'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for November 12th, 2014
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS, AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
Overheard last weekend under the showtune video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
And so, it's that time of year again! No, not the time you hibernate until the leaves bud and the bunnies hatch. No, it's time to vote for the 2014 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards! Now in our 5th fabulous year, the Broadies, Chicago-style, are voted on by you, the theater fans and participants of our area. Of the 181 nominees in 36 categories, we've acknowledged work by 53 theaters on 94 separate productions. 128 individuals are nominated. And votes are already being tabulated! Real-time results are available for viewing throughout the voting period, which lasts from November 10-December 31. And don't forget our BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards Celebration, at The Call Bar in Andersonville on Wednesday night, January 7th. I hope to see you there!
As far as showtunes go, the productions with the most nominations are these: "Road Show" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater garnered 6 nominations, including one for both male stars, Michael Aaron Lindner and Andrew Rothenberg (pictured). Mercury Theater Chicago's "Avenue Q" and American Blues Theater's "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," both with extended runs, have 5 nominations apiece. At 4 nods come the Goodman Theatre's "Brigadoon," Porchlight Music Theatre's "Sweeney Todd," Bailiwick Chicago's "The Wild Party," Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "Passion" and Big Noise Theatre Company's "Ragtime." Also receiving four nominations is the pre-Broadway tryout of "The Last Ship" (now on Broadway), seen here at the Bank Of America Theatre.
Five productions earned three nominations apiece: Bailiwick's "Dessa Rose," Porchlight's "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying," Brown Paper Box Co.'s "A New Brain," Marriott Theatre's "The King And I" and Griffin Theatre Company's "Titanic." You can't tell me you can't something to vote for! Join thousands of your fellow Chicago theater peeps and click and vote!
There are some big local productions in the offing. Lyric Opera Of Chicago is remounting its popular 2008-09 production of George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's opera (or is it?) "Porgy And Bess," directed by Francesca Zambello, for performances during this year's subscription season that run from November 17-December 20. It's an almost new cast from the company's debut of the work, now starring Eric Owens and Adina Aaron, with Eric Greene, Jermaine Smith and Karen Slack.
Lyric has also let it be known that its spring production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel" (not a subscription production but a single-ticket-buyer jamboree of a clambake) will star television and Broadway star Steven Pasquale ("The Bridges Of Madison County") as Billy Bigelow. No word yet on Julie and Carrie, but I'm hoping they have the good sense to at least ask Tony winner Jessie Mueller to reprise her Jeff Award-winning turn as Carrie one more time, as she did last year for the New York Philharmonic. Veteran "Carmen" star Denyce Graves is already announced as Nettie, but there's not yet a Mr. Snow or the two dance stars, Louise and the Carnival Boy. Rob Ashford directs, with musical direction by David Chase. If those names ring a bell, it's because they are both currently working on "Peter Pan Live" for NBC. Big time, folks. (Lyric's "Carousel" runs April 11-May 3, 2015.)
Running almost concurrently with "Carousel" will be a remount of the revisal of the Johnny Cash musical "Ring Of Fire," seen at the Theatre At The Center last year and being put into the Mercury Theater Chicago late in the spring. Brian Russell will again direct Kent Lewis and Cory Goodrich as Johnny and June Carter Cash, with Michael Goodman as the Young Johnny. Malcolm Ruhl music directs and appears in the band of four. You can circle for parking around "Ring Of Fire" (or just take the Brown Line) from April 30-June 28, 2015.
Speaking of revisals, Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot" has been shortened and tweaked and all decked out (with the approval of the writers' estates), and opened last week at the Drury Lane Theatre in a production that has gained a somewhat divided opinion. Many observers think director Alan Souza's streamlined and testosterone-driven production is a revelation, shining a spotlight on the love triangle of King Arthur, Queen Guenevere and Sir Lancelot and doing so in an exciting, cable drama/gamer sort of physical production. Others are finding it missing the spirit of T. H. White's source novel, "The Once And Future King," skipping favorite parts of the overlong original Broadway production, untrue to the memory of the show-loving, idealistic President John F. Kennedy, or just plain hard to believe as a viable storyline. But everyone seems to love Kevin Depinet's set and Travis Taylor's Lancelot. So there's that (through January 5, 2015).
