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Wilting Theatrics: ‘Consider the Lilies’

January 16th, 2017 View Comment(s)

By Samuel L. Leiter

Consider the LiliesAustin Pendleton, who turns 77 in March, continues to be one of the most ubiquitous presences on the New York stage, appearing in or directing several Off-Broadway plays every year. Unfortunately, while he’s done excellent work in both capacities, he often chooses wilted flowers like Stuart Fail’s Consider the Lilies, now presented by House Red Theatre Company at the TBG Theatre.

Billed as “A World Premiere Play” even though it was produced in 2013 at the Minneapolis Theater Garage, this shapeless effort casts Pendleton as Paul, a gay, aging, once successful artist (for what, incredibly, seems like a single painting of lilies), living in Paris in Act One and New York in Act Two.

The irritatingly unlovable Paul is coupled with his earnest, much younger agent, David (Eric Joshua Davis), a failed actor who’s left his girlfriend, Angela (Liarra Michelle), in New York while he struggles to drum up Parisian gallery interest in Paul’s work. Paul, though, is a misogynistic drunk (“the vagina is the enemy”) suffering from painter’s block, thinking he’s washed up, and also from his feelings for David. The latter, who insists on his straightness while Paul insists he’s in the closet, has a conflicted relationship with Angela, whose relationship with someone else while David’s abroad culminates in clichéd consequences.

For two and a half seemingly endless hours we watch the self-pitying Paul and the self-pitying David go round and round wallowing in the same who-cares issues while surrounded by a sea of soap opera bubbles. Father-son themes float about, but there’s very little exploration of the paternal relationship palpitating between the elderly Paul and the decades younger David; as performed, this relationship is as unconvincing as the poorly executed props serving as examples of Paul’s paintings.

The playwright also presents several seriously improbable situations, like having David and Angela, both nearly broke, meet up again on a Circle Line cruise around Manhattan. And audiences may be surprised to see an important piece of news delivered by telegram (still possible, although not via Western Union). Here, though, it’s introduced so that Paul can have the courier (Alec Merced) enter his apartment and read it aloud in a play where phones don’t seem to exist.

Austin Pendleton and Eric Joshua Davis in 'Consider the Lilies.' (Photo: Talya Chalef via The Broadway Blog.)

(L to R) Austin Pendleton and Eric Joshua Davis in ‘Consider the Lilies.’ (Photo: Talya Chalef via The Broadway Blog.)

If ever a play needed sharp direction this is it; instead, its structural weakness is exaggerated by Fail’s egregiously sloppy staging on a bland, shabby-looking set of beige apartment walls, amateurishly designed and even more amateurishly lit by S. Watson; apart from changes in the minimal furnishings, the room is precisely the same for both Paris and New York, with the same blank view out of an upstage window.

Fail’s pacing is ragged, his actors seem to be blocking themselves on the fly, most scenes lack dynamic tension, and, sadly, much of the acting is inadequate. There’s one memorable feature, though: Andy Evan Cohen’s jazzy-blues sound design for the scene changes.

Pendleton, with his impish quirkiness, can be delightful when playing the right role; however, he’s anything but an acting chameleon. Here he resorts to his familiar bag of mannerisms: making jittery hand and foot movements; rubbing his face or racing his hands through his thinning, white hair, when agitated; delivering speeches to the floor instead of the person he’s addressing; coupling sudden bursts of anger with equally sudden retreats into quiescence; and smiling ironically when delivering painful remarks.

As David, Davis slouches, grimaces, and, despite artists’ agents generally being fashion conscious, wears costumer Lauren Levin’s schlubby costumes with schlub-of-the-year panache.

If you’re considering Consider the Lilies I’d advise you to reconsider.

Consider the Lilies
TBG Theatre
312 W. 35th St., NYC
Through January 28

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).

 

 

 

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15 Minutes With ‘In Transit”s Rick Hip-Flores

January 13th, 2017 View Comment(s)

by Ryan Leeds

'In Transit' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

‘In Transit’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Rick Hip-Flores is a seasoned musical director, having worked on several projects both on and off Broadway. Yet he, along with the cast of In Transit, is currently exploring unprecedented territory by being the first completely a cappella Broadway show.

