The Broadway community mourns the loss of actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste, who passed away early Saturday morning at age 21. The marquee of Broadway’s Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street, will be dimmed in his memory on Tuesday, September 1 at approximately 10:15 pm following the evening performance of Les Misérables where he made history on July 23 when he became the first African American actor, and the youngest person ever, to play the lead role of Jean Valjean in the Broadway production of Les Misérables.
The lights will be dimmed at the front of the theatre (on the 45th Street marquee) following the evening performance so that all of the Les Misérables cast and crew, as well as Kyle’s friends and family and other members of the Broadway community, may join in the tribute.
“The tragic loss of Kyle to our company, just as he was on the threshold of a brilliant career, is a numbing reminder of how precious life is,” said producer Cameron Mackintosh. “His spirit was infinite and his voice from God—we are all so sad not to have spent more time with him, for he truly was a rare talent and a special person. Our loss is heaven’s gain and our prayers are with his family and friends.”
“We mourn the sudden and tragic loss of Kyle Jean-Baptiste, an immensely talented actor who followed his dreams that led to playing the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway. He was a rising star who graced our stage for too short a time, but his historic achievements and what he represents for the future will be remembered and honored when the Imperial Theatre dims its lights on Tuesday evening following the show,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League. “Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans.”
A native of Brooklyn and a graduate of the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, Kyle Jean-Baptiste attended Baldwin Wallace University in Ohio where he starred in numerous productions. The day after his graduation, he was hired to join the ensemble of Les Misérables and understudy the role of Jean Valjean, joining the production on June 23rd. Kyle was scheduled to depart Les Misérables on September 6 to join the new Broadway production of The Color Purple.
The Kyle Jean-Baptiste ’15 Music Theatre Scholarship has been established at his alma mater, Baldwin Wallace University, to carry forward Kyle’s legacy and benefit music theatre students. To make a gift in memory of Kyle, please make your check payable to Baldwin Wallace University, note “Kyle Jean-Baptiste MT Scholarship” on the memo line and send to Baldwin Wallace University, c/o Advancement Services, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017. To make an electronic gift, go to https://www.b-wcommunity.net/give, in the designation dropdown, select Kyle Jean-Baptiste, and follow the prompts. For more information, please call 440-826-2750.
by Samuel L. Leiter
One of my regrets over the past three decades, ever since my daughter became a grade school teacher in the New York public school system, has been my failure to record her frequent rants about her job: the incompetent principals, arrogant parents, lack of supplies, budgetary shortfalls, emphasis on testing over creative teaching, bureaucratic ineptitude, and, even though she mainly taught the earliest grades, the physical violence wrought by troubled students. All this came to mind as I watched Karen Sklaire’s delightful, insightful, hilarious, as well as touching solo show, Ripple of Hope:One Teacher’s Journey to Make an Impact (directed by Padraic Lillis), inspired by her experiences as a drama teacher in various New York elementary and high schools, ranging from the South Bronx to Chinatown. The show was a contribution to this summer’s Fringe NYC after a run earlier this summer at the Capital Fringe Festival in D.C.
Working in a bare room with only a video projector, background sheet, laptop, desk, and chair, Sklaire recounts her post 9/11 travails after abandoning a going-nowhere acting career and a job selling gym memberships so that she could teach drama to young kids. Fueled by an RFK speech about creating ripples of hope in the lives of the disadvantaged and by movies with inspirational teachers played by Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer, this former Syracuse University musical theater major began her career brimming with enthusiasm. But even before she arrived at the first day of school, her innocence began crumbling when a hooker’s body was found in a nearby garbage can.
