'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 21st, 2011





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

As you may very well know by now, the results are in for the 2011 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards! And we’re having a party to celebrate! Or is that a Celebration to party! Either way, it’s been an exciting week around BroadwayWorld Chicago, online and in person, as the winners and their fans have been finding out the news, congratulating and thanking each other and making their plans to attend the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards Celebration at The Call Bar in Andersonville (1547 W. Bryn Mawr) on Wednesday, December 28, 2011, beginning at 9:00 pm. Nominees (individual nominees and company members of nominated shows) will receive yellow ribbons to wear, and winners or their representatives will receive certificates created by the BroadwayWorld design team in New York. There will be food, drink for a price (21 and older at the event, I’m afraid), short speeches by many local theater practitioners, and a year-end holiday feel to the whole affair. The Call’s hostess, Ashley Morgan, will be on hand, as will BroadwayWorld Chicago contributors M. William Panek and Misha Davenport. I’ll be hosting, and I do hope I see you there! It’s Showtune night. No cover!

Four Broadie Awards are going to Gary Griffin’s noted and acclaimed production of “Follies,” which ran this fall at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier. I think these are the first awards the production has received (it surely won’t be the last), but it has been at the top of every theater critic’s year-end list. Other prominent productions that you, the voters, are honoring through your participation in the voting process are “Pussy On The House” from Hell In A Handbag Productions, “Cats” at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf” at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and “Violet” at Bailiwick Chicago. And let’s not forgot “The Madness Of George III,” “Old Times,” “Putting It Together,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Alien Queen.” But it is the victory of “Starship” in the Best New Work/New Adaptation category that has really set the internet ablaze. First off, the show’s authors (five members of StarKid Productions, including “Glee” and “How To Succeed…” star Darren Criss) defeated David Henry Hwang and Mary Zimmerman (among others), and did so by garnering 70 percent of the votes cast in the category, far more than the winner in any other category. And as of this writing, there are 25 comments attached to the original BroadwayWorld article about all the winners, and 24 of them are about “Starship.” The fact that the show won this award is already mentioned on Wikipedia. I’m just saying that there is something going on here!

Here's that original article listing all the winners!

Last week I made much ado of the fact that “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever” star Jessie Mueller has made the move from Chicago’s stages to Broadway, impressively and in rather swift fashion. But I’ve been reminded that moves of this sort (or, almost of this sort) happen fairly frequently. Chicago area native Alexander Aguilar (a graduate of the Chicago Academy of the Arts, I believe, and brother of “The Original Grease” star Adrian Aguilar), is making his Broadway debut as a member of the cast of “Lysistrata Jones,” which also opened on Broadway last week. Furthermore, it was announced last week that Robert Petkoff, co-star of the aforementioned “Follies,” will be once again appearing on Broadway beginning in January, in a supporting role in the “Anything Goes” revival. You see, we are everywhere!

The cast of LYSISTRATA JONES on Broadway

And of course, Broadway comes to Chicago, in terms of both performers and productions. Tickets to two tours have recently gone on sale. “American Idiot” will be playing at the Oriental Theatre on Randolph Street from February 7-19, 2012, in the Grammy-winning and Tony-nominated stage version of the hit album by Green Day.

Tix Go On Sale For AMERICAN IDIOT In Chicago 12/9

And there’s another two-week stint in the Loopthat will actually overlap “American Idiot” by one week. It’s the stopover by the revival of the legendary Pulitzer Prize-winner, “South Pacific,” making its Chicago debut at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (it was in Rosemont before) from February 14-26, 2012. Now, I’m not going to say that these two shows don’t draw from the same crowd of followers, but I’m not going to say that they do, either. I mean, I liked them both in New York, but I’m a middle child……. What do you think, Mosh Pit?

NETworks Presentations' SOUTH PACIFIC Tickets Go On Sale 12/16

Casting news regarding prominent local productions frequently comes out this time of year. And “Gypsy” at the Drury Lane Theatre found its Rose last week in the form of KLea Blackhurst, a New York-based actress and cabaret singer who has made something of a specialty in singing songs made famous by Ethel Merman. That skill should come in quite handy, I should think! Andrea Prestinario, one of our new local sensations, will be Louise. “Gypsy” will run in Oakbrook Terrace January 26-April 1, staged by William Osetek and Tammy Mader, with musical direction by Roberta Duchak.