The harmonic tuner is currently enjoying an open ended run at Circle in the Square and explores the daily grind for a diverse bunch of New Yorkers—complete with joy, frustration, dreams, and reality.

Photo provided by Rick Hip-Flores.

Photo provided by Rick Hip-Flores.

Hip-Flores recently spoke with the Broadway Blog to discuss the unique aspects of rehearsing and conducting what he considers a “tough beast to tame.”

A cappella singing used to have old-fashioned appeal with glee clubs and barbershop quartets. In the last few years, it’s become quite hip, thanks to groups like Rockapella, Straight No Chaser, Pentatonix and the Pitch Perfect movie franchise. What is it about this style that people find so appealing?

Immediately, I think people react to the human voice. The creative spirit of a cappella is that you don’t need to be classically trained to create music. A group of people can get together, create an arrangement and make it sound great. Mainly, there is an automatic connection when you hear the human voice. Instruments only emulate it.

With “cantata” (musically accompanied singing), it’s somewhat easier to blend singers who possess a variety of vocal skills and techniques, but with a cappella, there has to be a collective synchronicity. You clearly found the right blend with In Transit. What was the audition process like and how you were able to find the right talent?

These actors went through the hardest vetting process of any show I’ve been a part of. They had to sight read, sing in groups, and possess music theory knowledge. In terms of blending with the cast, we listened to their placement of vowels, how much vibrato they used, and other factors that aren’t considered as solo performers. On top of all this, they had to come across as engaging performers. There are many hats that have to be worn for In Transit.

Erin Mackey in 'In Transit.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Erin Mackey in ‘In Transit.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

How is the cast able to stay on pitch from the beginning of each show through the end?

In talking to people after the show, they are always blown away by the cast’s ability to do that, but I have to say that pitch is not the hardest part for them. The most difficult components are staying perfectly in sync rhythmically, keeping the same tempos, and finding the right volume and blend.

Did the cast come into rehearsals knowing the music or was that taught to them?

They all came in completely cold. A few of them had done prior workshops of the show, so they knew a little bit, but all of the parts had been rewritten anyway, so it was all new. The creative team told me that the first ten days would be spent solely on learning the score. In a typical rehearsal process, only three days would be spent on music. At first, I wondered how the cast would sit still for 80 straight hours of music rehearsal. To my surprise, they were extremely intent on learning it and getting it right and I think it shows in the final product.

Margot Seibert and James Snyder in 'In Transit.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Margot Seibert and James Snyder in ‘In Transit.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

I certainly don’t mean to imply that any of the performances in this show are akin to a lip-synced Mariah Carey performance but due to the amount of sounds coming from such a small ensemble, are any of the parts pre-recorded?

(Joking) Well, I wouldn’t tell you if they were. No. Nothing is pre-recorded. Even offstage singing is live. Sometimes, the cast may be changing a costume, moving a set piece, and singing their part at the same time. So the audience will hear the smooth sounds but have no idea what mayhem is going on behind the scenes.

Is this the first time you’ve worked at length in the a cappella arena?

It is. I worked on some arrangements in college, but this is the first time I’ve worked on it in this capacity. It has a whole series of challenges but I will take what I’ve learned from In Transit and apply it both to music that is not a cappella and instrumental music.

Besides the obvious addition of instrumentation, what are some of the challenges and differences between this show and other musical theater projects?

The biggest challenge is from the audience’s point of view. If you think about the energy that a band creates, you can turn up the volume and have the band providing the foundation for that energy. With a cappella, you don’t have the same dynamic variety and range and you have to create it all with the voice. Musically, it’s tough to create a varied evening through a cappella, but I think that the composers achieved it very well.

In Transit
Circle in the Square
235 West 50th Street, NYC

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theatre journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tyne Daly Joins York Theatre Company’s ‘Dear World’

January 12th, 2017 View Comment(s)

Tyne Daly (Photo: s_bukley / Shutterstock, Inc)

Tyne Daly (Photo: s_bukley / Shutterstock, Inc)

The York Theatre Company, dedicated to the development of new musicals and the preservation of musical gems from the past, has announced 6-time Emmy Award-winner and Tony Award-winner Tyne Daly will star in the 1969 musical Dear World, when she joins the company in celebrating Broadway composers, Jerry Herman and Kurt Weill, with the Winter 2017 Musicals in Mufti Series, January 28 – March 5, 2017.