During her well-packed, 50-minute monologue Sklaire notes the aggressive parents who encourage their tots to fight, the foul-mouthed little cuties, the struggle to behave professionally when faced with out-of-control children, the cynicism of other teachers, the oblivious principals, the rapid turnover of the coolest administrators, the threats and taunts from Crips gang members, and everything else that leads her to tears, fears and, finally, self-doubt. The many hurdles she must leap include a funny sequence in which she’s ordered by a clueless Bronx high school principal to teach and present Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues (which he calls Vaginalogues) to a class of boys and girls and winding up with an unsatisfactory rating when he’s unhappy with her work. Another tribulation includes being “excessed” from a job and forced to sit in an empty “rubber room” while still drawing her salary, along with other traumatic experiences familiar to anyone who’s seen how the system can crush even the most idealistic of teachers.
Sklaire, a perky, petite, attractive woman dressed in tight jeans, a red blouse, and a close-fitting jacket, occasionally stumbles but her charm and versatility never waver. She mixes in clips of the movies she references, as well as of students performing under her direction, including her Chinatown little ones doing a production of Cinderella. Especially appealing is a section about how she made a breakthrough with a troublemaker who had a Michael Jackson jones, casting him as the “celebrity guest” of a Halloween show; she even shows a video of him performing “Thriller.” She herself does a pretty decent Jackson routine, pseudo moonwalking included, in keeping with an aptitude for vocal and physical mimicry that allows her to capture the voices and body language of numerous people in her narrative, including the potty-mouthed, sometimes drug-addled students with whom she had to deal.
This piece should be seen by urban educators everywhere (the venue seemed packed with them). For all the jolts encountered during her teaching career, Karen Sklaire has sent out ripples of hope to her students, regardless of whether or not the system in which she worked had the heart or wisdom to appreciate it. Swank and Pfeiffer were only acting; Sklaire is the real deal.
Ripple of Hope: One Teacher’s Journey to Make an Impact
The White Box
440 Lafayette Street, NYC
Samuel L. Leiter is Distinguished Professor Emeritus (Theater) of Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. He has written and/or edited 27 books on Japanese theater, New York theater, Shakespeare, and the great stage directors. For more of his reviews, visit Theatre’s Leiter Side (www.slleiter.blogspot.com).
“The entire Les Miserables family is shocked and devastated by the sudden and tragic loss of Kyle, a remarkable young talent and tremendous person who made magic—and history—in his Broadway debut,” the production said in a statement. “We send our deepest condolences to his family and ask that you respect their privacy in this unimaginably difficult time.”
The Broadway Blog offers our deepest sympathies to Jean -Baptiste’s family and the company of Les Misérables.
Want a front row seat and inside scoop from some of your favorite Broadway stars? The Drama League has announced their Fall 2015 Schedule of events and workshops at the Drama League Theater Center (32 Avenue of the Americas) in Tribeca.
Highlights include intimate evenings with 2015 Tony Award winners Christian Borle (Something Rotten!), and Lisa Kron (Fun Home), and Julie White (Airline Highway), in a conversation hosted by Tony winner Annaleigh Ashford (You Can’t Take It With You), her co-star in the upcoming Broadway production of Sylvia.
The Drama League will also host a once-in-a-lifetime workshop for actors with the acclaimed British ensemble Frantic Assembly, who created the stunning movement and choreography for the Tony-winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; a conversation with Tony Award nominee Max Von Essen (An American in Paris); and the return of DirectorFest, the annual short play festival featuring the work of America’s most exciting new directors.
This fall, The Drama League will also offer over 50 special performances on Broadway and Off-Broadway, as well as open rehearsals, artist residencies, play readings, excursions to London’s West End, and more.
Up Close: Christian Borle
Moderated by Rick Elice
Wednesday, September 14 at 7:00 p.m.
Christian Borle takes a break from his Tony® winning turn as William Shakespeare in this season’s smash hit Something Rotten! to join us for a fun filled evening. Mr. Borle’s career spans stage and screen, having previously starred in the hit NBC musical drama Smash and the fantastically inventive Peter and the Starcatcher, for which he won his first Tony®. Other Broadway acting credits include Legally Blonde, Mary Poppins, Spamalot, and more. He joins us to discuss his prolific career and what it takes to pull off being the rock star Bard eight performances a week. This special event will be moderated by Peter and the Starcatcher playwright, Tony® Award nominee Rick Elice.
