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The New York Pops Celebrates Kander and Ebb

February 16th, 2017 Comments off

the scottsboro boys
kiss of the spider woman

chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The New York Pops, led by Music Director Steven Reineke, will continue its 34th season at Carnegie Hall on March 10 by bringing to life the iconic partnership of Fred Ebb and John Kander, who celebrates his 90th birthday this year. The concert will feature highlights from their five-decade partnership, including selections from CabaretKiss of the Spider WomanThe Scottsboro Boys, and Chicago. Guest artists Caissie Levy and Tony Yazbeck will bring these legendary show tunes to life with the 78-piece New York Pops.

Tony Yazbeck (Photo: lev radin / Shutterstock, Inc.)

Tony Yazbeck (Photo: lev radin / Shutterstock, Inc.)

“Caissie Levy and Tony Yazbeck are absolutely terrific triple threats – they are both spectacular actors, dancers, and singers,” said Music Director and Conductor Steven Reineke. “I can’t wait for them to join our fantastic New York Pops orchestra in a truly wonderful concert celebrating the 90th birthday of one of Broadway’s biggest heroes. John Kander and Fred Ebb worked together for nearly 50 years, producing some of the best and most enduring music in the musical theatre canon. If their illustrious careers are any indication, this concert is destined to be a hit!”

As the orchestra continues its year-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of its flagship education program, Kids in the Balcony, the orchestra has announced that Tony Yazbeck will become a PopsEd Ambassador. Representing some of the brightest performers working today, the PopsEd Ambassadors raise awareness of the incredible programs PopsEd offers to the community.

The New York Pops’ 34th season will conclude with You’ve Got a Friend: A Celebration of Singers and Songwriters on Friday, April 21, featuring Will Chase, Jessie Mueller, and Adrienne Warren. The concert will pay tribute to the soundtrack of a generation, inspired by the music of James Taylor, Carole King, and more.

 

 

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Broadway’s Three to See

February 15th, 2017 Comments off

Broadway and beyond is delivering the goods this month, with star turns from Glenn Close and Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as the latest musical from legendary composer John Kander. Here are our picks of what not to miss.

Glenn Close in 'Sunset Boulevard.' (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Glenn Close in ‘Sunset Boulevard.’ (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Sunset Boulevard
Glenn Close returns to Broadway in her Tony Award-winning role as the wide-eyed Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic Sunset Boulevard. John Napier’s towering sets for the original production have been stripped down to make room for the largest Broadway orchestra in 80 years.

In her mansion on Sunset Boulevard, faded, silent-screen goddess, Norma Desmond, lives in a fantasy world. Impoverished screenwriter, Joe Gillis, on the run from debt collectors, stumbles into her reclusive world. Persuaded to work on Norma’s ‘masterpiece’, a film script that she believes will put her back in front of the cameras, he is seduced by her and her luxurious life-style. Joe becomes entrapped in a claustrophobic world until his love for another woman leads him to try and break free with dramatic consequences.

Ben Brantley described Glenn Close’s Norma Desmond as “One of the great performances of this century.”

Sunset Boulevard
Palace Theatre
1564 Broadway
Through June 25

The cast of 'Kid Victory.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Kid Victory.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Kid Victory
Kid Victory, a haunting new musical, is the latest collaboration from the creators of Vineyard Theatre’s The Landing, composer John Kander (Cabaret, Chicago, The Scottsboro Boys) and playwright Greg Pierce (Slowgirl, Her Requiem).

Seventeen-year-old Luke returns to his small Kansas town after a wrenching one-year absence. As his friendship grows with the town misfit, Emily, his parents realize that in order to truly find their son, they must confront some unnerving truths about his disappearance. Directed by Liesl Tommy (Broadway’s Eclipse, recipient of The Vineyard’s Susan Stroman Directing Award) and choreographed by Christopher Windom (Pippin, Drama League Fellow Assistant Director) in their Vineyard debuts.

Kid Victory
Vineyard Theatre
108 East 15th Street
Opening night: February 22

 

sunday in the park with george
Sunday in the Park with George

One of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s most celebrated musicals returns (again) for a limited run starring Jake Gyllenhaal making his Broadway debut, and Tony Award winner Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots, Wicked). With a two-act structure that loosely follows the life of Impressionist painter George Seurat, Sunday in the Park with George has become a cult favorite since its original 1983 Off Broadway premiere at Playwrights Horizons. Past revivals have included the 2008 transfer of Menier Chocolate Factory’s production.