In conjunction with the series, The York will present Hello, Jerry, a multimedia presentation by renowned musical theater historian Charles Troy for one-night only Tuesday, January 24, 2017 at 7:30pm.

The 3-show Musicals in Mufti series launches with Milk and Honey, book by Don Appel, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Marking the Broadway debut of the incomparable Jerry Herman, Milk and Honey centers on the romance between two Americans in Israel—a lonely widow on tour and an unhappily married man visiting his daughter. Set against the backdrop of Israel’s struggle for recognition as an independent nation, Milk and Honey is a tale of love, optimism, and second chances.

With his first Broadway score, Mr. Herman showed the promise of the wealth of hummable, memorable songs he would compose in the future. Milk and Honey will be directed by York’s Associate Artistic Director Michael Unger, with music direction by Jeffrey Saver. Performances are set to begin Saturday, January 28, 2017 for a limited engagement through February 5, 2017.

It is followed by Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: A Musical Voyage, music by Kurt Weill, text and format by Gene Lerner, lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, Marc Blitzstein, Bertolt Brecht, Jacques Deval, Michael Feingold, Ira Gershwin, Paul Green, Langston Hughes, Alan Jay Lerner, Ogden Nash, George Tabori, and Arnold Weinstein. Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: A Musical Voyage is a joyous and moving celebration of Kurt Weill, a cantor’s son and one of the most extraordinary composers of the twentieth century.

Weill’s greatest theatre songs are presented in a fluid blend of music and story, spanning twenty eventful years, from Von Hindenburg and Hitler in Germany to Roosevelt and Truman in the U.S.  Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill: A Musical Voyage will be directed by Pamela Hunt, with music direction by Eric Svejcar. Performances begin Saturday, February 11, 2017 for a limited engagement through February 19, 2017.

The Winter 2017 Series concludes with Dear World, book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, new version by David Thompson (based on an adaptation by Maurice Valency of the play The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giraudoux), music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, starring 6-time Emmy Award and Tony Award-winner Tyne Daly as the Countess Aurelia, the Madwoman of Chaillot.

When a group of businessmen scheme to drill for oil in Paris, there is only one force in the world that can stop them: Countess Aurelia, the Madwoman of Chaillot. With the help of idealism, love, and poetry—not to mention two other madwomen, a local sewerman, and a pair of young lovers—the Countess fights to save Paris and the world from greed.

With Dear World‘s opening on Broadway in 1969, Mr. Herman became the first composer-lyricist to have three productions simultaneously running on Broadway, and for her performance 2015 Oscar Hammerstein Honoree Angela Lansbury received the second of her five Tony Awards.  Michael Montel directs, with music direction by Christopher McGovern.  Performances begin Saturday, February 25, 2017 for a limited engagement through March 5, 2017.

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Categories: Show Folk, The Buzz

Anne Carrere Triumphs in ‘Piaf! The Show’ at Carnegie Hall

January 11th, 2017 View Comment(s)
Anne Carrere in 'Piaf! The Show.' (Photo: G. Marsalla via The Broadway Blog.)

Anne Carrere in ‘Piaf! The Show.’ (Photo: G. Marsalla via The Broadway Blog.)

Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Tina Turner, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, Barbara Cook, Harry Belafonte, and Anne Carrere all share one common denominator: They’ve all played Carnegie Hall.  Carrere’s name may not be as familiar as the others on that list but after an astonishing debut on Friday, January 6 at the notorious venue; her name can easily rank among these esteemed performers.

The French native had audiences in the palm of her hand after a solid two-hour event entitled Piaf! The Show, a theatrical production based on the life of the internationally famous French singer, Edith Piaf. The show has been touring the world, thrilling audiences and garnering immense praise from critics but Carrere’s stop in New York City was particularly noteworthy as it marked the 60th anniversary of Piaf’s January 13,1957 performance at the hall. Piaf made her debut there in 1956 and returned for her last and final performance one year later.