Up Close: Max von Essen
Monday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m.
Max von Essen is currently appearing as Henri Baurel in the award-winning An American in Paris, a role which earned him a 2015 Tony® Award Nomination for best performance by an actor in a featured role. He previously appeared on Broadway in the 2012 revival of Evita as Agustin Magaldi. His other credits include the closing company of the original Les Miserables, performing the role of Enjolras in the first revival of Les Miserables, and making his debut in the first revival of Jesus Christ Superstar. Join us as he discusses his career, current and upcoming projects!
Up Close: Lisa Kron
Wednesday, October 14 at 7:00 p.m.
Lisa Kron is a Tony winning writer and performer. This year, she and her writing partner Jeanine Tesori made history as the very first all-female writing teams to win the Tony® Award for a musical score, with their groundbreaking show and Best Musical Tony® winner, Fun Home. Lisa’s last outing on Broadway was her acclaimed autobiographical work, Well, which she wrote, and for which she was nominated for a performance Tony® in the starring role. She was most recently seen on the New York stage as Mrs. Mi-Tzu and Mrs. Yang in the Foundry Theater’s acclaimed production of Good Person of Szechuan. She will join us to discuss her 30-year career in New York, and what will follow the smash success of Fun Home.
Up Close: Julie White
Moderated by Annaleigh Ashford
Monday, November 16 at 7:00 p.m.
The hilarious Julie White returns to Broadway this season in the canine comedy, Sylvia. Her other Broadway credits include The Little Dog Laughed, for which she won a Tony® Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play, Airline Highway, Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike, and Ann. She is also beloved for her characters on screen, including TV’s “Grace Under Fire”, “Nurse Jackie” and the “Transformers” film franhise. She will join us to discuss her extensive career on stage and screen and discuss her upcoming projects. This event will be moderated by her puppy co-star in Sylvia, Tony Award winner, Annaleigh Ashford.
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC) welcomes Megan Hilty and Seth Rudetsky as Mark Cortale’s Broadway @ series comes to the Citi Shubert for the first time ever on Friday, Sept. 18. Hilty, star of stage and television, joins Grammy- and Emmy-nominated Sirius XM Radio star Seth Rudetsky as they shoot the breeze, dish the dirt, and raise the roof with a host of classic Broadway songs.
Megan Hilty is best known for playing the seasoned triple-threat Ivy Lynn in NBC’s musical drama “Smash” for two seasons. On June 8 she appeared in a one-night-only benefit concert of the TV show’s original musical “Bombshell” in New York, which sold out in minutes. In February, Hilty performed at Lincoln Center as part of its American Songbook series.
“I am so excited to come back to Boston,” said Hilty. “It’s such an amazing city. I loved performing at the Hatch Shell for the 4th of July. Even though we had to push the concert a day earlier due to bad weather, the Boston crowds showed up and had a great time.”
Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon host on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s “On Broadway” and hosts of “Seth Speaks” on Sirius/XM Stars. As a pianist, Rudetsky has played for more than a dozen Broadway shows. Recently, he co-wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed musical “Disaster!,” a take-off of 1970s disaster movies now slated to transfer to Broadway. His newest book, The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek was published earlier this month by Random House and is available on Amazon.com.
“I’m happy Megan and I are helping the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus,” said Rudetsky. “I have such great memories of singing in chorus, starting in third grade. I’d love to join BGMC but the commute from New York would kill me!”
“The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus has just made history as the first gay chorus to tour the Middle East,” said Craig Coogan the organization’s Executive Director. “How do you top that? Well, bringing in Megan Hilty and Seth Rudetsky is about the only way to do so! We are so lucky to have them come and support our work – it’s going to be a fantastic evening.”
