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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 7th, 2015


by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

I think the Jeff Awards just Paramounted the barricades. Or they gave the barricades a Paramount, or the Paramounts just barricaded the Jeff Awards. Or something like that. I'm not sure what the pun is, but the message was clear--on Monday night, Aurora's Paramount Theatre won top honors at the Equity portion of the Joseph Jefferson Awards. In its first year of eligibility, the theater showed what critics and audiences have been increasing thinking--that's there's some darn good musical theater happening in the west-by-southwest collar city on the Fox River. Jim Corti's company won five awards- -three for "Les Miserables," including Production - Musical - Large, and two more for "Tommy," for lighting and projection/video design (Greg Hofmann and Mike Tutaj, respectively). Porchlight Music Theatre won four awards, including three for its local premiere of "Sondheim On Sondheim" and one for Matthew Crowle's supporting role in "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum."

The Drury Lane Theatre, which hosted Monday night's starry event, won for young Nicholas Dantes a Jeff as Actor In A Leading Role - Musical: he was Billy in "Billy Elliot," dancing to Rachel Rockwell's Jeff Award-winning choreography. Michelle Aravena took home a Jeff for her supporting role in the Drury Lane's "West Side Story." The Mercury Theater Chicago won Production - Musical - Midsize for its highly regarded production of "The Addams Family" and Cory Goodrich was honored as Actor Or Actress In A Revue for the theater's "Ring Of Fire," a remount of Theatre At The Center's production that is still going strong through November 1st. And other music-related Jeffs were won by Paul Gordon for Chicago Shakespeare Theater's "Sense And Sensibility" (New Work - Musical), by Henry Marsh for the same company's "Pericles" (Original Music In A Play) and by BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Heidi Kettenring for Actress In A Principal Role - Musical ("The King And I" at the Marriott Theatre).

The Hypocrites took six awards for the new play "All Our Tragic," as widely expected. And "the first couple of Chicago Theater," Paula Scrofano and John Reeger (pictured), were honored with special awards honoring their contributions to the theater community over the past 40 years and counting. Many roles in musicals, many many roles in musicals....


Highlights of Super September continue to run, much to the benefit of audiences. These include the highly regarded "Oklahoma!" now at the Paramount (closes October 18), and also "Blood Brothers" from Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (through November 15), "Side Show" from Porchlight Music Theatre (through October 25), and, in a stunning surprise, the little-known play with music "Direct From Death Row The Scottsboro Boys," now at Raven Theatre through November 14. Subtitled "An Evening Of Vaudeville And Sorrow," the show is based on the miscarriages of justice wrought upon nine young African-American men in 1931 and the decades following.

In previews since September 29 and running through November 8 is the new musical "Ride The Cyclone" at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, one of our key homes for the presentation of new musicals (see "Sense And Sensibility," above). Three of this year's Jeff winners are working on this production including director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell, lighting designer Greg Hofmann and projection designer Mike Tutaj. With book, music and lyrics by Brooke Maxwell and Jacob Richmond, the show began as an award-winning cabaret piece in Toronto. CST's production marks its legitimate debut. Doug Peck music directs and Michael Kaish conducts the cast of seven.

Open for its short run is the fall offering from Light Opera Works, historically a smaller, off-venue show for the north shore company. This year's morsel is "Hollywood's Greatest Song Hits," and the original revue is a hit with critics. But you better act fast, as it closes this Sunday, October 11th! Rudy Hogenmiller directs a cast of four lovely ladies, at the Music Institute of Chicago's Nichols Concert Hall in downtown Evanston. I'll be at the matinee tomorrow.

In true light opera vein is The Savoyaires' fall production of "H.M.S. Pinafore," the Gilbert and Sullivan English comic opera that falls in the category of "roots music" as far as the Showtune Mosh Pit is concerned. October 9-18 is the time, and Evanston's Chute Auditorium is the place.

Falling somewhere near light opera, but certainly a lot like a cross between the works of Tony winners Adam Guettel and Jeanine Tesori is Polly Pen and Peggy Harmon's thirty-year-old. two-hander Victorian sisterhood horror story, "Goblin Market," now open at Collaboraction's Pentagon Theatre in the Flat Iron Arts Building in Bucktown (through October 31). It's based on a narrative poem by Christina Rosetti ("In The Bleak Midwinter"). Jennifer T. Grubb and Stephanie Stockstill star as sisters struggling with whether to buy fruit from the goblin men. I was there last night. And tomorrow night, author/composer Polly Pen (the original Sandy in "Grease" at Kingston Mines on Lincoln Avenue, pre-Broadway) will be in attendance for a post-show audience talk-back.


Also in the Halloween-type vein is an upcoming concert presentation by Route 66 Theatre Company, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" on Monday night, October 26 at Mayne Stage. It's Danny Elfman's music for Tim Burton's movie of the same name, live and with costume prizes. Tammy Mader directs, with music direction by Matt Deitchman. Sounds crazy, no? Well, it's a benefit. Sounds like a blast!

Which leads us straight into Christmas/holiday fare. Kokandy Productions is offering "A Kokandy Christmas" this year, from December 3-23 at Theater Wit. I certainly hope it includes "Hard Candy Christmas" from "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas," but sung as "Ko-Kandy Christmas." Yes? No? Just me? Well, co-created by Michael Potsic and Allison Hendrix, it will feature musical arrangements by Potsic and Aaron Benham. Starring will be Emily Grayson, Christina Hall, Garrett Lutz, Jaymes Osbourne and Sasha Smith. Sounds lovely.


Back at Chicago Shakes, the company has announced the return of "A Q Brothers Christmas Carol," back for its third year in the Upstairs space (it will replace the aforementioned "Ride The Cyclone" there). Pre-dating "Hamilton," this hip-hop musical retelling of the Charles Dickens tale will run from November 28, 2015 through January 3, 2016. The show is written by GQ, JQ, Jackson Doran and Postell Pringle, with music and direction by GQ and JQ.


And looking into next year, FOX-TV has announced the complete cast of its "Grease: Live" broadcast, set for January 31, 2016 (a Sunday night). The aforementioned Chicago original musical will be performed and broadcast live on television with a cast headed by Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit as Sandy and Danny, with Vanessa Hudgens, Carlos PenaVega, Keke Palmer, Carly Rae Jepson, Kether Donahue, David Del Rio and Jessie J (singing the title song by Barry Gibb). What say ye, peeps? Yay or nay?


And that's the Mosh Pit for this week! Will I see you out and about? I hope you're not doing any early holiday shopping. You should be preparing your Halloween costume! So, maybe I'll see you in a local costume shop. At any rate, I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT

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From This Author Paul W. Thompson

Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to since 2007, is a Chicago-based singer, actor, musical director, pianist, vocal coach, composer and commentator. His career as (read more...)