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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 14th, 2015

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by Paul W. Thompson

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

The 5th annual BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards Celebration was a blast! A crowd of hearty Chicago theater professionals, semi-professionals and fans gathered at The Call Bar in Andersonville from 8 to midnight last Wednesday, January 7, 2015, in zero degree weather, for the announcements of the winners of the 2014 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards. Nominees who were there wore their yellow ribbons with pride, and winners got to make speeches thanking their castmates, theater companies, subscribers, supporters and all. Yours truly did the congratulatory honors, along with The Call's drag hostess, Ashley Morgan, in stunning midnight purple.

Mercury Theater Chicago's summer production of "Avenue Q" took home five of the award certificates, as did the Big Noise Theatre Company of Des Plaines' fall production of "Ragtime." The Marriott Theatre's recently shuttered "The King And I" took two honors, as did the national tour of "Motown," which played the Oriental Theatre in the Loop. In terms of musicals, representatives of eleven different productions took home a single award: "Ain't Misbehavin'" (Porchlight Music Theatre), "Amazing Grace" (Bank Of America Theatre), "Brigadoon" (Goodman Theatre), "Cabaret" (BrightSide Theatre), "Coraline" (Black Button Eyes Productions), "Crazy For You" (Fremont Street Theater Company), "Seussical" (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), "The Sound Of Music" (Lyric Opera Of Chicago), "Sweeney Todd" (Porchlight Music Theatre), "Titanic" (Griffin Theatre Company) and "The Wild Party" (Bailiwick Chicago).

Among non-musicals, "All Our Tragic" from The Hyprocrites was the big winner with four awards, and TimeLine Theatre Company's "The Normal Heart" won two. And the legendary Mike Nussbaum won as Best Actor in a Play (Resident Equity) for his role in the Goodman Theatre's "Smokefall." We congratulate all the winners and nominees, and thank you all for coming!


So what's going on right now? Pop culture musicals, that's what! The tour of "50 Shades! The Musical Parody" is playing the Broadway Playhouse this week (January 13-18). It used to be called "50 Shades! The Musical!," but seems to have added the word "Parody" to its title since playing the same venue in the fall of 2013. Even though is it now an off-Broadway show, the roots of this production are with the Chicago musical improv group "Baby Wants Candy." And yes, it's a send-up of the popular book and soon-to-be motion picture. And no, it's not authorized, but yes, it's legal. If you know all about "50 Shades Of Grey," you should get tickets immediately. If you don't, you're living under a rock, and probably not because of any sort of bondage.


The highly-anticipated Chicago premiere of "Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play" begins performances at Theater Wit tomorrow. Though it has the word "play" in the title (it's by Anne Washburn), this one just might be a musical (music by Michael Friedman). Theater Wit's production is directed by Jeremy Wechsler, with musical direction by Andra Velis Simon and choreography by Brigitte Ditmars. Running through March 1, 2015, the cast includes Kelley Abell, Daniel Desmarais, Hannah Gomez, Christina Hall, Andrew Jessop, Leslie Ann Sheppard, Jeff Trainor and Leah Urzendowski. Pop culture much? This one (and the one mentioned above) are probably for you.


Pop culture of our time meets Broadway of two generations ago (or three) in "The Book Of Merman," the new musical by Leo Schwartz that mashes up the Tony-winning riff on the Mormon church with the Queen of Broadway's Golden Age. Oh, with a gay sensibility, natch. Pride Films And Plays presents the show at Mary's Attic in Andersonville starting tomorrow, and running through February 15. David Zak directs, with music direction by Robert Ollis. Libby Lane stars as full-throated star Ethel Merman, with Sam Button-Harrison and Dan Gold as the Mormon missionaries.


If you like obscure Broadway show tunes as your slice of pop culture (and what Mosh Pit peep doesn't?), then Davenport's has a cabaret for you. Opening this past Monday was Christopher Pazdernik's latest songfest, this one called "I Don't Remember You." But don't worry! There are two performances left this month, on Wednesday the 21st and Monday the 26th. The singer-actors performing are Missy Aguilar, Elizabeth Lanza, Nate Lewellyn and Travis Taylor, joined by musical director Michael Kaish. That's a lot of talent.


Pazdernik's next project will be directing a staged concert of the Tony-winning Best Musical "City Of Angels," as part of the "Porchlight Revisits..." series. Joined by musical director Aaron Benham, Pazdernik will lead Brandon Dahlquist and Matt Edmonds as Stone and Stine, with Brian Zane, Nathan Mittleman, Molly Kral, Anthony Apodaca, Allison Sill, Jennifer Grubb and Kim Green, with the "Angel City 4" quartet of Emily Goldberg, Andrew Lund, Andrew Sickel and Stephanie Souza. The Porchlight Music Theatre production will take place at Stage 773 on March 3 and 4 only.


The Bohemian Theatre Ensemble will present the Chicago premiere of Adam Gwon's off-Broadway musical "Ordinary Days" at the Heartland Studio Theatre, February 12-March 15. Jason A. Fleece will direct Demetrius Spidle, Courtney Jones, Nick Graffagna and Hannah Dawe in this show about young folks in New York, with musical direction by Ilana Atkins.


Five days later, performances begin on the latest Broadway musical to try out here in the Windy City. "First Wives Club" will play the Oriental Theatre February 17-March 29, based on the hit 1996 film. Linda Bloodworth-Thomason ("Designing Women") is writing the book, with old and new songs by Motown legends Holland-Dozier-Holland. Simon Phillips directs Faith Prince, Carmen Cusack and Christine Sherrill, starring opposite Gregg Edelman ("City Of Angels"), Sean Cullen, Mike McGowan and a full ensemble. Rupert Holmes had taken an earlier crack at the material. Will it be the next "Kinky Boots," or the next "The Pirate Queen?"


During that time, the Broadway Playhouse will be the site of "an immersive, concert event showcasing the works of beloved Chicago native John Hughes." The late filmmaker will be celebrated by "For The Record: Dear John Hughes" from March 5-15. "For The Record" is a series of stage works in Los Angeles that have honored various filmmakers since 2009. This particular version of this particular edition will star Patrick Mulvey, Jackie Seiden, Rumer Willis, Ruby Lewis, Joanna Jones, James Byous, Payson Lewis and Ciaran McCarthy. If you were young in the 1980s, this one's for you.


If you're a fan of Stephen Sondheim (and who isn't these days?), you'll be glad to know that our summertime Grant Park Music Festival will be presenting "A Sondheim Celebration" for two performances at the Pritzker Pavillion, July 10-11. The legendary Paul Gemigniani, who conducted the soundtrack for a little movie that's out now called "Into The Woods" will conduct the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus and soloists yet to be named in repertoire from all your favorites Sondheim shows. He's turning 85, y'all! So that's cool.


And speaking of movies, there's a fun cameo that you might not be aware of. The movie's been out for almost four weeks, so I can't contain this news any longer, especially from showtune folks who might otherwise not seen the film. During the course of "Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb," the cast heads to a stage performance of the musical "Camelot!" And who is playing King Arthur but none other than Hugh Jackman. It's the opening scene with Guenevere (Alice Eve) and the tree. And it gets interrupted. It's very funny, and folks who love Broadway should see it! So there you have it.


So is the deep freeze over? I think so. I think. Anyway, I hope you're having fun! And staying warm. Hopefully I'll see you soon, and under the video screens.....-PWT

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From This Author Paul W. Thompson

Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com since 2007, is a Chicago-based singer, actor, musical director, pianist, vocal coach, composer and commentator. His career as (read more...)