'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for July 16th, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for July 16th, 2014


by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

We've reached the midpoint of summer! And last Sunday as scheduled, "The Last Ship" sailed from the Bank Of America Theatre for points east, with 2015 Tony Awards dancing in the minds of some hopeful well-wishers. Unfortunately, some local productions will also be closing. The well-regarded production of "Assassins" from Kokandy Productions (at Theater Wit) and Chris Lemmon's salute to his father, "Jack Lemmon Returns" (at the Royal George Theatre) both close this Sunday, July 20. The TimeLine Theatre Company production of the rarely seen Marc Blitzstein musical "Juno" closes on July 27. I'd say that any and all of these deserve your business. Attention must be paid!


But new productions have opened to take their places. The theater for young audiences production of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's "Seussical" seems to have been brilliantly realized by the resources of Chicago Shakespeare Theater (through August 17, daytimes). And let's face it, who wouldn't want to hear George Andrew Wolff (pictured here with Lillian Castillo) sing the beautiful "Alone In The Universe?"


Slightly less well-received is the world premiere of the adult but innocent "The Beverly Hillbillies: The Musical" at Munster's Theatre At The Center (through August 10), with James Harms, Kelly Anne Clark, Summer Naomi Smart and John Stemberg as Jed, Granny, Elly Mae and Jethro. (Don't worry, there's a large cast of characters actors supporting them, too!) Gregg Opelka of the long-running "Tommy Guns' Garage" on South Wabash has written the score for a show that's sure to become a hit with community groups in many flyover states. Folks older than me love these characters. The TV show was phenomenally popular in its day, too. There's a market for this, make no mistake about it. Well played.



Speaking of homespun, last fall's well-regarded American Blues Theater production of "Hank Williams: Lost Highway" is being brought back to the Greenhouse Theater Center for a remount, playing July 25 through August 31 and once again starring Matt Brumlow as the troubled and ill-fated Country-Western superstar. Damon Kiely directs, with Malcolm Ruhl and Michael Mahler as music director and conductor. If you loved it last year, and especially if you missed it, you better hurry this year! "Hey, Good Lookin'," indeed.


Not homespun, but certainly wholesome, is the off-Broadway hit from the 1960s, "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown." In a fun twist, Theatre-Hikes - Chicago is presenting the show outdoors (you'll be moving around before the show and at intermission!). And there are two places to see it. The show will be performed on July 26 and 27 at the North Park Village Nature Center (Pulaski and Peterson), and each Saturday and Sunday in August at the Morton Arboretum in west/southwest suburban Lisle. Performances are 1:00 pm, and feature Cullen Rogers, Kristen McGuire, Marissa Druzbanski, Brett Taylor, Tyler Sonkin and Nicholas Druzbanski.


Somewhat less wholesome than these is Dan Studney and Kevin Murphy's musical comedy "Reefer Madness," a popular title these days. Cult Camp Productions is mounting a production for the ecletic Mayne Stage in Rogers Park, playing August 8, 15, 17, 21 and 22 (only), directed by Corey L. Mills. Sarah Jenks music directs.


On Saturday nights in August (the 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th), the Jeff Award-winning actor, pianist, writer and entertainer Bill Larkin will be holding court at Davenport's Piano Bar And Cabaret at 10:30 pm, in a show of original musical comedy material called "Nothing To Say." As perhaps you know, that's far from the truth. I'll bet his Howl At The Moon audiences have only caught a glimpse of his full performance talent. You don't want to miss this.


A Chicago premiere will be produced by NightBlue Performing Arts Company at summer's end. "Clemente: The Legend Of 21," about baseball superstar Roberto Clemente, will run August 22 through September 14 at Stage 773, written and directed by New Yorker Luis Caballero. The show has been seen off-Broadway and in Washington, D.C., under the title, "DC-7, The Roberto Clemente Story." Modesto Lacen and Lorraine Velez star, with Jonathan Amaro as Young Roberto. Chicagoan Aaron Benham music directs.


There's a world premiere children's musical opening at the Broadway Playhouse this fall, playing November 22, 2014 through January 4, 2015, courtesy of Broadway In Chicago and Emerald City Theatre. It's "Hansel & Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat," with a book by Emerald City's Ernie Nolan and music and lyrics by Grammy-nominated kid's rock artist Justin Roberts. Sounds intriguing!


But before we can get to that, Chicago will be the first major city in the U. S. to see the scaled-down and partially rewritten version of the Tony Award-winning "Titanic," first seen in London and intended for a Toronto and New York production this year, which production has now been postponed. There was a minor eruption of excitement when Griffin Theatre announced this coup last week. Directed by Scott Weinstein (Chicago Shakespeare's "Seussical") and music directed by Elizabeth Doran (TimeLine's "Juno"), the show by Maury Yeston and Peter Stone, revised by Don Stephenson, will play October 18-December 7 at Theater Wit. It's rare for a show that won the Tony for Best Musical to be reworked less than 20 years after it was first produced, but with a cast originally consisting of 45 actors, and with countless sets and scenes, it has lately been viewed as un-produceable. We'll get to see what all the rumors are about, before the Big Apple does. Get your napkins ready to wave the ship out of port.


Lastly, it seems to be Showtune Week at Ravinia, the north suburban outdoor summer musical festival. Last Sunday, opera superstar Deborah Voigt appeared there in a program of Broadway songs, "Something Wonderful," accompanied by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. On Thursday and Friday of this week, the CSO will again play the score to the film version of "West Side Story" live, while the voices of Marni Nixon, Rita Moreno et al. sing out from the original soundtrack (big screens set up for your viewing pleasure, of course). And this Sunday, July 20, I will be on the Ravinia stage as one of the Lakeside Singers, who will join the Chicago Chorale, the CSO and Broadway soloists Betsy Wolfe ("Bullets Over Broadway"), Ryan Silverman (a long stint as Raoul in "The Phantom Of The Opera") and Ben Crawford ("Les Miserables") in "An Evening Of Lerner And Loewe," conducted by symphonic pops expert Steven Reineke. Can't get a ticket to the Goodman Theatre's "Brigadoon?" Head up to Highland Park. We've got you.


So that's the Mosh Pit, peeps! I hope your cool, cool summer is going well. Don't panic, it will be warm for a bit longer! And there's plenty to do and see. Perhaps I'll see you, under the video screens.....-PWT

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