This production is based on the 2016 City Center concert and has a limited run through April 23.

Sunday in the Park with George
Hudson Theatre
139-141 West 44th Street
Opening night: February 23

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

 

 

For Whom the Bell Drolls: ‘Ring Twice for Miranda’

February 14th, 2017 Comments off

By Samuel L. Leiter

Katie Kleiger and Daniel Pearce in 'Ring Twice for Miranda.' (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

Katie Kleiger and Daniel Pearce in ‘Ring Twice for Miranda.’ (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

Ring Twice for Miranda’s title suggests that audiences are in for a naughty Feydeau-style bedroom farce, perhaps like the one Noël Coward adapted as Look after Lulu. And, indeed, publisher and former lawyer Alan Hruska’s labored, dystopian “tragicomedy” (as its advertising calls it) includes a cute young thing named Miranda (Katie Kleiger) wearing an abbreviated French maid’s costume. There’s also a canopied set resembling a huge bed (under which an actual bed plays a part) and a white-bearded old gent named Sir (Graeme Malcolm) in a Hugh Hefner bathrobe who rings twice for Miranda via a hanging bell pull when in need of her services.

Ring Twice for Miranda has the musty air of one of those European, allegorical, politically tinged, absurdist satires of the 1950s and 1960s—think Ionesco, Sartre, Durrenmatt, Arrabal, or Frisch—but without their wit, cogency, depth, or flair. It’s set in some unnamed urban “district” governed by the calmly tyrannical Sir from the expansive bedroom of his huge, well-stocked mansion. How much of this desiccated civilization Sir controls remains undefined; we have no idea if there are other Sirs out there as well.

George Merrick and Ian Lassiter in 'Ring Twice for Miranda.' (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

George Merrick and Ian Lassiter in ‘Ring Twice for Miranda.’ (Photo: Russ Rowland via The Broadway Blog.)

Something indefinite has caused civilization to crumble, food and other necessities to dry up, and the starving masses to seek survival in the warm south or cold north even though no gas or food is available. Those in Sir’s employ and living in his upstairs/downstairs mansion have their needs supplied but are at the mercy of his whims, carried out by his second in command, a smarmy, power-hungry bureaucrat named Gulliver (Daniel Pearce).

Miranda’s butler friend Elliot (George Merrick), summoned with one ring, is dismissed and the altruistic Miranda—hoping to change Sir’s mind—threatens to leave with him. Although this will deprive Sir of the highly mysterious service she performs for him, he lets her go.

Outside, stranded with too much luggage near an abandoned, graffiti-covered building, Miranda and Elliot encounter the horrible circumstances they’d only heard about. A bizarre couple pulls up in a car. He’s the brash, long-haired, Cockney-accented Chester (William Connell); she’s his vain, glammed-up Egyptian girlfriend Anouk (Talia Thiesfield). They offer to give Miranda and Elliot a lift in return for directions to a gas station.

Chester and Anouk are discovered by a wrench-wielding, so-called plumber named Felix (Ian Lassiter) who works for Sir and is something of a rival to Gulliver; he recruits the couple as replacements for Elliot and Miranda. That hapless pair returns, seeking to retake their former jobs from the incompetent usurpers. And thus we finally discover what it is that Miranda does for Sir that he finds so irreplaceable. Let’s just say it defines the meaning of anticlimax.

As in his equally problematic 2015 play Laugh It Up, Stare It Down, Hruska provides an indeterminate final curtain when, as Sir rings twice, Miranda and Elliot, trapped, ponder their next move.

As the two-act play trudges along, Sir’s image as a whimsically inscrutable God controlling people as if they were puppets becomes sharper, with Gulliver as his soon-to-fall Lucifer. Perhaps Miranda and Elliot are angels hoping to retain God’s grace. There’s also the possibility that Hruska is seeking to say something (don’t ask me) about the disempowerment of the 99 percent by showing the callousness of the one percent. It’s a stretch but Sir—despite the vagueness of his motives—might be a stand-in for Donald Trump.

Apart from scattered moments, there’s precious little to keep you invested for nearly two hours. Kreigel and Lassiter bring a modicum of charm and conviction to the maid and the plumber, Malcolm is haughty yet subtly mischievous as Sir, Pearce’s slimy Gulliver is dismissive in a Sean Spicer way, Merrick fails to make anything substantial of Elliot, and Connell and Thiesfield (especially the latter) provide an object lesson in overacting.

