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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 15th, 2013

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 15th, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

And so, that's it for "Smash." The workplace drama and lovelife soap opera set in the world of the contemporary Broadway musical was cancelled last Friday by NBC television after two seasons of lackluster and mostly falling ratings. Changes among writers and actors for the second season apparently did little to convince the powers-that-be that the show would be useful to the network in the long haul (and may have contributed to a perceived drop in quality), and viewer attempts to save the show (and a rise in viewership when the possibility of cancellation became apparent earlier this spring) were insufficient, or too late, or both. Sad, really. The show won a few awards, got some folks excited about musicals, and gave us "Let Me Be Your Star," "Don't Forget Me" and a few other well-loved video clips. It gave us great cameos by famous and not-famous Broadway stars. But mostly, it gave us that sinking feeling of wasted potential. I do hope that folks watch it on DVD for years and years, and that younger folks someday ask us older folks, "What happened?" Because I can't imagine there will be another hour-long drama set on Broadway anytime soon. This was it! Our golden age on network TV. Marilyn, we hardly knew ye. There's only one episode left--the two-hour, Tony Awards-based series finale on Saturday night, May 26, 2013, at 9:00 Eastern, 8:00 Central. Don't forget me, indeed. RIP.


Speaking of cancellation, er, closing, let's take a peek at shows on the boards here that will be leaving us soon. The highly discussed production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein "Oklahoma!" at Lyric Opera Of Chicago will close up (or is it "close down") as scheduled on Sunday, May 19th, and will undoubtedly leave many observers thinking, "did that just happen?" Also leaving us after this Sunday will be "The Pajama Game," being played at The Music Theatre Company in Highland Park. "Aspects Of Love," the rarely seen Andrew Lloyd Webber soaper set in post-war France, will also close this Sunday after a successful run at the No Exit Café, courtesy of Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Circle Theatre's similar "Death Takes A Holiday" has one more week at Stage 773, the Maury Yeston tuner running through May 26. Also closing May 26th will be the Rodgers and Hart "Pal Joey," the second most quintessential Chicago musical, running at Stage 773 from Porchlight Music Theatre. The Rodgers and Hammerstein "South Pacific" at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and "Oliver" at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace each have two more weeks, closing June 2nd. Oh, my! Get thee to the appropriate box office or website!


But there are always new shows in the pipeline, never you fear, my peeps! A new show begins performances at Black Ensemble Theater on NortH Clark Street on June 1st. It's "Ain't No Crying The Blues: In The Memory of Howlin Wolf." Jackie Taylor's 2003 bio-musical about the late blues legend Chester Arthur Burnett will once again star Rick Stone (from the movie "Cooley High") and will run through August 11. Ruben Echoles will direct.


The Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera "H.M.S. Pinafore" is the first offering of the 2013 season from Light Opera Works, running June 8-16 only at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston. Directed and choreographed by Rudy Hogenmiller and musical directed by Roger Bingaman (leading a 26-piece orchestra), the 1878 show will star Chicago theater legend James Harms as Sir Joseph Porter, with Dane Thomas as Ralph Rackstraw, Sarah Kelly as Josephine, Michael Cavalieri as Captain Corcoran, Dawn Bless as Little Buttercup and Ryan de Ryke as Dick Deadeye. One draw for many observers will be the scenic design of Adam Veness.


In last week's "Mosh Pit" I mentioned that Broadway In Chicago's five fall offerings were "for another column." Well, that column is this one! The tour of last season's revival of Lloyd Webber and Rice's "Evita," conceived for Argentinean actress Elena Roger and kept alive at the box office by ex-teen star Ricky Martin, will play for at the Cadillac Palace Theatre September 17-October 6. Casting for the tour has not been announced. Last season's Tony winner of eight statuettes, including the one for Best Musical, "Once," based on the film of the same name (and including the hit song, "Falling Slowly") will play the Oriental Theatre from October 9-27. We are in fact the tour's second stop, after a one-week shakedown in Providence, RI., and this one's the big draw for most Chicagoans. "We Will Rock You," a hugely successful show in London's West End over the last decade, will finally make its Chicago debut for one week, October 22-27 at the Cadillac Palace, based of course on the song catalog of the band Queen. Our third visit by the megamusical "Wicked" will be a long one, October 30-December 21 at the Oriental Theatre, the show's original home during its record-breaking engagement here between 2005 and 2009. And rouding out BIC's fall offerings will be "Elf," the 2010 Broadway musical based on Will Farrell film that is making its delayed Chicago debut at the Cadillac Palace between November 26 and December 15. Single tickets for these shows are not yet on sale. That's why they want you to be a subscriber.


Looking ahead to 2014, our American Theater Company will mount a production of "Hair" in a similar fashion as the company's 2011 production, "The Original Grease." That is, they will return to something akin to the show's original script, with the involvement of one of the show's (still-living) creators--in this case, James Rado. This production was originally announced last year and would be running right this second, but it was postponed by one year, for an extension of the play "columbinus" and a remount of the play "Speech And Debate." Sigh. We want the "Hair" we were promised! Hair, hair, hair! Specific dates have not been announced.


Sunday, May 19, 2013, is a popular date. Not only is it the day that three productions will close here, but it's also the date that young Jason Forbach will perform his one-man concert, "A New Leading Man," at North Central College in Naperville (6:00 pm). Forbach has performed in regional theater and on tours ("Les Miserables") throughout the country (the Las Vegas "Phantom Of The Opera," for instance) and was a Metropolitan Opera National Council Semi-Finalist. And he's got two albums.


Also that day, at 2:00 pm in Wilmette, will be a showcase benefit, "Making Musicals," a cabaret song showcase by the writers participating in John Sparks' Midwest New Musicals, formerly at the old Theatre Building Chicago and now a program of Light Opera Works. Amanda Compton, John Gurdian, Ashlee Hardgrave and Nathan Mittleman, with special guest artist and BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Honey West, will perform songs by Tony winners Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis ("Urinetown") and a whole slew of other, Chicago-based musical theater writers. Awesome!


Monday night, May 20, at 7:00 pm is the date and time for "Chicago Sings Kander And Ebb," this year's edition of the annual gala performance at Rogers Park's Mayne Stage that benefits Porchlight Music Theatre. Rob Lindley and Doug Peck have put together an impressive array of artists scheduled to appear, a "who's who" of Chicago Equity talent from city and suburban theatrical stages. The place will be packed, and rocking, I can assure you!


And looking ahead to the first week of June, the annual benefit for Pride Films And Plays called "And The Winner Wasn't," now in its third edition, will take place at Sidetrack on Tuesday night, June 4 at 7:00. It's a performance of songs from shows that did not win Tony Awards, taking place the week before that big event. Many of the cast members from PFP's recent "Under A Rainbow Flag" will perform, as well as cast members from the Mercury Theatre's current production of "Barnum" and the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble's upcoming "Kiss Of The Spider Woman" (beginning performances May 31 at Theater Wit). Community participation! Cool.


So that's it for the Mosh Pit this week, peeps! I'll see you round and about, I'm sure. And afterwards, we'll wind up where we always do! See you there, under the video screens.....-PWT

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