THE LATEST IN UNAUTHORIZED GOSSIP AND BUZZ
FROM THE HEART OF CHICAGO'S SHOWTUNE VIDEO BARS
by Paul W. Thompson
Overheard last weekend under the
Sidetrack and Cattle Call showtune video screens:
So much is being talked about! Who said that August was dull for theater? Not in Chicago, certainly...... So, let's get to it!
Two classic mid-century musicals began proscenium performances in suburban Chicago venues this past week, and everyone wants to check them out. First to officially open was "My Fair Lady" at Light Opera Works in Evanston, starring local classical actor Nick Sandys as Henry Higgins. (Conflict of interest alert: I am on the Board of Directors there.)
The second show, opening August 19th after a week of previews, is "Cabaret" at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace, starring Northwestern University graduate and Broadway actor Jim Weitzer ("Little Women," "The Phantom of the Opera") as Clifford Bradshaw. (Conflict of interest alert number two: He is a friend of mine. Hey, it happens.)
My friends at Lyric Opera of Chicago tell me that rehearsals for the 2009-2010 season have begun. The show of most interest to musical theater fans is Franz Lehar's "The Merry Widow," one of the first Viennese operettas to have an impact not only on the popular music of the day "The Merry Widow Waltz") but on women's fashion. The newly-mounted production, starring Elizabeth Futral and directed by Drury Lane Oakbrook golden boy Gary Griffin, plays December and January at the Civic Opera House.
One sign that Broadway buffs may really like this show: it's being done in English, though it was originally written in German ("Die Lustige Witwe"). Has Lyric ever done that before? Shocking! And appearing in smaller roles in the show are Chicago theater regulars Jeff Dumas, Susan Moniz, Larry Adams, Mary Ernster, James Rank, Ann McMann and Bernie Yvon. It's like a reunion of everyone we all know!
A Griffin production that readers and mosh pit denizens may already be familiar with, the national tour of the Oprah Winfrey-produced Broadway hit "The Color Purple," will return to Chicago for one week just before Labor Day, with Fantasia reprising the lead role of Celie. Those who saw it in New York's Broadway Theatre or at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre are interested to know how it will play in the Arie Crown Theatre at McCormick Place. And it may not return again.....
Paul W. Thompson, a contributor to BroadwayWorld.com since 2007, is a Chicago-based singer, actor, musical director, pianist, vocal coach, composer and commentator. His career as a performer, teacher and writer is centered at Paul W. Thompson Music, located in Chicago���s historic Fine Arts Building, where he teaches the great songs of Broadway to the next generation of musical theater performers. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Paul was raised in a family of professional musicians and teachers, steeped in classical, gospel, country, pop, sacred and show music. Dubbed a ���thin, winsome lad��� at the age of 13 by a critic for the Nashville Banner, he earned two degrees in musical theater (a B.F.A. with Honors from Baylor University and an M.M. from the University of Miami, Florida), plus an M.B.A. with Distinction from DePaul University. Paul���s memberships include Actors��� Equity Association, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (proud voter for the Grammy Awards!), the National Association of Teachers of Singing and New York���s Drama League.|
Moving easily between the worlds of classical music, religious music, classic pop and musical theater, Paul has appeared onstage or in the orchestra pit in concerts, musicals, operettas and operas in 30 states and in Europe, in a career spanning more than 35 years. His Chicagoland stage credits include ���Forever Plaid��� at the Royal George Theater and twenty mainstage productions at Light Opera Works. Paul joined the Chicago Symphony Chorus in 1995 (he was Tenor I Section Leader for four years and sings on two Grammy-winning recordings), and is one of Chicago���s foremost liturgical singers, marking 20 years as a member of the choir at St. James Cathedral (Episcopal) in 2011.He has composed and arranged a number of anthems, hymns and songs for worship and concert use, and collaborates on the creation of new works of musical theater. Paul can be found on Monday nights watching showtune videos at the world-famous Sidetrack nightclub, the inspiration for his weekly column, ���The Showtune Mosh Pit.��� His proudest achievement is that he has seen the original Broadway production of every Tony Award-winning Best Musical since ���Cats.��� No, really. Since ���Cats!���