Rick Lombardo’s direction (far better in his recent Albatross), Haddon Kime’s original music, Jason Sherwood’s sets, Ann Hould-Ward’s costumes, and Matthew Richards’s lighting, while perfectly professional, never provide the inventive magic an offbeat play like this requires. That, however, may be like seeking gas or water in Hruska’s post-apocalyptic world.

Ring Twice for Miranda
City Center Stage II
131 W. 55th St., NYC
Through April 16

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).

 

 

 

Cast Recording of ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Debuts at #8 on Billboard

February 13th, 2017 Comments off
'Dear Evan Hansen' (Photo: Matthew Murray via The Broadway Blog.)

‘Dear Evan Hansen’ (Photo: Matthew Murray via The Broadway Blog.)

Producer Stacey Mindich and Atlantic Records announced today that the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Dear Evan Hansen has made an extraordinary debut on the Billboard 200, entering the chart at #8 – the highest charting debut position for an original cast album since 1961.

In addition, the album debuted at #4 on Billboard’s “Top Album Sales” ranking, and #1 on the “Top Broadway Albums” chart. The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Dear Evan Hansen is available now for streaming and purchase at digital retailers nationwide. Physical editions arrive in stores on Friday, February 24.

One of only four cast albums to reach the top 10 of the “Billboard 200” in the last 50 years, the album’s historic success even outpaced the debut chart position of the Hamilton, which bowed at #12. The other two albums to reach the top 10 in the last half century were Rent and the Original 1969 Cast Recording of Hair.

With a book by Obie Award-winner Steven Levenson, a score by Tony® Award nominees Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, and directed by 3-time Tony® Award nominee Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen officially opened to rave reviews on December 4.

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Andrew Lloyd Webber Celebrates 4 Shows on Broadway

February 10th, 2017 Comments off
The casts of Andrew Lloyd Webber's current shows on Broadway. (Photo: Nathan Johnson via The Broadway Blog.)

The casts of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s current shows on Broadway. (Photo: Nathan Johnson via The Broadway Blog.)

Moments before the curtain went up on the Broadway revival of Sunset Boulevard, starring Glenn Close, the stars of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s productions came together to celebrate the legendary composer’s historic achievement of having four musicals running simultaneously on Broadway with a commemorative photo.

Lloyd Webber posed backstage at Broadway’s Palace Theatre with cast members from Sunset Boulevard (Glenn Close, Michael Xavier, Siobhan Dillon, Fred Johanson), School of Rock – The Musical (Eric Petersen, Jersey Sullivan, Rachel Katzke), CATS (Jessica Hendy, Harris Milgrim, Tanner Ray Wilson), and The Phantom of the Opera (James Barbour, Kaley Ann Voorhees).

‘Indecent’ Moves to Broadway With Entire Cast Intact

February 9th, 2017 Comments off

indecent

Daryl Roth, Elizabeth Ireland McCann and Cody Lassen, the producers of Indecent — the newest work by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive) — have announced that the entire original Off-Broadway ensemble will travel to Broadway when the production begins previews at the Cort Theatre on April 4, prior to its official opening night on April 18.

The Broadway cast of Indecent has – not unlike the theater troupe depicted in the play itself – been performing the play together for more than two years: during its development with the Sundance Theater Institute and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, followed by productions at Yale Rep, La Jolla Playhouse and the Vineyard Theatre, where Indecent had its New York City debut last summer.

A new play with music, Indecent is inspired by the true story of the controversial 1923 Broadway debut of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance about a Jewish family that lives above a brothel, hoping to gain respect by having their daughter marry into a prestigious family.

Called “superbly realized and remarkably powerful” by The New York Times and hailed as one of the best plays of the year by critics, Indecent charts the journey of an incendiary drama and the artists who risked their lives to perform it. Created by Vogel and director Rebecca Taichman (Stage Kiss), Indecent is set at a time when waves of immigrants were changing the face of America and offers a riveting look at an explosive moment in theatrical history.

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‘The Great Comet’ Invites Fans to Sing on Cast Recording

February 8th, 2017 Comments off

The Great Comet Broadway

The new Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, invites fans to be a part of the upcoming original Broadway cast recording.

