'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for September 21st, 2011
THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP
FROM THE HEART OF
CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
Early on the past Monday evening, even before most of the showtune crowd made its way into Sidetrack for its usual Monday rituals, the Glass Bar room at the Boystown complex was the site of a 90-minute benefit performance sponsored by Pride Films And Plays, the young but steadily growing Chicago non-profit with its feet in both the theatrical and cinematic worlds (albeit with an LGBT bent). From 6:30-8:00, those two worlds were brought deftly together when stars of Chicago's theater scene performed Oscar-nominated (but not winning) film songs. The show was entitled, "And The Winner Wasn't....," but, of course, a winner it was. From Michelle McKenzie-Voigt's "Blues In The Night" to Meghan Murphy's "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," one winning performance after another entertained the crowd. Each singer got to pull a raffle prize winner, too, and pianist Randy Buehler really got a workout on the microwave-looking device he somehow made sound like a keyboard.
The only non-themed performances were, in some minds, the real reason for attending the event. The cast of the newly-opened (and highly acclaimed) "Putting It Together" (from Porchlight Music Theatre) sang that show's title tune, and then McKinley Carter delivered "The Ladies Who Lunch" with hilarity, bravery and insight. Among other performances, Jeremy Rill, Shaun Baer and Ryan Lanning showed why they get hired to perform in this town (beautiful voices to match their exteriors, I think), and Harmony France, star of Bailiwick Chicago's "Violet" dispatched "Hopelessly Devoted To You" from "Grease" with star aplomb, of course. Everyone seemed to have a great time listening and networking, and some of the crowd stayed into the wee hours, having a grand time.
Shaun Baer, by the way, is the titular star of "Pippin," now in rehearsal from the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble. The show will run October 14-November 13 at Theatre Wit on Belmont Avenue, directed by Peter Marston Sullivan and choreographed by the busy Brenda Didier. Nick Sula musical directs, and Stephen Schwartz (putting final touches on that "Snapshots" show at Northlight Theatre, I'm sure) gets another Chicago mini-festival of his work. Travis Porchia co-stars as the Leading Player, and Maggie Portman, Jenny Lamb, Sawyer Smith, Daniel Spagnuolo and Dana Tretta are among the dozen-strong cast. And inquiring minds want to know: was this the only original Broadway cast album ever released by Motown Records?
In last week's Mosh Pit, I talked about the five shows I am most looking forward to this fall. But I always look forward to the success of long running shows, and we have three right now that I don't want to slight. "Million Dollar Quartet" is still going strong at the Apollo Theater after three years in town, and just put in new cast members. It isn't going anywhere but the bank. Two other shows may close this fall, but have certainly exceeded box office expectations. "Pinkalicious," the so-called "children's show," is transitioning into school year mode in a daytime run at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, and "Murder By Two," the world premiere two-person musical "whodunit" upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier, has really tapped into tourists in a big way (I think).
Speaking of new musicals, there is a show about Mormons that is playing one "developmental-concert" performance in Chicago on Monday evening, October 3, 2011. Nope, it's not what you think! This show hasn't played New York yet, though it's unabashedly aiming there. It's "Facing East," by David Rigano and Mark Eugene Garcia, based on the play by Carol Lynn Pearson. It will be at 7:30 pm at the Greenhouse Theater Center on Lincoln Avenue, and portions of the proceeds will benefit The Trevor Project, the national non-profit which helps struggling LGBT youth.
A show that played New York (unsuccessfully) in 2004 is seeing the light of day (pun intended) in a revised version in, of all places, Palatine, Illinois. It's Frank Wildhorn's "Dracula: The Musical," in its Midwest premiere, a community theater co-production of Theatre Nebula and Music On Stage, running weekends from October 7-November 6. Cutting Hall (no pun intended) is the venue in question. Steve Lugovsky stars as you-know-who. And let it be known that this production is being prominently featured on Frank Wildhorn's own website. No small feat, I'm sure. Completists may want to catch this one before it vanishes again.
A musical that was more popular in New York, but nearly as rare on Midwest stages since its height of fame, is the 1970s pornographic and popular musical, "Let My People Come." It's almost impossible to believe, but a Chicago theater company has reportedly held auditions for a production, announced to run November 10-December 31 of this year at the newly renovated (and not yet officially opened) Stage 773, next door to Theater Wit. Actually, Street Tempo Theatre (some young and talented types, it seems), is putting this together in association with Stage 773 Productions. That's interesting. But still hard to believe! Brian Posen, you have your hands full........ I never thought I would see the day!
Also in December, Chicago will see the return of one of the most popular musical theater divas of the late twentieth century, Miss Jennifer Holliday, the original Dreamgirl herself. She'll bring her massive pipes to the Harris Theater For Music And Dance at Millenium Park for one night only (get it?), December 7, 2011. She'll be joined by Walt Whitman's Soul Children Of Chicago for what I'm sure will be a soulful and roof-blowing evening. Don't forget--when she sang for Northalsted Market Days a few years ago, she sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" twice, as the final song, and then, immediately following (and in a different arrangement) as her encore. That takes cojones.
If you have sensed that some of our more regularly working theater professionals seem to be MIA these days, I have located them! They are in Boston, Massachusetts, where Mary Zimmerman's revision and staging of Leonard Bernstein's "Candide" is running at Huntington Stage Company from September 10-October 16. The show is a favorite at Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Awards (to be handed out November 7) and won several at Washington, DC's Helen Hayes Awards over the summer. I'm sure it's packing them in in Beantown. Music director/adapter/orchestrator Doug Peck is there, with Larry Yando, Jeff Parker, Tempe Thomas, Rebecca Finnegan, Abby Mueller, Joey Stone and Travis Turner among the other Chicagoans making the trek. Leads Geoff Packard and Lauren Molina remain as leads for their third stint.
Huntington Theatre Company - Boston's Leading Professional Theatre Company
And, in an event which may redefine the showtune video viewing experience for the next generation, you've surely heard by now that "The Phantom Of The Opera," which runs neck and neck with "Les Miserables" in the record books of international musical theater phenomena (sorry, "Cats"), is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its London premiere with a weekend of special performances at Royal Albert Hall in London on October 1st and 2nd. These performances will yield a screen version of the show (the first time the Harold Prince staging--or something close to it--has ever been filmed) that will blanket the English-speaking world during October. 500 screens in North America will show it live on October 2nd, including more than a dozen in the Chicago area. Oh, and did I mention that the show will star (among its 200 performers) the stars of the ill-fated sequel to the show, "Love Never Dies?" That's Ramin Karimloo and Illinois product Sierra Boggess (also the star of Broadway's "The Little Mermaid"). Yes. In Chicago proper, you can catch in on Sunday, October 2, 2011, at 1:00 pm, Central Time, at the AMC River East 21, City North Showplace 14, Showplace Webster Place 11 and Roosevelt Collections movie theaters. Talk about the music of the afternoon! (There will be evening repeats on October 5, 6 and 11.)
Awesome! Never a dull moment for Chicago's musical theater family. Thanks for being a part of our showtune scene! Maybe I'll see you at the theater soon, or coming out of rehearsal this week, even. And I know I'll see you later, under the video screens.....-PWT
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