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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 15th, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 15th, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

No sooner had I posted last week's Mosh Pit than it became immediately outdated! For, as many media outlets reported last week (including this one), there was a casting change in the tour of the new production of "The Phantom Of The Opera," playing now through March 2, 2014 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. And it's a big one, The Phantom himself. Mark Campbell left the tour "due to personal reasons," and an understudy has been tapped to play the role, for an undisclosed length of time. And the replacement is a friend of the Mosh Pit, and a friend of many Mosh Pit peeps! Cooper Grodin played Billy Bigelow in the August, 2010 production of "Carousel" at Light Opera Works in Evanston, directed by Stacy Flaster. He was also in the cast of "Les Miserables" when the new, now Broadway-bound production, directed (like the new "Phantom") by Laurence Connor, played the Cadillac Palace in 2011. Fast forward a little bit, and he's The Masked One himself. Great job, Cooper! Though we didn't see you on Monday night at Sidetrack with many of your fellow cast-members. Well, you've got another seven weeks to put in a personal appearance!


And the news didn't stop there from Broadway In Chicago. Last week, the Chicago branch of the Nederlander Organization, and the linchpin of the national touring circuit these days, announced that Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" would indeed tour in its successful Broadway incarnation that opened a year ago on the Main Stem. The only tour stop announced so far is at the Cadillac Palace, December 16, 2014 through January 4, 2015. And you thought you didn't know what to get people for Christmas next year....


And so, this is the time of year when Chicago's suburban, Equity musical theater houses open their post-Christmas shows. Quod Erat Demonstrandum, "Cabaret" at the north suburban Marriott Theatre, which begins previews tonight, opens next week and runs through March 16. (Makes you wonder how many more professional productions are licensed out there before the revival of the late 90s Broadway revival begins performances this spring.) Megan Sikora is Sally Bowles, Patrick Sarb is Cliff, and Stephen Schellhardt is the Emcee. Christine Sherrill is Fraulein Kost. David H. Bell directs, with choregraphy by Matt Raftery.


Out west at the Drury Lane Theatre, producers are taking a chance with Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein," in its regional professional premiere, which begins previews tomorrow, opens next week and also runs through March 16. Devin DeSantis stars, with Jeff Dumas, Johanna Mckenzie Miller, Jeff Parker, Travis Turner and Paula Scrofano. It's a talented cast. Can they make the problematic show work? Let's hope so.


Further west and a little bit south, Aurora's Paramount Theatre is producing "42nd Street," playing January 15-February 9 only. The cast is a high-powered one, including several actors who've played their roles before. They've got Larry Adams, Laura Savage, Tyler Hanes, Catherine Lord, Richard Strimer, Dina DiCostanzo, Michael Weber, Nancy Voigts, Roger Mueller and James Rank leading the way. Very cool. And these folks can dance! Rachel Rockwell is directing, and Tammy Mader is choreographing. And it's "42nd Street."

We've got a little bit of time before Munster, Indiana's Theatre At The Center brings us the regional premiere of "Ring Of Fire," the Broadway musical based on the life and music of Johnny Cash that is being "re-imagined" here. But the theater did announce the cast last week for the show, on the boards February 2-March 20. Kent Lewis will star as country music legend Cash (one of those "Million Dollar Quartet" members, you remember), with Cory Goodrich as June Carter and Michael Goodman as the young Cash. Greg Hirte, Malcolm Ruhl, Billy Shaffer and William Underwood make up the band and the remainder of the cast.


Also announced last week was the cast of William Finn's autobiographical musical, "A New Brain," from Chicago's Brown Paper Box Co, beginning performances February 21 and running through March 9 at the Rivendell Theatre space on Ridge Avenue. Jason Richards will star as composer Gordon Schwinn, with one of the winners of last week's BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards, Denise Tamburrino, as Mimi. Also in the cast are Neala Barron, Johnny Kyle Cook, Billy Dawson, Martin J. Hughes, Paul G. Miller, Anna Schultz, Nick Shoda and Jillian Weingart. M. William Panek directs, and Danny Spagnuolo choreographs.


A lot of folks were responsible for Crystal Lakes's Williams Street Repertory taking home certificates in four BroadwayWorld Chicago Award categories last Wednesday (for their fall production of "Sweeney Todd"). And those same folks are also involved in bringing us "She Loves Me," the Bock and Harnick 1963 tuner that originally starred Barbara Cook. The company's home at the Raue Center For The Arts will host the show from February 7-16, starring Deric Gochenauer, Katherine Damisch, Amanda Flahive, Ryan Dooley, Mark Mahallak, Dominic Rescigno and more, directed by Roger Zawacki. Ice cream, anyone?

And if that weren't far enough north, would you believe Milwaukee? It's not all that far, especially if you time it correctly. And that is where the woman many call "The First Lady Of Chicago Musical Theater," Hollis Resnik, is performing as Judy Garland in the play with music, "End Of The Rainbow," at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. A lot of Chicago critics are making the trip to see the show, and, one assumes, Chicago audiences just might make the trip, too. Peter Quilter's play was seen in London and New York, but not yet in Chicago. (Wonder if someone will transfer the show down here!) Resnik came to this production directly from the national tour of "Sister Act," in which she played Mother Superior. And she's got those ten Jeff Awards. So yeah, if you think you will like this, you will like this.


Last week, I promised you more information about Circle Theatre, based for many years in Oak Park and undergoing some growth pains recently. But look what those pains have produced! I already mentioned the world premiere musical, "At The End Of The Road," which plays January 23-26 at the Madison Street Theatre. That same weekend, the company is presenting New Yorkers Eric Stretch, Nikki Snelson and Ben Cameron in a three-day program called "Chicago Musical Theater Intensive And All-Star Cabaret." And, not to be outdone, the company is presenting the musical "Edges" for a run from January 25-March 2 at Chicago Actors Studio, near Elston and Ashland. This show, with the actors Jill Sesso, Molly Kral, Henry McKinniss and Greg Foster, officially kicks off the company's mainstage season. Upcoming Broadway writers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul penned it in 2007, never dreaming that their score for "A Christmas Story" would get them nominated for Tonys six years later. Awesome, you guys!

And so, having all survived the Great Polar Vortex, we turn our attention to....anyone? Anyone? Staying in one piece till spring, and not flying completely apart with the cold, wind and snow! Yes, I'm pretty sure that's it. I'll leave you to it. But I'll also see you under the video screens.....-PWT

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