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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for September 14th, 2011





by Paul W. Thompson

Overheard last weekend under the showtune

video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:

Chicago's showtune community, which may soon outgrow the Mosh Pit itself (!), is thrilled from actor to audience member with the news that "The Book Of Mormon," the nine-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical that is the hottest thing to hit New York since "The Producers," will arrive in Chicago fifteen months from now (December 11, 2012) at the Bank Of America Theatre (the BOAT) in the Loop. Announced last week for a run of at least three months, this production seems poised to be the first "sit-down" production of a Broadway musical in Chicago since the somewhat truncated run of "Billy Elliot" in 2010. It will be the second company of the show outside of New York (a traditional national tour will open next August in Denver), but it remains to be seen whether this company will tour or extend, replace themselves with other actors, or various other options. Hopefully the show will rehearse here, and surely they will cast some actors locally. Every young, well-scrubbed actor I know is practicing his tap dancing, and some who aren't well-scrubbed are, well, scrubbing. This is tremendous news, and has everyone tremendously excited!

The crazy part is, Broadway In Chicago has included TBOM in its next "season," even though all the other shows in the subscription series will play from February through June of 2012. Just so you know, new subscriptions are going on sale this Sunday, September 18, 2011. The other shows on the series are "American Idiot" (February 7-19, 2012), "South Pacific" (February 14-26, 2012), "Bring It On" (a new musical comedy about cheerleading from Jeff Whitty, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt, Amanda Green, Alex Lacamoire and Andy Blankenbuehler, heavy hitters all, to run March 6-25, 2012), "Fela!" (March 27-April 8, 2012), and the return of "Jersey Boys" (April 5-June 2, 2012). The first four of these will play on Randolph Street (at either the Cadillac Palace Theatre or the Ford Center For The Performing Arts, Oriental Theatre). JB will be at its old home, the BOAT.

Non-subscription shows from BIC during this time period, FYI, will include returns of "In The Heights" (January 1-15 at the Oriental), "Mamma Mia! (January 24-29 at the Oriental), "Riverdance" (March 13-18 at the Oriental, for its "Farewell Tour") and "Cats" (May 1-6 at the Palace). 

Broadway in Chicago's 2012 Spring Season

Another big season announcement happened last week as well. The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire, currently home to the world premiere of "For The Boys," announced its season for calendar year 2012, to begin with "Legally Blonde" (helmed by Marc Robin, January through April), followed by "The Pirates Of Penzance" (April through June), the world premiere of "Hero" (by local talents Aaron Thielen and Michael Mahler, June through August at the Marriott and being workshopped this very weekend at Northwestern University), "Dreamgirls" (August through November) and "My One And Only" (November 2012 through January 2013). I don't suppose it's possible that local and international celebrity Jennifer Hudson could be convinced to reprise her Oscar-winning role in "Dreamgirls," is it? Am I out on a limb here? I think she performed at the Marriott before heading out to "American Idol," right? Am I dreaming? 

The Marriott Theatre's 2012 Season

As I promised, I would like to let you know the top five shows opening this fall that really piqued my interest when I was looking at the overall theater schedule. And FIRST on my list, as well as many other observers, is "Follies" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, written by James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim and directed by Gary Griffin, sewed up before the Kennedy Center got the rights to the very same material for a possible (and, as it turned out, inevitable) Broadway transfer. You all may know that the Kennedy Center "Follies" officially opened in New York on September 12, 2011, and got some pretty good reviews. Well, that may be the case, but Chicago's "Follies" has Brent Barrett (he's the guy with the late Michael Jeter in the famous "Grand Hotel" Tonys clip), England's Caroline O'Connor, Chicago's Susan Moniz and Robert Petkoff in the leading roles, plus Chicago theater legends Hollis Resnik, Marilynn Bogetich, Nancy Voigts, Dennis Kelly, Ami Silvestre, Linda Stephens ("Wings") and (as if those names weren't enough) Mike Nussbaum (as Dmitri Weismann). A quartet of young, hot performers and a full supporting cast round out the theatrical treats in store for us all. DO NOT MISS THIS. DO NOT MISS THIS (October 4-November 6). 

Chicago Shakespeare Theater - Follies 

[Though I can't include it in my top five fall shows (as it opened in August), another local production of a Sondheim title certainly deserves a mention here, given all the smash reviews and local buzz it has generated. Of course, I'm talking about "Sweeney Todd" at the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook, starring Broadway's (and the midwest's) own Gregg Edelman in the title role (the first time he's played it). Good Lord, have you read the reviews? It is also chockfull of local theater stars, and runs through October 9. Chock.] 

