An American Story, starring Hershey Felder
February 1-10 is the run of a concert presentation of Stephen Schwartz's "The Baker's Wife" (book by Joseph Stein) at The Music Theatre Company, on Green Bay Road in Highland Park. The legendary Dominic Missimi directs a cast starring Broadway and Chicago veteran Peter Kevoian, with musical direction by Matt Deitchman. Others in the cast include Sarah Bockel, Bill Chamberlain, David Elliot, Emily Grayson, Nancy Kolton, Jerry Mills, David Sajewich, Kate Staiger and Peter Vamvakas. Also coming up at TMTC will be solo shows by musical theater actresses Heidi Kettenring, Jess Godwin (with Janelle Kroll) and Christine Mild, on February 11, February 23 and March 1, respectively. Trust me, these ladies can SANG!
Beginning previews this very night, and opening officially on Friday, is "The Music Man," running through February 3 at the cavernous Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Rachel Rockwell directs, with musical direction by Michael Mahler. We knew that Stef Tovar ("High Fidelity" at Piper's Alley) is starring as "Professor" Harold Hill, proponent of the "Think System," with Emily Rohm as Marian "The Librarian" Paroo. What you may not know, which I did not until last week, is that the role of Winthrop, the speech-challenged young man played so memorably by Ron Howard in the film version of this 1957 classic musical, will be played in Aurora by Naperville resident Johnny Rabe. So?, you may ask. Well, Johnny Rabe just returned to Illinois after starring, STARRING, in "A Christmas Story" on Broadway, as Ralphie, the kid who wants the BB gun for Christmas and whose father obsesses over a lamp that looks like a leg. I'll be reviewing this one for BroadwayWorld. Yes I will, girl. Yes I will.
Speaking of Lincoln, and speaking of Michael Mahler, the busy musical director, actor ("Working" at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place), company member of The Music Theater Company and composer ("Hero" at the Marriott Theatre) has released a five-track EP with his band, the Lincoln Squares. The EP's release date was January 2nd. And this is no ordinary indie-folk-pop-rock band. The members, Mahler, Alan Schmuckler, Alex Goodrich, Derek Hasenstab and Jim Barclay, are all prominent Chicago musical theater performers as well. (I don't know about drummer Barclay, really, but I write about the rest of them in the Mosh Pit all the time!) Their music is quite something. Check out their website and their work, won't you?
During the last two weeks, much of Chicago has been in the throes and the thrall of Sketchfest, the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival at Stage 773. Of course, Mosh Pit readers know that facility as the home of many great productions by some of our more itinerant theater companies and cabaret artists, as well as the location where some great singprov (improvised songs, and even improvised full musicals) has taken place. But sketch comedy is alive and well there too, much of it with music involved to some degree. For instance, the Cupid Players are now in their tenth year of presenting "Cupid Has A Heart On," their series of sketches about relationships that evolves over time and includes songs in all of the scenes (it's on Saturday nights there at 8:00).
Cupid Has A Heart On
Chicago is known as one of the capitals, perhaps THE capital, of sketch comedy, with our legendary status as the home base of the world's improv community lending credence to our offerings in sketch, its sister and natural outgrowth (once you improvise something amazing, wouldn't it be cool to remember it, or at least the outline of it, and do it again next week?). And lately, a couple of sketch comedies with music at their heart have captured the attention of the Mosh Pit. After a short run at the Apollo Theater in Chicago and at the North Shore Center For The Performing Arts in Skokie in November, the parody musical "50 Shades! The Musical" hit New York and New Jersey last weekend, a product of Chicago's musical comedy ensemble/show "Baby Wants Candy." Poking fun at the popular novel,"50 Shades Of Grey," the show has also played the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Will there be a return engagement in Chicago? In New York? Elsewhere? Will it be franchised or licensed for performance by others? Who knows! But bravo to them for creating something that has definitely struck a nerve with audiences. Improv teaches you to think (and produce) fast!
Our most important comedy institution is, of course, The Second City, the famous outpost of stand-up, improv, sketch, revue and more at the corner of North and Wells, source of much talent for "Saturday Night Live" and Hollywood. And on January 5, The Second City joined forces with our most famous opera company to present "The Second City Guide To The Opera," a one-night gala at the Civic Opera House hosted by Patrick Stewart and Renee Fleming. And it was PACKED. And hilarious. It was a night of sketches and arias, with Second City members and Lyric Opera Of Chicago musicians exploring opera from the point of view of the funny bone. (Not a "musical," I guess, but there were actors and singers onstage, weren't there?) It was so successful that the two institutions have announced a June run of something like it, only not a gala with an audience of three thousand. The audience will be seated on the Opera House stage, a cabaret-style. Jokes and music will abound. Specific dates will be announced soon, and tickets will be available starting January 23rd.
And The Second City is also a factor in an upcoming show we've discussed before, "Airport For Birds (And Other Great Ideas)," presented by Team StarKid in the new UP Comedy Club on the third floor of Piper's Alley, in the Second City complex. This show, with sketch comedy, music and video shorts, will be performed only five times, on Sunday nights at 7:00 between January 27 and March 3. Director Corey Lubiwich and musical director Nick Cage will put 11 members of the renowned internet musical comedy troupe (and two-time winners of the BroadwayWorld Chicago Award) through their paces, including familiar names Jaime Lyn Beatty, Brian Holden, Lauren Lopez, Joe Walker and more. It's sketch meets musical theater meets the internet meets the future, I think. It's a great big grab-bag of something. And we are reveling in the fact that we've got it!
Team StarKid's Airport for Birds
So that's it for now! This was quite a grab-bag of a column, wasn't it? Well, that's the showtune world in Chicago, isn't it? We know it when we see it. Keep warm, Chicago, and I'll see you soon, right? Under those video screens? I knew it!-PWT
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