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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 28th, 2015

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THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS, AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY

by Paul W. Thompson

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

Is it just me, or are musical television shows all the rage now? After the "High School Musical" franchise begat "Glee" (I guess it really wasn't "Cop Rock," was it?), the trend in turn went sort of viral. For instance, "Nashville," the drama series about the country music industry featuring a lot of songs and the way that they are made, has gradually upped the showtune quotient in its third season on ABC. Broadway stars Will Chase and Laura Benanti will soon by joined by Kyle Dean Massey in the cast of the show. We approve!

ABCs-NASHVILLE-Enlists-Another-Broadway-Favorite

This past Sunday night saw the finale of this month's eight-hour television series "Galavant," also on ABC. No, the show wasn't canceled. In fact, its rating and buzz have been so positive that hopes are high for a second installment, either another mini-season or a more full one. And the cliffhanger nature of the show's finale lends credence to that hopefulness, too. Can the medieval kings and queens populating the show keep finding reasons to burst into song? Can Alan Menken and Glenn Slater keep up the pace needed to write three or four musical theater numbers for each new episode? Was this whole show dreamed up in order for Menken to get an Emmy and complete his EGOT? Ah, stayed tuned to news on the future of this "Spamalot"-flavored television treat.

GALAVANT-Gets-His-Big-Moment-But-No-Happily-Ever-After-Yet

And a second musical television show premiered this month, this one on FOX. And it's filmed in Chicago! "Empire" is set in the world of a hip-hop music company, and stars Terrence Howard as a mogul with a secret. Ten days after the series debuted, it was renewed for a second season. Guest and recurring stars like Naomi Campbell, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Macy Gray and Courtney Love are combining their wattage to make this show a hot commodity and provide work for Chicago's churning television industry. Yay!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_(2015_TV_series)

And what of "Glee" star Lea Michele and creator Ryan Murphy? Well, he has created a show called "Scream Queens" starring her, and including among recurring cast members both Ariana Grande and Nick Jonas. It is unknown if music will feature prominently in the fall-slated show, but these days, who knows? There is music working its way into stories on the small screen all the time these days. And we are NOT complaining.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scream_Queens_(2015_TV_series)

On the homefront, and a little more live, will be the interesting attempt to shed some light on an important but virtually unknown 1947 musical, "Allegro." A show by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, set in Chicago, their third Broadway collaboration saw the two innovators specifically trying to be even more innovative. Joining them in their quest was the choreographer Agnes de Mille, directing for the first time, and a young production assistant named Stephen Sondheim. This Saturday night, January 31, Highland Park's The Music Theatre Company will present "Oscar & Richard & Joe: An Evening About Rodgers & Hammerstein's 'Allegro'." The production will take place in Bennett-Gordon Hall at Highland Park's Ravinia Festival. Written by Scotty Arnold, directed by Jessica Redish and Jess McLeod and music directed by Diana Lawrence, the evening will include scenes and songs from the show as well as background information on its development process. Kevin Gudahl and Michael Weber will portray Hammerstein and Rodgers, respectively, and Matthew Keffer will be Joe, the lead character in "Allegro." Other performers taking part include Kate Loprest, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Alex Weisman, Kelli Harrington, James Rank, Michael Ferraro, Sarah Larson, Chris Logan, Patrick Martin, Haley Jane Schafer and Sean Thomas. That's a powerhouse company! I suggest you attend this. No, really.

The-Music-Theatre-Company-to-Bring-OSCAR-RICHARD-JOE-to-Ravinia-Festival

Two nights later, on Monday, February 2, there will be a benefit reunion performance of the award-winning 2012 Circle Theatre production of "Reefer Madness." Winner of four BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards and successful at the Jeffs as well, the show was directed by the late Matthew Gunnels. His death from cancer this past fall became the impetus to revisit his production. The "Reefer Madness REHASH" will take place at Stage 773, and will feature Bobby Arnold, Julia Beck, Liz Bollar, Tommy Bullington, Landree Fleming, Jason Grimm, Melody Latham, Elissa Newcorn, Josh Peterson, Gina Sparacino, Ryan Stajmiger, Neil Stratman, and Stephanie Wohar, along with the original band members David Orlicz, Brent Moore, Bob Potsic and Lindsay Williams. Choreographer Brigitte Ditmars will recreate Gunnels' direction, with musical direction by Jon Landvick.