Anne Carrere in 'Piaf! The Show' (Photo: G. Marsalla via The Broadway Blog.)

Anne Carrere in ‘Piaf! The Show’ (Photo: G. Marsalla via The Broadway Blog.)

Carrere, along with pianist Phillipe Villa, accordion player Guy Giuliano, percussionist Laurent Sarrien, and double bassist Daniel Fabricant began the show (sung completely in French) depicting Piaf’s humble beginnings in Paris. Carrere entered the house and solicited audience members for spare change while singing “Comme un Moineau” (“Like a Sparrow”). Piaf, who was born Edith Giovanna Gassion, adopted the nickname “Piaf” (“little sparrow”) for her vocal talents. The remainder of the first act included several lesser-known songs from Piaf’s earlier career, while picturesque images of Paris were projected onto the empty upstage wall.

Act II proved to be the most substantial part of the evening, particularly for die-hard Piaf fans as Carrere delivered the most well known songs of the singer’s career. The light-hearted “Mon Menage a Moi” (“You’re My Carousel”) was first, followed by “Jezebel,” a 1951 flamenco-flavored hit based on the biblical Israeli queen. Many pop tunes from that era were covered and/or translated by a variety of artists and although the names of the French versions may not be instantly recognizable to non-French speakers, the melodies are likely familiar to fans of older standards.

“L’Homme a la Moto” (“Man on the Motorcycle”) was an unlikely 1956 hit for Piaf, which tells the story of a motorcyclist who treats his girlfriends with disrespect and meets a fateful death on the highway. The American songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote the tune and originally titled it “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots”—it’s perhaps one of the most ridiculous songs ever penned. Still, it was one of Piaf’s greatest selling singles. Carrere performed it with the intended cheekiness and it served as one of the many fun moments throughout the night.

Another familiar piece, “Hymne a l’Amour” (“Hymn to Love”) was the most hauntingly beautiful song in the set list. Piaf wrote the lyrics and Marguerite Monnot set them to music.  It was written for Piaf’s lover, the boxer Marcel Cerdan who was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1949. Dame Shirley Bassey brought the ode to American listeners. Carrere poured her heart into it, bringing tears to eyes of the Carnegie crowd.  Carrere herself was overcome with emotion as she acknowledged how overwhelmed she was to be appearing at the coveted concert venue. “A few years ago, I was just a little, unknown singer,” she said. “And tonight, I am standing here before you at Carnegie Hall.”

French director and producer discovered the 31-year-old marvel. Initially, she had auditioned for his show, Paris! Le Spectacle but he noticed her love for and vocal resemblance to Piaf and constructed the show with Carrere in mind. She is indeed an incredible discovery and carries herself with the poise of a seasoned star. One of her most impressive assets is her vocal stamina. Piaf’s songs are hugely emotive and have quite a range. While many singers would fade by the night’s end, Carrere’s voice only got stronger and was perfectly on pitch throughout.

Piaf! The Show ended with her biggest crowd-pleasers: “La Vie en Rose” (“Rose Tinted Life”) and “Non Je ne Regrette Rien” (“No, I Do Not Regret Anything”). The latter served as a mantra for Piaf’s often troubled life. Aside from the lack of supertitles, which may have enhanced this experience for non-French speakers, the creative team and star of this marvelous production should, like Piaf, have nothing to regret.

Eager audiences will have to hop a flight to northern France for her next appearance in Neuilly Saint Front on January 20.

For more information and to find regularly updated tour dates, visit:
http://piaf-theshow.com/

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theatre journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.

 

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‘Confucius’ Soars at Lincoln Center

January 10th, 2017 View Comment(s)
CAEG's 'Confucius' at Lincoln Center. (Photo: Liu Haidong via The Broadway Blog.)

CAEG’s ‘Confucius’ at Lincoln Center. (Photo: Liu Haidong via The Broadway Blog.)

If you think The Rockettes, Radio City’s legendary dance company, hold the only key to high-impact precision movement, think again. It might not be obvious to compare the China National Opera & Dance Drama Theater to the Rockettes, but in terms of size and scope of its recently presented dance drama, Confucius, there are some similarities.

Hu Yang in 'Confucius' (Photo: Liu Haidong via The Broadway Blog.)