Broadway @ The Shubert starring Megan Hilty
Featuring Sirius XM Star Seth Rudetsky as pianist & host
265 Tremont St., Boston
Friday, September 18, 2015
Click here for tickets or visit the Citi Shubert Box Office.
Has your pet changed your life? Have you ever wondered what she’s thinking when she stares up at you and tilts her head? Could she have the secret to understanding the world at large and your place in it? Or is she just more interested in how your shoe tastes? The world of a New York couple in mid-life is turned topsy-turvy when the husband brings home an exceptionally engaging canine running loose in Central Park in the hilarious and heartwarming comedy, Sylvia.
From two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee A. R. Gurney (The Dining Room, Love Letters), Sylvia takes a wonderful look into the complexities of love and commitment asks what it truly means to be devoted to your partner…and how do you choose between the love of your life and man’s best friend?
In celebration of Sylvia coming to Broadway for the first time since its MTC debut in 1995 patrons who go to the box office 10am-12pm EST will be able to purchase tickets for preview performances for only $19.95 each. Limit two per person.
In addition, the first 100 people to bring their dog to the box office that day will receive a limited edition Sylvia themed waste pick-up dispenser.
Sylvia stars Tony Award-winner Matthew Broderick (Brighton Beach Memoirs, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), Tony Award-winner Julie White (The Little Dog Laughed, Airline Highway), Drama Desk Award-winner Robert Sella (Stuff Happens), and Tony Award-winner Annaleigh Ashford (You Can’t Take It With You, Kinky Boots). Tony Award-winning director Daniel Sullivan (Proof) will direct.
Performances will begin on Friday, October 2, 2015, and will hold its official opening night on Tuesday, October 27, 2015. Tickets for Sylvia are available for purchase online at www.telecharge.com, by calling (212) 239-6200, or by going to the box office of the Cort Theatre starting Friday, August 28, 2015.
In 1998, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner became the first actresses ever nominated together for a Best Actress Tony Award, for their performance as the conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton in the original Broadway production of Side Show.
On September 1 and 2 at 7:00 p.m., Mark Cortale will reunite the two heralded stars of that musical for his ground-breaking Broadway @ The Art House series in Provincetown, featuring SiriusXM Star Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host. What differentiates this concert series from any other is the seamless mix of intimate, funny and revealing behind-the-scenes stories from Broadway’s biggest stars and their stellar singing of musical theatre repertoire. F
Alice Ripley received the Tony Award and Helen Hayes Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Next to Normal, as well as Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations. She starred in the original Broadway casts of Side Show, The Rocky Horror Show, James Joyce’s The Dead, Sunset Boulevard, and The Who’s Tommy.
Emily Skinner has established herself as one of Broadway’s most engaging and versatile performers. Most recently she has starred as Adelaide in the world premiere of The Great American Mousical at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre under the direction of Dame Julie Andrews. She also recently created the role of Monique McCandless in Stephen King/John Mellencamp’s new musical The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County at the Alliance Theatre and on a multi-city rock n’ roll concert tour. Emily was nominated for a Tony Award (with Alice Ripley) and received a Drama League Award for her performance as Daisy Hilton in the Side Show. Her other original Broadway cast credits include Billy Elliot, Jekyll & Hyde, James Joyce’s The Dead (opposite Christopher Walken), The Full Monty, and Dinner at Eight.
Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon host on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s ON BROADWAY as well as the host of SETH SPEAKS on SiriusXM Stars. As a pianist, Seth has played for more than a dozen Broadway shows including Ragtime, Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. As an author, he penned the non-fiction Q Guide To Broadway, the novel Broadway Nights and the recently published My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan (Random House). Recently, he co-wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed Disaster!, a 1970’s disaster movie musical which is now slated to transfer to Broadway in 2015. His newest book, The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek was published earlier this month by Random House and is available on Amazon.com For more info visit: www.SethTV.com.
