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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 7th, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for May 7th, 2014




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

The the Sixties in full swing! The 1960s are all up in the Mosh Pit this week. It's kind of crazy, actually! But the Decade Of Change was a legendary one in American culture, and that's very much in evidence on Chicago's musical stages right now. Let's have a look.

The 1961 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner, "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying," is onstage now, in a well-received production from Porchlight Music Theatre, directed by Rob Lindley and choreographed by Brenda Didier (through June 1). Kory Danielson music directs the Frank Loesser tuner, bringing the "Mad Men" era to life at Stage 773. I understand that a preview of the show will be a highlight of next Monday evening's goings-on at Sidetrack. Tyler Ravelson, Elizabeth Telford and Fred Zimmerman (pictured) star, with the legendary broadcaster Bill Kurtis as the Voice Of The Book! Is there really a brotherhood of man? Do all men wear suits? Do women make good wives and secretaries? Is this all a satire? Or just parts of it?...


Though it's been in previews for two weeks, the big national tour of the Broadway hit "Motown: The Musical" officially opens tomorrow night, May 8, at the Oriental Theatre, where it will be ensconced until August 9, 2014. The hit show by about Berry Gordy and the empire of hits he built in Detroit in the early 1960s should be a crowd-pleaser here. If you like the Supremes, the Temptations and little Michael Jackson, what are you waiting for? Maybe the ads should read, "Just like 'Dreamgirls,' only different!"


The best musical winner of the 1967 Tonys, "Cabaret," is never far from our stages. And even with a revival of the 1998 Broadway revival now playing at Studio 54 in New York, and even after a well-received production at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire closed just last month, there is yet another "Cabaret," this one at the Citadel Theatre Company in north suburban Lake Forest, running April 25-May 25. Robert D. Estrin directs Dominic Rescigno, Cassie Johnson, Kraig Kelsey, Michelle McKenzie-Voigt and Bill Chamberlain in Kander and Ebb's first masterpiece.


Arguably the most influential musical of the 1960s, and still controversial today, is "Hair." Part of the controversy stems from the fact that its text and songstack were fluid in the early years, making accounts of the show's development somewhat hard to reconcile with later incarnations. Freshly opened in Chicago's St. Ben's neighborhood is the American Theater Company production directed by PJ Paparelli (music direction by Austin Cook). Running through June 29, this version has included some material by original co-author James Rado (he's been involved), including dialogue, dating to the 1967 off-Broadway production. If this property speaks to you at all, I would get there ASAP and see what they're presenting. It's getting rave reviews so far! ATC has attempted this type of approach with "Grease," and now the company is apparently two for two. Sky Seals is Berger, Zach Kenney is Claude and Ella Raymont is Sheila, leading a cast of fifteen. Excellent.


Now in previews is a play with music about a man who was one of the biggest Hollywood film stars of the 1950s through the 1990s, Jack Lemmon. (His films in the Sixties included "The Apartment," "Days Of Wine And Roses," "Irma La Douce," "How To Murder Your Wife," "The Great Race," "Luv" and "The Odd Couple.") The late star's son, Chris Lemmon, stars as his father in "Jack Lemmon Returns," which began performances on May 2 and opens on May 12 at the Royal George Theatre. It's written and directed by Hershey Felder, the producer, actor, pianist, writer and director behind the hits "George Gershwin Alone" and last year's "The Pianist Of Willesden Lane." We'll see soon how this one goes.


Speaking of films, and speaking of the 1960s, the Hollywood adaptation of a major Broadway and Chicago title is coming to big screens soon, and trailers are already in movie theaters. It's "Jersey Boys,"opening on June 20th in an adaptation directed by the legendary Clint Eastwood and starring Tony Award winner John Lloyd Young as Frankie Valli. Erich Bergen, who starred in the world premiere musical "Hero" at our Marriott Theatre before leaving to co-star in the national tour of "Anything Goes," is billed second. Christopher Walken is in it as well. What do we think, peeps? Will this show transfer well to the movie screens? Will it still seem like the show, or like some other version of the Four Seasons' career and hits? These and many other questions will be answered soon!


The Carpenters were among the biggest names in pop music in the 1970s, with siblings Karen and Richard providing the voices and arrangements for "Close To You," "Rainy Days And Mondays," "We've Only Just Begun" and many more chart-toppers. Fox Valley Repertory in west suburban St. Charles (at the Pheasant Run resort) is bringing us two performances of "Close To You: The Music Of The Carpenters," a tribute band of sorts, on Saturday, May 31. Singer Lisa Rock and her band will do the honors. After that, the theater will present an Andrews Sisters revue, "Sisters Of Swing: The Andrews Sisters Story," from June 5-July 27, with musical arrangements by Raymond Berg. That would be the 1940s....


You may know that Sunday night, May 11, is the next opportunity for "Option Up!" at Stage 773, as Christopher Pazdernik and Aaron Benham present their monthly cabaret and variety show about the world of musical theater in Chicago. Their guests this time are Jeff Award winner Callie Johnson and Broadway veteran Katherine Condit, and, in the student slot, Loyola University student (now graduating) Anna Dauzvardis. She'll sing from "Hot Mikado," and Johnson will sing from the upcoming Bailwick Chicago production of "Carrie," the Chicago premiere of that legendary musical title. Johnson and Condit are starring in that, by the way (starting performances May 29).


The very next night, Monday, May 12, will be a special one for that very same Bailiwick Chicago, as the company is presenting a one-night-only staged concert of Jason Robert Brown's "Parade," at the Mercury Theater Chicago on Southport. It's in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Chicago premiere of the show in 2004, which won seven Jeff Awards for the company's predecessor organization, Bailwick Repertory Theater. David Zak and Alan Bukowiecki return as director and musical director, with original stars Nicholas Foster and Amy Arbrizzani in their Jeff Award-winning roles as Leo and Lucille Frank. Fourteen of the twenty-two other cast members will also be returning from that 2004 show. Sounds pretty awesome!


The Tony Award nominations for the 2013-14 season were just announced last week, including two for Jason Robert Brown as composer and orchestrator of "The Bridges Of Madison County" (surely to give "The Music Man" and "State Fair" a run for their money as the official Iowa State Musical). The awards will handed out in a star-studded affair on Sunday night, June 8, and I'm proud to confirm that BroadwayWorld Chicago will be hosting a Tony Award Viewing Party that night, for your enjoyment and socialization enrichment! Details will be forthcoming later this week, but we will again have a trivia contest, and local Chicago theaters are providing ticket offers to summer shows for the lucky winners (hint: it's not too late to donate a prize). So, read up on all the Tony coverage here on BroadwayWorld.com, mark 6/8/14 into your calendars, and I'll see you all at The Call Bar in Andersonville for our annual Tony soiree! I hope you can make it. It's the biggest night of the year for live theater in popular culture. You'll want to be a part of it. It'll be a blast....


And so, as we eagerly await the first actually warm day around here, that brings the Mosh Pit to a close for now. Pretty little May is here, and June will be busting out all over pretty soon. So, I'll see you in the theater lobbies, no doubt, and afterwards I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT

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