Hu Yang in ‘Confucius’ (Photo: Liu Haidong via The Broadway Blog.)

No, Confucius doesn’t offer kick lines. But director/choreographer Ms. Kong Dexin (a 77th generation direct descendent of Confucius himself) knows a lot about moving around a crowd. The cast of 55 performers often glides along the David H. Koch Theater stage at Lincoln Center as if they were on ice, with swooping silk costumes flowing in their wake. Syncopated sections also emerge in the six-section dance drama, as Confucius (brilliantly danced by the athletic Hu Yang) imparts his code of ethics among the empire.

“Inquiry,” “The Chaotic Time,” “Out of Food,” “Great Harmony,” “Mourning for Benevolence,” and “Happiness” offer a loose structure, but don’t expect a linear plot. Instead, appreciate Yang, along with the pristine movement of Tang Shiyi as the Concubine, and the rest of the regimented cast.

The National Opera & Dance Drama Theater was established in 1950 and since its inception has performed more than 100 operas and dance dramas. Part of China Arts and Entertainment Group, the cultural exchange initiative seeks to introduce traditional and contemporary Chinese performing arts to audiences around the world.

Those looking to invigorate their theatergoing experience beyond Broadway will find Confucius a dynamic evening of athletic performance and a welcome exploration of cultural expression.

Confucius heads to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, January 13-15.

 

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Broadway Dims Its Lights for Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

January 6th, 2017 View Comment(s)
Carrie Fisher (Photo: JStone / Shutterstock.com)

Carrie Fisher (Photo: JStone / Shutterstock.com)

The Broadway community mourns the loss of two legendary talents in the entertainment industry: actress, singer and film memorabilia collector Debbie Reynolds and her actress, writer and humorist daughter Carrie Fisher. Ms. Fisher passed away on December 27, 2016 at age 60 and Ms. Reynolds passed away the next day, on December 28, 2016 at age 84. The marquees of Broadway theatres in New York will be dimmed in their memories on Friday, January 6, 2017, at exactly 7:45pm for one minute.

Mother and daughter both made their Broadway debuts in 1973 in the musical comedy revival of Irene. Debbie Reynolds received a Tony Award nomination for her role in the production. She also appeared on Broadway in Woman of the Year and the musical revue Debbie. Additionally she toured the US with the shows Annie Get Your Gun and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Carrie Fisher wrote and most recently appeared on Broadway in the original solo show Wishful Drinking. Her additional Broadway credits include Agnes of God and Censored Scenes From King Kong.

“Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher were entertainment legends who delighted fans around the world on stage, on screen and on the page. Their unmistakable bond and ability to make audiences laugh, cry, sing and think will be remembered by all those they touched,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League. “Our sincere thoughts are with their family, friends, colleagues and fans.”

Some of Ms. Reynolds’s notable TV and Film credits included: Singing in the RainThe Affairs of Dobie GillisThe Catered AffairThe Unsinkable Molly BrownTammy and the BachelorThe Tender TrapBundle of JoyIn & Out, “The Debbie Reynolds Show,” “Behind the Candelabra,” “Will & Grace,” and many more. Highlights of Ms. Fisher’s credits in TV and Film included:  Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, When Harry Met SallyThe Man With One Red ShoeThe Blues BrothersHannah and Her SistersShampoo, Soapdish, “Family Guy,” “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” “Catastrophe,” and many more. She wrote humorous and poignant novels and scripts including Postcards from the Edge.

They are survived by Billie Lourd, Ms. Fisher’s daughter and Ms. Reynolds’s granddaughter; and Todd Fisher, Ms. Reynolds’s son and Ms. Fisher’s brother.

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Categories: Show Folk, The Buzz

‘The View UpStairs’ Announces Off-Broadway Run

January 5th, 2017 View Comment(s)

The View Upstairs

Invisible Wall Productions has announced that The View UpStairsa new musical written by Max Vernon and directed by Scott Ebersold, will launch an Off-Broadway run at Culture Project – The Lynn Redgrave (45 Bleecker Street). Choreography is by Al Blackstone with James Dobinson serving as Music Supervisor and Orchestrator. Previews begin on Wednesday, February 15, opening night is Sunday, February 26 and the production runs through Sunday, May 21.

