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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 2nd, 2013

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 2nd, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Happy New Year, Mosh Pit Peeps! And you know what that means? It's time once again for the twice yearly Showtune Mosh Pit "Top Ten Hot Topix!" It's been six months since our last countdown, from the heat of summer to the depths of a cold (but not yet snowbound) Chicago winter. We've touched on 170 different topics since Independence Day, and here are the ten most popular!

But first, a first! I've never done an Honorable Mention before. But it seemed like there were five topics, all local productions, which deserved to be brought up one last time. They are (in alphabetical order): "A Class Act" from Porchlight Music Theatre, "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" from Bailiwick Chicago, "42nd Street" from Theatre At The Center, "Singin' In The Rain" from Drury Lane Theatre and "Smokey Joe's Café" from Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Congratulations to them! Whew!

And now, to the Top Ten countdown!

10. "Les Miserables." The end of 2012 was a bombardment of riches from the 1985 London production of Claude-Michel Schonberg's and Alain Boublil's French musical about Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Eponine, Enjolras, Gavroche and the Thenardiers. (Did I leave anyone out?) The "25th Anniversary Production" of the stage show visited us via Broadway In Chicago for the last two weeks of November, and blew us away with a fresh vision of theatricality for the now beloved score and emotion-laden plot. And on Christmas Day, the Hollywood film version of the show opened to great attention and opinion-making on all fronts, with the various qualities of Tom Hooper's film and the singer-actors he cast in it (Tony winner Hugh Jackman and Oscar winner Russell Crowe chief among them) free fodder for late night conversation and all day social media discussions. Whatever your opinions, ignoring the Barricade was hard to accomplish.

Broadway In Chicago's National Tour Presentation

Official Film Website

9. The Music Box Theatre. We do love our Music Box! The vintage movie theater on Southport Avenue seems to love us back, too. Within the last few months, the theater has offered sing-along versions of "The Sound Of Music" and "Xanadu," plus its annual Christmas Show presented "White Christmas" and "It's A Wonderful Life." One could also catch the new independent film "Scrooge And Marley" there, which was filmed entirely in Chicago and featured original songs by the Annoyance Theatre's Lisa McQueen. "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Phantom Of The Paradise" are coming up there soon. OK, those are not family favorites or 3D extravaganzas. But be patient. There's more to come, I'm sure!

8. "I Love Lucy Live On Stage" at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. This independent commercial production, a hit in Los Angeles, set up shop in Chicago at Broadway In Chicago's Magnificent Mile outlet in September, took a break for the holidays (to make way for the play "Potted Potter") and is now back ("Potter" having moved--theatrical real estate is tricky!) and is playing through March 3, 2013. The two original Los Angeles leads came here, and Sirena Irwin is leaving with a BroadwayWorld Chicago Award for her portrayal of Lucy Ricardo in two original scripts from the beloved 1950s television show. There's music with the commercial breaks and the studio audience interaction, and of course, Ricky Ricardo was a bandleader. You got the idea!

7. "Kinky Boots" at the Bank Of America Theatre. Chicago was the center of the Broadway universe for the month of October, when what is destined to be one of the biggest Broadway musicals of 2013 had its world premiere (aka "pre-Broadway tryout") at the BOAT on Monroe Street. And Chicagoans loved it! Even while we saw room for improvement, we loved this show about a young Brit inheriting his father's shoe factory, and forming an unexpected alliance with a drag performer to save both the factory and the drag performer's ankles. Cyndi Lauper's songs and Harvey Fierstein's book, under Jerry Mitchell's direction, sparkled and delivered. Both the show and actor Billy Porter were honored with BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards. New York, watch out! Broadway previews begin March 3rd.

6. "Sunday In The Park With George" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. Does lightning strike twice? Gary Griffin and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater should think so, and rightly so. For their production of Stephen Sondheim's and James Goldman's "Follies" was the top local Equity musical of 2011, as voted on by you, the readers of BroadwayWorld Chicago, and their production of "Sunday," by Sondheim and James Lapine, was so honored in 2012. Leading man Jason Danieley won the Broadie Award as well. The show extended by a week, and tickets were as scarce as an original Seurat painting. Never fear. We've got the original right here. And next up for Griffin? "Oklahoma!" at Lyric Opera Of Chicago in late spring. We're watching for sure.

SITPWG at Chicago Shakes

5. "The Book Of Mormon" at the Bank Of America Theatre. The highest ranking single theater production among our Top Ten Hot Topix is the Second National Tour of the 2011 Tony Award winner for Best Musical (plus eight other Tonys). But have no fear! The "South Park" and "Avenue Q" hybrid, with a little "Spamalot," "The King And I" and "The Lion King" thrown in for good measure, will be here for a long time (first it was three months, then six, now reportedly nine, and who really knows?). Ben Platt (from the movie "Pitch Perfect"), Nic Rouleau (from TBOM's Broadway company), Syesha Mercardo ("American Idol") and James Vincent Meredith (a Steppenwolf Theatre Company ensemble member) star in this hilarious and meaningful look at religion in American life and world culture, and we can't get enough of it. The T-BOMb has landed!