This Broadway @ concert series was inaugurated in 2011 by Producing Artistic Director Mark Cortale @ The Art House in Provincetown featuring Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host. In its fourth season last summer, the series presented Broadway superstars like Kristin Chenoweth, Megan Hilty, Alice Ripley, Cheyenne Jackson and Gavin Creel. More information at markcortalepresents.com.
Producers Lorenzo Thione and Andrew Treagus have announced a partnership with Inspire Change, an innovative arts program that works alongside commercial theater productions to provide students across the tri-state area with no-and-low-cost tickets paired with unique and high-impact educational programming.
Inspire Change was piloted with the Tony-winning Best Musical Memphis in 2012 and is thrilled to be back on Broadway this fall with Allegiance, a new American musical starring Tony Award winner Lea Salonga, George Takei and Telly Leung, which will open on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre (220 West 48th Street) on Sunday, November 8, 2015. Previews begin on Tuesday, October 6, 2015.
Under the direction of Inspire Change Director of Education Matt Freeman and Allegiance Director of Education Matthew Schneider, Inspire Change will offer fully sponsored educational workshops paired with tickets to attend a performance of Allegiance and round trip transportation, all supported by generous donations. The program was established for the Broadway production of Memphis and allowed more than 10,000 students to experience the thrill of a Broadway show while learning about an important part of American history. For more information, visit www.inspirechangebroadway.org.
Allegiance producer Lorenzo Thione said in a statement: “George Takei has always wanted this story to reach as many students in as many classrooms as possible and we have decided to commit to making that a reality. We are so thrilled to collaborate with Inspire Change to bring this initiative back to Broadway with Allegiance, a musical inspired by George’s true-life experience. Through this incredible partnership, we have the opportunity to make his dream a reality as we share this untold American story with new audiences.”
Inspired by the true-life experience of its star George Takei (“Star Trek,” “Heroes”), Allegiance follows one family’s extraordinary journey in this untold American story. A mysterious envelope leads Sam Kimura (Takei) back 60 years to a time when he (played as a young man by Telly Leung — Godspell, “Glee”) and his sister Kei (Tony winner Lea Salonga — Miss Saigon, Mulan) strive to save their family from the wrongful imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Sam enlists in the army to prove the Kimura’s loyalty, but Kei joins draft resisters fighting for the rights of their people. Their paths take them from the lush farmlands of California to the wastelands of Wyoming to the battlefields of Europe, and their divided loyalties threaten to tear them apart forever. But as long-lost memories are unlocked, Sam finds that it is never too late to forgive and to recognize the redemptive power of love.
Earlier in 2015, Moisés Kaufman and Tectonic Theater Project were working with the Moscow New Drama Theatre and the U.S. State Department to produce a revival of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde in Moscow. In the middle of pre-production, the Kremlin blocked the revival because of the play’s LGBTQ content. In response to the cancellation, Kaufman and Tectonic Theater Project has decided to produce a benefit reading in NYC to bring attention to the suppression of the rights of the LGBTQ community in Russia.
The star-studded, one-night-only special benefit reading of Moisés Kaufman’s Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, the award-winning play about Oscar Wilde and the trials for his “crime” of homosexuality, will take place on October 5, 2015 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater (524 W. 59th St). Moisés Kaufman will direct.
Two-time Emmy Award winner Michael Emerson (“Lost”, “Person of Interest”) will star as Oscar Wilde. Emerson played the role of Wilde in the original production of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde at the Minetta Lane Theatre in 1997.
Joining Emerson will be Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff (Broadway’s Hamilton, “Looking”) as Bosie, as well as two-time Academy Award winner Sally Field (Norma Rae, Places In The Heart, Lincoln), Golden Globe winner and six-time Emmy nominee Michael C. Hall (Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “Dexter”), Tony Award and four-time Emmy Award winner David Hyde Pierce (Broadway’s Curtains, “Frasier”), Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner (Angels in America), Tony and Emmy Award winner Judith Light (Broadway’s Other Desert Cities, “Transparent”), Emmy Award nominee Darren Criss (Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, “Glee”), Emmy nominee Tituss Burgess (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), David Burtka (Broadway’s It Shoulda Been You, “How I Met Your Mother”), Andy Mientus (Broadway’s Les Miserables, “Smash”), Jose Llana(Broadway’s The King And I, Here Lies Love), Will Carlyon (Broadway’s Cabaret), and Jake Shears (Bent, The Scissor Sisters), with additional casting to be announced.
Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde is sponsored by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Hilda Mullen Foundation.
Tickets range from $50 to $1000, with sponsorship packages available. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting http://www.tectonictheaterproject.org. All tickets will be held at will call and will be available for pick up starting at 6 pm at the venue.
All funds raised will benefit Tectonic Theater Project and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
Every month, a fabulous actor/singer/dancer fills out editor Matthew Wexler’s nosey little questionnaire and offers a glimpse of what he looks like from a bit closer than the mezzanine. After more than 6,000 performances, Broadway will bid a fond farewell to Mamma Mia! on September 12 — but not before we profile the adorable Patrick Ortiz… Mamma Mia, indeed!
San Diego, CA
Mamma Mia! takes place on the Greek island of Kalokairi — where would your ultimate wedding destination be and why?
I would have to say Riviera Maya, Mexico—because like the Greeks, Mexicans know how to throw a fun and memorable wedding.
Donna, Rosie, or Tanya – if you could swap roles for a night, which one would you be and why?
Even though Donna gets all the amazing songs, I feel like having to deal with seeing three of my exes and my daughter’s wedding would be a little exhausting. I’d much rather be Tanya. She’s proper, dresses well, flirts, and has a great, upbeat song.
After more than 6,000 performances, how do they keep those wetsuits clean?
I still don’t know! But after a two-show day they’re not as fresh as some people would like.
If I wasn’t a performer, I would be:
A chef. My family owns a restaurant in Chicago named El Jardin so I grew up around that atmosphere and cooking. Also, I love incorporating my artistic side into recipes and the presentation of food.
Places, Intermission or Curtain Call?
Curtain call is so much fun! What other show has a full-out concert at the end where everyone gets up and dances? It makes my job the best one in the world.
The best post-show cocktail in New York City is at:
I enjoy the Rum House attached to the Hotel Edison at 227 47th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway. The bar features old speakeasy-type signature cocktails and they have live jazz most nights. You can’t beat that after seeing a good musical.
After you’ve hit all the traditional sites of New York City, you should totally go to:
The High Line. It’s an old elevated railroad track that has been transformed into a walking park with all kinds of little kiosks and entertainment. It’s also a great place to escape the city noise and chaos.
If I could live anywhere else in the world it would be:
Tokyo, Japan. I visit there while I was on tour with West Side Story and I absolutely fell in love with the culture, the people, and the technology. It was amazing!
My workout “secret” is:
Eat right and stay consistent. I’ve found that eating healthy is more than half the battle. Also, just having a consistent exercise routine will give you results. You don’t need to have crazy, intense workouts or extreme diets to achieve your goals.
When I’m looking for a date, nothing attracts me more than:
Confidence with humility. There’s nothing worse than an ego.
My favorite website to visit that you may not have heard of is:
I only use the Internet for Netflix and Google!
People would be surprised to learn that I . . .
Love to sail! I take sailing trips and travel for weeks at a time. There’s nothing like living on the sea.
When I was 10, I wanted to be just like:
Cobi Jones from the U.S. soccer team. I played soccer for 14 years and thought he was the coolest. He also has amazing hair.
Mamma Mia!’s final performance is September 12, what’s the first thing you’ll want to do on September 13?
Sleep in all day and go to a spa to get a massage!
Ten years from now I’d like to be:
Married with kids and teaching dance or theater. I remember how much my teachers inspired me to perform and it led me to a career performing on Broadway. I hope to be able to continue that and inspire the next generation.
235 West 44th Street
Through September 12
Say goodbye to the boys of Mamma Mia!…