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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 25th, 2011




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Season Two is done! And those who love it loved it, and those who hate it hated it. That's pretty much how it goes these days with "Glee," which broadcast its season finale on Tuesday night. The episode, complete with the national show choir finals, Patti LuPone, the Gershwin Theatre, original songs, Times Square, Lincoln Center, Sardi's, an "I love you" and "For Good," completed a busy and popular season for the award-winning FOX television show. How ever will we all survive throughout the long, (and hopefully) reasonably hot summer? Can't say. Anybody for a DVD run??? And, oh yes. Summer reruns will be on Thursdays.

FOX Broadcasting Company - Glee 

OK, now let's be real for a minute, Mosh Pit peeps. "Glee" is a satirical television comedy series about a high school show choir, and there's a lot of music. And many of us love it dearly, and listen to the music like it's going out of style. But there's a show coming to network television next season (January of 2012, to be exact) which may become even nearer and dearer to our hearts. It's "Smash," and it's a television drama series about the creation of a Broadway musical! Surely we are all extremely excited about this show, right? You've heard about it, right? 

It stars Debra Messing ("Will And Grace"), Christian Borle ("Spamalot"), Brian d'Arcy James ("Titanic"and "Shrek"), Megan Hilty ("Wicked" and "9 To 5"), Katharine McPhee (a little show called "American Idol") and Angelica Huston (yes, HER), and they're trying to write, produce, direct and star in a show about Marilyn Monroe, out of town tryout and all. I don't think there's a lot of music in "Smash," but the music for the show that is the subject of the plot is being written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman ("Hairspray). Steven Spielberg (yes, HIM) and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the Bette Midler "Gypsy") are among the show's producers. An actual TV show about the creation of professional musical theater! Whoever would have thought that this would see the light of day in our lifetime? How amazing, right? Thank you, NBC! (And the trailer looks awesome!) 

NBC Picks Up Broadway-themed SMASH! 

You may (or may not) have noticed that it is springtime, which can only mean one thing--it's showtune CD time! More Broadway cast albums are released in May and June than at any other time of year, and this year is no exception. According to Amazon, "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," "The Scottsboro Boys," "Women On The Edge Of A Nervous Breakdown," "Wonderland" and "Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert" are out now, "The Book Of Mormon" and the revival cast of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" will be out June 7, "Baby, It's You" will be released June 14, and "Catch Me If You Can" will be released June 28.  Of course, many of them are available for legal downloading of music even as we speak! No word on "Anything Goes" or "Sister Act" or "The People In The Picture," but a little thing called "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark," which actually counts toward next year's season, will also be available June 14. Did I leave anything out? Of course, you have ALL of last year's recordings, right? 

You know, the internet has allowed us to make HUGE improvements in the way we become aware and follow productions of shows in other cities. and its rivals, and Facebook, Twitter and the like, are allowing Chicagoans to keep abreast of, say, "Tales Of The City" at American Conservatory Theater in San Fransisco (a world premiere) or the new production of "Follies" at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, starring Bernadette Peters. We hear from friends, future friends, fans, actors, writers, everybody, really! And with the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier slated to produce its own version of "Follies" in the fall (directed by Gary Griffin, and with casting as yet unknown), the one in Washington has taken on importance to Chicagoans, for now and into the future. Will it transfer to New York? Will Bernadette hit her high notes? Can "Loveland" be as great as they say it is? I don't know--it's like I'm losing my mind.... 

Chicago Shakespeare Theater - Follies 

The exciting production here called "The Original Grease," the American Theater Company show using the original 1971 Chicago script and score for "Grease," the international phonomenon, has announced a two-month extension, through August 21! Along with this announcement came word that the show's opening and closing sequences, the framing device of a class reunion, have been reworked since opening night earlier this month, better setting up the Chicago world of the real-life Danny and Sandy on the Nort'west side of our fair city. I wonder if they'll have reviewers back in.... 

The Original Grease Gets Further Refinements 

Currently up and running is the brand new musical, "Trogg!," from Hell In A Handbag Productions, mostly written by and mostly starring David Cerda in a Joan Crawford persona. It's the troupe's first new musical in four years, directed by Scott Ferguson in the studio space at the Chopin Theatre on Division Street. This mash-up of Darwinian science and rock and roll runs through July 3rd. 

