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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 9th, 2013

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for January 9th, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

The "Big Fish" is comin'! We love our pre-Broadway tryouts, don't we? (Witness the popularity of the recent "Kinky Boots," winner of two BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards for its engagement this past October at the Bank Of America Theatre. And we loved our "The Addams Family," too, and of course the legendary tryout of "The Producers," is, well, legendary.) Anyway, the new musical "Big Fish," based on a 2003 Columbia Pictures film which starred Ewan MacGregor (directed by Tim Burton), will play at the Oriental Theatre for five weeks, beginning on April 2, 2013, with a confirmed press opening on April 21 and a closing date of May 5. Two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz will star, directed and choreographed by "Producers" director-choreographer Susan Stroman. Andrew Lippa ("The Addams Family") is providing the music and lyrics, with book by original screenwriter John August. Pretty good pedigree, there! The show is aiming for a 2013 Broadway opening, but as part of the 2013-14 season. And it certainly looks promising!


That's a Broadway In Chicago presentation, of course. However, one upcoming tour is independent of BIC, and it's a new tour of "Fela!." The show will play six performances at the Arie Crown Theater, inside the old McCormick Place building on Lake Shore Drive (for those of you too young to remember that's there's a theater in there, and that it was once one of Chicago's primary national tour venues). The 2009 Broadway musical played our city's Oriental Theatre this past spring, as part of the well-received national tour, and original star Sahr Ngaujah was recruited to return for that Chicago stop. This production's headliner is Michelle Williams (Destiny's Child, "The Color Purple"). The original producers and artistic team seem to still be involved (February 19-23).


But do not weep for Broadway In Chicago! Our local touring arm of the Nederlander Organization announced last week that the Chicago engagement of T-BOMb (that's "The Book Of Mormon," for those of you new to the Mosh Pit!) has been extended through September 8, 2013. At least. That makes nine months so far, and the second extension for the phenomenally popular, and well-reviewed, production at the Bank Of America Theatre. Get your tickets now, see the show....later. Much later, apparently! Do we have another "Wicked" on our hands?


Our other local Broadway show has also announced yet another extension. That would be "Million Dollar Quartet" at the Apollo Theater, which in early December announced... yet another extension (I've lost count at this point). In its fifth year, the show is selling tickets through April 28, 2013. You'll remember that the success of this Chicago production launched the Broadway (and off-Broadway transfer) of this show about Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, and that some of the Chicago cast members are now on the show's national tour as well. There was a London production as well. Producer Gigi Priztker is, and should be, justifiably proud.


A smaller scale, locally written and produced show has also announced an extension, through the end of January (the 26th, to be exact). It's "Miami Nice," the satirical musical about television's Golden Girls that's been playing at Gorilla Tango Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue, near Armitage and Western. It's written and directed by Jeff Bouthiette, the head of music for The Second City. I'm glad he worked on this last year, because right now he has announced his 2013 project--writing a new song every single day of the year. That's ambition for ya. Go, Jeff!


Also on an intimate scale, but less satirical, are the offerings at the No Exit Café in Rogers Park, courtesy of Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. And for the month of January, Theo is offering a January Cabaret Series, Friday and Saturday nights at 8, and Sundays at 2. Last weekend was the BroadwayWorld Chicago Award-nominated "Justin And Amanda Sing the Movies," and this weekend is the indie-pop group "The Embraceables." January 18-20 will see a workshop of a new musical, "Perpetual Possibility," by popular and busy musical director and percussionist Ethan Deppe. And on January 25-27, a "science demonstration disguised as a circus sideshow," called "Freak Show And Tell" will make its appearance. In March, Theo's production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Aspects Of Love" bows, featuring two 2012 BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winners (Adam Fane and Kelli Harrington) in the cast, and a third (Jeremy Ramey) as musical director.

Theo Ubique's Cabaret Series

Our other theater company known for pocket presentations of great musicals is Glencoe's Writers' Theatre. And their next one is highly anticipated, indeed. It's "Sweet Charity" with a cast of eleven. This is a theater with a big budget and a national profile, but with severAl Small performance spaces it has turned into an asset. The Coleman, Simon and Fields musical about the "dance hall hostess" who wears her heart on her sleeve will run from January 22-March 31, directed by Writers' Theatre artistic director Michael Halberstam. The nearby company The Music Theatre Company (in Highland Park) lends its artistic director, Jessica Redish, as choreographer, and Doug Peck as musical director is re-orchestrating the show for a four-piece jazz combo, a sound that composer Cy Coleman was intimately familiar with. Tiffany Topol stars as Charity, with Jarrod Zimmerman and Jeff Parker as the men in her life and James Earl Jones II as Daddy Brubeck/Herman. Ericka Mac, Karen Burthwright, Katie Spelman and Emily Ariel Rodgers are the ladies of the, er, ensemble, with Adam Estes, Travis Porchia and Liam Quealy providing the rest of the spindle side of the proceedings.

SWEET CHARITY at Writers' Theatre

Peck's husband, Rob Lindley, is the director of the next show at Porchlight Music Theatre, perfoming at Stage 773 in the city. The show is "Lady Day At Emerson's Bar And Grill" by Lainie Robertson. Musical direction is by Jaret Landon. And the star in question? Alexis Rogers, who among other past credits was Bess in the Court Theatre's well-regarded "Porgy And Bess," musical directed and re-orchestrated by...Doug Peck. See how this stuff works out? Community, indeed! The run of "Lady Day," the story of Billie Holiday, of course, is slated for February 2-March 10.


And last, but by no means least, Chicago is the beneficiary of yet another pair of "dueling" productions of the same musical. This is a hallmark, almost a defining characterstic, of musical theater in this town, and one that provides for fascinating examples of casting, emphasis, price, audience access and more. The latest example of this phenomenon, this opportunity, is the somewhat rare "A Grand Night For Singing." Our upcoming professional production of this Broadway-pedigreed Rodgers and Hammerstein revue is the first subscription offering at the mid-sized Mercury Theater on Southport Avenue, directed and choreographed by Kevin Bellie (long associated with Circle Theatre) and musical directed by Eugene Dizon (long associated with Porchlight). On the boards from January 16-March 10, the show will feature Marya Grandy, Robert Hunt, Leah Morrow, Stephen Schellhardt and Heather Townsend, most of who have New York or national tour credits in addition to their Chicago appearances.


Our community theater production (I think it's a community theater, but please correct me if I'm wrong) of "A Grand Night For Singing" will take place at the Estonian House in the small town of Riverwoods, Illinois, in southern Lake County, under the auspices of Theatre In The Woods. Stephen Burke directs a cast of seven, including Diane Adamski, Geoff Adamski, Kelly Burke Arce, Janet Reed, Julie Schneider, Kirk Swenk and Randy M. Toelke. And every one of them is an experienced performer. The show runs for two weekends next month, February 8-17.


And that's the Mosh Pit for today, peeps! Will I see you tonight at The Call for the third annual Celebration of the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards? I hope I do (we start at 9:00 pm, and I'll be there all night!). It's "Andersonville's Showtune Night," and we'll have a blast. If not, I'm sure I will see you soon. There are a lot of shows opening this month, so there's no reason to hide from the weather, no matter what it's doing. See you tonight, or see you soon, in a theater, and under the video screens.....-PWT

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