'The Showtune Mosh Pit' for March 16th, 2011
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by Paul W. Thompson
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:
We've just had a big weekend in the Mosh Pit! Sunday at the No Exit Café was the press opening of the Rodgers and Hammerstein revue "Some Enchanted Evening" by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, and it seems to have gone smashingly well! Positive reviews and word of mouth are pouring in, as Fred Anzevino's "little company that could" continues to do. Choreographer Ben Mason and musical director Austin Cook helped director Anzevino put actors Jeremy Trager, Dana Tretta, Evan Tyrone Martin, Sara Schoch and Danni Smith through their mid-century paces, and the show continues through April 30, 2011. "The George M. Cohan Revue," which I believe is an original piece, will follow the current Broadway revue into the No Exit from May 13 to July 3.
Also on Sunday, Theo Ubique announced its 2011-2012 season. It's interesting. It starts in September with "Starting Here, Starting Now," the Malby and Shire original revue from 1977, with the country comedy and crooning of the "Pump Boys And Dinettes" playing the holiday slot. One year from now, the Adam Guettel/Craig Lucas Tony winner "Light In the Piazza" will fill hearts and minds, and Summer 2012 will bring a Neil Sedaka revue I don't know, called "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do." Sounds like a winning season to me!
Monday night of this week brought together cast members of the touring cast of "Hair" and the Chicago cast of "Million Dollar Quartet" in the Glass Bar at Sidetrack for a "Be-In" fundraiser for Broadway Impact, the marriage equality organization founded by Gavin Creel of the Broadway "Hair" cast. Apparently the place was rockin' and rollin'!
And on Tuesday night, many folks were glued to their TV screens (or the virtual equivalent thereof) for the big "Glee" "Original Song" episode, including the spring regional choir competition and a little romance with big implications. Several new series seemingly inspired by or "green-lighted" by "Glee" (itself made possible by "High School Musical," methinks) are in the offing, so perhaps it's a good time now to step back and take stock of how we've gotten used to an award-winning, hour-long, weekly, prime-time, broadcast network TV series about performing arts education. The diverse cast of characters, the famous guest stars and the chart-topping song recordings are icing on the cake. Is this all really happening? Will we someday think this was a golden, even a magical time? Perhaps we will.
Highland Park's Ravinia Festival announced its summer line-up last week, and boy, were we disappointed. There's not a full-scale concert mounting of a musical (or a Patti LuPone) in sight. All is not entirely lost, however. The big news for many is the scheduling of a concert by Academy Award-winning singer Jennifer Hudson in the Pavilion on a Saturday night (July 16). I mean, that is enormous news! And one week later (July 23), Ravinia will present its now infamous Gala Benefit Evening, a salute to George Gershwin featuring three of his best-known orchestral works (the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will handle them, of course, and Kevin Cole will be the featured soloist on "Rhapsody In Blue"). Vocalists Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O'Hara and Sylvia McNair will also be on hand, but not for long. Ravinia is taking pains this year to explain that the entire concert will be an intermission-less 75 minutes.
Other offerings of interest include Broadway's Laura Benanti in Bennett-Gordon Hall on August 27, and "An Evening With Mandy Patinkin And Nathan Gunn" on August 31 in the Pavilion. No "My Fair Lady" in its 55th year? No "Pacific Overtures" or "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" in their 25th? Ah, well.
Looking downtown to the Grant Park Musical Festival, we see one night this summer of particular interest to Mosh Pit peeps, on July 13. The Jay Pritzker Pavilion will feature "Broadway Rocks" with the Grant Park Orchestra and vocalists Christiane Noll, Capathia Jenkins, Rob Evan and Doug LaBrecque in selections from, and I quote, "The Wiz, Hairspray, Jesus Christ Superstar, Mamma Mia, Tommy, Phantom Of The Opera and more!" I saw Christiane Noll and Rob Evan in "Jekyll And Hyde" back in the day, so I wonder....
The summer also heated up this week with the news that the popular 2007 children's musical "Pinkalicious" will be remounted by Chicago's Emerald City Theatre in Broadway In Chicago's Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. Emerald City had a very successful run of the show last fall at the Apollo Theater, its home base. The run is scheduled from July 8 to September 4, and will once again be directed and choreographed by Ernie Nolan.
There have been two recent announcements by Broadway In Chicago regarding future stops here by national touring companies. The current and Tony-winning revival of "La Cage Aux Folles" will arrive for the two weeks at the very end of this year, playing December 20, 2011-January 1, 2012 at the Bank Of America Theatre. No cast has yet been announced for this tour, but wouldn't it be freaking awesome if Harvey Fierstein and Christopher Sieber (now on Broadway) came here? That would really get some peeps in seats! Group sales are available now, but subscriptions and single ticket sales have not been announced.
And last season's Frank Sinatra musical "Come Fly Away," directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp and featuring The Chairman Of The Board's voice and 15 dancers, will follow LCAF into the BOAT for two weeks of its own, January 10-22, 2012. This will no doubt be the version of the show that was unveiled in Las Vegas, after the somewhat short Broadway run. We're honored to have it.
Turning back to locally mounted productions, "Evita" opens in Palatine this Friday, playing at Harper College for two weekends courtesy of the Harper Ensemble Theatre Company. It's directed by Kevin Long, musical directed by Jeremy Ramey, and stars Stephanie Herman as the Blonde Bombshell of Buenos Aires. (I just made that one up.)
As it turns out, Miss Herman is a very busy actress these days. I don't know how she's pulling this off, but she is also slated to appear as Gussie in "Merrily We Roll Along" at Highland Park's The Music Theatre Company from March 31 through May 1. Not since Bernadette Peters squeezed "Song And Dance" in between "Sunday In The Park With George" and "Into The Woods" has an actress bounced between Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim so deftly. Jarrod Zimmerman and Alan Schmuckler star, along with both Jessie and Andrew Mueller, Dara Cameron and Jerry Galante. Jessica Redish directs and choreographs. This young company sure must be doing something right.
From the northern suburbs, we turn our attention to the west, where "Evita" lyricist Tim Rice's most important collaboration with Elton John, "Aida," will begin performances this week at the Drury Lane Theatre (March 17 through May 29). Jim Corti is directing and choreographing a high octane cast in this Tony-winning show with an already long history of Chicago performances. Stephanie Umoh (from the recent Broadway "Ragtime") stars, and local favorites James Earl Jones II and Donica Lynn will support New Yorkers Erin Mosher and Jared Zirilli in the cast, which wisely includes Adrianna Parson and BranDon Chandler from last summer's successful production of the show mounted by Bailiwick Chicago. Ben Johnson is the musical director, and the sets are by New Yorker and former Victory Gardens Theatre designer James Dardenne.
Last but not least for this week, a major figure in the merging of popular musical styles and musical theater sensibility in London, New York and Hollywood in the 1990s will be appearing in our area this Saturday night, March 19. It's Lea Salonga, the Olivier and Tony Award winner for "Miss Saigon," a long-time resident of the "Les Miserables" barricades (including both of the "anniversary" concert videos, in different roles) and the singing voice of two Walt Disney "princesses," Jasmine and Mulan. She'll be at The Venue at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Indiana, fresh from appearances this week in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It's a whole new world, and she's just now turned 40 years old. Amazing.
Alrighty, then. That's a brief whirlwind of local shows, concerts, touring productions, special events and more, all to keep you satiated until next week's Mosh Pit! And in between the articles, I'm sure I'll see you under the video screens..... Thanks for reading.-PWT
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