Hell in a Handbag Productions 

Perhaps even more outlandish in its scenario, and its name, is the musical "Earthqueef," running on Wednesday nights only at the Annoyance Theatre in Uptown (counting tonight, I think there are only three more performances). Written and directed by John Loos, but with a definite sketch comedy ethos, "Earthqueef" is a science fiction send-up involving big oil, breathtaking action sequences, a dog, genderblind casting, the White House, and picking up the state of Florida with a helicopter--you know, the usual theatrical fare.... Nick Schaefer stars as President Don Sparkles, with Mike Marunowski as Dr. Larry Fackup. 

The Annoyance Theatre & Bar - Earthqueef 

Chicago is really becoming a center for the development of new musicals--there are two staged readings taking place this week alone, both of which feature Norm Boucher in the cast. On Monday and Tuesday night, "The Beverly Hillibillies: The Musical??!!" tried itself out at Tommy Gun's Garage on South Wabash Avenue, book by David Rogers, with music and lyrics by Gregg Opelka. Other big names involved included James Harms as Jed Clampett, Kelly Anne Clark as Granny, husband and wife John and Angelynn Stemberg as Jethro and Elly May, and Larry Adams and Tammy Mader as the villains. 

Gregg Opelka 

Tonight at the Mercury Theater on Southport Avenue there will be a reading of "Fanny Brice: The Real Funny Girl," the latest from director-writer and Northwestern University faculty member David H. Bell, featuring Norm Boucher, Stef Tovar, Lance Baker and Marya Grandy as Fanny. Daniel Green will be at the keyboard, playing (I think) the real-life songs that Brice sang in her starry career. 

Mercury Theater Presents Fanny Brice- THE REAL FUNNY GIRL 

Speaking of Northwestern University, the Theatre And Interpretation Center announced its summer line-up, "SummerStage 2011," in a preview event last night, and it seems pretty awesome! There will be a celebration of the work of Charles Strouse on Saturday, June 25, featuring Craig Carnelia, Andrew Lippa, Lari White, Christine Ebersole and Strouse himself, a production of "Godspell," directed by Dominic Missimi (July 7-24), and two weekends of performances (featuring our local leading ladies) called "Some Enchanted Broadway Evening," the first starring Heidi Kettenring, and the second starring Hollis Resnik. Here's the full scoop: 

Theatre and Interpretation Center - Summer Season 

Looking into the future, Lyric Opera of Chicago has announced casting for its new production of Kern and Hammerstein's "Show Boat," in what surely will be the weightiest production of this "granddaddy of them all" that we will see in many a year. Opera's Nathan Gunn will star as Gaylord Ravenal, with Broadway's Ashley Brown (star of "Mary Poppins") as Magnolia Hawks and Chicago theater star Ross Lehman as Captain Andy Hawks. Francesca Zambello directs what is sure to be a large cast, with choreography by Michele Lynch and sets by Peter J. Davison. Individual tickets go on sale August 1, 2011, for performances from February 12-March 17, 2012. Just go. 

Show Boat - Lyric Opera of Chicago 

Last but not least, Alan Cumming, Mosh Pit visitor and star of "The Good Wife," "Cabaret," "Annie" and "The Threepenny Opera," among other projects, performs his one-man show, "I Bought A Blue Car Today," at the Harris Theater For Music And Dance at Millenium Park on May 28, this very Saturday night! It's a cabaret evening Cumming has performed elsewhere over the last year or so. No matter what else you're doing this weekend, I bet you could find the time to head over there and see this stage, film and television star, one of the remarkable talents of Scotland, or for that matter, of anywhere. Tony winners don't come any more compelling, IMHO. 

Harris Theater: Alan Cumming 

So, that's it for now! Just the typical mix of video projects, theatrical and concert performances, local and national vehicles for star and emerging talent, etc. You know the drill. It's the Showtune Mosh Pit! And yes, amongst the holiday weekend craziness, I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT 

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From This Author Paul W. Thompson

Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to since 2007, is a Chicago-based singer, actor, musical director, pianist, vocal coach, composer and commentator. His career as (read more...)