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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for July 9th, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for July 9th, 2014


by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

All sorts of "Brigadoon" news! The world premiere opening night performance of the official revised version of the Lerner and Loewe classic took place at the Goodman Theatre on Monday night, with the eyes of much of the national theater world on it. With revisions to the book, new orchestrations, new song placement, new dances, a 21st century scene design concept, historically detailed costumes and more, Rachel Rockwell's production was received rapturously by most local critics, though those very familiar with the original book questioned some of the character motivations and depth of focus. All in all, though, it's a solid hit for the average theatergoer, as the production had already announced a one-week extension, but has since announced a second! (It's now running through August 17.) There was a flurry of attention when the first production photos were released late last week, as the actor playing the role of Jeff had left the production, replaced by his apparent understudy, Jeff Award-winner Rod Thomas (Rob Riddle was hired to replace Thomas in the supporting ensemble). All seems to be fine on that front, and the production's Fiona, Jennie Sophia, seems to be doing especially fine work. Get your tickets now, and see if you agree with what the chat folks online have been saying! (Oh, and the cast will be performing in cabaret this coming Monday night at Petterino's. Timing. Timing.)

Another, even more major, title from Broadway's Golden Age will open at Light Opera Works in August (9-24 at Cahn Auditorium), as "Fiddler On The Roof" marks its 50th anniversary this year. Directed and choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller, the show will star Alex Honzen as Tevye and Jenny Lamb as Golde, with Yael Wartens, Katelin Spencer and Meredith Kochan as the three eldest daughters. Neil Stratman gets to sing one of my old audition songs, "Miracle Of Miracles," as Motel, the tailor.


Two of this fall's most anticipated productions have announced their casts as well. The Paramount Theatre in Aurora is mounting "Cats" from September 10-October 12, directed and music directed by Shawn Stengel. Through artistic director Jim Corti's popular blog, "Tuesdays with Corti," we learned last week that Rhett Guter (currently Harry Beaton in the Goodman's "Brigadoon") will be Munkustrap, and that that production's Jean, Olivia Renteria, will be Silibub. Sawyer Smith will be Rum Tum Tugger, George Keating will be Gus, and Andy Planck Old Deuteronomy. As Grizabella, the company has cast Lauren Villegas. Road trip!

And Porchlight Music Theatre announced the cast of its "Sweeney Todd," in production at Stage 773 from October 3-November 9. Joining the previously announced Jeff Award-winner Rebecca Finnegan as Mrs. Lovett (she won for this role) and Jeff Award-winner David Girolmo in his role debut as Sweeney will be two-time Jeff Award-winner Kelli Harrington (the Beggar Woman), Stephanie Stockstill (Johanna), Brian Acker, the recent Joe Hardy for Light Opera Works' "Damn Yankees" (Anthony Hope), Edward J. MacLennan (Judge Turpin), Matthias Austin (Beadle Bamford), Kevin Webb (Adolfo Pirelli) and Miles Blim (Tobias Ragg). Michael Weber directs, and Doug Peck music directs. Bring out the A-team!


But before that, Porchlight will hold its annual benefit concert, which has become a must-see (and a must-perform) among Chicago's showtune community. This year's title is "Chicago Sings Disney," and it will take place at Mayne Stage on Monday, August 25, created by Doug Peck and Rob Lindley. Scheduled to appear are E. Faye Butler, Dara Cameron, Matthew Crowle, Rebecca Finnegan, Foiled Again (that's Rob Lindley, Anne Sheridan Smith and Allison Bazarko), John Keating, Donica Lynn, Michael Mahler, Beckie Menzie, Christine Mild, Andrew Mueller, Matt Mueller, Meghan Murphy, Jeff Parker, Doug Peck, Peggy Roeder, Emma Rosenthal and Bethany Thomas. How many Jeff Awards is that? Get your tickets now!


Speaking of Stage 773, internet sensation Team Starkid is performing there right now! A summer season consisting of the original musicals "The Trail To Oregon," "Ani: A Parody" and a whole potpourri of late night programming is in residence from July 3-August 10. The company (the source of "A Very Potter Musical" and other YouTube sensations), known as much for its merchandising revolution as much as for the quality of its hip writing and performing style, is based here (where else?). The reach of its live performances is worldwide, and probably beyond. Say you were there then.

Another offering at Stage 773 may be of some interest, as it's a show with dance and jazz music, though originally written in Berlin in 1932. It's "Ball At The Savoy," in its American premiere, presented by Chicago Folks Operetta in a new English translation by Hersh Glagov and Gerald Frantzen. Composer Paul Abraham's show was a big hit until the Nazis came to power. The run is July 18-August 3, directed by Kristen Barrett and conducted by Anthony Barresse. 19-piece orchestra sound good? Choreography by Todd Rhoades? Sets by Adam Veness? Yes.

Opening this weekend is the local premiere of the rockin' 60s musical "Suds," at the Williams Street Repertory up in Crystal Lake. At the Raue Center For The Arts, the show will run July 11-27. Mark R. Mahallak directs, with music direction by Linda Madonia. The show stars Amanda Flahive, Amy Ferraro, Kim Schriver and Christopher Davis. Judging from the number of BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards this company won for its production of "Sweeney Todd" (four), Williams Street is a theater company to watch!


And coming up soon is the local premiere of a show we hosted in its pre-Broadway tryout, Andrew Lippa's "Big Fish." The intrepid Jedlicka Perfoming Arts Center will present the show July 25-August 9 in west suburban Cicero, directed by Dante J. Orfei, choreographed by Dina DiCostanzo and music directed by John Warren. Before he plays Judge Turpin in Porchlight's "Sweeney Todd," Edward J. MacLennan will star here as Edward Bloom, with Marisa Bynton as Sandra and Taylor Okey as Will. Just announced today is the cast of 28! If you didn't catch Norbert Leo Butz, Kate Baldwin and Bobby Steggert downtown in April of 2013, or even if you did, why not check out the show again?


And did you know that the top male high school musical theater actor in the nation is a rising junior at Stevenson High School in Buffalo Grove? And did you know he already has a slew of professional credits, including Michael Mahler's "Hero" at the Marriott Theater, where he appeared alongside Erich Bergen, co-star of the film version of "Jersey Boys?" I'm talking of course about Jonah Rawitz, who won the National High School Musical Theater Award (the Jimmy Awards) for Best Actor in New York on June 30th. He was representing Illinois, of course. (The Best Actress winner, from Georgia, was Jai'Len Josey.) Along with that nice cash prize, and all those contacts, who knows where Jonah's career will be headed next? Not to mention all that talent and experience he already has in spades. Remember Rawitz. He will no doubt be doing something amazing very soon, and for a long time to come. But will he get to finish high school??? Well, the school of life has its own rewards. Congratulations, sir, and we look forward to following your rising star!


So its mid-summer! I think. This is usually the hottest week of the year in these parts. I think we can handle it this year. Maybe by attending some theater! Sounds like a plan. OK, I will see you there soon, and later on, I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT

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