'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 14th, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 14th, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Oh, my! Sidetrack was jumping this past Monday night, when Michael Urie (of "Ugly Betty" fame), in town for his one-man, off-Broadway hit comedy, "Buyer And Cellar" at the Broadway Playhouse, introduced the cast of the current (through June 1) Porchlight Music Theatre production of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying." The cast performed "Coffee Break" and "Company Way" (two songs performed by Urie as Bud Frump in the recent Broadway revival), and the huge crowd loved it! Later that night, when fans of the Bailiwick Chicago one-night-only concert of "Parade" hit the club, the excitement reached a fever pitch. The place was packed well into the wee hours. Who says that Mosh Pit peeps don't have fun? Who says that?


Speaking of Broadway In Chicago, the umpteenth visit of a national tour of "Mamma Mia!" plays our fair city this week, May 13-18 only, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. This may be the last time it comes here, though, as this particular (and non-union) tour looks like it's shutting down after a stint in Dallas for the first two weeks of June. A new union production of the ABBA tuner opens in Las Vegas this month (starring Chicagoan Christine Sherrill, you remember), and of course the show continues on Broadway, where it opened in 2000 (replicating its 1999 success in London's West End). Will it ever end? Or will it just morph?


The recently opened national tour of "Motown" at the Oriental Theatre brings to mind the shows routinely written and produced by our own Black Ensemble Theater, operating out of its beautiful new facility on Clark Street in Uptown. BET is beginning the world premiere performances of "One Hit Wonders" on May 16th, with the opening set for next Wednesday, May 21st. Written by Rueben D. Echoles in collaboration with Dawn Bless, it's directed by Daryl D. Brooks. Kelvin Roston, Jr., stars. Though this show may be more of a revue than the plot-driven star biographies BET has also created, it will be interesting to gauge critical and audience reaction for these two shows. Compare and contrast, students!


Our next pre-Broadway tryout will be upon us before you know it, and we are learning a little more about it now. It's "The Last Ship," based on rock star Sting's recollections about the shipyards and seaside of his English boyhood. The show will make its world premiere bow at the Bank Of America Theatre in the Chicago Loop from June 10-July 13, 2014, directed by Rockford native Joe Mantello ("Wicked") and choreographed by London's Stephen Hoggett. "The Last Ship" is set to begin Broadway performances at the Neil Simon Theatre on September 29, with opening night scheduled for October 26. Michael Esper, Rachel Tucker, Jimmy Nail, Fred Applegate, Aaron Lazar, Sally Ann Triplett and Collin Kelly-Sordelet star, leading a much larger ensemble. Awesome!


You remember our last pre-Broadway tryout, don't you? It was "Big Fish," the Susan Stroman musical with music by Andrew Lippa that played the Oriental Theatre last April, before its Broadway run of 98 official performances last fall (also at the Neil Simon Theatre). Well, we are set to become the first theater market to have seen two incarnations of this show, as the Jedlicka Performing Arts Center in Cicero is holding auditions this week for its production of the show, scheduled for July 25-August 9, directed by Dante Orfei and musical directed by John Warren. They are very good at snagging the rights to newly released material!


A new musical, created locally, and based on a local original play, now expanded, has received very good notices. It's "Hey! Dancin'! Hey! Musical!" and it's playing at the Factory Theater through May 31st. Matthew Gunnels directs, and Brigitte Ditmars choreographs, the story of a 1986 local cable access dance show and the teenagers who long to appear on it. Composer and co-lyricist Laura McKenzie also music directs. It's sweet satire, bracingly well-done. So I've heard!


Last week's Mosh Pit discussion of the upcoming "Jersey Boys" film was not in any way meant to take away from the other upcoming film adaptations of Broadway musicals we will see in movie theaters. Specifically, I'm referring to Jason Robert Brown's "The Last Five Years" (coming at some point this year, starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan), and, opening on Christmas Day, the double whammy of "Into The Woods" (with Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, and Kendrick again) and "Annie" (the latter an updating/rewriting, starring Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx). Sorry, mom. I won't be home for Christmas this year....




Of course, an original musical film, an animated one aimed at children and one whose lead voice is a Broadway name, opened to very little fanfare last week. I'm talking about "Legends Of Oz: Dorothy's Return," with Lea Michele ("Spring Awakening") as the voice of Dorothy Gale, and Megan Hilty ("Wicked" and "Smash") in there somewhere, too. What happened with this one? Has anybody seen it? What's the deal?


And the television series that made Lea Michele a household name, a little thing called "Glee," reached its season finale last night on FOX. The show, which I named to the Showtune Mosh Pit Hall Of Fame a couple of years back, has been in the news quite a bit lately, what with all the rumors of Naya Rivera being fired, and of course the show's storylines in the aftermath of star Cory Monteith's untimely death last summer. Anyway, there will be one more season after this one, and it's anybody's guess at this point whether creator and Indianapolis native Ryan Murphy will actually secure a Broadway house and star Michele in a revival of "Funny Girl." As of now, Michele's Rachel Berry character seems bound for Los Angeles. Will star and role combine in real life someday? We will see, won't we, Gleeks?


Speaking of TV, can you believe the floodgates opening with all these announced musical theater projects, coming on the coattails of NBC's popular, if not altogether successful, production of "The Sound Of Music" last December? NBC had already announced that the follow-up to that Carrie Underwood starrer would be a December 4, 2014, mounting of "Peter Pan," technically the network's fourth outing of that title. Soon after that announcement, the FOX network announced that it would produce a live version of "Grease" for television in 2015. Then, just the other day, came word that NBC will produce a live version of "The Music Man" for the small screen, sometime in 2015. The early word from the casting rumor mill is that the frontrunner for the lead role of Harold Hill in many fan's minds is Seth McFarlane. I could be on board with that! How about you, peeps? But who for maid Marian, the librarian and music teacher?


And speaking of musical theater aimed for the smaller tots among us, Chicago Shakespeare Theater has announced the impressive cast of its summer Theater For Young Audiences production of Lynn Ahrens' and Stephen Flaherty's "Seussical," on the board from July 5-August 17 in the Courtyard Theater on Navy Pier. (Monty Python's Eric Idle ["Spamalot"] had a hand in its creation, too.) Scott Weinstein will direct, and Michael Mahler will music direct, a cast including Alex Goodrich as The Cat In The Hat and George Andrew Wolff as Horton The Elephant. Lillian Castillo will be Gertrude McFuzz and Cory Goodrich will be Mayzie (I believe all four of these actors are previous Jeff Award winners). Also in the cast will be Emily Chang, Lisa Estridge, Aaron Holland, Ericka Mac, Liam Quealy, Joseph Sammour, Allison Sill and Krystal Worrell. Tommy Rapley choreographs.


So, do you dare ever miss a Monday night at Sidetrack The Video Bar? Or a Wednesday night at The Call Bar? Or a Friday or a Sunday at either location? I'm just sayin'! Now, there are karaoke bars and piano bars and cabaret rooms all over town, and of course there are theaters! Go to them. But the later it gets, folks are either at home with their cast album collections (I mean, their VIRTUAL cast album collections) or they are out with their peeps, meeting other like-minded peeps. It's a Chicago thing. Of course, if you have lines or lyrics to learn, you are excused! Otherwise, I look forward to seeing you. Where? Repeat after me,..."Under the video screens....."-PWT

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