Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Click Here for More Articles on THE WIZ LIVE ON NBC!

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 2nd, 2015



by Paul W. Thompson

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

Nearly all the holiday shows in Chicago have opened by now. And the World AIDS Day "Rent" at the Athenaeum Theatre was reportedly sold out last night! But now, all eyes are on "The Wiz Live!" Thursday night at 7:00 pm on NBC-TV, a host of stars will come together to perform the musical you know from its songs, but may not be overly familiar with. Well, guess what? You are REALLY not familiar with this version, as it features an entirely new script by none other than Harvey Fierstein. If the author of "Torch Song Trilogy," "La Cage Aux Folles" and "Kinky Boots" seems like an odd choice for an urban retelling of L. Frank Baum's seminal American fairy tale, I understand that he has really give the whole thing a lot of thought! So when Queen Latifah (as a female Wiz), newcomer Shanice Williams, original Dorothy Stephanie Mills, Mary J. Blige, Amber Riley, Uzo Aduba and Common help Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley and David Alan Grier ease on down the road (with flying effects by Cirque du Soleil, by the way), it will be a once in a lifetime experience. Except that the production is apparently heading to Broadway in 2017! I'm not sure who will be in it, though. Better catch it now. Or whenever you are "Home." See what I did there?

And how did Broadway get "The Wiz" in 1975? Here's a great reminder of the environment in which the show was originally written:


All three of the Broadway In Chicago tours that are playing Chicago for the holidays arrived this week! And all three have native Chicagolanders in leading roles. You can catch Abby Mueller (sister of the Tony winner, Jessie Mueller) in the Carole King musical, "Beautiful," at the Oriental Theatre now through February 21, 2016, Aaron Nelson and Nia Holloway in "The Lion King" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre now through January 17, and Andre De Shields and Alexander Aguilar in the pre-Broadway "Gotta Dance" at the Bank Of America Theatre from December 13-January 10 (the cast is in town in final rehearsals now). This is kind of unprecedented, I think. Go! Your friends have already been....Go!

I guess the "Gotta Dance" cast will be a little tired on Monday night, December 14, but the casts of "The Lion King" and "Beautiful" will be uniting for the very cleverly titled, "Can You Feel The Earth Move?," a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS at your old friend, Sidetrack: The Video Bar. It's from 7-9 pm, so there will still be plenty of time for showtune videos, kids. Sounds like a blast, doesn't it? And the title is, like, the best ever.

Speaking of national tours, the tour of the Tony-winning (score and orchestrations) "The Bridges Of Madison County" opened yesterday-- in Des Moines, Iowa. A fitting spot, certainly. But it has not been announced to be playing here! Observers of these things note that there are certain gaps in the announced schedule, and certain gaps in the schedules of our touring houses. But when will we finally get the scoop? Who knows. In the meantime, it's not that far to Iowa. Not really. But you better hurry! It's only there for this week! Elizabeth Stanley and Andrew Samonsky star, and David Hess, who was in "October Sky" at Lincolnshire's Marriott Theatre this summer, is in the cast as well. Small world.


Speaking of the Marriott, they are trying something new for them--a short run of an edgy but admired musical. You have to understand that this has been one of the most well-subscribed musical theater houses in the country for decades, and they aren't about to rock that boat. But some of the Tony-winning musicals of the last decade are a little, shall we say, envelope-pushing for a conservative theater in a conservative suburban town. And yet, artists being artists, the yearn is there. And so, "Spring Awakening" will play Lincolnshire for only two and a half weeks, from January 14-31. Not typical at all for the Marriott. So y'all who like this show had better show! "October Sky" alum Patrick Rooney will star as Melchior, with Eliza Palasz as Wendla and Ben Barker as Moritz. Big names Hollis Resnick and Kevin Gudahl will play the adult women and men, with other main roles filled by Betsy Stewart, Brian Bohr, Nick Graffagna, Nate Lewellyn, Liam Quealy, Adhana Cemone Reid, Elizabeth Stenholt and Tiffany Tatreau. Artistic director Aaron Thielen will direct and choreograph.


But that's not until January. There are still a few Current Productions emerging from the woodwork that somehow escaped my notice until now. In fact, "Clara And The Nutcracker" opened at Evanston's Piccolo Theatre on November 6th! But the holiday British panto runs through December 20. The script is by Jessica Puller, with music and lyrics by Derrick Gaetke. The cast of twelve will no doubt leave you highly entertained with this comedy adventure for all ages. Guess what it's about.

The Congo Square Theatre Company presents Langston Hughes' "Black Nativity" nearly every December, but this year the production is called "Nativity: A Musical Tribute," which sounds to me more like a concert or revue than the full theatrical event. However, there is no doubt that director TaRon Patton has pulled together a powerhouse cast, including Faith Howard, Jazelle Morriss, Lavondra Hinton, Jesse Dean Stanford, Kalind Haynes, RaShawn Thompson, Donica Lynn and Candace Edwards, under the musical direction of Jaret Landon. Performances are December 11 and 12 at the DuSable Museum in the Jackson Park neighborhood.

The un-holiday but nevertheless celebratory "My Way...A Musical Tribute To Frank Sinatra" may be the antidote you need. Kyrie Anderson, Caitlin Boho, Carl Herzog and Chris Logan take you on a tour of blue-eyed song, directed by Fred Anzevino and choreographed by Maggie Portman. Todd Olson and David Grapes conceived it, and Jeremy Ramey music directs. It's at the No Exit Café now through January 10, courtesy of Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre.

The world famous The Second City has opened a new revue, its 104th, and it has nothing to do with holidays either. It's called, "Fool Me Twice, Déjà Vu," and the press opening was Tuesday night. This open-run sketch revue, with songs by musical director Jacob Shuda, is directed by Ryan Bernier and was written by and stars Chelsea Devantez, Paul Jurewicz, Daniel Strauss, Sarah Shook, Rashawn Nadine Scott and Jamison Webb.


And if you think that perhaps Chicago has a twin city, you may think it's Milwaukee. Fair enough, as one of our own is currently starring in "My Fair Lady" at the Skylight Music Theatre in Wisconsin's largest city through December 27. Former Chicagoan and frequent Light Opera Works star Natalie Ford is Eliza Doolittle, opposite the Henry Higgins of Norman Moses and Joel Kopischke's Alfred P. And the costume photos look amazing!

So do you have all your holiday play-going planned out? Tickets bought? Tickets bought as presents for others? Very good! Well, Hanukkah starts this Sunday night, so the holidays are well past Thanksgiving now! And we had a little snow a few times, didn't we? Ho Ho Ho. Get in the spirit, folks! And I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT

[Be sure to subscribe to the Mosh Pit! Click here to subscribe to our BroadwayWorld Message Board discussion thread. Receive your e-mail notice that the weekly "Showtune Mosh Pit" is available!]

[And click here to "Like" BroadwayWorld Chicago on Facebook!]

Related Articles

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

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...)