'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for November 28th, 2012
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one….It’s now full speed ahead into the December holiday season. And it’s a busy one!
Next Monday night, December 3rd, is the big holiday celebration to kick off sales of “Season Of Carols,” the holiday music CD put together by Jeff Award winners Cory Goodrich and Eugene Dizon, featuring dozens of Chicago musical theater performers in fresh arrangements of holiday songs. There are some new songs as well! And on Monday at 7:30 at the Mercury Theater, Melody Betts, the cabaret groups Foiled Again (including Rob Lindley) and The Lincoln Squares (including Michael Mahler--that’s them in the picture), the cast of the Drury Lane Theatre’s BroadwayWorld Chicago Award-nominated production of “Hairspray” and the Mercury Theater’s current production of “The Christmas Schooner” will join together with others to perform some of the selections from the CD. And of course, all proceeds go to Season of Concern, the Chicagoland theater community’s fundraising organization which supports those experiencing catastrophic illness, including HIV/AIDS. Won’t you support the cause and enjoy some great music, too?
In case you’re busy on Monday, there is another holiday concert on Tuesday, December 4th that also features Chicago theater performers. This one is called “Happy Holidays Broadway Style…” and it’s at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Musical director Doug Peck has pulled together Rob Lindley (busy man), Donica Lynn, Adrian Aguilar and Skyler Adams from Paramount’s BroadwayWorld Chicago Award-nominated production of “Hair,” Caroline Heffernan, Christine Sherrill and Emily Rohm from Paramount’s current “Annie,” and Brian Bohr and Lara Filip from Paramount’s “Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (I’m detecting a theme). Jim Corti will host.
While we’re on the subject of recordings, there’s a bona fide Original Cast Recording of a Chicago world premiere production out there, and it’s reportedly a doozy! I’m talking about the BroadwayWorld Chicago Award-nominated production of “Eastland,” which ran through the summer at the Lookingglass Theatre Company on the Magnificent Mile. The original cast album of the show, with music by Ben Sussman and Andre Pleuss and lyrics by Andrew White, is available only through the Lookingglass box office. I hope they are able to make it available through other outlets as well, but maybe they will if it sells well! (Hint, hint).
While we’re on the subject of concerts, The Music Theatre Company up in Highland Park is presenting the musical “Lucky Stiff” in concert for the next two weekends (November 30-December 9). This little-known off-Broadway show by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Ragtime,” “Seussical,” “Once On This Island,” “Anastasia”) is directed by Jim Beaudry (Executive Director of the Timber Lake Playhouse in northwestern Illinois), with musical direction by Kory Danielson. “Lucky Stiff” will feature Adam Fane, Sophie Grimm, Jessica Kingsdale, Elizabeth Lanza, PatRick Martin, Jeff Meyer, David Schlumpf and Jill Sesso.
While we’re on the subject of people who are lucky, there’s Tony Yazbeck. I think the last time he performed in our area was three years ago, in “Animal Crackers” at the Goodman Theatre. But now, the Broadway star of “White Christmas,” Tulsa in the Patti LuPone “Gypsy” and a guy who’s played Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” among his other Main Stem credits, finds himself in Oakbrook Terrace this holiday season, headlining the Drury Lane Theatre production of “Singin’ In The Rain.” And it wasn’t announced to be so. If you recall, the show began performances at the beginning of November (it runs through January 13, 2013) with Broadway and television performer Sean Palmer in the role of Don Lockwood (the guy who actually sings in the rain, btw). But then something happeneD. Palmer sustained an injury…but remained with the show for a few more weeks. Yazbeck was hired to replace him, and I think began performances today. The press performance was rescheduled, so that the reviews would actually include the guy who’s doing most of the run. (That makes a great deal of sense, but you’d be surprised how often that isn’t the case.) I hope Palmer is ok, if he was performing while injured for a time. And bravo to the Drury Lane for running a show for so long without benefit of critics’ quotes to run in ads and on their website. Business must be pretty good there….
