THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS,
AND MUSICAL THEATER NEWS FROM CHICAGO TO BROADWAY
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the showtune
video screens at Sidetrack and The Call:
Musical theater in Chicago sure is booming these days! And the Showtune Mosh Pit is booming right along with it. We've got new readers by the hundreds joining the peeps every single week this month, and more shows and items of interest than we've got column inches for! It's a great time to be a Chicago showtune fan. So let's get right to it, shall we?
I don't know if they are musicals or what, but we've got these dueling radio play productions of "It's A Wonderful Life" every year, and there's music in them somehow! I think that other cities have similar productions, but the city of Chicago has got two, with both claiming their right to perform a theatrical adaptation of the script of the classic Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart/Donna Reed film, set in a radio studio in the 1940s: "It's A Wonderful Life: The Radio Play" at the American Theater Company, and "It's A Wonderful Life: Live At The Biograph" at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, presented by the American Blues Theater. The "Radio Play" one has the legendary Mike Nussbaum as both Clarence and Mr. Potter, and the "Live" one has Michael Mahler and Dara Cameron leading Christmas carols and singing commercial jingles, with John Mohrlein as Clarence and Mr. Potter. Both productions run through December 30. It's an abundance of riches! And the plays are about that, too...
Not to be outdone, but on a smaller scale, there's "It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" at the Oil Lamp Theater in Glenview through the 29th. I'm not sure if there's music, but why quibble?
There are two very similar-looking shows in the far western suburbs right now--so similar that I'm pretty sure it's the same show. But I think there are two different casts. It's the "Dysfunctional Holiday Revue," courtesy of The Second City, Chicago's famous comedy school and performance venue and acting troupe of sketch comedy whizzes. Both the Paramount Theatre in Aurora and the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles are offering this show, as side offerings to their current mainstage shows, "Annie" and "The Winter Wonderettes," respectively. Paramount's revue runs December 13-23 in the Copley Theatre, and St. Charles' version has been on Friday nights this month (including this weekend) and will return on New Year's Eve. It's nice to know that Kane County is receiving some improve and sketch comedy love from Old Town, isn't it? Touring companies are a brilliant invention.
second-city-dysfunctional-holiday-revue in Aurora
Second City's Dysfunctional Holiday Revue in St Charles
Speaking of touring shows, a certain New York holiday tradition has opened once again in a touring incarnation in northwest suburban Rosemont, hard up against Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. It's racking up really good reviews, too--a well-reviewed revue. I'm talking about "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular -- starring The Rockettes," at least that's what I think the show is officially called. No, they aren't the same Rockettes that are currently performing at their namesake venue on Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, nor is this exactly the same show, reportedly. But our critics are loving it. The leggy ladies and all the holiday cheer they and their sister dancers have dispensed for 85 years are at the Akoo Theatre (formerly known as the Rosemont) until December 30. I'm not even sure that what they do is a musical revue, because it might be a dance concert. But it's in a theater and it's all popular and all, and there's holiday music, and why not! Again, why quibble? And there's nothing else like it. Just go....