'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 28th, 2011
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
Tonight’s the night! The only theater awards in Chicago decided entirely by online voting from average theatergoers, and the only awards presentation night to include both Equity and non-Equity productions, is here for the second consecutive year. BroadwayWorld.com and The Call Bar proudly present the 2011 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards from 9:00 pm to whenever on Wednesday, December 28, 2011. I hope you will be there! The event is free and open to the public (ages 21 and over), and I will hosting, assisted by The Call’s Ashley Morgan and by BroadwayWorld Chicago contributors M. William Panek and Misha Davenport. Come one, come all to The Call!
The Call Bar is located at 1547 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, between Clarkand Ashlandat the northern tip of Andersonville. It’s Showtune night there, and representatives from the shows and individuals winning in our 25 categories will be on hand throughout the evening to receive their certificates. All individual nominees and company members of nominated productions will receive yellow ribbons to wear, too, and we will hear from some of them as well. It’s a great chance for theater folk to meet their most loyal fans, to reminisce and reunite with each other, and to enjoy a fun and casual (but not TOO casual!) holiday event. Productions from “Follies” and “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” to “Cats,” “Violet,” “Pussy On The House,” “Alien Queen” and “Starship” will be honored. Will you be there? I hope so!
This is shaping up to be a very eventful week overall for the Mosh Pit. On Tuesday night, many Mosh Pit peeps were enthralled by the televised tribute to Broadway legend Barbara Cook on the Kennedy Center Honors. Indeed, a performer of Cook’s caliber, and one known almost exclusively for work away from television or film, is rare enough, but to see a tribute to her with the likes of Broadway leading ladies Patti LuPone, Glenn Close, Audra McDonald, Sutton Foster, Kelli O’Hara and Laura Osnes (plus opera star Anna Christy) is perhaps even more rare. Aficionados know that Cook created major roles in “Candide” and “The Music Man” (in back to back seasons, too) as well as in “She Loves Me,” “Flahooley” and others. But for the last forty years (of her 60+ years in the business), she has concentrated on concertizing, and on teaching her way of performing the great songs of Broadway. For showtune lovers, she is unparalleled. And the tribute to her is already legendary! Two video bars I know of had better have taped it. And better be editing it now!
And Monday night was pretty legendary too, in that Broadway and television star Christopher Sieber stopped by Showtune night at Sidetrack for about 90 minutes, in between his two weeks of performances as Albin/Zaza in the tour of the revival of “La Cage Aux Folles” at the Bank Of America Theatre. He hung out for a bit with yours truly and with opera singer Rodell Rosel (Monostatos in the current Lyric Opera Of Chicago production of “The Magic Flute”). He enjoyed watching himself in the “Spamalot” Tony Awards clip, sang along with Idina Menzel at the end of the “Wicked” clip (which he did eight times a week on Broadway in “Shrek”) and marveled at the weekly “Evita” event, which he remembered from his time in Chicago in the winter of 2004-5 with the “Spamalot” tryout (also at the BOAT, then still called the Shubert Theatre). There are grumblings in the Mosh Pit about co-star George Hamilton’s performance in “La Cage,” btw, but I’ve heard nothing but stellar things about Sieber’s turn. I mean, what’s not to love?
An even more recent tour to hit the Loop is getting some attention, too, and it’s a show well know to Chicagoaudiences from yet another legendary out-of-town Broadway tryout. Of course I’m talking about “The Addams Family,” which played at the Oriental Theatre here in the winter of 2009-10 (where producers no doubt hoped for the same critical response that “Spamalot” had had here, and that “The Producers” had had here before that). Alas, that was not to be. And yet, “Addams” lasted on Broadway for more than a year and a half, and it has now embarked on a tour than many observers have dubbed “The Addams Family 3.0.” The show is very different now from the one that first played here, and it’s different from the Broadway incarnation as well. I personally think that if this fact had been more widely known before this month that the show could have sold a lot more tickets here. But, from the sound of it, the show has gotten better, and long term prospects for regional productions of it have gone up enormously. It’s at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, for this week only.
