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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for February 26th, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

The biggest opening last week in Chicagoland was the retooled bio-revue "Ring Of Fire," the Broadway musical telling the life and songs of Johnny Cash that didn't fare so well on the main stem in 2006. But the Theatre At The Center in Munster, home to many of the down-home-themed musicals that do better in our area than many would believe ("Pump Boys And Dinettes," "Lost Highway," "Always...Patsy Cline," the upcoming "The Beverly Hillibillies," etc.) has it now. And they have Jeff and BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Cory Goodrich as June Carter, alongside Kent Lewis as Cash, the "Million Dollar Quartet" Man in Black himself. Michael Goodman plays Young Johnny, and Greg Hirte, Malcolm Ruhl, Billy Shaffer and William Underwood round out the cast as instrumentalists, etc. The show runs through March 30 and includes 35 songs. Not a bad sampling, I'm sure.


Chicago's Sondheim fest shifts toward high hopes for "Road Show" in the coming weeks, as the off-Broadway musical known as "Bounce" during its Goodman Theatre incarnation in 2003 is now readying for a run of March 13-May 4 Upstairs at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Directed by Gary Griffin and musical directed by Michael Mahler, himself a veteran of several shows where he played instruments onstage, that technique is reportedly being employed here too. No wonder! With the likes of Matt Deitchman, Jim DeSelm and Derek Hasenstab in the cast, supporting Michael Aaron Lindner and Andrew Rothenberg as Addison and Wilson Mizner, this production is garnering national attention. Get your tickets now.


Of course, "Road Show" joins "Gypsy" (lyrics by Sondheim) in rep at Chicago Shakes, the Jule Styne tuner running now through March 23 there (it's in the main Courtyard Theater). Starring the less-than-obvious-choice as leading lady, Louise Pitre, the production has garnered mostly rave reviews. Griffin's direction reportedly owes very little to Arthur Laurents' well-known stagings of his script, while fleshing out Laurents' (and Gypsy Rose Lee's) characters and world in exciting ways. Jessica Rush's Louise, Barbara Robertson's Tessie Tura and Rick Fox's musical direction have gained notice as well. Of course, you've seen "Gypsy," haven't you? Haven't you?

Speaking of Sondheim musicals (we have "Into The Woods" going now through March 30 at the Mercury Theater Chicago, courtesy of The Hypcrites, and "Passion" coming March 7-April 27 at the No Exit Café, courtesy of Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre), when is the last time a professional Chicago theater company produced, well, "Company"? I can't even remember a single production! Am I wrong? Or is this show just so New York-centered that it isn't done in other cities? I find that extremely hard to believe. Would someone please program "Company," please? Please?

You could knock several Mosh Pit peeps over with a feather when we heard that the touring production of our city's namesake show, "Chicago," now playing for this week only at the Bank Of America Theatre, not only has a pretty top-notch cast, but is getting pretty great reviews. Not bad for a staging first seen in the mid-1990s and continually since then! Bianca Marroquin (as Roxie Hart) is a Mexican-born actress that I saw in this role in New York, and Ron Orbach as Amos, John O'Hurley as Billy Flynn and Carol Woods as Mama Morton have logged who knows how many performances of their roles. If you haven't seen this essential production by now, you aren't a true reader of this column!

You may know that Kander and Ebb's other phenomenally successful musical (both more successful in revival than during their original New York runs) is "Cabaret," which is still playing in a staging by David H. Bell through March 16 at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. You may also know that the "Chicago" that's here represents the longest running American musical production in Broadway history. Is it just coincidence (I think it is) that the longest-running title of all Broadway history, Britain's "The Phantom Of The Opera," is here through this Sunday (only), giving Broadway In Chicago a pretty unbeatable double knockout punch of well-known titles at its box offices? ("Phantom" is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, in a production that's different from the one still at New York's Majestic Theatre.) Come to think of it, this week boasts a phenomenal collection of well-known musical theater titles in professional production in Chicago. We've got the afore-mentioned "Gypsy," "Into The Woods" and "Chicago," the Tony-winning "Cabaret" and "The Phantom Of The Opera," plus the Tony-winning "Ain't Misbehavin'" (from Porchlight Music Theatre, playing at Stage 773 through March 9). That's a lot of very well-known titles. Chicagoland audiences for the win!

But of course, we do have our share of lesser-known titles, too. We cover the waterfront, we do. Lost Note Theater Company has announced the cast for its concert production of the 1961 title "Carnival," to play three performances between March 22 and 29 at Strawdog Theatre Company on our Broadway, just south of Irving Park Road. The Bob Merrill musical will will feature Jeffrey Gitelle, Rachel Klippel, Paul G. Miller, Amanda Newman, Annie Passanisi, Brian Rooney and Ed Rutherford, under the direction of Stephen Murray (music direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster). Amanda Newman will choreograph. Puppetry and magic will ensue!


Duke Ellington's "Queenie Pie," in a rare staging by Chicago Opera Theater, had to reschedule its remaining performances when an electrical fire occurred earlier this month at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park. The performances originally scheduled for February 21, 23 and March 5 have been rescheduled for March 20, 23 and 19, respectively. The theater, located underneath and behind the Pritzker Pavillion, will remain closed for repairs through March 6.


It's not a musical, but it's a well-known play about music, with a lot of music in it. It's "Amadeus," Peter Shaffer's 1980 dramatization of the relationship between Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his sometime rival Antonio Salieri in 18th century Vienna. Chicago's Bohemian Theatre Ensemble is presenting the show now through March 16 at Stage 773, directed by artistic director Peter Marston Sullivan. Steve O'Connell stars as Salieri, opposite Chris Ballou as Mozart, with Scott Danielson, Patrick Byrnes, Kaitlin Henderson, Sasha Kraichnan, Jeff Kurysz, Amanda Jane Long, Rus Rainear, Russell Alan Rowe, Chelsea Taylor, Sean Thomas, and David Tibble.


This being Chicago, we have new shows too! "Period Piece," a new, "dark musical-comedy that explores the historical shame of menstruation" began its run of six Friday nights last week, running through March 28 at the Playground Theater on Halsted Street at Belmont. Written by Lisa Linke and Jenni Lamb, with original music by BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Amanda Murphy, the cast includes Erin Austin, Ashley England, Julie Marchiano, Heather Markey, Andi Sharavsky, Tiffani Swalley and Lindy Voeltner. Andy Eninger directs the show, rooted in the Chicago comedy and improve scene, with choreography by Erica Reid and music direction by Amanda Murphy.


And a new show will premiere at Skokie's Northlight Theatre well over a year from now, from May 8-June 14, 2015 (can you believe it?). It's called "Shining Lives," with book and lyrics by Jessica Thebus and music by Andre Pluess and Amanda Dehnart. Developed through Northlight and based on a play Northlight commissioned called, "These Shining Lives," it's about the real-life, little-remembered Radium Dial Company, a Chicago manufacturer of watch dials containing radium. The women who worked there will tell us their tale. Can't wait!

So that's it for this week. A little old, a little borrowed, a little new. Nothing blue, I don't think. I hope you're doing well, and that you're planning to be out and about as much as you're able. We've got too much going on to sit at home! Better to be in a nice, warm theater, surrounded by an awesome musical. Sounds good! See you there, and 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...)

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