens on a weekly basis, singing and cutting it up, as they once again try to raise money for a noble yet strangely bizarre cause. Sounds like it could be great! But like I said, I never in a million years saw this one coming. You just never know.


Maybe we'll soon be watching clips from that series at our favorite showtune haunts. It could happen! In the meantime, get your shopping and partying done, catch a couple of shows, and I'll see under the video screens anyway.....-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...)

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