But this week’s excitement is not over yet! This week only, one can catch the full-orchestra, proscenium-based stylings of Light Opera Works in a show written only twenty years ago, one of the most recent works the company has produced at its Cahn Auditorium home in Evanston. “The Secret Garden” is the lyrical work in question, and early reports are quite positive. Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon’s work would seem well-suited to LOW, with the (nearly all) legit singing it requires, the old-world settings it conjures up and the large cast it calls for. Can director-choreographer Stacey Flaster bring her baby from dream to reality? Again? The show closes on Sunday, New Year’s Day.
On Saturday night, New Year’s Eve, two of our most enduring and most honored musical leading ladies will each be hosting a cabaret evening in a theater. At the Northlight Theater in Skokie, multi-Jeff Award-winner E. Faye Butler will once again be leading “New Year’s Eve With E. Faye Butler,” at5:00 pm and again at8:00 pm. She’ll unleash her remarkable talents (not to mention her voice) on jazz, pop, showtunes and the blues. If you haven’t heard her sing, or watched her rapport with an audience, then I don’t know why you’re reading this column! You have missed something in your education, Showtune Grasshopper. Buy a ticket!
And at 8:00 pmin the Cabaret Room at Stage 773 on Belmont Avenue, ten-time Jeff Award winner Hollis Resnik will appear, with musical direction by Jeff Award winner Doug Peck, in a benefit for the Gay and Lesbian Hall Of Fame, Season Of Concern and Pride Films And Plays. Lampkin Music Group presents Resnik, a busy star this fall with appearances in the BroadwayWorld Chicago Award-winning “Follies” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier as well as in “Another Night Before Christmas” at the Theater At The Center inMunster.
Speaking of Pride Films And Plays, David Zaks’ organization has a new musical among its award finalists for the first time. The 2012 Great Gay Play And Musical Contest finalists were announced on Tuesday morning, and “Under A Rainbow Flag,” a new musical by Chicago-based Leo Schwartz, one based on a true story, is one of five finalists. Schwartz is also the only Midwest writer among the finalists, with the non-musical playwrights coming from California, New Jersey, Massachusetts and the UK. The shows will all receive staged readings at the Center On Halsted next year.
We note that many, many productions are closing this weekend, among them the aforementioned “La Cage” and “Addams” tours and “The Secret Garden,” as well as “A Christmas Story,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Christmas Schooner,” “White Christmas,” “The Nativity,” “Maestro: The Art Of Leonard Bernstein” and “Let My People Come.” Yes, I said it. It was hardly a holiday musical, but this rare revival of this 1970s curiosity (also at Stage 773) was just beginning to get the word out. Well, maybe it will play again sometime soon. All puns intended.
But many more shows are continuing into January--trust me on this one! “The Doyle And Debbie Show,” “The Jackie Wilson Story,” “The Pirates Of Penzance” and “Pump Boys And Dinettes,” to name just four, continue apace. And there’s one more week left, after this one, for both “The Sound Of Music” and “Spring Awakening.” So get thee to the theater this weekend, and hopefully next!
And hope springs eternal, too, as rehearsal began this week for that highly anticipated production of “A Chorus Line” at the huge Paramount Theatre in downtown Aurora. Every word I got from cast members was that they were stoked before they got there, and that there are even more stoked now! Jim Corti’s fledgling company may have a third straight hit show on its hands (January 18-February 5, 2012 only). The only question remaining: can they do the same with “Hair,” the fourth show in their inaugural subscription series of homegrown Equity productions? Can’t wait to find out!
And so, we will say goodbye to 2011, with our Awards Celebration, with a flurry of late-holiday tours and a last chance to see some great local holiday productions. But winter will bring so many more opportunities for us all! I hope to see you at The Call, this Wednesday and more, and I hope I will see you some Monday night at Sidetrack. And of course I’ll see you at the theater! If winter weather ever matches up with what the calendar says, it may make the average Chicagoan shiver for a moment. But Mosh Pit residents will rise to every occasion! I know I'll see you….and I’ll see you under the video screens, too, no matter what.....—PWT
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From This Author Paul W. Thompson