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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 7th, 2015


by Paul W. Thompson

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

It's tonight! The 2014 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards Celebration takes place at The Call Bar in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood, on Wednesday night, January 7, 2015. We'll be there from 8:00 pm till midnight (21+ only, please), where winners will be revealed, certificates handed out, and video screens watched, played by "Curtains Up Wednesday" VJ Michael Hogan. As a special bonus, from 9:00-10:00 pm we'll be able to watch the broadcast of the new episode of "American Horror Story," this one featuring guest star and Tony Award winner, Neil Patrick Harris. Showtune videos begin at 10:00. The periodic fun and the spaced-out speeches will last from 8:00 pm until almost midnight.

Nominees will wear yellow ribbons, casts will reunite, and all facets of the Chicagoland theater community will come together for a relaxing night of fun with friends, fans and theater folk alike. We'll also have a special segment honoring those the community has lost during the last year. The Call is located at 1547 N. Bryn Mawr Avenue, between Clark and Ashland. Come one, come all, to The Call! We'll be celebrating the winners, the nominees and the whole theater season with like-minded folks. 36 winners to celebrate, and a winter's night of fun and community communication to experience. I'll see you there!


And the way to theaters in 2015 is already being paved. Forget the icy temperatures outside, as our performance venues will be heating up with all sorts of great showtune offerings to please the discriminating Mosh Pit peeps. For instance, the Drury Lane Theatre has announced its cast for the legendary "West Side Story," in its first local production since who knows when! (Two stops by the recent touring company--in 2011 and 2013--don't count.) DLO will showcase Chicago actors Jim DeSelm (pictured) and Christina Nieves at Tony and Maria, with Michelle Aravena from that recent tour as Anita (costumes from that tour will also be featured). Rachel Rockwell with direct, and choreographing the production will be Rhett Guter, who has toured in the show internationally and will also be playing Riff. Rockwell's favorite music director, Roberta Duchak, will do those honors here. Also in the cast will be favorites like Roger Mueller as Doc, Joffrey Ballet star Lucas Segovia as Bernardo, Adrian Aguilar (back in town from "Rocky" in New York) as Action, BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Lillian Castillo ("Hairspray") as Rosalia and 2014 BWW Chicago Award nominee Lauren Villegas as Francisca. This highly anticipated production begins previews on January 15, and runs January 22-March 22 in Oakbrook Terrace.


A show which had its world premiere here in 2010, "The Addams Family," has been reworked by its authors since that pre-Broadway tryout. We will get to see the fruits of their labors when the Mercury Theater Chicago produces the Andrew Lippa/Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice show from January 28-April 5, led by the well-honed team of L. Walter Stearns (director), Eugene Dizon (music director) and Brenda Didier (choreographer). Starring in the show will be Karl Hamilton and Rebecca Prescott, with Harter Clingman, Dara Cameron, Brennan Dougherty, Jeff Diebold and Amanda Hartley. The visitors to their off-kilter mansion will be portrayed by Cory Goodrich, Jason Grimm and Henry McGinniss.


Choreographer and frequent BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Brenda Didier's next project after "The Addams Family" will be "Jesus Christ Superstar" by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. The Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice favorite will be staged with a cast of 13 at the No Exit Café, a small number for the show but a big cast for the intimate No Exit. From March 6-April 12, Max DeTogne and Donterrio Johnson will be Jesus and Judas, with Danni Smith as Mary, Ryan Armstrong as Pilate, Tommy Bullington as Herod, Jonah Winston as Caiaphas, Michael Ferraro as Peter and Caleb Baze as Simon, with Will Wilhelm, Shariese Hamilton, Steven Perkins, Jomar Ferraras and Khaki Pixley. Fred Anzevino directs, with music direction by Jeremy Ramey.

"The Addams Family" composer-lyricist Andrew Lippa will be featured at Peoria's Millikin University for a New Musicals Workshop on January 16-18, as he works with students on his compositions as well as their own new musical theater works. There will be a public performance to cap the weekend's activities, on Sunday evening, January 18th, at 7:00 pm in the Perkinson Music Center. So that's cool.


Speaking of new musicals, a 2011 New York show will be receiving its local premiere here when "Next Thing You Know" plays at The Den Theatre from February 14-March 8, in a production by the new Refuge Theatre Project. The show, by Joshua Saltzman and Ryan Cunningham, will be directed by Ross Egan and stars Morgan Glynn Briggs, Taylor Okey, Jameson Wentworth and Aimee Erickson. It's about twenty-something New Yorkers. But so are "Rent" and "Avenue Q," so there's that.


Playing January 16-February 22 in the same space will be the world premiere of the almost-new show "Plastic Revolution." The New Colony's production is based on the company's hit 2009 show, "Tupperware: An American Musical Fable." This new version, by Julie Nichols, Andrew Hobgood and Will Cavedo, is directed by Evan Linder, with music direction by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster. The cast will feature Joshua R. Bartlett, Daeshawna Cook, Elise Mayfield, Lizzie Schwarzrock, Sasha Smith, Danny Taylor and Cassie Thompson.


Barrel Of Monkeys, the arts education theater company that works in elementary schools, will present the latest edition of its perennial revue show, "That's Weird, Grandma," at the Neo-Futurist Theater in Andersonville, March 1-30. But there's a twist. This time, the show is a musical. "That's Weird, Grandma: The Musical" will include stories written and conceived by Chicago Public Schools students, adapted into songs by a team of composers. That sounds fun!


And the world premiere public staged reading of "The Black And White Ball" will be the first full work presented by the FWD Theatre Project on January 20, 2015 at City Winery. FWD, you may recall, is the brainchild of actress Amber Mak, and it kicked off its first year of new work development with a splashy gala benefit in October, headlined by Tony winner Jessie Mueller. With music by Todd Ellison and book and lyrics by Stephen Cole, "The Black And White Ball" is based on a November 28, 1966, New York society party thrown by Truman Capote, and will star George Andrew Wolff as the legendary author. ChiArts High School student Ariana Burks will star as Emma, a poor black girl from Brooklyn. Also appearing will be Jerome Riley, Heather Townsend, Kathryn Jaeck, McKinley Carter, Dina DiCostanzo, Evan Tyron Martin, Daniel Phillips, Jos N. Banks and Quentin King.


On the TV scene, the four-week, eight-episode musical comedy series "Galavant" premiered Sunday on ABC to very good ratings. With songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, folks are probably more familiar with the production team than with any of the series' regular performers. But folks did tune in! Did you see it? I confess that I did not. But it might be good!


And "Glee" will return for its sixth and final season when it premieres on FOX on Friday, January 9th. Newcomers to the Mosh Pit may not know that I named "Glee" to the Mosh Pit Hall Of Fame during its second season, because talking about it every single week was getting a little bit tiring. And people were still watching it then! But do we still watch it? The series regulars are now Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Chord Overstreet, Jane Lynch, Kevin McHale, Amber Riley, Dot-Marie Jones and Matthew Morrison. Max Adler will have more screen time, and Naya Rivera will have less. Ah, we will miss it when it is gone. But do we still watch it?


So that's that for now. Stay warm, and I'll see you tonight! And as always, I'll see you 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...)