KLea Blackhurst to Lead Drury Lane's GYPSY

Prestinario starred in “My Fair Lady” this past fall at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, and the Paramount has announced the cast of its upcoming “A Chorus Line,” directed and choreographed by Chicago native Mitzi Hamilton, the inspiration for the character of Val (“Dance: Ten, Looks: Three”). Running January 18-February 5, many of our most prominent dancers will be on the line in the Pulitzer Prize-winner. Nicole Hren, Laura Taylor, Danielle Plisz, Jen Donohoo, Bobby Johnson and the up and coming Sawyer Smith have been cast, along with Luis Perez as Zach, Jessica Lee Goldyn as Cassie, Katie Spelman as Maggie and Jay Reynolds, Jr., as Paul.

The Paramount Theatre - Aurora, IL

Speaking of Jen Donohoo, she’s one of the dancers in “Welcome Yule!” at Orchestra Hall this year, the annual Christmas music and laughterfest from the Chicago Symphony Chorus and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I’ve performed in over 100 performances of this show over the last 15 or so years, and I still don’t know what it is, and whether or not it involves any showtunes. It seems like it does. But a lot of musical theater types are involved. In addition to dancer Donohoo (who was also in the aforementioned “Follies,”) director/playwright Timothy Gregory (from the current “The Christmas Miracle Of Jonathan Toomey” at his Provision Theater) is the stage director and is in the “Welcome Yule!” cast, alongside Natalie Berg (from Chicago Children’s Theatre’s “The Hundred Dresses”). And a whole bunch of us Chicago Symphony Chorus members are involved in Chicago musical Theater Productions, too. And of course, the Symphony itself accompanied Patti LuPone in “Gypsy” at the Ravinia Festival, and just recently played “West Side Story” to the live film vocals. So, you seen, it’s bound to be CLOSE to a showtune fest, isn’t it?  Harrison McEldowney choreographs, and Duain Wolfe is the conductor and chorus director. There are four more performances, Wednesday through Friday of this week.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Our little show may be competing for audiences with the large and new production at the Chicago Theatre, “A Christmas Story: The Musical.” This new-to-Chicago show, with a firm eye toward New York next Christmas, will be here through December 30, and includes in the cast the Chicago theater actors Gene Weygandt, Karen Mason, Adam Pelty and George Andrew Wolff, though it was cast nationally.  What say you, Mosh Pit peeps? Shall this show have a long life on holiday stages? Most local critics gave it great reviews! But I’ve heard some nay-saying in the ranks of the Mosh Pit. Should Ralphie keep his new musical theater milieu?

A Christmas Story, The Musical! - Chicago Theatre

Not quite to be outdone by all this Christmas tide is “Hannukatz: The Musical,” a satirical new show at the National Pastime Theater in the Buena Park neighborhood through December 31. With book and lyrics by Terry Abrahamson and music by Michael Carlson, this affectionate send-up of both Hannukah and Christmas stars Joshua Razavi, Evan Barth, Katherine Bellantone, Molly Kral and Steve Love, under the direction of Brian LeTraunik. It got pretty good reviews, too!

Hannukatz The Musical - National Pastime Theater

And of course, now and forever we will have “Pinkalicious” in our midst! The children’s theater troupe Emerald City Theatre first mounted this moderate Off-Broadway musical success on Lincoln Avenue in September of 2010, where it ran through New Year’s. Six months later, in a commercial transfer to the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, the show reopened, and extension after extension has come down the pike. The show is now announced through May 27, 2012, marking almost 11 months downtown after 3 and a half months in Lincoln Park. Is this unprecedented? It’s certainly good for the actors, at least two of whom are currently in other nighttime shows at other theaters, double dipping in the best possible way. It’s good for the theater company, too, that’s for sure! And the show is something about cupcakes and healthy eating. Sounds like everyone involved is eating just fine, thank you, “Pinkalicious!”

Theatre In Chicago | Pinkalicious

And so, I’m offering this simple phrase…..oh, sorry. Too many Christmas songs on my brain. Perhaps they are on yours, too. Some year I’m trace the connection between Broadway and Hollywoodand the Christmas songs we all know. Some year. In the meantime, make your plans to come and see me at our Celebration on December 28th at The Call, won’t you? I'll see you under the video screens there!.....—PWT

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