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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 10th, 2012

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 10th, 2012




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

It’s Jeff Award time again! Chicago’s twice yearly award fest holds its Equity Wing awards ceremony this coming Monday night, October 15, 2012, at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook. Productions opening between August 1, 2011 and July 31, 2012 and deemed “Jeff Recommended” were eligible to be nominated, and it’s a distinguished list, indeed. Based on the sheer amount of publicity and buzz, one would think that last fall’s “Follies” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier (already the winner of four BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards last December) would be the leader among the Large Musical shows, and that the Goodman Theatre’s “The Iceman Cometh” (starring the not-nominated Nathan Lane) would have The Edge among the Large Play contenders. But there are so many good productions and artists on the list, so you never know. “Eastland,” anyone? “Angels In America?” “Break a leg” to all the nominees, and we’ll see you all at the afterparties!

Speaking of Stephen Sondheim musicals at Chicago Shakes that were directed by Gary Griffin, the current production of “Sunday In The Park With George” must really be something. I cannot remember the last time a show got “Highly Recommended” from the first 11 reviews posted on the Theatre In Chicago website. Critic after observer after reviewer after blogger have been falling over themselves to find the right way to express their effusive praise for Griffin’s direction, the performances of Carmen Cusack and Jason Danieley and others, for Mike Tutaj’s projections and for the work itself. It only runs through November 4, and who knows if there are any tickets left! But the Mosh Pit has been telling you about this highly anticipated production for a while now, so you have no excuse if you wind up standing about some evening, wondering why you’re not witnessing a legend in the making. “Move On” to Navy Pier, won’t you? And tell me on a “Sunday” what you thought, won’t you?

You only have two more weekends to see a different kind of show, the play with music called “Hoodoo Love,” now playing in Studio Three at the Athenaeum Theatre on Southport Avenue, written by Katori Hall and directed for the Collective Theatre Company by Nelsan Ellis, one of the stars of the HBO-TV series “True Blood” (he plays Lafayette). It’s about a Mississippi blues singer in Memphis, and stars Opal Demetria Staples and Mark Smith. A three-piece band provides the musical interludes and episodes. This is the Chicago premiere of this 2007 play, and it’s capturing some national attention here. If this is your thing, this play’s the thing!

You only have one weekend left to catch “Operetta’s Greatest Hits,” a concert-cum-composer revue devised by Micheal Kotze and Roger Bingaman for Light Opera Works, and presented at the Music Institute Of Chicago’s Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston. Six singers, four of whom have extensive musical theater credits, waltz and drink champagne and evoke a by-gone era, accompanied by a four-piece onstage orchestra, while introducing us to the greatest hits by stage composers from Vienna, Paris, London and New York, circa 1880-1930. If the names of Emmerich Kalman, Franz Lehar, Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg don’t ring a bell with you, rest assured that some of these lyrics are by our own Oscar Hammerstein II, and that you do indeed know songs like “Ah, Sweet Mystery Of Life,” “Lover, Come Back To Me,” “Indian Love Call,” and “Adele’s Laughing Song.” Your favorite composers from Broadway’s Golden Age knew these songs, too. This look back into the roots of the modern musical theater runs through October 14 only, with a cast that includes George Andrew Wolff, James Rank, Colette Todd, Natalie Ford, Alicia Berneche and Matthew Giebel.

Also this weekend (only) is a concert presentation of the new neo-soul musical “Clear,” by Paul Oakley Stovall, whose non-musical play “Immediate Family” was presented at the Goodman Theatre this summer, directed by Phylicia Rashad. “Clear,” which has additional music by Stew (writer of the musical “Passing Strange”) will be presented by About Face Theatre onstage at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion, within its weather-proof winter configuration. Stovall is part of the cast of eight, which also includes Leenya Rideout, Brad Simmons and Jesse McQuarters. It takes place in New York, the American heartland and in Ghana. And it sounds like this new work has something powerful in its future. Catch it now!

Along similar lines (the development of a new work, a fusion of musical theater and concert) is “The Verona Project,” taking the stage at Northwestern University’s Josephine Louis Theater from October 19-November 4. It’s written and directed by the school’s Amanda Dehnert, based on Shakespeare’s “Two Gentlemen Of Verona,” and is co-produced by NU’s Theater And Interpretation Center and its American Musical Theatre Project. It’s love and loss as seen through the eyes of young indie-folk-rock musicians. It was first mounted in California in 2011, and will head to another California venue in 2013.

Going full-on into concert, and presented only on this Sunday night, October 14, at 7:00 pm, is the annual gala benefit by the Chicago Cabaret Professionals. Called “Our Kind Of Time,” it will take place at the Park West on Armitage, and is hosted by Daryl Nitz, with musical direction by Beckie Menzie. Special honorees include Marilyn Maye, Spider Saloff and the Mabel Mercer Foundation. Performers will include Anne and Mark Burnell, Joan Curto, Scott Gryder, Tom Michael, Suzanne Petri, Nick Sula, Denise Tomasello and With A Twist. George Howe heads up the pre-show music. Sounds like a great night of songs we all would love!

Another such night took place just yesterday! “Simply Sensational 2” was a benefit for Pride Films And Plays, at Stage 773 and sponsored by Michael A. Leppen. Current stage productions “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” (Bailiwick Chicago) and “Smokey Joe’s Café” (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre) performed, alongside company members from the aforementioned “Sunday In The Park With George,” With A Twist and Kim Kuzma. I hope you were there!

Did you know that there’s a new original cast album available? Of a Chicago world premiere production? It’s “Rise Of The Numberless,” which was presented by Bailiwick Chicago and The New Colony this past spring, with book by Patriac Coakley and Evan Linder, music by Chris Gingrich and Julie B. Nichols, and lyrics by Gingrich and director Andrew Hobgood. Five tracks were made available for download on October 4th. How awesome is that?

And lastly, Mosh Pit peeps are no doubt aware of a little Broadway blockbuster called “The Book Of Mormon,” scheduled to park its Tony-winning self at our Bank Of America Theatre from December 11, 2012 to at least June 2, 2013, if not beyond. We at the Showtune Mosh Pit have avoided mentioning it of late, as we were waiting for an announcement of who is in the cast. And waiting. And waiting. The show’s official WEBSITE has a big blank spot where the “company info” link should be for this new company. And a discussion thread on the Broadway message board of our very own has sprung up, listing the latest rumors and frustration. Apparently it’s the role of Elder Cunningham that’s causing the delay…. Just watch. Now that I’ve mentioned it, an announcement will be made in a matter of days, if not hours. You’re welcome.

Book of Mormon Chicago cast?

So, I hope your fall is going well so far! Lots of happenings, and lots of excitement! It’s all good. And some of it is great! So, get scheduled, get prepped, get dressed and get out there! I’ll see you on the circuit, and I'll see you under the video screens.....—PWT

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