Sweeney Todd - Drury Lane - Oakbrook - Play Detail 

Even though it's already opened, yet another local production of a Sondheim title does make my top five list, as it was a September opening and is my SECOND highest fall pick. And it received the same rapturous reviews that "Sweeney Todd" received. Of course, I'm talking about "Putting It Together" at Porchlight Music Theatre, performing in Theater Wit's space on Belmont Avenue. Directed and choreographed by Brenda Didier, with musical direction by the very hot Austin Cook, and starring Adam Pelty, McKinley Carter, Michael Reckling, Aja Goes and Alex Weisman, the first show of Michael Weber's tenure at the helm of the musical theater company bodes very well, indeed. I understand that Aaron Benham will soon be replacing Austin Cook at the keyboard, as Cook has some business to attend to with a certain long-running musical elsewhere. But this revue of Sondheim material, recast as a party in a West Loop loft, will run through October 16, and is apparently amazing. 

Putting it Together - Theater Wit - Play Detail 

The THIRD show on my list of highly anticipated fall openings is "My Fair Lady" at the Paramount Theater in the large northeastern Illinois city of Aurora. It previews today and tomorrow, and runs September 16-October 2 only. The Paramount is a 1,888-seat gem, and this production is the first one the theater is producing to be on par with the Marriotts, Drury Lanes and Munsters of the Chicago area, artistically and budgetarily. Jim Corti directs and choreographs, with Shawn Stengel in charge of the music (and an orchestra of 21!). The production stars Andrea Prestinario as Eliza Doolittle and Nathan M. Hosner as Henry Higgins, with John Reeger and Paula Scrofano as Colonel Pickering and Mrs. Pearce, Mary Ernster as Mrs. Higgins, Andy Lupp as (an apparently young and agile) Alfred P. Doolittle and James Lee Glatz as Freddy Eynsford-Hill. Sounds good to me, man..... 

Paramount's MY FAIR LADY 

The FOURTH show on my list is also going up this weekend. It's "Violet," the early, compelling work by composer Jeanine Tesori. The award-winning show about beauty, civil rights and religion, set in the South in the 1960s, is being produced at the Mercury Theater on Southport Avenue by Bailiwick Chicago, September 16-October 16. Elizabeth Margolius directs, with Andra Velis Simon (Columbia College Chicago) at the keys. And the cast includes Harmony France, Jim DeSelm and award winners Courtney Crouse and John B. Leen, among others. This can't be the Chicago premiere (can it?), but I can't think of another local production of this off-Broadway award-winning show. Bravo to Bailiwick for taking it on! 

Welcome to Bailiwick Chicago 

My FIFTH and final top five pick for highly anticipated fall openings is, in fact, the third of these five to be opening this coming weekend! (Well, it starts performances at Northlight Theatre on September 16, but officially opens on the 24th, running for four more weeks.) It's the world premiere of "Snapshots," the revue of Stephen Schwartz songs that (similar to "Putting It Together") takes songs out of their original dramatic context and puts them into another one in (hopefully) interesting, or at least juxtaposed, ways. David Stern has written a book for Schwartz's catalog that seems to have three different versions of a loving couple (a la "Baby," only they're all the same couple, not three separate ones--I think). Twelve different Schwartz projects are represented in the song list, according to the Northlight website (he's written more that "Godspell," "Pippin" and "Wicked," but yes, those scores are all represented). Ken Sawyer directs Gene Weygandt, Tony Clarno and Nick Cosgrove as Dan, Daniel and Danny, and Susie McMonagle, Jess Godwin and Megan Long as Sue, Susan and Susie. Got that? Eh, I'm sure all will be made clear any second now! 

Snapshots - Northlight Theatre 

So that's my list! Are these the five shows you've been most interested in seeing this fall? If not, why not? Let me know!!

Just a couple more items for this week's "Mosh Pit." The aforementioned Stephen Sondheim wrote only one non-musical play for Broadway, the whodunit mystery called "Getting Away With Murder" that he co-wrote with George Furth ("Company") and which ran for 17 performances in New York in March of 1996. And it's being performed in Chicago this weekend and next by the Trinity Players, the community theater troupe headed by Floyd Rueger at the Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church! This is a sizable looking structure on LaCrosse Avenue, near where Foster and Elston Avenues meet. I think the performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for the next two weekends. I can't vouch for anything, as the church's website seems a little out of date, but I do know this show is happening, and it's a rarity. Seek it out and let us know what you saw! 

Trinity Slovak Lutheran | Music 

Lastly, there is a new musical hitting the stage at Andersonville's Mary's Attic for the next three Monday nights! Actor Aaron Holland has penned "Sideways Tales From Front Street Beach," and actors Sharriese Y. Hamilton, Russell Morgan, Jacquelyn Prater, Tori Ulrich and Vallea E. Woodbury are bringing it to life. Four women plan separate vacation trips, and find themselves at the same island resort, with only one man between them. And yes, hilarity ensues! You can see you saw it way back when. 

Hamburger Mary's Chicago 

So that's it! The future and the present collide in September every year, but especially when exciting future projects are announced, even as great current productions are being unveiled. And it's a busy time of year, to be sure. So, I'm sure I'll see you at the theater soon! And in between rehearsals and performances, 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...)