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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for October 8th, 2014



by Paul W. Thompson

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

And it's awards season in Chicago! Nominations for the fifth annual BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards were opened this week, running through October 31. During this month, nominate your favorite local and touring productions and favorite theater artists in 36 categories (both Equity and non), for their work between November 1, 2013 and October 31, 2014. We are Chicago's only comprehensive, fan-voted theater awards, and we're back for the 5th year in a row! The slate of nominees will be announced in early November, with voting (by you!) until New Year's Eve. And then, join us at The Call Bar in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood on Wednesday, January 7th, 2015, as we announce the winners at the BroadwayWorld Chicago Awards Celebration! It's a casual and fun night of awards, showtune videos and networking with fans and professionals alike. You won't want to miss it! So nominate away, vote when it's time, and come celebrate with us! And tell your friends to do likewise....


And the awards show for the 2014 Equity Jeff Awards is this Monday night, October 13, at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace. The Drury Lane and the Goodman Theatres lead the list of nominees, which cover the period August 1, 2013 through July 31, 2014 (see how these things go?). Showtune shows like DLO's "Les Miserables," "Young Frankenstein" and "Next To Normal" (a BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner last year) are up against the Goodman's "Brigadoon" revisal. Director-choreographer Rachel Rockwell is a four-time nominee, for her double work on both "Les Miserables" and "Brigadoon." There are a TON of worthy and exciting nominations. I will be there to bring you all the scoop in next week's Mosh Pit. Or maybe I'll see you there! For once, I don't have a rehearsal on Jeff night....

A production that has just been Jeff Recommended for next spring's non-Equity Jeffs (but eligible for this year's BWWAs [the "Broadies"]) is Bailiwick Chicago's "The Wild Party," receiving glowing notices for its production in the Richard Christiansen space at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. Running through November 1st, Brenda Didier's production sounds like it hits all the right notes. Good job, you guys. And did you see the production photos?


Newly Jeff Recommended for next fall's Equity Jeffs (but also eligible for this year's Broadies) is Porchlight Music Theatre's "Sweeney Todd," which opened last night at Stage 773 (running through November 9th). We've got the production photos for this one as well (video footage soon to be available, I'm told). Joining David Girolmo and Rebecca Finnegan in the Halloween-eligible show are Kelli Harrington, Stephanie Stockstill, Brian Acker, Edward J. MacLennan, Matthias Austin, Kevin Webb and Miles Blim, with an ensemble cast under the direction of Porchlight artistic director Michael Weber. Doug Peck headed the music team, with choreography by Dina DiCostanzo.


We do have video footage of "At Last," Jackie Taylor's tribute to the style-busting career of Etta James at the Black Ensemble Theater in Uptown, also now receiving great reviews. Five actresses (Alanna Taylor, Melanie McCullough, Candace C. Edwards, Yahdina U-Deen and Arzula Maine Gardner) play the singer at different points in her career, with three men as her men and Rueben Echoles as Ms. Real, "the fierce drag queen that leads us through the story." BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Robert Reddrick is once again the musical director for this one. The production runs all the way through December 28th.


A show that may factor prominently in the Jeffs and the Broadies this year is nearing its long run. "Avenue Q" will have played for seven months at the Mercury Theater Chicago when it finally closes on October 26, directed by L. Walter Stearns and choreographed by Kevin Bellie. It's up for four Jeffs, including the nomination for Leah Morrow in the leading role of Kate Monster. The show's success led to the postponement of the show that was to follow it on the Mercury's subscription season, the local premiere of "The Addams Family."

The remarkable production of "On The Town" will close this Sunday after its scheduled two-month run at the Marriott Theatre. Closing just in time for revival of the Bernstein-Comden and Green show to open on Broadway, it's a show I certainly hope you've seen. We may not see its like around here for some time.

Now the longest-running Broadway show in Chicago history, and with no end in sight, "Million Dollar Quartet" is still running at the Apollo Theater. This production originally opened in the Owen space at the Goodman Theatre in October of 2008, six years ago, and spawned the Broadway production that won Levi Kreis his Tony Award (he lost at the Jeffs, btw). Original cast member Kelly Lamont is back as Dyanne, starring with Shaun Whitley, Adam Lee, Lance Lipinsky and Brandon Bennett, with Jason Bradley now as record producer Sam Phillips.

Speaking of open commercial runs, "Depraved New World" and "Apes Of Wrath" are both still running at The Second City, in the mainstage and e.t.c. spaces respectively. Both opened this year to great notices, with sketches and songs in the best SC tradition. Sheldon Patinkin, Joan Rivers and all would be proud of the exciting performances and training opportunities going on at the Pipers Alley complex these days. World class, folks. World class.

Lastly this week, the NBC-TV live production of "Peter Pan" has announced its full cast. The follow-up to last year's Carrie Underwood production of "The Sound Of Music" will star Allison Williams, Christopher Walken, Christian Borle, Kelli O'Hara, Taylor Louderman and Alanna Saunders, with an ensemble including some of the castmembers of the recently shuttered "Newsies." Rob Ashford, Glenn Weiss and David Chase head up the efforts on the artistic side of things. The production of the Mary Martin musical (as TSOM is as well) will air live on December 4th, leaving you plenty of time to digest it before "Into The Woods" and "Annie" both open in movie theaters Christmas Day. Ahhhhhh!


So that's that. See you soon, folks, somewhere. The Jeffs? A theater lobby? I'll see you under the video screens, too.....-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...)