There's a big show coming to downtown next week. It's "Annie" again, in a non-Equity tour directed by lyricist Martin Charnin that is said to bear no resemblance to the recent Broadway revival, but a great resemblance to the original 1977 Tony-winning production, sans Dorothy Loudon, Andrea McArdle and Laurie Beechman, of course. We have it from November 18-30, at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Issie Swickle (yes, that's right) plays the irrepressible orphan.
But you know why there's a tour out, right? It's not just because this show needs to come around about every five years or miss an entire generation of theatergoing girls. It's because of the upcoming film remake of the show (or is it a film remake of the film of the show?), starring Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz and Bobby Canavale. This is a complete reimagining of the show (and/or its 1982 big screen adaptation and/or its 1999 television adaptation) by director Will Gluck, and it opens in movie theaters December 19, 2014. Jay-Z and Will Smith are the producers. It was originally conceived to star Willow Smith, but that casting didn't take, apparently. It's a hard-knock life, indeed.
And then there's "Ani." Sounds the same, but so different! "Ani" is the latest internet musical theater sensation from Chicago-based Team StarKid, the University Of Michigan alums who, buoyed by the internet success of their Darren Criss-led "A Very Potter Musical," settled in Chicago and set about developing both audiences and finances through innovative means. "Ani," a "Star Wars" parody, ran at Stage 773 for three weeks this past summer, and is now available for viewing on the internet. Want to feel younger than you really are, and still be a Mosh Pit peep? Watch videos of "Ani!"
Speaking of parody, there's the 1997 film "Waiting For Guffman," written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy and starring them, alongside Catherine O'Hara, Parkey Posey, Fred Willard and Bob Balaban. The plot of the film concerns a group of small-town Missourians and the original historical musical about their town, "Red, White and Blaine." So of course, the talents that be at iO (formerly improvOlympic) have mounted "Red, Hot and Blaine" as a stand-alone stage musical, performing every Saturday night at 10:30 in the Chris Farley Cabaret at the new location of iO Chicago, 1501 N. Kingsbury, just off North Avenue. It opens this Saturday, November 15, with a cast of ten under the direction of Jeff Griggs and musical direction by Matt Herzau. That's hysterical crazy!
Another parody of a sort is "The Book of Merman," the new musical by Jeff Award-winning playwright and composer Leo Schwartz that will open at Mary's Attic in Andersonville, playing from January 15-February 15, 2015. Courtesy of Pride Films And Plays, the show puts young urban missionaries and Ethel Merman together for some musical comedy gold. Starring Dan Gold and Sam Button-Harrison, with Libby Lane as Ethel Merman, the show is directed by David Zak and music directed by Robert Ollis.
One day later, The New Colony will premiere a new work in its new permanent home, The Den Theatre in Wicker Park. "Plastic Revolution" will be performed January 16-February 22, directed by Evan Lindner and music directed by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster. A revised version of the company's 2009 hit, "Tupperware: An American Musical Fable," "Plastic Revolution" has a cast of eight, performing music by Julie Nichols, lyrics by Andrew Hobgood and a book by Hobgood and Will Cavedo.
But first, it's Christmas! And let it be known that Hell In A Handbag Productions is bringing back "Rudolph The Red-Hosed Reindeer," after a tasteful one-year hiatus, for its 17th holiday season of parody, gender bending and song, performing at Mary's Attic from November 29-January 2, directed by Brian McKnight. Yep, that about covers it!
Back to the present, and to less parodic fare, is the Wheaton Drama production of Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon's "The Secret Garden," opening this Friday, November 14, and running through December 7. Anthony Berg directs, with music direction by Andrew Sickel. Michael Sitrick and David Pfenninger star as Archibald and Neville, with Harmony Barry as Lily, Gina Graffagna as Martha and Nik Eden as Dickon. Samantha Erne and Olivia Williams share the role of Mary Lennox, with Bentley Dyer and Gwen Royle as young Colin.
And just like that, it's winter! Well, not exactly. But it is mid-November, to be sure. So, hike up your skirts, button down the hatches and find your mucklucks. And vote for the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards! Perhaps I'll see you in January at the Awards Celebration. And I know I will see you before then, perhaps under the video screens.....-PWT
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