The View UpStairs pulls you inside the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant 70s gay bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter. This forgotten community comes to life in all its gritty, glam rock glory when 40 years later a young fashion designer buys the abandoned space, setting off an exhilarating journey of seduction and self-exploration that spans two generations of queer history.

Inspired by one of the most significant yet all-but-ignored attacks against the LGBTQ community, The View UpStairs examines what has been gained and lost in the fight for equality, and how the past can help guide all of us through an uncertain future.

The cast of The View UpStairs features Jeremy Pope (Invisible Thread, Choir Boy) as Wes, Taylor Frey (How to Succeed…, South Pacific) as Patrick, Nathan Lee Graham (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Zoolander) as Willie, Frenchie Davis (Rent, “The Voice”) as Henri, Benjamin Howes (Scandalous,Mary Poppins) as Richard, Michael Longoria (Jersey Boys, Hairspray) as Freddy, Ben Mayne as Dale, Doreen Montalvo (On Your Feet!, In the Heights) as  Inez, Randy Redd (Million Dollar Quartet, Ring of Fire) as Buddy, in addition to Richard E. Waits and Anthony Alfaro.

Through its developmental history, selections from The View UpStairs have been performed at Joe’s Pub, Goodspeed Opera House, NYU, The Living Room, NYMF, Two River Theater, The Dramatist Guild, Pride Films and Plays and the Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat. A concert version was presented at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in July to raise money for Equality Florida to benefit the victims of Pulse Orlando.

The View UpStairs will be performed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:00 PM, Friday at 6:30 PM and 10:00 PM, Saturday at 6:00 PM and10:00 PM and Sunday at 6:00 PM.  The show is at Culture Project – The Lynn Redgrave Theater (45 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012). Tickets, which are available at www.TheViewUpStairs.com, are $45-90.

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Categories: The Buzz

Three to See: January

January 4th, 2017 View Comment(s)

It’s a new year and Broadway (and beyond) is getting a reboot with a slew of new shows rolling into The Great White Way. Here are our picks of what not to miss this month.

The Present

The Present
Juicy! There’s nothing like a bit of undiscovered Chekhov to warm up a winter night. The famous playwright’s first work wasn’t unearthed until 16 years after his death, and now Sydney Theatre Company brings Andrew Upton’s contemporary translation to Broadway.

Cate Blanchett stars as widow Anna Petrovna as she celebrates her birthday at an old country house. A cast of characters appears and in typical Chekovian fashion, by the end we see a mess of unfinished, unresolved relationships, fuelled by twenty years of denial, regret and thwarted desire.

The Present
Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street
Opening night: January 8
Limited run through March 19

The cast of 'Jitney.' (Photo: Kareem Black via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Jitney.’ (Photo: Kareem Black via The Broadway Blog.)

 Jitney
The late August Wilson wrote a series of ten plays exploring the African American experience. Titled “The American Century Cycle,” this is the last of Wilson’s series to come to Broadway in a new production directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who won a Tony Award for his performance in Wilson’s Seven Guitars.

Set in the early 1970s, the play follows a group of men trying to make a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or jitneys. When the city threatens to board up the business and the boss’ son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed, and the fragile threads binding these people together may finally come undone.

Jitney
Manhattan Theatre Club
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
Opening night: January 19
Limited run through March 12

Yen MCC TheaterYen
Quickly becoming one of our go-to Off Broadway theater companies (Ride the Cyclone was one of our fall favorites), MCC Theater pushes boundaries once again with Yen, a new play by Anna Jordan.

Directed by Trip Cullman (who has two plays slated for Broadway this season, Significant Other and Six Degrees of Separation), the play follows brothers Bobbie and Hench. Their days are filled by streaming porn, playing video games, and watching the world go by. Their mom rarely visits, and it’s chaos when she does. But when animal-loving neighbor Jenny takes an interest in their dog Taliban, the boys discover a world far beyond what they know. Yen explores a childhood lived without boundaries. The production features Ari Graynor, Lucas Hedges, Stefania LaVie Owen, and Justice Smith. 

