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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 25, 2014



by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

There's so much to talk about! Starting off with the fact that the two most anticipated musicals of the summer burst onto the scene this week!

First up: the closely watched, rewritten version of the beloved warhorse "Brigadoon" gives its first public performances on Friday, June 27, at the Goodman Theatre in downtown Chicago. And it's already been extended for a week, through August 8th! With Alan Jay Lerner's book revised by Brian Hill ("The Story Of My Life"), with some new vocal and instrumental arrangements by music director Roberta Duchak, and a new orchestration for 13 pieces by Josh Clayton, the show is directed and choreographed by Rachel Rockwell in her Goodman debut. Liza Lerner has been the driving force behind this production, no doubt hoping to revitalize interest in one of her father's major works for the stage (music by Frederick Loewe, of course!). With the returning-home Kevin Earley as Tommy Albright and New Yorker Curt Bouril as Jeff Douglas, the cast is rounded out with top-flight Chicago-familiar talent. Jennie Sophia is Fiona MacLaren and Maggie Portman is Meg Brockie, the way they were at Light Opera Works in 2011. Jordan Brown is Charlie Dalrymple, Rhett Guter is Harry Beaton and Katie Spelman is Maggie Anderson, with young Olivia Renteria as "Bonnie" Jean MacLaren. And how about this list of guys as the character actors: Larry Adams, Joseph Anthony Foronda, George Keating, Michael Aaron Lindner, Roger Mueller, Craig Spidle and Rob Thomas? Not too shabby. Richard Strimer is Frank, the bartender, and Emily Rohm is Jane Ashton, the girlfriend. I understand the book and production go a little deeper into the United States of 1947 and the Scotland of 1747. Sounds good to me, don't you ken? I trust you already have your wee tickets. This one's major.


And over at the Bank Of America Theatre, a few blocks down Dearborn Street and hang a left at Monroe, is "The Last Ship," the pre-Broadway incarnation of the musical with songs by The Police frontman Sting and a book credited to Brian Yorkey ("Next To Normal") and John Logan ("Red"). Joe Mantello ("Wicked") directs. After a week or so of previews, the official opening is tonight! As for changes to be put into place after this shakedown run, they better work fast, as the Broadway version of the show begins previews at the Neil Simon Theatre on September 29, and the show doesn't close here until July 13. That's 11 weeks to move the set and reconfigure any major changes. No, that's not like the old days, but by current standards, it's fast. Let's hope the show's in pretty good shape. Well, we find out tonight! Stars Michael Esper, Rachel Tucker, Jimmy Nail, Fred Applegate, Aaron Lazar, Sally Ann Triplett and Collin Kelly-Sordelet will lay it all out for you.


Also in Broadway In Chicago news, it was announced recently that two shows with long runs here will be returning on tour in 2015. "Kinky Boots," which had its pre-Broadway tryout here before winning the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2013, will return here in its touring incarnation July 14-26, 2015, this time at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Different cast, different theater, different set pieces (maybe), but those who loved it the first time can relive the fun once more. (The national tour of "Pippin" will directly follow "Kinky Boots" into the Palace, with Chicagoan Skyler Adams in the company.)



A month earlier at the Cadillac Palace, May 12-24, 2015, a little show called "Jersey Boys" will return to Chicago, where it enjoyed a long run from 2007-2010. You may be aware that the film version of the Tony-winning show, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Tony winner John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli (along with several cast members who appeared on Chicago stages in this show and others) opened last weekend nationwide, to less-than-stellar reviews and box office response. It's a valuable film, nonetheless, as Young is one of only ten men who won the lead musical actor Tony and recreated their performance onscreen. And comparing and contrasting the stage and screen versions of well-known properties is always good for a term paper or two.


"Brigadoon" isn't the only local show to receive the fabled Chicago extension this summer. Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre has announced that "A Musical Tribute To The Andrews Sisters" has been extended all the way to August 31!

That being said, several important local productions with a national profile are about to go away. You don't want to miss them! "Myths And Hymns" from BoHo Theatre (at the Heartland Studio Theatre) runs only until July 13, and "Carrie" from Bailiwick Chicago (in the Richard Christiansen Theater at the Victory Gardens Biograph) runs only until July 12. "Hair" at the American Theater Company closes this Sunday, June 29! So does "Cabaret" from the BrightSide Theatre in Naperville (performing at North Central College). And so does "One Hit Wonders" at the Black Ensemble Theater in Uptown. Get busy, peeps!

Black Ensemble's next show is in keeping with the time period of "Jersey Boys," the current tour of "Motown" (at the Oriental Theatre until August 9) and the Broadway hit, "Beautiful." And it's a world premiere! It's "The Story Of The Marvelettes," Motown Records' first successful girl group and the singers of "Please, Mr. Postman." The show, by Reginald Williams, will run July 18-September 7, directed by Rueben D. Echols, Jr., and music directed by BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Robert Reddrick.


The Drury Lane Theatre's production of the popular "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" began performances last weekend, and runs through August 17. Scott Calcagno directs and choreographs. Like "Godspell" at the Marriott Theatre (now open and running through August 10), it's a young cast, many of whom are making their house debuts.

A world premiere musical with the unlikely title "Jim And Dave ('s Blood Meets Jupiter)" is playing through July 6 at the Raven Theatre, the first new musical presented by the fairly new Project 891 Theatre Company. It opened the weekend of June 13, directed by Michael Rashid. Written by Kalena Victoria Dickerson, Steve Clark and Ed Plough, it's sci-fi and puppets, road trip and buddy.

Second City, e.t.c. is mounting its latest original revue, called "Apes Of Wrath," opening tomorrow night for an open run at 1616 N. Wells. Jen Ellison directs Carisa Barreca, Brooke Breit, Punam Patel, Eddie Mujica, Asher Perlman and Tim Ryder in the sketch-based fun. Alex Kliner is composer and music director.


Chicago Shakespeare Theater will open its annual summer children's theater production on July 5, when "Seussical" hits the stage through August 17. Get your tickets for Navy Pier now! Scott Weinstein directs a dream cast, including Alex Goodrich as the Cat In The Hat (replaced by Jackson Evans for the last two weeks), George Andrew Wolff as Horton The Elephant, Cory Goodrich as Mayzie La Bird, Lillian Castillo as Gertrude McFuzz, Lisa Estridge as the Sour Kangaroo and Emily Chang as Jojo, with Aaron Holland, Liam Quealy and Joseph Sammour as the Wickersham Brothers and Ericka Mac, Allison Sill and Krystal Worrell as Bird Girls. Michael Mahler and Tommy Rapley music direct and choreograph.

And things continue to hop as usual at Davenport's Piano Bar And Cabaret in Wicker Park, as one of the leading cabaret stars of our time, Karen Mason, has returned to her hometown for another string of concerts. She has three dates left, June 28, 29 and 30. Her show is called "Secrets Of The Ancient Divas." Another legend of the cabaret world, Andrea Marcovicci, will play Davenport's for six shows ("No Strings") between July 16 and 20. And rising Chicago stage star and multiple award-winner Jeremy Trager makes his Davenport's debut on July 3 and 5 with "Strange Weather," an evening of non-traditional cabaret material. Which one of these whets your appetite? Or all three?

Whew! I'm exhausted. If that's not plenty to keep you occupied, then I don't know what is! Next week, I'll have the Mosh Pit's biannual Top Ten Hot Topix, the things we've been talking about the most from January through June of 2014. I know you won't want to miss it! Until then, keep your feet on the ground, and 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...)