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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 30th, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Things are really hopping over at Bailiwick Chicago! The young collective is juggling three projects as we speak! Most prominently, Bailiwick's production of the 2005 off-Broadway musical by Michael John LaChiusa, "See What I Wanna See," begins performances February 15, in rotating rep with two other shows by other companies. They are all part of the "Garage Rep" series presented by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in The Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted Street in Chicago. The other shows are "She Kills Monsters" from Buzz22 Chicago and "BlackTop Sky" from Theatre Seven Of Chicago. The three shows run until April 21, 2013. SWIWS's cast includes Harter Clingman, Shariesse Hamilton, Evan Tyrone Martin, Peter Oyloe and Danni Smith, directed by Lili-Anne Brown and musical directed by James Morehead.


This very week sees the performances of the Chicago Casting Auction production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," a show which continues Chicago's unofficial Andrew Lloyd Webber festival in a way I didn't see coming. This production is a fundraiser for Bailiwick, in which supporters bid on roles in a show (that was on October 27th), and then put on the finished product some months later. It previewed on Monday of this week and will do so again tonight, officially opening on Thursday. The other three performances (on February 1, 2 and 9) are already sold out. The show takes place at Stage 773.

And a very special evening will take place on Friday night, February 8 at Uncommon Ground on Devon Avenue, when "Hope For Joe" takes place, a benefit for Joe Garrasino, a Connecticut native and friend of the Bailiwick family who has a rare and terminal type of liver cancer. Many of the performers are Bailiwick ensemble members and alumni. Kate Garrasino and Christopher Pazdernik will host, with musical direction by Aaron Benham and Robert Ollis. On the list to perform are such talents are Cristin Boulette, Danny Bernardo, Katherine Condit, Harmony France, Michael Harnichar, Ryan Lanning, Megan Long, Bethany Thomas and many more.

Hope For Joe

Another 2005 musical is receiving a production here in town in February, the Broadway musical "Little Women," the show that gave us several outstanding audition songs and the remarkable Act I closer, "Astonishing." The Sutton Foster/Maureen McGovern show about the March girls and their boyfriends and their life choices will play weekends from February 16-March 3, at the James Downing Theatre on the northwest side (6740 N. Oliphant). Corey Mills is directing a cast including Molly Kral as Jo, Johanna Moffitt as Meg, Christine Morgan as Beth and Mary-Margaret Roberts as Amy. Marta Johnson is the musical director of the Jason Howland-Mindi Dickstein score.


Two weeks ago, I mentioned that one-man-show-king Hershey Felder was returning to Chicago, and to the mainstage at the Royal George Theatre, with his first show that's not based on a musician's life. (It's "An American Story," based on the life of President Lincoln's last doctor, Charles Leale.) It begins March 8th. At some unknown point after that, Felder will become a producer of works starring other actors for the first time, when he brings not one, not two, but three other new works to us. First will be "I Found My Horn," by Jasper Reese and starring Jonathan Guy Lewis (about a man who rediscovers his childhood French horn), "The Pianist Of Willesden Lane," starring and I think written by Mona Golabek (about her mother, a young concert pianist who survives World War II), and "Lem," starring Christopher Lemmon as his father, the actor Jack Lemmon (I'm not sure who wrote it, but it also involves music in some way). There's clearly a theme here, folks. I just don't know when any of this is going to happen.

Hershey Felder at the Royal George Theatre

Last season, a new musical by a Chicagoan was one of the winners of an international script contest headquartered here, and the show's public reading that went so well that a full production was scheduled. I'm talking of course about "Under A Rainbow Flag" by Leo Schwartz, part of the season at Pride Films And Plays this year. What's more, it's based on a true story, that of World War II naval corpsman Jon Philips, who lives in Evanston. Directed by David Zak, with musical direction by Robert Ollis and choreography by Tracy Strimple, it stars Sam Button-Harrison, Nick Stockwell, James Nedrud and Jordan Phelps, with Kyrie Anderson, Kevin Webb, David Besky, Donterrio Johnson, Bobby Arnold and Kris Hyland. The run isn't until March 21 to April 21, at Main Stage (4139 N. Broadway), but folks are getting interested in this one.

Adding to the excitement is a "Stage Door Canteen" that the cast of "Under A Rainbow Flag" will present at Mary's Attic on February 15 at 7:00 pm. Most of the cast will appear, along with special guest Cheryl Szucsits. Expect songs of World War II, and a sneak peak at songs from the world premiere they are so excited about. Robert Ollis will be at the keys.


You don't have to wait that long to see and hear the cast of "I Love Lucy Live On Stage" in a cabaret format. Cast members of the successful musical based on the actual scripts of two episodes of the "I Love Lucy" TV show will appear at Petterino's (in the Goodman Theatre building at Randolph and Dearborn) next Monday night, February 4, during "Monday Night Live," the open mic format hosted by Denise McGowan Tracy and Beckie Menzie. I'm not sure who'll be there, but I bet they're good....


The burlesque-parody all-female sketch comedy troupe which calls itself "Off Off Broadzway" has announced its 2013 monthly revue, and the first performance was last Saturday night at Stage 773. On the last Saturday night of each month of the year, the six Broadz will present a "gleefully inappropriate" and brand new show, called "Does My Ass Make My Ass Look Fat?" They are nothing if not clever. Music is promised. Curtain is at 10:30 pm. Tickets are $25. It's a Chicago thing.


Stage 773 is also marking the return of "Best Musical!: A Completely Improvised Musical Comedy," each Wednesday from February 6-March 6 at 7:30 pm. Presented once again by Porchlight Music Theatre, the show was a big hit last spring and summer. Second City veteran Matthew Loren Cohen is at the keys, appearing with cast members from Chicago's most legendary musical sketch comedy and improv stages--Kate Cohen, Rebecca Hanson, Randall Harr, John Hartman, Colette Hawley, Tim Ryder and Kevin Sciretta, directed by Pat McKenna.


And lastly, Chicago will soon have three evenings to witness new choreography by Tony winner and Broadway legend Ann Reinking, when she and Melissa Thodos co-choreograph "A Light In The Dark," the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. Their second story ballet, after 2011's "The White City: Chicago's Columbian Exposition Of 1893," the new work will premiere on February 16, 2013 at the North Shore Center For The Arts in Skokie, and will be performed twice (on March 2-3) at the Harris Theater For Music And Dance in downtown Chicago. The original score for "A Light In The Dark" is by Bruce Wolosoff. It's all part of Thodos Dance Chicago's Winter Concert 2013, with three other works on the same program. Sounds intriguing, no?

And so, with crazy rain and heat afoot, and changes in Sidetrack's Mosh Pit promised for the next few months (no changes to mine, just theirs), I leave you with hopes of a brighter February, and a hope you have a roof over your head right now. I hope I'll see you soon, under a marquee, under an overhanging forestage, or 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...)