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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 23rd, 2013




by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Things are hopping at Broadway In Chicago these days, that's for sure! "Once," the 2012 Tony winner, is now in its third and final week at the Oriental Theatre, and I continue to hear glowing reports about how moving this production is. (Btw, I think we've dropped "Ford" altogether from the title of the venerable house, which was shuttered during the 1980s and brought roaringly back to life for Frank Galati's "Ragtime.") And there are two touring shows that are here for this week only. "We Will Rock You," the Queen jukebox show that's been an enormous hit in London for years, finally has a North American touring incarnation, starring Broadway's Brian Justin Crum at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (alas, the "Cadillac" moniker remains at the former vaudeville palace). And "50 Shades! The Musical," a parody show which originated in Chicago a year ago, is at the Broadway Playhouse this week (no longer with "at Water Tower Place" officially attached to its name).


The past is prelude, as they say, and all this is just a build-up to the return of "Wicked," Chicago's beloved Broadway musical, which will take its place back at its original Chicago home in the Oriental Theatre for eight weeks, beginning Wednesday, October 30 (through December 21). October 30th just happens to be the show's tenth anniversary at the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway, and Broadway In Chicago has already started a special ten-day countdown to that date, with special fan events happening every day from October 21-30. Today's event is a trivia contest on Facebook and Twitter. Tomorrow is limited edition cupcakes....


Occasionally, tours not produced by BIC do play Cook County. And such is the case for one day this weekend, as "Rain" hits the Rosemont Theatre (formerly the Akoo, formerly the Rosemont) for two shows this Saturday, October 26. BIC has actually brought "Rain" here twice (to the Oriental, in 2011 and 2012), so there's that. Subtitled, "A Tribute To The Beatles," there's that.


Things are also hopping up in Evanston, at Northwestern University. The school has announced that "Shrek" will be the show produced by students as part of the "Dolphin Show" series that stretches back to a swimming pool fundraiser in 1940. Marlee Rose Rich will direct the 2008 Jeanine Tesori-David Lindsay-Abaire musical, based on the Dreamworks animated film. The production will run at Cahn Auditorium on campus from January 24-February 1, 2014. Some of you may know that the video of the Broadway production was released last week on DVD and Blu-ray. So there's that!


The Northwestern University Theatre And Interpretation Center will mount the children's musical "A Hundred Dresses," by Ralph Covert ("Ralph's World") and G. Riley Mills, from November 1-10, 2013, in the Hal And Martha Hyer Wallis Theater on campus. It's part of the "Imagine U Family Series." Rives Collins directs.


And opening this week on the TIC's mainstage series at NU is "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," playing October 25-November 10 in the Josephine Louis Theatre on campus. Directed by Adam Goldstein, with choreography by Katie Spelman and musical direction by Ryan T. Nelson (all either faculty or alumni), the cast and orchestra will all be Northwestern students.


NU's "Bee" isn't the only one around, though. (Is the Bee ever far away, really?) The Griffin Theatre Company is mounting the show, also opening this weekend! Griffin's "Bee" is on the boards October 26-December 15, playing at Theater Wit in Lakeview. Scott Weinstein directs, with choreography by Tyler Sawyer Smith and musical direction by Matt Deitchman. The cast includes Laura McClain, Andy Cameron, Steven Perkins, Landree Fleming, Charlotte Ellison, Rochelle Therrien, William Lucas, Conor McCahill, and Daniel Desmarias.


Last week was our Halloween feature here at the Mosh Pit, but I didn't have information about the Music Box Theatre on Southport Avenue. I do now. The 1975 film "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," with audience participation and with live actors mirroring the onscreen performances of Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon and more, will be late nights at the classic movie mainstay, October 25, 26 and 31. Your $12 admission gets you a bag of props! Let's do "The Time Warp," again! A toast!


Not specifically a Halloween musical, but apparently on the creepy side, is "The Life And Death Of Madam Barker" from Red Tape Theatre (Belmont and Broadway), with script by Brooke Allen and songs by John Fournier. Barker is a creation of Chicago clown and performance artist Molly Brennan, and she and director Eric Hoff and a cast of 17 (including Fournier) are presenting this world premiere show now through November 10. What have YOU heard?


And, inevitably, Christmas shows make their way into the 2013 Mosh Pit. There will be more next week, but I did want to start things off classy. The drag-parody-satire company Hell In A Handbag Productions is NOT mounting "Rudolph The Red-Hosed Reindeer" this year (after 15 years of it)! Instead, the troupe is putting its eggs into the basket of "A Christmas Dearest," all about Joan Crawford in a splashy new film musical, "Oh, Mary." Somewhere along the way, Charles Dickens and "A Christmas Carol" get spliced into "Mommy Dearest," and all Hell breaks loose, or something like that. I hope somebody learns something! David Cerda writes and stars. The show begins performances November 29, and runs through December 29 at Mary's Attic in Andersonville. Where else?


And last but certainly not least, Elaine Stritch was in town! On Sunday, October 20, the documentary, "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" was screened twice as part of the Chicago International Film Festival. Stritch, now 87 and in semi-retirement in Michigan, had a 60+ year career in the musical theater and appears frequently on our showtune video screens. The 81-minute documentary, by director Chiemi Karasawa, is now making the festival circuit. The star watched the film along with the audience, and graciously spoke to the crowd afterwards. Even in decline, she remains compelling, fascinating and irreplaceable. Long may she thrive.


So, will many of you be at the Roosevelt Collection ShowPlace ICON movie theater tonight for "Merrily We Roll Along" from London's West End? Alas, I will not. Apparently I need to spend more time in movie theaters! I will however, see you under the video screens later, won't I?.....-PWT

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