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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for June 6th, 2012





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Congratulations for the newest winners of the Joseph Jefferson Awards were ringing out on Monday night, as well-dressed attendees of the Park West ceremony streamed into the Mosh Pit at Sidetrack for some after-show partying. The 39th annual non-Eq Jeffs are history now, and the big winner, as expected, was Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre and its production of “The Light In The Piazza,” winning six awards in all, the most of any production this year. In addition to Production – Musical, the show won Director – Musical honors for co-directors Fred Anzevino and Brenda Didier (multiple Jeff winners in the last few years), plus awards for musical director Jeremy Ramey (his first, I think), for Actress In A Principal Role – Musical recipient Kelli Harrington (as Margaret) and for Actor In A Supporting Role – Musical winner Justin Adair (as Fabrizio). The production also triumphed in a new Jeff category, as Eve Breneman took home Dialect Coaching honors.

In other musical categories, Dana Tretta won for her turn as Catherine in Bohemian Theatre Ensemble’s “Pippin,” Chuck Sisson was honored as Actor In A Principal Role – Musical for Circle Theatre’s “The Baker’s Wife,” and Circle’s “Urinetown” was responsible for two awards--Kevin Bellie for Choreography and Jesus Perez for Costume Design. As previously announced, the Chicago Park District’s Theater On The Lake won a Special Award, celebrating its 60th anniversary this month as a key outlet for small theaters in particular and for the entire Chicagoland theater community in general.

It’s too bad that Theo’s production of “Pump Boys And Dinettes” was shut out by “Piazza” after nabbing six nominations, but Bailiwick Chicago was shut out completely, after two of its shows (“Passing Strange” and “Violet”) had received five nominations each. Griffin Theatre’s “Spring Awakening” also had five nominations, and these were the five productions honored to perform for the crowd on Monday, to great acclaim. BroadwayWorld Chicago salutes all the winners, nominees and performers for a great theatrical season!

Jeff Award Nominees and Recipients

Last week in the Mosh Pit (the column, not the room), I presented our first ever Chicago Summer Musical Theater Guide, listing 35 theatrical events occurring between now and Labor Day here in the immediate vicinity. And now, as promised, I turn our collective attention to some of the theaters within a day’s drive of the Chicago Loop, places where Chicago theater artists (and many Chicago theater audience members) will find themselves during the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer (and, oh, those summer nights). The 2012 Regional Summer Musical Theater Scene is shaping up this way:

In Mt. Carroll, Illinois, near Galena in northwestern Illinois, is one of the region’s traditional summer stock theaters, the Timber Lake Playhouse, which celebrates more than 50 years of operation with its 2012 season. The theater opens this week, on June 7, with “Guys And Dolls,” running through June 17. The others shows in the lineup this year, running two weeks each, are “Working,” “Footloose,” the comedy “Boeing Boeing,” “Cabaret” directed by Bailiwick Chicago artistic director Lili-Anne Brown, and, closing on August 26, “Some Enchanted Evening.” And why not?

Timber Lake Playhouse

The Heartland Festival at the University Of Wisconsin--Platteville is, alas, on hiatus this year, due to renovations of its lobby. Boo! But FT. Atkinson’s Fireside Theatre (operating year round) is going strong, with “Legally Blonde,” running May 10- -July 1. The inspirational musical “The Rock & The Rabbi” will take up the latter half of the summer (July 12-August 19), with “Hello, Dolly!” bringing up the rear, opening August 23.

Fireside Theatre

In Spring Green, west of Madison, the justly famous American Players Theatre isn’t presenting any musicals this summer, but should pack the crowds in anyway with such offerings as Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” “Richard III” and “Troilus And Cressida,” “The Royal Family” by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman and “Skylight” by David Hare. Shows run in rep.

American Players Theatre

In Williams Bay, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Geneva, Music By The Lake (performing in an outdoor pavilion on the campus of George Williams College) is presenting a true rarity this summer, as we previously reported. It is Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Music In The Air,” for two performances only (July 21-22). It premiered five years after the team’s landmark “Show Boat,” and reflects more of their attempts to bring European operetta and the newfangled American musical comedy closer together. Fascinating! MBTL is also, curiously, presenting what it calls “a concert version” of “Million Dollar Quartet,” “adapted especially for Music by the Lake,” on August 11. Are they bringing in the Chicago company of the show, for a one night performance with minimal scenery? Does anybody know? How curious!

Music By The Lake

The American Folklore Theatre in Fish Creek (in Door County) presents original musicals in rep, and this summer is no different, with “Victory Farm,” “Belgians In Heaven” and “Cheeseheads, The Musical” all opening between June 13 and 19 and running throughout the summer. The company’s shows aren’t all new every season, but have all been developed there, some being licensed for production elsewhere but all reflecting the Wisconsin area’s cultural heritage.

American Folklore Theatre

Also in Fish Creek, America’s oldest professional resident summer theater, the Peninsula Players, will present only one musical this summer, “Chicago,” running July 25-August 12. But the company will also mount the play “Opus,” a comedy about a string quartet, that just won two Jeff Awards for Chicago’s Redtwist Theatre on Monday night. It opens Peninsula’s season (June 12-24). Other plays on the slate are “The Nerd,” “Murder On The Nile” and “Lombardi,” the latter sure to be a big hit.

Peninsula Players

The University of Wisconsin--Marinette’s Theatre On The Bay is presenting “Into The Woods” during the last two weekends in July. That’s cool.