The Book Of Mormon

4. Dueling "Assassins." This fall, at the height of the presidential election, Chicago saw two very different productions of Sondheim's and John Weidman's "Assassins," the off-Broadway musical that was delayed from reaching Broadway for fourteen years by the onset of the first Gulf War. The first was a non-Equity staging by the independent producer Billy Pacholski that played at the Viaduct Theater on Western Avenue, and the second was a one-night, concert version full of Equity performers, directed by Nick Bowling, music-directed by Doug Peck and presented by the Chicago Humanities Festival. That's a plethora of riches, right there. What's more, they overlapped, but didn't conflict. And they shared firearms. Multiple productions of the same theatrical title within a short time is a hallmark of Chicago's musical theater community, but two dis-similar professional versions of a somewhat rarified property in the same week? Nowhere else, folks, but sweet home Chicago.

Assassins at the Viaduct Theater

Assassins at the Chicago Humanities Festival

3. Seven Different Versions of "A Christmas Carol." Yes, it's true. During December of 2012, one could attend not one, not two, not three, but six different musical stage versions of Charles Dickens' immortal "A Christmas Carol," plus the film "Scrooge And Marley," the contemporary indie film discussed above. The six stage shows (there were others, which didn't include music) were at the Goodman Theatre, Steel Beam Theatre, Drury Lane Theatre, Metropolis Performing Arts Center, Piccolo Theatre and the Raven Theatre (that last one was the incredible "A Klingon Christmas Carol"). Oh, and "Welcome Yule!" at Symphony Center featured actor Ross Lehman as Ebenezer Scrooge during the second act, singing a big solo and taking charge of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert in not very nice ways, until Santa Claus appeared and induced Scrooge's famous transformation. That's a lot of musicalized Dickens! (Not to mention Light Opera Works' production of "Oliver!") So yeah.

The "Holiday Plays" listing from Theatre In Chicago

2. Outdoor Summer Concerts By Showtune Stars. Chicago loves its summers. We go outdoors, and pretty much stay there. And in about six weeks during July and August, we could and did go to hear Idina Menzel, Barbara Cook and Patti LuPone at the Ravinia Festival, Jason Danieley and friends in the "Perfectly Frank" Loesser concert at the Pritzker Pavillion, Jennifer Hudson at the Taste Of Chicago, and Olivia Newton-John and Levi Kreis at Northalsted Market Days in Lakeview. The peak of the madness was probably on August 6, when Broadway In Chicago presented its 2012-13 season preview concert at Pritzker, headlined by Cyndi Lauper performing "Sex Is In The Heel" from "Kinky Boots." I'm telling you, we did go. Bring it ON!

Broadway In Chicago's Summer Concert

1. The Fall Awards Season. In mid-October, the Equity Wing of the Joseph Jefferson Awards were presented, and two weeks later, online voting for the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards began. We love our awards in the Mosh Pit, and this fall was no exception. "Follies" from Chicago Shakes was the big musical winner at the Jeffs this year, as it had been at the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards one year ago. And while "Sunday In The Park With George" did win the Broadie for resident Equity musical revival (when our awards were announced on December 20th), it wasn't the biggest winner overall. That honor went to the non-Equity Circle Theatre's production of "Reefer Madness," with four awards in all, followed by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "The Light In The Piazza," with three wins in the non-Equity categories. The same non-musical was the big winner in both awards this fall, however--"The Iceman Cometh" at the Goodman Theatre.

The Joseph Jefferson Awards

The BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards

And now you know the Top Ten Hot Topix for the last half of 2012! And you see why the Third Annual BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards Celebration, one week from today, will be so awesome! We'll be honoring "Kinky Boots," "Sunday," "I Love Lucy," "Reefer Madness," "Piazza," "Smokey Joe's Café," the Chicago Shakes "Beauty And The Beast," the Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co. "Superior Donuts," Drury Lane's "Hairspray" and so much more. 17 productions produced award winners, out of the 81 productions nominated. We'll be handing out 30 certificates in all, and YOU are invited to join in the fun! Come to The Call nightclub, at 1547 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue in Chicago, on Wednesday, January 9, 2013. We'll be there from 9:00 pm till midnight, and a lot of cast parties, showtune videos, themed drink specials and more (21 and older, please) will be going on. I hope to see you there. It's free. And it's their regular showtune video night! Talk about networking....

Next Wednesday, the Mosh Pit will be back with our regular format of news and buzz about the things you care most about. And that night, we'll have a blast at the Awards Celebration. One way or another, sooner or later, I'll see you under the video screens....Thanks for reading!-PWT

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