'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 11th, 2011
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:
What a coup for Bailiwick Chicago! Last week, the young theater company announced that they have secured the rights to present what will surely be the Chicago premiere of the musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," that rocked off and on-Broadway last year (winning the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical). Though it closed somewhat prematurely, and didn't get some of the award nominations some observers had predicted, some of those same observers seem to feel that the show might be better served by a smaller production size, and by some of the gritty actor-audience relationship that Bailiwick is now seeing with its acclaimed production of "Passing Strange." There aren't any dates or venues announced for "Bloody" just yet, but the show that reminded New York observers first of Barack Obama and then of Sarah Palin (will Ron Paul or Aaron Schock be next?) will be part of Bailiwick's 2012 season. You heard it here first--this show (with the tag line, "History Just Got All Sexypants," will be a major theatrical event!
On the sadder side of things, the new musical "White Noise" has announced that it is closing early here, on May 15 rather than on June 19, 2011. I guess the reviews for this work-in-progress weren't as strong as the producers (Whoopi Goldberg et al.) were planning for, but the show seems to be taking the reaction of the Chicago theater community to heart for some retrenching. As a reward of sorts to us, the show will do a live "streaming" event from the stage of the Royal George Theatre today, May 11, 2011, though it will not be a full performance of the show per se. What happens next for the show with the crazy subject matter? Unclear at this point, although its best-known cast member, Douglas Sills, was just announced to be starring in the upcoming national tour of "The Addams Family," probably to include its holiday stand this year at our Cadillac Palace Theatre. Hmm.
The other big musical non-tour in town at the moment, "Working," has reconfirmed that it is not closing early, but that its previously announced extension through June 5 will indeed mark the close of its run at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. It will be a healthy three month run for the reboot of this 1970s tuner based on the book of the same name by our very own Studs Terkel. You've seen it, right? You really should. It's some of our best performers in a show about the working people of this city, the "city that works." That's pretty awesome.
You may have heard of a new production of the Gershwin-Gershwin-Heyward masterpiece, "Porgy And Bess," being reclaimed for the musical theater stage after decades of the show fighting to be let into the nation's opera houses. Some girl named Audra McDonald is involved in it, and it's going to be in Massachusetts soon.... Well, I'm pretty sure that the Court Theatre production of the show here, on the campus of the University of Chicago, was announced first, and will begin performances first--that is to say, tomorrow, May 12. It runs through June 19, with Todd M. Kryger as Porgy, Alexis J. Rogers as Bess and James Earl Jones II as Crown. Charles Newell directs, with the alchemy of Doug Peck in charge of the music. This, too, is pretty major!
There will be another significant musical with a virtually all-African-American cast a little bit later, and a little further south and east. It's "The Wiz," the big winner at the 1975 Tony Awards, and it will be staged by Stacey Flaster at the Theatre At The Center in Munster, Indiana, in July. The cast was announced this week, consisting of Adrianna Parson as Dorothy (she was Amneris in Bailiwick Chicago's acclaimed "Aida" last summer), the nigh-unto-legendary Felicia P. Fields as Evillene, and the aforementioned James Earl Jones II as the The Lion and Uncle Henry. Guess he'll be busy...again. J Good for him, and lucky us.
The 2007 off-Broadway musical "Adrift In Macao," with book and lyrics by the playwright Christopher Durang and music by Peter Melnick, has played the first of its four performances on Sunday nights at 7:30, at The Call nightclub in Andersonville (lucky, isn't it, that later on Sunday evenings, the bar has its showtune video format!). The production is being presented by InnateVolution Theater Productions, and is directed by Toma Tavares Langston, with choreography by Raymond K. Cleveland and musical direction by Paul Rigano. I think it's a film noir spoof, with a cast of seven at 7:30, Sunday nights in May.
The world premiere of the new musical, "Trogg!," from the irreverent troupe known as Hell in a Handbag Productions, begins previews this week, and opens on May 22 (running through July 3) in the studio space at the Chopin Theater on Division Street. It's directed by Scott Ferguson, with book, music and lyrics by David Cerda with Cheryl Snodgrass and Taylor E. Ross. Cerda appears in the show as well, looking very much like Joan Crawford. Imagine! Oh, and there's a caveman in it.
The Drury Lane Theatre production of "Aida" closes this weekend, and the next show on the boards out in Oakbrook Terrace is not a musical, but rather it's the play "Broadway Bound," Neil Simon's autobiographical play about his early attempts at a show business career. The next tuner for Tony DeSantis's great theater is bound to attract a lot of attention, in the Mosh Pit and around theatrical circles everywhere. It's Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's "Sweeney Todd." (I told you that there is plenty of Sondheim going around these days!) Well, the theater has not yet announced casting, though the rumors have been flying hot and heavy. The musical slash opera (get it?) will be performed from August 11 through October 9, and it should be a doozy.
And "Glee" remains a phenomenon, though the newness has worn off as we approach the end of the show's second full season (only two episodes left!). On the heels of the one-week stand here of the national tour of "Spring Awakening" (not quite a first-class affair, by most accounts), it was bittersweet to see Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele re-teaming in this week's episode of the award-winning series, though in a partly odd, a capella way. Ah, well. The "Glee: Volume 6" recording will be available in less than two weeks, and let's not forget the summer live tour, to include sometime Chicagoan Darren Criss. Those who love this show and those who don't pretty much have settled into their respective camps by now, we think, and little will happen to move folks from one camp to the other.
So, as we bake and bask under a glimpse of summer, maybe sneaking in an afternoon nap in the warm sunshine, I urge all you Mosh Pit peeps to take a sip of your favorite cold beverage, and count your showtune blessings. We have a lot of great musical theater in town right now, on our airwaves and in our downloads. Which can only mean one thing--sometime soon, I'll see you enjoying all that musical comedy joy with your closest showtune friends, under the video screens.....Goodbye for now-PWT
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