'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for December 9th, 2015
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS, AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
Overheard last weekend under the showtune video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
Annoucements! Get your announcements here! All hear ye! There are announcements!
There have been several news bits lately that have crossed the news desks and newsfeeds of Mosh Pit peeps. But none has caused a stir more than yesterday's announcement (and press conference) that "Hamilton," the much-ballyhooed musical ensconced (seemingly) "now and foverer" at New York's Richard Rodgers Theatre, will debut its first production outside of New York here in Chicago next September 27, for an open-ended sit-down stay at the Bank Of America Theatre on Monroe Street. Hurray! (The BOAT has been newly-renamed, by the way, and is now the PrivateBank Theatre. It was also the LaSalle Bank Theatre. Why banks? Who knows. Anyway....) There seems to be some consternation on social media as to whether this will be a "tour" or a "Chicago production" of the show that most observers feel is a shoo-in for the 2016 Best Musical Tony. Why this matters so much to them, I don't know. Award eligibility, perhaps? Chance of it playing in their town, maybe? At any rate, this will be an exact replica of the Broadway production, with New York producers and national casting consideration, and it will play here until it doesn't sell enough tickets to play longer. Whether the cast, the set, either or both, move to other cities in the future remains to be seen. Odds are that it will play here for a very long time, and that you will see it! And break a leg at your audition....
Also this week came word (and also from Broadway In Chicago) that Joliet native Anthony Rapp ("Rent") would be reprising his Broadway original-cast performance as best friend Lucas in "If/Then" when the Tom Kitt-Brian Yorkey musical tours through Chicago's Oriental Theatre from February 23-March 6, 2016. Starring as Elizabeth, the role written for Idina Menzel at the height of her fame, will be a frequent Menzel follower, the popular Jackie Burns. Matthew Hydzik, known to Chicago audiences as Mr. Snow is last spring's Lyric Opera Of Chicago production of "Carousel," will be love interest Josh, and Tamyra Gray will play neighbor Kate. This all seems just fine to me.
Last week's big announcement was a sad one, but no less earth-shattering than the imminent arrival of "Hamilton." William Pullinsi, who really is a legend, announced his retirement as artistic director of Theatre At The Center in Munster, Indiana, though he will occasionally direct there and elsewhere. Linda Fortunato, a familiar staging presence there and elsewhere, has been named his successor. Pullinsi is a hard act to follow, though. You see, he invented the dinner theater concept for American audiences in 1959 in Washington, DC, and moved to Chicago in 1961, setting up Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in suburban Summit and operating it until its abrupt closure in 1997. At the Candlelight he produced and directed many first regional productions of Broadway hits, and his productions won awards and set box office records with extended runs of titles from "Fiddler On The Roof' to "Man Of La Mancha" to "Follies" to the Maury Yeston "Phantom." In this century, Pullinsi's operation in Munster has been on a somewhat reduced scale, but has emphasized new works and regional premieres of titles that cater to the somewhat different Northwest Indiana audience base. Through it all, he has nurtured new artists, held to a standard of quality that few could reach (let alone maintain for over fifty years), and he has educated audiences with shows that only he knew they would like. Now, let's wish both Pullinsi and Fortunato well, and fill up those seats!
Three theaters in our area will host newly-announced offerings in the coming months. Porchlight Music Theatre announced the cast of the Chicago premiere of "Far From Heaven" yesterday, to be directed by Rob Lindley and play February 5-March 13 at Stage 773. Summer Naomi Smart, Brandon Springman and Evan Tyrone Martin will play the pivotal lead characters of this period piece regarding sexual and racial awakenings, with music direction by Chuck Larkin and choreography by William Carlos Angulo. Smart will step into the role created for the stage by Kelli O'Hara and based on Julianne Moore's work in the non-musical film of the same name.
Kokandy Productions is currently having artistic success with "A Kokandy Christmas," playing though December 23 at Theater Wit. ("For we need Kokandy Christmas, right this very minute" and "Lord, it's like a ... Kokandy Christmas" do come to mind, don't they?) And in February, the company will present the Chicago premiere of "Heathers," last season's off-Broadway sensation based on the 1988 film. Written by the writers of "Reefer Madness" and "Bat Boy," it will be directed by Allison Hendrix, with music direction by Kory Danielson and choreography by Sawyer Smith. Come see it February 28-April 24 at Theater Wit...but who will be in it? No word on casting yet.
Speaking of what's a tour and what isn't, the current Broadway production of "Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games," starring Chicago native and "Riverdance" star Michael Flatley, will come to the Chicago Theatre on March 2, 2016 and leave by the next day, being in Michigan on the 1st and Missouri on the 3rd. I guess Flatley travels light! This is being billed as his retirement from performing.
Currently in town you can see a new music theater work, written especially for us, that is ripped from today's headlines, though it was commissioned five years ago. Lyric Opera Of Chicago unveiled the new opera "Bel Canto" this week, and I am told it is a compelling work of lyric theater, stageworthy and musically complex. And in January (it runs through January 17) it will be filmed for PBS' "Great Performances" series. Danielle de Niese (pictured at center, above) stars as an operatic diva who is one of those held hostage in Lima, Peru, in an incident lifted from a real-life hostage crisis, fictionalized by novelist Ann Patchett. Playwright Nilo Cruz and composer Jimmy Lopez's new work, staged by Kevin Newbury and conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, is capturing worldwide attention in the opera community. If you aren't caught up on labels ("What's an opera?"), it sounds like you should check this one out. And look at these amazing production photos!
On the heels of the great success of last Thursday night's "The Wiz Live" on NBC (widely praised and only slightly maligned, unlike last year's "Peter Pan Live"), folks should be gearing up for the next live musical to come across their screens. But I'm not talking about "Grease: Live," the show on FOX at the end of January which will star Aaron Tveit and Julianne Hough as Danny and Sandy. No, I'm talking about the live stream of the current off-Broadway musical, "Daddy Long Legs," starring Megan McGinnis, which will take place on Thursday night, December 10th, at 7:00 pm Central. "Daddy Long Legs, by Paul Gordon (who wrote the McGinnis-starring "Sense And Sensibility" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater) played Skokie's Northlight Theatre in 2010, also starring McGinnis. And you can witness the two-hander tuner as it happens, however you stream, this Thursday. Ok then!
On Sunday night, December 13, you can attend (in person) "Option Up!" at Stage 773. This semi-regular cabaret evening of musical theater fun and happenings is hosted by Christopher Pazdernik and Aaron Benham and this month will feature two short musicals written by students of composer Leo Schartz ("The Book Of Merman"). Yesterday, we learned that one of them is "Blood: The Musical," by Nick Sula and Chad Wilson. What's the other one, you guys? And who will perform, and what else will they perform? Aargh, the anticipation!
And I'm sure you have voted for the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards for 2015, haven't you? There are only three weeks left to vote, as the online polls close as the New Year strikes. We have a couple of tight races going, but I can tell you that it's not too late for any race to suddenly turn around. It's happened before! So get your friends to support your favorite candidates (36 awards means 180 nominees, so you got to like somebody!). And I hope I'll see you at the Awards Celebration at The Call on Sunday night, January 10, 2016. We're gonna have a blast!
I assume you're seeing all the amazing holiday musical theater going on, right? All these local favorites, all these tours, all this controlled mayhem! Maybe I'll see you at a show this month. Or maybe I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT
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