Theatre On The Bay

And in Hazelhurst, in northern Wisconsin, the Northern Lights Playhouse is undergoing a transition, after the death of longtime owner Michael Cupp last October. Now called “Tommy O’s Northern Stars Playhouse,” and under the leadership of Tom Organiscak (of Minocqua, WI and Ft. Myers, FL), the venerable Playhouse will present two Gilbert and Sullivan operas, “The Pirates Of Penzance” and “The Mikado,” plus play adaptations of “The Sting” and “The Turn Of The Screw” and several original cabaret nights. Let’s hope that all goes well, and that the theater returns to more Broadway-style shows in 2013. Performances this year begin on June 8.

Northern Stars Playhouse

So let’s head on over to Michigan, shall we? The state’s oldest Equity summer stock company, Augusta’s Barn Theatre (in between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek), opened yesterday with Ken Ludwig’s “The Fox On The Fairway,” but have no fear, for “Pal Joey,” starring company favorite and daytime Emmy Award winner Kim Zimmer, runs June 19-July 1. The Rodgers and Hart classic will be followed by “Legally Blonde,” “The Wedding Singer,” “The Rocky Horror Show” (yes, in summer stock!) and “Spamalot,” all for two weeks each, capped off by one week of an original musical, “Raunch And Roll,” with book by the theater’s producer, Brendan Ragotzy, son of the theater’s founders.


Musicals on tap at Saugatuck’s Red Barn Theater this summer are the new show “Carney Dreams” by Al VerSchure and Bud Ferguson (June 21-3) and the Neil Sedaka revue “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” (August 10-25). There is also some Shakespeare and A. R. Gurney’s play, “Sylvia.”

Red Barn Theater

In downtown Saugatuck, the Mason Street Warehouse has “Avenue Q” (June 22-July 15), the Ol’ Blue Eyes tribute show “Our Sinatra” (July 27-August 12) and “Boeing Boeing” (August 17-September 2). I’m impressed that the theater’s spring benefit, on May 19, was a concert by Melissa Manchester.

Mason Street Warehouse

Holland’s Hope Summer Repertory Theatre starts off with something cleverly called “Chaps,” about Brits learning to be cowboys, opening June 15 and running through August 10 along with “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (starting July 13) and “Songs For A New World” (starting July 26). The plays “Pride And Prejudice” and “An Inspector Calls” are in the mix there, too. Hope College hosts.

Hope Summer Repertory Theatre

In Indiana, Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw (between South Bend and Fort Wayne) has a great old-fashioned musical season lined up, opening tonight with “Peter Pan,” followed in quick stock fashion with “Legally Blonde” (certainly a popular summer theater choice this year), “Carousel,” “Chicago” and the Noel Coward comedy “Blithe Spirit,” ending the summer with the Irving Berlin revue “I Love A Piano” (ending August 25).

Wagon Wheel Theatre

In the Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres, in Nappanee, Indiana, “Plain And Fancy” will be performed for the 26th amazing season in a row (at more than 3,000 performances, they have demolished the show’s Broadway run of 462 performances). It’s already running there (having opened May 15) and will last this year through October 13. Also available this summer are “State Fair” (May 29-July 8) and “Hank Williams: Lost Highway” (July 17-August 26).

Round Barn Theatre

In Illinois, the Little Theatre On The Square in Sullivan (between Effingham and Decatur) is offering all musicals in their two-week stock set-up this year, opening tonight with “Grease” and proceeding through “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers,” “The Pirates Of Penzance,” “The Music Man” and “9 To 5.” Well done, Sullivan!

Little Theatre On The Square

Down in Carbondale, Southern Illinois University’s McLeod Summer Playhouse starts next week with “Steel Magnolias,” and then proceeds through “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “Chicago” (another popular choice this year), ending with the All Southern High School Theater Project’s mounting of “Cinderella (The Enchanted Edition)” at the end of July.

McLeod Summer Playhouse

Over in the Quad Cities, Rock Island’s Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse operates year round, and offers yet another “Legally Blonde” for our list, playing June 13-July 28. The comedy “The Dixie Swim Club” strokes your fancy from August 1-September 15, but on Thursdays in August  The Playhouse will host the Kander and Ebb revue “And The World Goes ‘Round,” which makes it awesome.

Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse

And at America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater, the Muny in St. Louis? Oh, my, the riches! The season of one-week runs opens on June 18 with “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” starring Beth Leavel as Mrs. Meers, Leslie Uggams as Muzzy and former Chicagoan Stephen Buntrock as Trevor Graydon. Next up is “Chicago” (yet another!), with Jackie Hoffman as Mama Morton, and then the (surely pre-Broadway) Disney musical “Aladdin,” directed by Chicago’s Gary Griffin and starring Robin De Jesus, John Tartaglia, Jason Graae and Ken Page. As if that weren’t amazing enough, the next show will be “Dreamgirls,” starring the one and only, original Tony-winning star, Jennifer Holliday, in her legendary role as Effie. Yes! Over 30 years later, and who knows if she’ll ever do it again. Then comes Justin Guarini in “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” a Caribbean version of the popular “The Pirates Of Penzance” called “Pirates! (Or, Gilbert And Sullivan Plunder’d),” and “The King And I,” wrapping things up by August 12. Whew!

The Muny

OK, my musical theater arms are tired. My showtune compass is shot. My Broadway radar is busted! And if I’ve left anybody’s favorite summer theater out, please, let me know! But you can’t say you don’t have enough to do while you’re out and about, avoiding the city and looking for corn, trees and small lakes. There’s plenty of theater out there, you cottage types! And if you want to see “The Pirates Of Penzance,” “Chicago” or “Legally Blonde,” I think we’ve got you covered. As for the rest of you, I'll see you under the video screens.....—PWT

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