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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 3rd, 2014


by Paul W. Thompson

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

It's finally arrived! "Peter Pan Live!," the live television adaptation of the 1953 Broadway musical version of Sir James M. Barrie's 1904 live stage play, will be broadcast live on NBC-TV tomorrow evening, December 4, 2014, at 7:00 pm, Central Standard Time. No, I don't know why Peter is played by a young woman (Allison Williams) while all the Lost Boys are played by young men. I don't know why Christopher Walken is too old but still feels right as Captain Hook, or whose decision it was to have the actor playing Smee (Christian Borle) double as Mr. Darling instead of Walken. I haven't tracked all the changes to the script and score (songs added, dropped, lengthened, etc.), but I'm sure someone has (term paper topic, anyone?). I don't know how Kelli O'Hara has time to be Mrs. Darling and also rehearse the role of Valencienne in the Metropolitan Opera's upcoming production of "The Merry Widow." But I do know that all showtune eyes will be glued to NBC tomorrow night. There are viewing parties galore. And it will

You don't have to head to New York to see Franz Lehar's "The Merry Widow," by the way. Evanston is far enough. Light Opera Works will be presenting the show (the crown jewel of operetta's silver age, I am told) from December 19-31, starring the two leads from the company's 2005 production of the same title, Stacey Tappan and BroadwayWorld Chicago Award nominee Larry Adams. Sarah Wasserman is Valencienne, with William Dwyer as her Camille. Alex Honzen will cavort as Baron Zeta, all directed and choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller and conducted by Nyela Basney at Cahn Auditorium.

Light Opera Works' core historic repertoire is shared by both the Metropolitan Opera and by The Hypocrites, apparently, as Sean Graney's intrepidly creative company (up for six BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards for "All Our Tragic") is mounting the three most important works by Sir W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur S. Sullivan this holiday season. And they are in true rep! It's a rotating schedule, and done by the same ten performers (doing all the acting, singing and playing of instruments, by the way). The Hypocrites mounted "The Pirates Of Penzance" in 2010, 2011 and 2012. "The Mikado" was mounted in 2012 and 2013. And "H.M.S. Pinafore" opened to reviewers this past Monday night, with "The Mikado" returning on December 11 and "Pinafore" on December 18. All three shows will alternate at The Den Theatre through February 7, 2015. That's pretty astounding, if you think about it. Thinking about it makes my head hurt! But in a very, very good way. Sean Graney adapts and directs, with music direction by Andra Velis Simon. Doug Pawlik is pictured above.


You may be aware that some of the Lost Boys for "Peter Pan Live!" are veterans of the Broadway production of "Newsies." Chicago finally gets to see this popular Disney stage hit on December 10, as it plays our Oriental Theatre for a triumphant four week holiday run (through January 4). With a Tony-winning score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman (adding to their original 1992 film songs), Tony-winning choreography by Christopher Gatelli and a book by Harvey Fierstein ("La Cage Aux Folles," "Hairspray", "Kinky Boots"), this is one that a lot of Mosh Pit peeps have been waiting not-so-patiently for. Dan DeLuca, Steve Blanchard and Stephanie Styles star. They're almost here!

Speaking of Disney, the Paramount Theatre in Aurora opened up their holiday production (through January 4) of "Mary Poppins" on Sunday to some stupendously good reviews. From the sound of it, just about everything is right with BroadwayWorld Chicago Award nominee Rachel Rockwell's production of the Disney-Mackintosh show about the practically perfect nanny who teaches a family how to love itself. Emily Rohm and Matt Crowle star, and Tom Vendafreddo music directs. And have you seen the fantastic production photographs? (Sets by Kevin Depinet and projections by Mike Tutaj) I'm told she flies VERY FAR at the end of the show. So cool.


Speaking of guys with brooms, did I notice before now that "Stomp" is coming to Chicago again? This 1991 UK percussion-dance show, which has been in New York and on tour in the US since 1994, will play the Bank Of America Theatre from January 20-25, 2015. Truly a theatrical success story on par with "Blue Man Group," and just as popular in its way as shows like "Shear Madness" and "Cats," it's not a musical, but it sure is musical.

Tonight is the press opening of another perennial theatrical offering, though it's a recurring one, and not a continuous run. I'm speaking of course of Chicago's own "The Christmas Schooner," by John Reeger and the last Julie Shannon, playing once again at the Mercury Theater Chicago through December 28. The show debuted at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre in 1995 and played annually through 2008. After one year at Munster's Theatre At The Center and a one year hiatus, the show reemerged at the Mercury in 2011, where this year's production is the fourth annual. Need I say more about how much this show means to the audiences who flock to it? It's very Chicago, yes, but we all know that the more specific a show is, the more universal it becomes (remember how much the Japanese love "Fiddler On The Roof?"). Brianna Borger and Stef Tovar anchor the "Schooner" this year, with a cast including James Wilson Sherman, James Rank, Eric Parker, Brian Bohr, Sean Thomas and Kelly Anne Clark.


And there are some special events on the horizon! The Music Theatre Company of Highland Park is reprising some of its "48 hour musicals" (15-minute shows written in two days during an annual writers' showcase), and giving them life their creators never knew they could have. Four such works have been revived and mounted for a run from December 4-14--brief shows by Scotty Arnold, Diana Lawrence, Michael Mahler and J. Oconor Navarro. Along with these, the company will present a world premiere 20-minute work by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan, testing his toe in the showtune waters for the first time. Jess McLeod directs, with music direction by Aaron Benham. The cast of "The 48-Hour Musicals: Encore!" includes folks like Emily Berman, Victoria Blade, Matthew Keffer, Sarah Larson, Patrick Martin, Andrew Mueller and Emily Rogers. Sounds like an interesting evening!


Next Tuesday night, December 9, the Auditorium Theatre Of Roosevelt University will celebrate its 125th anniversary with a gala performance, "Living The History," followed by a dinner at the Palmer House Hilton. Broadway's Patti Lupone will perform throughout the evening, both to mark the role that musicals have played in the Auditorium's history as a major performing arts venue ("Les Miserables," anyone?) and also because her great-grand-aunt, opera star Adelina Patti, performed at the theatre's original opening night, December 9, 1889. Also slated to perform are stars of Lyric Opera's current production of "Porgy And Bess," the Apollo Chorus, the Chicago Symphony Brass, dancers from the Joffrey Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, an all-star rock band, etc., hosted by actor John Mahoney. Porchlight Music Theatre's Michael Weber and Doug Peck are heading up the direction and music direction for the evening, along with an all-star Chicago theatrical design team. I wonder if all 3,875 seats will be filled? Cause it sounds like there's enough to draw folks in!


And mark your calendars for Monday night, January 26, 2015, for a celebration of the life of Sheldon Patinkin at Skokie's North Shore Center For The Performing Arts. The man who for many folks embodied the entire last half-century of Chicago theater passed away on September 21 at the age of 79. From Second City to Steppenwolf to Columbia College, the man known to everyone as "Sheldon" was apparently everywhere, saw everything and knew everyone. His two books hold pride of place on many a shelf, and the students and artists he taught and mentored are legion. Details are still forthcoming, but I'm sure it will be a special night.

Got your shopping done? Got your decorations and food planned out? Got your lines learned and your notes drilled in? I thought so! Well, in between all of that, I'll see you 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...)