ARTICLESTom Williams

Showtune Mondays at Sidetrack Video Bar


While many Chicago bars are closed on Monday nights or hardly doing any business, there is one spot that packs them in.  No, it’s not for Monday Night Football or a Cubs game. They come to Sidetrack Video Bar (3349 North Halsted Street) for Showtune Mondays.

The crowd starts arriving at 8:00 p.m. in order to get a seat on the upper level where they can see the six-by-eight foot video screen. Joel Gray opens the show with ‘Welkommen,’ the opening number from the movie Cabaret.  In four languages the MC tells the patrons that they’re in for a musical treat.

When that number ends, the screen cuts to Betty Hutton singing ‘I Got The Sun In The Morning’ from Annie Get Your Gun.  The next number features Beatrice Arthur and Angela Lansbury reenacting their famous ‘Bosom Buddies’ number from Mame. The Sidetrack crowd is starting to get into the spirit of the classic showtunes. After a break for a five-minute comedy routine featuring  Cher, the VJ decides to capture the spirit of independence and determination. Hence, we see Rosalind Russell doing her ‘Some People’ number from Gypsy. A chorus of bar patrons are singing: “Some people got the dream, yeah, but not the guts…but some people aren’t me.”  We see Mama Rose stealing the gold plaque from her father, thus allowing her and her children a chance in show biz.

An old black and white video of Ethel Merman singing ‘Good To Be Here’ gets a loud response from the Sidetrack patrons.  Next we see a stage full of pretty girls and sailors with a redheaded Patti LuPone singing and tap dancing to the great Cole Porter tune ‘Anything Goes’. This number has become a classic for the patrons of Sidetrack because it impacts the power of a great showtune done with a large ensemble performing a slick tap number. There is not another bar in Chicago where you can watch and sing along to the greatest music from the greatest shows by the greatest artists.  By 10 p.m. Sidetrack Video Bar is almost completely filled.  The tremendous assortment of showtunes from all the great Broadway musicals, MGM musical films and even special PBS concerts are formatted in a way that creates a show within a show.

It’s amazing that over the last twenty years, Art Johnson, Pepe Pena and Chuck Hyde have established the Broadway showtunes musical video format as the basis of a successful neighborhood bar that has become a worldwide attraction.  Sidetrack is known as one of the coolest gay bars in Chicago. The place is home to all theatrical devotees.  Monday night is the best night for the showtunes because all theatres in Chicago are dark that one day of the week. One can find talents like Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane (from The Producers), Colm Wilkinson(from Les Miserables) as well as Oprah Winfrey. All have joined the patrons as they celebrate the greatness of Broadway showtunes.

About 10:30 p.m. the place is full and the atmosphere is electric. ‘Oh What A Beautiful Morning’ begins and the patrons become a chorus. ‘Do Re Me’ follows and is soon complemented by ‘Oklahoma’ and Kate Smith’s ‘God Bless America’.  ‘No Business Like Show Business’ caps the emotions. The crowd is going wild.

If you enjoy great music, great performances or you just can’t see enough musicals, then stop by Sidetrack Video Bar Monday nights from 8 P.M. to 2 A.M. and Sunday afternoons from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Also, if you want to see Sidetrack’s “Best of Broadway” schedule, make sure to stop by Friday evenings from 6 P.M. to 9 P.M. It’s a fun show with a lot of great people.

I highly recommend at least one visit. Keep in mind that if you arrive at 8 P.M., you’re liable to leave at 2 A.M. Everybody does that.

Tom Williams

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