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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 27th, 2012

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 27th, 2012




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Bravo to “Eastland!” 97 years after the ship of the same name listed and capsized in the Chicago River, taking 800 people to their deaths in an unmatched tragedy in American history, the new show of the same name has proven quite successful in its maiden outing at Lookingglass Theatre Company. I haven’t seen it, but it’s gotten some very favorable reviews, and just yesterday the Tony-winning company announced a three week extension! That puts its closing at August 19, in the Chicago Water Works on Michigan Avenue (and within walking distance of the site of the tragedy). The show was written by company artistic director Andrew White, with music by the accomplished team of Andre Pleuss and Ben Sussman. Amanda Dehnert has directed what seems to be a show which may have a few glitches to iron out, but is still striking the hearts and imaginations of its audiences. I’m excited by the extension! Aren’t you?


And up north in Lincolnshire, the Marriott Theatre is again entering the world of original musicals, this time with “Hero,” opening this week (also running through August 19). I’ll be there tonight to review the show, and my review will be posted on BroadwayWorld Chicago before the end of the week. The musical in this timeslot last year was “For The Boys,” and we are all eager to see what’s cooking in Lake County this year. The Marriott’s Aaron Thielen has joined with theatrical polymath Michael Mahler to craft a musical comedy about a young adult comic book fan who has to deal with life’s real challenges. Former “Jersey Boy” Erich Bergen stars, alongside Chicago stalwarts Heidi Kettenring, Don Forston, Dara Cameron, Jonah Rawitz (Zachary Keller at certain performances), Alex Goodrich, Summer Naomi Smart, Michael Aaron Lindner, Jameson Cooper, Alex Goldklang and Kelley Abbell. David H. Bell directs.


Another major opening of a non-New York title (though something tells me this particular production is dying to end up there) is “Crowns” at the Goodman Theatre, which begins performances this weekend (June 30) and runs there through August 5, 2012. Based on a coffee table book about church hats and the African-American women who wear them, this “gospel musical” by playwright ReGina Taylor (and directed by her) stars Felicia P. Fields (a Tony Award nominee for “The Color Purple”) and E. Faye Butler, Chicago stage stars of the highest rank and sure to be in top form here. Will a Big Apple transfer be in the offing? Stay tuned!

Another show based in African-American culture has been running in Uptown for a month now, and it is also announced to run through August 19. I’m talking about “The Marvin Gaye Story” at the remarkable new complex run by the Black Ensemble Theater, written and directed by the company’s guiding force, Jackie Taylor. Even if the music seems to be the best aspect of this show, that is not out of the ordinary at BET, and may even be a cause for pride there. But reportedly there is something deeper going on on the stage with this particular production, and a Jeff Recommendation is nothing to be sneezed at. If you haven’t seen a BET show, particularly in its new venue, then you have something to add to your summer to-do list. RaShawn Thompson stars.

Speaking of north side non-Equity companies, you’ve only got a few more weeks to see the remarkable production of “Floyd Collins” now on the boards at Lakeview’s Theater Wit, produced by the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble and starring Jim DeSelm as the titular tragic hero. I was among many critics singing the praises of this Peter Marston Sullivan-directed gem, including Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal. The Chicago Sun-Times’s Hedy Weiss openly implored composer-lyricist Adam Guettel to come to town and see it, along with his “The Light In The Piazza,” concluding its award-winning run in Rogers Park at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre on July 14. BoHo’s “Floyd Collins” runs through July 15. After they’re gone, they’re gone….

Speaking of Theo Ubique, Fred Anzevino’s company will not be hurting once “Piazza” closes there (the troupe performs at the No Exit Café, around the corner from the world-famous Heartland Café). Instead of the previously announced “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” the Neil Sedaka revue seen elsewhere in the region this year, Theo mounted a production of a Jule Styne revue, called “Time After Time,” directed by David Heimann and musical directed by Aaron Benham. It’s running in rep with “Piazza” right now, and sharing its Adam Veness-designed set. And wouldn’t you know it, they got great reviews again! And it’s not just because there are cute boy and girls in it, either. I think they can sing!! Right now, “Time After Time” is only scheduled through July 29, but you never know, do you?

Oh, and there are even more original shows going on this summer! Opening last week, just in time for the Pride Parade and related celebrations, was “Steamwerkz: The Musical,” playing (through August 3, but only on Friday nights at 10:00 pm) at the Annoyance Theatre on The Edge of Uptown, 4830 N. Broadway. Developed through improve, it somehow has a plot and characters based on “Alice In Wonderland,” but takes place at the “beloved” bathhouse of a similar name, located on Halsted Street in the “Boystown” neighborhood, aka Newtown, aka East Lakeview. I don’t think they spent a lot on costumes, if you know what I mean.

If you’re only available on Wednesdays at 7:30, however, you are still in luck, as you can catch “Attend The Tale Of Danny Tanner: A Full House Musical” at Gorilla Tango Theatre, near the intersections of Milwaukee, Western and Armitage Avenues. It opened on May 9, and it’s been extended to July 28. It’s a short, dark and comedic musical, riffing on the TV series that brought you Uncle Jesse and the Olsen twins. The show was written by Chris Gorton, Katie Johnson-Smith and Tara Trudel, directed by Kelly Williams and musically directed by Rhapsody Snyder. Rhapsody!

Attend The Tale Of Danny Tanner

If want to see something in a big theater, well, I almost forgot that the post-Broadway tour of the concert/theatrical experience “Rain” is now in Chicago again, I think for the third time. It runs this week only (June 26-July 1) at the Ford Center For The Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre,” and it’s by, and about, and pays tribute to, The Beatles.

Rain 2012

And I really did forget that Ashley Brown, the original London, Broadway and Chicago star of “Mary Poppins,” and the co-star of the recent production of “Show Boat” at Lyric Opera Of Chicago, will be featured on July 4th at the Ravinia Festival, singing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under conductor Steven Reineke at 5:00 pm. In the midst of some orchestra-only selections, I think she is singing a medley of “Almost Like Being In Love” and “This Can’t Be Love,” followed by “Show Boat”’s “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man,” a Disney medley, “Ring Them Bells” from “Liza With A Z” (a stretch for Ms. Brown, if true), and Judy With A D’s “Over The Rainbow.” Could be fun! It’s a kid-friendly concert, too.

July 4 at Ravinia

Next week, the Mosh Pit’s “Top Ten Hot Topix” for the first half of 2012!!! Until then, keep cool, I'll see you under the video screens.....—PWT

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