http://www.circletheatrechicago.org/performancesevents.html

Unless it extends, you only have four more chances to see the show that many are saying is the first hit show to come out of the new facility for the Annoyance Theatre on Belmont Avenue, between the L station and Clark Street. It only plays on Wednesday nights, too. And no, it's not the Dolphin Show--that's at Northwestern University. It's "Penny, the F*ckable Dolphin: A Love Story," a "dark musical comedy" about a dolphin named Penny and a human teenager named Zack. Written by Kristina Felske, directed by Megan Johns and musical directed by Tim Joyce, the show with a cast of fourteen has gotten attention for its title, its subject matter and for some legal haranguing regarding the source of its inspiration. Fair enough. I can see that!

penny-the-fckable-dolphin

A show which has announced its extension is the new production of "West Side Story" at the Drury Lane Theatre. It's now through March 29. And check out these reviews!

http://drurylane.com/live-theatre/reviews/

Beginning previews tonight is the local premiere of a show that had its world premiere here in December of 2009. "The Addams Family" underwent some changes after departing our shores, and then went on to a somewhat respectable year and a half run on Broadway, with a cast led by Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuwirth, Terrence Mann, Carolee Carmello, Kevin Chamberlin, Krysta Rodriguez, Wesley Taylor and Jackie Hoffman. The Mercury Theater Chicago (which gained some experience with extensions when "Avenue Q" took off so spectacularly last year) will officially open its production on February 4, scheduled to close April 5, 2015. Appearing in the lead roles will be Karl Hamilton and Rebecca Prescott, with Harter Clingman, Dara Cameron, Brennan Dougherty, Jeff Diebold, Amanda Hartley, Cory Goodrich, Jason Grimm and Henry McGinniss, under L. Walter Stearns' direction, Brenda Didier's choreographic creativity and the musical direction of Eugene Dizon. Hey, didn't all three of them just win BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards?

Mercury-Theater-Chicagos-THE-ADDAMS-FAMILY-Begins

Opening in April will be the world premiere to mark the tenth anniversary of the Chicago Children's Theatre, and it's by two top creative talents. Director-choreographer Rachel Rockwell and composer-musical director Michael Mahler have teamed up to write "Wonderland: Alice's Rock & Roll Adventure," to play at the Ruth Page Center For The Arts. Ariana Burks and Isabelle Roberts will alternate in the title role, supported by a cast including Molly Callinan, Lillian Castillo, Matt Deitchman, Jed Feder, Regina Leslie, Jake Mahler, Adam Michaels, Andrew Mueller and Matthew Yee. This cast can rock it OUT.

Chicago-Childrens-Theatre-WONDERLAND-ALICES-ROCK-ROLL-ADVENTURE

And from now until then, we can celebrate the return of "Option Up!" Christopher Pazdernik and Aaron Benham's second Sunday cavalcade of Chicago showtunes will once again play Stage 773, in The Cab on February 8, March 8, April 12 and May 10. Mosh peeps, represent! Or at least attend....

Option Up!'s first night back

Lastly, apparently inspired by the success of "Into The Woods," and perhaps even buoyed by the apparent financial success of the "Annie" remake, Walt Disney's company has announced a film version of the Broadway musical "Beauty And The Beast." Folks are calling it a "live remake" of the original cartoon feature film, which I get, but I'd rather think of it the other way around (humor me, won't you?). The unusual bit is the star who's lined up to play Belle. It's Emma Watson, Harry Potter's friend Hermione from the eight films of that franchise. All grown up now, Watson looks right, but can she sing it? I guess we will find out! And how about that Beast? And will Angela Lansbury play Mrs. Potts? I mean, really. This is the question that most needs answering!

Emma-Watson-Cast-as-Belle-in-Disneys-Upcoming-Live-Action-BEAUTY-AND-THE-BEAST

So there's that. And all that other stuff! Always something going on around the Mosh Pit. Glad to see you out and about in this interesting winter, and of course, I love to see you 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...)