Yen
MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher Street
Opening night: January 30
Limited run through February 19

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo

 

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Categories: The Buzz

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway Trifecta Scores Big

January 2nd, 2017 View Comment(s)
'School of Rock' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

‘School of Rock’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

All three of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musicals rang in the New Year with record-breaking sales, smashing house records at the Winter Garden (School of Rock – The Musical), Majestic (The Phantom of the Opera) and Neil Simon (CATS) Theatres. 

School of Rock – The Musical shattered the house record for the third time at the Winter Garden Theatre by grossing $2,022,136.11for the week ending December 31, 2016. The prior record was set this week last year by the musical which grossed $1,671,628.18. Additionally, School of Rock set a new record for the highest grossing single performance in the Winter Garden’s history at theWednesday, December 28 matinee, with a gross of $241,819.50. In the U.K., School of Rock broke house records at the New London Theatre (a record previously held by War Horse).

Kim Faure and Christine Cornish Smith in 'CATS.' (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

Kim Fauré and Christine Cornish Smith in ‘CATS.’ (Photo: Matthew Murphy via The Broadway Blog.)

At the Majestic Theatre, Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera smashed its previous show / house record with a final gross of$1,942,351.00 for the week ending December 31, 2016.The record was set previously for the week ending December 29, 2013 when the musical grossed $1,843,295.83.

The first-ever revival of Lloyd Webber’s CATS broke house records at the Neil Simon for a 9-performance week, smashing the record previously set by All The Way, with a $1,723,568.70 gross for the week ending December 31, 2016.

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Categories: The Buzz

‘Hair’ Celebrates 50th Anniversary at La Mama

December 30th, 2016 View Comment(s)

Hair

The legendary musical HAIR, which began life downtown at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in October, 1967 (prior to its roof-raising debut on Broadway in April, 1968), will celebrate its 50th anniversary and its East Village roots in a one-time-only special event at La MaMa (66 E. 4 St. in NYC) on Saturday, January 21 at 2 p.m.

With book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot, HAIR is the American Tribal Rock Musical that helped define its generation, and the anti-war movement in the 1960s.

Highlights of the HAIR happening on January 21 include live performances by members of the original 1967 and 1968 casts, as well as members of the recent, enormously successful 2009 Broadway revival.  Songs to be performed include “Aquarius,” “Donna,” “Where Do I Go?,” “Frank Mills,” “Air,” “Black Boys,” “Let the Sunshine” and more.

Performers from various Broadway casts of HAIR expected to participate:  Shaelah Adkisson (‘09), Ellen Foley (‘79), Natalie Mosco (’68), Allan Nicholls (’68), Rev. Marjrie Lipari (’68), Dale Soules (’68), Andre De Shields (’69, Chicago), Ula Hedwig (’68) and Keith Carradine.

The very first demo recording of the title song HAIR (1967), sung by Rado and Ragni with MacDermot on piano will be played.  This recording has never before been heard publicly.

HAIR creators James Rado and Galt MacDermot will be on hand to share their personal stories with the audience.  (Their collaborator Gerome Ragni died in 1991).  The event will be attended by special guests, and feature a pre-recorded video from both HAIR producer Michael Butler, and original cast member Walter Michael Harris. The event will also celebrate creator James Rado’s 85th birthday.

On view will be photographs by the noted lens-woman Dagmar Krajnc, who took rarely seen photos during the early years of HAIR; and photographs from the HAIR private collection provided by producer Michael Butler.

HAIR‘s 50th anniversary event is presented as part of La MaMa’s popular Coffeehouse Chronicles series, which explores the history and development of Off-Off-Broadway, part history lesson and part portrait of downtown artists and their work.

La MaMa’s attachment to HAIR, and vice versa, dates back to the 1960’s when, during its developmental process, the HAIR team turned to La MaMa’s leading, innovative director Tom O’Horgan to take over the reins of the musical.

The HAIR Coffeehouse Chronicles is moderated by Chris Kapp.  The event is curated and directed by Michal Gamily, Chronicles’ director,  with educational outreach led by Arthur Adair. Admission to the Coffeehouse Chronicles is free (suggested donation, however, reservations in advance are required at www.lamama.org.

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Categories: The Buzz, Way Off Broadway