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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 3rd, 2012





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

And it’s all about “Kinky Boots!” Yesterday was the world premiere performance of the Broadway-bound musical by heavyweights Harvey Fierstein (“La Cage aux Folles”) and Cyndi Lauper (“Girls Just Want To Have Fun”), directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell (“Legally Blonde”) and scheduled to open in the spring in New York City. In the meantime, for the next five weeks, we have it here, at the Bank Of America Theatre on Monroe Street, brought to us by Broadway In Chicago. And this is a big, big deal.

Stark Sands (“American Idiot”) and Billy Porter (the 1994 revival of “Grease”) co-star as two unlikely friends (a sudden business owner and a drag performer) who save a dying shoe factory in the north of England and learn a few life lessons along the way. Annaleigh Ashford (“Wicked”) and Celina Carvajal (“The Toxic Avenger”) play the women in Sands’ character’s life. Based on a 2005 film (which was in turn based on real-life events), the property was developed for the stage by producers Daryl Roth and Hal Luftig. The producing pair were on hand, along with the three creatives and four actors mentioned above, at a press conference last Friday in Chicago. And the entire BroadwayWorld Chicago team (me, Misha Davenport and M. William Panek), along with photographer Rick Aiello, were on hand to witness the festivities. Are you going to see the show? In the meantime, here’s a link to the video footage from last Friday:


Since we have “Kinky Boots” now, and we will have another pre-Broadway tryout late next spring (Andrew Lippa’s “Big Fish,” starring Norbert Leo Butz) we thought it would be fun to see what Chicago’s favorite pre-Broadway musical of the last decade has been. So we put up a poll two weeks ago, and as of this writing, “The Producers” is the winner, with 33% of votes cast going to that now-legendary outing. Second place (with 21%) is going to “Spamalot,” another Tony Award-winning show which started out here in very fine shape. In third place is the recent “The Addams Family,” with “Movin’ Out” and “Mamma Mia!” close behind. These results sound reasonable to me. What say you, Mosh Pit peeps?

Favorite Recent Musical That Played Chicago Before Broadway

The biggest locally-produced opening of the week is the Chicago premiere of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” by Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers, brought to us by Bailiwick Chicago and mounted at the National Pastime Theater in Uptown. The performances run from October 4 through November 10. Matthew Holzfeind and Samantha Dubina lead a cast of fifteen, directed by Scott Ferguson and choreographed by Christopher Pazdernik. James Morehead conducts. And don’t forget the Bailiwick one-night-only event, “Rock Show(tunes),” tonight at the Underground Lounge. It has morphed into a pretty sizable-sounding fundraiser!

Bailiwick Chicago » Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

These events are so important that the 2012 BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards got pushed down this far in the column! Fact is, on Monday, October 1, 2012, we went live with the nominations form that you can fill out, listing your top picks in as many of our 30 categories as you’d like to weigh in on! And yes, I said thirty! Chicago’s only online theater awards are up from 25 categories last year, with the addition of Best Lighting Design (Equity and Non-Equity divisions), Best Musical Direction (Equity and Non-Equity) and Best Theater Production For Young Audiences. I don’t know of another BroadwayWorld region with as many categories as Chicago has, or as many eligible productions to select from! Shows which opened between November 1, 2011 and October 31, 2012 are eligible. And get your nominations in before October 26! We’ll announce the official nominees by November 5, and voting will be open through December 15 (note that some of our other regions are staying open later). And details are being firmed up now for the third annual BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards Celebration--stay tuned for an announcement in the coming days!


A production that may have piqued your interest due to their performance at Sidetrack this past Monday night is “Sexy Baby,” now re-opened in “The Late Night Boystown Edition” at Theater Wit on Belmont Avenue, Fridays and Saturdays at 11:00 pm. The show ran earlier this year in Andersonville, but now welcomes Honey West to the cast (Honey “Boo Boo” West, if you’d rather) of the “docu-musical” by David Cerda (mounted by his Hell In A Handbag Productions). Are child beauty pageants your thing? The show runs through October 27.

Satire of a similar nature, but probably without as many drag performers, is provided by the Washington, D.C.-based Capitol Steps, the company comprised of former professional Congressional aides that cuts up politics and more in Washington and around the country. They’ve got companies out on tour now, and will be coming to the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois, on Friday, October 12th. I’m told they come to Chicago every year and have quite a loyal following here. I’m not sure how musical the revues are, but what’s a political satire without some crazy tunes? Just sayin’.

Speaking of the suburbs, it seems like a lot of industry people have been heading out to Munster, Indiana, to catch the Theatre At The Center production of “42nd Street” (now through October 21st). I mean, more so than usual. It got pretty positive reviews, and has some heavy hitters in the cast, along with those proverbial “kids in the chorus.” The paterfamilias of Chicago musical theater, William Pullinsi, directs, with all that tap choreography by Linda Fortunato. William A. Underwood musical directs. Have you seen it?

Theatre at the Center

Also in the ‘burbs, but the opposite ones, is “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” now playing at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights (September 20-November 4). Kristine Burdi, Amy Malouf, Katie Siri and Ashley Wolfe star as the girls from the 50s who turn up in the second act in the 60s. Not THEIR 60s, mind you. THE 60s….

Metropolis - The Marvelous Wonderettes

Now in previews, and opening on October 7 at the Black Ensemble Theater in Uptown is yet another Chicago world premiere! This one is called “One Name Only,” and it’s written and directed by BET regular Rueben Echoles. Set in the world of a reality show singing contest, the show celebrates “the music of Aretha, Gladys, Tina and Patti, with a special tribute to Whitney.” That’s Franklin, Knight, Turner, LaBelle and Houston, I believe. The show is scheduled through November 11. What’s not to love?

Black Ensemble Theater - Now Playing

And lastly, it’s never too late to mention a rising star in Chicago cabaret’s scene who’s doing a two-night tribute to the composer of “Cabaret,” John Kander! (With Fred Ebb as lyricist, of course.) The star is question is Scott Gryder. (With Nick Sula at the keyboard, of course. And Phil Martin on drums!) “Life Is  A Cabaret!: The Music And Words Of Kander And Ebb” is the title of Gryder’s show at Davenport’s, on October 12 and 19 at 8:00 pm. You’ve seen “Simply Scotty” at 3160, haven’t you? He’s been there the first Sunday of the month for two years now. Not a bad track record! And I’m sure the Davenport’s show will be a highlight of the fall. Go to the cabaret!

LIFE IS A CABARET - A Kander & Ebb Tribute (October 12 & 19)

And so, October has begun. Most of the shows which crowded our opening night calendars in September are still running, and some new ones are joining their ranks. And with less inclination to go outdoors, many Chicagoans will be turning to the theater and the joys of indoor entertainment! So, I know I’ll see you in some theater lobbies, won’t I? And, of course I'll see you under the video screens.....—PWT

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