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'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for September 3rd, 2014

'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for September 3rd, 2014


by Paul W. Thompson

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

It's here!!! Around the Mosh Pit, this month of summer hopefulness and the slightest turning of the leaves is known as "Super September," and this year proves to be no exception. I mean, it started off with a Monday holiday, followed a day later by the TV special, "The Story of 'Frozen'," about everyone's favorite animated film since, oh, "Beauty And The Beast." Not bad, universe! And now we turn our collective attention to the shows that will begin gracing our local stages this month, as actors and audiences return from wherever they've been for the summer. You will have no excuse to have nothing to do, after you get a load of these showtune offerings. So let the early fall preview begin!

Downtown, we find that Broadway In Chicago is hosting the local premiere of the very successful Toronto and off-Broadway musical "Evil Dead," beginning September 23rd at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (through October 12). This is a national tour, but almost everyone in the cast is a Chicagoan (Jeff Award winner Callie Johnson among them). This is a spoof of the comedy horror film franchise of the same name, and features the infamous "Splatter Zone." I'm thinking it's a cross between "The Rocky Horror Show," "Reefer Madness" and "Blue Man Group."

Something altogether new and different will be playing at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier for the end of the month, as the South African Isango Ensemble will bring its version of "The Magic Flute" to the Pier's Skyline Stage from September 25-28. Part of the World's Stage Series, the show is Wolfgang Mozart's opera, but incorporating African singing and retitled "Impempe Yomlingo." The Olivier Award-winning production includes an orchestra of marimbas, drums and other percussion, with a cast of thirty that has already played Paris as well as London. If this is the stuff that excites you, I bet it doesn't get any better than this.


Our suburban Equity houses got the jump on the month when the Marriott Theatre opened the first-ever local production of the legendary "On The Town" in late August (it runs through October 12 at the Lincolnshire venue). Every reviewer in town had high praises for the choreography, set to Leonard Bernstein's remarkable ballet music. You know the opening number, stay for the rest! Just how much fun can three red-blooded sailors have during a 24-hour shore leave in the jitterbug era? This much! And star Max Clayton has been introducing the other cast members to the joys of our Chicago showtune video bar experiences on their nights off. Nothing like a little working tourism....

At the lower left corner of our viewing area you will find the Paramount Theatre, Aurora's art deco jewel in the middle of the Fox River. And there, from September 10-October 12, you will also find a rare treat--a musical directed by a musical director! Musician Shawn Stengel conducted a national tour of "Cats" back in the day, and has been working as a musical director at the Paramount. Well, the theater's artistic director, Jim Corti, put two and two together, and realized Stengel must have picked up a thing or two along the way about Andrew Lloyd Webber's feline fantasy. Come see a musician's take on a dance and set spectacle! And keep in mind that the show isn't popular because of a floating tire. It's the songs....

And in the lower right corner of our area you will find the Theatre At The Center, in the close Indiana suburb of Munster. Legendary artistic director William Pullinsi is presenting the national local premiere of David Yazbek's "Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown," starring Jeff and BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Cory Goodrich in the role essayed by Patti LuPone on Broadway in 2010. Hollis Resnik and Summer Naomi Smart (multi-Jeff winners) are on hand too, among others. The running dates are September 11 through, you guessed it, October 12. Funny how that happens sometimes.

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre is putting up "A Kurt Weill Cabaret" on September 19, with a run through October 19 at the No Exit Café. Fred Anzevino directs Christopher Logan, Jill Sesso, Jordan Phelps, Kellie Cundiff and Michael Reyes, musical directed by Jeremy Ramey. Let's hear it for the 1940s.


There are productions by three important local theater companies opening in the early days of October, too. Bailiwick Chicago will have the "Broadway Wild Party," that is, Michael John LaChiusa's adaptation of the Joseph Moncure March poem "The Wild Party," and it will be playing October 2-November 1, 2014 in the Richard Christiansen Theater of the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue. Multiple award-winner Brenda Didier will direct, with music direction by Aaron Benham. It's a cast of 15, headed by Jeff Award winner Danni Smith, Matthew Keffer, Danielle Brothers, Sharriese Hamilton and BroadwayWorld Chicago Award winner Ryan Lanning.


Light Opera Works will offer its annual fall concert-style production at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, October 3-12. It's "Cole Porter's Greatest Hits," directed by Rudy Hogenmiller with music direction by Roger L. Bingaman. The cast of four includes two Jeff Award-winning men, legendary Chicago stage star James Harms and Light Opera Works regular James Rank, along with veteran stage actress Mary Robin Roth and newcomer Katelin Spencer.


And I would be remiss if I failed to mention a certain show called "Sweeney Todd" that will also be opening on October 3rd, in a highly anticipated production from Porchlight Music Theatre that stars David Girolmo and Rebecca Finnegan in roles they were apparently born to play. It runs through November 9 at Stage 773, as the first in Porchlight's all-Sondheim season. With direction by Michael Weber and music direction by Doug Peck, the show seems to be in ideal hands. And two-time Jeff Award winner Kelli Harrington is on hand as the Beggar Woman. An abundance of such riches awaits us!

If you can't wait until October 3rd to stop by Stage 773, then of course you must stop by there on September 14 to see the latest edition of "Option Up!" Christopher Pazdernik and the aforementioned Aaron Benham no doubt have something tuneful and hilarious up their united sleeve at their monthly showtune cabaret show. What's on tap, fellas?

Tickets for Option Up! Now On Sale

And what about later in October? Well, for starters, we will have two productions of late 20th century shows set in the early 20th century: Griffin Theatre's "Titanic" and BoHo Theatre's "Parade." The Marriott Theatre will bring us "The King And I," and the Drury Lane Theatre will produce "Camelot." "Amazing Grace" will try out for Broadway at the Bank Of America Theatre. The Big Noise Theatre in Des Plaines will produce "Legally Blonde." And the stories go on. I'll see you there, won't I? Won't I? Or perhaps I'll see you under the video screens.....-PWT

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