Not quite as far west of the Loop as Oakbrook Terrace are the side-by-side suburbs of Oak Park and Forest Park, the home for many years of the BroadwayWorld Chicago Award-nominated Circle Theatre…, until now. The 26-year-old company announced some big changes on opening night of its current production, “Pippin: A Bollywood Spectacular.” First up, Kevin Bellie is stepping aside as Artistic Director, replaced immediately by company member Jon Landvick, musical director of their recent hit, “Reefer Madness.” Second of all, the company is moving from the suburbs to become a Chicago-based performing company, albeit it an itinerant one (the youth program will remain in the suburbs, however). And third, the company announced its 2013 season, to begin with a remount of its successful play, “When The Rain Stops Falling.” The show after than will be the Chicago premiere of the Maury Yeston off-Broadway musical, “Death Takes A Holiday,” to be performed in April and May at Stage 773, directed by the self-same Kevin Bellie. Also on the season will be “Evil Dead: The Musical,” next October and November, directed by Matthew Gunnels (director of their “Reefer Madness”) in a performance space TBA.
It’s not a holiday show, but “They’re Playing Our Song” has returned to the boards, albeit briefly, courtesy of Liberty Town Productions in Lake County. The Neil Simon/Marvin Hamlisch/Carole Bayer Sager musical with the pop-disco score will be performed this weekend only, November 30-December 2, in the Studio Theatre at Libertyville High School. There was a time when every actress I knew had one of these songs in her audition book. Penny Roman gets to sing those songs here in the Lucie Arnaz role, opposite Patrick Farbo in the Robert Klein role. Carley Wilson Alcorn directs, with musical direction by Laurel Ann Kaiser.
It’s not a holiday musical per se, but Black Ensemble Theater brings back its hit original show, “The Other Cinderella,” every other year, and has done so since 1976. It’s written, produced and directed by Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor, with music by Taylor and Michael Ward, choreography by Rueben Echoles and musical direction by BroadwayWorld Chicago Award nominee Robert Reddrick. Ta-Tynisa Wilson stars as Cinderella, with A’rese Emokpae as The Fairy God Mama, Lawrence Williams as the Prince and Dawn Bless as Stepmama. It’s a cast of 16, and this edition of the show runs (in the company’s new facility on N. Clark Street) through January 13, 2013.
Speaking of Stage 773, and of holiday musicals, the facility’s own Street Tempo Theatre’s holiday offering takes the cake for titles this year. It’s called, “It’s A Wonderful Santaland Miracle Nut Cracking Christmas Story…Jews Welcome.” The original show began previews on November 19, officially opens this weekend and runs through New Year’s Eve. It’s designed to pack the entire holiday experience into one neat package, for all ages, types and tastes. It’s called “a multimedia holiday extravaganza.” I’m curious to find out how close they come to succeeding!
The rather more innocently named “Christmas In Chicago” returns for its second year at Chicago Dramatists on Chicago Avenue, from the Chicago Commercial Collective and the Fine Print Theatre. It’s a brief run (December 13-23), directed by Aaron Graham, with musical direction by Gwen Tulin. Writers Patrick Kenney and David Himmel collaborate with improvisers Heather Bodie, Tommy Beardmore, A.J. Miller and Taryn Wood.
Also with a short run (December 14-23), and featuring a song called “Christmas In Chicago,” is “Welcome Yule!,” the annual Christmas offering at Orchestra Hall. The Chicago Symphony Chorus (yours truly among them) join with Voices Rising (from the Midwest Young Artists music school), a young percussion group, a dance ensemble and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, all under the direction and baton of Duain Wolfe. I can also promise you a well-known Chicago musical theater actor, appearing as a VERY well known holiday character. You gotta believe me, peeps! This is the most theatrical concert you can imagine, and yes, I’m a little biased. But I do enjoy it………
And so, November comes to a somewhat chilly end, but, hey, it’s November! And it does make you shop faster. To you thousands of Mosh Pit readers out there, thanks again for taking this weekly journey with me into Chicago’s musical theater scene, and I will see you next week for another edition! In the meantime, perhaps I’ll see you on the Red Line, or shopping till you’re dropping, or in a theater lobby, or perhaps under one of those showtune video screens.....—PWT
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From This Author Paul W. Thompson