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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 25th, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Merry Christmas, and welcome to a holiday-foreshortened edition of the Showtune Mosh Pit! It's been nuts around, what with all the performing....

You may have been aware that Broadway's Karen Mason ("Wonderland," "Mamma Mia!," "Sunset Boulevard," "Hairspray") is a performer who got her start here in Chicago and has deep roots here. And she performed at Davenport's last weekend (as she does very nearly every year) for three well-received Christmas shows. I know of folks who went twice! Next up at the prime Wicker Park venue: Miriam Plotkin's Jewish-themed "Anxiety Tonight! (Pigtails Are Kosher)" on Saturday night, December 28. And performing there for two shows on New Year's Eve? Musical theater veterans both onstage and off, Cheri Coons and Beckie Menzie in "The Best Of Days." If I weren't performing elsewhere that night, I would be highly tempted....

Last January, the No Exit Café got into the cabaret game with the weekend January Cabaret Series from Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. And the company will be back presenting a second round this coming January. Appearing January 3-5 at the Rogers Park venue will be Theo veteran Chris Logan in "Home Again: The Songs Of Carole King." January 10-12 will bring Scott Gryder in "Life Is A Cabaret: The Music And Words Of John Kander And Fred Ebb" (Nick Sula at the keyboard). Amanda Batcher will appear in "Finding Beauty" from January 17-19. And "Chicago's Progressive LGBTQ Theater Company," MidTangent Productions, will present six performers from January 24-26 in "Dirty Little Secrets," about New Years' resolutions.


Speaking of this weekend, there is a major documentary premiering on PBS this Frirday night, December 27, celebrating the life and work of Marvin Hamlisch, PEGOT winner and composer of "A Chorus Line" and "The Way We Were." And Chicagoan and pianist Kevin Cole, the Jeff Award-winning musical director of the long-running "Forever Plaid" (1994-2002 at the Royal George Cabaret Theatre) appears in the telecast, playing Hamlisch's music and talking about him. Others who appear include, well, you know, Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Carly Simon, Idina Menzel.... You know. Bravo, Kevin!


Annually viewing the "Kennedy Center Honors" telecast is a tradition held dear by many Mosh Pit peeps at holiday time. And this year's broadcast, on Sunday night, December 29 on CBS, will honor Broadway dancer and film star Shirley MacLaine and "Movin' Out" songwriter Billy Joel, alongside keyboardist Herbie Hancock, guitarist Carlos Santana and singer Martina Arroyo. And the broadcast will include a performance by Anna Kendrick, Patina Miller, Sutton Foster and Karen Olivo! I'm just not sure why at this point. Maybe after I see it....


Did you see the feature about the Muellers in the New York Post on Christmas Eve? That would be Chicago's number one acting dynasty, with siblings and Evanston natives Jessie, Abby and Andrew all appearing currently on New York music theater stages (in "Beautiful," "Kinky Boots" and "Peter And The Starcatcher," respectively). Brother Matt is in "The Merry Wives Of Windsor" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater right now, all supported by acting parents Roger Mueller and Jill Shellabarger. Four kids, all with acting jobs! Well played....

Speaking of Chicago stages, there was one bit of news that we learned last week about Black Ensemble Theater. The company's fall production of "It's All-Right To Have A Good Time: The Story Of Curtis Mayfield" is so successful that it's continuing through the winter. And it will be presented in rep with a show that starts previewing on January 30, 2014, "Chicago's Golden Soul," a show featuring the hits of Jerry Butler and Gene Chandler alongside Mayfield, The Impressions, Etta James and more. Founder and Executive Director Jackie Taylor directs both shows.


So what's running on the stages of the Chicagoland musical theater community the week between Christmas and New Year's? Or at least through this weekend? In addition to BET's "Curtis Mayfield," you can catch "Annie Get Your Gun" at Cahn Auditorium (Light Opera Works), "A Christmas Carol" at the Goodman Theatre, "The Christmas Schooner" at Mercury Theater Chicago, "Hello, Dolly!" at the Drury Lane Theatre, "Let Them Eat Chaos" (The Second City), "Mary Poppins" at the Marriott Theatre, "The Mikado" at the Steppenwolf Garage (The Hypocrites), "Million Dollar Quartet" at the Apollo Theater, "The Nutcracker" at the Chopin Theatre (The House Theatre Of Chicago), or "We Three Lizas" at Stage 773 (About Face Theatre), among others. For the kids? "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" at the Broadway Playhouse (Emerald City Theatre and First Stage). Not a bad cross-section of the genre at all. Well played, Chicago.

Next week, I'll have out semi-annual round-up of the Top Ten Hot Topix! What have we been talking about here in the Mosh Pit for the last six months? Find out on New Year's Day! And don't forget to vote for the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards! Voting ends on New Year's Eve.


Will I see you on Wednesday, January 8, for the Awards Celebration at The Call Bar? I hope so! And in the meantime perhaps I'll see you there or elsewhere, 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...)