The Great Comet is looking for fans to join creator Dave Malloy and members of the cast to sing group chorus sections and to play the show’s famous egg shakers for the original Broadway cast recording.  This special fan recording session will take place in midtown Manhattan on Monday, February 13 from 6:00pm – 7:30pm EST.  No purchase is necessary – to sign up, and receive the exact location, visit www.greatcometbroadway.com/castrecording

 

Don’t Miss: MCC’s ‘Miscast’ Benefit

February 7th, 2017 Comments off

MCC TheaterMCC Theater has announced the all-star lineup of performers set for their annual Miscast gala (Monday, April 3), celebrating the 30th Anniversary of MCC Theater.

MCC Theater’s annual Miscast gala is one of the most exciting and unique theater events in town. Broadway’s hottest stars perform songs from roles in which they would never be cast.

Performers include: Tony winners Annaleigh Ashford, Norbert Leo Butz, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Jennifer Holliday and Kelli O’Hara; Tony nominees Stephanie J. Block, Brian d’Arcy James and Brandon Victor Dixon; plus Dear Evan Hansen breakout Ben Platt and Hamilton star Mandy Gonzalez. Additional names will be announced shortly.

Proceeds from Miscast support MCC Theater’s mission to develop and produce exciting work Off-Broadway, as well as its Youth Company and partnerships with New York City public high schools, and MCC’s literary development work with emerging playwrights.

For more than 15 years, MCC Theater’s education and outreach programs have embodied the company’s mission to provoke conversations that have never happened and otherwise never would. Programs have grown from an eight-member Youth Company ensemble in 1999 to serving over 100 public high school students each year in several branches, including an Acting Lab, a Playwriting Lab, an Ambassadors program, two school campus-based satellite programs, and classroom partnerships. These programs empower students to achieve higher academic success and become more civically engaged. Each year 90 to 100 percent of Youth Company seniors graduate from high school in four years and enroll in college.

Ride the Cyclone (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

Ride the Cyclone (Photo: Joan Marcus via The Broadway Blog.)

MCC Theater broke ground on its first permanent home— a two-theater complex on West 52nd Street and 10th Avenue—on March 22, 2016. Set to open in 2018, the space will unite MCC’s diverse roster of programs under one roof for the first time in the company’s three-decade history. The new facility will also allow MCC to expand its programming and establish it as a cultural anchor within the Clinton neighborhood. The $35 million project is funded by a public-private partnership between the Theater and the City of New York, with $30 million raised to-date.

Miscast
The Hammerstein Ballroom
311 West 34th Street
April 3

 

 

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Fresh Kiss, Fresh Courage: ‘Yours Unfaithfully’

February 3rd, 2017 Comments off

by Samuel L. Leiter

 Max von Essen and Mikaela Izquierdo in 'Yours Unfaithfully.' (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Max von Essen and Mikaela Izquierdo in ‘Yours Unfaithfully.’ (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Miles Malleson (1888-1969), the British author of Yours Unfaithfully, the Mint Theater’s latest discovery of lost or forgotten plays deserving another look, was something of a Renaissance man. He made a distinctive mark as an actor, director, screenwriter, and playwright, while also being known for his then radical thinking on various social issues.

Although represented on this side of the pond as a director and actor on a small number of occasions (he staged the famous Old Vic production of The Critic starring Laurence Olivier in 1946), his plays seem never to have made it across. Yours Unfaithfully didn’t even make it to the London stage, and the Mint’s production is its well-deserved world premiere.

Max von Essen and Mikaela Izquierdo in 'Yours Unfaithfully.' (Photo: 'Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Max von Essen and Mikaela Izquierdo in ‘Yours Unfaithfully.’ (Photo: ‘Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Unfaithfully Yours, written in 1933, embodies certain autobiographical features of Malleson’s own unconventional life, marital and otherwise. It examines with intelligence and sensitivity, but few emotional fireworks, the ramifications of the once scandalous idea of open marriage, or, at least, the idea that married couples should, within reason and with mutual respect, be free to engage in extramarital canoodlings.

Two of its three acts are framed more or less in the style of a domestic high comedy, with fashionable, well-educated, highly articulate sophisticates of the cigarettes-and-cocktails class discussing serious issues much as in a discussion play by Shaw. But the laughs are few, the drinks are minimal, and the cigarettes non-existent.

