'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for March 31, 2010
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and the Call:
There was a lot of big national tour news this past week......for other cities! Both "Next to Normal" and "Memphis" announced the start of their tours, promising more cities to come. We hope (and assume!) that Chicago will be not too far down the list. "Next to Normal" has been rumored for some time, and the details were fleshed out in the wake of news that the Broadway production has turned a profit--always a good thing to hear! The show will open in Los Angeles this coming fall and play nine other cities by mid-summer, 2011. The news of a "Memphis" tour seems like a preemptive strike at nominations for this season's Outer Critics Circle Awards and, of course, the Tony Awards. As it opened at Broadway's Shubert Theatre last fall, I'm sure its producers don't want to be forgotten in the deluge of shows opening in April and May. But its tour won't begin until the fall of 2011, in, of course, Memphis. Let's hope we get these two shows here before Christmas of 2011, and for more than a week, please! This is a long time to wait, seriously.........The Mosh Pit is churning over these!..........
The news from Chicago that is rocking the national musical theater scene is the phenomenal reception from critics and audiences being given to the new production of "Ragtime" at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, running now through May 23rd. Certainly, the facts that a production played on Broadway less than three months ago, and that that production's lead, Quentin Earl Darrington, essays the same role of Coalhouse Walker, Jr. here, contribute to the Drury Lane's newsworthiness at the national level. But Darrington alone doesn't account for the great reviews and fast moving local word of mouth. And the internet is, well, the internet. Kyle DeSantis's production team and director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell have done quite well for themselves, indeed. We are lucky to have them working in our midst, methinks!
While we're on the topic, Rockwell is now mounting "High School Musical" for the Theater for Young Audiences (Drury Lane Children's Theatre) series at the DLO, to run April 2-May 22. Many of the cast members are drawn from the "Ragtime" cast, as all the suburban Equity theaters like to do. Lucky kids, to get such top-drawer talent!
While we're on the topic of Theater for Young Audiences, Lifeline Theatre in Rogers Park announced last week that next season's KidSeries of shows based on children's books will include not one, not two, but three musicals with music and lyrics by George Howe, he of Davenport's Piano Bar and Cabaret. His musicals "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type," "Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch" and "Annie the Doughnut" are set for next fall, winter and spring, respectively. Very impressive, Mr. Howe!! The first show was adapted by ensemble member James E. Grote, and the latter two by ensemble member Frances Limoncelli.
A major announcement about next fall came courtesy of Northlight Theatre this week. A new musical based on a book, with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon (he wrote "Jane Eyre" for Broadway), presented in collaboration with theaters in London, New York and Cincinnati will play at Northlight from September 16--October 24, 2010. Called "Daddy Long Legs," and based on the novel of the same name by Jean Webster, the show will have its book and direction by the one and only John Caird, director of the legendary West End and Broadway productions of "Les Miserables." This one must have its eyes on the big time, folks!
But what about what's happening in the very near future, Mosh Pit residents want to know! Well, many folks are excited to know that Michael John LaChiusa's "Hello Again" begins performances this weekend, April 2-May 1 at the Heartland Studio on Glenwood Avenue, courtesy of the Bohemian Theatre Company and just up the street from Lifeline Theatre. Sure, the show is sexy. All that coupling and uncoupling! What's not to love??
Two weeks later, The Hypocrites will present Chicago's third professional production of Kander and Ebb's "Cabaret" in the last two and a half years. This one will run at the DCA Theater's Storefront Theater at 66 E. Randolph Street in the Loop, from April 15 through May 23. In a great idea, the show's director, Matt Hawkins, will converse with Jim Corti, who directed last summer's production of "Cabaret" out at Drury Lane Oakbrook, on Monday, April 19th at 7:00 pm. Old timers will remember that Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre made a splash with their "Cabaret" in the fall of 2007.
The following weekend, "An Evening of Broadway" is the title of a fundraiser for Windy City Performing Arts, taking place at Sidetrack on Halsted Street on Saturday, April 24 from 5:00-9:00 pm. Members of the Windy City Gay Chorus and Aria: Windy City Women's Ensemble will perform the music we love in a cabaret style, and all for the purchase of a $30 ticket. Again we say, what's not to love!
Word came this week that the long running Chicago production of "Million Dollar Quartet" just became even longer-running. It's now extended through September at the Apollo Theater, making the run a full year since its debut here at the Goodman Theatre. Oh, yeah, it inspired a Broadway production as well. Not bad, not bad at all.........
But there is also word going around that the downturn in the real estate market has come home to roost in the theater community. Yes, it's true that Theater Wit is (miraculously) opening its renovation of the old Bailiwick Repertory Theater building on Belmont Avenue this month, but it's also true that the next door Theatre Building Chicago is being sold, though its new owners reportedly intend to maintain it as a theater. And, amid news that the Mercury Theatere on Southport may be on the verge of foreclosure, it was reported this week that the huge Arie Crown Theatre, with more than 4.000 seats hidden inside the easternmost McCormick Place building, is being mothballed for at least a couple of years. Once the home of mid-1960s concerts by Judy Garland, the theater is remembered by long-time theatergoers for hosting legendary national tour stands of "Man of La Mancha" with Richard Kiley, "Timbuktu" (a reworking of "Kismet") with Eartha Kitt, "The King and I" with Yul Brynner and "Sweeney Todd" with Angela Lansbury. The last national tour to play there (I think) was "The Color Purple" with Fantasia. And yours truly performed as a backup singer to Sarah Brightman there, one memorable Veterans' Day. But let's hope that all these changes and rumored changes will make our theater community stronger, when all is said and done. The current news page of "Performink" seems to have a good handle on all the details of these various changes. Bravo to them.
Amid all this turmoil, the death of one icon of the gay community and the creation of another took everyone by surprise on Monday, when June Havoc, Broadway, film and vaudeville star and sister of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, passed away at age 97 (or 96, depending on which news source you believe). Miss Havoc was the real-life model for the character of Baby June/Dainty June in the musical "Gypsy," and it is this, and not her turn in the 1944 Cole Porter musical "Mexican Hayride," that has assured her immortality, trust me. Almost simultaneously to the announcement of her death, Ricky Martin, recording artist, star of "Les Miserables" for a bit on Broadway in the 1990s, and now rumored to be returning to Broadway as Che in a production of "Evita" starring Argentinean-born actress Elena Roger, announced his homosexuality on his website. You never can tell what's going to happen on a Monday, or who will be forever linked in the public's consciousness. Strange bedfellows? Perhaps. But beloved, nonetheless.
And on that grand cosmic note, I'll leave you to it, and I'll plan on seeing you this weekend, under those video screens.....Deal?--PWT