Instead, the script’s appealing promise dissipates into talky artificiality, largely, I believe, because of its otherwise capable actors being out of their depth; instead of true Miles Malleson we get faux-Noël Coward. Malleson’s play should only receive another staging if it can find a cast (think anyone from Downton Abbey) that can carry off its English savoir faire and, most particularly, its accents. Here—despite one actor’s having studied at Oxford—they’re either strained, inconsistent, or invisible under director Jonathan Bank’s earnest but often uninspired direction.

Stephen (Max von Essen, too American) and Anne Meredith (Elisabeth Gray, elegant but forced) have been married for eight years; he’s a writer with controversial, advanced ideas, currently in a writing rut; the pair, who have two children (disturbingly unseen), have created a successful private school.

Stephen, with what appears to be the tacit approval of Anne, who once had her own fling and suggests the same might help spark his writing, begins an affair with Diane Streatfield (Mikaela Izquirdo, the sincerest performance); she’s a lonely widow whose husband died in a plane crash only a year earlier. A family friend, Dr. Alan Kirby (Todd Cerveris, bland), is the raisonneur to whom Stephen explains his motivations: “Fresh kiss, fresh courage.”

The plot thickens when Anne not only feels the green-eyed monster’s presence, but begins an affair of her own, with Stephen getting hoist by his own petard. This inspires director Banks’s finest contribution, when, with the expert lighting assistance of Xavier Pierce, he shows us Stephen’s sleepless night in a montage of silent moments as he waits for Anne to return to their pied à terre.

For further elucidation of the play’s moral compass, we have Stephen’s father, the Rev. Canon Gordon Meredith (Stephen Schnetzer, a late replacement), against whose socially conservative views Stephen argues for his own progressive ones.

Max von Essen and Elisabeth Gray in 'Yours Unfaithfully.' (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

Max von Essen and Elisabeth Gray in ‘Yours Unfaithfully.’ (Photo: Richard Termine via The Broadway Blog.)

The first two acts are set at the Merediths’ country home. Carolyn Mraz has designed a rather homely drawing room environment with clashing colors, ugly wallpaper, and ill-chosen paintings.

And Hunter Kaczorowski’s costumes seem an uncomfortable blend of period and not-so period; Stephen, for example, first appears in a tailored brown shirt and broad tie, with high-waisted, pale pants held up by broad suspenders, more like a zoot suiter of the 1940s than a writer-teacher of the early thirties.

But when, in Act Three, as period music chosen by sound designer Jane Shaw plays, we see the sleek Anne, in a black, floor-length sheath, against the bare walls of the pied à terre, the design elements click and, for the first time, a true 1930s impression is conveyed.

Yours Unfaithfully runs two-hours and five minutes, with two intermissions, but the first two acts could easily be joined with only a momentary break. Doing so would go a long way toward easing the tedium that gradually sets in, at least in this production whose casting is unfaithful to the play’s dramatic needs.

Yours Unfaithfully
Mint Theater at the Beckett Theater
410 W. 42nd St., NYC
Through February 18

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). 

Don’t Miss: ‘Page to Stage’ Seminar with Off Broadway Alliance

February 2nd, 2017 Comments off

Off Broadway AllianceDo you think you may be the next David Merrick? The Off Broadway Alliance, the organization of Off Broadway producers, theaters, general managers, press agents, and marketing firms, will hold the next event in its Seminars series, focused on the Off Broadway Producing Process on Saturday, February 4, 2017. The seminar will discuss various pathways of developing shows from conception towards a production in the Off Broadway arena.

The seminar, “Page to Stage, or How to Get Your Show to Off Broadway,” will feature producer Charlotte Cohn (Church and State, Handle with Care), playwright Matt Cox (Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic & Magic), co-author, co-producer and star of Cagney Robert Creightonand literary agent Mark Subias who represents clients that span across film, television and theater. Hugh Hysell (producer of Six Degrees of SeparationVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) will moderate the discussion curated from questions submitted by attendees.

The cast of 'Cagney.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of ‘Cagney.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

“Page to Stage, or How to Get Your Show to Off Broadway” will be held on the 3rd floor of The Theater Center (210 West 50th Street). Doors will open at 10:30 a.m. for complimentary coffee and bagels. The panel discussion will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with additional time allotted afterward for conversation with fellow attendees.

Admission for the seminar is $5 and pre-registration is required. Attendees are encouraged to pre-submit questions for the panelists when they submit their reservations. Questions will be asked live at the seminar.

Register at www.PageToStageSeminar.eventbrite.com

 

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